HC Deb 27 July 1915 vol 73 cc2127-8
15. Mr. R. McNEILL

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if travellers leaving England for the Continent find no difficulty in taking with them as much of their money in the form of gold coins as they desire, and that Boulogne is infested with German agents engaged in collecting gold coins; and whether he will take steps to secure that no passenger be allowed to leave the United Kingdom for the Continent with gold in his possession?


I am anxious to avoid taking any steps which might have the appearance of interfering with the free commercial export of gold which is essential to our credit and to the maintenance of the foreign exchanges. In view, however, of the uneasiness which has been created by reports of the character referred to in the question, I propose to take immediate steps for a closer supervision of the proceedings of Channel passengers in the matter. I think that it would be very desirable if all private travellers proceeding to the Continent would exchange any British currency in their possession for currency of the country to which they are going before leaving the United Kingdom.

16. Mr. McNEILL

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether any restriction is placed on the use of gold in the payment of wages and salaries of employés in Government and municipal service; and whether, with the object of reducing to a minimum the export of gold from the country and of preserving gold for national emergencies, he will withdraw the half-sovereign from circulation, raise the limit of silver legal tender, give instructions that all wages paid by Government Departments and public bodies shall be paid in notes and silver only, and prohibit the banks from issuing gold to their customers in the ordinary course of business, introducing legislation, if necessary, for these purposes?


Instructions were given to public departments shortly after the outbreak of War that currency notes should be used instead of gold as far as possible, both for the payment of wages and for other purposes, and the same course was recommended by my predecessor as Chancellor of the Exchequer to the public generally. I am now considering what further steps should be taken to economise the use of gold for internal circulation with a view to strengthening the central reserves, for the purpose of meeting the foreign drain arising from the present balance of trade, and I will not fail to give careful consideration to the suggestions made in the question. It is, however, very important that it should be clearly understood that any steps which may be taken by the Government will, so far from attempting to interfere with the legitimate and necessary export of gold for the adjustment of foreign indebtedness, be expressly directed to mobilising our resources for use as and when required for that purpose.


Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether the Government spending Departments paying weekly wages are using these notes or are still using gold as they did?


I am inquiring into that very point, which I am glad the hon. Baronet has raised. I will see what steps can be taken in the matter.