HC Deb 04 August 1905 vol 151 cc306-9


Order for Second Reading read.

Motion made, and Question proposed "That the Bill be now read a second time."

MR. CALDWELL (Lanarkshire, Mid)

said there were one or two matters on which he desired information from the representative of the Treasury. Did the Public Works Loans Commissioners really attend any meeting at all as a body? He had been making inquiries and he could not discover that they gave any attendance. If they did not attend, their appointments should not be renewed for the next five years. In 1900–1901, the amount of money asked was £7,000,000,last year it was £4,500,000, and this year the amount asked was the same as last year. What was the reason the Commissioners were not lending so much money as formerly? What was the amount of the outstanding balances last year? They ought to know what was the average rate of interest for the year. In 1898 the rate was £2 15s. 6d. In 1890 it was £2 17s.; in 1885 it was £3 1s. 10d., and in 1870 it was £3 2s. 3d. Perhaps the Secretary to the Treasury could say whether the Treasury covered themselves in regard to these loans. If the average rate was £2 19s. 6d., then a deficit might arise in regard to the transactions of the Public Works Loans Commission. He noticed a new point in the Bill. There was a clause to enable an arrangement to be entered into between the Public Works Loans Commissioners and the London County Council. What he wanted to know was what was the contemplated arrangement, because there were a number of loans by the London County Council which bore interest at the rate of three and a half per cent, per annum, and these loans were to be repaid on the 31st March, 1923. He understood that a kind of consolidation of these various loans was contemplated, but he supposed that that would not alter the length of the precise period for the repayment of the same.

Another point to which he wished to call attention was that it had been the custom for many years to write off various sums of money which had been lent by the Public Works Loans Commissioners to tenant farmers for drainage. The Public Works Loans Commissioners had no security for these advances, and when the tenant came into default the landlords stepped in and got the benefit of the money advanced. What he wanted to know was whether the Public Works Loans Commissioners had any claim against the landlord when he resumed the possession of the land. Then another item was the loans made to the Fishery Board for Scotland to provide boats for the crofting fishermen in the North of Scotland. He believed that the amount was almost exhausted and that the losses incurred had not arisen from any unwillingness on the part of the crofters to pay back the money to the Fishery Board, but from the fact that the boats provided for the crofters were not suitable for the purpose intended. He understood that a considerable amount of loss had been incurred by fishermen themselves.

*SIR ALBERT ROLLIT (Islington, S.)

said that this was a Bill which, on the face of it, materially affected local authorities, and especially the large municipalities. He wanted to know whether the Public Works Loans Commission was a real Commission, or only a phantom body like the Board of Trade, the work being done by the Treasury. If it were a real body, it ought not to be entirely composed, as at present, of eminent bankers and financiers, but should have upon it at least some representatives of the local authorities able to give municipal information and experience to the Commission. He saw that an opportunity had been taken by the Commission from its last Report to endeavour, by a penal rate of interest on long loans, to make the loans repayable within twenty years. He altogether demurred to that, because it meant that there would be additional pressure put on the present generation and that Public Works for health, sanitation, and the like might be delayed or prevented, contrary to the public interest. He also wanted to know whether the Commissioners were limited in number by statute. He hoped the House would have full information on these points.

MR. LOUGH (Islington, W.)

said he did not agree with his hon. friend that any just criticisms could be urged against the Public Works Loans Commissioners. He thought that the principle of the composition at the board was sound, but he wanted to know whether the members got a salary.


said that he could assure the hon. Member for Islington that the Commission was a very live one, and not a phantom. So far as he knew the Commissioners did their work exceedingly well, and their names were a sufficient guarantee for the future. They got no salary. The hon. Member for Mid.-Lanark had asked what was the reason for the reduction of the money asked for this year from £7,000,000 to £4,500,000? The reasons for that reduction were that, owing to the condition of the money market, the Treasury thought it desirable to suggest to the Commissioners that they should confine their loans to purposes which Parliament specially desired to encourage; and, further, that the loans should only be advanced to those local authorities which were least capable of helping themselves. The arrangement between the Public Loans Commission and the London County Council required Parliamentary sanction, but it had been made for their mutual convenience.