Bank of England and Financial Services Bill [Lords]

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:55 pm on 1st February 2016.

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Photo of Jonathan Edwards Jonathan Edwards Shadow PC Spokesperson (Treasury), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Business, Innovation and Skills), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Transport), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Foreign Intervention) 5:55 pm, 1st February 2016

Diolch, Madam Deputy Speaker.

I want to concentrate on four main themes: the issuing of Welsh-specific banknotes, the accountability of the central bank to Wales and her people, the name of the central bank, and the remit of the bank when it comes to setting interest rates.

The Bill aims to provide some flexibility in relation to who can issue sterling banknotes in Scotland and Northern Ireland. Currency issued by banks in Northern Ireland and Scotland is legal, and can be used throughout the United Kingdom. Among the many historic anomalies between Welsh nationhood and the nationhoods of our neighbours is the fact that Wales remains the only nation that is prohibited from producing its own distinctive banknotes. The Royal Mint does produce Welsh-specific coins, so my proposals raise no major issue of principle.

Like other parts of the UK, Wales was once awash with small banks covering relatively small geographical areas which were allowed to issue their own banknotes. The Bank Charter Act 1844 brought an end to Welsh banknotes, and, indeed, to provincial banknotes in England, but that did not apply to Ireland or Scotland.

Four banks in Northern Ireland and three in Scotland have the authority to issue their own banknotes provided that they are backed by Bank of England notes.

Plaid Cymru is proposing today that Lloyds Banking Group, which holds the rights to the Bank of Wales brand and which is in part publicly owned—a share is, of course, owned by Welsh taxpayers—should be given the right to issue Welsh banknotes in the same way as is permitted for the three clearing banks in Scotland and the four in Northern Ireland. I believe that such an outcome would give a welcome boost to the Welsh national character, and the recognition of Wales as an equal nation and an economic entity.

In Northern Ireland, Bank of Ireland, Danske Bank—formerly known as Northern BankFirst Trust Bank and Ulster Bank notes are used to celebrate the recognition of individuals such as J.B. Dunlop, Harry Ferguson, Sir S.C Davidson and James Martin, while also celebrating architectural splendour such as that of Belfast City Hall. In Scotland, the Bank of Scotland, Clydesdale Bank and Royal Bank of Scotland are entitled to issue banknotes. They pay tribute to the fantastic bridges of their country, and recognise the contribution of people like Sir Walter Scott and Robbie Burns.

The question that naturally rises, therefore, is this: why can we not similarly issue banknotes in Wales to recognise our historic landmarks such as Castell Carreg Cennen, in my constituency, Pont Menai and Yr Wyddfa, and our historic greats such as Owain Glyndwr, who was nominated the seventh most important person of the last millennium by The Times, David Lloyd George, the originator of the welfare state, Aneurin Bevan, the architect of the NHS, and Gwynfor Evans, the first Plaid Member of Parliament and the father of modern Wales?