HL Deb 18 December 1920 vol 39 cc566-7

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, this is purely a continuation Bill. It continues certain war powers with regard to gold and silver coin and bullion which cannot be dispensed with, although the temporary war legislation under which the powers are at present given will shortly cease. The Bill does not, therefore, involve any actual change or disturbance in the existing practice. The powers which it is desired to continue are two in number. In the first place there is the power to prohibit except under licence the export of gold and silver coin and bullion. This power is now given, as regards gold, by an Order in Council of April 1, 1919, and as regards silver by an Order in Council of November 26, 1920, which replaced earlier Orders on the same subject. They are made under the Customs (Exportation Restriction) Act, 1914, which Act only remains in force while a state of war exists. Your Lordships are aware that when the Treaty with Turkey is ratified, which may be shortly, it will be possible to produce an Order in Council ending the state of war, and as soon as that is done the existing powers cease. Hence the necessity for renewing them under the present Bill.

The second power which it is desired to continue is the power now given by Regulation under the Defence of the Realm Act to prohibit except under licence the melting of current gold and silver coin. This power again would cease, if it were not renewed by the present Bill, when the Defence of the Realm Act conies to an end. It is proposed to continue the power to prohibit (a) export for five years and (b) melting permanently. It is hardly likely to be disputed that melting should be prohibited permanently. With regard to (a) everyone looks forward to the time when there will be a free gold market again in London, but it must be some years before that time arrives, and in the meantime it is essential in the general interest and in order to enable the Bank of England to use available supplies of gold in the best interests of the community, that there should be control over bullion export. Any other course with regard to gold at the present time would bring us straight to an introvertible paper currency. While power is taken similarly to prohibit the export of silver coin and bullion, it will not be necessary to exercise this power at present except as regards silver coin. To sum up, the Bill is needed owing to the near expiry of certain war legislation. It continues the powers of that legislation, but makes no change in what is in fact already the position. I beg to move.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.— (Lord Hylton.)

On Question, Bill mead 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.