HL Deb 25 April 1972 vol 330 cc272-3

2.42 p.m.


My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will alter the designation of the sterling currency so that the one-hundredth part of the £ is known, both in the singular and the plural, as the pen, thus doing away with the awkwardness of describing it as "p", and at the same time distinguishing it from the old penny, which had a very different value.


My Lords, I fear that my reply to the noble Lord opposite must be a firm but friendly negative. To attempt now to change the statutory description "new penny" would involve considerable expenditure and disturb the public's growing familiarity with decimal currency. Nor would it be easy to find an alternative name likely to gain universal acceptance. Whatever it might be, it could not be imposed by Statute; popular preference might well ensure that the word "penny" survived in everyday use. The penny is part of our national heritage; the word has an Anglo-Saxon root and a firm place in our affection, our literature and our sayings. It is one that should be preserved.


My Lords, I thank the noble Earl for his reply, which leaves me almost sobbing with disappointment. Is he aware that in a supermarket the other day I saw a housewife carefully counting her change and then painfully saying to the cashier, "I think I ought to have another p"? Is that not a silly form of words to have to use; and does not the noble Earl think that it confuses shoppers, when they buy something marked "5p", only to realise that they have spent an old shilling and not merely an old-fashioned five pence?


My Lords, I must confess that I was not aware of the sad occurrence to which the noble Lord has alluded until he just informed us of it. I think his remarks about the confusion could well have applied when decimal currency was introduced, but I think there is little confusion on the whole now in the public mind. I believe that the new system, good or bad as the case may be, is now gaining universal acceptance, and that it would be a very great mistake now to try to backtrack.


My Lords, does my noble friend agree that the plural of "penny" is "pence"?


My Lords, on a subject of that sort I should certainly think very hard before disagreeing with my noble friend.