HC Deb 02 February 1955 vol 536 cc1113-5
Mr. M. Follick (Loughborough)

I beg to move, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to provide for the introduction of a decimal currency. My predecessor received the leave of the House to introduce a Bill of a minor character, and I now ask leave of the House to introduce a Bill of enormous importance, namely, one which will reform our currency by replacing our antiquated monetary system of guineas, sovereigns, pounds, florins, pence and farthings by a decimal currency. Certain parts of the British Commonwealth form the only section of the civilised world which has not introduced a decimal currency. In the great continent of America, both North and South, and including all our Colonies, there is not a single territory which has not gone over to a decimal currency.

Mr. Thomas Reid (Swindon)

What about India?

Mr. Follick

I am talking about America. India is in Asia.

Even our own Colonies have gone over to decimal systems. Among the very many and varied nations of Europe, Britain is the only country which has not adopted a decimal currency. Apart from certain parts of the British Commonwealth and Empire, all the African territories have gone over to decimal currencies, including such backward places as Liberia and Abyssinia. Even the Sudan and Egypt have a decimal system. British East Africa, Zanzibar, Uganda, Tanganyika and Kenya have all gone over to a unified decimal currency system, based upon the shilling, and interchangeable with our own coins. One hundred cents in British East African money represents a shilling, and we can use three British pennies to represent 25 cents, or a 6d. piece as 50 cents. We can use either their coins or ours in their system.

The hon. Member for Swindon (Mr. T. Reid), who is a very great friend of mine, has tried to trip me up, but he has not succeeded. In Asia, Burma has gone over to a decimal currency since leaving the British Empire; Ceylon and Singapore have done likewise; India has been discussing the question for some time, and only last month the Prime Minister of Pakistan said that his country would adopt a decimal currency system.

America, Europe, Africa and Asia cannot all be wrong and only a small section of the world's population right, especially when even one of our Dominions, namely, Canada, has a dollar system. It may not be generally known by hon. Members, but Britain herself had a dollar system under the Georgians, and I shall lay upon the Table a dollar minted by the Bank of England and used in this country.

Mr. James Carmichael (Glasgow, Bridgeton)

Watch it.

Mr. Follick

I should mention that the coins I am producing are not mine. They have been lent to me by Messrs. Baldwin & Sons, the famous numismatists, who themselves wonder how it is that every country except Britain finds it an advantage to use a decimal currency system.

I believe that the House will admit that I have some knowledge of the world. I have been in many different parts, and have found that tourists are often deterred from coming to this country because of their difficulty in understanding our monetary system. American tourists over here very often complain that they have been cheated because they cannot understand it. We lose both trade and tourists in that way.

It has been said that the introduction of such a system would mean a change in our coinage. It would not mean anything of the sort, because our coins are interchangeable with those of British East Africa, which has a decimal currency system. But it is no new thing for us to change our coins. Quite recently we changed from the silver threepenny piece to the duodecagonal threepenny piece, and in my time we have had a five-shilling piece, a four-shilling piece and a fourpenny piece. I have here a spade guinea. It became known as a spade guinea because in the reign of Charles II it was found that gold imported by the merchants from Guinea happened to be of a slightly better quality. The coin first became known as a Guinea pound, which meant that it was a pound made from Guinea gold.

I am not advocating a change in our coinage. I am merely asking leave to introduce a Bill under which a Committee appointed by Parliament will study the introduction of a decimal system within a period of, say, five years. In that way the country will have plenty of time to consider the matter, to find out which is the best system, how best to introduce it, and the advantages and disadvantages that may arise from its introduction. I have almost reached the end of my political life in this Parliament. I have had great success and great happiness in this House. I should like to have a Division upon this question in order to see what the House feels about it, and I should like the result of the Division to give me the right to introduce the Bill.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Follick, Professor Sir Douglas Savory, Mr. Langford-Holt, Mr. Holman, Mr. Norman Smith, Sir Peter Macdonald, Mr. Bowen, Mr. Braine, Mr. Bing, Mr. Parker, Sir Albert Braithwaite, and Mr. Dodds.

  1. DECIMAL CURRENCY 33 words