§ SIR DAVID BRYNMOR JONES (Swansea District)
I beg to ask the Undersecretary of State for the Colonies whether the Secretary of State for the Colonies will direct the Governor of the Straits Settlements to postpone the date of the operation of the Order in Council of the 22nd October, authorising a reduction in the fineness of the dollar, until this House has had an opportunity of discussing the expediency of the Order in Council; whether he will lay a copy of the said Order in Council upon the Table of the 1044 House; whether the consequences of the recent rise in the value of silver could have been guarded against by an alteration in the rate of exchange without debasement of the currency; and what are the grounds upon which the Governor of the Straits Settlements based the advice given by him upon this matter to the Secretary of State.
§ MR. CHURCHILL
I will reply to the hon. and learned Member's Questions in a rather different order. Unless the fineness of the Straits Settlements dollar were reduced, the only way in which the consequences of the recent rise in silver could be guarded against would be by withdrawing the fixed rate of exchange. This rate has been fixed as the result of the recommendations of the Straits Settlements Currency Committee (whose Report was laid before Parliament in 1S03), which recommendations were adopted with the practically unanimous approval of the Colony. The Governor strongly advised the Secretary of State not to abandon the fixed rate of exchange on the ground that otherwise business would be dislocated and trade hampered. The Governor stated that he had discussed the matter unofficially with all the leading bankers and merchants in the place, and that they were in entire accord with him that the sooner gold was made legal tender, and that action supplemented by preparing to replace the dollar with one of less fineness, the better it would be in the interests of the community. I may add that from a telegram just received the Secretary of State learns that the Legislative Council have unanimously adopted a motion urging a greater margin of safety for the dollar than the reduction in fineness to 800 provides. The laving of the Order in Council on the Table is a question for the Lord President, to whose attention the matter will be brought. The Secretary of State considers that it is impossible to direct the Governor to suspend action urgently required under an Order designed to meet a critical condition of affairs until the House has had an opportunity for discussion.