HC Deb 13 April 1891 vol 352 cc360-2
MR. PITT-LEWIS (Devon, Barnstaple)

I beg to ask the Attorney General whether the attention of the Public Prosecutor has been directed to the Report of the Committee of Shareholders, appointed on the 2nd March, 1891, to investigate the affairs of the Anglo-Austrian Printing and Publishing Union (Limited), from which it appears that this company asked the public for a capital of £750,000, but that, only about £99,280 having been applied for, the Directors nevertheless proceeded to allotment on this latter amount; that, although only £99,280 had been applied for, a cheque for £75,000 was immediately afterwards paid to one Mr. Horatio Bottomley for businesses agreed by him to be conveyed to the company, before he had disclosed any title to the same, and that he never, in fact, became entitled to convey to the company at all many of these; that the company never actually carried on any business at all, but yet paid to the same Mr. Bottomley further sums amounting to about £13,500 for (as he alleged) "working expenses;" that £1,116 was paid to the Directors as fees; that a dividend of 15 per cent. on the ordinary shares, and 8 per cent. on the preference shares, was declared at a Board meeting held on the 25th September, 1890; whether, from the Public Prosecutor having made any inquiry into the accuracy of the above statements, or for any other reason, he can say if they are correct; and, if so, whether, having regard to the fact that the company, having never transacted any business, could not possibly have earned a dividend, but must have paid such dividends as it declared out of capital, it is proposed to take any, and, if so, what, proceedings against anyone connected with the promotion of the company; whether he is aware that a very similar state of affairs exists in the case of the Hansard Publishing Union (Limited), and whether any, and what, steps are contemplated against the promoters or Directors of that Union; and whether a voluntary or other liquidator has been appointed to wind up either of the companies referred to above; what is the name of such liquidator; and is he an independent person?


Before the hon. and learned Gentleman answers the question, may I ask him whether the attention of the Public Prosecutor has been called to the connection of the late Lord Mayor and his brother with this company; and, further, if his attention has been called to the recent proceedings in the matter of the Direct Meat Supply Company before Mr. Justice Stirling?


I know nothing of the late Lord Mayor; but if the hon. Member will put a question down I will endeavour to answer it. In reply to the question on the Paper, I have to state that the attention of the Public Prosecutor has not been called to the cases referred to, nor is he able to say whether or not the statements of the hon. Member are correct in any particular. He is not at present prepared to take any proceedings in the matter. I would remind the hon. Member that tinder the Companies Acts, and particularly the Act of last Session, there are ample powers provided for the thorough investigation of matters such as those which he describes, and that it is not the duty of the Public Prosecutor to undertake such inquiries. The duties of the Public Prosecutor are regulated by statute and the rules made there-under. I would refer the hon. Member to the Return presented to Parliament this year, which was in the hands of hon. Members on March 12.


May I ask whether Mr. Horatio Bottomley, like Mr. Harry Marks, is a Conservative candidate for Parliamentary honours?

[No answer was returned.]