Before it was decided to introduce the new 5p and 10p coins, the Royal Mint undertook extensive consultations with interested parties and the general public. We have received a few recent representations about the planned introduction of a new smaller lop coin and copper-plated 1p and 2p coins in September 1992.
My hon. Friend received some representations on this matter. I have received representations from people who use fruit or stamp machines or coin-operated machines, such as those for tube tickets. First, one coin was changed, but now three more are to be changed. Every change adds to the operating costs of the people who own coin-operated mechanisms. Does my hon. Friend find, as I do, complete distaste among constituents for any change in the coinage, particularly with regard to Europe in the future?
I know of my hon. Friend's interest in this matter. There was an extensive period of consultation in 1987 before the changes were announced. Among the people consulted were those in the vending industry, who were given two and a half years' notice and coins with which they could test the machines. We have agreed to delay the introduction of the further three new coins from June until September 1992. The industry has welcomed that and the fact that all three new coins will be introduced at the same time. Such changes inevitably impose costs on the vending industry which, in many cases, it will pass on to the customers. However, it would not be appropriate for the taxpayer to compensate the industry for that, if only because it is difficult to distinguish between changes that are the result of changes in the coinage and changes that are caused by other matters.
When my hon. Friend next considers further possible changes or additions to the currency, will he discuss with the Master of the Mint, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor, the possibility of introducing a £2 coin for general currency, along the lines of those that are already used for commemorative purposes, as soon as the size slot occupied by the 10p coin becomes available for that purpose?
I hear what my right hon. Friend says. I am sure that he will he agree that there are almost as many views about what form the currency should take as people giving them. At present, there are no plans to make any further changes, other than those that have been announced. As he knows, there is a £2 commemorative coin, but the consultation did not reveal any desire or need for a £2 coin or for any changes other than those that we have announced.