asked whether the Chancellor of the Exchequer was aware that an Act was passed in 1749 authorising the Government to reduce the rate of interest from 4 per cent, to 3½ per cent., and later to 3 per cent.; that a time limit was fixed in the Act for the holders of 4 per cent, stock to subscribe their consent to accept the reduced rate; that an Act was passed in the following year extending the time limit, and giving the Government power to borrow money at the reduced rate of pay off those holders of stock who would not consent; that the scheme was so successful that only £3,000,000 of stock had to be paid off; and that a reduction of the interest on the present War Loan by one per cent, would effect a saving equal to the amount proposed in the Geddes cuts; and whether he is prepared to bring in legislation in this Session on the lines of Pelham's precedent?
I am fully aware of the conversion scheme to which the hon. Member refers. The advantages of conversion are obvious; but its practicability at any particular moment depends not on Acts of Parliament but on market conditions and on the terms of the contracts made with subscribers to outstanding Government loans.
Considering that the Bank rate has now fallen by 3½ per cent., is the right hon. Gentleman now prepared to put this particular scheme into operation to-day, as it worked so successfully 150 years ago?