Clause 6. — (Fineness of Maundy silver coins.)

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

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

I beg to move, in page 3, line 33, to leave out "thirty-seven," and to insert "thirty-eight."

I should like your Ruling, Mr. Anderson, whether I can discuss this Amendment, together with the two later Amendments in my name—in page 3, line 34, to leave out "three," and 10 insert "two"; and in page 3, line 35, to leave out "twenty-five," and to insert "fifty."

Photo of Mr Frank Anderson Mr Frank Anderson , Whitehaven

I think that will be convenient, if the Committee have no objection.

2.0 p.m.

Photo of Mr Charles Williams Mr Charles Williams , Torquay

The principle of the Amendments is the same. I think most of us agree with the Clause, which lays down the fineness of the silver to be minted into what is known as Maundy money. It is historic money, and it is not necessary for me to go into that aspect of the matter. The Clause lays down that there shall be a standard of fineness of thirty - seven fortieths of fine silver, and three fortieths of alloy, or a millesimal fineness of 925. I wish to take that one step forward towards fineness from 37 fortieths to 38 fortieths. My second Amendment takes the three fortieths of an alloy down to two fortieths so that there will be a higher amount of silver and a lesser amount of alloy. Then there is also my third Amendment in which I hope I have the proportion right. My reasons for this is very simple. I do not want to lay this down for certain in case it is found that we cannot make these silver coins with quite such a high percentage of silver. I should have thought that today, after modern inventions in alloys and the strengthening of the many materials in them, it would be possible to do so. I am not necessarily tied to the actual figure of the third Amendment, and in increasing the 37 to 38, I am willing to go even further. My object is that as this will in future be the only coin in this country with any considerable content of silver, it should be made as nearly as possible a coin entirely of silver. It may well be that for holding and wearing performance it is not possible to make a completely silver coin, and that we must have some alloy. I am not asking anything which the Government can possibly say will cost any money. The whole cost would be some £60 or £70 a year. The only ground on which the Government can turn this down is that we cannot make a really lasting and good coin with a lower percentage of alloy than there is now.

I do not know if there is any hon. Member here who is interested in collecting coins. I happen to have a minor interest. Take Maundy money, which is historically very old. I do not suppose that there is anything like so old a coin in that sense in Scotland. It is extremely interesting, and the coins are very much prized by those who have them. Undoubtedly they should be kept as real treasures for the future. I would, therefore, like to have the highest possible standard of silver. I know of no reason why the percentage of silver should not be increased. I move this Amendment hoping that the Government realise that it is only with the intention of improving the money.

Photo of Mr George Hall Mr George Hall , Merthyr Tydfil Aberdare

The hon. Gentleman will not be surprised when he hears me ask the Committee to reject the Amendment. In 1920, when a change was made in our silver coinage, in order to avoid extra trouble the Maundy money was made of the same alloy—that is, it contained as much (fifty per cent.) silver— as the new silver coinage. Now we are going away from silver altogther. Therefore, the question arises whether we should use 50/50 silver and alloy in the Maundy money, as has been the case since 1920, or go over to cupro-nickel which, I think the Committee will agree, is undesirable, or should we abolish the coins altogether. No one would be in favour of this last suggestion, for it keeps alive an old ceremony, traditional in its charity and sense of fellowship as between the Sovereign and those less fortunate. The question then arises as to what the Maundy money shall be made of. We have decided—I hope the Committee will think, rightly—to go back to the content that existed from at least 1279 until 1920. In this sense we are very conservative in our outlook, and we think 1279 to 1920 is a pretty good record to follow for the content that we suggest should now go into the little silver coins. I am informed that the percentages go even further back into Saxon times. I hope that the Committee will not break with tradition at the instigation of the hon. Member for Torquay (Mr. C. Williams) but will stick to the percentages of the Clause.

Photo of Mr Charles Williams Mr Charles Williams , Torquay

I would not for one minute ask the hon. Gentleman to break the tradition. The tradition has already been broken by the previous Act of 1920—

Photo of Mr Charles Williams Mr Charles Williams , Torquay

I agree that we are now going back to that. I was not aware that it went back to 1279—

Photo of Mr Charles Williams Mr Charles Williams , Torquay

As I am always amenable to arguments and always accept an argument with great willingness if it is a good one, I feel almost inclined to withdraw my Amendment on the strength of the hon. Gentleman's argument. It is an astonishing situation that so far he has shown little or no argument, helpfulness or desire to be helpful but that on this occasion he has brought forward the fact that there is a precedent and that this coin ran for all these hundreds of years. It should be carried on, but I would like to know whether we could not have a finer silver. The senior Burgess for Oxford University (Sir A. Salter) might want a higher standard, but as far as I am concerned I will willingly follow the old precedent and accept what the hon. Gentleman has said. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.