Seanad Éireann - Volume 69 - 15 December, 1970
Decimal Currency Bill, 1970: Second Stage.
Question proposed: “That the Bill be now read a Second Time.”
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance (Mr. Lemass) Noel T. Lemass
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance (Mr. Lemass): Basic statutory authority for the decimalisation of currency was given by the Decimal Currency Act, 1969. When the 1969 legislation was before the House it was intimated that this second Bill would be needed to deal with matters of detail. The Bill now before the House is based on recommendations made by the Decimal Currency Board. The Explanatory Memorandum describes the provisions in detail.
The board's publications have been supplied to Senators as they were issued and copies are in the Library. Senators will therefore be already generally aware of what is involved in the changeover to the £-new penny system of decimal currency beginning on Decimal Day, 15th February, 1971.
On that day the banks, Government Departments, and a large proportion of companies, shops and business firms generally will switch over to working in decimal currency. An overnight switch by all shops and business is not possible chiefly because some time will be needed by machine supply companies  to complete the task of conversion or replacement of cash registers and other machines. There must therefore be a changeover period. During that period both the £sd system and the £-new penny system of currency will be legal — except that cheques and other bank documents must be written in decimal currency. While the changeover period may last up to a year, in practice the switch to decimal working will probably be nearly complete in most business sectors within some months after Decimal Day.
The purpose of this Bill is to provide the legislative framework for the changeover. It does not attempt to legislate for every decimalisation problem. Statutory provisions are required only for cases where serious inequity or administrative difficulty would otherwise arise.
Section 1 deals with definitions and interpretation. The effect of section 2 is that cheques must be written in the new currency on and from Decimal Day. The complete switch of banking transactions into decimal currency on that day is important for the successful launching of decimal currency. Their large volume of transactions would, in any event, make it impracticable for banks to work in both decimal currency and £sd during the change-over period. In order to ensure an overnight switch in banking transactions section 2 makes invalid any cheques with shillings or pence in them, if they are written on or after Decimal Day. In the course of the Committee Stage debate in Dáil Éireann on 10th December, 1970, the question was raised whether a bank could deal at all with a cheque which is invalid under section 2. The Minister promised that this point would be examined. This has been done and confirmation has been obtained that banks can deal with such documents. For their part the banks are willing and anxious to facilitate a customer who has inadvertently lapsed into £sd when writing a cheque on Decimal Day or after it. After the first few days of the use of decimal currency such cases are not likely to occur frequently. The publicity of the Decimal Currency Board and of the banks will  prepare the public to write cheques in decimal currency only as from Decimal Day.
Section 3 is intended to facilitate the banks in the days, immediately preceding Decimal Day, during which they will have the heavy task of converting their accounts to decimal terms and completing various internal preparations such as conversion or replacement of machines.
Section 4 provides for the method of conversion to decimal terms of £sd amounts written on any cheques and similar instruments which though drawn before Decimal Day are not paid in until on or after that date.
Section 5 prescribes the method of conversion of references to shillings or pence in bank balances. These conversions will be done by the whole new penny conversion table given in the Schedule to the Bill. The banks will account only in whole new pence and this table gives the amounts in whole new pence which are nearest in value to old penny amounts up to 2s. In the overall the table will give equitable results because it is designed so that increases and decreases due to rounding balance out. Some individual debtors or creditors may gain or lose marginally. The maximum loss or gain on a cheque amount will be one and one-fifth pence.
I now turn to some other transactions for which conversions by the whole new penny table will be done. During the changeover period it will be possible to settle £sd debts in cash because the £sd system will still be legal. If an £sd amount to be paid includes some old pence, however, it will not have an exact decimal currency equivalent in whole new pence. In order to allow such amounts to be settled by cheque, section 6 of the Bill provides for conversion by the whole new penny table during the changeover period. Under section 13 of the Bill the whole new penny table is also prescribed as a basis for settling in the new currency—whether in cash or by cheque—any £sd amounts that have to be paid after the changeover period. At that stage the decimal system will be the only legal currency system and  the £sd coins will no longer be in circulation.
The position of regular weekly or monthly payments such as mortgage repayments, ordinary life assurance premiums and hire purchase instalments is dealt with by section 7 of the Bill. As in the case of any other £sd debt, a person making such a payment will retain the right to pay the existing £sd amount in cash during the changeover period. If he prefers to pay in decimal currency during the changeover period he will be free to convert the shillings and pence on the basis of the whole new penny conversion table and to pay that amount. After the end of the changeover period the payment must be made according to the whole new penny table.
A special arrangement is however necessary in regard to premiums payable under industrial life assurance policies or friendly society contracts. A large number of such contracts involve very small weekly cash payments and many of these do not convert exactly into decimal currency terms. Application of a conversion table individually to such small payments would in some cases cause a relatively appreciable change in the amount of the payment. Section 8 of the Bill will enable the Minister for Industry and Commerce to make regulations prescribing an equitable solution to come into effect as from Decimal Day. It is intended that these regulations will prescribe that the total £sd amount payable over a period of four weeks will be converted into the nearest equivalent in decimal coins, that is, to the nearest half new penny. Benefits payable under policies will not change.
Section 9 and 10 contain an important group of provisions concerned with statutory references to amounts of money which include shillings or pence. The bulk of statutory references to £sd will not give rise to any difficulty as they will convert exactly to decimal currency terms. In some cases, however, it may be necessary to make some slight adjustment if the amount does not convert exactly. Section 10 of the Bill gives the necessary powers to enable this to be done in cases where  existing powers are not adequate for the purpose.
The provisions of section 14 of the Bill will ensure that the changeover to decimal currency does not invalidate any contracts or other formal documents which contain references to amounts of money in £sd. For example, if after the changeover a person makes a will which mentions an amount in £sd, it will not be invalid. However, all payments under £sd contracts and other legal documents will fall to be made in decimal currency under section 13 of the Bill after the changeover period.
During the changeover period those who sell goods or services will offer them at a decimal price or at an £sd price. There will not be two prices for one article. Once a shop has gone decimal, the prices will be decimal prices only and it will not normally be open to the customer to decide that he prefers to pay an £sd price. People can, however, use both old and new coins when paying for their purchases. Since sixpence in the old currency is exactly equivalent to 2½ new pence, exact change can always be given if customers tender in multiples of 6d or 2½ new pence. The decimal currency board will impress this point on retailers and the public.
Up to the present a great deal of the Decimal Currency Board's activities have been directed towards getting businesses — large and small — to identify everything that needs to be done and to set about preparations in good time. From the board's contacts with business firms and organisations throughout the country they are satisfied that the business community generally is responding well to the call for efficient preparation. No intractable problems have been encountered but there is still a proportion of traders who have been dilatory in setting about the task of preparations. These should take action without further delay.
An important part of the board's future work will be to prepare the general public for the use of decimal currency so that they will understand it thoroughly. A special publicity campaign will be conducted for this purpose. In the six weeks before Decimal Day the board will switch the weight  of publicity over to the general public. A special explanatory booklet will be sent to each household in the country. This booklet will include a copy of the shopping conversion table — sometimes known as the new halfpenny conversion table — which the board have recommended for equitable conversion of retail prices generally. Other publicity measures will include advertising of basic facts about decimal currency in the press and on radio and television. I feel confident that the public will come up to 15th February, 1971, with the knowledge of decimal currency fresh in their minds.
Mr. Alexis FitzGerald Mr. Alexis FitzGerald
Mr. Alexis FitzGerald: On behalf of the Fine Gael Party I welcome this measure which has obviously been drafted in the light of experience gathered in the similar conversions carried out in Australia and in New Zealand. The terms of the Bill show at least a marked influence from the equivalent English statute. I welcome decimalisation as something which will have advantages; it will help schoolchildren in their arithmetic, it will have the advantage of providing ease in establishing and computing relationships of values of different coins and it should be convenient from the point of view of the arithmetical manipulation of sums of money as multiples of units of ten.
It is perhaps not out of order to remind the House that the idea of decimalisation derived from the Founding Fathers of America and, in fact, it was one Governor Morris, an aristocratic gentleman who helped in the Declaration of Independence, who first proposed the idea. His scheme which was adopted in the American coinage system was that revised by Jefferson and supported by one of Alexander Hamilton's famous reports. It was the French revolution, despite the aristocratic elements in the American Declaration of Independence, which introduced the decimalisation idea to Europe.
I think Britain made the wrong decision in not basing the system on the 10s rather than on the £1, and however, we made the right decision in following Britain as we must have the same unity and it would be manifestly  immature to establish our independence by some gesture which would be injurious and damaging to ourselves. Decimal Day in Britain is on the 15th February, 1971, and so it must be with us. Despite the great difficulties caused by the bank strike I understand the banks are confident they can keep to this date. A massive operation is planned to effect this and it is expected a significant number of transactions will, in a week or so, operate naturally in the new coinage.
It is dishonest of us not to face the fact that this is going to increase the cost of living because if our basic unit goes up from ½d to 1.2 pence and when we consider the multiplier effect, this must have an effect on the prices of some goods. Difficult though it may be to believe, there are goods which still can be bought for 1d. The supplier of these goods will have to sell them at not less than 1.2 pence, the buyers along the route will obviously have to take their margins on them and these margins must, with the multiplier effect, have some effect on the cost of living. I gather calculations have been made and I should like to hear the Parliamentary Secretary make some comment on that in his reply. Conservative and reasonable people have calculated it will affect the cost of living in the order of 2 per cent to 4 per cent. I am sure the Parliamentary Secretary's advisers have considered this and I would like to get from them and other Members of the House some indication of the effect on the cost of living. I do not think this can be avoided. It is a necessary and proper step and we have got to pay for whatever effect it will have in terms of additional cost.
I have only one reservation to make about this Bill and I make the point now so that by the Committee Stage further consideration might be given to it. In the course of his opening address, the Parliamentary Secretary said that during the Committee Stage debate in Dáil Éireann the question was raised whether a bank could deal with a cheque which is invalid under section 2, and the Minister promised to examine the point. Confirmation has been obtained that the banks can deal with such documents. This is a correct  statement of the position. Of course, the banks can treat as valid documents that are declared by statute to be invalid. The banks will not do that without risks to themselves because if a person draws a cheque which is, in fact, expressed in £sd after Decimal Day and that cheque is, by virtue of section 2, invalid, if the bank chooses to pay on that cheque, as a matter of practical convenience and part of a policy of educating their customers into the new system, the person who drew that cheque can sue the bank for having paid on an invalid instrument. I would earnestly recommend to the Parliamentary Secretary that a saver should be introduced in section 2 to provide that if the bank did exercise the option it would have under the section to make payment of an invalid instrument, the drawer of the cheque would not be entitled to sue the bank on foot of such a transaction. Otherwise, there may be significant sums involved and I do not think it is an answer to this point — which may not have been made in debates elsewhere — if there is not a similar saver in the equivalent legislation that has been studied. It is a serious point and I would propose at the Committee Stage to put down an amendment in relation to it. At this point I simply repeat my welcome of the Bill in its present form.
Professor Quinlan Professor Quinlan
Professor Quinlan: At this stage we welcome the Bill which makes provision for the changeover consequent on the decision already taken. The only point I would make is that in the publicity which undoubtedly will be necessary to ensure that the public are aware of the changeover, the Minister should enlist the support of schoolchildren everywhere. It would be a great fillip to them that from what they had learned from their teacher they would be able to instruct their parents at home. It would be a useful contribution and, at the same time, a practical instruction in decimalisation for our schoolchildren. I welcome the Bill as it is. A number of other points can be raised on the Committee Stage.
Mr. J. Fitzgerald Mr. J. Fitzgerald
Mr. J. Fitzgerald: Like the other Senators, I welcome the Bill. At this  Stage there is very little that one can say on it because any comments are best left for Committee Stage. I was very pleased to learn from the Parliamentary Secretary's introductory speech that this matter will get publicity on both television and radio between now and 15th February. It is one area in which I considered the Decimal Currency Board had fallen down. It is true that there has been a campaign directed towards traders, which was a good thing because they must gear themselves for Decimal Day. However, I felt that the public were being neglected in this respect. Therefore, I am very, very pleased that the Parliamentary Secretary has put the record right and that there will be a publicity campaign between now and Decimal Day to make the public au fait with the major change that will come about on the 15th February.
Ruairí Brugha Ruairí Brugha
Ruairí Brugha: This is a Bill we all welcome. This changeover is one of the refreshing and enlightening things. It is a mystery to me why we, and the people on the other island, have always had a different type of currency from the European and American currency. I find myself agreeing with Senator FitzGerald in saying that the decision to adopt the £ instead of 10s is a mistake which was made in Britain. Why it was made I do not know. If it had been a Conservative Government I would have understood it, but it was a Labour Government who made that decision. We shall have to bear with the difficulties that will arise having regard to the difference in the currency system we operate and that in use elsewhere.
I do not think this changeover will be easy, despite the work which the board are doing. It will be relatively easy for some of us who have had the opportunity of having been abroad and are accustomed to dealing with currencies in units of ten, 20 and 100. However, it may not be as easy for others who might not have such knowledge. When it comes to a question of money it is not difficult for people to consider the matter, especially if it means they will lose money.
 One of the questions that occur to me in relation to what the Parliamentary Secretary said about cheques that are dated is that this may be covered already. In a modern economy there are always many instances of money orders, cheques, dividends and so on, that get mislaid. These are restricted by banks to date periods. I wonder if this would involve returning those cheques under these circumstances. It is surprising how many people forget to lodge such items for quite long periods.
The other point that occurs to me relates to the changeover in relation to public services, such as CIE, and how this may work out. It is very important from the point of view of the public how one is going to work out 1s 5d in a bus and 9d on a stamp, and so on. It should be as equitable as possible. We have been reading much in some newspapers about what people in private business may do in an effort to gain on this, and warnings have been given. As a public representative I am concerned to see that the public are protected against any of our public service companies in regard to the changeover to decimal currency.
Finally, I agree with Senator Quinlan in relation to the schools. I should like to put one other question to the Parliamentary Secretary. Are the board doing anything regarding introducing special means for educating schoolchildren in relation to decimalisation, apart from what they are doing in relation to industry?
Mr. McDonald Mr. McDonald
Mr. McDonald: Briefly, I should like to pay a tribute to the Decimal Currency Board for the excellence of the lectures and the way they organised talks throughout the country. They have proved extremely beneficial. However, the only crib — if I can call it one — I have is the apparent unsuitability of the bronze coins. I should like to ask the Parliamentary Secretary if the Department of Posts and Telegraphs will get away with increasing the price of stamps. Will the cost of the smallest stamp be 9.6d instead of 4 new pence? Which of the coins shall we use in the ordinary telephone coin box? Can we expect that the local phone call will  be reduced to 6d, or something like that, or is it going to shoot up to 1s? These are things that well may nark the public, and rightly so. The Minister for Industry and Commerce said last week that people should not avail of the changeover to increase prices. I doubt very much if the Departments of State I have mentioned will resist the temptation to increase the price of both the stamp and the telephone service. Who designed those bronze coins? Even those that have been circulated have changed colour already. They are a hopeless collection of coins and even the size of the new halfpenny is ridiculous. I do not know what sort of a pocket one would need. On their own they will be of very little use, in relation to their purchasing power, at the present time. When the Parliamentary Secretary is replying, perhaps he will give us an assurance that the Government will not avail of this opportunity on 15th February next to increase the prices of the services rendered by the Department of Posts and Telegraphs.
Micheál Cranitch Micheál Cranitch
Micheál Cranitch: Níl i gceist agam ach cúpla focail a rá ar an mBille seo. Fáiltím roimhe go háirithe os rud é gur múinteor mé. Má tá locht ar an mBille sé locht é ná gur cheart an Bille bheith ós cóir phobal na hÉireann blianta ó shin. Ach pé míádh a bhí ar na Sasanaigh i gcónaí, bhí sé de nós acu dul i gcoinne na taoide agus tá córas caighdeánach glactha le fada an lá ag na hEorapaí. Símplíonn an córas seo na mílte agus na céadanna ins na scoileanna agus simpleoidh sé cuntasaíocht do phobal na hÉireann agus do phobal na Breataine leis.
Any danger that exists is not so much in the Bill itself as in its implementation, especially as far as conversion is concerned. I know the intentions are good and that the Government, through the various Ministers, have warned traders and shopkeepers to be very careful in this matter. They will have to be more than careful in this regard because, human nature being what it is, the tendency will always be there to err, so to speak, on the right side as far as they themselves are concerned. It would be a bad introduction for the decimal system if it were accompanied by dishonesty,  even of a very minor kind. It is a pity that Britain decided to adopt the £ as a unit, as it would have been more natural to adopt the 10s unit.
That was what was used in New Zealand and the great pity is that it was not introduced into Britain. However, since it was not I suppose we have no option whatever but to follow suit.
Somebody mentioned the part schoolchildren could play in the implementation of the working of the Bill from the 15th February. A considerable amount of work has been done in the primary, vocational and secondary schools. I would suggest to the Parliamentary Secretary that he keep in touch with the Minister for Education and ask for a new drive as from the 1st January. I am delighted to see in this memorandum that a special publicity campaign is to be conducted for the purpose of ensuring that the public are familiar with the system.
In the six weeks before Decimal Day the board will switch the weight of publicity over to the general public. For my own part I have no fears whatever. The general public will get used to this idea of decimal currency very quickly. One always notices that where money is concerned people can adapt themselves very quickly to any kind of change. We live in an era of change, but I have no doubt but the changeover in currency will be one of the easiest to effect. A further help would be to get the parents, the public and schoolchildren working together in this matter. I hope the changeover will be made easily and satisfactorily and my only fault with the Bill is that it should have been introduced years ago.
Mr. Russell Mr. Russell
Mr. Russell: I would just like to make a few very brief remarks on the Bill. I am rather sorry we did not adopt the continental system of smaller units. I know we are more or less tied hand and foot to the British system and there is a good deal to be said for following what they do. Inevitably we do this, but anybody who has travelled on the continent will be familiar with the fact that most continental countries have quite small units as their basic coinage. Had we been free  to do so, and untrammelled by a connection with Great Britain, I would have plumped for the 10s unit.
I notice the Parliamentary Secretary in his introductory address mentioned that there is a proportion of traders who have been dilatory in setting about the task of preparation. I think this is a little unfair because, as the Seanad is aware, a tremendous amount of the business in this country is done by very small businesses and small shopkeepers, particularly country shopkeepers. The task of facing up to the changeover to D-Day is quite a formidable operation for people in this type of trade and I think they deserve every help and encouragement in this regard.
Furthermore, something more will have to be done to assist shop assistants to become more familiar with the changeover before the 15th February. I agree with the previous speakers who said that the success of the changeover will depend largely on the amount of work and the impact which is made from the 1st January to mid-February. Those six weeks are going to be the most important in the whole operation of changing over from the £sd system to the decimal currency system; I would go as far as to suggest that the people who have undertaken these various courses throughout the country over the past 12 months will have forgotten a good deal of what they learned at the time and will be in need of a refresher course.
I understand that in some centres the facilities for training staffs are not adequate and I wonder if the Parliamentary Secretary in his reply would give us some indication of reports coming from, say, vocational education committees about the success of the training schemes in their areas. I believe that in some centres the facilities available are not adequate to deal with the number of applicants. I would also like to support the Senators who said that the schoolchildren could help enormously in this changeover.
In this regard I would like to suggest that the coins should be made available to schools and to different organisations, and even to groups of business houses, well in advance of the  changeover. I know that they will not be legal tender until after the 15th February but I think that everything possible should be done to familiarise the public — the adults, the children and the people who will be handling these coins through the course of business — with the coins well in advance of the changeover to D-Day.
It occurs to me that some difficulty may arise in connection with wills. I know it is mentioned in the Bill that where the husband makes a will and leaves sums in terms of £sd the will will not be invalid after the 15th February. However, we all know there have been long delays in taking out probate and, in this regard, I wonder if any difficulties are likely to arise from the point of view of the changeover to decimal currency.
Another Senator referred to the recent warning by the Minister for Industry and Commerce to traders that under no circumstances were they to raise their costs as a result of the changeover to decimal currency. I think the conversion table attached to the Final Schedule of the Bill automatically assumes an increase in prices. Traders would need to be protected against any possible charge of increasing prices when, in fact, an automatic increase in price occurs. Just to take one simple example, one shilling equals five new pence and so on. I know it is impossible to round off the decimal equivalent in new pence to the old £sd currency but in fairness traders should be protected from charges of increasing prices when an automatic increase will occur due to the changeover to decimal currency.
I would like to ask the Parliamentary Secretary to say, when replying, if traders and the public generally are to accept this conversion table in the Schedule to the Bill as the official rate of conversion and will this be the only acceptable table of conversion? It would be helpful if it was generally known that this would be regarded as the only acceptable table of conversion.
I should like to join with other Senators in welcoming this Bill which is a challenge to us as a people to bring ourselves into line with the form  of currency which is generally used throughout the greater part of the world. I am quite certain that, provided our people are armed with the necessary information, the changeover will be completed smoothly at an early date.
Mr. O'Higgins Mr. O'Higgins
Mr. O'Higgins: I should like to ask the Parliamentary Secretary a question in relation to section 14, to which Senator Russell referred. It sets out here that “save” provided in section 2, no instrument shall be regarded as being invalid because of its containing a reference to an amount of money in the old currency. Then paragraph (b) of subsection (1) goes on to say that “instrument” includes wills, documents, and all other writings of a formal legal kind. I am just wondering if it would not be worth the Minister's while to have another look at the wording of that.
All of us who are practising lawyers will be aware of the fact that from time to time documents are prepared without the assistance of solicitors or barristers. They are documents which it is perfectly legitimate for a person to prepare. There is nothing at all wrong with a person preparing a tenancy agreement in relation to his own house or a flat in his house without the assistance of a solicitor, but people who do their own drafting of legal documents without being qualified may accidently — I use the word “accidently” — in relation to this section find that they have not put their document in a formal, legal manner. I wonder if documents of that sort are to be ruled out while documents prepared in a proper form by solicitors are allowed in. It would seem to me to be wrong if that were to happen. I would ask the Minister to consider this matter.
Mr. Keery Mr. Keery
Mr. Keery: I would just like the opportunity to ask one question. Like I fear, a very large proportion of the population, I am one of those people who have been sitting back waiting for D-Day and hoping that somebody will succeed in explaining the matter to me when it happens. I have been resting in the assurance that in the last six weeks of their campaign the Decimal  Currency Board will concentrate on people like me.
May I draw attention to the one point which I find a stumbling block in consulting the decimal currency material? It is a point which immediately struck me when I visited a primary school recently and I saw some of the publicity material on the walls of the school. I should like to hear the explanation of this feature and perhaps the Decimal Currency Board could pay particular attention to it when they come to the last run-in of their campaign.
I am referring to the conventions recommended for laying out the new currency sums. For example, £1 and 38½ new pence will be quoted as £1.38½. I have never quite grasped this; it seemed to create immediately a blockage for me. Is it a decimal system or is it not? I fear this may be the reaction of many people and it will immediately throw them, because even though we will see much greater teaching in the schools now based on the decimal system, with my understanding of the decimal system I have a mental blockage when I see a figure like £1.38½. I consider it should be £1.385.
I appreciate there may be an obvious explanation for this but, even in the general way in which I have tried to keep track of the publicity material which the Decimal Currency Board have sent in such regular streams to Members of the Seanad, I have not come across this explanation. I should like to hear the Minister's answer because I think it would help a lot of people. Reference has been made to people's experience on the continent. My recollection is that never in France, Switzerland or Holland have I seen anything like £1.38½, and I would be very interested to hear why exactly we have been forced into this position. It seems to me to spoil the decimal image, initially at any rate.
Dr. West Dr. West
Dr. West: I should like to join the other Senators in welcoming this Bill. The Decimal Currency Board should be congratulated on their work and I think they should be helped by everybody in the final six weeks of getting  the public acquainted with the new currency. I should like to support what Senator McDonald said earlier that when it comes to changing the prices of postage and telephone calls, the errors should be rounded down rather than up. This would be an important psychological step and I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will be vigilant in guarding against excessive increases in businesses or shops or in any other part of life where currency is being converted. I should like to make the further point that as soon as possible our archaic system of weights and measures should be rationalised.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance (Mr. Lemass) Noel T. Lemass
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance (Mr. Lemass): I am very happy with the way this Bill has been received and I hope I may be able to explain some of the points raised. First, to go back to the history of the decimal currency system, in June 1967 the Minister issued a booklet summarising the case for and against the different decimal currency systems it might be possible to introduce in this country. This was circulated to obtain considered views before a final decision was taken here. In the meantime, however, the weight of opinion favoured the introduction of the same system as applied in Britain, and the Government decided to adopt this course as less in-covenient and less costly than introducing a different system.
Senator Alexis FitzGerald asked about the question to which I referred in my opening remarks, namely about the banks accepting cheques which under section 2, would not be legal, apparently, according to the phraseology of the section. The banks, I understand, are prepared to take whatever risks may be involved in exercising their discretion in dealing with cheques drawn in £sd after Decimal Day. I believe it is not clear that there are real risks. The same position applies in Britain.
I understand the use of the word “invalid” in section 2 is necessary to secure a definite switch of banking transactions on Decimal Day.
The question of Post Office charges has come up again. As regards telephone  coin boxes the Department of Posts and Telegraphs intend to have these converted within three to six months after Decimal Day to take bronze decimal coins instead of pennies and sixpence. They are doing this because the considered opinion is that after Decimal Day the old coins will begin to go out of circulation fairly rapidly. The Post Office have not announced their decimal rates for stamps and telephones but we understand they intend in the overall to balance ups and downs to bring in the same amount of revenue.
There is some confusion about the two tables that are available. There is one contained in the Schedule of the Bill and this is primarily for banking settlements in particular. There is another table available, which is not a statutory provision, called “the New Halfpenny Table” and this is the table which will be circulated to householders and will be taught in the schools. This will be the fairest way to ensure that traders will not in any way abuse the changeover. I am quite sure they will not because the forces of competition and public opinion which have resulted I think directly from the activities of the Decimal Currency Board will all combine to ensure decimalisation will not result in an overall increase in price levels. I shall refer again to that later on. The Minister for Industry and Commerce has made it perfectly clear in his recent statement that it is his intention to take strong action should any complaints come to his attention.
I should like to join with other Senators in congratulating the Decimal Currency Board. They have done a truly magnificent job. They have had special talks with groups of traders and other business interests in 140 towns. They have mailed booklets to all traders who are registered for turnover tax. They have advertised extensively in the press and mass media and have participated in exhibitions such as the RDS Spring Show and Horse Show in Dublin, the Munster Agricultural Society's Summer Show in Cork, the Limerick Agricultural Show, the Mayo Traders' Fair in Ballina, the Dundalk Agricultural Show and also the Ideal  Homes Exhibition which I had the pleasure of opening. They have performed a first-class job which probably goes beyond what most people realise.
The Department of Education have issued detailed instructions to teachers with regard to the teaching of the new decimal currency. Copies of some of the board's publications have been circulated free to all teachers and a special wall chart showing the coin designs has also been circulated to schools. There will be further publicity in the schools in the six weeks preceding Decimal Day.
The vocational school classes on decimal currency are going ahead in all areas outside Dublin city. These classes are well attended and they will continue in many areas up to Decimal Day. Efforts are continuing to get similar classes in Dublin city. The Decimal Currency Board have prepared a special training manual for smaller traders. An easy self-teaching booklet has also been distributed free to all traders. Supplies of the new bronze coins are available from the Central Bank in packets of ten shillings worth, for staff training purposes.
The emphasis up to the present has been directed towards traders, manufacturers and industrialists. The emphasis from now on will be directed mainly at the general public and will be very intensive during the six weeks preceding the 15th February, 1971. An explanatory booklet will be issued to the 687,000 households in the State and all publicity media will be used. The publicity will explain clearly the decimal currency system and will set out the special aspects of shopping in the changeover period during which both the £sd and the decimal currency systems will be in operation. It is necessary to ensure that all sections of the public understand all the facts. To fail in this regard would be to risk considerable confusion in daily transactions.
Senator Alexis FitzGerald and some other Senators referred to the effect of the changeover on the cost of living. I wish to assure the House that it will be negligible. Research and calculations have shown that even if all retail  prices were rounded up to the nearest decimal coin the effect on the cost of living would not exceed 1 per cent. In fact very many prices will be rounded down on conversion to decimal currency. This has been the experience in other countries such as Australia and New Zealand.
I would like to inform Senator Keery that our decimal system is based on the £ divided into 100 units and not the £ divided into 1,000 units. While the ½ is perhaps an anomaly from some points of view, it is necessary to have a ½ newpenny coin to keep control of the cost of living. Deputy Ruairí Brugha asked me about CIE fares. I understand they have not settled their decimal fares yet but this matter is under active consideration.
In regard to the point raised by Senator O'Higgins, section 14 is a saver for the validity of documents containing references to £sd. I am satisfied that the section as drafted will be adequate to cover the cases where there are delays in obtaining probate of wills and also the other cases mentioned by Senator O'Higgins where documents were drawn up by laymen and not in strict legal phraseology.
I think I have covered most of the points that have been raised. However, on the Committee Stage we shall go into these matters in more detail. I should like to thank Senators for the way they have received the Bill.
Question put and agreed to.
Acting Chairman (Mr. McDonald) Acting Chairman (Mr. McDonald)
Acting Chairman (Mr. McDonald): Next Stage?
Tomás Ó Maoláin Tomás Ó Maoláin
Tomás Ó Maoláin: I am in a difficulty. I hope Senators will realise next week is Christmas and we are again faced with this situation of having Bills which must be passed and if the House has no objection we could take the Committee Stage now.
Acting Chairman Acting Chairman
Acting Chairman: It is a matter for the House.
Mr. O'Higgins Mr. O'Higgins
Mr. O'Higgins: This makes things a little bit awkward for Senators. I know that Senator Alexis FitzGerald had in mind consideration of possible amendments on Committee Stage.
Mr. Alexis FitzGerald Mr. Alexis FitzGerald
 Mr. Alexis FitzGerald: I had and the Parliamentary Secretary gave me an assurance that the banks were aware of the perils to which I believe they certainly are exposed despite the doubt expressed by the Parliamentary Secretary as to whether there were any perils. Apparently the banking system is prepared to undertake that hazard, and I am not going to hold up the House in dealing with that. However there are other provisions which, depending on the nature of the Committee Stage debate, it might be desirable to amend, and to approach this quite important legislation on the basis that we have got to get it enacted seems to me to be unfair to the House and unwise for the country. If Members are prepared to take the Committee Stage now it does not mean that we shall take all Stages now. It may emerge from that debate that amendments should be considered by the House and, if thought fit, adopted.
Mr. O'Higgins Mr. O'Higgins
Mr. O'Higgins: Could Senator Ó Maoláin say what are the proposals for sittings for the remainder of this week?
Mr. Ó Maoláin Mr. Ó Maoláin
Mr. Ó Maoláin: The Decimal Currency Bill, the Appropriation Bill and the Transport Bill, which is a Money Bill, are expected from the Dáil. The Money Bill must, as the Senator is aware, be passed within eight days of receipt. We may also get the Exchange Control Bill, but I am not so sure. That would leave us in the position that unless we want to meet next week, which is Christmas week, we would have to sit tomorrow, Thursday and Friday to complete the business.
Mr. O'Higgins Mr. O'Higgins
Mr. O'Higgins: If we are going to sit on Thursday and Friday, I am wondering if it might not be possible to take the Committee Stage on either of those days?
Mr. Alexis FitzGerald Mr. Alexis FitzGerald
Mr. Alexis FitzGerald: If we took the Committee Stage now, and then, considered what to do about the Report Stage.
Mr. O'Higgins Mr. O'Higgins
Mr. O'Higgins: Yes, or do the Committee Stage now and have the Report  Stage, if necessary, on Thursday or Friday.
Agreed to take Committee Stage today.
Seanad Éireann 69 Decimal Currency Bill, 1970: Second Stage.