§ 76. Viscount CURZON
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether, in view of the serious financial position, he will consider the practicability and advisability of a levy upon plate, trinkets, and other articles made of gold, with a view to restoring credit by the redemption of the national indebtedness, either by voluntary means or otherwise.
I have carefully considered this suggestion, but the disadvantages attaching to it appear to me to outweigh any possible advantage that we could derive from it under present circumstances. My hon. and gallant Friend suggests alternatively a compulsory or voluntary levy on gold ornaments with a view, as I understand, to their conversion into bullion and shipment as bid-lion abroad. If the levy were voluntary it is clear that we should get little or nothing unless we paid the market price of bullion. Even if it were compulsory, I do not see any possible justification for taking this particular form of wealth from those who possess it at less than its market value. A large part of the gold must, in any case, have a greater value on account of its workmanship than its mere bullion value, and an unknown pro portion of it would be works of art which we should be sorry to see leave the country. Setting these considerations 1047 aside, I must observe that in so far as what we bought would be sold in the ordinary course, we should be cutting off one of the main existing sources of supply to the jewellery trade, and thereby losing the additional value of the workmanship put into such manufacture for export. In so far as we call out hoards and pay for them in currency notes, we shall tend to increase the number of notes issued in this country, with consequential inflation and increase in general commodity prices. This inflation will be the larger owing to the present premium of gold. If on the other hand we refuse to pay cash and force the owners to take bonds in exchange for their gold, this is nothing but a forced loan from the holders of a particular form of wealth. I do not think that a forced loan could, in any case, be confined to holders of one kind of wealth only, but be that as it may, there is nothing in the condition of our national credit to justify recourse to such an extreme measure. Finally, I may say that to buy gold at a premium is a costly method of paying off debt, and I am confident that with the restriction of imports and stimulation of exports, which follows naturally from the condition of the exchange, we shall be able to meet all our obligations without recourse to a measure of such doubtful expediency and efficacy.