HL Deb 05 November 1919 vol 37 cc159-62

LORD D'ABERNON had the following Notice on the Paper—

To ask His Majesty's Government to present a Return showing the amount of paper money in circulation in each of the principal countries of the world in August 1914 at the outbreak of war, in November 1918 at the date of the Armistice, and now.

Further, to present a statement enabling a comparison to be made between the increase of paper money in each country and the rise of prices of the principal consumable commodities in that country.

Further, to present a statement showing how far the rise or fall of exchange on London in each of the principal countries of the world compared with 1914 corresponded with the increase of paper currency in each particular country compared with the increase of paper currency in Great Britain.

Further, to present a statement showing the increase or decrease of the total world production of the principal consumable commodities, comparing the last available figures with the amounts produced in 1918, 1914, and 1913, and enabling a comparison to be made for each period between the decrease of world production of commodities and the increase of world production of paper currency.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, since putting down these Questions I have been in communication with the department of the Board of Trade which is charged by the Supreme Economic Council with the preparation of their monthly statistics, and I understand that the figures for which I have asked can in the main be furnished without long delay. I therefore think that it is preferable to postpone a full debate on this subject until your Lordships are in possession of the data asked for.

It may, however, be convenient if I state the matters on which I seek information, which information, I think, ought to be discussed by your Lordships. They are as follows—Are current prices (from which we are all suffering) due in the main to a shortage of production of commodities and crops or to any other cause, and, if they are due to another cause, are the high prices mainly due to the enormous issues of paper currency which have been made throughout the world? The second question is whether the rate of exchange between various countries is mainly due to the redundancy of currency in those countries or to the balance of trade between them? The third question is whether the rise of prices in various countries is in any way dependent upon the increase of their indebtedness, whether in the form of a permanent debt or of a floating debt?

It is obvious that these are questions of very great difficulty, but the whole economic future of the world depends on the right answers being given, and I think they are questions worthy of the fullest debate in your Lordships' House. If, therefore, the Government are in a position to promise the data for which I ask, I would suggest that a full debate on the subject should be postponed until the House is in possession of the figures.


My Lords, I certainly do not rise for the purpose of promoting debate upon this question at this moment, but merely for the purpose of expressing my appreciation of the service rendered by the noble Lord in calling your Lordships' attention to this matter, and to express my hope that at the earliest moment he will place before the House some subject for debate upon which the whole question can be thoroughly discussed. It is no use attempting to minimise the importance of this matter; it lies, as I believe, at the very root of the whole of our industrial trouble and distress at the present moment; and unless and until we have achieved some means by which we can stem the torrent of paper that is pouring into our circulation we shall never be able to reduce the prices which are one of the chief causes of industrial difficulty, nor shall we be able to return to the sane finance upon which alone I believe the future of this country depends.


My Lords, I think that the answer I can give to the noble Lord who has put these Questions to-day is one which will be satisfactory to him, and, I trust, satisfactory also to others of your Lordships. His Majesty's Government are already in possession of a considerable part of the information required, and instructions have been given that this information should be made as complete as possible and presented to the House with the least delay.

I am very glad that the noble Lord has asked these Questions, and the replies will show that the Government, and the Board of Trade in particular, have already prepared most of the information required. In September and last week bulletins on this matter were published. In these days when so many publications take place it is not infrequent that they escape the notice even of those who are most deeply interested in the subjects involved. A further bulletin dealing with these statistics has been published, and others will follow. As was stated by the noble Lord, these statistics are published by the Supreme Economic Council. Fully to meet the desires of the noble Lord, much more information than is at present obtainable on the world's production of the principal consumable commodities will be required. This information it is at present impossible to obtain, but the fullest statistics possible shall be made available, and as time goes on and more information is obtained more can be made known. Various countries are still behindhand in supplying details required, and more time in this matter is, therefore, unavoidable.

I believe that the noble Lord will be satisfied that the Board of Trade are giving all the facts they can today supply, and that their earliest desire is to conceal nothing of interest. I understood that the noble Lord wished to know whether the Tables would include a comparison between price movements and the National Debts in various countries. The answer to that is in the affirmative. They shall include such comparisons, and the Board of Trade will gladly supply such Tables as can be of use for this purpose. With regard to what fell from the noble Lord opposite, Lord Buckmaster, these matters concern the Treasury more largely than the Board of Trade as being a question of policy rather than the carrying out of a policy. I have no doubt if, on a later opportunity, this matter is raised, the fullest discussion can take place.


My Lords, I do not know whether I might ask the noble Lord how soon the information he foreshadows will be in our possession. I quite realise that the matters are very difficult and intricate and may require a little time, but the state of things is very urgent indeed, and we are anxious to get as much information as we can so that for the discussion in your Lordships' House your Lordships may be fully equipped with information before it takes place. I would venture, therefore, to ask whether the noble Lord can give us any idea as to the time when the Paper will be laid.


As the matter depends rather on the information obtainable from foreign countries, it is difficult for us to say now the exact date when it can be obtained, but what is now available shall be presented to the House within a week from today. No effort shall be spared to give the fullest information to your Lordships' House.

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