§ 29 Mr. NORMAN CRAIG
asked the Secretary for Foreign Affairs (1) whether he is aware that the monopoly accorded to the Hong Kong and Shanghai Ranking Corporation in finance in China has carried with it the practical monopoly of railway loan contracts to the bank's agents and partners, Messrs. Jardine, Matheson, and Company, and their associates; whether these railway loan contracts stipulate for a commission, generally 5 per cent., to be paid to Messrs. Jardine, Matheson, and Company on the invoice value of all materials purchased for the railways; whether he is aware that, besides being contractors under the loan agreements, Messrs. Jardine, Matheson, and Company are also sole agents to firms of locomotive -and carriage builders, etc., and in this capacity receive a further commission on goods supplied for the railway contracts; whether he is aware that, thus placed, Messrs. Jardine, Matheson, and Company are enabled to receive commission for buying the material and a commission from the manufacturers supplying the material; whether this practice was the subject of complaint to His Majesty's Legation in Pekin; and whether any, and what, action was taken by His Majesty's Government in consequence; (2) whether he is aware that, in such cases as tenders have been invited for supply of materials for railway construction in China conceded to British interests, manufacturers have had to submit their tenders to Messrs. Jardine, Matheson, and Company, or their London house, and have thus had to disclose to that firm as representing the railways under construction information which would place the tendering manufacturers at a disadvantage by reason of the fact that Messrs. Jardine, Matheson, and Company were also agents for manufacturers competing by tender for the same work; and whether he will take steps to ensure greater equality of opportunity to British commercial interests; and (3) whether he is aware that, in the case of the Shanghai-Nanking Railway, the whole of the material was supplied by Messrs. Jardine, Matheson, and Company, without any other firm having an opportunity to tender; that substantially the same thing occurred on the Chinese section of the Canton-Kowloon Railway; whether a similar course was proposed to be taken on the commencement of the Tientsin-Pukow Railway; whether a joint 442 protest was addressed to the British Minister in Peking by a body representative of large British interests; whether he is aware that an inquiry was made into the complaint thus made, and that the complaint was admitted by the commercial attaché to be just; whether he is aware that the British Minister promised that there should be no repetition of the practice complained of; that in spite of this promise the practice has been persisted in; and whether the policy of an open door and equality of opportunity is still favoured by His Majesty's Government?
§ Mr. ACLAND
I am aware that it was alleged in 1910 that- Messrs. Jardine, Matheson, and Company, as buying agents for the British and Chinese Corporation under the loan agreements for the Shanghai-Nanking, Canton-Kowloon, and Tientsin-Pukow Railways, and also as representatives of certain manufacturers of railway materials, were using their position in an unfair manner and to the detriment of other British firms. The matter was carefully enquired into at the time, the explanations given were considered satisfactory, and the firm, which took a leading part in raising the question intimated that they did not wish to press it. The question was again raised in another form in the autumn of 1911, and the specific case was again investigated with the result that the firms concerned expressed themselves satisfied with the steps taken by His Majesty's Government.
§ 32. Mr. NORMAN CRAIG
asked whether the British Minister in Peking refused his support to another British firm in regard to railway contracts on the ground that that business is ear-marked for Messrs. Jardine, Matheson, and Company; and, if so, did he do so with the sanction of His Majesty's Government?
§ Mr. ACLAND
No, Sir. I have no information to that effect and the statement is so improbable that I should be obliged if the hon. and learned Member could let me know on what authority it is made.