HC Deb 23 June 1915 vol 72 cc1168-70

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether his attention has been called to the balance- sheet issued by the Shell Transport and Trading Company, showing an available balance of nearly £2,000,000, declaring dividend at the rate of 35 per cent., and carrying forward £436,000; whether his attention has been called to the report of Messrs. John Brown and Company, armament engineers, which shows that their net profits have increased from an average of just over £200,000 to £521,000 for 1914–15; and whether, in view of these results, any limiting of war profits will be retrospective?


I have seen statements in the newspapers respecting the profits of various firms. My right hon Friend the Minister of Munitions proposes to deal with the question of limitation of profits in armament establishments in introducing the Munitions Supply Bill later this afternoon.


Would the hon. Gentleman say whether or not the profits of the "Shell" Transport Company have for the last year before the War admitted of a dividend the same as that just declared, and whether he is aware that 95 per cent. of the business of the "Shell" Company is transacted abroad, and that therefore only a fraction of the profits referred to can have arisen from trading with the Government; and whether he can also state if the company have charged a higher price since the War to the Government, or whether prices in respect of the trade have continued upon a peace basis both as regards the Government and the public; and whether, in view of these facts, there is any justification for alleging "war profits" in regard to this company?


The hon. Member can hardly expect the Minister to answer that question without notice.


I beg to ask the First Lord of the Admiralty a question, of which I have given private notice, namely: Whether his attention has been called to a letter, dated the 22nd of last month, from the Secretary to the Admiralty addressed to Sir Marcus Samuel, signifying their Lordships appreciation of "valuable assistance"; whether the statement above named refers to supplies by the Shell Transport Company to the Admiralty; and whether special war profits have been made by the Shell Transport Company as far as the Admiralty are aware?


I have not had time to refresh my memory on this matter. I accept the hon. Baronet's reference to the letter, but, in regard to the points which he asks me to discuss, I must really ask for notice.


I will put a question on the Paper.