I hope that, purely as a matter of courtesy, we shall have an explanation of certain points in this Clause. In the first part of it the matter of cupro-nickel is dealt with, but the Clause goes on to deal with other matters, and I would like to have an explanation of the proviso which reads:
Provided that in the making of such coins a remedy (or variation from the standard weight and composition specified in that Schedule) shall be allowed not exceeding the remedy allowance therein specified.
I will not deal at present with the actual allowance, which can be dealt with better on the Schedule, but I would like to know whether these are the usual words that are included in a Clause of this nature dealing with weight and composition. Is the Financial Secretary certain that they cover the whole of the point?
I think I can give that assurance. These words are common form in this connection. They simply provide for what we would call infinitesimal variations in the weights of coins. Human nature being what it is, it is not possible to get coins exact to the millionth part of an ounce or a pennyweight or whatever the measurement and weightage is. This provision permits certain tolerations and variations. They are extremely tiny. The hon. Gentleman may rest assured that the words are necessary, that they mean no more than they say, that they are common form, and that they are needed.
Can the Financial Secretary give an assurance that the weight of the new coins will be more or less the same as that of the present silver coins? Will they work in the automatic slot machines on the London Passenger Transport system? It is very important for the public to be assured that both the ordinary silver shillings and the new cupro-nickel shillings will work the machines. I always understood that if one put into the machine a coin which purported to be a shilling, but which was not, the machine would throw it out. I understood that by some means the machine rejected a bad coin. I would like to know what will be the position if the Financial Secretary and I each have a shilling, one silver and the other cupro-nickel. What will the machine do? Will it in both cases give a twopenny ticket and 10d. change?
I can assure the hon. and gallant Gentleman that the new coins will go into the machines, and that the machines will not differentiate in any way. They will not be, as some hon. Members have been, critical of the new coins; they will accept them just as they do the present ones, and if it is a question of change for a shilling, the machine will give the hon. and gallant Gentleman the same change as he would get from a shilling made of silver alloy.
I understand the desire of certain hon. Members to suppress debate, but I do not think that form of brutality is in Order. I accept what the Financial Secretary has said. I am not sure, however, that he has had considerable discussion about this outside. If there is any variation, I am sure he would not mind letting me know.
I can assure the hon. Gentleman that this matter was gone into with the utmost care. There is a. trial called the trial of the pyx at which, every year, these coins are very carefully looked at. One in every so many is thrown into a box and examined, and the Goldsmith Company take so many coins, examine, weigh and assess them. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that British coinage will not suffer under this Bill and all the safeguards that there have been in the past will continue.
I thank the hon. Gentleman for having added enormously to the interest of this Debate on this matter. I have never doubted the standard of testing coins, but I was doubtful as to whether he had used the right word in the last paragraph. I have never doubted that His Majesty's Mint, in dealing with these things, have been anything but perfect and correct.
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for reminding us of the trial of the pyx. Can he tell us if any changes have taken place in that trial commensurate with the modern usage of coins. Does it test the automatic machines of the railways and of the Metropolitan gas companies? The trial of the pyx is an ancient institution of great value, but the coins in the days when the trial of the pyx was introduced were tested for fineness and quality. Now that the coin is used largely for mechanical purposes does he propose to extend the trial of the pyx to meet the necessities of a modern and somewhat more complex civilisation?