HC Deb 22 March 1967 vol 743 cc1776-839

Question again proposed, That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question.

6.43 p.m.

Mr. Buchanan

As a student of history, Mr. Speaker, a great respecter of tradition, and a lover of the House, I almost feel like changing my argument in favour of the traditional £. I am glad that the Government are trying to do something about the procedure we have just seen.

It is a historical fact that currency units decline with time. The purchasing power of the £ declined from 1900 to 1920, and though it rose from 1920 to 1933, none of us on this side of the House want to see that happen again in similar circumstances. The purchasing power of the £ has declined ever since 1933.

We in the United Kingdom have been used to a high value major unit. It is said to be advantageous in an economy where money transactions are large and expressed in the major unit. I do not know about that, because I have never dealt in transactions involving very large denominations of notes. I think that I speak for Mr. and Mrs. John Citizen, however, in saying that they will have an in-built psychological resistance to a 10s. unit. The fellow going for a suit which used to cost him, say, £20 will not like being charged 40 nobles, or whatever the unit would be.

My hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Mr. Cant) spoke of his experience in France, and in his remarks there was a warning against a major unit of too low a value. I confess that I always feel psychologically uplifted when I go abroad and find, or found, the £ worth thousands of francs, lire, etc. The £ has a very definite standard of value in the minds of British men and women.

I have been able to conduct my own opinion poll. Since my wife died in 1963, I have had to do a lot of my own shopping, particularly at weekends, and no one need tell me that the British man or woman will find it very difficult to master any new currency, no matter how complicated it may be. We in Scotland have a worldwide reputation for looking after our money—and I hope that the Chancellor of the Exchequer will bear that in mind when thinking about where the Royal Mint is to go.

Anyone shopping at a supermarket will realise that we are moving into a new era of currency and purchasing power. Cheques are becoming more and more the vogue for payment of larger purchases, but in the supermarket one does not find people going round noting that coffee is 4s. 6d. and soap powder Is. lid. They just put them in the basket and go to the counter where the total is worked out by a girl with a machine—

Mr. Lubbock

Does the hon. Member really think that the old-age pensioner who goes out shopping on a very limited budget of, perhaps, £4 a week does not look closely at the price of the article she is buying?

Mr. Buchanan

I am talking about Mr. and Mrs. Average, but I am quite certain that old-age pensioners who can cope with all they meet in the supermarket, including the loss leaders, etc., will be able to cope with the new currency. I do not say that people do not bother about prices, but, by and large, our men and women will cope with a new currency, regardless of how complicated it may be.

I do not think that the £-cent system is as complicated as is alleged by the advocates of the 10s. system. I am not competent to argue the international case, but the opinion of the City, reinforced by the hon. Member for the Cities of London and Westminster in consultation with the ex-chairman of the International Monetary Fund, seems to indicate that the system we are adopting has some validity.

Advocates of the 10s. system contend that there is an association in people's minds with shillings, pence and half-crowns, but they should remember that the half-crown used to be colloquially known as the half-dollar. Is it worth as much today? We all know that it is not. That undermines the case made by my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central, and I do not think that the new halfpenny will last much longer than 10 years.

The Government have been correct in choosing a coinage that will endure for much longer than we can see ahead. It is true that it has some disadvantages, no one denies that, but they are far outweighed by its advantages. I wish the Government well.

Several hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. This is an abbreviated debate. Many hon. Members wish to speak, but I hope that they will be brief.

6.50 p.m.

Sir John Langford-Holt (Shrewsbury)

Although I am going to speak against the Government's proposal, I wish to make clear at the outset that the change which the Government are making is certainly a step in the right direction, and secondly that If it were done when 'tis done, then 'twere well it were done quickly. I am no advocate of delay.

We have a device in this House known as a reasoned Amendment, which means a reasoned rejection. I have always taken the view that a reasoned Amendment to a Bill is a Motion for rejection of a Bill. I shall be recording my vote later in the spirit in which the House usually considers a reasoned Amendment. The Chancellor said that he hoped that whatever our views were when the system comes in, whichever it may be—there is probably little doubt about which it will be—we would all try to work it properly. There is no doubt that we shall adopt that attitude.

Like many other movements of enlightenment, pressure for decimal currency has come not from the Treasury Bench but from the back benches. Its Parliamentary history has been too long and much too sad to record at length now. It goes back to 1841 when a Royal Commission invited the Government to consider its merits and in 1853 a Select Committee of this House recommended in favour. In 1955, much closer to the present period, a decimal currency Bill was proposed. I pay tribute to the then top sponsor, Mr. Mont Follick, who, although he was sometimes regarded as having quaint ideas, in this respect proved to be a pioneer.

In parenthesis I think it would be a good thing if someone were to return the letter opener left by Mr. Follick in the Post Office for the advantage of hon. Members. It has since disappeared. My hon. Friend the Member for Essex, South-East (Mr. Braine) and I are the only sponsors of that Bill left in the House. That Bill died, as many do, because it was persistently and consistently opposed by the Government of the day. As usual, back benchers were ahead of the Government in their thought.

Almost the last stage of this Parliamentary saga on decimal currency was when my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Wirral (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd) announced the formation of the committee of inquiry, the Halsbury Committee, on 19th December, 1961. We are inclined to forget that when he made the announcement he made quite clear that the Committee's duty was not to decide whether we should switch to a decimal currency system. He said that the decision had already been taken, as it is put in the Halsbury Report.

In discussion with the late Mr. Gaitskell, he said: The right hon. Gentleman is quite right in noting that the Committee is not being asked to consider the question of 'whether' but the question of 'how'. Later Mr. Gaitskell said: Have the Government decided that we will have a decimal coinage unless the difficulties are overwhelming? Has a decision been taken in that sense? The reply by my right hon. and learned Friend was: That is so."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th December, 1961; Vol. 651, c. 1135.] There is not much new ground concerning decisions. When it carried out its delaying tactics, the Treasury was wrong then and I am afraid it is wrong today.

What must a decimal currency be? First, it must be decimal. That is not so silly as it sounds. There are arguments for other systems, but basically world currencies adopt a decimal system. It must be understandable, it must be acceptable, it must be teachable, as the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Mr. Cant) said. Fifthly, it must not affect the status of the currency. Sixthly, it must have units which are large enough and small enough. The Halsbury Committee put forward somewhat similar conditions but with less conciseness and relevance than these. It said that the currency should be decimal and should maximise benefits; it should be simple, flexible, last- ing and should not affect the standing of sterling. It should not present people with undue difficulties of adaptation in the change-over period. Seventhly, it should not result in price increases; and eighthly, it should not result in high machine and non-machine costs.

In not one of these cases has the Government proposal advantages over the 10s. unit or the £1-florin-mil system. In most cases the reverse is true. I turn to the Committee's standards and requirements. First, what is decimal? In the Oxford Dictionary it is said to be: pertaining to or of tenths and tithes. It is not that, so the proposal is not decimal. Dr. Sharp, who I believe sent to all hon. Members comments on behalf of the Confederation of British Industries, said: It confuses the vulgar fraction with the decimal system. The Halsbury Committee went on to say that it should maximise benefits. What a glimpse of the obvious! No one has suggested that any of us is trying to do anything but that. The proposals of the Government certainly do not. The second condition is that it should be simple. The vast majority of goods in this country—go as high or low as one wishes—are expressed in shillings and multiples of shillings. One never sees in a shop that the cost of something is £2 8s.; it is 48s. One never sees £1 19s. 9d. but 39s. 9d. One never sees £3 8s. 3d. but 68s. 3d. The hon. Member for Glasgow, Spring-burn (Mr. Buchanan) spoke about suits. We have never heard of the £2 10s. tailor, but of the Fifty Shilling Tailor.

Mr. Lubbock

That was a long time ago.

Sir J. Langford-Holt

It was a long time ago, but the price is still expressed in shillings. I suppose the reason is that the tailor thinks it sounds much cheaper that way.

Mr. A. Woodburn (Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire)

Is it not the case that most shopkeepers mark up a price of 19s. 6d. in order not to mention the £?

Sir J. Langford-Holt

I think that is so, although I believe very few are confused by it; at least, I hope they are not. Even more shopkeepers use the price of 19s. 11d. for exactly the same reason. It is quite easy to see that 48s. is 4.8 of the 10s. unit; 39s. 9d. is 3.9 for the 39s. and .75 for the nine pennies. This is easy to work out. Sixty eight shillings and threepence is 6.825. I think we shall have a great deal of difficulty in working all this out under the £ system. I know which system I would find the simpler.

The next condition is that the system must be much more flexible. I do not think it could be argued that a system which has a bigger top unit and a bigger lower unit can be the more flexible of the two systems.

The fourth condition was that it should be lasting. As it has taken a Government of whatever party 100 years to take this great leap forward, this leap into the unknown—almost the last country in the world to do so—I do not think that we need worry too much about any rapid change to a new system, whichever one is adopted.

The fifth condition was that a new system should not affect the standing of sterling. I agree that nobody would suggest that the world bankers cannot multiply by two. The Chancellor of the Exchequer suggested that international traders found it a little more difficult because they were a little less sophisticated. I doubt whether there are many international traders who cannot multiply by two, either.

As to the size of the unit, I do not think that anybody would seriously suggest that the revaluation of the French franc by General de Gaulle to the extent of ten times affected the stability of the franc. What affected the stability of the franc was the stability or otherwise of the French poiltical and economic system, not the size of the franc. If it is size and size only, I do not think that anybody in the House or outside would suggest that the dollar has less merit because it is only approximately one-third of a £, or that the Swiss franc has less merit because it is only one-tenth of a £. Nobody has ever suggested that.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer said some time ago on television that we still had the old £. Since then he has shifted ground a little. The Chancellor has made some silly remarks on occasions, but I think that that remark was jostly among the leaders in the queue.

The sixth condition was that the new currency should not present people with undue difficulties of adaptation. I underline the word "people". The Chancellor told us, rightly, of the experiments which were carried out by the Halsbury Committee with the average housewives, which resulted in competency being acquired in five days and in eight days. Everybody is not an average housewife. Average housewives are pretty cute people. There are many among us who are not quite as rapid in the use of money or as sharp as that. Many people will find it much quicker and easier to calculate that 38s. 6d. is 3.85 of a 10s. unit than to calculate that it is 1.925 of whatever this new currency will become known as in the future.

The seventh condition was that it should not result in price increases. One needs to say very little about this except that, to put it at its lowest, in general prices are rounded upwards. Therefore, the bigger the unit the bigger the increase in prices which will result.

Mr. Patrick Jenkin

Does not my hon. Friend realise that in this regard both systems are exactly the same? They both have a unit of 1.2. Only at the lower end is there any question of rounding up.

Sir J. Langford-Holt

That is because my hon. Friend is introducing what I said was the vulgar fraction on to a decimal system. If the vulgar fraction is accepted, what my hon. Friend says is true. I am trying to avoid this confusion of the two systems.

Of all the main alternatives, the Government's solution has least to commend it. I should have liked to have seen the 10s. unit adopted. If it is still not possible for the Government to consider that, I should have thought that a fairly minor change on to the £-florin-mil, with comparatively little modification, could be accepted.

Cmnd. 3164 "Decimal Currency in the United Kingdom", says this in paragraph 1 on page 1: On 1st March 1966 the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced in the House of Commons the Government's decision to adopt a decimal currency system in February 1971. This was a decision which was not taken by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He only took the decision as to timing.

The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Niall MacDermot)

And as to system, which the Tory Government were unable to make up their mind about.

Sir J. Langford-Holt

I quite accept that. Paragraph 2 on page 1 says this: This is an historic decision. The historic part of it was the decision to change to a decimal currency rather than the precise method and the date. I believe that one of the problems is that the Government have taken so many administrative decisions and actions already that they are unable to retreat from the path upon which they have embarked.

What will happen to us in the House? We know—there is no party point in it—that some hon. Members opposite are in favour of the 10s. unit and that some of my hon. Friends are in favour of the £ unit. We know, too, of the powerful persuasions of loyalty which can be imposed upon hon. Members opposite. Such power of persuasion has clearly been brought to bear upon the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central. I have been long enough in the House to know the enormous power which that has.

I appreciate the Government's difficulties. If, even at this late stage, they could be deflected from taking what I consider to be a wrong decision—I am sure that the decision, if taken, will last for many years, probably for centuries—I should not regard that as a sign of weakness but one of strength and purpose.

7.7 p.m.

Mr. Francis Noel-Baker (Swindon)

The hon. Member for Shrewsbury (Sir J. Langford-Holt) speaks of powers of persuasion. I am one of those on these benches who is very disappointed that we were not allowed a free vote. I indicated that opinion on an appropriate occasion recently. I am disappointed that the majority of my hon. Friends do not feel as I do. I am sorry that we were not allowed a debate on the White Paper before the Government announced their decision. I am sure that it would have been wise to have had such a debate. Some of us are in a dilemma. We do not believe that the Chancellor's decision is the right one. We do not agree with the official Opposition spokesmen, for reasons which I shall try to explain, about the 10s. unit. We are in a difficulty.

I hope that the brevity of my speech will not be interpreted as meaning that the proposition which I shall make is not a serious one. I hope that my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary will not treat it as a red herring. It is an alternative proposal which has gathered a good deal of serious support among all those who will use the new currency in the future and I believe that, had the public debate gone on longer, it might very well have been shown that it had a majority of the public behind it. It provides a way out of the collision between the 10s. unit and the £ unit, the inadequacies of both of which I think have been well illustrated during the debate.

Of course I am in favour of decimalisation. If my hon. Friends study HANSARD they will see that I have been pressing for decimalisation in respect of currency and, indeed, the introduction of the metric system for weights and measures for a good many years.

The compromise solution which I want briefly to explain was referred to by both my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer and by the right hon. Member for Enfield, West (Mr. Iain Macleod). It is very simple. It would be relatively very economical to introduce, and it avoids almost entirely any transitional upheaval during the change. It is based on a major unit of currency worth five of the present £s sterling. Various names have been proposed for it, including the Royal and the Britannia. For the purposes of my speech I shall refer to it either as the heavy £ or the fiver, which I suspect would be the name by which it would be known, whatever its official title, if it were adopted.

The system based on it would have the following four principal advantages. First, it would be large enough to withstand many years of inflation and still retain a useful value. I think that that point is a major criticism of the 10s. unit. As my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Springburn (Mr. Buchanan) said, the present £ has become worth about one-quarter of what it was in 1939. The fiver would be worth about what the £ was at the end of the First World War. At the present rate of inflation all over the world—whatever Governments are in power in different countries it will probably accelerate—the 10s. unit will perhaps be worth 2s. in 25 or 30 years and if we are to make the change there is an overwhelming argument for having a substantial value attached to the major unit at the top of the scale.

The second advantage is that under the fiver system none of the existing coins would need to be changed, except the 1d. and the shilling which would continue, would have 10 pence instead of 12. £5 and £1 notes could simply be overstamped if necessary during the transitional period, "£5 equals 100 shillings" and "£1 equals 20 shillings". The 10s. note could continue as it is and the existing coins remain in circulation. The new quarter and half shilling and new half crown could remain the same size and design as the existing 3d., 6d. and 2s. 6d. pieces. The new 1d. would become a mil, with 1,000 to the fiver. I agree that there is a case for reducing its metal content and size.

One of the supporters of the fiver solution is the former superintendent of the Royal Mint. He makes a point, with which I agree, that it would be most desirable to reduce the metal content of the 1d., probably to one-third of its present weight. It now contains almost 1d. worth of metal. He says that if this change could be made it could be paid for by the metal recovered from reducing the size of the 1d.

The third advantage of the heavy £-cent-mil system would be that the new currency would provide a satisfactory top and bottom unit. The fiver would be large enough to be very convenient for banking purposes and the 1d. small enough for the housewife or shopper who wants to buy a small item or travel on public transport. If the ½d still has a use after the transitional period, which I think is very arguable, it could be retained at a value of 20 to the shilling as a temporary measure.

The fourth advantage, which is important, is that the process of decimalisation would be extremely simple for the individual human user of money and would involve no change in existing slot machines and very little change in cash registers and other business machines. In effect, the first two digits after the decimal point would be the shillings, and the third digit would be the pence. If there were a ½d., it would be the fourth digit. One would be able to convert simply. For example, 19s. 9d. becomes 0.199; 13s. 4d., 0.134; and 7s. 9½d., 0.795. It would be so simple that there would be no problem for anyone to understand the transition.

I could make a longer and more detailed speech about the advantages of the fiver, but they are points that are probably better made in Committee. I believe that it would be a sensible compromise. As I said earlier, had the public debate been allowed to continue it is a solution that would have attracted increasing support. It is a good combination of a necessary modern reform with as much of our national tradition and individuality as it is sensible to retain, and it would protect the prestige of the £. I very much hope that my right hon. Friend will deal with these points.

7.15 p.m.

Mr. Eric Lubbock (Orpington)

On the system of which the hon. Member for Swindon (Mr. Francis Noel-Baker) has just spoken, I would only say that, whatever the merits of the many alternative systems, they were investigated in some detail by the Halsbury Committee. In practice, the argument has now narrowed to a choice between the £-cent-½ system proposed by the Government and the 10s.-cent system supported by the vast majority of those who oppose the Government. I should like to concentrate on that controversy and begin by taking up one or two points made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

In arguing, he always sounds like an extreme Conservative. I sometimes wonder whether I am back in the pre-1964 period when I listen to him speaking about the well-known £, known throughout the world, and its great prestige. He should have had a Union Jack on the Dispatch Box while he was speaking. I was reminded of the last phrase of the poem that Christopher Logue wrote at the last General Election, when he said: I shall vote Labour because deep in my heart I am a Conservative. I think that the Chancellor is a person to whom that description should be applied.

The Chancellor says that the disadvantage of the 10s. system is that one would change the major unit for record-keeping purposes. That, too, is a very good Conservative argument. If we take the National Income and Expenditure Blue Book, in which a series of figures is given for ten years, what could be easier when the next annual edition is produced than for somebody to go through all the figures and multiply them by two? Is that such a difficult exercise that the Chancellor can say that it will disrupt our whole economic life?

Mr. Woodburn

Does not the hon. Member agree that when this country is trading with countries all over the world, which have been trading in £s for 100 years, it is a great handicap to the continuance of trade when they must start wondering what are the comparative prices of machinery which they order in this country and calculate them in a different unit? Continuity is very important in international affairs.

Mr. Lubbock

It has already been pointed out to the right hon. Gentleman—I do not know whether he was listening—that the French had no difficulty when they altered the value of their franc. I suggest that the right hon. Gentleman looks at the export performance of France and ourselves over the past few years and sees which is better. One of the reasons why we have chosen a long preparatory period is to enable people who must use the new currency to be adequately educated and prepared. That applies just as much to the foreign traders using sterling as the basis of their transactions. Traders and bankers all over the world will have practically no difficulty in understanding a change in the major units.

I do not believe that the international arguments are of the slightest importance. I agree with the Chancellor that they cannot be dismissed, and that means that they should have been considered by the Halsbury Committee. But they were not, apart from the evidence given by the Bank of England, and, as I think the right hon. Member for Enfield, West (Mr. lain Macleod) showed, there was no attempt to test the validity of that evidence. I agree that the Committee is to be strongly criticised for not calling in foreign bankers to see whether the assertions made by the Bank of England were true.

I have some claim to speak on the subject, because I have always been a passionate advocate of decimal currency. I put that in my 1962 election address much to the disturbance of my agent, who said that it was not an issue of any importance. But I knew that sooner or later it had to become an issue of importance. I therefore welcome at least the decision to go over to decimal currency in 1971. I also welcome the Government's decision to set up a Decimal Currency Board to facilitate the conversion. That idea was included in a Bill which I and my hon. Friend the Member for Bodmin (Mr. Bessell) presented to the House nearly two years ago. This, like the other Bill mentioned by the hon. Member for Shrewsbury (Sir J. Langford-Holt), never made progress because it was consistently vetoed Friday after Friday by Government Whips.

I want to make one or two new arguments which have not so far been mentioned in the debate as to why the 10s.-cent system is to be preferred. I dispute the Chancellor of the Exchequer's contention that there is no difference in the costs between the two systems as regards minting of coins, the conversion of machinery or the use of accounting and business machines generally. On 9th March, I asked the right hon. Gentleman if he could give me some estimate of the cost of minting alone. In a Written Reply, he said: No firm estimate has been made of the minting costs of any 10s. system, but the difference would not be significant."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 9th March, 1967; Vol. 742, c. 340.] I wrote back to the right hon. Gentleman saying that surely he must have made some estimate or calculation in his mind of what the difference would be. He very courteously wrote back saying that, upon the calculations that he could give, the difference in minting costs would be about £3 million. I am convinced that the difference would be much larger than that. The right hon. Gentleman's letter shows how little he has considered the matter, because he says: … if a 10s. system were introduced the 1 and 2 cent coins would be identical with the 1 and 2 new penny coins. He forgets that, in the £-cent system, the lower tier of the coinage has to have three coins in it and not two—a half and a one and a two. That is why I intervened in his speech today and asked whether the number of these coins it was proposed to mint was still as given in the Appendix to the Halsbury Report. He replied that to the best of his knowledge this was so, and I want to give some interesting calculations on this point.

The two new penny piece, valued at 4.80d.—1,500 million of them are to be minted for the Halsbury scheme—can be entirely eliminated under the 10s.-cent system because the one and two cent pieces under that system would be the only bronze coins one would need at the lower end and then one would go on to cupronickel. The weight of new bronze coins is in proportion to value, and if we take the cost of minting as being directly proportional to the weight—a legitimate assumption because labour cost is quite small in comparison with the whole—we can work out the cost of the two new penny piece as being no less than £6.1 million, according to the Report in paragraph 253. But since the total minting costs have increased since then from £22.5 million to £30.75 million—as stated in the Explanatory and Financial Memorandum—I have increased this estimate in the same ratio and make the cost of minting two new penny pieces alone as £8.3 million.

The other major difference lies in the retention of the half crown. Here I admit that the saving is more difficult to calculate because Halsbury recommended a 20 new penny coin which does not appear in the White Paper. Since, however, there are in circulation about 450 million half crowns, worth over £50 million, their scrapping and replacement by an equivalent volume of some combination of the 10 and 50 new penny coins, can hardly cost less than the figure I have given for the minting of two new penny pieces.

Apart from minting costs, there is a substantial additional element in the Halsbury proposals arising from the conversion of coin-operated machines—gas, electricity and parking meters, ticket vending machines, particularly on the underground, public telephone boxes and vending machines. It is obvious that, in all these applications, the 6d. is of paramount importance and since the Government will only pay compensation in the most exceptional cases the consumer will have to foot the Bill.

The motorist who parks in London will have to pay for the conversion of the parking meters. The electricity consumer will have to pay for the conversion of the electricity meters through his bill. In the case of vending machines alone—machines in which commodities like cigarettes, sweets, beverages and snacks are sold—the cost of dropping the 6d. and half-crown is estimated to be about £13.2 million in the memorandum submitted by the Automatic Vending Machine Association to the Chancellor on 2nd November. With these few items, the total additional cost of the Chancellor's system is £29.8 million.

The Chancellor says that under his scheme the cost of converting business machines, cash registers, adding machines and accounting machines is lower because the 10s.-cent system … makes less efficient use of machine capacity. He says this in paragraph 15 of the White Paper. This is only true to the extent that businesses ignore the half unit. If they need an extra column to record it, as they will do in the case of cash registers for retail shops, for example, the capacity of machines will only be one-fifth of what it could be under the 10s.-cent system. There is also the cost to the country of having to continue manufacturing non-standard machines recording the half unit which will not be used anywhere else in the world.

I now turn to the arguments about associability and the half unit, which, as the right hon. Gentleman said, are at the core of the difference between us on this issue. I agree with the right hon. Member for Enfield, West that Lord Halsbury has taken a very unusual step in circulating the contents of his speeches to private meetings of parties. I think that it is unusual and I suggest irregular that the Chairman of a Committee appointed by the Government should write round to all hon. Members purporting to reinforce the conclusions of that Committee, but in fact, as I shall show, contradicting many of the most important findings of his own Committee. He has been worsted in public argument and must have been viewing with some alarm the prospect of his scheme being defeated, which it would have been had it not been for the undemocratic decision by the Government to impose the Whips. Despite the views, of the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Mr. Cant), whom we all respect and know to be well informed, I hope that many hon. Members opposite will disregard the Whips on this issue, which is not a party political matter. Hon. Members should be free to make up their own minds on the basis of the expert advice they have been given and their consultations with their constituents.

To get back to the curious pamhplet published by Lord Halsbury, I want to quote a passage from it and compare that passage with a quotation on the same subject from the Report. In the pamphlet, Lord Halsbury says: It seems impossible to accord to associability the importance that is currently attributed to it. … Associability should be eliminated as a policy determinant from the arguments respecting the relative merits of the £ and 10s. systems of decimalising our currency. I am glad that the Chancellor does not go as far as that and agrees that associability is at least a factor to be taken into account, even though he does not attach to it the importance that some of us do. The Halsbury Report said in Chapter VI: … it would be wrong to disregard the worry and distress which a change of currency could involve, particularly for some old people or harassed housewives. Later, also in Chapter VI, it said: The pure 10s.-cent system must be regarded as the best, both from the point of view of the immediate change, and, though less obviously, during the remainder of the transitional period and beyond", I know that the Chancellor says that this is only a short-term operation and that people will get equally used to both systems after a period, but again I am sure that he is incorrect on that. The Report continues: This advantage, multiplied many times in a multitude of transactions of every description day by day, is not a factor which can be ignored in selecting the right decimal system. That is a direct contradiction of what Lord Halsbury has said in the pamphlet he circulated to all hon. Members.

The next thing I thought rather curious was that Lord Halsbury pointed out that millions of tourists go abroad every year and find no difficulty in shopping in foreign currency. The Chancellor repeated that argument. But people who go abroad do find difficulty in shopping in foreign currency and this is one of the reasons for the popularity of package tours, in which the tourist pays for his air passage, hotel bill and various other things in advance in sterling before he starts on his journey. He then does not have the bother of having to make calculations in different money.

In any case, the person who can afford to go abroad on holiday is not the sort of person who is most likely to find the transition hard. It is the elderly and the poor housewife who can never afford a holiday, let alone a holiday abroad, who will suffer. It appears that Lord Halsbury lives in a sort of upper class fantasy world, to judge from this pamphlet, in which everyone goes to New York for holidays, has a joint on Sunday, does not look at prices when choosing goods in the supermarket and is constantly buying new hats. Let us try to think for a few moments of the 70-year-old pensioner, or of a mother with five children trying to live on unemployment benefit. To these people anything which makes shopping more difficult will cause misery and hardship.

The evidence given by Dr. Sheila Jones in this respect and her letter to the newspapers this morning have already been mentioned. I remind the Chancellor of the Exchequer that in her evidence Dr. Sheila Jones spoke not about three or five days, but about two or three months for the average housewife to achieve her present £ s. d. standard of performance with the £-cent-half system.

She has recently told me that this estimate is very conservative for a number of reasons. One is that however realistically actual shopping transactions are imitated, the situation in practice would not approach the relatively ideal conditions of the experiment and that the housewife's attention in the experiment was not distracted by extraneous conditions. Another is that the housewives received individual training each day in recognising the value of present coins in terms of their decimal value. In addition, all mistakes were rectified and explained at leisure by the experimenter and intensive practice under skilled guidance of the kind given in the experiment was probably more conducive to the acquisition of a new skill than would be the case with haphazard practice.

I have discussed this with Dr. Sheila Jones and asked whether it is possible to say how long it would take to acquire the £ s. d. performance under average shopping conditions. She said that on the basis of the experiment it was not possible to make that estimate, but that there was no doubt in her mind that the two or three-months' period mentioned in the Halsbury Report was very conservative.

We shall also consider the evidence of Mr. Broadbent, the Director of the M.R.C. unit in Cambridge, evidence which has not been mentioned by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He concluded that calculations involving fractions were significantly harder to perform than calculations which did not involve fractions. The Halsbury Report said that his conclusion supported the commonsense view that the 10s.-cent system was to be regarded as distinctly the easiest from the point of view of paying sums, one including a ½ and the other not.

It must be stressed that this would be a permanent difference which would not disappear in two or three months. There are plenty of quotations from the Halsbury Report to prove that it is the fraction which causes the difficulty, and there is no fraction in a true system of decimal currency. Paragraph 46 says: Logically, of course, decimal and vulgar fractions are generally incompatible and there is no place whatever for vulgar fractions in a decimal currency. Paragraph 224 says: But we take note that, under a £-cent-½ system, reintroduction of fractions in many fare scales"— the Report is here discussing transport— coupled with the increased incidence of fractions in change-giving, must add to conductors' difficulties and decrease their efficiency. This will be not just for one month, but permanently, for as long as bus conductors have to handle the half unit.

The half unit will not disappear for quite a while. I notice that on 21st December the Chief Secretary was very careful not to say what he meant by "eventually", but I put it to the House that the half unit will not disappear for a very long time and that these difficulties will be with us for perhaps 150 years.

Let me explain how I work this out. I start with the evidence given to the Halsbury Committee by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food which suggested that at the present rate of decline both in its use and the value of money it might be 20 years before the ½d. became as obsolete as the ¼d. was in 1952, eight years before its demonetisation. That means that if we were not to convert to decimal currency, we should be thinking about demonetising the ½d. in about 1983.

In the debate in another place, Lord Halsbury said that the rate of inflation was at a factor of about two per century. Therefore, if we were not thinking of converting to decimal currency, we would be considering demonetising the penny in about 120 years from now, or about 2087. The smallest unit in the Government's suggested system is 1.2d. and, on the calculations which I have given to the House, it is reasonable to say that the half unit would last until the beginning of the 22nd century A.D.

Who can tell what changes may have taken place in coin handling and money recording by that date? Coins and bank notes may no longer be in use and everyone may have a Barclaycard, or its equivalent. The last thing we need in a period of rapid and accelerating technological change is a system designed to last for a thousand years.

I also dispute the Chancellor's contention that with increasing prosperity coins of the smallest value become less important. I believe quite the reverse. Lord Halsbury says that the 1d. of today has 20 per cent. greater purchasing power than a ¼d. of 1900.

Nobody suggests that a ½d. equivalent is unnecessary in any decimal system. Indeed, the Chief Secretary went to some pains on 21st December to explain that when he said "eventually" and when the word was used in the White Paper, it did not mean "in the next few years". But the Government cannot have it both ways. If the Government say that the ½ new penny will disappear quite soon because of the great inconvenience of fractions in any system of decimal currency—with which I agree—if in fact it disappears before the coin has become obsolete through changes in the value of money, then the effect is bound to be inflationary.

I know that it has been said that there is no relatively inflationary tendency in this system which does not also exist with the 10s. system, because the smallest units are the same in both cases. However, I dispute that, because there will always be a tendency to round up to the nearest whole number of units.

For instance, the price of the Sunday Express, which is now 6d. would be 5 new pennies on the 10s. cent system—it converts very nicely—but under the £-cent-system there is no exact equivalent and it is very likely that the price would be increased to 7.2 pence. The cigarettes which I smoke—Players No. 6—now cost 3s. 6d. and would cost 35 new pennies under the 10s. cent system, but 17½ new pence under the £-cent-system and the cigarette manufacturers would want to avoid the use of half units which would be extremely inconvenient in the giving of change in shops and even more inconvenient for use with the machines.

I do not know whether the Financial Secretary saw the item in The Times the other day under the heading Decimals could put S.T.D. up to 1s. It was written by Mr. Pearce Wright, the science reporter, and he said: With the introduction of decimal coinage, the minimum charge for using a public telephone S.T.D. kiosk could go up to a shilling. Even the Post Office recognises that such an increase would meet with public outcry, but its engineers face big problems in maintaining the present charges under a decimal system. There would be no 6d. equivalent and that slot in the coin box would have to be blanked off and the minimum charge would be 1s.

Mr. Speaker

I do not want to appear discourteous, but I remind the hon. Gentleman that I have appealed for reasonably brief speeches. This is a short debate and many hon. Members want to speak.

Mr. Lubbock

I apologise if I got carried away.

I believe that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has made a serious error by not taking the views of the public into account in this matter. The Consumer Council survey has already been mentioned. It says that nearly two-thirds of the people who were aware of the advantages and disadvantages of the two main systems were in favour of the 10s. system.

I should like to refer the Financial Secretary to the correspondence which I have been receiving from members of the public, not only from my own consituents, but from people who have seen me discussing the matter with Lord Halsbury on television, people who have read my articles in the newspapers.

Of these letters, 66 have favoured the 10s. system and only five the £ system. I have had five letters favouring the £-mil, 11 some other system, and four in favour of no change. From this evidence I think that the overwhelming majority of the public is in favour of the 10s. system. I do not know whether the Chancellor or the Financial Secretary talks to members of the public and whether they have discussed this matter with bus conductors, shop assistants, housewives, the old folk and the people in the local. If they do they will get the same answer from them and it is that they want the 10s. system.

The Government are making a hideous mistake, and it has been detected by the common sense of the British people. The Chancellor has listened to his friends in the National Cash Register, in the Bank of England and in the City of London, from whom we have heard this evening. He has been mesmerised by the power of the great financial authorities and he has ignored the woman in the street.

The public is overwhelmingly against him and if there was a free vote this evening this House would be overwhelmingly against him. He will have his memorial, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Enfield, West predicted. When many of the issues in this Parliament have been forgotten for a long time he will be remembered as "Half Cent Callaghan" the man who did not dare trust his judgment, and put it to the test of the House of Commons.

7.42 p.m.

Mr. A. H. Macdonald (Chislehurst)

May I begin by referring to an argument advanced by the right hon. Member for Enfield, West (Mr. Iain Macleod). He said that as far as the actual coins were concerned, he thought that the 10s. system had the advantage. I recognise that from his point of view this was only a marginal advantage, and that his main argument for and against lay elsewhere. If I may say so, he was in error here. I choose my words carefully, I am not suggesting that, in my opinion, he was making a mistake in judgment. He is in error, and the coinage in the 10s. system is twice as bad—this is something that could be quantified—as in the Government's proposals.

It is important to draw a distinction between the unit of account and the token of exchange. When I speak about coinage I am speaking about the token of exchange. Under the 10s. system, as presented by its advocates, if there shall be a rise in the value of prices, and whether this takes a long time or a short time is irrelevant, the smallest unit in the fullness of time will become superfluous, but under that system it cannot be discarded because it is necessary for the giving of change.

Therefore, under that system, it is necessary to continue in existence a coin that is no longer required. This is not an economic method of proceedings, and is an argument to be weighed against those recently advanced by the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Lubbock) when he was adding up the cost of the various types of coinage. I say that this matter can be quantified precisely, because the same phenomenon appears in the coinage system proposed by the Government, but at one stage further on. Under that system, when the time comes when the smallest unit is no longer necessary it can be discarded without any adverse effects in the way of giving change.

Mr. Ginsburg

Is it not a fact that 40 per cent. of transactions will include this lowest denomination and that, therefore, if this coin were to disappear we would be in some difficulty?

Mr. Macdonald

I have no doubt the fault is mine for not making my argument clear. It is probably true at present that a large number of transactions, I cannot tell if it would be 40 per cent., but a large number of them, would involve the lowest unit. I am looking ahead to the time when the increase in prosperity or inflation, or perhaps both, has brought about the situation, where the lowest unit, on either system, is not of a size sufficient to purchase anything. Then it should be discarded. I am suggesting that under the 10s. system it cannot be discarded, because it is required for the giving of change. Under that system we shall be forced to continue with a coin which is serving no useful purpose for purchases.

I turn now to an argument advanced by my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Mr. Cant) who referred to the capacity of accounting machines. Again this was an argument advanced by the hon. Member for Orpington. I can understand all of the other arguments in favour of the 10s. system, although I do not agree with many of them. But I do not understand the argument about machine capacity in favour of the 10s. system. It seems to be manifestly clear, simply by looking at a cash register or accounting machine, that the capacity will be halved by the introduction of a 10s. system. It will not be multiplied by five, it will be halved, and this can be demonstrated simply by inspection of the columns produced by the standard accounting machine.

This is not the first time that this House has discussed a question of a change in coinage. I have been doing a little historical research on this subject and I find that as far back as 1695 there was a discussion about the proposed change of coinage. That was when the silver coins were made of silver but had smooth edges and people were clipping away at the edges. It was decided to replace them by milled coinage. I looked up the debates of that time, and they make particularly interesting reading. There was a discussion first of all on whether to introduce the new coinage and secondly, once that decision had been taken, whether to retain the existing units. I quote from the Parliamentary History of this period: The next step was to consider whether the several Denominations of the new Money should be the same weight … as the old … The Court Party— I take this to be the term used to describe the Government— … were for preserving the old standard … They said: … in respect of our foreign commerce there was no reason to alter our standard. That at home great confusions would attend it. After a long debate the report goes on: After debate, the commons resolved … to continue: … according to the established standard … at last this great undertaking of the greatest difficulty, yet of absolute necessity, was happily accomplished, to the immemorial honour of the parliament in general, and in particular of the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Mr. Bob Brown (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, West)

Can my hon. Friend inform us if the House had the privilege of a free vote on this occasion?

Mr. Macdonald

The record is silent on that point. It states that the decision taken was a distinct and brilliant success. We have, therefore, a happy precedent in changing our coinage, but in maintaining the existing unit, and I hope that this is a precedent which we shall follow.

I have a particular interest in taking part in this debate, because I am a member of the National Union of Bank Employees, I think the only member in this House. It will be agreed that everyone will be affected to a greater or lesser extent by this proposed change, but that members of the banking profession will be affected more than anyone else. While everyone handles money, and carries out transactions from time to time, members of my union are handling money all the time.

I understand that my union is a strong supporter of the Government in this matter, and warmly endorses the proposal to introduce a £-cent-½ system. Naturally, this is an argument which weighs very heavily with me, but I should like to think that it may be significant to other hon. Members when they realise that the professional body most closely concerned in this matter endorses the Government's proposal.

While I am on this topic, I wonder whether this is the place to put in the Government's mind the suggestion that they may find it well worth while to co-opt on the Decimal Currency Board a member of the National Union of Bank Employees. My reason for saying that is that when the transitional period is entered upon, no matter what system we choose, there is bound to be a certain amount of confusion and difficulty. People will have problems, and they will turn to the banks for advice. It is my members behind the bank counters who will have to give advice to the people who ask for it.

Mr. Edwin Brooks (Bebington)

Would my hon. Friend explain how this advice will be given when the banks do not propose to employ the new half unit?

Mr. Macdonald

It is perfectly simple to give advice, because, although the banks will not be employing the half unit, they will naturally be dealing with customers—private, retail and wholesale—who will be employing the half unit. They will be seeing their books of account and registers in the course of banking transactions and they will have to be familiar with the operation of the new system, whatever it may be. Retailers and wholesalers will have their difficulties in the transitional period, and the natural person for them to consult for advice is their banker. There are serious arguments for the suggestion that a member of the National Union of Bank Employees, which is most deeply involved in this matter, should be co-opted on to the Decimal Currency Board.

I turn to one of the arguments which is most commonly advanced in favour of the 10s. system, and that is associability. It has seemed to me for some time that associability is one of the main arguments against it. I have noted that the examples quoted by those who advocate the 10s. system are most highly selective. I have often seen the suggestion that under the 10s. system 63 cents will be roughly equivalent to 6s. 3d., and that it will be easy and natural for the housewife to make the transition. That example is just and accurate: 63 cents are roughly equivalent to 6s. 3d.

But if we go further up the scale to 68 cents, is it unreasonable to suppose that a large number of housewives, knowing that 63 cents equal 6s. 3d., will conclude that 68 cents equal 6s. 8d.? Of course, it does not: it equals 6s. 10d. I know that at that level 2d. is not a large amount. But the same situation obtains at lower levels. We can see that 13 cents equals 1s. 3d. There will be a great tendency on the part of the housewife to conclude that 18 cents equals 1s. 8d. It does not: it equals 1s. 10d.— a difference of 2d. It is even possible that a number of housewives will conclude, on the analogy of 18d., that 18 cents equal 1s. 6d. This is a difference of 4d.—20 per cent. This is a large sum in a small amount.

The 10s. system, so much vaunted for its alleged associability, contains a built-in tendency to mislead housewives and towards concealed price increases by retailers and other organisations. I cannot understand why this system is advocated as the one from which housewives will most benefit. It seems to me manifest that it is the system from which they are likely to benefit least of all.

I know only one serious argument advanced in favour of the 10s. system. It is an undoubted fact that if the £-cent-½ system is adopted accounting machines will not be standard machines and therefore will not be readily exportable. This argument was brought to my attention by a constituent. I am obliged to him. It is an argument against the Government's proposal, but I do not think that alone it is sufficient to stand up against the weighty arguments in favour of the £ system advanced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer today.

There has been a great deal of confusion in the minds of those who oppose this system between the unit of account and the token of account. What the hon. Member for Orpington said about bus conductors was beside the point. Bus conductors will not be affected by the name of the tokens used. Whether the smallest token is called a cent or a half cent will make no difference to the operation of taking in money and giving change. They will recognise the token. In the same way, members of the public will recognise the tokens quite readily and will not be confused by the names which may be given. The picture which is conjured up of agitated members of the public crowding round bus conductors, news vendors or public conveniences nervously fumbling with their coins to get the right one is quite unrealistic. People will readily and easily learn to recognise the coins required.

The advantages given by a heavy unit—which are so great that because we are accustomed to them I sometimes wonder whether we fully appreciate them—would be minimised by converting to a 10s. system. If the Government's system is adopted, we shall have a lasting system which will not detract from our international trade. I agree with those who say that the international argument is not strong, but it exists. Any change from the established £ cannot benefit our international relations and the activities of sterling, although I do not think that it would greatly weaken it. All the arguments seem to me to add up to a weighty, cogent and convincing case in favour of the £-cent-half system, and I shall have no hesitation in supporting the Government.

7.58 p.m.

Mr. Terence L. Higgins (Worthing)

I listened to the arguments of the hon. Member for Chislehurst (Mr. Macdonald) with great interest. I hope that he will excuse me if I do not take them up except in passing, because other Members wish to speak and I want to be as brief as possible.

I am very sad that the House will not have the opportunity of voting on this issue on its merits. I found the argument of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that it was no longer practical politics to argue further about the matter, very unconvincing. There is no reason why we should not take a decision different from his at this point. The delay which would be involved in drafting another Bill would be very small. Certainly I do not think that we can accept the right hon. Gentleman's argument that further delay would jeopardise the timetable which has been agreed. It was very much in his hands to avoid this situation arising. There is no reason why he should not have brought this matter before the House earlier so that we could have taken a reasonable decision.

The Chancellor made great play of the fact that the majority of the Halsbury Committee—admittedly only 4 to 2—was in his favour. But he disregarded the fact that nearly all the other organisations in this country are against him. There is certainly not a majority of the organisations representing all interests in this country in favour of the Government's system. As has been rightly pointed out, the right hon. Gentleman is not prepared to risk discovering whether the majority of the House supports the Government's proposals.

The Chancellor rightly said we should consider how much weight we should give to the various arguments which are adduced for and against the different systems. I wish to refer to them in particular relation to the question of timing. If one thing is clear, it is that the advantages and disadvantages of the £ system and the advantages and disadvantages of the 10s. or any other system arise differently through time. Some systems have an immediate advantage whereas others have a delayed advantage. This is an important point to consider because while we may be legislating for 1,000 years, we should not give the same weight to an advantage which will happen immediately the system is adopted as we should give to an advantage which may not benefit the country until 2967 A.D.

I wish first to speak briefly about the so-called international case. I am not at all convinced by the idea that international bankers are so naive that merely changing the unit will shake confidence in our national currency. I am sure that international bankers and, indeed, those with whom we do business, are far more sophisticated than that. At all events, even if there is a slight point here which should be borne in mind, it is a once-for-all change and while it is immediate it does not repeat itself throughout time.

I am much more convinced by the international argument which has been put forward that we should have a 10s. unit—I come down on that side of the fence—because it would enable us to have a system which is comparable with the systems of other countries and not a system which is the only one which is not a pure decimal system. I do not feel that much weight should be given to the argument for the heavy £-cent-½ unit, and still less to the argument for the even larger unit which has been advocated from the benches opposite. The time over which inflation and the rise in the standard of living will reduce the importance of whatever maximum unit we have is likely to be considerable. This—the argument for a heavy unit—is a deferred advantage and not one to which we should give great weight when comparing it with the immediate advantages of the 10s. system.

A point which has not been adequately considered is that the £ system is not a pure decimal system but has a vulgar fraction added on at the end. This means that our business machines will be related to the impure system. This will mean that we have to produce different business machines if we export. This difference is likely to perpetuate itself. Eventually, when the half unit falls off the end of the £1 system with the increase in inflation and the rise in the standard of living, we shall find that many of our business machines have to be converted yet again. This is a further point which tells against the £ system and in favour of the 10s. system.

The main advantage of the 10s. system arises from the question of associability. This is an immediate and transitional advantage which should be evaluated highly on account of the fact that it is immediate. Similarly, the point was made by the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Lubbock) that on telephone slot machines the figure will not be cut down to about 4½d. or its equivalent under the £ system but rather is likely to be raised to 1s. This is again likely to be an immediate disadvantage of the £ system.

The more one looks at the whole question, the more one finds that the advantages of the 10s. system are immediate and the advantages of the £ system may be deferred for several generations. I cannot accept the Chancellor's argument, which he described as a powerful one, that some of the transitional difficulties may be overcome in weeks rather than months, because what I have said about business machines continuing to operate on a mixed decimal and fraction system will continue for many years ahead. The same would be true of teaching arrangements on the mixed system. If one reads carefully the Halsbury Report, one sees that it is clear that the balance of advantage of the 10s. system is likely to last for a generation or even longer. These are, therefore, the arguments to which we should give considerable weight.

I turn from the question of timing to consider briefly the costs of conversion and the control which the Government will have during the transitional period. This falls very much under the Clauses of the Bill dealing with the Decimal Currency Board. Clearly, if the cost of conversion is to fall effectively on the users of the machines, the timing of the operation will turn very much on bilateral negotiations between producers and users of the equipment. If, however, the Government are to make no contribution to this cost or do not make investment allowances available on certain of these business machines, the Board will have great difficulty in controlling the timing of the conversion. That, I gather, is in contrast with the situation which has existed in other countries—for example, Australia—during the transitional period.

There are some considerable technical points which the House should bear in mind. We are to try to carry out what has rightly been described as the largest currency conversion ever, from the present system to a decimal system. This will mean an enormous increase in the production and conversion of business machines. Are we satisfied that the capacity of the industry will be adequate? More particularly, does not a grave problem arise because we will be asking the industry to expand its capacity rapidly, it will have to do so for about three or four years and then it must cut down rapidly? What provisions do the Government propose to make, presumably under the present Bill rather than under the later one which will follow, for encouraging investment in the business-machine industry in general and the computer industry so as to encourage them to invest sufficiently in plant producing the business machinery during the interim period?

If those industries are to have sufficient incentive, their overall profits must be sufficient to provide an adequate payoff merely during the conversion period, except for the additional machinery which may reasonably be expected to be needed after that period to cope with the ordinary growth in the use of business machines. This raises problems concerning both investment in business machine producing equipment, the training of new staff and then subsequent redundancy.

When making its decision this evening about whether to support the Government's £ system or whether it would rather support a 10s. system, the £-mil system or any of the other systems which have been proposed, the House is entitled to know what would be the cost, at this stage, of changing our minds from the system to which the Government have prematurely committed us and opting instead for the 10s. system.

Clearly, in the light of the Chancellor's statements, a number of people may have taken investment decisions. If we were to change our minds at this stage, clearly such people would incur a loss. Can the Chief Secretary give us any idea of what that cost is likely to be? If it is nil, is there any reason why we should not change our minds at this stage either on these grounds or because the Royal Mint has made its arrangements in anticipation of the transitional period?

The Chief Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. John Diamond)

I shall be able to answer the hon. Member's second question a lot more easily than his first.

Mr. Higgins

I shall look forward to hearing the right hon. Gentleman's answer on both points. What would be the cost to private firms or the Government of our changing our minds at this stage? Would it be £10 million, or more or less? This is something which the House needs to take into account in making its decision tonight. Overall the arguments are somewhat finely balanced, but I come down very much in favour of the 10s. unit.

8.10 p.m.

Mr. W. T. Williams (Warrington)

The Chancellor will have carried the whole House with him in bringing before it this determination to change from our present system to that of decimal currency, but it would appear, from the course of the debate, that he carries the House in little else.

Like other hon. Members who have spoken in the debate, I think it is a great pity that the Second Reading of the Bill takes place without any prior opportunity having been given to discuss the merits of the different systems. That may have helped the Chancellor in coming to the conclusion to which he is so firmly holding, more particularly in the light of the position that was reached by Halsbury, the consequences of that decision, and the effect of that decision as soon as it was known.

The position, undoubtedly, is that the Halsbury Committee was greatly affected by the argument regarding the international status of sterling. That emerges quite plainly in paragraph 373 of the Halsbury Report. Indeed, one of its members, I think it was Dame Anne Godwin, after the Report was published and the Chancellor had himself declared that the argument in relation to the international status of sterling did not overwhelmingly impress him, said that if she had not been so persuaded about the international consequences of the change in the basic unit she might herself have voted in favour of the domestic advantages of the 10s. system. Certainly if that were so it would have meant that Halsbury would have been equally divided. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Enfield, West (Mr. kin Macleod) went further than that. The right hon. Gentleman said he thought that, except for the overwhelming pressure on the minds of the Committee about the international status, the majority would have been heavily in favour of the 10 cent unit system.

Since the Halsbury Committee reported, the Chancellor has been given a good deal of information, and a good many representations have been made both to him and his predecessors over the years regarding the £-cent system to which the Halsbury Committee had committed itself.

It is therefore a pity that the Chancellor, knowing that the principal national distributive trade associations were strongly in favour of the other system in the light of the reservations that ultimately emerged from members of the Halsbury Committee and of the tremendously growing and massive support for the 10s. system which followed the publication of the White Paper, did not afford the House an opportunity of presenting its views. The Chancellor is obliged, without the opportunity of hearing what hon. Members have to say, to come to the position where today, when we are discussing this important matter, the debate is almost like a discussion between deaf people.

The position is that the Chancellor has made up his mind. All the arguments that have been advanced in this debate will substantially be dismissed, as the very powerful arguments which the Chancellor has already heard have already been dismissed by him as that of a pressure group of people having a vested interest and not really worthy of his consideration.

I take the view that the Chancellor has begun on a false premise and so has come to a false conclusion. Shakespeare, I think, got Malvolio, from the logic-chopping of a clown, to agree that his grandam was, in fact, a wild fowl. The Chancellor has not gone to that length, it is true, but apparently he took up his position initially because he was per- suaded that Halsbury was right. Halsbury took up this position initially on the ground that the international argument for the £-half cent system was essential for international purposes. The Chancellor has changed his mind on that issue at least once, but he appears today to have gone back substantially to the position which he held initially. He now says that he is not impressed by the argument about the £ from the point of view of principle, but that it does seem to have some merit from the point of view of convenience.

I do not want to repeat the arguments which have already been used concerning the advantage and the simplicity of the 10s.-cent system. But if the argument regarding the international status of sterling falls down—and I want to say a word about that in a moment, because I think that it does—there is a tremendous lot to be said in favour of a system which has the merits of simplicity, ease and convenience from the point of view of the ordinary person.

After all, the real purpose of our coinage system is that people shall be able to use it simply, that they shall be able to understand it, that they shall not find it complicated, and that they shall not be faced wih unnecessary difficulties. With regard to the great mass of people, even if it is only on balance, on balance the advantage clearly lies with the 10s. system. Its associability is obviously greater.

I cannot for the life of me see any merit in the argument that because of some doubtful advantage internationally the argument must be taken to the point that our own people shall be faced with difficulties and with problems that are unnecessary. Over 95 per cent. of all day-to-day transactions involve only shillings and pence. The transition under the 10s. system is obviously very much easier. The coins that the Government will have to introduce will be unfamiliar. The tendency to inflation will be greater. With a basic coin of 2.4d. we have to introduce a fraction in order to reduce it in the hope that we will quickly, be able to dispense with the lowest coin. These are obvious disadvantages. Indeed, the existence of a fractional unit is in itself a serious disadvantage. It unnecessarily complicates the system—the more so because of the fact that the banks will themselves ignore the fraction.

The truth is that the Government have missed the point of the real argument which we are advancing on behalf of the 10s.-cent system. The ease with which the Chancellor dismissed the question of associability is itself a pointer to this. In his argument this afternoon in favour of the £ system he in fact used the same considerations. There is an associability argument in relation to the keeping of the £ in the same way as there is an argument on associability in relation to shillings and pence if decimalised into almost the same figure.

The Chancellor has said that from the point of view of associability the advantage of the £ is that the major unit will be the same, that all existing coins above 6d. will have exact equivalents in decimal values and will be able to be used in shops, that the shilling and the florin will be of the same size, and that the people who handle the new coins will be trained to help people to associate the new with the old system. That being so it seems to me that unless there is an overwhelming case internationally for the maintenance of sterling, it is probably unnecessary, and certainly undesirable, to introduce a system which has its own complications, which takes it out of the main stream of the currency systems of the world, and which, whatever the advantages or disadvantages in cash machines and the like, will have the result that our cash registers will forever be odd in relation to those in other parts of the world. They will always be nonstandard. To do this for what on the Chancellor's argument is possibly an advantage of convenience, seems ridiculous.

The right hon. Member for Enfield, West put better than I can the point which I intended to make, but I think that it is worth underlining. So far from the position being that the £ unit will be an advantage internationally, I verily believe that from the point of view of the general currency position in the world it will be a disadvantage. I say this because if one looks at the situation in all the major industrial countries of the world one sees that the £ is a top-heavy final major unit of currency.

The tendency, even in countries which formerly used the £, has been to change over to the 10s.-cent system. Like the right hon. Member for Enfield, West, I, too, was recently in Australia. There, because they changed to the 10s.-cent system, it was possible for the Government to abandon their long-term training provisions. Their people quickly became familiar with parallel coinage and they had no difficulty in going over to the new system. Without exception the people to whom I spoke expressed surprise that we were going into an unnecessarily complicated system which they believed would be a disadvantage. The researches which they had done had led them to prefer the 10s. to the £ system, which our Government has chosen.

In my view it would be foolish to retain a unit which is heavier than the heaviest of the other units among the major currencies of the world. If the time comes, which we are led to believe may be in the near future, for Britain to go into the Common Market, a true decimal system will be absolutely essential. The Government, by their decision, has unnecessarily increased our difficulties in that eventually. The Good Book says that it is the foolish man who has his eyes on the ends of the earth, so it is a foolish Government who consider what is to happen in 100 years' time without, as seems to be the case here, taking sufficient cognisance of the problems being created in the immediate future.

I support the Government wholeheartedly in turning over to decimal currency, but I regret that the Government have chosen this unit, that they have done so without sufficient discussion in this House, and that, in regard to a matter which surely should have been left to the judgment of hon. Members, they have chosen to have their way by imposing a Whip.

8.25 p.m.

Mr. Patrick Jenkin (Wanstead and Woodford)

I agree wholeheartedly with the last words of the hon. and learned Member for Warrington (Mr. W. T. Williams). It is a disaster that we should he discussing a Measure as crucially important as this on a day when we have had two Ministerial statements which took three-quarters of an hour out of our debating time, on a day when we had a Royal Commission, and when we have had a morning sitting which has docked half an hour off the debate this evening.

I agree with the Government that it is right to retain the £, and I shall not repeat the arguments which were put so well by my hon. Friend the Member for the Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. John Smith).

In riposte to my right hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, West (Mr. Iain Macleod), I say that I was unimpressed by his argument that the £ is too heavy to decimalise. There are many firms today which do all their accounting in decimalised £s, including billing their customers, and no difficulties arise because of that.

This is a free vote on this side of the House, and I shall vote for the Government. I shall not vote for the Amendment because it deplores a system which includes the £. On the other hand, I believe that the Government are wrong in the subdivisions which they have chosen to introduce. The £-cent- ½-cent system is wrong and I believe we should have the £-florin-mil system instead.

I believe that the right answer is to keep the £ on the associability argument because then there is no change over the vast mass of transactions.

The hon. Member for Chislehurst (Mr. Macdonald) was right in saying that we have to draw a clear distinction between the handling of coins and the conducting of paper transactions. Once we have the coins in our hands, what matters is counting them. The problems of transition from the old to the new will arise whatever system is adopted. In the case of written transactions we shall have £s and decimals, and no great difficulty arises. The argument put forward about Centigrade and Fahrenheit is false, because both those systems have existed side by side and nobody has been forced to use Centigrade and to discard Fahrenheit.

The arguments for the use of the florin-mil sub-division fall under three heads. First, there is the coinage aspect, secondly, the question of flexibility, and, thirdly, the inflationary aspect, about which we have not heard a great deal this afternoon. The great advantage of the coinage system that I advocate is that it does away with the fraction. The reten- tion of the vulgar fraction has been criticised by hon. Members on both sides of the House, and I agree with those criticisms. In written accounts it is unimportant, because decimals are used, but when dealing with Coinage the fraction can be very tiresome.

The florin-mil system would allow the retention of the 6d. piece. The powerful arguments put forward by the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Lubbock) about parking meters and telephone charges would be met if the 6d. piece could be retained. Those machines would not need to be changed. With the Government scheme we shall have one new penny, two new pennies, five new pennies, and ten new pennies, the first two coins representing 2.4d. and 4.8d., respectively. With the £-mil system, at this level there would be five coins—five mil, representing 1 .2d., ten mil, representing 2.4d., 25 mil, equivalent to 6d., 50 mil, equivalent to Is., and 100 mil, equivalent to the florin. The great argument for that system is that we should be able to have exactly the same coins as with the 10s.- cent. system, with one addition, and we should have all the advantages which have rightly been claimed, on the coinage side, for that system.

The other great advantage would be that with the £-mil system we could go below the equivalent of 1.2d. We could have a two mil coin, equivalent almost exactly to the existing ½d. I agree with the Chancellor, however, that more scientific tests should be carried out on coin handling. I suggest that coins of the appropriate denomination should be made available to Members over the next few weeks, so that we can see them and handle them and make up our own minds which coins are better looking and are easier to handle.

The second argument for the system that I advocate is that it would enable us to have a smaller unit than 1.2d. The hon. Member for Glasgow, Springburn (Mr. Buchanan) put this argument very forcibly. It would allow for price changes in much smaller steps. It would allow price changes to take better account of cost changes. Cost accountants are accustomed to working to three places of decimals of a penny, and prices must also be free to move in very small stages.

Many of the products in daily use rise in price only by small amounts over the years. I am thinking of such things as beer, bread, eggs, petrol, sugar, milk and tobacco. Price changes in these products are usually measured in halfpennies, and that situation must be allowed to continue. It is not always possible to adjust the size or weight of a package. It is often against the law. That means that we must have the greatest flexibility in pricing.

We must not under-estimate the total amount involved. If the cost of a packet of 10 cigarettes is increased by a halfpenny, people have to pay £24 million extra a year. If it rises by 1.2d. they pay no less than £58 million a year more. The difference represents the penalty that would be paid for having the smallest unit equivalent to 1.2d.

Unlike my hon. Friend the Member for the Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. John Smith), I believe that it is a disadvantage for price changes to be delayed because the smallest unit is too large. In my view there is a need for flexibility. If a price change is delayed later than the date when it should take place the return is reduced, and when the change has to be made it is greater than it otherwise need have been, thereby leading to inflation.

We must ensure that our system will be the most suitable for the Common Market, which I am sure we will join sooner or later. The important point there is that a large number of industries which sell their commodities in small units must have the maximum flexibility of pricing to enable them to phase in with competing products on the Continent. To condemn them to a smallest unit of 1.2d. is to make their task much more difficult in this important transition.

If we introduce a sales tax on the pattern of the Common Market sales taxes, we will need a much smaller coin. All those countries which have such a tax need a large number of the smallest coins to simplify transactions. There are 3,400 million pfennigs in circulation in Germany, amounting to 58 per head, compared with 15 halfpennies per head in this country. The Dutch have even more per head and America, with a large number of sales taxes, mints about 3,000 million cents every year and has done so for the past two years. There is no figure for the total in circulation. Only the £-florin-mil system will provide this important flexibility. This argument has not been considered before the past few months, but the Government must listen to it.

Both the main systems must involve some measure of inflation because we are dealing with ladders of 12 rungs and 10, and thus the rungs are not exactly opposite. If the smallest unit is 1.2d. the temptation will be to increase prices more than if there were a smaller unit, the mil. The figures in paragraph 8 of Appendix 7 of the Halsbury Report show that the retention of the equivalent of the present halfpenny will reduce the inflationary effect by three times. Instead of it being 1½ points, it will be half a point.

This all represents a substantial improvement on either of the main systems advocated today. The case was hardly argued by the Halsbury Committee. This is a great pity, because it has much to be said for it. Even now, it is insufficiently understood, but it is now favoured by industry, which recognises that, as the Government are determined to keep the £, we should have the advantages of the system advocated by my right hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, West, plus the greater flexibility which a smaller coin would give. Assuming that the £ must be kept, the £-florin-mil is the better system of sub-dividing.

The Consumer Council, dismissed this argument in two cavalier paragraphs. They said that it was rejected by Halsbury. They were wrong: it was never argued by Halsbury. They said that it would inevitably involve three points of decimals. They were wrong: with the florin there can be two points. They said that the smallest coin would be the mil. They are wrong: the smallest would be 2 mils, equivalent to the halfpenny.

If these are the only arguments against the system, the case for it is even stronger. I recognise that, because of the polarity of the main arguments, the debate must be either for or against the Government's system. I believe that they are right in adhering to the £ and that the "ten-bobbers" are wrong.

Therefore, I shall vote for the Government, but I hope that I shall have an opportunity in Committee to press the case for the £-florin-mil system in more detail than time allows this evening.

8.40 p.m.

Mr. David Ginsburg (Dewbury)

It is a strange experience for me to be aligned with the right hon. Member for Enfield, West (Mr. lain Macleod) in opposition to the hon. Member for Wanstead a ad Woodford (Mr. Patrick Jenkin) and my right hon. Friend the Chancellor. Listening to the speech of the right hon. Member for Enfield, West, it occurred to me to say to my right hon. Friend what a marvellous Chairman of the Decimal Currency Board he would have been. He proved, moreover, that the Government were wrong in their decision to decimalise the £. They may have been right to decimalise the currency, but if the intention is to try to keep the £ as a unit of currency, surely the answer is that one should go for the £-mil.

In the course of the debate, I was a little disappointed to hear that the Government and the Chancellor continue to lean on the Halsbury Report. It is rather strange for those of us on the Labour benches to hear our own Government giving support to a majority report. In the past, the Labour Party has made some of its greatest progress by espousing minority reports. I am reminded of Sydney and Beatrice Webb, George Woodcock, and Nicholas Kaldor. There is something to be said for looking at minority reports.

This debate has been sufficiently good natured to have convinced the Chancellor that he was mistaken not to have had a general debate and taken the feelings of the House, as happened in another place.

The main error of the Government and the Chancellor has been over the question of convenience to the public. Presumably we are decimalising for the convenience of the public and not for ideology. Therefore, it is an issue on which the public should be studied and even, to a degree, consulted.

I speak as one who is still professionally active in market research and, in terms of good management, it is fantastic that my right hon. Friend has not undertaken any sort of market research. In the Treasury, he has his own social survey team. He has not used it. The only empirical evidence from the public is that of Dr. Sheila Jones of the Medical Research Council. But the Chancellor was not fair in suggesting that her evidence pointed his way.

I am not sure whether he was in the Chamber when my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Mr. Cant) referred to her letter in today's Financial Times. I would urge him to read that letter in full, because it shows such empirical evidence as he has is definitely against and not for him.

Turning to the international argument, I have looked at the Bank of England memorandum to the Halsbury Committee. It is very thin and pretty amateurish. The short answer to the Bank of England memorandum on the £ lies in paragraph 42 of the minority Report: We believe that the City does itself less than justice by suggesting that a large section of foreign customers might take their business elsewhere as the result of such a decimalisation move, and so deprive themselves of the continued enjoyment of the integrity and unrivalled services and experience which the City gives. The Chancellor is a courageous man but an obstinate one. He has been courageous in defence of the £. I would urge him to think again on some aspects of this proposal. There is nothing wrong in changing one's mind. In the Finance Bill of 1965, he made some major changes which were to the improvement of that Bill.

However, because I have the old-fashioned concept of loyalty and still live in some degree of hope, very reluctantly I shall go into the Division Lobby with him tonight.

8.45 p.m.

Mr. Gordon Campbell (Moray and Nairn)

The Chancellor of the Exchequer, moving the Second Reading, said in effect that we should not now argue any further about this issue but should come to a decision, but this is the first real opportunity we have had to argue about that at all. The point is that this debate should have taken place earlier or the Bill should have been delayed, and I believe that in recent months and weeks the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Leader of the House have treated this House deplorably on this question.

This is not a party matter, but a matter pre-eminently for the House of Commons. It will closely affect every citizen in the land as consumers, shoppers, travellers and handlers of cash generally. Although the change is nearly four years ahead, the decision has to be taken during the coming months. Many members of the public have not yet had the opportunity to consider the effects of decimalisation, but it is all the more important for that reason, as several hon. Members have pointed out, that their Parliamentary representatives should have had a chance to consider and debate decimalisation before Second Reading.

A currency change of this kind occurs only about every two centuries, but the Chancellor of the Exchequer has attempted to steamroller the Treasury's preferred system through the House without the chance of a general debate and apparently oblivious of the disagreement with the system voiced by most of the bodies representing the large majority of the country to be affected. The Press has been over-whelmingly against this proposed system. The Economist in December stated that the Government were proposing to carry out decimalisation in the worst possible way. Yet the right hon. Gentleman said on 7th March that there was very little protest in December.

Where has the Chancellor of the Exchequer been in recent months, when a great many bodies representing industry, commerce, transport, catering and other services, trade unions and the consumer organisations have been stating their views loudly in opposition to the £-new penny-½ system? A striking letter appeared in The Times on 12th December, signed by a number of distinguished persons representative of all walks of life in Britain and there were many other indications of disquiet and the need for a debate in this House.

Several hon. Members, including myself, made our concern clear. I had applied for one of the debates on the day when we adjourned for the Christmas Recess, before the Chancellor of the Exchequer's White Paper came out in December. My debate duly took place but it could be only 50 minutes of private Members' time. Before the debate, the right hon. Gentleman sent me a message asking me to cancel it as there would be a full debate in the House later. Thank heavens I did not comply with that request.

But in view of that attempt, I can only describe the words used by the Chancellor of the Exchequer on 7th March as thoroughly misleading. He then said: It is very late for the Opposition to raise this question."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 7th March, 1967; Vol. 742, c. 1242.] Later the right hon. Gentleman said: The protest started on the day that the Bill was introduced."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 7th March, 1967; Vol. 742, c. 1242.] That date was 1st March.

Because, fortunately, I had refused to accede to the right hon. Gentleman's request, my debate took place on 21st December. In it, I and another hon. Member—and other hon. Members by their interventions—made it clear that they criticised the Treasury's preferred system. More important, I asked for an assurance that action would not be taken to commit the country to a particular system before Parliament had considered the question. In reply, the Chief Secretary said: The hon. Gentleman also asked me if I would state that no action had been taken, and could undertake that no action would be taken, to prejudice the issue between the two systems. Certainly no instructions have been given to machine companies or anything like that."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st December, 1966: Vol. 738, c. 1513.] That statement having been made in this House last December, one would like to know how the Chancellor of the Exchequer was able to say on 7th March: Administrative decisions … have, of course, been taken and a number of companies, based on the decision announced by the Government over 12 months ago, have already entered into particular commitments on this matter."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 7th March, 1967; Vol. 742, c. 1243.] We had previously heard the sound of the approaching steam roller. Now it had arrived.

However, on the following day, the Press—and I am thinking of The Guardian in particular—reported statements by the companies that they were not committed; that they could still go for either system. We would therefore be interested to hear, in reply to a question put by one of my hon. Friends, what are the commitments, and what would be the financial cost of a change at this stage. Have any commitments been entered into before today's debate as regards the minting of the coins?

The Chancellor's reference to his announcement 12 months ago should not go without comment. The announcement on decimal currency was in a speech in this House after the General Election had been announced and in a debate on Government conduct of the country's economic affairs. Naturally, no other hon. Members in that debate reverted to the subject of decimalisation. After the election a further statement was expected. In due course it arrived in the shape of a White Paper in December, but no one expected to take that first statement, included in a speech in the House at that time, as the last word.

In the same speech the Chancellor put forward another scheme, the mortgage option scheme. After the election that scheme was very quickly withdrawn and another different scheme was put forward. I have been on the Committee on the Bill referring to that matter. I know very well the differences between it and the scheme announced by the Chancellor in his speech of 1st March last year. He could easily have withdrawn this decimalisation proposal which was made in a similar way at the same time as the other scheme and he could have come forward with another proposal.

During the summer the Consumer Council and other bodies were active on the matter and a number of hon. Members gave clear indications of their doubts and their opposition to the system. In the event, we did all that is normally necessary to point out clearly our dissent and the need and wish for a debate on this important subject. I am afraid hon. Members on both sides of the House had little assistance from the Leader of the House on this matter. I am sorry that he is not here at this moment.

It was made clear on several occasions on Business Questions that a general debate should be held before the Bill was considered. The reaction of the Leader of the House can be explained only by his reply to a business Question last week when, with a revealing mental reflex he said: … we consulted the Department ".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th March 1967; Vol. 743, c. 721.] I fear that the Department was not only consulted on this question but its view was allowed to prevail and, as a result, this House is being allowed today only to add its stamp to a Government decision. The Chancellor is presenting this system for endorsement only.

There is no dispute about the need for decimalisation, but it is vital that the best system should be adopted. That is the issue. It is pointless for the Government to base their argument on the Halsbury Committee Report because this question of the system was the very question which that Committee could not agree upon. Four members favoured a £ system while two favoured the 10s. unit system. Yet even at that time, over three years ago, the Report recorded that there had been a swing of opinion towards the 10s. unit, and that swing has continued apace since then.

As my right hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, West (Mr. kin Macleod) pointed out, the Halsbury Committee was much influenced by the international case. Also in considering the two competing systems the Committee said that the real decision was between the domestix advantages of the 10s. system and the international advantages, as the Committee saw them, of the £-cent-½ system. In the three years which have passed, the international argument has virtually disappeared. Even the Government gave some recognition to this in the White Paper, but the domestic advantages of the 10s. system have become clearer. While the country has benefited from the Halsbury Committee's excellent and unanimous advice on many aspects of decimalisation, it is wrong to have based the selection of the amount and system on the Committee's divided views on this subject. The Government's proposed system would not bring us the advantages of pure decimalisation. Unlike the decimal currencies in the world, we should have a fraction and virtually three units.

Here I would ask the House to consider the main principle and the advantage of moving to a decimal system. This is that it should be possible to express any sums of money in not more than two columns. At present our currency is clumsy, because we need four columns.—pounds, shillings, pence, and a halfpenny. The Government's proposed system would entail using three columns. To achieve the full advantages of decimalisation, one has to select a major unit of a size such that division into 100 parts will provide a small unit whose size is small enough to cater for all reasonable transactions. That is the way in which a decimal system which will express any sum of money in two columns only is found. This is the kernel of the matter.

It will not work, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, West pointed out with devastating clarity, with the £. This is why the Government have had to produce their fraction, but it is possible with the 10s. unit. It also explains why other variations have been put forward—for example, the £ divided into 1,000, producing mils. Here the smallest unit would be smaller than required, but at least it would eliminate the egregious fraction. I understand the explanations of this that have been put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Wanstead and Woodford (Mr. Patrick Jenkin).

This was something which the C.B.I. put forward, but only after pressing the 10s. system and finding the Government adamant against it. Here I quote from the C.B.I. Journal of 3rd March: It became clear in the end that industry's order of preference was for the 10s.-cent system first, for the pound-mil next and the pound-cent a bad last. There is also the proposal for a £5 unit which the hon. Member for Swindon (Mr. Francis Noel-Baker) has put forward. This is the 10s. system with the decimal point moved one place, but the smallest unit would be the same. The disadvantage of dividing the main unit into 1,000 rather than 100, which is common to these two systems, is that large figures would have to be used for fairly small transactions in shillings. A housewife shopping would be involved with figures like 755 when she was in the area of 15s., and the conversion from present sums would not be simple. What is common ground to almost everyone who has considered this subject is that the Government have selected the worst of the possible systems.

I will now consider the 10s. system, because this is the one that has the large majority of support in the country. My right hon. Friend gave the main reasons for its advantages over the Government's proposed system. I should like to stress four points in particular—its simplicity; the advantage that it is less likely to cause price increases; that the changeover period would be much easier; and that it would be less expensive to introduce.

On simplicity, conversion is much easier from the present currency. This has been made clear by a number of hon. Members. The hon. Member for Chislehurst (Mr. Macdonald) argued against this, because he said that it was not exact conversion. That is the reason for the awful word "associability" which has come in. All prices are not convertible to within a penny, but at least the housewife or other shopper can see at a glance whether the price is roughly in the area she is expecting; she can compare when she moves into the new system.

Furthermore, the fraction will preclude the simplicity which a decimal currency should enjoy. Because of the fraction, there is a danger that prices will be rounded off upwards. That is what the consumers organisations have been worried about, and that is where the Chancellor misunderstood the argument, although I did not press to interrupt him. He said that the argument was that the fraction would disappear, and that prices would be rounded off upwards. But that is not what bothers the consumer organisations. They are worried that people will try to avoid the fraction, although it still exists, and are then likely to push the price upwards rather than downwards.

The change-over period is expected to be about two years. We have heard that in Australia, because the 10s. unit was so successful, they have been able to reduce the period to 18 months. During the change-over period here, the old and new currencies will have to circulate together. Under the 10s. system only two new coins are required to replace the present bronze coins—the smallest coins. All our present silver coins, or more correctly cupronickel coins, could continue. If I did not mishear the Chancellor, he said that under this system all the coins above 6d. will continue, but that is not so. The half crown will have to go, because it becomes a fraction. Under the Government system, four new coins are necessary. The Government are introducing five and suggest that they may introduce a sixth. The sixpence must disappear because that is also a fraction.

During the transition period all those coins will be circulating together. There will be our present currency, including pennies and the sixpence, which will become 2½ new pennies, together with five new coins in the new currency called new pennies and new halfpennies having a different value from the existing ones. They will all circulate together for about two years, and no one will bless the Chancellor who introduced this system. Apart from the general public, those who must handle cash, like bus conductors, shop assistants, newspaper vendors and cashiers will find that their transactions with their customers are slow and difficult.

The change-over under the 10s. system would be less expensive, not only because only two new coins would be needed but because meters and vending machines depending upon shillings, sixpences and half-crowns would not need alteration. It is not surprising that Australia, New Zealand and South Africa have all decided on the 10s. system. The White Paper, "Decimal Currency in the United Kingdom", published last December, refers to them at various points, but it is remarkable that not a word is said recording or revealing that they have all adopted the 10s. system.

I now turn to the argument for the £ unit. I am not one of those who have said that there are no advantages in it, because I agree that there is the familiarity of the name and its international standing abroad. But that is not in itself a good enough reason to make decimalisation the kind of operation which the right hon. Gentleman now proposes, that is, a mix-up between fractions and decimals and the other troubles which we have discussed. A modernised, efficient and workable currency without a fraction could strengthen sterling in world esteem.

Both the Chancellor and my hon. Friend the Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. John Smith) mentioned the question of international trade. But that is vague; we do not have the information. The Halsbury Committee did not investigate it. I believe that both that question and the question of market research, which has also been mentioned, need to be examined before the Chancellor goes ahead with the Bill. I hope that he will withdraw it while that very necessary research is carried out.

The Chancellor said that the arguments are still the same as at the time of the Halsbury Committee, but the point is that their weight has altered. Some of the arguments are much more weighty than the others. The Government seem determined—unless we hear something different from the Chief Secretary—to foist a bastard decimal-fraction currency upon the country. Regrettably, the vote tonight cannot represent the true feelings of the House owing' to a Whip having been imposed on the Government side. There is, however, a free vote on this site of the House. This is not a party political matter. I am aware that many hon. Members opposite do not like the new penny-½ system and some have made it clear today. If there were a really free vote I am certain that the 10s. unit system would get a substantial majority.

There are hon. Members opposite who are concerned because of the effects on the general public and their constituents and because of the views of the T.U.C., the Co-operative movement and trade or transport undertakings with which they are associated. They are not rebels and should not be treated as such. Nor is the subject related to the Common Market, Vietnam or the pay freeze. Yet the Whip has been imposed. They should never have been put in this dilemma and I sympathise with them. I hope that they will exercise their right of conscience because I cannot believe that a non-party question which affects the daily life of every citizen can really be regarded as a matter of party discipline.

If the Government do nevertheless press on with the Bill, it will become clear that they have chosen a new method of minting coinage and that their new instrument for minting it is the steamroller. It may give the Government a feeling of security in this House but it is crushing the expression of a free and true opinion in this House. It will not remove the problem. The Government are pressing through a system likely to meet increasing opposition, from those who have to use it as they learn what is entailed. The Chancellor will come to regret that he chose earlier to ignore both this House and representative bodies outside.

9.7 p.m.

The Chief Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. John Diamond)

I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer will share my view that, considering the tone of the arguments that have been used in the Press and in a great deal of the propaganda put forward, no complaint can be made about the debate. Many views have been expressed. It is absolutely right to say that this is not a party issue, because we have had support for my right hon. Friend's proposal from both sides of the House. It has been opposed on both sides. We have had alternative proposals from both sides. [HON. MEMBERS: "Then why the Whip?"] I shall answer that in a moment.

If we were exclusively concerned—which we are not necessarily and technically concerned with—with the principle of decimalisation there would be no vote at all. I am sure of that. The whole House approves decimalisation. The Halsbury Committee was set up by right hon. Members opposite. It reported and my right hon. Friend announced the present Government's decision. I am not going so far as to say that had the Opposition still been in Government they would have announced their decision, because at the moment I want to keep on ground which does not raise passions. It is clear that the House is in favour of decimalisation, and in that sense we can call this an historic day, for the system that we have had has been with us for hundreds and, in certain respects, for over a thousand years. But the whole House is almost unanimously agreed that we shall now move forward to a decimalised system.

In such an important decision, the Chancellor would naturally wish that full discussions and collection of the views of everyone should take place, and there has been some objection that this has not been done. I really cannot understand that complaint, and I hope that those who feel that way will bear with me while I recite some of the facts. As my right hon. Friend said, the Committee, set up by the last Government, went to enormous lengths and into enormous detail to receive and sift evidence before reaching its conclusion. I have no need to go over it, for the Chancellor of the Exchequer has already done so.

A full year ago, in March, 1966, the Chancellor of the Exchequer made a perfectly clear statement about decimalisation. The interest shown was minimal. The objections were negligible. So far as one could test public opinion, it was in support of decimalisation related to the £. There was no means of knowing that hon. Members on either side of the House wished to press the matter, until much more recently.

The hon. Member for Moray and Nairn (Mr. G. Campbell) said that he wished that he could have had the opportunity to have a debate when the White Paper was issued. He knows that he had that opportunity. He made an interesting and lengthy speech—and he was not the only one—and his views were made absolutely clear and I had the pleasure of listening to every word. It is not the case that the House has not had the opportunity of having a debate on this topic.

My right hon. Friend feels that we should now move on, for the reasons indicated by many speakers. What is business to do and what is industry to do, having regard to my right hon. Friend's statement of more than a year ago? They want to know whether we mean business and the answer is that we do. It is the Government's responsibility, having listened carefully to all the arguments and having read all the reports and having gone to endless trouble, as they should, to send skilled individuals to study what is happening in other countries which are going through the same kind of experiment, to make up their minds. We had to make up our minds because nobody else would. The Opposition are not doing so, but are doing exactly what my right hon. Friend complained about—adding their voice to opposing what is proposed.

There are all sorts of people who are opposed to this method and if we were to have a free vote, we would need at least six Lobbies. We would need an 8s. 4d. Lobby to support a system which has not been mentioned today, but which is a solid and reliable system for 100 pennies. We would need a ten-bob Lobby and a 10s.½ Lobby, we would need a £-cent-half Lobby—the present proposal and we would need a £-mil Lobby for the idea put forward in a very persuasive speech by the hon. Member for Wanstead and Woodford (Mr. Patrick Jenkin) and a £5-mil Lobby for the idea put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Swindon (Mr. Francis Noel-Baker). The Halsbury Report indicates that all those are solid proposals. Many of them have advantages.

As my right hon. Friend said, any one system would probably have a majority against it. We are all politicians and we are all aware of that phenomenon. But the Government have to make up their minds and on balance they take the view, after the carefully considered Report of the Halsbury Committee and the further consideration which the Government have given, assisted by Departments and officials, including those in the Treasury who are well informed about these matters, that this is the right system.

Sir Robert Cary (Manchester, Withington)

Surely the Leader of the House has been under a permanent obligation since last March to give the House an opportunity to discuss the matter before the presentation of the Bill.

Mr. Diamond

I cannot speak from first-hand knowledge for I am not always here when the Leader of the House is questioned about business, but I am told that in the last three months there has been no request of this kind. The hon. Member for Manchester, Withington (Sir R. Cary) is better informed about what goes on in this place than most of us are, and if he so much wanted a debate, he knows that the Opposition always have the opportunity to secure a debate on any topic which they feel to be of great interest and on which the House is not in step with the Government.

There has been no such request to devote a Supply day to this. I refer to these matters delicately, but it was right that those distinguished and knowledgeable Members of Parliament who are members of the Parliamentary Labour Party Economic Group should have an opportunity of discussing this matter at first hand with the Chairman of this Committee, who was courteous enough to come along and address them. All ten of them turned up to listen.

Mr. Brooks

Is it not true that the date of that meeting happened to be the date on which the Bill had been printed?

Mr. Diamond

It is true that that was notified. I do not want to go into it with indelicate definition. It is true that the date had been notified and, had there been a tremendous interest in this, of course there would have been more Members. I do not know how many Members turned up on a similar occasion when the Chairman addressed Conservative Members. The short point is that there is clear evidence that the time had arrived for the Chancellor to make up his mind. He announced his decision, a White Paper was published, and there has been every opportunity for pushing points of view.

The Chancellor, as everyone knows, is anything but arbitrary. [Laughter.] I should know. I have worked with my right hon. Friend and I have worked in this House. I have never listened to more criticism than came from this House on the number of occasions when the Chancellor had changed his mind on a number of tax proposals. Every time that he acceded to a request to change his mind, the Chancellor and I were criticised on the grounds that we were flabby, flexible, could not make up our minds, and did not know where we were going. The House cannot have it both ways. As everyone knows, my right hon. Friend is anything but inflexible.

We have our responsibility as a Government, particularly to those about whom I have been asked questions. I have been asked what commitments have been entered into. I want to make it absolutely clear to the hon. Gentleman the Member for Moray and Nairn that what I told him previously was absolutely true and it is precisely true today. There have been administrative decisions made and some administrative planning. It costs something to sit round a table and plan, but that is not the cost which is referred to in his question, or that of one of his hon. Friends.

I have been asked what cost has been incurred, and the answer is that no commitment has been undertaken by the Government, or in the public sector which would in any sense prevent us from changing our minds now. It is open to Parliament to come to its decision. We said that and we have maintained it. Until we have the authority of Parliament, we do not propose to undertake any commitments of that kind.

I am not able to answer the hon. Gentleman about what others may have done. It is completely beyond my knowledge, but it is clear that those who want to meet a given date will have to be making arrangements, and it is our responsibility to let them know that they can go ahead with those arrangements, without being incommoded and put to nugatory expense through a Government's vacillation. I hope that I have dealt fairly and fully with the points raised.

Mr. Lubbock

Could the right hon. Gentleman say what information was given to the National Cash Register Company at the meeting held with it on 13th April, 1966, three months before the White Paper was published, and whether he knows of any decisions made by that company to go ahead with its plan for a £-cent-½ system?

Mr. Diamond

I gather that the hon. Gentleman has had a communication from my right hon. Friend and he therefore knows the answer to that question. [Interruption.] If the hon. Gentleman had thought it important, he would have raised the matter when he spoke. He did not think it important to refer to it then.

Mr. Lubbock

I asked whether the Chancellor of the Exchequer would tell me with what organisations consultations had been held. He has courteously—

Mr. Speaker

Order. Interventions must be brief at this stage.

Mr. Lubbock

The information which he gave me was that a meeting was held with the National Cash Register Company on 13th September, 1966—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Member must take note of what the Chair says.

Mr. Diamond

I want to help the hon. Gentleman as much as I can, notwithstanding that he is raising a point which he could well have made in his speech and which he could make in Committee.

I understand from my right hon. Friend that he has received many delegations, including this one, and told them the same thing, namely, what the Government's proposal was and that the Government were not entering into any commitment until they had Parliament's authority. This is known to everybody. There is nothing unusual, secret or mysterious about it.

May I proceed with the arguments used against the proposal, because it is clear that there is no proposal for any other system on the Order Paper. The Motion on the Order Paper, as one expected, criticises the system which the Government propose.

There are a number of possibilities. However, once one accepts, as I think one is bound to accept, the logic of the Report as to the likely future falling into disuse of the halfpenny equivalent, then only two systems come up for final consideration. Of the two systems, the Committee, by a majority, came down in favour of the one which the Government propose. A number of Members, including the right hon. Gentleman, have sought to destroy that decision by saying, in effect, that the reasons which the Committee adduced were the wrong reasons, or that one of the subscribers to the majority Report has since changed her mind.

Mr. Iain Macleod


Mr. Diamond

That has been suggested, not by the right hon. Gentleman.

Therefore, may I make it absolutely clear that Dame Anne Godwin has not changed her mind. She was, and remains, for the £, the system which is in the Report and in the Bill. She reached her decision without attaching importance to the international case. I have been authorised to make this statement. Let us be clear about this: the majority was and remains solid.

The right hon. Gentleman said, surprisingly enough—and this point has been taken up by a number of speakers—that the international case was stated in the Report to be the dominating argument, as a result of which the majority reached its conclusion. One part of the Report has been quoted time and again. I am absolutely astonished that we have never heard today the whole of it. May I read the part which has been quoted and then, to put it in context, read the real conclusion of the Committee.

Paragraph 383, which has been quoted, says: From a purely domestic point of view the 10s.-cent system without a fraction offers, on balance, the best system for the immediate future and the smoothest transition ". But it says "for the immediate future". Towards the end of paragraph 384, it is said: Confining our examination to transitional matters relating to the introduction of the decimal system, we concluded that the disadvantages of the £-cent system as opposed to a 10s.-cent system were a price well worth paying, in the general interest, to avoid risk to the international standing of sterling". Paragraph 385 goes on: If we look further ahead than the transitional period, the balance of advantage, even without the ' international' case, inclines, in our view, increasingly towards the £-cent-½ system. I cannot understand why one of my hon. Friends built the whole of his case on the one argument that the international case had determined the decision of the majority and that if the international case is removed, the majority evaporates and one comes back to a 10s. system. There is nothing to support that.

Mr. Iain Macleod

The right hon. Gentleman is looking at the wrong paragraph. I referred not to paragraph 383, but to paragraph 373, in which he will find in heavy print the words which I quoted. The Halsbury Committee said, in effect, that it boils down to The ' international' case for the £ versus the associability' case for the 10s. system.

Mr. Diamond

I agree that the right hon. Gentleman referred to that paragraph. I remember looking at the bold type. If one takes that paragraph together with what I have read, it becomes absolutely clear. The paragraph from which I read is only 10 paragraphs later and the right hon. Gentleman said that he had read the whole Report carefully. Of course he has. He would have seen that the Report says in the most specific terms, which I have read out, that if one refers purely to the transitional period, these arguments balance one another perhaps, but that when going further ahead, as we want to do, without question and even ignoring the international case the Committee came down on balance in favour of the system which is proposed. One is bound to do that for all the reasons which have been adduced by those hon. Members, including many of my hon. Friends, who support what the Government are proposing.

There are several long-term advantages in connection with the £. On the short term, the question of associability

is fairly evenly balanced. It is remarkable with what skill people can adjust themselves to handling different coins and currencies once they are compelled to do so—once, that is to say, the coins which they are at present handling are removed.

My right hon. Friend the Chancellor has made it clear that there will be the fullest preparation. All the experience in other countries is that with careful preparation there is easy transition. It is not the unit which is chosen but the preparation that is made that determines whether the transition shall be easy.

The value of having a £ which we know about, which is the same and which has the same value, the same name and the same international reputation, putting it no higher than that, is of such long-term advantage that it should not be easily thrown away. An overwhelming case against it has to be demonstrated to justify throwing away something which has stood us in good stead over all these years.

Particularly if a Government are inviting the whole community to go, as they are, into a new situation with some unfamiliar coins and some unfamiliarity in the decimal system, as is inevitable, it is surely right that a responsible Government should say, "Here is something you can hang on to, something you know all about. It is absolutely familiar. It is what you have been having your wages in, what you have paid your rent in and what you have been buying your motor car or your television with. It is what you have been used to for your housekeeping allowance." It is surely right that the Government should see that a citizen should know and handle a £ note which is familiar and will continue to be familiar in an unfamiliar system.

For these reasons, I feel sure that the House will give us the Second Reading of the Bill.

Question put, That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question: —

The House divided: Ayes 261. Noes 169.

Division No. 298.] AYES [9.30 p.m.
Abse, Leo Archer, Peter Atkinson, Norman (Tottenham)
Albu, Austen Armstrong, Ernest Awdry, Daniel
Allen, Scholefield Ashley, Jack Bagier, Gordon A. T.
Barnes, Michael Hall-Davis, A. G. F. Ogden, Eric
Barnett, Joel Hamling, William Oram, Albert E.
Baxter, William Hannan, William Orbach, Maurice
Bell. Ronald Haseldine, Norman Orme, Stanley
Bellenger, Rt. Hn. F. J. Hattersley, Roy Oswald, Thomas
Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood Hazell, Bert Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, S'tn)
Bennett, James (G'gow, Bridgeton) Healey, Rt. Hn. Denis Page, Derek (King's Lynn)
Bidwell, Sydney Heffer, Eric S. Palmer, Arthur
Bishop, E. S. Herbison, Rt. Hn. Margaret Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles
Blenkinsop, Arthur Horner, John Park, Trevor
Booth, Albert Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas Parker, John (Dagenham)
Boston, Terence Howarth, Harry (Wellingborough) Parkyn, Brian (Bedford)
Bottomley, Rt. Hn. Arthur Howarth, Robert (Bolton, E.) Pavitt, Laurence
Bowden, Rt. Hn. Herbert Howell, Denis (Small Heath) Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred
Boyden, James Howie, W. Pentland, Norman
Braddock, Mrs. E. M. Hoy, James Perry, Ernest G. (Battersea, S.)
Bray, Dr. Jeremy Huckfield, L. Perry, George H. (Nottingham, S.)
Brown, Rt. Hn. George (Belper) Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey) Prentice, Rt. Hn. R. E.
Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan) Hughes, Emrys (Ayrshire, S.) Price, Christopher (Perry Barr)
Brown, Bob(N'c'tle-upon-Tyne,W) Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.) Price, Thomas (Westhoughton)
Brown, R. W. (Shoreditch & F'bury) Hughes, Roy (Newport) Price, William (Rugby)
Buchan, Norman Hunter, Adam Probert, Arthur
Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn) Hynd, John Pursey, Cmdr. Harry
Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.) Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill) Rankin, John
Callaghan, Rt. Hn. James Jackson, Colin (B'h'se & Spenb'gh) Redhead, Edward
Cant, R. B. Janner, Sir Barnett Rees, Merlyn
Carmichael, Neil Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas Reynolds, G. W.
Cary, Sir Robert Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford) Richard, Ivor
Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara Jenkins, Hugh (Putney) Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)
Chapman, Donald Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford) Roberts, Gwilym (Bedfordshire, S.)
Coe, Denis Jones, Dan (Burnley) Robinson,Rt.Hn.Kenneth (St.P'c'as)
Coleman, Donald Jones,Rt.Hn.Sir Elwyn (W.Ham,S.) Robinson, W. O. J. (Walth'stow, E.)
Concannon, J. D. Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham) Rodgers, William (Stockton)
Crawshaw, Richard Jones, T. A. (Rhondda West) Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)
Judd, Frank
Crostand, Rt. Hn. Anthony Kelley, Richard Rose, Paul
Crossman, Rt. Hn. Richard Kerr, Mrs. Anne (R'ter & Chatham) Ross, Rt. Hn. William
Cullen, Mrs. Alice Kerr, Dr. David (W'worth, Central) Rowlands, E. (Cardiff, N.)
Dalyell, Tam Kerr, Russell (Feltham) Shaw, Arnold (Ilford, S.)
Darling, Rt. Hn. George Kimball, Marcus Shinwell, Rt. Hn. E.
Davidson, Arthur (Accrington) Lawson, George Shore, Peter (Stepney)
Davies, Dr. Ernest (Stretford) Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick (Newton) Short,Rt.Hn.Edward (N'c'tle-u-Tyne)
Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.) Lee, Rt. Hn. Jennie (Cannock) Short, Mrs. Renée(W'hampton,N.E.)
Davies, Ednyfed Hudson (Conway) Lestor, Miss Joan Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)
Davies, Harold (Leek) Lever, Harold (Cheetham) Silverman, Julius (Aston)
Davies, Ifor (Gower) Lever, L. M. (Ardwick) Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)
Davies, Robert (Cambridge) Lewis, Arthur (W. Ham, N.) Skeffington, Arthur
Delargy, Hugh Lewis, Ron (Carlisle) Slater, Joseph
Dewar, Donald Loughlin, Charles Small, William
Diamond, Rt. Hn. John Luard, Evan Smith, John
Doig, Peter Lyon, Alexander W. (York) Snow, Julian
Donnelly, Desmond Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.) Spriggs, Leslie
Dunnett, Jack Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson Steele, Thomas (Dunbartonshire, W.)
Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth (Exeter) McBride, Neil Stewart, Rt. Hn. Michael
Eadie, Alex MacColl, James Stonehouse, John
Edwards, Robert (Bilston) MacDermot, Niall Swingler, Stephen
Edwards, William (Merioneth) Macdonald, A. H. Taverne, Dick
Ellis, John McKay, Mrs. Margaret
English, Michael Mackenzie, Gregor (Rutherglen) Thomas, George (Cardiff, W.)
Ennals, David Mackie, John Tinn, James
Ensor, David Mackintosh, John P. Tomney, Frank
Evans, Ioan L. (Birm'h'm, Yardley) Maclennan, Robert Urwin, T. W.
Faulds, Andrew MacMillan, Malcolm (Western Isles) Varley, Eric G.
Fernyhough, E. McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.) Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne Valley)
Fitch, Alan (Wigan) McNamara, J. Kevin Walden, Brian (All Saints)
Fitt, Gerard (Belfast, W.) Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg) Walker, Harold (Doncaster)
Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston) Mallalieu,J.P.W.(Huddersfield,E.) Watkins, David (Consett)
Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) Marquand, David Weitzman, David
Foot, Sir Dingle (Ipswich) Mason, Roy Wells, William (Walsall, N.)
Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale) Maude, Angus Whitaker, Ben
Ford, Ben Maxwell, Robert White, Mrs. Eirene
Forrester, John Mellish, Robert Whitlock, William
Fowler, Gerry Mendelson, J. J. Wigg, Rt. Hn. George
Fraser, John (Norwood) Millan, Bruce Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick
Freeson, Reginald Mitchell, R. C. (S'th'pton, Test) Williams, Alan Lee (Hornchurch)
Gardner, Tony More, Jasper Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)
Ginsburg, David Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire) Williams, W. T. (Warrington)
Gourlay, Harry Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe) Willis, George (Edinburgh, E.)
Greenwood, Rt. Hn. Anthony Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw) Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Gregory, Arnold Morris, John (Aberavon) Wilson, Rt. Hn. Harold (Huyton)
Grey, Charles (Durham) Moyle, Roland Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)
Griffiths, David (Rother Valley) Mulley, Rt. Hn. Frederick Winnick, David
Griffiths, Rt. Hn. James (Llanelly) Murray, Albert Woodburn, Rt. Hn. A.
Griffiths, Will (Exchange) Newens, Stan TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Gunter, Rt. Hn. R. J. Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon) Mr. Harper and
Hale, Leslie (Oldham, W.) Oakes, Gordon Mr. Walter Harrison.
Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash) Gibson-Watt, David Murton, Oscar
Astor, John Giles, Rear-Adm. Morgan Neave, Airey
Atkins, Humphrey (M't'n & M'd'n) Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, C.) Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael
Baker, W. H. K. Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.) Nott, John
Barber, Rt. Hn. Anthony Glover, Sir Douglas Onslow, Cranley
Batsford, Brian Godber, Rt. Hn. J. B. Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian
Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torquay) Goodhew, Victor Osborn, John (Hallam)
Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gos. & Fhm) Grant, Anthony Page, Graham (Crosby)
Berry, Hn. Anthony Grant-Ferris, R. Pardoe, John
Bessell, Peter Gresham Cooke, R. Peel, John
Biffen, John Grieve, Percy Percival, Ian
Birch, Rt. Hn. Nigel Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds) Peyton, John
Blaker, Peter Grimond, Rt. Hn. J. Pounder, Rafton
Bossom, Sir Clive Gurden, Harold Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch
Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. John Hall, John (Wycombe) Prior, J. M. L.
Boyle, Rt. Hn. Sir Edward Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) Pym, Francis
Braine, Bernard Harris, Reader (Heston) Quennell, Miss J. M.
Brinton, Sir Tatton Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye) Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David
Bromley-Davenport,Lt.-Col.Sir Walter Harvie Anderson, Miss Ridley, Hn. Nicholas
Brown, Sir Edward (Bath) Hastings, Stephen Ridsdale, Julian
Bruce-Gardyne, J. Hawkins, Paul Robson Brown, Sir William
Buchanan-Smith, Alick Angus, N&M) Heald, Rt. Hn. Sir Lionel Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)
Buck, Antony (Colchester) Heseltine, Michael Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)
Bullus, Sir Eric Higgins, Terence L. Royle, Anthony
Burden, F. A. Hiley, Joseph Russell, Sir Ronald
Hill, J. E. B. Scott, Nicholas
Campbell, Gordon Hobson, Rt. Hn. Sir John Sharples, Richard
Carlisle, Mark Holland, Philip Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)
Carr, Rt. Hn. Robert Hornby, Richard Sinclair, Sir George
Channon, H. P. G. Howell, David (Guildford) Stainton, Keith
Clegg, Walter Hunt, John Steel, David (Roxburgh)
Cooke, Robert Stodart, Anthony
Cordle, John Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir M. (Ripon)
Corfield, F. V. Kerby, Capt. Henry Summers, Sir Spence[...]
Craddock, Sir Beresford (Spelthorne) Kirk, Peter Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)
Crawley, Aidan Kitson, Timothy Teeling, Sir William
Crouch, David Knight, Mrs. Jill Thorpe, Rt. Hn. Jeremy
Cunningham, Sir Knox Langford-Holt, Sir John Turton, Rt. Hn. R. H.
Currie, G. B. H. Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry van Straubenzee, W. R.
Dalkeith, Earl of Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland) Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hn. Sir John
Dance, James Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Selwyn (Wirral) Vickers, Dame Joan
Davidson,James (Aberdeenshire,W.) Loveys, W. H. Wainwright, Richard (Colne Valley)
Dean, Paul (Somerset, N.) McAdden, Sir Stephen Walker, Peter (Worcester)
Digby, Simon Wingfield Mackenzie, Alasdair (Ross&Cromarty) Walters, Dennis
Dodds-Parker, Douglas Macleod, Rt. Hn. Iain Ward, Dame Irena
Doughty, Charles McMaster, Stanley Weatherill, Bernard
Douglas-Home, Rt. Hn. Sir Alec Macmillan, Maurice (Farnham) Webster, David
du Cann, Rt. Hn. Edward Maddan, Martin Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William
Eden, Sir John Marten, Neil Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)
Elliott, R.W.(N'c'tle-upon-Tyne,N.) Mawby, Ray Winstanley, Dr. M. P.
Emery, Peter Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J. Wood. Rt Hn. Richard
Evans, Gwynfor (C'marthen) Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C. Worsley, Marcus
Eyre, Reginald Miscampbell, Norman Wright, E.
Fisher, Nigel Mitchell, David (Basingstoke) Wylie, N. R.
Fletcher-Cooke, Charles Monro, Hector Younger, Hn. George
Fortescue, Tim Morgan, Geraint (Denbigh)
Foster, Sir John Morrison, Charles (Devizes) TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Fraser,Rt.Hn.Hugh (St'fford & Stone) Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles Mr. Goodhart and Mr. Lubbock.

Main Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time.

Mr. Peter Bessell (Bodmin)

I beg to move, That the Bill be committed to a Committee of the whole House.

Question put:

The House divided: Ayes 171. Noes 246.

Division No. 299.] AYES [9.42 p.m.
Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash) Biffen, John Buck, Antony (Colchester)
Astor, John Birch, Rt. Hn. Nigel Bullus, Sir Eric
Atkins, Humphrey (M't'n & M'd'n) Blaker, Peter Burden, F. A.
Awdry, Daniel Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. John Campbell, Gordon
Baker, W. H. K. Boyle, Rt. Hn. Sir Edward Carlisle, Mark
Barber, Rt. Hn. Anthony Braine, Bernard Carr, Rt. Hn. Robert
Batsford, Brian Brinton, Sir Tatton Cary, Sir Robert
Bell, Ronald Bromley-Davenport,Lt.-Col.SirWalter Channon, H. P. G.
Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gos. & Fhm) Brown, Sir Edward (Bath) Clegg, Walter
Berry, Hn. Anthony Bruce-Gardyne, J. Cooke, Robert
Bessell, Peter Buchanan-Smith,Alick(Angus,N&M) Corfield, F. V.
Craddock, Sir Beresford (Spelthorne) Higgins, Terence L. Percival, Ian
Crawley, Aidan Hiley, Joseph Peyton, John
Crouch, David Hill, J. E. B. Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch
Cunningham, Sir Knox Hobson, Rt. Hn. Sir John Prior, J. M. L.
Currie, G. B H. Holland, Philip Pym, Francis
Dalkeith, Earl of Hordern, Peter Quennell, Miss J. M.
Dance, James Hornby, Richard Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David
Davidson,James(Aberdeenshire,W.) Howell, David (Guildford) Ridley, Hn. Nicholas
d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry Hunt, John Ridsdale, Julian
Dean, Paul (Somerset, N.) Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye) Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)
Digby, Simon Wingfield Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford) Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)
Dodds-Parker, Douglas Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith Royle, Anthony
Doughty, Charles Kerby, Capt. Henry Russell, Sir Ronald
Douglas-Home, Rt. Hn. Sir Alec Kimball, Marcus Scott, Nicholas
du Cann, Rt. Hn. Edward Kirk, Peter Sharples, Richard
Eden, Sir John Kitson, Timothy Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)
Elliott, R.W.(N'c'tle-upon-Tyne,N.) Langford-Holt, Sir John Sinclair, Sir George
Emery, Peter Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry Smith, John
Evans, Gwynfor (C'marthen) Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland) Steel, David (Roxburgh)
Eyre, Reginald Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Selwyn (Wirral) Stodart, Anthony
Fisher, Nigel Loveys, W. H. Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir M. (Ripon)
Fletcher-Cooke, Charles Mackenzie, Alasdair (Ross&Crom'ty) Summers, Sir Spencer
Fortescue, Tim Macleod, Rt. Hn. Iain Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)
Foster, Sir John McMaster, Stanley Teeling, Sir William
Fraser,Rt.Hn.Hugh(St'fford & Stone) Macmillan, Maurice (Farnham) Thorpe, Rt. Hn. Jeremy
Gibson-Watt, David Marten, Nell Turton, Rt. Hn. R. H.
Giles, Rear-Adm. Morgan Maude, Angus van Straubenzee, W. R.
Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, C.) Mawby, Ray Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hn. Sir John
Glover, Sir Douglas Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J. Vickers, Dame Joan
Godber, Rt. Hn. J. B. Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C. Wainwright, Richard (Colne Valley)
Goodhew, Victor Miscampbell, Norman Walker, Peter (Worcester)
Grant, Anthony Mitchell, David (Basingstoke) Walters, Dennis
Grant-Ferris, R. Monro, Hector Ward, Dame Irene
Gresham Cooke, R. More, Jasper Weatherill, Bernard
Grieve, Percy Morgan, Geraint (Denbigh) Webster, David
Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds) Morrison, Charles (Devizes) Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William
Grimond, Rt. Hn. J. Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)
Gurden, Harold Murton, Oscar Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Hall, John (Wycombe) Neave, Airey Winstanley, Dr. M. P.
Hall-Davis, A. G. F. Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael Wood, Rt. Hn. Richard
Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) Nott, John Worsley, Marcus
Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye) Onslow, Cranley Wright, E.
Harvie Anderson, Miss Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian Wylie, N. R.
Hastings, Stephen Osborn, John (Hallam) Younger, Hn. George
Hawkins, Paul Page, Graham (Crosby)
Heald, Rt. Hn. Sir Lionel Pardoe, John TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Heseltine, Michael Peel, John Mr. Goodhart and Mr. Lubbock.
Abse, Leo Carmichael, Nell Faulds, Andrew
Albu, Austen Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara Fernyhough, E.
Allen, Scholefield Chapman, Donald Fitt, Gerard (Belfast, W.)
Archer, Peter Coe, Denis Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston)
Armstrong, Ernest Coleman, Donald Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)
Ashley, Jack Concannon, J. D. Foot, Sir Dingle (Ipswich)
Atkinson, Norman (Tottenham) Crawshaw, Richard Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)
Bagier, Gordon A. T. Crosland, Rt. Hn. Anthony Ford, Ben
Barnes, Michael Crossman, Rt. Hn. Richard Forrester, John
Barnett, Joel Cullen, Mrs. Alice Fowler, Gerry
Baxter, William Dalyell, Tam Fraser, John (Norwood)
Bellenger, Rt. Hn. F. J. Darling, Rt. Hn. George Freeson, Reginald
Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood Davidson, Arthur (Accrington) Gardner, Tony
Bennett, James (G'gow, Bridgeton) Davies, Dr. Ernest (Stretford) Ginsburg, David
Bidwell, Sydney Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.) Gourlay, Harry
Bishop, E. S. Davies, Ednyfed Hudson (Conway) Greenwood, Rt. Hn. Anthony
Blenkinsop, Arthur Davies, Harold (Leek) Gregory, Arnold
Booth, Albert Davies, Ifor (Gower) Grey, Charles (Durham)
Boston, Terence Davies, Robert (Cambridge Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)
Bottomley, Rt. Hn. Arthur Delargy, Hugh Griffiths, Rt. Hn. James (Llanelly)
Bowden, Rt. Hn. Herbert Dewar, Donald Griffiths, Will (Exchange)
Boyden, James Diamond, Rt. Hn. John Gunter, Rt. Hn. R. J.
Braddock, Mrs. E. M. Doig, Peter Hale, Leslie (Oldham, W.)
Bray, Dr. Jeremy Donnelly, Desmond Hamling, William
Brooks, Edwin Dunnett, Jack Hannan, William
Brown,Bob(N'c'tle-upon-Tyne,W) Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth (Exeter) Harper, Joseph
Brown, Rt. Hn. George (Belper) Eadie, Alex Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)
Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan) Edwards, Robert (Bilston) Haseldine, Norman
Brown, R. W. (Shoreditch & F'bury) Edwards, William (Merioneth) Hattersley, Roy
Buchan, Norman Ellis, John Hazell, Bert
Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn) English, Michael Healey, Rt. Hn. Denis
Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.) Ennals, David Heffer, Eric S.
Callaghan, Rt. Hn. James Ensor, David Herbison, Rt. Hn. Margaret
Cant, R. B. Evans, Ioan L. (Birm'h'm, yardley) Horner, John
Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg) Rodgers, William (Stockton)
Howarth, Harry (Wellingborough) Mallalieu,J.P.W.(Huddersfield,E.) Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)
Howarth, Robert (Bolton, E.) Marquand, David Robinson,Rt.Hn.Kenneth(St.P'c'as)
Howell, Denis (Small Heath) Mason, Roy Rose, Paul
Howie, W. Maxwell, Robert Ross, Rt. Hn. William
Hoy, James Mellish, Robert Rowlands, E. (Cardiff, N.)
Huckfield, L. Mendelson, J. J. Shaw, Arnold (Ilford, S.)
Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey) Millan, Bruce Shore, Peter (Stepney)
Hughes, Emrys (Ayrshire, S.) Mitchell, R. C. (S'th'pton, Test) Short, Rt. Hn. Edward(N'c'tle-u-Tyne)
Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.) Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire) Short, Mrs. Renée(W'hampton,N.E.)
Hughes, Roy (Newport) Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe) Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)
Hunter, Adam Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw) Silverman, Julius (Aston)
Hynd, John Morris, John (Aberavon) Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)
Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill) Moyle, Roland Skeffington, Arthur
Jackson, Colin (B'h'se & Sponb'gh) Mulley, Rt. Hn. Frederick Slater, Joseph
Janner, Sir Barnett Murray, Albert Small, William
Jenkins, Hugh (Putney) Newens, Stan Snow, Julian
Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford) Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon) Spriggs, Leslie
Jones, Dan (Burnley) Norwood, Christopher Steele, Thomas (Dunbartonshire, W.)
Jones,Rt.Hn.Sir Elwyn(W.Ham,S.) Oakes, Gordon Stewart, Rt. Hn. Michael
Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham) Ogden, Eric Stonehouse, John
Jones, T. A. (Rhondda West) Oram, Albert E. Taverne, Dick
Judd, Frank Orbach, Maurice Taylor,Edward M.(G'gow,Cathcart)
Kelley, Richard Orme, Stanley Thomas, George (Cardiff, w.)
Kerr, Mrs. Anne (R'ter & Chatham) Oswald, Thomas Tinn, James
Kerr, Dr. David (W'worth, Central) Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, S'tn) Urwin, T. W.
Kerr, Russell (Feltham) Page, Derek (King's Lynn) Varley, Eric G.
Lawson, George Palmer, Arthur Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne Valley)
Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick (Newton) Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles Walden, Brian (All Saints)
Lee, Rt. Hn. Jennie (Cannock) Park, Trevor Walker, Harold (Doncaster)
Lestor, Miss Joan Parkyn, Brian (Bedford) Watkins, David (Consett)
Lever, Harold (Cheetham) Pavitt, Laurence Weitzman, David
Lever, L. M. (Ardwick) Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred Wells, William (Walsall, N.)
Lewis, Arthur (W. Ham, N.) Pentland, Norman Whitaker, Ben
Lewis, Ron (Carlisle) Perry, George H. (Nottingham, S.) White, Mrs. Eirene
Loughlin, Charles Prentice, Rt. Hn. R. E. Whitlock, William
Luard, Evan Price, Christopher (Perry Barr) Wilkins, W. A.
Lyon, Alexander W. (York) Price, Thomas (Westhoughton) Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick
Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.) Price, William (Rugby) Williams, Alan Lee (Hornchurch)
Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson Probert, Arthur Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)
MacColl, James Pursey, Cmdr. Harry Williams, W. T. (Warrington)
MacDermot, Niall Rankin, John Willis, George (Edinburgh, E.)
Macdonald, A. H. Redhead, Edward Wilson, Rt. Hn. Harold (Huyton)
McKay, Mrs. Margaret Rees, Merlyn Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)
Mackenzie, Gregor (Rutherglen) Reynolds, G. W. Winnick, David
Mackie, John Richard, Ivor Woodburn, Rt. Hn. A.
Mackintosh, John P. Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)
Maclennan, Robert Roberts, Gwilym (Bedfordshire, S.) TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
MacMillan, Malcolm (Western Isles) Robinson, W. O. J. (Walth'stow, E.) Mr. Fitch and Mr. McBride.
McNamara, J. Kevin
Bill committed to a Standing Committee pursuant to Standing Order No. 40 (Committal of Bills).