§ 2.43 p.m.
§ [The Question was as follows:
§ To ask Her Majesty's Government if they will simplify the currency by abolishing farthings and half-crowns.]
My Lords, the requirements of the public are expressed to the Mint through the medium of the banks. In the past six months over £3½ million of half-crowns (making 30 per cent. by value of the total issue of cupronickel in that period) have been sent out in response to the banks' demands. This suggests that the half-crown continues to be a very popular coin. Farthings cost more than their face value to manufacture and one can assume that the Mint are not anxious to manufacture more than is strictly necessary. Nevertheless, any attempt to restrict the supply is immediately met by strong protests, particularly from the milk and provisions trades. If anything, the demand for farthings seems to have risen and 120,000 a week are now being issued, a higher figure than three years ago.
My Lords. I thank the noble Lord for his Answer, but can he really indicate anything that can be obtained for a farthing other than occasional legal damage? Therefore is there any use in retaining a coin which has no purchasing power in these inflationary times? With regard to the half-crown, is that not a heavy and clumsy coin, a source of confusion to foreigners and even to the noble Lord and myself, if we have to handle it together with a florin in a bad light? In view of the grave shortage of shillings owing to the demands of gas and other meters, would it not be better to curtail severely the minting of half-crowns and put the metal saved towards the minting of the many millions of additional shillings which are so sorely needed?
My Lords, if the noble Lord has to do what I have to do sometimes, inspect the milk book or the bread book, he would find that farthings figure in many transactions therein. For the people who have to buy these articles over the doorstep farthings are necessary. Admittedly, with the increase in feminine education there is a more widespread knowledge that 19s. 11¾d. is not very different from a pound. As regards the half-crowns and the shortage of shillings, the Mint are not trying to save metal. The Mint coin those coins which the public demand through the banks. If there is a shortage of shillings in the country, the remedy is in the hands of the banks, who can ask for more shillings to be minted. As regards the heaviness and clumsiness of the half-crown, that is a matter of opinion.