HL Deb 06 June 1991 vol 529 cc743-4

3.27 p.m.

Lord Airedale asked Her Majesty's Government:

What steps they have taken to discover whether the five pence coin finds favour with the public, and with what result.

Lord Waddington

My Lords, the decision to introduce the new 5p coin, due to public demand for lighter coinage, was taken after extensive research and consultation with the general public and representatives of special interest groups such as the blind, the elderly and the vending industry. The transition to the new coin appears to have gone well with relatively few complaints.

Lord Airedale

My Lords, I am much obliged for that Answer. Is the noble Lord the Leader of the House able to scotch the rumour that the only people who are really happy with this coin are Mr. Nick Faldo and his friends who find it convenient for marking the spot where the ball lands upon the green?

Lord Waddington

My Lords, the noble Lord may or may not be right as regards whether Mr. Nick Faldo likes the coin. All I can say is that a consultation pamphlet was issued in 1987 and the majority of those who responded to it favoured a smaller 5p and 10p coin. Since the issue of the 5p coin 183 complaints have been received. That compares with 800 complaints following the introduction of the £1 coin. I would not describe that as a great tidal wave of public displeasure.

The Earl of Halsbury

My Lords, how do the weight and value of this new coin compare with the classical threepenny bit and the classical farthing?

Lord Waddington

My Lords, I am not sure about the weight of the coins but the classical silver threepenny bit was 16 millimetres in diameter. The new coin is 18 millimetres in diameter.

Baroness Blackstone

My Lords, is the Minister aware that in 1979 5p was worth two-and-a-half times more than it is today? Does he agree that the diminishing size of this coin must be a symbol of the Government's failure to control inflation? How much smaller will this coin become before it disappears altogether?

Lord Waddington

My Lords, the noble Baroness knows perfectly well that the point she has made goes very wide of the Question. However, I am more than happy to respond to it because, as she knows perfectly well, the average increase in inflation during the years of Labour government was precisely twice the average increase during the years of Conservative government.

Lord Gisborough

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that many people like the 5p coin? Can he say how soon we can expect to have 10p and 50p coins of similar weight and measurement?

Lord Waddington

My Lords, the consultation process yielded no evidence of any demand for a smaller 50p coin. However, it has been decided to introduce a different 10p coin, which will be the same size as the old 5p. It will have a pronounced milled edge to help the blind and it will be cupro-nickel. Its introduction has been deferred from June to September 1992 to help the vending machine industry.

Lord Strabolgi

My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that there are many millions of 50p coins in the banks because the public refuse to have them and that the coin is very unpopular? Will the Government consider recommending to the committee that that coin should be phased out?

Lord Waddington

My Lords, I remember that initially the £1 coin was very unpopular, but later it became very popular. That is the reason why there are a very large numbers of 50p coins in the possession of the banks.

Baroness Phillips

My Lords, as the Minister mentioned bookmakers can he tell us what kind of bet can be placed for 5p?

Lord Waddington

My Lords, I have not had a chance to go racing this year and therefore I am out of touch with racing habits, which is a matter for great regret.