HC Deb 31 July 1916 vol 84 cc2078-80

(by Private Notice) asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he is in a position to give any information with regard to the formation of a company to promote the joint economic interests of this country and Italy, and if he can state what financial assistance, if any, is being provided by the British Government?


A British company, under the title of the British Italian Corporation, Limited, with a capital of £1,000,000 was registered on the 20th July. There will be no public issue, the capital having been subscribed privately, chiefly amongst banks.

The Directors are:—

J. W. Beaumont Pease, Esq., Deputy-Chairman of Lloyds Bank, Limited, who has been elected Chairman of the Board.

Arthur Hill, Esq., Director of the London County and Westminster Bank, Limited.

Sir Henry Babington Smith, K.C.B.

Robert Henry Benson, Esq., of Robert Benson and Company, Chairman of the Merchants' Trust, Limited.

Joseph Burn, Esq., Actuary, Prudential Assurance Company, Limited.

Riccardo Bianchi, Esq., Director of the Credito Italiano, former General Manager of the Italian State Railways.

Alberto Pirelli, Esq., Managing Partner in Pirelli and Co., Manufacturers, Milan.

I. G. Manzi-Fè, Esq., Member of the Central Board of Management of the Credito Italiano.

A sixth British director will be added.

The British Government agree to contribute to the company by way of subsidy, during each of the first ten years after its incorporation, an annual sum of £50,000 or the equivalent of 5 per cent. upon its paid-up capital if less than £1,000,000. In consideration of the subsidy, the company agrees to pay to the Government amounts equal to any dividend above a cumulative dividend of 5 per cent, per annum which the directors may distribute to the shareholders in any year after making such provision as the directors may think desirable for bad and doubtful debts and the establishment of a reserve fund, until by such means the Government have been repaid (without interest) the amount so received by the company by way of subsidy.

I propose to ask Parliament to give covering authority for the subsidy in the next Government War Obligations Bill.

A company, under the style of the "Compagnia Italo Britannica," will forthwith be formed under Italian law, with a capital of 10,000,000 lire (£400,000), one-half of which is to be taken by the British Italian Corporation, Limited, and the other half by the Credito Italiano and their friends.

Out of the nine directors of the Italian company three will be British.

The two companies will work together in close collaboration, and arrangements have been made by which their interests will be, as far as possible, identified, except that the subsidy of the British Government will naturally remain for the benefit of the British company exclusively.

The primary object of the two companies is the development of the economic relations between the British Empire and Italy, and the promotion of undertakings in the commercial and industrial field in Italy. They will carry out banking and financial operations which do not necessarily fall within the strict definition of banking as understood in this country.


Would not the right hon. Gentleman have done better to have waited until Italy had declared war on Germany?


Would the right hon. Gentleman be prepared to consider something of the same sort in connection with Russia?


Yes, if a suitable arrangement were proposed.


Is there any precedent for a subsidy being granted to a private company by the British Government?


I will inquire. If there is not a precedent, it is so desirable to promote close relations between Italy and ourselves that this may well constitute a precedent itself.