HL Deb 02 July 1918 vol 30 cc543-5

LORD SOUTHWARK had the following Question on the Paper—

To ask His Majesty's Government what steps are being taken to carry out the understanding on which the debate was adjourned when the Motion was before the House for the Second Reading of the Coinage (Decimal System) Bill [H L.] and reference to a Joint Committee of both Houses of Parliament; whether the Committee to be appointed, pursuant to that understanding, will consist mainly of members of the two Houses in equal numbers and, if necessary, also comprise some other members with special knowledge; whether the reference will invite consideration both of the scheme described in the Bill, and also of the other specific plans mentioned in the recent debate; and whether the Committee will be empowered to embody such recommendations as they may make in the form of a Bill so that Parliament may, if it thinks fit, consider the matter without delay.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, considering the length, and I hope the clearness, of the Question which I have put upon the Paper, I think that my best policy will be to wait and hear what my noble friend who replies for the Government has to say in the hope that when he concludes I shall have nothing to do but to express thanks for the answer he has given.


My Lords, in answer to my noble friend, I have to inform him that the intentions of His Majesty's Government are generally as indicated in the Question which he has put upon the Paper. It is proposed to recommend to the King that a Royal Commission should be appointed at an early date, to consist of members of both Houses of Parliament and other persons with special qualifications, to consider the question of the desirability or otherwise of making any change in our coinage system. The Commission will, it is intended, be specifically invited by the terms of reference to consider the proposals embodied in the Bill which was recently introduced by my noble friend into this House; otherwise the reference will be of a general character, and it will be open to the Commission, if they decide in favour of recommending a change. either to adopt the proposal contained in my noble friend's Bill or to make any other proposals which may commend themselves to their judgment. The Commission will, of course, be able, if they think fit, to put forward their recommendations in the form of a draft Bill. I cannot give my noble friend the names of the gentlemen who will be recommended to His Majesty as members of the Commission, but I can assure him that the Government have not the smallest wish or intention that any unnecessary delay should occur in the matter.


My Lords, it only remains for me to say that on the whole I am very pleased with the reply that the noble Lord has been able to give to my Question. During my now rather long Parliamentary experience Royal Commissions have nearly always been regarded as suggesting postponement, but I am very glad to hear from my noble friend that neither he nor the Government have any desire for delay. On the occasion when I moved the Second Reading of the Bill the general desire was that there should be no delay, either in the forming of the Commission or in its proceeding with its work; therefore all I can ask the noble Lord to say is that the Commission will begin its proceedings at once. I can assure him and the Government that this question of decimal coinage is considered by the business and commercial community of the country at large, by the bankers and Chambers of Commerce, and all those other great bodies, as a very urgent question. In the interests of our foreign trade and the business of the country generally it is one which ought to be considered and the Report produced at the earliest moment. I am not at all doubting the sincerity of the answer of my noble friend. I am very much obliged to him, and I only hope that the Commission will soon be formed and set to work.