HC Deb 11 July 1917 vol 95 cc1910-2

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether the Earl of Selborne has joined the Board of the Forestal Land Company; and, if so, whether he will call his Lordship's attention to the illusory nature of the steps said to have been taken to clear the company oil German influence and control?


The Earl of Selborne was appointed a Director of the Forestal Land Company on the 19th December last, and is no doubt fully aware of the steps which have been taken to deal with those of the company's employés who are of Enemy origin.

80. Mr. R. McNEILL

asked the President of the Board of Trade if his attention has been called to the revelations made by Mr. Campbell Ogilvie, until recently a director of the Forestal Land Company, at the annual meeting of that company with regard to the steps said to have been taken for relieving the company of German influence and control; whether the chairman of the company, a man of German origin, who was described in his naturalisation papers as Emile von Erlanger, telegraphed to Buenos Ayres in September, 1914, that German employés of the company should I adopt Argentine nationality, although he must have known that under German law they could at any time revert to German nationality; whether the two German managers, Schleiss and Schefftel, remained in direction of the company until agitation succeeded in driving out the former; whether Schefftel still remains; whether Germans called Krausche, Elsner, Bernardt, Rennebaum, Ridder, Apitsch, Berger, Rohr, and others still occupy important posts in the company's employment; whether Mr. Ogilvie was driven to resign from the board in consequence of his efforts to clear the company of German influence; and if he will say what action he proposes to take in the matter?


I have seen a report of the annual meeting of the Forestal Land Company, in which reference is made to the steps taken to relieve the company from the German element among its employés and the terms of the telegram referred to which was sent by the company in September, 1914. An investigation of all the business of the company has been made, and the inspector reported in July, 1916, that out of 455 employés at the outbreak of war, ninety-six were of enemy nationality, that the services of sixty-five of these employés of enemy nationality had then been dispensed with, and that sixteen others were to be replaced shortly, leaving fifteen employés the immediate replacement of whom would, in the opinion of the local directors, have seriously interfered with the company's business. At the recent meeting of the company it was stated by the chairman that there are now only six employés of enemy origin, of whose names I am not aware, and that they will be replaced by the end of this year. I have no knowledge of the grounds for the resignation of Mr. Ogilvie from the directorate beyond the statements made at the recent annual meeting of the company.


May I ask the right hon. Gentleman if it is not the fact that the Forestal Company has been in constant communication with the Government throughout the War in regard to its policy, and that the work of that company has been of the greatest value to this country and to its Allies; and if he is also not aware that the decision of the board of the Forestal Company not to recommend to the shareholders the reelection of Mr. Ogilvie was unanimous, and was not due to the circumstances suggested in the question?


As far as I am aware, the answer to the three questions is in the affirmative.


If I can put the evidence before my right hon. Friend to show that the circumstances mentioned in the question are accurate, will he give attention to it?