HC Deb 28 June 1906 vol 159 cc1125-7
MR. SCOTT (Ashton under-Lyne)

I beg to ask the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he is aware that the independent expert employed by Lord Selborne to ascertain what would be a fair and reasonable payment in respect of the use of Messrs. Mendelssohn and Brace's premises and plant by the military authorities was Mr. Fairbridge, the manager of the Argus Printing Company of Johannesburg, a company opposed to Messrs. Mendelssohn and Bruce, proprietors of the late Johannesburg Standard and Diggers' News in the pre-war days; whether he is aware that the most recent and previous annual balance sheets of the Argus Company, his own company, show that 10 per cent, and 15 per cent, per annum are the amounts allowed for depreciation of plant and machinery; and whether, upon that basis, the depreciation in the value of the Harrison Street plant and machinery belonging to Messrs. Mendelssohn and Bruce, and valued at £18,000 in 1900, should stand at £2,400 to £3,600, and not at £800 as valued by the independent expert, Mr. Fairbridge.


Mr. Fairbridge was employed by Lord Selborne, and his valuation of £800 as compensation for the occupation of the Harrison Street premises was confirmed by another expert, a property valuator of Johannesburg, who was recommended to the Transvaal Government as a valuator of wide experience. I have not seen the balance sheets of the Argus Company, but I understand that, whilst some time ago 1 per cent, per month was written off on machinery, this rate was discovered to be far too high, and that the present rate of 6 per cent, per annum will have to be lowered.


I beg to ask the Undersecretary of State for the Colonies if he will lay upon the Table a Return of the Transvaal Auditor-General's balance sheet and profit and loss account dealing with Messrs. Mendelssohn and Bruce's properties, plant, and printing offices, showing a profit of £19,855 15s. 4d., after crediting Mendelssohn and Bruce with £4,895 as an amount due to them as assessed by the Auditor-General.


Isolated documents of this character cannot be published with advantage. The correspondence on this question under the late Government has been protracted and is in part confidential. Messrs. Mendelssohn and Bruce appear to have stated from the outset that they themselves had not declared a dividend since the formation of the firm. The case of the Government of the Transvaal rests partly upon the fact that no profits at all could have been earned by the machinery of Messrs. Mendelssohn and Bruce during a period of war and censorship, except through its employment for official purposes. Mr. Mendelssohn's last letter containing his reasoned protest against the award of £2,500 is being referred to the Governor of the Transvaal, with whose Government the obligation of meeting the claim rests; and that protest will receive fair consideration.