HL Deb 24 March 1870 vol 200 cc561-3

Amendments reported(according to Order).


, in moving that the Report of the Amendments be received, said, he would take the opportuntiy of replying to two questions which had been put to him on a previous evening by the noble Lord (Lord Kinnaird). One was whether the Government were prepared to place some restrictions as to the quality of the gold received at the Mint, so as to prevent the use of such metal as was deteriorated by the presence of arsenic or antimony, which rendered it brittle, and made the coinage a losing operation? The objection to such restrictions was that the goodness of the gold did not declare itself until a late stage in the process of coining. The second Question asked was, whether the Government would appoint an official to take charge of the trial of the pyx? Hitherto the Goldsmiths' Company had performed that duty in such a manner as to prevent any complaint, and it would be now an ungracious act on the part of Government to appoint any other party to superintend it.


said, he did not think, whatever respect was due to the Goldsmiths' Company, that the duty should be intrusted to persons not one of whom might know anything of assaying. He would not, however, press his proposal. With reference to the presence of antimony and other substances, he might explain that bullion of the proper fineness consisted of 22 parts of gold and 2 parts of alloy, which ought to be copper; but if the alloy contained lead, antimony, tin, or arsenic, the gold became brittle. Might not the Mint ascertain this before accepting it? He thought the assayers employed there ought, from their experience, to be able to detect foreign metals before the gold was subjected to the melting process. At all events, the power of rejecting it could do no harm. The noble Marquess (the Marquess of Lansdowne) stated on Tuesday night that there was a considerable profit on silver, which no doubt ought to be the case; but the Returns, obtained by an hon. Member in the House of Commons, showed that though, in some years there was a gain, in nine years the total loss on the coinage of silver was £5,373. Bad workmanship, he might remark, made the coins much less durable, and therefore caused expense by rendering earlier repair of the coinage necessary. He hoped that later in the Session the Government would concede an inquiry into the management of the Mint, when he would undertake to prove his allegations of mismanagement and peculation, and, indeed, the Returns proved this. He admitted that the present Deputy Master of the Mint was a most clever man at official work or finance; but he was a man liable to be deceived, for he was grossly deceived by the late Master of the Mint, and he believed that dust was still thrown in his eyes by certain parties—not gold dust, for this went into their pockets.


thought that the noble Lord confounded two things. There was a loss incurred by the public in keeping the silver coinage up to its proper standard; but in its manufacture into coin there was a considerable gain, amounting to something like £20,000 a year. He asked, however, whether it was fair or right for the noble Lord to make those strong animadversions on the late Master of the Mint, whose scientific acquirements were universally acknowledged, and whose integrity was above suspicion.

Further Amendments made; and Bill to be read 3a To-morrow.