Clause 1

Coinage (Measurement) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 9:30 am on 16 March 2011.

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Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Mark Lancaster Mark Lancaster Conservative, Milton Keynes North

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Rosindell, and to introduce clause 1 of what, I hope, is an uncontroversial Bill. Clause 1 makes two minor, technical amendments to the Coinage Act 1971, which governs the striking of coins by the Royal Mint, and includes various standards with which the coins must comply. Those standards include a coin’s weight, fineness, composition and dimensions. The Act also makes provision for permitted variations from those standards.

As drafted, section 1(6) of the Coinage Act requires that the variation from the standard weight of any coin be measured as the average of a sample of not more than 1 kg of that coin. That is perfectly fit for the purpose for which it was originally conceived. The weights of UK circulating coins range from the 5p coin at 3.25 grams to the £2 coin at 12 grams. When the Coinage Act came into force, a sample of a kilogram was therefore a perfectly reasonable sample size for the purposes of measuring the tolerated variation from the standard weight of coins. However, as with any industry, consumer demand evolves and expands and, since 1992—some 21 years after the Coinage Act came into force—international mints have produced 1 kg coins to cater for the growing collector market. Since then, it has become apparent that the provision is no longer fit for purpose, which is why we have introduced the clause to try to change that, so that we can mint 1 kg coins for the Olympics and other such events as are deemed suitable in future.

Photo of Kerry McCarthy Kerry McCarthy Shadow Minister (Treasury)

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Rosindell. As the hon. Gentleman has said, this is an uncontroversial Bill, and I congratulate him on steering it through the parliamentary process. I have been warned against making the gags that I made on Second Reading about his sterling efforts and so on, but I would like to think that when those commemorative coins are issued they could mark in some way his efforts to introduce the legislation. Perhaps if there was a series depicting him taking part in the decathlon events it would be a fitting tribute to  his work in ensuring that this momentous legislation reached the statute book. I have nothing to add on the substance of the Bill, which we are happy to support.

Photo of Owen Smith Owen Smith Shadow Minister (Wales)

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Rosindell. I, too, offer my wholehearted support to the hon. Member for Milton Keynes North on introducing the Bill. Hon. Members may know that the Royal Mint is located in my great constituency of Pontypridd, in the town of Llantrisant, where I live. It employs 850 people, and it has been there since the 1960s. It is a great symbol of our Great British nation—Welsh coin being produced for the British realm in Wales. I know that the people in the Mint will do a great job in supporting the Olympics and striking another fantastic set of coins, so I thank the hon. Gentleman for introducing the Bill, and I offer it my fondest wishes.

Photo of Tobias Ellwood Tobias Ellwood Conservative, Bournemouth East

It is a pleasure, Mr Rosindell, to serve under your chairmanship for the first time. May I, too, offer my congratulations to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Milton Keynes North on steering his private Member’s Bill through the House of Commons? There is a long tradition of striking commemorative coins for big state occasions, and it is appropriate that we should do so again for the London Olympics.

I was not there at the time, but I understand that the 1952 coronation proved to be a landmark occasion not just in its own right but as a significant event that took us out of the doldrums in the wintry aftermath of the second world war. It was a sign that Britain was indeed moving forward. I suspect that the 2012 London Olympics will do the same, given the economic climate that we face. It is right that in addition to hosting the wonderful games we should mark them with the striking of a commemorative coin. I underline my congratulations to my hon. Friend on bringing the measure to the attention of the House.

Photo of Stewart Hosie Stewart Hosie SNP Chief Whip, SNP Deputy Leader, Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Treasury)

I, too, congratulate the hon. Member for Milton Keynes North on securing the passage of the Bill thus far. It is extremely important, and I have no problems with it whatsoever. He gave a very good technical description of what it does. The Bill itself does not say that it applies to the Olympic games, although that is the reason for its introduction, as the explanatory notes make clear.

I have a simple question for the hon. Gentleman. This is a good thing to do. Will the Bill facilitate, for example, the minting of a kilogram coin—for example, to commemorate the 2014 Commonwealth games? It would be the right sort of thing to do if it were deemed necessary. I understand that it will be a revenue spinner as well, which is always a good thing. It strikes me that the general nature of the provisions would certainly allow such a coin to be minted, and I would be grateful for confirmation that that is the case.

Photo of Justine Greening Justine Greening The Economic Secretary to the Treasury

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship for the first time, Mr Rosindell. I add my voice in congratulating my hon. Friend the Member for Milton Keynes North on steering the Bill through the Commons.  The Government, too, support the Bill. The Royal Mint is a cornerstone of British manufacturing industry. As we have heard, it plays a vital role not just in Llantrisant, where it is based, in creating employment but in everyone’s everyday life in the UK. Besides producing our own circulating coin, it is the world’s leading export mint, and has a thriving commemorative coin business. Last week, the Royal Mint unveiled the commemorative coin for the royal wedding—just one of numerous events of historical and cultural importance that have been, and will continue to be, commemorated by the Royal Mint in that long-standing and enduring tradition.

By removing a technical, legal obstacle, the clause offers freedom and flexibility to the Royal Mint, as we have heard, to join its international counterparts in offering exciting and innovative coins to commemorate significant events. As we have heard, one of the first will be the London Olympics next year. I welcome the amendments to the Coinage Act made by the clause, and reiterate the Government’s support for the Bill.

Photo of Mark Lancaster Mark Lancaster Conservative, Milton Keynes North

I thank hon. Members for their contributions to the debate, especially the Minister and the hon. Member for Bristol East. I must tell the hon. Lady that while I would welcome the opportunity to participate in many Olympic sports, having spent Sunday doing my combat fitness test for the Army—8 miles carrying 25 kilos—I do not intend to do any more exercise for a long time while my body recovers.

I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth East for his supportive words and, of course, the hon. Member for Pontypridd, who is doing a sterling job—forgive the pun again—in supporting the Royal Mint. It was clear that people thought highly of him when we visited, and I know that he will continue to support that institution, so I offer him my congratulations. The only substantive question to arise in the debate was asked by the hon. Member for Dundee East. The short answer  is yes, but technically that would be a matter for Her Majesty and the Chancellor. However, the measure would certainly open the way for further such coins.

Photo of Tobias Ellwood Tobias Ellwood Conservative, Bournemouth East

I wonder whether my hon. Friend has been leaned on by the Government, or has been encouraged to introduce the coin as a form of quantitative easing, given the economic situation.

Photo of Mark Lancaster Mark Lancaster Conservative, Milton Keynes North

I am sure that that is a possibility, but I am delighted to say, no, I have not been leaned on by the Government in any way, shape or form.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 1 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.