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Decimal Currency: Basic Unit And Inaugural Date

Volume 289: debated on Thursday 15 February 1968

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3.15 p.m.

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether, now that the British penny equals the U.S. cent, they will consider decimalising the currency by selecting a major unit of 100 pennies, equal to one dollar; thus achieving parity between the world's two reserve currencies.]

My Lords, the view of Her Majesty's Government is that the decimal currency system based on a major unit of the pound sterling is best suited to both the internal and external purposes of the United Kingdom. The incidental fact that the British penny now equals the United States cent is no reason for considering a change to an inferior system at a time when planning is well advanced—I say, well advanced—for the change over to the system for which the Decimal Currency Act 1967 provides.

My Lords, I am obliged to the Minister for that answer. "Well advanced" has a rather imprecise meaning. Would it be possible for the noble Lord to explain a little more precisely what is meant by those words?

My Lords, I do not think it would be proper for me to go into too much detail as I understand that there will be an announcement later on this afternoon by, among others, the noble Lord, Lord Erroll of Hale. But I think I can say that "Decimal Day" has been fixed now as February 15, 1971, and my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor has been invited to place in the Library of the House five specimen coins of the new denominations, which will be available for inspection after 4 o'clock.

My Lords, though it is very improper for me to do so, may I crave your Lordships' indulgence to intervene, in order to say that the Chairman of the Decimal Currency Board is the noble Lord, Lord Fiske, who will be taking a more prominent part in the Press Conference than I shall, but I appreciate what the noble Lord said about my participation in it.

My Lords, will the Government continue to study the currencies not only of the United States, but also of Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa? Are the Government really determined that we shall remain for ever out of step with practically the whole of the English-speaking world in the matter of currency?

My Lords, I am sure that we shall never reach the stage when it will not be profitable at least to study what is going on in other parts of the world, but I am sure that the noble Lord will agree that, having decided by vote of both Houses of Parliament, to embark on a certain policy, we ought now to make a success of that, especially as planning is so far advanced. May I take the opportunity of saying that, looking as I do at the noble Lord, Lord Erroll of Hale, he was more significant in my sight than my noble friend Lord Fiske, whose pardon I beg.