§ 2.45 p.m.
§ Moved, That the Report be now received.—(Lord Beswick.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ Clause 1 [Legal Tender]:
BARONESS PHILLIPS moved Amendment No. 1:
Page 1, line 21, leave out ("with the exception of 6d. pieces").
§ The noble Baroness said: My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend Lord Beswick, I beg to move this Amendment. The Government have given considerable thought to the arguments which were developed before your Lordships in the Committee stage of the Bill when, as your Lordships will remember, we discussed what would happen to sixpences after the changeover to decimal currency had been completed. No doubt noble Lords who voted in favour of the Amendment then have also reflected in the interval on the various arguments which were put forward in the debate. The view of the Government is that the Report stage of the Bill should be used to give the House an opportunity to reconsider, to reflect, and to restore the Bill to the form in which it was received from the House of Commons. The majority in favour of the Amendment was small. This particular issue of the 6d. has proved to be the most contentious issue that has arisen on the Bill, and it is right that the House should have the opportunity for second thoughts. Furthermore, it would appear that some of the support for the retention of the 6d. as a 2½p coin after the end of the change-over period is based on misunderstanding.
§ Before I come to the important issues that were raised in Committee, I should like to dispose of one point. It may be that some noble Lords voted in favour of the Amendment to the Bill in Com 10 mittee simply because they thought it desirable that a degree of flexibility should be preserved. If so, I should like to make the point now that the words added to the Bill by the Amendment were not necessary for this purpose. It would be possible for the Government, under the powers in Clause 15(5) of the Bill to make a proclamation that the 6d. will not be demonetised but will continue as a 2½p coin. The reason why the Government opposed the addition to the Bill of the words added in Committee, and the reason why we now propose this Amendment to remove them, is that we want to make the position quite clear. The Government expect the 6d. to disappear from circulation soon after Decimal Day, and consider that it should cease to be legal tender at the end of the change-over. We believe that it is quite essential for a smooth change-over that plans should be made on that basis.
§ I do not want to go over in detail the points made in Committee, but let me set out the important considerations. The first is that the 6d., as well as the old penny and the 3d. bit, will be with us throughout the change-over period. None of these three coins will go on Decimal Day; the proposal is that they should go at the end of the change-over period when everybody is able to work in decimal currency and has had ample opportunity to become thoroughly accustomed to working in decimal currency. We are talking of a period of time lasting anything up to 18 months after February 15, 1971, depending on the advice which the Decimal Currency Board in due course give to the Government. There is no question whatever that by that time all the interests that are affected, including those responsible for coin-operated machines, will have had time to arrange to work in the permanent decimal coinage, if I may so describe it. It is absolutely unnecessary to think in terms of a second transitional period, beginning when the first ends, to allow the 6d. to be phased out.
§ I should like to say something about a point raised in Committee concerning the possibility of inflationary price increases if the 6d. was demonetised at the end of the change-over period. The noble Lord, Lord Crowther—and I should like to wish him a happy birthday to-day—made much of this, but I think that the major part of his speech was 11 based on a misunderstanding; namely, that the ½p would be demonetised at the end of the change-over period. This is not so. Neither the Committee of Inquiry presided over by the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, nor the Decimal Currency Board, nor the Government have ever said anything of this kind. We have always said that we could expect the ½p to last at least a generation, which I would put at any rate at 25 to 30 years. Even to-day, we have not got the generation gap down to as little as 18 months.
§ All prices ending in 6d. translate exactly into 2½p, and the absence of a coin worth 2½p after the end of the change-over period cannot possibly affect the ability of the shopkeeper to charge, and the customer to pay, 2½p, 7½p, 12½p, 17½p and so on. Leaving aside for a moment the goods and services sold from coin-operated machines, the absence of a 2½p coin cannot possibly affect prices at all.
§ So far as the coin-operated machines using the 6d. are concerned, there arc two points; the first is the cost of converting or replacing machines at present operated by sixpences, and the second is the effect on the price of goods and services sold by these machines. The total cost of converting or replacing machines operated by the 6d. is put at roughly £8 million—and this includes telephone coin boxes. However, it is a mistake to suppose that this sum of money would be saved if we were to say now that the 6d. would not be demonetised at the end of the change-over. Operators of these machines are entirely dependent on those particular coins which the public carry in their pockets at any given point of time as the result of a much larger number of small transactions with other retail or transport outlets. The sensible course is for the industry to plan firmly on the assumption that the new decimal denominations will be in people's pockets.
§ Enough new decimal coins will be available right from Decimal Day for shopping and machine transactions, plus of course the existing 1,500 million shillings and florins, together with a substantial additional number to be minted when the half-crown disappears at the end of this year. On the other hand, if the industry chooses to assume that the 6d. 12 will continue in circulation indefinitely, they are not planning on a certainty but on a gamble. If, as the Government and the Decimal Currency Board expect, the 6d. disappears rapidly, many firms in the industry would lose substantial turnover during the several months it would take for the available physical resources in the country to convert old machines or manufacture new ones. Furthermore, hasty conversion would be very expensive for the industry—obviously much more so than planned conversion. It follows from what I have said that the effect of the Amendment moved in Committee would not be to save money on the conversion of machines; on the contrary, it might well have the opposite effect. The sensible course for the industry is to assume that the Government are correct in the view which they have taken.
§ The whole question of bus fares and Tube fares is linked with a much deeper problem, such as the structure of the fare stages, the cost of peak hour services and many other fundamental criteria which the whole public transport industry is now considering. The short-term retention of one particular coin is of small significance in this context. In any case, the 6d. is relevant only where coin-operated machines are concerned, and the public will be considerably inconvenienced if a situation arises where these machines have not been converted, and therefore can accept 6d. only when the coin is becoming difficult to obtain. The absence of the 6d. cannot affect prices to the public except in the case of goods and services sold by machines, and even then in a small minority of cases.
§ In conclusion, let me emphasise how important it is that all those organisations now making plans for working with decimal coinage should be able to make their plans in the certain knowledge of what that coinage will be. The Bill as now amended gives no certainty; it merely gives uncertainty. The words inserted in Committee cannot make the coin circulate if retailers decide that they will not use it. The only way to secure certainty—and this certainty is essential—is that a large number of people should know now that it is quite clear there will be no 2½p. coin after the complete end of the change-over, and that is what the Government are seeking to do. I beg to move.13
§ 2.56 p.m.
§ LORD SINCLAIR OF CLEEVE
My Lords, I need hardly say that I regret that the Government have seen fit to put down an Amendment which flatly negatives the Amendment that was carried on May 1, but I should like at the outset to acknowledge the courtesy of the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, who informed me of their intention to do so, and the reasons behind it. I think I fully recognise the arguments which have led the Government to adopt the new coinage which excludes a 6d. equivalent while retaining the 1s. and the 2s. equivalent, and I hope that I understand these arguments.
Moreover, I appreciate—and I feel sympathy for the point—that it would be a convenience to many people, and particularly perhaps those who are concerned with the operation of coin-operated machines, as the noble Baroness has said, to know quite clearly without further delay precisely what coins will exist after the transitional period. Nevertheless, even if all those concerned with coin-operated machines desired to see the 6d. demonetised in August, 1972, that of itself would surely not he a deciding argument. The fact, however, is that they do not all so desire.
I do not propose to repeat to-day, or even to refer in detail to, all the arguments advanced in Committee in favour of the retention of the 6d., but I should like quite briefly to elaborate upon the attitude of industry and trade on this question. As regards the coin-operated machines, the manufacturers of those machines are of course concerned to provide, and will provide, the slots which the particular functions of the various types of machine require. The proprietors of the machines want slots which suit their business, and in this field it is the owners of the machines and the public who use them whose opinion matters, and they are, to some extent, divided in their views.
I want to be quite fair. Opinions differ for different commodities and services. Parking meters obviously require a single coin; if there is no 6d. they will become 1s. operated, and then the time measured has to be adjusted. However, according to the motoring organisations, who are perhaps the best qualified to judge in this field, the coverage of the short periods of waiting time is 14 the most important consideration, and they strongly oppose the demonetising of the 6d. As regards telephones, as your Lordships know, the Post Office can reduce—and have given indication of their intention to reduce—the duration of the local call so that it may be financially covered by 2p. But we all know from personal experience that there are many cases where three minutes is short enough for what was hoped would be a very brief conversation, and putting in extra coins for an extension of time can be a great nuisance. It would be surprising if the public did not much prefer the continuance of the 6d. for this purpose.
As regards the general class of entertainment machines, the 6d. is convenient only so long as there are plenty of sixpences in circulation, and the entertainment industry favour the retention of the 6d., as would the public who use those machines. As regards coin-operated vending machines, the need for the 6d. depends upon the prevalence of 6d. packings suitable for use in such machines. There certainly are fewer of such packings to-day than there were, and with rising costs I am afraid that there are likely to be fewer still; but there are certainly enough to make the consumer industries feel that they would like the 6d. slot to be retained.
As regards public transport, to which the noble Baroness referred, the 6d. is to-day a very important coin, but it could not, I imagine, exist as a single-fare coin to cover a journey for which the full fare was 2½p unless the so-called half fare was raised to 1½p. But it would still he a very useful coin for journeys for which the full fare was 5p, which could be paid in the 1s. equivalent or in two 6d. equivalents.
In this connection, may I be allowed to quote the Report of the London Transport, published as House of Commons Paper No. 208 of 1968–69, wherein, in paragraph 49, they say:The decision to adopt the £1/new penny/½ system and the absence of a 2½ new penny coin to replace the 6d. will cause considerable difficulties to London Transport and other bus operators and businesses where a large proportion of the. cash transactions are in comparatively low denominations. There will be no single coin with a value less than the present 1s. which has an exact decimal equivalent, and no decimal coin in the range between the 2p (4.8d.) equivalent and the 5p (1s.), where a high proportion of London Transport fares lie.15 Aside from that, I have reason to know that they feel—and I think quite strongly—that even if by "D-Day" their fare scales have to be altered, and are altered, so as to be readily convertible from £.s.d. to decimals, they would like to see a prolongation of the life of the 6d. so as to give more time for the conversion of their machines with 6d. slots. I apologise for having taken up so much time over this one facet of the problem, but it illustrates a fact which bedevils many aspects; namely, that opinion is quite sharply divided.
As regards the distributive trade, I listened very carefully to the points made in the Committee stage by the noble Lord, Lord Sainsbury, and the noble Lord, Lord Hirshfield, against the retention of the 6d., and to the speeches made for it by the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge, and the noble Lord, Lord Jacques. I have tried to get some turnover figures to evaluate the different points of view, and the latest figures available were the 1966 Census. These showed that of the total retail trade, multiple shops—that is, companies with 10 or more retail branches—represent 32½ per cent., departmental stores represent 5 per cent., the co-operative societies represent 9 per cent., and the remainder, which includes the multitude of small shops, many of whom are in, or associated with, the Retail Alliance referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge, represent a total of 53½ per cent.
Without in any way wishing to dispute what the noble Lord, Lord Sainsbury, said about his own business, or what the noble Lord, Lord Hirshfield said about the Tesco stores, I can say that the Multiple Shops' Federation, representing the bulk of the 32½ per cent., are quite categoric in their declaration that the great majority of their members favour retention of the 6d. The Retail Distributors' Association, which includes the departmental stores, would be emphatic on the other side, but they represent only some 5 per cent. The co-operative societies. representing 9 per cent., are wholly in favour of retention, and the Economic Development Council for the distributive trade have, I understand—and I have the Chairman's authority for saying this—come down quite firmly in favour of the retention of the 6d. in the form of a 2½p 16 coin. To sum up on the feeling of industry and trade, I think the position is something like this. Industry, as represented by the C.B.I., are definitely in favour; those concerned with coin-operated machines are divided; retail distribution is mostly in favour; and the public, so far as it would seem to have expressed an opinion, would appear to be in favour.
I should not wish to go over again all the other arguments that were advanced in Committee in favour of the 6d., but I must make it clear beyond any possibility of doubt that the argument for retention and for a 2½p coin of the same size, weight and composition as the present 6d., at least for some time after the end of the transitional period, should not be construed as an argument for the place of the 6d. equivalent as a permanent feature of our decimal coinage, but only for so long as its usefulness, its popularity and its convenience make its continued existence desirable. I believe that those of your Lordships who consider that some provision for the extension of the life of the 6d. beyond the transitional period is important, for the reasons which have been advanced from all quarters of your Lordships' House, will feel that it would be wrong to accept this Amendment, even with the assurance which has been offered. We must therefore resist it.
But whether or not it is carried, I hope that the Government will favourably consider, in the light of all the arguments that have been advanced in both Houses of Parliament and the weight of opinion in industry and trade and, indeed, in the country as a whole, the making of a Proclamation now, or when this Bill has finally passed through its various stages, to the effect that the 6d. will not be demonetised until some date after the end of the transitional period; and then only if either it has ceased to be a popular, convenient and useful coin, or the new ½p has itself by then been demonetised. This Proclamation, to be effective, must, as I see it, include a provision for a 2½p coin, not permanently, but at least up to the point that I have tried to define.
§ 3.8 p.m.
THE EARL OF HALSBURY
My Lords, in rising to support the Government Amendment, I should make it clear 17 to your Lordships that I am speaking this afternoon as a private person and not as a member of the Decimal Currency Board, whose proper spokesman is its Chairman. I shall simply draw on those conclusions which I formed in the course of listening to all the evidence in which I was involved during my chairmanship of the Committee of Inquiry many years ago.
One of my difficulties the whole way through was that everybody wanted to spoil the new system by retaining some feature of the old because it was in his interest to do so, and had I listened to all of them I should have recommended to your Lordships a completely botched job. But if I was not to listen to all of them, how could I discriminate between one and another?—for the only argument that they produced was that the retention of some feature would be of benefit to their section of the community. Hour after hour I listened to special pleading on behalf of the ½d. at its present value, the present 3d. bit, now and then the 6d., and, in its turn, the half-crown: and all the arguments to which I listened were legitimate in their context. It is a matter of regret that I find myself on the opposite side of the argument, on almost all issues, to the noble Lord, Lord Sinclair of Cleeve, because I must concede that I have never heard him put forward a bad argument yet. If the case that he defends were the only case to be defended, I should be on his side. All these arguments are legitimate in special contexts; but they are, I think, bad arguments in the context of trying to design a coinage to last a hundred years.
My Lords, nobody will deny that the 6d. has a use. It always will have a use. Any coin that is there will always have a use. People will find a use for it simply because it is there. In the United States the single cent has no purchasing power. There is nothing you can buy for a cent, but they still find a use for it as a means of collecting sales tax; and it will go along as a useless coin but with that one purpose, the collection of sales tax, for an indefinite time to come. The 6d. had a use in 1939; skip 30 years, it has a use in 1969; in another 30 years it will find another use in 1999—but these are not the same uses. Inflation alters the particular use 18 to which a coin is put, but it does not alter the fact that a use will always be found for it.
My Lords, what will be the consequence of having a new ½p, a new 2p and a new 2½p circulating in parallel, beside one another? One of these days inflation (and we must accept inflation as a secular trend) will make it desirable to demonetise the ½p. That is not going to happen immediately: I hope not. It may be in a generation's time. Whether it is in two or three generations' time depends on how effective successive Governments are in preventing inflationary rises in price. But the existence of the ½p and the 2½p alongside one another will each tend to perpetuate one another, because you cannot have a 2p and a 2½p coin circulating beside one another in the same system of coinage without the presence of a ½p to give change and strike a balance between them. So each will tend to strengthen the existence of the other, and a blemish on the coinage will be perpetuated for all time to come.
Nobody denies that the 6d. is not only useful but is also popular at the moment, under present conditions. It is somewhat surprising to find the very large number of sixpences that are in fact used in pairs to do substitute service for the 1s. But it is believed, and I. believe, that the popularity of the 6d. will fade and that the popularity of the 1s. will rise. In this context, I should like to remind your Lordships that the 6d. is not only a value; it is also a name. It is a name in the same sense that "shilling" is a name. It is true that the word "tanner" exists, but I believe its use is most widespread in London and the Home Counties and not in other parts of the country. Whether the 6d. will be used in the form of "tanner" during the transition period to avoid confusion I do not know; but I would ask your Lordships to note that it is a name, "The sixpence"—and can anything be more tiresome than having a new coin which is worth 2½p and whose name is "sixpence" in the old? It seems to me an in-built source of muddle and confusion and should be terminated as quickly as possible.
We must learn not to look back nostalgically on the old duodecimal system. We must not turn back, like Lot's wife, 19 to the past, and to what was going on there. The duodecimal and the decimal systems are quite different. Each has its advantages; each has its disadvantages—nobody will dispute that. The great advantage of the decimal system is that it aligns our treatment of measure with the use of language in terms of which numbers are expressed. One of the advantages of the duodecimal system is that you can divide the radix by two twice. Nobody disputes that you cannot do that in a decimal system. I beseech your Lordships not to try to do what cannot be done, but to learn to think and plan decimally, and to adjust units in such a way that they fit naturally in with the one, two, five and ten coins which are the natural divisions of a decimal system. Other people do it: we can. For 2d. you can get 80 per cent. of everything you get for 2½d. If 6d. or 2½p buys 30 minutes' parking time, then 2p will buy 24 minutes' parking time, and it is a perfectly simple matter to adjust the meters to effect this.
I know that I have been criticised here and elsewhere for being tough and unyielding in my pursuit of the detail involved in all this. I have even been called undemocratic, because I have said that it was a technical issue. The processes of democracy achieve many things, but I do not think they necessarily effect a trusteeship for the future, for coming generations that have no votes and are not voted for. Throughout the whole of my transactions in this field I have had a strong sense of trusteeship for the future. If I had not been unyielding on these points, we should have ended up with, to my thinking, a botched system. The coins in your Lordships' pockets were designed just one hundred years ago. It is probably the only coinage in Europe which has lasted as long. I set out to design something which would be suitable for use for another hundred years to come.
Again, as a trustee for the future I felt it essential to preserve simplicity. We must go for simplicity, above all things. My Lords, there are too many complications of everyday life where we curse our forbears because of the compromises they effected to their convenience and our no little prejudice. I would urge your Lordships not to incur the odium of our descendants by trying to take the 20 easy way out in this day and age, so landing them with an embarrassment the abolition of which someone will always be opposing. Whenever you try to get rid of the 2½p, someone will always want to say, "No" The time for deciding on abolition is to-day, and I believe that the right time to effect it is very much towards the close of the transition period.
§ LORD SINCLAIR OF CLEEVE
My Lords, before the noble Earl sits down, may I make just one point in order to—
§ LORD BESWICK
My Lords, if the noble Lord will allow me to say so, on Report stage it is not customary to make more than one intervention.
§ LORD HIRSHFIELD
My Lords, I had been about to contribute once again to this discussion on the question of the withdrawal of the 6d. Quite frankly, I am disposed to scrap the whole of my proposed speech. I should much prefer, if this Amendment is to be pressed, that we should go into the Division Lobbies as soon as we can, bearing well in our minds the very fine contribution, the very reasoned contribution, that we have just listened to from the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury.
§ 3.19 p.m.
§ LORD SOMERS
My Lords, in spite of that fact I should like to say that the arguments of the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, were of course very convincing from one point of view, but that point of view was entirely theoretical. He was looking upon the ½d. as being a blot on the decimal system, but that is merely because the whole decimal system based on the pound is an absurd conception, and we must look at things from the practical point of view. Personally, I think that the retention of the 6d. is extremely desirable. One has only to think, for instance, of London Transport's smallest fare, 5d. My Lords, two new pennies—2p—will be more than 5d., and one new penny—1p—will be less. Or should I have said 3p and 2p? I must confess that I cannot work it out. At any rate, it is impossible to make 5d. out of the new coinage without retaining the ½d. Therefore it is essential, it seems to me, to retain the 6d. The noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, asked what we are going to call it. Surely it is not beyond the wit of man to invent a name for it. I think that it will cause 21 an enormous amount or inconvenience to everybody, not only to those who own coin-operated machines but to those who use them, if we do not retain it.
I must confess that I was a little surprised to hear the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips (to whose opinions I always listen with the greatest respect, and generally with agreement), say that the purpose of a Report stage was to think over what one had said in the Committee stage and to return the Bill to the form in which it had left the House of Commons. I cannot think that that is really the purpose of the Report stage.
§ LORD BALOGH
My Lords, I shall not detain you for very long. It seems to me that in the speeches we have heard, and especially the speech of the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, we have been hearing of one hundred years hence. I feel that these arguments are a sort of pale reflection of his own arguments in his Report. I quite see the passion with which he defends the future. It seems to me, however, that we must think also of the present. I have not been at all impressed by those noble Lords who have been expressing various vested interests. It seems to me that we are the trustees not of vested interests but of the community as a whole, and that the community as a whole has an absolutely urgent need not to be exposed to any excuse for further inflation. It is absolutely certain that any measure which abolishes small coins, however they were formed—and this very inept decimal currency reform obviously tends to the wholesale abolition of smaller coins and smaller money—the farthing, the halfpenny, and very soon the penny; because the new penny is much more than a penny—will of course hurt some vested interests and will benefit other vested interests who will take the opportunity to increase their profit margins. In the end the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, will be perfectly right and all the small coins will have been eroded—but not without his very valiant help.
Having said this, I would add that I shall support the Government in the Division Lobby—although, unfortunately, the change in the Treasury has not led to a change in this particular issue—because the decision is theirs and they have decided. But I would implore the Chancellor to turn his back on the previous 22 decision, which was made on silly grounds—silly prestige grounds—and to think again. But in the meantime I shall support the Government.
§ LORD FERRIER
My Lords, I venture to say a few words on a single point not mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Sinclair of Cleeve, either in his speech to-day or, according to my recollection, in the debate the other day. I refer to the problem of vending machines for liquids, for milk and cold drinks. I do not propose to enter into the gastro-nomical problem of whether a pint is too much to consume at one go or whether 2p worth is too little; but I would appeal to the noble Baroness to consider the problem of vending machines for milk in terms of the new currency.
My Lords, I think I am correct in saying that the noble Baroness told us that she put the conversion costs and renewal costs of these vending machines of various sorts at £8 million. I should like some information on this point. In due course, obviously, these machines will wear out and will have to be replaced. We all know that. But how much life is left in these machines? Will they all become due for renewal in a short period of time? This is what worries me. I should have thought that if the majority of the machines still had a long life left in them, a case can be made for delaying the conversion.
I think the noble Baroness also said, "Do trust the Government". Well, virtually the entire Commonwealth who have been faced with this same problem of going from £ s. d. to a decimal system (and common sense and brain-power are not a prerogative of this country; they exist elsewhere) have opted for the 10s. system. And, of course, therefore they do not require the halfpenny. The only reason we require the halfpenny is because, with all due respect, for some idiotic reason we opted, in complete isolation, for the pound system. But I Would ask your Lordships this question. Are the ½p and the 1p as close together as the 2p piece and the proposed or talked about 2½p? I cannot see that there is any difference at all. If you have the one (which has been forced upon us because we are to go into the pound 23 system) it is illogical to argue that the coins are too close together; because they are no closer together and no further apart than the coins we have already. The only plea we make is for retention for a certain length of time; that is, until it is proved unnecessary, not in theory but in fact. We would retain it for that length of time. So far as the name is concerned your Lordships will have heard of a dime, a nickel, "two bits"; and, if you were old enough, you would know that in Canada and America there was once a note called a "shin plaster". I do not think the name comes into it at all.
§ LORD DONALDSON OF KINGSBRIDGE
My Lords, I thought that the speech of my noble friend Lady Phillips was most helpful, particularly at the beginning. If I understand that aright, it means that the Government think they are retaining flexibility to act on new facts which may emerge during the interim period. This, on the whole, was the main objection that I and others had to the Bill as it stood.
But in the long run somebody has to decide on this matter. The arguments were well canvassed and I think that no converts have been made. It is the Government's prerogative to decide. I spoke against them in the Committee stage—this is what a Committee stage is for—but it seems to me your Lordships have fulfilled your proper function by asking the Government to pause and to think again. We have had a small pause. I do not think we shall get any more. I think it would be an unnecessary delaying tactic not to pass this Amendment at this stage. If I were not under the long and imprecise shadow of the Addison Rules, I should vote for the Amendment.
§ THE EARL OF DUNDEE
My Lords, I shall neither delay the House nor repeat anything which has been said in Committee. I regret that the Government have taken the course of seeking to reverse the Amendment which your Lordships then carried. I do not think the noble Baroness was right in suggesting that some of your Lordships voted in Committee under a misapprehension. I think that our main reason was that we felt that the premature abolition of this particular coin, before or soon after the 24 end of the transition period, would have a small, perhaps, but appreciable effect in pushing up that cost inflation against which we have all been fighting for so long—with so little success.
When the noble Baroness went on to say that your Lordships carried it by a small majority she was entirely right: it was a small majority. I think the reason why it was small, both in your Lordships' House and in another place, was simply that on this side of the House we had a free vote. Many of my noble friends voted against our Amendment, but the majority probably voted in favour of it—indeed they must have done; and the same thing occurred in another place. But on the Government side of the House, although many of your Lordships spoke strongly, and very convincingly, I thought, in favour of the Amendment, not one of them voted for it, because the Whips were on on one side and not on the other.
My Lords, I have always felt that this kind of issue is one which the ordinary Members can decide much better than officials. I think that most ordinary Members, of both Houses, are better judges of the kind of thing that will happen in shops than Government officials or the banks, who are accustomed to think in terms of big money; or even than the Halsbury Committee who so blithely assumed that the new ½pwhich is equivalent to 1.2d., will soon be abandoned because inflation will go on so rapidly or because we shall all become so affluent that we shall treat it with contempt. But, my Lords, I think that these little coins do matter. The noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, said he was in favour of simplicity. So are we all. He said that other countries. managed to get on with the purely decimal system, two places of decimals, and he asked: why cannot we do the same? One reason is that we have insisted, on his recommendation, on having this enormous unit of £1, whereas everybody else has a much smaller unit. In South Africa and Australia it is only 10s.; and in America that unit is the equivalent of about 7s.; and in Germany, France and Italy it is very much less, so that simplicity is comparatively easy.
My Lords, I suggest again that this is a matter on which we ought to have had a free vote, and I regret that we did not. It is a matter on which those who are not 25 in official positions are as good judges as—or better than—those who are in official positions and who write briefs for Ministers. We are not asking your Lordships to perpetuate this coin for ever, but only to enable it to survive for an indefinite, though perhaps not very long, period for purely practical purposes after the transition period has come to an end.
§ 3.33 p.m.
§ LORD BESWICK
My Lords, we have had an interesting and very useful extension of our discussion on this subject. I should like to pay a tribute to the quite immaculate courtesy with which the noble Lord, Lord Sinclair, has conducted his opposition to the Government point of view and I think we are all indebted, if I may say so, to the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, for giving us his testimony.
When I first came to look at this 6d. controversy I was, I confess to the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, more than a little inclined to support the view that we should hang on to a coin which we knew. I did not go so far along the sentimental road as did the noble Lord, Lord Crowther, when he brought forward the "dockers' tanner", but at any rate there was a touch of sentiment in the view which I had. I have not been the only one to feel that. Certainly three noble Lords have said to me that in the Division which we had ten days ago they thought the arguments were evenly balanced and it was sentiment which eventually brought them down to support the view embodied in the Amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Sinclair. I hope that on reflection we can now agree, as was said by the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, that if we are to have a decimal system we must make it as workmanlike and with as efficient a coinage as possible. Once general principles are set we should be prepared to give considerable weight, indeed decisive weight, to the advice of those who have been professionally concerned and who have done so much research on the details.
The noble Earl, Lord Dundee, said that we ought not to divide on this matter on Party political grounds. I quite agree with him that there are occasions when it would be better if this House were able to come to a conclusion quite 26 apart from any Government advice or Government Whip. But there is also a time when the Government, who after all have ultimate responsibility for administration in these affairs, must say what they believe to be the right choice to make in the national interest and on the advice available to them.
This is not a question of a Government taking up a point of view because they, as politicians, believe that they have all the answers. That is not so at all. The Government have had available to them a good deal of informed opinion and very weighty advice. In the first place, we have had the Committee over which the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, presided and they certainly informed themselves. They formed a view on the basis of expert evidence, and we have heard from the noble Earl the advice which he now gives. The Decimal Currency Board, which also considered this matter, is not a Government body in the sense of being composed of politicians, or indeed of civil servants. It is a body of distinguished non-civil servants drawn from various walks of life; and the Board, too, gave advice to us along the lines of the Amendment which have on the Order Paper to-day.
Much has been said about the Multiple Shops' Federation and the point of view which it has expressed in the literature which it has sent round to us all. But we have heard from my noble friend Lord Sainsbury of the research which his own firm has carried out in this matter, and we have heard from him that they have come to the conclusion that the Government view is the correct view. The noble Lord, Lord Sieff, who, with his firm, also has very considerable experience in these matters (these are not one-sided or dogmatic politicians), said to me that were it not for the fact that he is to receive an honourary degree to-day from his old university he would have been glad to come to your Lordships' House and offer his point of view, which again is in line with that of the Government Amendment. The Retail Distributors' Association, again on the basis of practical work done on the problem, support the view which I am asking your Lordships to accept this afternoon.
My Lords, the problem here is that were the controversy extended beyond the 27 change-over period which we now envisage, we should simply be continuing uncertainty, if not confusion. Some teaching manuals, as we have heard, are being produced on the basis that the 6d. will be withdrawn. The Chairman of the Decimal Currency Association of the Retail Distributors' Association has said that most sectors of retailing are planning ahead on the basis that the 6d. will be withdrawn at the end of the change-over period. Surely all business experience suggest that there comes a point in time when you have to take a decision so that sensible forward planning can take place.
The noble Lord, Lord Sinclair, called our attention to one sector where I accept from him—indeed, it is obvious—that there are especial difficulties. I refer of course to vending machines. But here, too, I suggest that in the long run it is in the best interests that a decision should be taken now. I have been asked various questions about vending machines. I do not want to go into the whole issue again. I have been absolutely amazed at the amount of detailed research which has taken place in this matter; I have had accounted to me practically every coin-vending machine in the country. There are now 11 million of these machines altogether. Of this total, only 15 per cent. are affected by the withdrawal of the 6d.
If one ignores the 300,000 machines—I do not know what to call them: they are usually to be found in amusement arcades—which have a doubtful social value, then the proportion becomes only 12 per cent. If this Bill goes on the Statute Book with a provision that another fractional coin—the 2½p piece in the guise of a 6d.—is included in the range of coinage, while we should be helping the 12 per cent. of coin vending machine operators, we should, on the other hand, in the view of the Government, of the Decimal Currency Board and of the Committee over which the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, presided and of all those practical businessmen who have come to your 28 Lordships' House to give us the benefit of their experience, be penalising the rest of the community. We should be prolonging a period of uncertainty and causing a slowing down of cash transactions in the retail shops. There would be a definite cost as a result of that slowing down of operations at check-out points and elsewhere.
I was asked about milk-vending machines. I believe that I am right in saying that there are about 60,000 machines which sell beverages, snacks and milk in cartons, not all of them operated by a 6d., and most of those to be found in factories are subsidised. This is not a real problem at all. Discussions are now going on between the Decimal Currency Board and the Milk Marketing Board about the amount of milk to be given for a particular coin.
I cannot understand the argument of the noble Lord, Lord Sinclair of Cleeve, that it would put up the cost of living if we withdrew the 6d. call from telephone boxes and had a call for 2p pieces instead. That was the implication of what was said. My right honourable friend the Postmaster General is now planning to have a cheaper 'phone call, certainly of a shorter time, as the noble Lord himself said. He was fair in this as well as i n everything else he said. I cannot see that it will be a great hardship to be able to make a call for a lower price. The noble Viscount, Lord Stonehaven, asked me about the difficulties with fractional coins, and he went some way in critising the½p The Government recognise that this is a difficulty, but coins which include a fraction, like the 2½p piece, will complicate transactions much more than a coin which is itself a fraction, like the ½p.
I hope that I have answered most of the questions which have been raised. The noble Lord, Lord Sinclair of Cleeve, ended up with an appeal for "just a little longer", but what he was really asking for was an extension of uncertainty. This afternoon I hope that we can now divide in order to put an end to the period of 29 uncerainty, and I hope that we shall end it in the way which has been supported by so many distinguished people in a good cross section of our industrial and commercial life.
|Aberdare, L.||Garnsworthy, L.||Nunburnholme, L.|
|Addison, V.||Gifford. L.||Ogmore, L.|
|Amherst, E.||Granville of Eye, L.||Pargiter, L.|
|Archibald, L.||Granville-West, L.||Phillips, Bs.|
|Arwyn, L.||Hall, V.||Plummer, Bs.|
|Ashbourne, L.||Halsbury, E.||Portsmouth, L.Bp.|
|Audley, Bs.||Hankey, L.||Raglan, L.|
|Aylestone, L.||Henderson, L.||Rathcreedan, L.|
|Balogh, L.||Henley, L.||Ritchie-Calder, L.|
|Beaumont of Whitley, L.||Heycock, L.||Robertson of Oakridge, L.|
|Bessborough, E.||Hilton of Upton, L. [Teller]||Royle, L.|
|Beswick, L.||Hirshfield, L.||Ruthven of Freeland, Ly.|
|Bowles, L. [Teller.]||Hughes, L.||Sainsbury, L.|
|Brockway, L.||Hunt, L.||St. Davids, V.|
|Brown, L.||Inman, L.||Samuel, V.|
|Buckinghamshire, E.||Jackson of Burnley, L.||Sempill, Ly.|
|Buckton, L.||Kennet, L.||Serota, Bs.|
|Burden, L.||Kilbracken, L.||Shackleton, L. (L. Privy Seal.)|
|Burton of Coventry, Bs.||Kirkwood, L.||Silkin, L.|
|Campbell of Eskan, L.||Latham, L.||Snow, L.|
|Chalfont, L.||Leatherland, L.||Soper, L.|
|Champion, L.||Lincoln, L.Bp.||Sorensen, L.|
|Clwyd, L.||Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, Bs.||Stocks, Bs.|
|Collison, L.||Lloyd of Hampstead, L.||Stonham, L.|
|Constantine, L.||Loudoun, C.||Stow Hill, L.|
|Cork and Orrery, E.||Lucas of Chilworth, L.||Strabolgi, L.|
|Digby, L.||McLeavy, L.||Summerskill, Bs.|
|Douglas of Barloch, L.||MacLeod of Fuinary, L.||Taylor of Mansfield, L.|
|Douglass of Cleveland, L.||McNair, L.||Walston, L.|
|Emmet of Amberley, Bs.||Mancroft, L.||Williamson, L.|
|Energlyn, L.||Massereene and Ferrard, V.||Willis, L.|
|Evans of Hungershall, L.||Milner of Leeds, L.||Wilson of Langside, L.|
|Faringdon, L.||Mitchison, L.||Winterbottom, L.|
|Gaitskell, Bs.||Monckton of Brenchley, V.||Wise, L.|
|Gardiner, L. (L. Chancellor.)||Morris of Kenwood, L.||Wootton of Abinger, Bs.|
|Garner, L.||Moyle, L.|
|Aberdeen and Temair, M.||Ebbisham, L.||Merrivale, L.|
|Airedale, L.||Eccles, V.||Meston, L.|
|Albemarle, E.||Effingham, E.||Milverton, L.|
|Allerton, L.||Elliot of Harwood, Bs.||Monson, L.|
|Alport, L.||Essex, E.||Morrison, L.|
|Ampthill, L.||Falmouth, V.||Mowbray and Stourton, L.|
|Atholl, D.||Ferrier, L.||Moyne, L.|
|Auckland, L.||Fortescue, E.||Napier and Ettrick, L.|
|Baldwin of Bewdley, E.||Goschen, V.||Newton, L.|
|Balerno, L.||Gowrie, E.||Nugent of Guildford, L.|
|Barrington, V.||Greenway, L.||Rankeillour, L.|
|Beauchamp, E.||Grenfell, L.||Rathcavan, L.|
|Berkeley, Bs.||Grimston of Westbury, L.||Rockley, L.|
|Brentford, V.||Hawke, L.||Runciman of Doxford, V.|
|Brooke of Cumnor, L.||Howard of Glossop, L.||Sackville, L.|
|Brooke of Ystradfellte, Bs.||Hylton-Foster, Bs.||St. Aldwyn, E.|
|Carrington, L.||Ilford, L.||Salter, L.|
|Conesford, L.||Killearn, L.||Sandys, L.|
|Craigavon, V.||Kilmany, L.||Selkirk, E.|
|Cranbrook, E.||Kings Norton, L.||Sinclair of Cleeve, L. [Teller.]|
|Daventry, V.||Lansdowne, M.||Somers, L. [Teller.]|
|Derwent, L.||Lauderdale, E.||Stonehaven, V.|
|Dilhorne, V.||Lloyd-George of Dwyfor, E.||Strange of Knokin, Bs.|
|Drumalbyn, L.||MacAndrew, L.||Swinton, E.|
|Dudley, L.||Mansfield, E.||Trefgarne, L.|
|Dundee, E.||Mar, E.||Vivian, L.|
§ Resolved in the affirmative, and Amendment agreed to accordingly.30
§ 3.45 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether the said Amendment (No. 1) shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents*, 106; Not-Contents, 78.
§ *[See subsequent correction by the LORD CHANCELLOR to "Contents" figures: col. 38.]31
§ 3.57 p.m.
VISCOUNT MASSEREENE AND
FERRARD moved Amendment No. 2:
After Clause 1, insert the following new clause:
§ Additional coinage of the new currency
|Twenty-five new pence||28.2759—||Three-quarters copper one-quarter nickel||.188"|
§ The noble Viscount said: My Lords, in putting down this Amendment at this rather late stage I am hoping to convince the Government of the sense of having a 25p coin in place of the 20p coin. My Amendment does not suggest that the proposed 20p coin should be dropped, but if the Government see the sense of my argument for the 25p coin, the corollary would be to drop the 20p coin, because we do not want the two of them. The noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, in his argument for not having the 6d. in our new coinage, said (and I agree with him) that life was quite complicated enough to-day without having a lot of small, unnecessary coins. My Amendment seeks to make life less complicated by having a 25p coin in place of the 20p coin.
§ I have always understood that in our system of coinage of any tier it is important to have a precise value/weight relationship. If you ask any banker about this he will agree. and I venture to suggest that the man in the street would agree, too. If a man reaches for coins in his pocket, it is surely more psychologically and physically natural for one coin to be exactly half the weight of the next one. The 25p coin that I am suggesting would be half the weight and size of the next highest coin. I have not mentioned the size in my Amendment, but provided that you have the weight. the size is relevant to the weight. The 25p coin would be exactly half the 50p coin or the new half sovereign. This is a perfectly logical argument. For instance, if you take the 20p coin, which I suppose will be looked upon as a florin, it will be most confusing for people to compare this with the half sovereign, because 2½ of the 20p coin will go to the half sovereign. If you take the coin I suggest, the 25p coin, 32 you have 2 going to the half-sovereign, and 4 to the pound. It does really seem simpler. The other advantage in the 25p coin is, as I have already said, that 4 go to the pound, and you have a natural progression to the pound. In my opinion, the present half-crown is really more popular than the 2s. piece, which we call a florin. It is far nicer to have in your pocket, and it is far easier to have 4 half-crowns for 10s. or 8 half-crowns for one pound, than 10 2s. pieces for a pound, and five for a 10s. note.
§ In the last Amendment, with the Division we have just had, we have done away—and I think quite rightly—with the 6d. because it is too small. I am suggesting that the 20p piece is also unnecessarily small. It will confuse people regarding the half-sovereign. I should have thought also (to return to the subject of the vending machines), that, if you take cigarettes, the retailers would be very happy to have a packet of cigarettes at 25p. In other words, if we had a 5s. piece to-day in our existing coinage it would be extremely useful for cigarettes in vending machines and for similar goods. The other point is that charitable organisations are rather worried about the disappearance of the equivalent of the half-crown. They are rather worried (and I think they are perfectly right, especially as applied to the church) that people will be inclined to put a 20p coin into the plate, whereas if there were a 25p coin they would put in that coin. That principle applies, I think to all charitable organisations. They would far prefer to have a 25p coin.
§ My Lords, I do not want to take up much more time on this matter. I should like to say that in these days of inflation (and I think it was the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, who said that we are deciding on our coinage for 100 years hence) we do not want to have too many small denominations of coins. I also consider that it is far simpler for the average person to have a 25p coin, 4 to the pound, 2 to the half-sovereign. I therefore beg to move my Amendment.
§ 4.4 p.m.
§ LORD BESWICK
My Lords, the case the noble Viscount has out forward is one which attracted a good deal of attention when the system was being considered in the first place, and the 33 Halsbury Committee looked at this proposal in some considerable detail. They considered the £.s.d. crown, and they decided that it had never been popular because of the weight: it is not a popular coin to carry around in one's trouser pocket. They did, however, recommend the inclusion of a cupro-nickel 20p piece in weight and value relationship to the 5p, and the 10p pieces, although again there was some doubt as to whether it would be popular. I have in my hand, my Lords, the 20p piece, which has not been recommended—again on the ground of its size and weight, and of the general convenience of the public.
What the Government did decide, and what they have adopted, is the long-term view of the Halsbury Committee: that a 50p coin should be provided in a third tier. That is to say, the 50p coin—the size of coin I have in my hand—will be issued in October next. The Decimal Currency Board, after consultation (and all these matters have been dealt with after proper consultation), took the view that there was no case for a denomination between the 10p and the 50p in the initial decimal coin series. If we were to have either a 20p or a 25p coin, as the noble Viscount, Lord Massereene and Ferrard, is suggesting, it ought to be in the tier that I have in my hand now, so that it could be a much more convenient coin, if there was a demand for it. I suggest to the noble Viscount that, after reflection, he should withdraw his Amendment. It is not acceptable to the Government. The 25p coin would be too large to be useful in the size he is suggesting. If it was necessary to mint such a coin for some ceremonial purposes, that could be done under the provisions of Section 11 of the Coinage Act 1870 and Section 2(3) of the Decimal Currency Act 1967. I suggest to the noble Viscount that although the point of view that he has put forward is an interesting one—and it has been considered—the Government do not think that a 25p coin would be a very convenient coin for day-to-day use. If one issue were considered to be reasonable, or desirable on other grounds, it would be possible to carry out the idea that he has in mind.
§ VISCOUNT MASSEREENE AND FERRARD
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his explanation. I quite understand his argument. I was really 34 anxious to find out why the 25p coin had been turned down. I did not attend the Committee stage. Perhaps the point was discussed then, although, so far as I remember from reading the Committee stage, I do not think it was brought up. I was anxious to give the suggestion a preliminary canter, and the noble Lord has convinced me, through his arguments, that it might not be completely practicable. At the same time, I was pleased to hear what he said with regard to the minting of any commemorative coins, or coins of that category that might be minted in 25p. Having said that, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 4.10 p.m.
LORD SOMERS moved Amendment No. 3:
After Clause 1, insert the following new cause:
§ Additional coinage of the new currency
|New farthing||0.89100—||Mixed metal copper, tin and zinc||0.01875"|
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, in view of the argument that took place over the retention of the 6d., it would seem rather verging on the realms of lunacy to move this Amendment for a new coin, but I am hoping that noble Lords who hear what I have to say will consider this Amendment from a practical rather than an idealistic point of view. When we go over to this new currency, owing to the fact that we shall have the largest unit in Europe, we shall have also the largest smallest denomination. I should like to read to your Lordships a list of comparisons which have been taken from Whitaker's Almanack 1969 and also from a list issued by the Midland Bank Limited. The fractions of 1d. are fractions of the present penny, not the new penny: Austria, 0.04d.; Belgium, 0.4d.; Denmark 0.13d.; Finland, 0.24d.; France, 0.2d.; West Germany, 0.25d.; Greece, 0.34d.; Holland, 0.28d.; Italy, 0.16d.; Luxembourg, 0.5d. Luxembourg's is the largest of them all. So your Lordship will see that our 1p, which is to be our smallest unit, is going to be about four, five or six times the size of 35 any of those smallest denominations. Therefore I am proposing the introduction of a new farthing. which is to be a quarter, naturally, of the value of the 1p.
§ One reason for this proposal is that it is anti-inflationary. By having this denomination one would be able to arrive at comparative prices in the new currency which are much nearer the present prices in our present currency. That is a great argument in favour of this proposal, because there is no doubt that some inflation will take place. And I think that even the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, admitted, somewhat reluctantly perhaps, that inflation was a bad thing. I think personally that, for the sake of the citizen, it is something to be avoided at all costs. Therefore the introduction of a new farthing would be the best way to equate the new currency with the old so far as prices are concerned. My Lords, I beg to move.
§ BARONESS PHILLIPS
My Lords, the arguments put forward by the noble Lord were of course considered by the Halsbury Committee. I think the noble Lord will appreciate that some of the points made by the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, himself indicated very clearly that they had gone thoroughly into all aspects of possibilities within the new decimal coinage. They came to the final conclusion that there was not a need for a coin equivalent in value to the present ½d. as a permanent feature of the decimal currency system. The Committee considered even the possibility of providing a ¼p as a temporary feature, but concluded that this could not be recommended as even a temporary expedient because the coin would complicate change-giving.
There were two further objections to the small coin which would be introduced as a result of the noble Lord's Amendment were we to accept it. The first objection is that for technical reasons the Mint would have to mass produce a very tiny coin. I feel sure the noble Lord has seen the proposed size of the new coins and he will appreciate that ¼p would need to be a very tiny coin. It would be half the weight of the proposed ½p, while the object at this time, obviously, is to avoid creating additional coinage.
The noble Lord made the point that he was trying to avoid inflationary con 36 ditions. Certainly the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, said that he did not wish to see inflation. None of us wishes to see inflation. But I would tell the noble Lord, Lord Somers, that both the Decimal Currency Board and the Government have several times expressed the view that decimalisation need not lead to an overall increase in price levels. If the preparatory period of planning is used carefully, as I have every reason to believe it will be, inflation need not occur. And price changes are always watched very keenly by the shopper. Therefore, I am sorry but the Government cannot accept this Amendment, and I hope that the noble Lord, having aired his point, which was a very valuable one, will withdraw the Amendment.
§ LORD SOMERS
My Lords, having listened to what the noble Baroness has to say, I feel that there is nothing more to be said, and I therefore beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 4.16 p.m.
LORD SOMERS moved Amendment No. 4:
After Clause 16 insert the following new clause:
§ Compensation in consequence of alteration of machines for purposes of decimal currency
§ ".—(1) The functions of the Decimal Currency Board under section 5(1) of the Decimal Currency Act 1967 shall include the payment of compensation amounting to not more than three-quarters of the cost incurred or to be incurred in consequence of the change to the new currency, by such persons as the Treasury shall direct, in the adaptation or replacement of commercial and other equipment designed to record or calculate in the old currency or to be operated by the coinage of the old currency.
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, this Amendment is on a somewhat different aspect of the matter. The Bill as it stands at present does not provide for compensation to owners of coin-operated machines for the adaptation or perhaps the replacement which they will have to make. That expense is going to be extremely heavy. I have been told that the cost for half-crown operated machines—and, after all, they are not numerous in comparison with 6d. operated ones—will be £10 million. It is not 37 easy for firms in these days to keep going under the extreme stress of rising costs, rising wages and everything else. It seems to me unfair for the Government to put upon them what is in fact a totally unnecessary burden. My Lords, I must stress that point. It is not necessary at this time to introduce decimal coinage. It may be desirable—I am not questioning that—but it is not necessary. Therefore, if it is going to cause extremley hard financial positions to firms which own these machines, it seems to me that it is entirely wrong for the Government not to give them compensation for the adaptations they will have to make. I do not think there is any more I can say to make my point clear, and I therefore beg to move.
§ LORD BESWICK
My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord Somers, says, this Amendment goes much wider than the Amendment we have recently been considering. It goes very wide and very deep. It is one of the most substantial issues which have had to be considered in the whole business of going over to a decimal currency system. The Government all along have taken the view that it was quite impossible to have any general compensation. That view has been supported by all those who hither-to have considered the matter. It has been a consistently held point of view which has never seriously been challenged in this House.
What the Government said was that the Decimal Currency Board, under the 1967 Act, should study and make recommendations to the Government about compensation to be paid in certain special circumstances, but after two years of study the Board informed the Government that they could not propose any scheme for compensation based upon clear principles and capable of being administered fairly and soundly. The Government had to accept this recommendation and that is the reason why subsection (1) of Clause 17 is in the Bill in the present terms. I hope the noble Lord will feel that at the Report stage in this House it would be a little difficult to reopen the whole of this wide question.
There is one other point I would put to the noble Lord. This clause enables expenditure to take place and it would have been out of order for it to be moved in the House of Commons because there 38 is no Financial Resolution for this Bill. That does not bar discussion in this House, or indeed the inclusion of the clause in the Bill when we send it back to the House of Commons, but it would not be constitutionally possible for another place to agree to the insertion of the clause unless the Government were to ask them to waive their privilege and introduce a Financial Resolution. I think the noble Lord will probably agree that that is not a course of action which we could ask the Government to undertake. Therefore I hope, with that information, the noble Lord will see his way to withdraw his Amendment.
§ LORD SOMERS
My Lords, I naturally accept what the noble Lord has said. I have no desire whatsoever to go against our few remaining privileges in this House, and so far as the desirability of it is concerned I am prepared to accept what the noble Lord says. Personally I think it is a pity, because it will come very hard on many people and a great proportion of the population of this country will say, "To what purpose?". But that is that, my Lords, and I simply cannot do any more. Therefore I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (LORD GARDINER)
My Lords, in the Division on the first Amendment, the number of those voting Content was 107, and not 106 as reported by the Teller and announced to the House.