HC Deb 04 May 1915 vol 71 cc1009-11

There are a few observations which I would like to make at this stage. The financing of such a gigantic sum is a grave operation, even for such a rich country as ours, and especially if we ever have to look forward to a war earned on into the next financial year. A reference to our accumulated wealth does not overcome that. We are an enormously rich country, certainly the richest country in Europe. I am not sure that we are not the richest country in the world in proportion to population. We have £4,000,000,000 invested in foreign and Colonial securities of the best. In addition to that we have a vast accumulated wealth of our own at home. But every business man realises how difficult it is at a time of general stress for firms possessing the most valuable assets, unmortgaged assets, to liquify them for immediate use. That is the difficulty with which anyone who has, as we have, the responsibility of raising this money, is confronted, and I think it well that the House of Commons and the country should know,—it is very much better that we should understand—what our difficulties are. I am not stating them to terrify or to intimidate, but with the full conviction that they ought to be submitted and that, whatever the price is, it is worth paying for that for which we have entered into this War; and it is also with the full conviction that we can overcome these difficulties if we put our backs together into the work.

See what our difficulties are! It is very much better that we should look at them. We have enormous wealth invested at home and abroad. The difficulty is, that practically the only countries, with one exception, where we can realise that wealth, are at war at the present moment—belligerents. All the markets where securities can be realised, with the exception of the United States of America, are the markets of belligerent countries. The United States of America is a restricted market. It was never as good a market as our own, except for their own securities, not because the United States of America is not an enormously rich country—probably it is the richest country in the world, taking its resources into account—but it is a country which ha3 used its resources in the main for developing itself. They have enormous natural resources in that country. They have millions of square miles, with every kind of mineral and agricultural possibility upon which to draw, and it will take a generation or more before that country develops, its resources to anything approaching the extent which has been realised in this country, and therefore it absorbs all its spare capital for that purpose. Before the War a great deal of its surplus wealth was expended upon the purchase, at a very low price, of German securities which were dumped upon the United States market. By German securities I mean securities which were held in Germany, not necessarily German securities. These were dumped upon the United States market, owing to the fact that people in Germany were in a hurry to realise their securities in order to get ready cash, and they did it very often at low figures, and that absorbed a certain amount of ready cash which was available in America.