HL Deb 20 December 1983 vol 446 cc589-91

2.50 p.m.

Lord Molson

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

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will continue to issue one pound notes in view of the inconvenience of one pound coins which are almost the same size as twenty penny pieces and difficult to distinguish after dark.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health and Social Security (Lord Glenarthur)

My Lords, it is the Government's intention to withdraw the £1 note from circulation in due course once the public have had time to become accustomed to the £1 coin. The need for a coin results from the way the £1 note deteriorates now that less frequent replacement is feasible. As the £1 coin becomes more familiar the public should find little difficulty in distinguishing it from the 20p coin which is of a different shape and colour, and is also noticeably thinner and lighter than the £1 coin.

Lord Molson

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for his reply. Is he aware that many cashiers find that when giving change for larger notes they are asked for pound notes and not for coins? If the paper wears out unduly fast, have the Government given consideration to substituting a plastic pound note?

Lord Glenarthur

My Lords, I am aware of many representations which have been made about the £1 coin. The fact remains that the main impetus for the introduction of the coin was the increasing treatment of the note as if it was a coin: it is kept in tills; it is not returned to banks by traders, and so it is not possible to replace it with the frequency that is desirable in order to keep the note in proper condition. As regards plastic notes, as my noble friend will be aware. the Isle of Man has recently introduced a plastic £1 note. Evaluations by the Bank of England suggest that plastic notes are not a suitable alternative to paper notes or, in the case of the £1, to the coin. They are not as secure from forgery as paper notes. For that reason we do not propose to go ahead with any idea on that line.

Baroness Birk

My Lords, is the Minister aware that the weight of these coins is so heavy in one's purse or wallet that I have already worn through one, and that they also fall out of my husband's pockets? In view of inflation, it is very expensive both to replace the trousers and to replace the wallet.

Lord Glenarthur

My Lords, I do not have as many £l coins in my pocket as the noble Baroness, and I suggest that she invites her husband to change his £1 coins for a £5 note.

Viscount Eccles

My Lords, yesterday during the Second Reading debate on the Cable and Wireless Bill we heard that the policy of Her Majesty's Government is to give the people what they want. Is my noble friend quite sure that they want this coin?

Lord Glenarthur

My Lords, extensive consultations established a demand for the £1 coin, and in some anticipation of my noble friend's question both yesterday and today I have conducted my own private survey round your Lordships' House, and I have found that it is 50–50 in favour.

Lord Wallace of Coslany

My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that the new –1 coin is now being called a "Maggie" because it is hard, it has rough edges and pretends to be a sovereign?

Lord Glenarthur

My Lords, I was not aware of that, but at another time I could tell the noble Lord a similar story in relation to the 50p piece, which I think was introduced by his party when they were in Government.

Baroness Ewart-Biggs

My Lords, will the Minister agree that this coin is disliked not because people are unable to get used to it and not because of their reactions to it, but because they just do not like it? Will the Minister not agree that we should continue to take soundings for a little longer and keep the £1 note, which is popular. for a little longer?

Lord Glenarthur

My Lords, as I said, no announcement has been made about the point at which the £1 note will be removed from circulation. However, I think it is important to bear in mind that the fact that, apart from anything else, it costs quite a lot of money to keep the £1 notes in circulation. A £1 note lasts for about 11 months and a £1 coin for about 40 years.

The Earl of Kimberley

My Lords, can my noble friend say for how long the Americans keep a one dollar bill in circulation?

Lord Glenarthur

My Lords, I cannot speak for the Americans from this Dispatch Box.