PUBLIC BUSINESS. - COINAGE BILL, 1926—SECOND STAGE (RESUMED).

Question again proposed—"That the Bill be now read a second time."

Will the Minister not enlighten the Dáil and probably shorten the discussion by stating whether he has communicated with the British Government and with the Northern Government with reference to the exchange of our new coins? If not, some of us will have to go and draw attention to the great inconvenience and the extra tax that this Bill would inflict on the travelling public. A traveller crossing the border may have to exchange his coinage into that of Northern Ireland and pay 10 per cent. for the exchange, as is done in many places on the Continent. That is one of the drawbacks that I see in this Bill; the travelling public who are already well taxed will have to pay a little extra to make this £30,000 a year for the Exchequer. Taking the average life of the coin and spreading it over a certain number of years, it would work out at about £30,000 a year. Considering the inconvenience and irritation it would cause to the travelling public, I say it is not worth while, and that it is a measure that could well be postponed for many years to come. I would like to ask the Minister whether he has anything on his mind concerning the withdrawal of the pound Treasury note and the ten shilling Treasury note. A few weeks ago we were told by the newspapers that the pound and ten shilling Treasury notes were going. What does the Minister propose to make legal tender in this country for these notes? Does he propose to make Bank of England notes legal tender, or does he propose to issue notes over his own name on the National Land Bank or the Bank of Ireland? In view of the statement that the Treasury notes were to be withdrawn, we ought to know really where we are.

I join with Deputy Redmond and Deputy Cooper in stating that this is one of the Bills that could have been shelved and that more useful work could be done in the House. I say it is not worth while introducing this Bill and I hope the Minister will satisfy the Dáil that the travelling public will not be inconvenienced or will not have to pay ten per cent. for exchanging Irish coinage into British coinage, either when they cross the border or go to Liverpool.

I did not hear the Minister speaking on the Second Reading of the Bill, but the arguments which have been advanced so far against its adoption make me support the Bill absolutely. The fact of the State earning £650,000——

It is not urgent.

Of course not! Those who know the condition of the country and who know how hard it is to make £650,000 can readily understand that the agricultural community would be very glad to get this donation. Why should not this country have its own coinage? I will not venture on the question of currency at the moment, because that is not before us, though it has been touched upon. But, really, why should the British be permitted to have the means of getting this money for nothing, and why should we, who want the money, refuse to accept it? It seems to me a foolish attitude to adopt to oppose this measure.

With regard to inconvenience, does anyone mean to say that a merchant in the North would refuse to accept Free State coinage for his goods? Do not we know very well that he will take it? Do not we know very well that there are branches of the Northern banks in the Free State and that they have nothing to do but to lodge those coins in their banks? Again, there is something in nationality. We have gone through a revolution. Let us go ahead and let the people see that we are separate from Britain. Let us have our coinage. The Boers have their coinage. It was accepted in South Africa, nobody objecting. On a South African coin you will see the figure of Von Tromp or somebody of note. You will not see any British Treasury notes. Why should not we have it. There is no reason on earth, that I can understand, why this Bill should not be accepted, especially as it will bring to the State £650,000 for nothing. I do not think I would be in order in discussing the currency, but I do not look on the issue of currency for Ireland with any great apprehension. I know that we would be glad to get fifty pounds for a forty pound bullock when sending it over to England. As far as the farmers are concerned, depreciation in that currency would do us a good deal of good. The Danes had the advantage for four or five years of this depreciation and they have nearly walloped us out of the market.

I am not giving that as an authoritative statement, but I am putting it to the House that there is no great danger in a currency for ourselves. We would gain probably a million a year on currency. There must be fifteen or sixteen million British pound notes issued here. We give them solid goods and they give us back paper. When the Minister for Finance picks up courage and says we will have our own currency he will have me, if I am here, to support him. I believe this is a step in the right direction. I believe it is one of those things that stamps us as an entity of our own, that makes it clear that this country belongs to us and that there is a heart beating in this country which is not dependent on an outside nation. If we are going to be a distinct nation, let us have the attributes of a nation; let us have our own coinage and let us not talk about inconvenience. We have had inconvenience before. It was very inconvenient to get the Free State. Let us accept it and the advantages which our position gives us.

I was rather surprised at Deputy Bryan Cooper, who on most occasions, if not on all, takes a very big and broad view of changes that are inevitable, and changes that are almost mandatory for us. I was not very much surprised at Deputy Byrne. I do not know that I ever heard his voice raised here in the spirit of that prayer that he must remember at least once a week, "Sursam Corda." Deputy Byrne comes along on almost every occasion with a sob in his voice about inconvenience to somebody.

Mr. BYRNE

The usual gibe!

The latest is the traveller.

Mr. BYRNE

Language of the Cumann na nGaedheal election platforms should be reserved for the Rathmines Town Hall.

I ask him did he ever raise his voice here in a spirit of confidence? Has he ever said to the people of this country: "It is a great country, and I am proud to be a member of it." He wants to know has the Minister made arrangements with England. We are going to be destroyed! The Minister has made no arrangements with England nor with the Northern Government. I have travelled very little in my life, but French money was not refused from me in Italy or Italian money was not refused from me in France. French money is not refused in England, and English money is not refused in France. Deputy Byrne sobs about the travellers. I would advise the Deputy to lift up his heart and look at this thing as an urgent question. What is the urgency in it? The Minister for Finance has been considering it for two years. I was considering it two years ago when I was Minister for Finance. The urgency of it is that £600,000 is worth at least £30,000 a year and is worth more than that to us. Is that urgent? I think it is a very urgent and a very important question. I think it is time that we brought in this measure, and I think that the efforts that the Minister for Finance has made to ensure that it is a sound measure is the justification for its introduction. I think that every statement that has been made in criticism of it is evidence of the futility of the criticism and of the nonsense of it. Why should we stop issuing the currency we have at the present moment? In the first place, as Deputy Wilson has pointed out, we ought to be able to stand on our own feet. Evidence of that is the token currency, at any rate, in the country. We ought to be able to say to anyone who asks: "Have you got Irish coin?""Yes." Does the Deputy ever read the Gospel? On one occasion when a great man was questioned in regard to. paying tribute to Caesar, he said: "Show me a coin." Looking at the inscription on the coin, he said it was evident that that was Caesar's dominion.

Is that the idea, that the new coinage is to be evidence of Caesar's dominion?

I was explaining rather the other way, that it was our dominion, and by the time the Deputy changes his political coat once more— he has changed it twice already—he will understand what I mean. I can quite understand his stupidity in regard to coinage, he knows so little about politics.

Let us get back to coin.

Certainly. In connection with this question it is natural of course that critics of the measure should introduce the question of currency. I observed that most people who were speaking about currency were very careful and very guarded in the speeches they made on it. Two Deputies gave evidence of a knowledge of the question, Deputy Wilson and Deputy Bryan Cooper. Deputy Cooper referred to at least one country on the Continent. I have been in that country quite recently and I did not see any token coinage there. There was paper coinage and there was coinage from the Chamber of Commerce, but I did not see any token coinage while I was there.

Is the President referring to France?

I will bring in some token coinage to-morrow.

I was relating my own experience. I was referring to the fact that I did not see any token coinage there.

But it exists. I can produce it.

I quite agree. This is somewhat different. In that country they were circulating paper francs; five francs were the lowest denomination, and they went from that up. Criticism in connection with currency would have been relevant if it was the intention of the Minister to issue paper currency. What is wrong about currencies which go wrong, in my opinion, is that a promise to pay is issued against a place where there is no gold to meet it. The correct method of dealing with business in pre-war times, at any rate, was to issue a promise to pay where there was gold to meet it.

There never was.

I think so.

I think the President can take it that there never was gold to redeem the paper that was issued in Great Britain or any other country.

If we confine ourselves to our own country, in 1914 there were no Treasury notes. The Deputy is not contradicting me on that. That is agreed.

As far as Ireland was concerned, there were no Treasury notes issued; the banks which were here and which were note-issuing institutions were bound by Act of Parliament not to issue in excess of certain quantities of gold that they had in their cellars.

The Treasury issue was in excess of the ordinary bank issue.

I was dealing with Ireland, with the banks issuing notes here. No Treasury notes were issued here before 1914. That is not contradicted. The particular notes that were issuing here were Bank of Ireland notes, Provincial Bank notes, Belfast Bank notes, Northern Bank notes and National Bank notes, and against the note issue of each and every one of these banks there was gold in the cellars to meet it.

Will the President refer to anything that will justify that statement, because the official report that is freqnently issued points out that there is no such thing as gold at the back of them at all?

I quite agree. I was coming to that point. I am dealing with pre-war, when the currencies were not disturbed, and the matters that have arisen since 1914 produced disturbance. Nations took up the question of issuing notes, and they had not to be bound by these limitations that were put on the banks. That is what affects currency, issuing notes that one is not prepared to meet and is not able to meet. The Minister for Finance has no intention of doing that. He does not intend a national note issue, and in consequence there need, and there ought to be, no nervousness in connection with this change. It will be a beneficial change, and it is a necessary change by reason of our status, Deputy Magennis's and Deputy Byrne's opposition notwithstanding.

On a point of order. I think the President should withdraw that. I have not opposed it. I asked what the character of the superscription on the coins was to be.

This has become quite an interesting subject, and although it does not deal with paper currency the President has been giving us some little information regarding the financial requirements that govern the issue of bank notes. I take it that if I followed that line on this Bill I would not be in order. The Bill, according to the Minister for Finance, is a very simple matter, so much so that one should wonder why anybody should speak against it. According to Deputy Wilson it means the receipt of 600,000 odd pounds, which, of course, would be very acceptable to the Minister for Finance and to the country. The Ministry have a perfect right to alter the token coinage or the currency if they and the country think fit. But one must look at this Bill in the light of how far people throughout the country will be affected, either sentimentally or otherwise. The Minister says that this has not been hurried, that it has not been sprung on the country, that he had been considering it for a couple of years, and that the Bill has been brought forward after consultation with various people. If that is so, one would imagine that the people one meets in the street would greatly appreciate the Bill. While I agree that the man you meet in the street is generally very ignorant on matters that affect him, I think we must recognise, at all events, that as far as a great number of people are concerned, the sentimental feeling is rather in the direction of avoiding changes, and more particularly in connection with coinage. Of course, if you say to the man in the street that the country will make £600,000 it may alter his point of view considerably, but I state, emphatically, that at the present moment the average man is not contemplating the change with any riotous joy, but would rather that the Government would leave him alone.

The Government has a majority in this House, and, presumably, they have a majority in the country. Therefore, when the Government bring forward a Bill of this far-reaching character, one hesitates, particularly one occupying the position that I do in the House, to raise even a small voice against the change that is contemplated. I hope I will not be taken as being in any way opposed to the general principle of nationality that the Bill embodies. Some Deputies have asked if this coinage will be recognised in Great Britain and in Northern Ireland. I think the answer to that is that it depends altogether on the people, say, on the Border, and on the people in Great Britain, as to whether they will wish to accept the coins or not. It is not a matter that can be arranged as between the two countries, although such an arrangement might make the coins legal tender. But I say that people in Ireland will not take the coinage until they are forced to do so. I say that to-morrow or the next day, when a firm in Dublin proceeds to pay its employees in the new coinage, the workmen will show considerable hesitation in accepting it. Of course that will be got over in the course of time.

Increase their wages.

Give them an extra coin and you will see whether they will take it or not.

Well, that, of course, largely depends on what the price of the pint is going to be in Irish. I think that there is one rather serious matter in connection with this important Bill that I should refer to. In any well-constituted and well-regulated House you have the Government on the one side and the Opposition on the other. The Official Opposition here is the Labour Party, and I take it that silence gives consent, that as we have not had Deputy Johnson on his feet, he is in entire agreement with the Government. This is not the first time that Deputy Johnson has been in agreement with the Government, but I must confess that I look with a good deal of apprehension on a situation which makes the Official Opposition the supporters of the Government. The next largest party in the House is the Farmers' Party. The Minister for Lands and Agriculture coined a phrase some time ago when he described the position in this country as being that agriculture represented 75 per cent. of the wealth of the country. On that phrase our friends on the Farmers' Benches have put forward a claim that, being the holders of the wealth of the country, their particular function was to demand many things.

And get nothing.

In this particular case the only reference to the Bill we have had from the Farmers has been a statement by a Deputy—I do not know whether he spoke for the Party or not —that he looked forward to the depreciation of the currency of the country as being a cheap way of getting them out of their debts. That is rather a serious matter, if that is the view of the Farmers' Party.

Did I say that?

Mr. T. O'CONNffLL

You did not.

Perhaps Deputy Wilson did not say that, but that could be inferred from what he said. I suppose that Deputy Wilson will also repudiate the desire to depreciate the Land Bonds so that the farmers might get their farms back at a cheap rate. That, of course, is an individual expression of opinion and only carries with it the weight that an expression of opinion from me would carry, but it is a serious matter when it comes from a member of an organised party which is part of the Opposition to which we look to supply a corrective to any undesirable action that the Government may take in the promotion of Bills.

Correctives when they do wrong.

Yes, I cannot look with anything but grave misapprehension at the position of affairs in this House, which discloses that it is practically unanimous on some subjects and that there is no opposition. I hope that that tendency will not grow, because it would be bad, as in the case of this Bill, to have criticism of Government measures coming only from one or two independent Deputies. I am not disputing in any way the right of this House to change the token coinage. I am not even prepared to dispute the fact, stated by the Minister for Finance, that we will make money over it. But I do say that this is more than a token coinage Bill. It is proceeding on a certain road, and, in my opinion, that road will not be accepted as unanimously in the country as it is in this House. Undoubtedly, situated as we are, it will be a great inconvenience for a long time. In fact, I would not be the least bit surprised if, on the issue of the new coinage, there will be a very considerable drop in the circulation. The doubt in the minds of people, more particularly in the minds of the farmers of the country, notwithstanding what we have heard from Farmers' representatives in connection with the new coinage, will be more considerable than one may think.

They will have none of it, anyhow.

That is true. I stand corrected. I have been arguing on a wrong premise.

From the beginning.

I am glad, however, that I got upon my feet in order to show that there is still some opposition, even if it is very small, to Government measures as a whole. I did not get up with the idea that I was going to convince the Government that they were wrong. On the contrary, I think the attitude of the Government in the matter is one of confidence that the measure they have brought before the House is going to be helpful to the finance of the country. In so far as anything helps the finance of the country, it is good, but, notwithstanding the two years' consideration that this Bill has got from the Ministry, I doubt very much that the time is opportune for the introduction of this measure or that the benefits that will be derived from it will be anything like what the Minister anticipates.

I am not quite certain whether Deputy Hewat is going to vote for or against the motion. He has not expressed his view on this Bill at all. He has stated there is a considerable body of opinion outside which is not as enthusiastic over this Bill as is the Minister. He is not quite sure whether, because of that lack of faith, the Minister ought to press, or the House ought to accept, the Bill. That is the sum and substance of the Deputy's statement. He has not uttered any reasons against this Bill except the possibility that there may be some people lacking faith in the ability of the inhabitants of the country to honour their own coinage.

It is really surprising to hear the Deputy criticising the Farmers' Party and the Labour Party for not opposing the Government on every possible occasion. I imagined that we would have had from the Deputy a statement to the effect that we should at least exercise some discrimination. Now we have an avowal from the Independent Benches—those Deputies who are always going to consider every matter on its merits and who are not going to be swayed by party passions, independent thinkers who will weigh the merits in every case, having fully considered the cases in all their bearings— that we should on every occasion oppose every measure and every proposition that is put forward from Benches other than our own. That is the surprising doctrine that comes from the Independent Benches. Are we to take it as a sign that in this realigning of parties the Independent Party is to become the perpetual and inevitable opposition to the Government?

Where is the Independent Party?

I refer to the Independent Deputies sitting on those Benches opposite. Are we to take it that so far as Deputy Hewat can influence Deputies on those Benches there will always be an opposition put up to every proposition that comes from the Government?

Right or wrong.

There will be criticism, anyway.

It is surprising to hear Deputy Cooper, Deputy Byrne, Deputy Redmond and Deputy Hewat sneering at, and trifling with, this £600,000.

It is a matter of no moment to them. Why, it would more than doubly pay a decent wage to the workers on the Shannon Scheme. £600,000 would not matter!

I did not say that.

Does it matter never to have a token coinage with an Irish superscription? Deputy Hewat does not say, whether it matters or not. What would be the sum in Deputy Hewat's mind that would justify an Irish Government in introducing a new token coinage? Would he say one, one-and-a-half or two millions? Would he name any sum which would justify his proposition? I am afraid Deputy Hewat is only opposing this Bill because of his new position as an implacable opponent of the Government.

We have the question raised as to the difficulty with travellers. A professional traveller really does not carry much small change. He will take a pound note rather than eight half-crowns.

And plenty of small talk.

He will change his pound note for the token coinage of the country in which he travels. If he happens to have a few pennies, sixpences or shillings in his trousers pocket he will leave them in his bag at the hotel and change the pound note instead. It seems to me there is a lot of piffle talked about the difficulty that will arise amongst commercial travellers. After all, we do not make a new coinage for the sake of travellers. Coinage, especially token coinage, is meant to facilitate small exchanges within a country.

It seems to me the case for this Bill is very easily proved indeed. I suppose it is eighteen months ago since I raised a question, feeling the way as to what it would be worth to have a token coinage. It is some credit to the conservative nature of the Government that they should have taken as long as eighteen months or two years to decide that it would mean a saving of five, six, or seven hundred thousand pounds, and to decide on the introduction of a Bill to save that sum. Well, their conservatism has cost this country £600,000. Surely that is sufficient tribute to the late doctrine of Deputy Hewat. What the new doctrine will be under the new conditions I do not know.

Wait and see.

I do not think there is going to be very much more trouble over token coinage than there has been over postage stamps. If the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs had been the Minister for Finance, this job would have been done without any Bill.

We would not hear anything about it until the new coins would be handed to us in change.

The whole thing would be done by wireless.

I do not think it would cause any more trouble to the citizens of this State than the introduction of the new postage stamps has done.

Do not be broadcasting that doctrine.

I am quite satisfied that Deputy Hewat will be glad to welcome the new coinage and glad to dispense it as freely and as liberally as it is within his power to do. I am pretty certain that he will not be one of those who will refuse the first payment in change in the new coinage, bearing the Cosgrave or McGilligan medallion.

Deputy Johnson described the amount of difficulty that is going to be brought about by the introduction of the new token coinage very accurately when he said that its introduction will create as little disturbance as the introduction of the new postage stamps. Conservatism in anything connected with finance is, no doubt, very laudable. We can admire the Minister's conservatism and we can appreciate his difficulties in taking a decision if he feels that there is any portion of the business population, represented by Deputy Hewat, which believes in any of the things that Deputy Hewat said. I feel disappointed that when this token coinage was introduced the Minister did not make some attempt to introduce a decimal system of coinage, or, at any rate, that he has not told us whether he considered the matter. I feel that in a progressive State, as ours is, facing the issue of a new coinage, we should examine the ground very carefully and see whether, in making such a change, we cannot swing around to the decimal system. We would like to know whether the Minister has considered the matter and what particular difficulties he saw in the way. A very considerable number of the progressive people in this country will want to know why the decimal system was not introduced one way or another.

A decimal system has been introduced in practically all the progressive European countries and Britain is, perhaps, the only country which lags behind. The matter has been agitating the people of Britain since 1824, and their attitude has undergone a certain amount of fluctuation. In the beginning, it was considered that decimal coinage should be introduced, the interest dictating the change probably being domestic. Then the international aspect of the case came to the front and then the Empire aspect. Now, they are going back to the domestic aspect of the case again in Britain, but they are going back to it at a time when, owing to the passage of years, the obstacles to the introduction of a decimal system of coinage have been multiplied. Any Commission in Great Britain that reported on the matter from the years 1830 to 1858—and a number of them did report—reported in favour of introducing decimal coinage. Then a change came about. The matter has been gone into several times recently. The latest report in the matter was in 1920, when the question was very exhaustively gone into. The conclusion that Commission came to was that while it was very desirable, for many reasons, to introduce decimal coinage, the objections to it had piled up so much under modern conditions that they were unable to take a decision in the matter. In the condition of development in which we are, the big objections that weighed against the introduction of decimal coinage in Britain after the 1920 report, do not assume the same proportions. The main objection there to introducing the decimal coinage was complications in connection with insurance, friendly societies, health insurance and that class of work. There are something like 51,000 insurance policies in Britain, based on weekly payments of a few pence. We are not in that position now, but, day by day, our social position here will pile up for us objections of that particular kind against the introduction of a decimal system. Even recently there was a movement in Britain to decimalise the shilling. I feel that, in introducing new token coinage here, we should have very great advantage, from our own domestic point of view, if we decimalised the shilling. It is a matter that introduces no complications between ourselves and outside peoples. It would have a very great reaction on the teaching of mathematics in our schools and save a great amount of time and a great deal of unnecessary labour there. We have only a dim recollection of what we faced when we went to school first, but I think we have all a very formidable recollection of what compound addition and compound division meant to us, whether in weights and measures or in coinage. We are bringing in token coinage and, if you take the bronze coins, we are issuing 26,000,000 additional objections to introducing a decimal system of coinage in any way. If we are not prepared to face consideration of the advantages of a decimal system of coinage, in dealing with this Bill, we are going to set back a matter of progressive importance both educationally and in business circles. I think it is a matter that should receive the careful attention of the Dáil before it passes a Bill of this kind and continues the twelve pence in the shilling.

According to Senator Gogarty, the Farmers' Party exists to oppose everything. We are not opposing this Bill, despite suggestions from Deputy Hewat that we should. I would like to point out to Deputy Hewat that the Farmers' Party has gone into the Opposition Lobby against the Government many more times than the conglomeration of units that is known as the Independent Party in this House. Deputy Hewat gives to the Labour Party the honour of being the official Opposition in the House. I am not prepared to concede finally that the Labour Party is the official Opposition.

You are welcome.

I think it is a matter that is open to discussion, and it might be very hard to arrive at a definite decision. I do not believe in opposing for the sake of opposing, and I think that the Farmers' Party support the Government when they think the Government is entitled to their support. In regard to this question of token coinage, I happen to be in a position of knowing something about the actual handling of coinage, and I know that the question of currency is a very complicated one, and I would not like to see the Government embarking on hasty measures dealing with Irish currency. I know that the greatest authorities on such matters differ as to the most suitable currency for any country. We have had discussion after discussion in regard to the question of currency in England. We had men advocating a gold standard and others advocating another form of currency, but there seems to be no consensus of opinion in favour of one or the other. My reason for supporting this Bill is simply on account of its financial aspect. The Minister stated that it is worth £600,000 to the State. I do not place very much weight on the suggestion regarding the assertion of our separate nationality. I think that any effort to assert our individual nationality and freedom, unless it is a real advantage to the country, will not produce any commensurate benefit to the State in the aggregate. I deprecate the idea, which seems to be growing all over the world, of separate nationality, as I think it is interfering with trade and progress. I maintain that these different coinage and fiscal systems on the Continent of Europe are definitely acting as a brake on ordinary trade of the different countries. To my mind this saving of £600,000 is worth the difficulties which may be involved and which in my opinion should not be minimised. I think that the advantages outweigh the difficulties, but I do not agree with the President when he says that the various token coinages make no difference to travellers. They do, and they cause inconvenience. I know that on my trip to Geneva to the League of Nations there was much inconvenience owing to the different coinages. You found your pockets full of Swiss and French francs, and, in passing from one country to another, and in giving tips which you were not supposed to give, you found yourself paying in Swiss francs instead of in French francs, and, I may add, there is a great deal of difference between the two.

I think the idea to be aimed at would be some form of international currency, and I think that that should be the tendency in all future developments. The President also stated that our coinage would be freely taken in Northern Ireland. That, however, is a matter about which I have some doubt. I know that the American nickel coinage is not taken across the border in Canada. It is taken in the banks, but it is not really used in ordinary trade channels, and is not really accepted as a coinage to be used in the State. I think it will be found that such difficulty will exist in regard to the circulation of coinage here. I would like to know, as there is going to be a gain in the beginning, whether there will be a liability in future. Will not the continued replacement of token coinage involve the State in a yearly loss? It seems to me that that will be so, and that the gain in the initial stage may be counteracted later by the loss which will take place in the replacement of the coinage. Some Deputies have wandered into the realms of a new currency, and I would like to say that, if that question becomes a matter for consideration at any time by our Government, I think it should be considered very carefully, and I suggest that a commission might be appointed to go into the question, because the issue of new currency is a matter which is likely to cause a great deal of controversy. I deprecate the suggestion that for farmers, or for anybody else, a depreciated currency would be an advantage. I think we in Ireland have great reason to be thankful that the British Government is the only Government in Europe to maintain its currency free from depreciation.

What about the Spaniards?

I think the Spanish coinage has depreciated.

Then I will say that the British Government is the only Government of any belligerent country which maintained its currency free from unreasonable depreciation. Our investors who have invested money to the extent of £200,000,000 in England have good reason to be thankful to those in charge of financial affairs in Great Britain. The effect of a depreciated currency in England would be to rob those in this country who depend largely on the incomes derived from investments in England. If British currency depreciated it would mean that Irish investors would be robbed of something approximating to about £10,000,000 a year.

Then you would get some cheap food.

They would have nothing to pay for the food with. There is one fact which I am sure Deputy Johnson is not slow to appreciate, and that is, that it is well known that wages always lag behind depreciation. Wages hardly ever rise as quickly as currency depreciates, and any advantage which a country which depreciates its currency gains is gained at the expense of the worker.

The worker works for a lesser real wage, though larger nominally, than the worker in the country in which the currency is not depreciated. That is one of the difficulties which England has found in maintaining her position in the world's market—of paying a wage according to the real value of her currency as against countries where the currency has been depreciated. The President made a statement which, I think, should not go uncontradicted, because I think it is incorrect in regard to the currency. The President maintained that the Irish bank note issue in pre-war days was backed by an equal amount of gold reserve. I can hardly believe that the President really means that. He must know that the Irish banks were allowed to issue notes considerably in excess of their actual gold reserves. I am speaking from memory, but I should say that the actual gold in the vaults of the Irish banks was not more than one-fifth.

They had none at all.

They had some gold reserve, anyhow. Similarly the Bank of England, which was practically the only note-issuing bank in England, was backed up by reserves of gold which amounted to practically one-fifth of the actual issue of Bank of England notes. To all intents and purposes the acceptance by the State of the issue of notes depends on confidence, and if at any time everyone in the State who happened to have a bank note decided to go to the bank and demand that he should be paid in gold, the banks could not pay in gold because that amount of gold would not be available. Again, we know that at a time of crisis people rush to the banks to get their notes cashed in gold. We know that the English Bank Acts have had to be temporarily suspended in order to prevent the closing down of the banks. I am only making these points in order to show that this currency question is a very complicated one, and that this issue of token coinage should not be taken in any way as a forerunner of the issue of an Irish currency until that matter has received every possible consideration, until the people have had an opportunity of discussing it backwards and forwards, and until the people have had a chance of forming a definite opinion on it as to whether it is advisable or otherwise. I think the suggestion put forward by Deputy Mulcahy is one that should receive consideration. I think it should receive consideration before we embark on this new token coinage—I refer to the question of decimal coinage. In connection with that, I think the question of having a decimal system for our weights and measures should also be considered. As the Deputy pointed out, there are many difficulties in the way of such a move, but on examination it may be found that the advantages will outweigh the difficulties just as the advantages in this particular case may be said to outweigh the difficulties in regard to the issue of these token coins.

I do not intend to say much about this, because I have no exaggerated idea of the importance of this Bill and no misunderstanding as to the question of a token coinage Bill like this being mixed up with the general currency question. I rise rather to emphasise the very clear and strong words of the Minister for Finance and the President in that connection. So long as it is appreciated, everywhere, that this is a matter quite apart from the general currency position I take it there is very little real risk in the Bill. But I do not agree with the Minister for Finance when he says that there are no detriments attaching to this token coinage, and to the profit it will bring. I think he might consider, carefully, the speech of Deputy Wilson and when he considers the arguments, and the trend of that speech, he will see that the Bill itself has already brought forward an indication of what possible detriments there may be in the Bill, and he will be exposed to such like arguments from many quarters probably in the future. I do not attribute to the President or the Minister for Finance a readiness to take the cash and let the credit come. There may be the reverse. They have made quite clear that their thoughts are not tending in connection with the currency in such a way as to diminsh our credit. But there is danger, and there is no use minimising it, that there will be many who will see in this the thin end of the wedge. Let us be very clear that this has nothing whatever to do with the currency position and cannot be the thin end of the wedge, and I then think that danger is eliminated. I think we ought to be clear what this £600,000 really means in the way of profit. I hope I am right about it. The President says that he and the Ministry of Finance have had two years to consider this matter, but they have only given us about a week, so that if I say anything wrong I hope they will not be too hard upon me after such comparatively short consideration. The way it appears to me is very much like the way it appears to Deputy Heffernan.

We really make a loan and posterity will have to pay for it sooner or later. We get £600,000 now for very little interest—the interest will be the annual cost of the upkeep of the currency. We shall have to pay for coins; that is the way this £600,000 will ultimately give us a profit, and we shall pay for them annually. You cannot by juggle like this make money. It is not production. You get the advantage of this money, and it has to come from somewhere. If the time should come when we have got to change our currency for a decimal point currency, or for other reasons, then in that particular year the particular charge on the country would be heavy. You have half-crowns now, and you will have to withdraw them and issue other coins, and you will not make a profit that time. You make this profit once for all anticipated payment; but I believe it is only in that way. I do not attach a great deal of importance to the Bill. I do think there are drawbacks and detriments. There are inconveniences in the matter, both to ourselves and to others. You will find people getting their pockets full of nickel and thinking they are rich and being disappointed when they find they are not, and unless there is some marked distinction between the nickel and silver there will be distinct confusion between the two. If this Bill goes to a vote, I think I will vote against it. I like the £600,000, no doubt, and I like to get a loan on small interest, but it will be small, and I am not at all satisfied that the present value of this money is worth the detriment that, to my mind, will certainly follow by the introduction of this Bill.

I would like to deal with General Mulcahy's suggestion that we should have considered the introduction of decimal coinage. We did consider that, but we felt that it was really a different matter. It is a matter that, even if we had already our own coinage, would meet with a certain amount of opposition and would cause a considerable amount of inconvenience. We thought that the better thing for us to do, in view of the fact that certain classes in the country have an attitude of opposition or, at any rate, entertain apprehensions about this matter—which I do not think are reasonable but which are not apprehensions to be ignored—was to have simply our own token coinage and not to deal with the question of decimalising at the present. There are difficulties in creating a decimal system that would be fairly obvious. You would have to make arrangements for certain contracts which would involve the payment of a certain number of pence, for instance. If an account were due to some contractor and that the figure was £1 2s. 1d., you would not have any coin in which to pay the exact sum of one penny, and you would have to make arrangements in your Bill for varying that.

If you made a penny the tenth of a shilling—that would be the easier way of decimalising—one of the effects would be that if a thing cost a twelfth of a shilling the public would have to pay one-tenth of a shilling, and that would be putting, in actual practice, a burden on the people for the benefit of the retailer. I do not feel that on the whole it would be desirable to do that. The issue of coinage in the twentieth of a pound, in shillings and pence does not so seriously prejudice a change in future if it were considered desirable to change because the cost of changing silver and the issuing of new silver for instance would only be about 5 per cent. of the face value. That is the cost of minting. It would not be so difficult at all to re-mint our silver if we decided to withdraw silver in circulation and issue new silver coins. In the case of bronze coins of course the percentage would be much greater, but the total cost of minting bronze coins would vary from about one-tenth. In the case of farthings it would be very high, but the amount would not be so great. It would be possible to re-issue the entire bronze coinage at a cost of about £24,000 if at some future period it were decided to decimalise it, so that there are not such very large sums involved as to tie us for ever to a non-decimal coinage.

We certainly feel that the difficulties that, on ordinary business transactions, it would give rise to at the moment, are such that we should be content to leave things as they are. Deputy Heffernan indicated that the cost of replacing worn coins would be very heavy. As a matter of fact I do not believe that the cost of replacing of worn coins would be anything at all if we take into account the coins that will be actually lost, that would be lost in drains and so on, and that would disappear from circulation. Taking these into account there would be, as a matter of fact, a small annual profit. The cost of replacing coin withdrawn from circulation is only the cost of minting, something like 5 or 6 per cent. of the face value of the coin. Coins do not become worn, if you have good coins, for a very considerable number of years. I am not prepared to say what is the average life of a coin in circulation, but it might be 20 years or perhaps a good deal more. If you assume that it is 20 years, the cost of replacing worn coins would be only one-twentieth of the face value of your total coinage for every year. No expense ought to be anticipated but a small profit, perhaps £10,000 a year, on the annual issue of coinage.

I do not agree with Deputy Thrift that there is any question of posterity going to pay. Some form of token coins will always be required. I do not see any circumstances in which, approximately, we will not have this amount of token coinage. If our population were to shrink to one million or half-a-million we might require a great deal less token coinage, and might have to call it in and pay people in full legal tender, but I do not anticipate that. Nobody has refused to believe that the new postage stamps suffice to carry a letter to its destination, and no more will anyone refuse to accept the coinage.

I think the other points raised by Deputies have been answered. I do not anticipate that there will be any trouble at all in getting people to accept the coins. I think they will be accepted with complete readiness. Currency notes were accepted, and I am quite confident that there will be no reluctance in accepting this coinage. As to people who are continually crossing the Border, I believe they will naturally use and accept both British coins and our coins indiscriminately. People are doing business on both sides of the Border, and no trouble will arise as far as they are concerned. As to the occasional traveller who comes from Liverpool to Dublin, or the man who travels occasionally from Dublin to Belfast, or somewhere on the other side of the Border, very little trouble will arise. Such a man can easily change a ten-shilling note or a pound note, and get the silver he requires any place he goes. At the present time, as Deputies are aware, if you go into a shop in England and produce an Irish bank note they do not want it, but if you are lunching on the train going from Holyhead to London, and produce an Irish bank note, no question is asked. It is accepted the same as a Treasury note, or as silver. You will find, where there is a good deal of resort, and where people are accustomed to handling the coinage of another country, that the coinage will be accepted.

I appreciate the fact that any change of this sort which might be misunderstood, or, above all, which might be misrepresented, has to be considered very carefully. As a matter of fact, this particular proposal was considered very carefully, and all sorts of people were asked for their views in writing on it. People whose views would be valuable, and who have given study to the matter, were asked for their views in writing, and precautions were taken that would not be taken normally. That sort of precaution is very desirable, but there is no use, on the other hand, in sounding the alarmist trumpet about every change that is made. There are some people who think we are faced with national disaster, and that the country is going to the dogs when anything is changed, even though the change may be something that follows very naturally, indeed, what has gone before. I think that if ever there is any panic on financial matters in this country, the panic will not be caused by anything the Government may do, or by anything in the nature of the case, but will be caused by the people who are always looking for us to do something that is unjustifiable, rash, and entirely harmful.

We were asked what was the urgency about this. I never suggested urgency. I have not asked for Standing Orders to be suspended. I have not asked for any privileges from the Ceann Comhairle in the matter. The Bill is brought in and there is no plea of urgency made. I think the questions are why should we do this thing at all; why should we not postpone it for ever; why should we make any change, asking those questions in such a way as not to come up against arguments that have been already set up in reply to those arguments that it is the natural thing to do, that it is proper that there should be an Irish coinage, and that there is a substantial sum of money to be gained in quite a proper way, in a way that is gained by every Government that has issued token coinage.

I beg the Minister's pardon. I was not in when he commenced his speech. May I ask him whether he is in a position to state whether he has come to any arrangement in regard to the interchange of these coins?

Certainly not.

Will the Minister give us an assurance that this Bill, as has been pointed out, is not a steppingstone to a change in the currency?

The Minister could not give such an assurance.

I spoke for five minutes on that question, and I am sure it will appear in the official report. I do not think I could add anything to what I have said.

Question put and declared carried.
Committee Stage ordered for Wednesday, 3rd February.
The Dáil adjourned at 8.30 p.m. until 3 o'clock on Thursday, 28th January.