Clause 3. — (Additional powers exercisable by proclamation.)

Part of Orders of the Day — Coinage Bill – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 18th October 1946.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mr Charles Williams Mr Charles Williams , Torquay 12:00 am, 18th October 1946

I should like to thank the hon. Gentleman for that last explanation. Before he gave it I thought the position was far worse than had been stated by my right hon. Friend the senior Burgess for Oxford University (Sir A. Salter) and other hon. Members.

The position was that under the old Act the Government had the power to change the alloy but not the percentage of silver, in the same way that they had the power to change a particular type of paper or ink used for printing notes. The Financial Secretary said that this provision for a Proclamation was really a concession. It does not matter so much in this Bill as in certain other Acts, because we are now going in for a complete debasement of the currency, one of a peculiarly unpleasant form. It does not really matter what the Government do. I do not think the hon. Gentleman was right when he said that the Government can change the alloy only to improve it. Surely they can change it in order to make it worse?

No precedent has been put forward for this Clause. Is there any? Or is it something entirely new which has been stuck into the Bill at the whim of the present Government? The fact remains that my right hon. Friend the Member for Oxford University did something of real value when he pointed out that this is just another occasion when the Government are trying to pass what is entirely delegated legislation. Both the front Benches are slightly to blame. Hon. Members say that the present Chancellor of the Exchequer will not abuse it, although some future Chancellor might. We are here to make good laws, and not laws which are all right so long as the particular Minister is in office to administer them. It is absolutely wrong, from every point of view, to say that it does not matter very much about passing a Bill, since no one will abuse it. It is our duty to make our laws watertight, and not subject to abuse.

I thank my right hon. Friend the Member for Oxford University for the way in which he has raised the point, against which hon. Members have protested on many occasions. The tendency is growing at an accelerated rate under this Government. Other Governments have been bad, but the present Government are getting worse. I welcome also the protest made by the hon. Member for South Nottingham (Mr. N. Smith). Whatever he may have said otherwise this morning, he did at any rate take the trouble to get up and express the views of a private Member of this House.