HC Deb 12 February 1931 vol 248 cc587-9

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he is aware that the average production of new silver from the mines during the three years 1927, 1928, and 1929 only exceeded the production during 1926 by 3,000,000 ounces, whilst the total sales of demonetised silver by various Governments during the same three years amounted to 145,000,000 ounces; and whether, seeing that these sales of Government silver are mainly responsible for the fall in the price of the metal, he will make inquiry of the Governments concerned as to whether they will by agreement restrict their sales to more moderate dimensions?


As the answer is long and contains many figures, I will, with the Noble Lord's permission, circulate it in the OFFICAL REPORT.

Following is the answer:

According to the reports of the United States Mint the production of new silver from the mines was 261.7 million ounces in 1929 and 253.6 million ounces in 1926, an increase of 8 million ounces. No official figures are published of sales of demonetised silver by Governments, but the total amount thus sold during the three years 1927, 1928 and 1929 is estimated to average about 45 million ounces per annum. While these sales have, of course, contributed to the fall in the price of silver, it appears to be mainly due to the general fall in the price of commodities measured in gold, to political conditions of China, and to the absence of any diminution in the production of the mines, which increased continuously from 173 million ounces in 1920 to 262 million ounces in 1929, or by over 50 per cent. While the Governments concerned would, no doubt, be prepared to consider any practical proposals for taking their stocks of redundant silver off their hands, I see no justification whatsoever for expecting them to maintain useless stocks of silver in the interests of new production, and there is no reason why His Majesty's Government, who are not primarily concerned, should put forward such a suggestion. In any case, for the reasons already given, any restriction of sales would only be in the nature of a temporary palliative and no permanent improvement in the position is likely to be attained except by much wider measures.


asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he has any proposals to deal with the fall in the price of silver?


I would refer the hon. Member to the reply given to the Noble Lord the Member for the Harborough Division (Earl Castle Stewart) on 29th January.


Will the Chancellor of the Exchequer say whether his barrenness of proposals in this connection has anything to do with his statement that his financial orthodoxy is still in a state of virginity?


I am afraid that I do not understand the hon. Member's question.


asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what is the amount of silver used in the existing British silver coinage; and what was the amount before the silver coinage was debased?


The existing British silver coinage contains about 108 million ounces of silver. If that coinage was all of the standard of fineness which was in force before the Coinage Act, 1920, its silver content would be about 175 million ounces.


Does not the right hon. Gentleman's reply show that 70,000,000 ozs. of silver have been placed on the market by this alteration; and would it not be advisable for the Chancellor of the Exchequer to take that matter into consideration?


We have taken it into consideration, but the amount is so small, compared with the amount of silver upon the market, that its effect cannot be very great.