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Coinage: Design

Volume 491: debated on Thursday 10 December 1987

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3.10 p.m.

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

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will commission the Royal Mint to examine and publish a report on improving the present design of the national coinage, and its ratio to paper currency.

No, my Lords. The Royal Mint has already published a pamphlet, The United Kingdom Coinage, setting out options for possible changes to the coinage. The Government are considering responses to that pamphlet and will be making a statement shortly. There are no plans to alter the ratio of coin to paper currency.

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for advising us of the advances being made. Can he tell us how wide the consultations have been and what research has been undertaken? Will his department take into account the severe imbalance between coinage and paper in our currency? Will he take into account the Scottish attitude to the preservation of the £1 note and perhaps, if necessary introduce a £2 note?

My Lords, the Government consulted widely on these plans. They have already commissioned research by Nottingham University. We have consulted interested parties such as the blind, industry, retailers, banks, manufacturers of coin vending machines, and the general public, from whom we received over 3,000 letters. The imbalance between note and coin in this country is historic in that it has always been the same as it is now, at a ratio of either five to one or four to one.

Scottish pound notes and the question of whether or not the banks wish to continue with the printing of them are a matter for the Scottish banks. I understand that the banks are taking increasing numbers of coins.

My Lords, can the Minister tell us why the £2 coin appeared and has now disappeared?

My Lords, the £2 coin was issued as a commemorative coin. There are no plans to bring it into general circulation. On the other hand, there may be further occasions for commemorative coins.

My Lords, can the Minister give any assurance that the Scottish £1 note, which circulates with great acceptance north and south of the border, will be protected in any review that is undertaken?

My Lords, as I said, that is a matter for the Scottish banks. We should certainly not attempt to influence their decision to go on issuing pound notes.

My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that the form which our currency takes is not merely a matter for the banks? It is a matter of national concern, particularly in view of the unsatisfactory state of both its weight and its design in many forms. Will the Minister give some indication of what he means by "shortly" when he says that the Government will make a decision and an announcement shortly? How quick will "shortly" be?

My Lords, I hope it will be before Christmas, but I do not want to commit myself completely to that. As I have said, we consulted not only the banks but a great many other interested parties and the general public.