§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ * MR. TREVELYAN (Yorkshire, W.R., Elland)
said he had been long enough in the House, and was sufficiently cognisant of the difficulties in the way of getting private Bills through Parliament, not to move willingly against the Second 757 Reading of a great railway Bill, but there were occasions when considerations of public policy were more important than even a very important private Bill. The facts which had led him to intervene were not disputed. The directors of this railway company sanctioned last year a payment of £200 to the London Municipal Society. The society had during the last six months been promoting the candidature of Moderate candidates for the London County Council, and had enabled large sums of money to be spent in assisting such candidates over and above the legitimate expenses permitted by Act of Parliament. In fact, the society was as partisan an organisation as could well be imagined. The fame of it was ringing throughout London, and was apparently unknown only to the directors of the London and North-Western Railway Company. According to their present story, he understood that the directors were ignorant of the partisan character of the association. They regarded it apparently as a society for expressing a platonic love of economy. It was wonderful how they managed to deceive themselves, because the society was not a new body. It had at two previous elections been the main society assisting Moderate candidates. Its treasurer was Mr. Percy Harris, the Chairman of the Moderate Council; its President, the Duke of Norfolk. Not only so, but the Duke of Norfolk, on 15th December last, issued, in the name of the society, the manifesto which was regarded by the whole Conservative Press, and the Moderate candidates, to be the manifesto of the Moderate Party. Moreover, on its Committee sat Mr. Lawrence, Deputy-Chairman of the London and North-Western Railway, and Mr. Guinness, a director of the railway, was a Moderate candidate at Haggerston, and profited by the cartoons of the society to whose funds his railway had contributed. Of all this the directors apparently remained in ignorance until he put down the Motion which stood in his name. But he was not quite so certain of that, and he would like to call the attention of the House to a speech made by Lord Stalbridge on 15th February, at a general meeting of the London and North Western Railway Company. In that speech Lord 758 Stalbridge spent some considerable time in discoursing on the evils of municipal and national trading. He went on to say that—He wished them not to relax their efforts as ratepayers, but to do the utmost they could to check the reckless expenditure which had been going on. It was all the more necessary that shareholders should use every exertion in their power to ensure candidates being returned to the various councils pledged to economy; and as regarded London in particular, where the rates had gone up by leaps and bounds, they had not only the opportunity to look to theirs, but to the general interests of the ratepayers.There was, in fact, a partisan spirit throughout the whole speech, and it was hardly surprising that a large number of people thought that the subscription made by Lord Stalbridge was made in the same spirit as his speech. To his mind this was not a question primarily for the shareholders of the Company. Their treatment, he thought the House would agree, was assuredly inconsiderate, and was resented by many of them. This thing was not done openly by the directors. It was put down, as they now understood, among "sundry payments not classed." There was a secret-service fund to which apparently the ordinary shareholder had not access unless by accident he happened to hear of any expenditure under it. Luckily some shareholder heard that this subscription had been made, and he wrote and found out that it had been made from the secretary. He then wrote to the Economist newspaper, and consequently the whole thing came out; otherwise, it might never have been known. For his part he objected to leaving the shareholders to fight a question of this sort against a great and wealthy corporation. It was a question of public policy. It could not be confined to municipal politics alone. What the directors had done they could do perfectly well by the same argument in every municipality in the country, and both in municipal politics and every kind of national politics as well. The rates were not the only pecuniary interest of the companies; there were taxes as well as rates. He would take what seemed to be an exactly analogous case. The present Foreign Secretary was, until three months before the general election, chairman of the 759 North Eastern Railway. He and several of his co-directors believed that the maintenance of free trade was necessary to the prosperity of the northern district, and therefore to the railway of which they were directors. On the principle applied in this instance, it would have been perfectly easy for the present Foreign Secretary to have subscribed out of the funds of the railway company to the Free Trade Union, a political organisation which supported Liberal candidates with the same unfailing regularity as the London Municipal Society supported the Moderates. He thought the House saw that if they admitted this principle, great companies might, whether secretly or openly, provide funds for Party organisations; there was no limit to it. He thought the House would probably feel with himself that money which was lavished on politics with the sole aim of gaining more money, was a dangerous element in politics. This country had not yet suffered from the employment of corporate funds in politics. In America, railway and other corporations operated in the political market just as they did in the commercial markets. They subscribed largely to Party funds, they paid candidates, they bought votes, they got obedient assemblies to pass laws, and obedient Judges to administer those laws. Let the House not be so foolish in their pride at their present political purity as to suppose that these were not dangers in the future for themselves unless they took precautions against them. He was opposing this Bill because he wished the House to protest against the beginnings of that American system. Their chief business that night was to make absolutely impossible a repetition of such action as that to which he had referred. The course he proposed to take was that of moving the Resolution which stood in his name—"That no Bill can be satisfactory to this House which confers increased powers on a railway company created by Act of Parliament, which has subscribed out of its corporate funds to a Party organisation." He did not desire to destroy the Bill if it could be helped, but he would have no scruple in asking the House to do so if it were necessary. He would not withdraw unless 760 in the first place the £200 was refunded to the shareholders, which he believed the directors were ready to do. He thought that the House ought to ask for security against the recurrence of such a thing, and the security should be of an absolute kind. A promise of the directors would not be enough, because they could not control their successors; but if the directors did not wish to repeat this action, he did not see why they should not accept a clause in Committee by which they would engage to pay no public money out of corporate funds in future to any candidate or any society which in any way promoted any candidature in any national or municipal election. What they wanted was not an apology from the company. Anyone who was found out could always apologise. He desired no violent or vindictive action, but there must be absolute security against the repetition of such an experiment.
§ * MR. STUART SAMUEL (Tower Hamlets, Whitechapel)
, in seconding the Motion, thought it was the duty of all reasonable people, and among reasonable people he included hon. Gentlemen opposite, to protest against this innovation in English political life. If it were true that railway companies desired to support candidates in favour of economy, let him point out that the Liberal Party was pledged to economy. He was not aware, however, that the London and North-Western Railway Company had gone out of its way to subscribe to the funds of the Liberal Party. It was quite clear that, the subscription was intended to go into the funds of one Party—not to a non-political body, and it was to that that he took exception. Was it fair that railway companies should come to the House and ask the majority to put them in a position to gain profits by giving them a monopoly when those profits were used against the policy which the majority represented? For a public company to be allowed to apply the funds of its shareholders for the benefit of any political Party was to lower the purity of public life.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."761
To leave out from the word 'That,' to the end of the Question, and add the words 'no Bill can be satisfactory to this House which confers increased powers on a railway company created by Act of Parliament which has subscribed out of its corporate funds to a Party organisation.' "—(Mr. Trevelyan.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ COLONEL LOCKWOOD (Essex, Epping)
said it was a very difficult thing, in a House of Commons constituted as at present, to stand up and take the part of any railway company. As an hon. Member stated the other day, even a railway company was worthy of having justice done to it. He appealed to the House to consider the Bill honourably and fairly on its merits. When the hon. Member for Derby brought forward his Motion the other day he said that he was quite sure the House would accept his statement, and hon. Members cheered that statement. He now asked the House to extend to him the same generosity and accept the statement which he was about to make as one made in the full belief that it was true. He would place briefly before the House the facts connected with this vote of £200. He would like first of all to remind the House that the present Bill involved the expenditure of £2,750,000, a great deal of which would be spent in wages. [Ministerial cries of "Oh."] As to the vote of £200, in answer to a question from the Board of Trade a letter was sent to the Board stating that in the spring of last year the London and North-Western Railway Company were approached by the London Municipal Society, who stated their object to be to secure the return of men, both on the borough councils and the London County Council, who would recognise the importance of the exercise of the strictest economy. The circular also stated that the movement was absolutely non-political, and the support of the company was asked on the ground that in common with other railway companies they had termini in London and were deeply interested in the matter. The increase in the rates of railway companies had been enormous. In the case of the 762 London and North-Western Railway Company alone the rates had increased in the last decade from £368,000 to over £600,000. Therefore, they considered they were fully justified in contributing out of their corporate funds to support a movement having the object stated, and being, as they were assured, of a non-political character. They accordingly subscribed the £200, which was paid in the month of July. The whole matter was considered by the board last Friday, which was the first opportunity they had had of considering the subject since it was raised in the House, and the board came to the conclusion that, although on the information before them in July last they were fully justified in the course they then took, yet subsequent events had proved that the relations existing between the society and Party politics could not be denied. The board had always rigidly refrained from subscribing a single shilling to any political object, and they had decided to relieve the corporate funds of that subscription, and to pay it out of the pockets of the directors themselves. The presence upon the board of men of political creeds different from that of the Opposition ought to have shown that when the board subscribed the money it was not intended for any political object. He repudiated, in the strongest possible way, the unworthy insinuation made by the hon. Member for the Elland Division that the directors purposely and designedly hid the charge from the public.
§ * MR. TREVELYAN
said that if the right hon. Gentleman could show how any ordinary shareholder could have found out in the ordinary way that the money had been subscribed to the society he would be quite satisfied.
§ COLONEL LOCKWOOD
said that was a different matter altogether. The point he took exception to was that the hon. Member insinuated that the directors 763 designedly hid the fact of this subscription from their shareholders. He warmly repudiated that. It was not placed under a separate heading because there was no separate heading for such items—all subscriptions to literary institutes or other similar institutions being put under "sundry expenses not classed." It was the invariable practice of the board to put under that heading anything which did not come under the special headings set forth in the statutory form of accounts. There was no intention, and never had been any, of concealing the fact that this subscription had been made. At the time it was made the board did not think they were subscribing to any political object at all. In the past his board had never subscribed a shilling to any political Party funds, and after the explanation he had given, which to him had not been a pleasant task, the House might take it that there was not the smallest likelihood of such a subscription being continued. In the past the Board had never subscribed a shilling to any political fund
MR. CLEMENT EDWARDS (Denbigh District)
I challenge that statement. The directors subscribed to the Free Labour Association for the purpose of securing contracting out of the Employers' Liability Bill in 1893.
§ COLONEL LOCKWOOD
said advisedly that his company had never subscribed to any political object in the past, and they would not do so in the future. After the explanation he had given he hoped the House would allow the Bill to pass.
MR. CLEMENT EDWARDS
characterised the statement of the right hon. Gentleman as perfectly amazing. In 1893 the Board subscribed £25 to a body of men calling themselves at that time the Free Labour Association. [Cries of "That is not political."] They were precisely the same body of individuals who had carried on their operations on previous occasions under the variety of titles which, under the chairmanship of the present Duke of Devonshire, who was then Lord Hartington, had been dealt with by 764 the Royal Commission that inquired into the Malversation of City Funds. That body carried on operations of a purely political character under no less than forty-eight aliases. The Royal Commission in 1887 reported that the system of subsidising so-called political associations, such as the Metropolitan Ratepayers' Protection Association, was calculated to mislead Parliament by the appearance of active organisation of public opinion which might have no existence. The Metropolitan Ratepayers' Protection Association was one of the aliases under which these individuals carried on their operations. As a matter of fact they carried on their operations in London in connection with municipal politics under no less than thirty-two different names, amongst them being the Free Labour Electoral Association, the Free Labour Association, the National Free Labour Association, the British Labour Protection League, the United Building and Allied Trades Council, the Metropolitan Ratepayers' Association, the National Conference of Working Class Representatives, the United London Working Men's Association, the Patriotic League, the Representatives of Trade, Labour, and Friendly Societies in the East End and West Ham Districts, the East London Water Consumers' League, the British and Foreign Arbitration Association, and the Society for Promoting Social Concord. As the Free Labour Association they issued a manifesto on the eve of the County Council election in 1895 in denunciation of the Progressive policy of the Council. At that time also they sent to every Moderate member of the County Council, and to every Moderate candidate a letter in the following terms—Gentlemen,—We send herewith copy of a manifesto which has been very extensively posted throughout London. The execution of this has involved the Association in considerable expense and we are making an earnest appeal for funds to carry on the work. If you can see your way to favour us with a donation or a regular subscription it will both encourage us and help forward the movement. Yours faithfully,
§ W. COLLISON."
§ In 1893 the London and North Western Railway Company subscribed £25 to this organisation, and yet it was suggested that the organisation was not of a political character. In 1893 the Association 765 presented a petition to the House against the picketing clauses in the Conspiracy Act of 1875. A great number of the signatures to that petition were procured from school children in East and South-East London, who were given packets of sweets. He spoke of what was within his own knowledge. It was this organisation which organised a demonstration in Trafalgar Square, purporting to represent working men, to pass a resolution in favour of a contracting-out clause being inserted in the Employers' Liability Bill. One of their heaviest subscribers was the hon. Gentleman who was at that time the Chief Whip of the Conservative Party. The London and North Western Railway Company, which subscribed to a body of such a character, was not a company that ought to be looked upon with favour by the House. For that reason he hoped the House would reject the Bill.
§ * MR. F. E. SMITH (Liverpool, Walton)
said the hon. Gentleman who introduced the subject had raised a debate of no little interest. It was one which from many points of view passed rather beyond the region of ordinary Party controversy. He could not help thinking it certain that the House as a body would consider, after the statement made by his right hon. friend on behalf of the London and North Western Railway Company, so far as the present Resolution was concerned, there could be very little doubt as to the decision to which they should come. The right hon. Gentleman had gone a great deal further than he himself would have desired that he should go. Hon. Members, on whatever side they might sit, would see that there were profoundly important social and political questions underlying the system of preclusion which the hon. Member wished to impose on railway companies. The hon. Member's argument would involve similar preclusion in regard to all limited companies and also upon trade unions. 766 What was the nature of the position on which the hon. Member insisted? Put quite baldly, it apparently amounted to this—that if an election were forthcoming the result of which would determine what political Party was to have the control of the rates, any individuals or corporations who might have to come to Parliament for statutory powers should not be allowed to make their political influence felt upon the persons who imposed and spent the rates but did not pay them. It was not necessary in the least to consider whether the view they might take, or the influence they might exercise, was right or wrong. He was willing for the purpose of his argument to say that the railway directors were entirely wrong and that the Party of municipal reform would in no way reduce the rates. If this principle were adopted that company and similar corporations would be precluded in future from exercising any kind of political influence; it could be easily got rid of. What was the position of the London and North Western Railway Company as a ratepayer? In a very large number of the parishes through which their system ran the company paid from eight-tenths to nine-tenths of the total rates levied; and yet they were in future to have no voice at all in the policy which was to regulate the amount of those rates, or the purposes for which those rates were to be devoted, [Opposition cries of "Hear, hear."] He gathered that the general view on the Ministerial side of the House was that the company should not have any such voice. What had been the change in the last ten years in the position of this railway company which was to have no voice whatever on municipal policy? In 1897 the company paid in rates and taxes £376,000; in 1906the amount had gone up to £603,000, and there was little doubt by 1916 they should be paying in rates and taxes considerably over £1,000,000. It was conceivable that they should not have any votes, but were 767 they to be put in a position in which they could not exercise any influence at all? In the Blue-book issued in connection with the Poor Law inquiry at Poplar there was a very interesting statement of policy. That inquiry was made by the Government officer appointed by the Liberal Government. In explanation of the policy pursued in Poplar which affected closely the railway company which paid far the larger proportion of the rates, a colleague of the hon. Member for Woolwich declared that the election should be fought on the question of making relief from the rates a substitute for old-age pensions. The proposition being that the rates should be illegally diverted for such a purpose, was a corporation paying a very large portion of the rates to be precluded from supporting by subscription a committee or association formed to resist such a policy? When, further, the guardians deliberately pursued a policy of increasing expenditure in order to show that Poplar needed additional assistance, not for public necessities, but in order to serve an indirect political purpose, was the House going to declare by Resolution that those who paid the rates should not assist in promoting inquiry into such a policy? If the House made itself responsible for such a principle it must be applied, not only to political associations, but to anybody using influence in any election on a political issue, such as trade unions. There were points of analogy as well as points of distinction in trade unions as compared with companies, and if the House resolved not to permit a company to make such subscriptions could it, with consistency, allow the political and pecuniary activity of trade unions? If it was made a distinction that a statutory corporation had peculiar privileges, he was also entitled to say that under the present Government trade unions had also become statutory corporations enjoying very special privileges. Was it an objection to railway companies as 768 such or to any wealthy corporation or body of individuals assisting Party funds for election purposes? Did not many wealthy Liberals make very large subscriptions to political funds in the interest of free trade? Before the House finally adopted the principle involved in the Amendment he hoped they would realise the position in which they would be placed, not only with reference to taxes but also with reference to rates. If hon. Gentlemen opposite were going to commit themselves to the position that no limited company—for the ground of monopoly on which the case was to be put at the outset had been abandoned—should be entitled to contribute a farthing to the purposes of any political association they would have taken a step which was certainly not Liberalism, because taxation and political influence ought to go together.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
I do not think the London and North-Western Railway Company will thank the hon. and learned Member for the speech he has just delivered. Presumably he is a supporter of the Bill, but I have never heard from a supporter of a Bill a speech less calculated to advance the interests of a measure than the deplorable and injudicious intervention of the hon. and learned Member. The Bill is one for which, on its merits, there is a good deal to be said, though I do not want to prejudge the questions which have to be fought out before the Committee. But the question of principle raised by my hon. friend the Member for the Elland Division is one which ought to be fought out in the House of Commons. The London and North-Western Company have subscribed a sum of money—very unfortunately, I think, departing from precedent—out of their funds to a keenly-contested, bitter political contest. How do the directors of the company meet that position? They meet it in, I think, the most admirable 769 spirit. The right hon. Member for Epping, with that tact which he always displays on these occasions and which makes his interventions always so acceptable to the House, got up and practically admitted that the action of the railway company was due entirely to a misapprehension by the secretary. I know the right hon. Gentleman well, and I am quite certain that when he makes a statement of that kind it is one that ought to be accepted from him, and I believe the majority of the House are prepared to accept it. The directors went further than that, and said they would pay the money back into the funds. They have practically said that, if they had known this was a political controversy, they would not have intervened. They practically own that they ought not to have used shareholders' money for the purpose of subscribing to a political controversy, and through the right hon. Gentleman they have said they do not intend to do it in future. In my judgment that is a complete and satisfactory answer. Unfortunately there came along the hon. and learned Member, who challenges the whole position. The hon. Member is not a railway director yet, and I do not think there will be any competition for his services after his speech to-night.
§ * MR. F. E. SMITH
asked if it was necessary for the right hon. Gentleman to interfere with his chances of business preferment.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
It is my business to see that the railway companies at any rate do not unfairly handicap themselves when they have got legitimate business to put through as I consider they have. What is much more serious than the intervention of the hon. Member is the enthusiastic sanction he evoked from a champion of railway companies, who is a director, himself—the hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London.
§ * MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
The hon. Baronet has said a good many words, and much more sensibly than he generally does. He has been intervening constantly, and challenges the position of the right hon. Member for Epping by supporting the view taken by the hon. Member for Liverpool. Up to this moment the question has been merely whether the explanation of the right hon. Gentleman could be accepted. I say frankly that I accept the explanation; but the hon. and learned Member has raised another issue and has challenged the House of Commons to declare its opinion upon it; and if that challenge were endorsed by the railway directors in the House, I should have no hesitation with regard to my vote. That is why, before the debate closes, I invite some one who can speak authoritatively on behalf of the railway companies to say whether it is their view that they have a right to use funds raised under statutory powers conferred by the House of Commons for a particular purpose for another purpose—the purpose of political propaganda, either municipal or national. That is a question we have a right to ask before the debate closes. I am sorry for the right hon. Gentleman. He has done his best, but we must really keep him and his co-railway directors in order on an occasion of this sort. I heard the hon. Member say, "Why should they not subscribe; are they not in the same position as a trade union?" No; they are not. If a trade union carried a Bill through this House to give that union a monopoly of the business of a whole district, it would be in the same position as a railway company. In his reference to limited companies also, the hon. Member raised an issue which is absolutely irrelevant. He is not satisfied with the issue that had been raised; but wants to widen it. He wants a declaration of the House of Commons that every limited liability 771 company, whatever its object, is entitled to use money obtained from the public for one purpose, and practically appropriate it to other purposes. The hon. and learned Member is not satisfied with the Second Reading of the Bill; he wants it accompanied by a declaration that there should be permitted in this country the sort of thing that has polluted public life in other parts of the world, where huge trusts and syndicates use for political purposes money subscribed for commercial purposes. Is that what the directors want?
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
I am glad to hear that declaration from the right hon. Gentleman, and I am sure it would smooth the passage of the Bill if some one on behalf of the railway companies would get up and make a declaration of that kind. As to the introduction of a clause prohibiting these subscriptions by railway companies, I have consulted the authorities of the House, and am informed that such a course would not be possible. It would amount to an alteration of the general law of the country. That may be necessary. If railway companies go on using for political purposes the monopoly conferred by Parliament, it will be time for Government to interfere. But that is a question for a general Bill. After the declaration of the right hon. Gentleman I shall vote for the Bill; but it would help the passing of the Bill if some one on behalf of the railway companies would say that it was not intended to regard the Second Reading as an affirmation of the legitimacy of the proceeding of which complaint has been made.
§ MR. WALTER LONG (Dublin, S)
I rise to say a word or two with reference to the speech we have just heard from the right hon. Gentleman. He has asked some director to get up and say what is the policy of the railway companies in regard to the issue which he conceives to have been raised by my hon. and learned friend. The right hon. Gentleman has on behalf of the Government told the House how he proposes to vote on this Bill. He accepts the declaration of my right hon. friend on behalf of the company whose policy is challenged, and he asks that the passage of the Bill shall be secured by some declaration on behalf of the railway company. The right hon. Gentleman must know that at this moment that is an impossible request. He must know that no director can speak for his company without consulting his board. I submit, therefore, that the view of the President of the Board of Trade has been expressed in an extremely frank manner, and that he has put the issue before us on its proper footing. The President of the Board of Trade has frankly accepted the explanation of my right hon. friend behind me. The whole question of corporations in regard to rates is an extremely difficult one, and I think it will be admitted that it would be unfair to discuss it in connection with this particular Bill. Corporations are called upon to pay rates in regard to which they have no representation and over whose expenditure they have no power of control. The right hon. Gentleman has disposed altogether of the case before the House, having accepted the frank, honest, and outspoken declaration of my right hon. friend; and I am bound to say that it would be a very partial acceptance 773 of the advice of the Government if, apart from the merits of the Bill, a wider issue were raised. I hope that the question will be decided on the merits of the Bill, and that the matter will not be complicated by a side issue as to the rates paid by corporations. After the acceptance of my right hon. friend's explanation, I cannot help thinking that the House will not reject the Bill, which would not only mean delay to the railway company, but affect all those who depend on that company.
§ SIR J. BRUNNER (Cheshire, Northwich)
said he was very sorry that the right hon. Member for South Dublin had not spoken up to the level of his reputation. He was quite satisfied that in his own mind the right hon. Gentleman disapproved quite as much as the right hon. and gallant Gentleman behind him of the practice of giving money to political organisations out of corporate funds. If he would only tell the House that he thoroughly disapproved of such action they would accept the statement.
§ MR. WALTER LONG
I do not understand that the point is under discussion. The President of the Board of Trade has distinctly stated that he accepts the explanation of my right hon. and gallant friend, and the right hon. Gentleman was speaking on behalf of the Government. ["No!"] Well he was speaking as President of the Board of Trade. My right hon. and gallant friend admitted that the directors had made the subscription, but were in ignorance of the nature of the society. That explanation has been accepted, and, if so, what becomes of the charge?
§ SIR J. BRUNNER
regretted still more that the right hon. Gentleman had not told them that he thoroughly disapproved of the money of companies being used for political purposes. He was convinced that the right hon. Gentleman did disapprove of corporate money being used in that way.
§ SIR J. BRUNNER
believed that, after such a declaration, the mischief would never occur again. Railway companies were under no peculiar disabilities. His own company paid large sums in rates. In one township they paid 92 per cent. of the rates; in another 87 per cent.; and in another 95 per cent, but he remembered very well going into one parish meeting, and being told by the chairman to go out. He sympathised with his right hon. and gallant friend who had made a frank declaration to the House, and, as he thought that the larger question which had been raised was one which they had better sleep over coolly, he would move the adjournment of the debate.
MR. J. W. WILSON (Worcestershire, N.)
seconded the Motion, which seemed to be in the best interests of the traditions of the House and the interests of the Bill. He felt that the House had a right to consider the larger issue which had been raised, and he believed that the overwhelming majority of Members would be found to be against what had taken place. But after the frank admission of the directors, he thought it would be rash to throw out the Bill.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the debate be now adjourned."—(Sir John Brunner.)775
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
said he was inclined to support the Motion for the adjournment of the debate. They would all feel that in view of the wider issue which had been mixed up with the narrower one it was desirable that there should be an adjournment, more especially as it would enable some other railway directors to repudiate the theory which had been put forward in regard to the practice of subscribing to Party funds. Even if this Motion were got out of the way, the Bill could not be disposed of then, because there were other Motions relating to it. He suggested for the consideration of the promoters whether it would not be better in the interest of the Bill that they should consent to the adjournment.
§ MR. PERKS (Lincolnshire, Louth)
agreed that the matter might require some further consideration. He was glad that the House had had an opportunity of looking into this question. He had for the last twenty-five years been closely associated with railway companies in various capacities, and he had been an unfortunate shareholder in some of them. He could not help feeling that it would be a wholesome check upon some railway companies if the House looked carefully and strictly—
§ * MR. SPEAKER
Order, order! The only matter which can now be discussed is the adjournment of the debate.
§ MR. PERKS
said he would suggest that railway companies should be given an opportunity of collectively ascertaining their views upon these public 776 questions, and he thought his right hon. friend opposite would do well to avail himself of the adjournment to obtain the collective opinion of the directors of the various companies as to the advisability or otherwise of such an appropriation of funds. He had no hesitation in saying that he would have nothing to do with any railway company which, directly or indirectly, voted money for any political or religious organisation.
§ Question, "That the debate be now adjourned," put, and agreed to.
§ Debate to be resumed To-morrow.