§ (1) Subject to the provisions of this section, the Treasury may guarantee, in such manner as they think lit, the payment of the principal of and the interest on any loan raised by the Government of the Sudan for or in connexion with works for the purpose of irrigating the Gezireh Plain (in this Act referred to as "the Sudan loan"), not exceeding in the aggregate an amount sufficient to raise three million five hundred thousand pounds.
§ (2) A guarantee shall not be given under this section until the Government of the Sudan have provided to the satisfaction of the Treasury and the Secretary of State—
- (a) For raising, appropriating and duly applying the Sudan loan for or in connection with the purpose aforesaid:
- (b) For the establishment and regulation of a sinking fund for the purpose of the repayment of the principal of the Sudan loan or any instalment thereof within a period not exceeding fifty years from the date on which the loan or the instalment is actually raised:
- (c) For charging on the general revenues and assets of the Sudan or on any other revenues or assets which may be made available for the purpose, with priority over any charges not existing at the date of the passing of this Act, the principal of and the interest on the Sudan loan and any sinking fund payments for the repayment of the principal:
- (d) For charging on the general revenues and assets of the Sudan immediately after the last-mentioned charge the repayment to the Treasury of any sum issued out of the Consolidated Fund of the United Kingdom under this Act on account of the guarantee given under this section, with interest thereon at such rate as the Treasury may fix:
- (e) For raising or securing the raising of sufficient money to meet the above charges.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."
§ Mr. T. JOHNSTON
I desire to move, in Sub-section (1), to leave out the word "five," and to insert instead thereof the word "four."
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
All I desire is to secure certain explanations regarding these guarantees for the investment of public money in the Sudan which up to the present time the Government have declined to give. On Tuesday night I put certain questions to the right hon. Gentleman who was representing the Government which I thought were relevant, and I particularly wanted to know what was the reason behind this particular investment, seeing that under no circumstances could it affect the question of unemployment at the present time. I want to know whether or not the Government on this occasion is departing from its allegiance to the sacred principle of private enterprise in dealing with a Government operation. I also desire to know the name of the firm or firms who are going to get the benefit of the public credit. The Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs stated that last July a very important deputation went to the Foreign Office and was introduced by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith), but we heard yesterday from an hon. Member who represents a Division in Lancashire a repetition of the statement that that deputation which had such a profound influence on the Government was headed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Paisley. I have been entirely at a loss to understand the seeming complicity of both sides as regards the Loan and operations in the Sudan. Is it the ease that the Sudan Plantation Syndicate, Limited, has as one of its directors Brigadier-General A. M. Asquith? Is it the case that the company in the years 1916–17 was so prosperous that it paid 10 per cent.; that in 1917–18, it paid 25 per cent.; that in 1918–19–during the War, be it remembered—it paid 25 per cent..; in 1919–20, again 25 per cent, and with a bonus of 10 per cent, in addition, and in the year 1920–21, 15 per cent.? I should like to ask further if it is the case that the directors of this company are to get 10 per cent, of the net profits accruing after a dividend of 25 per cent, has been paid? I should like further to be informed if this company has already had from the Sudanese Government £400,000! On what terms did they get it and was it part of the sum found by the British Government in the first instance? I want to know further if it is the case that as a result of the 2172 negotiations and pledges the pound shares of this company are now worth £6 on the market? Is it the case that a name which sounds familiar, the name Edgar Bonham-Carter is that of the Legal Secretary of the Sudanese Government and of an official member of the Governor-General's Council? I want finally to ask the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs if this great deputation and its leadership upon which he pinned so much of his faith two nights ago is, in view of the questions I have put, not now more explicable? Before the British nation finds another three and a half millions to be sunk in the operations of a concern like this the House ought to have the fullest, freest, frankest and most above-board explanation on all these points as to which I have asked for information to-night. [HON. MEMBERS: "Answer!"]
§ Mr. WHEATLEY
On a point of Order. Is it not proper, as certain suggestions and charges have been made, that we should have a reply?
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
On that same point of Order. Is it not usual, when charges against Members of the House are made, that the Members concerned should have notice?
§ Mr. W. GREENWOOD
On a further point of Order. Is it in order for hon. Members to raise points of Order when an hon. Member is on his feet to speak, and has not yet begun?
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
It would be quite in order for hon. Members to raise points of Order at any time, but I might say that the particular points which have been raised are not really points of Order at all. I do not know whether the Minister in charge of the Bill is going to reply, but I invite the hon. Member to have patience.
§ Mr. W. GREENWOOD
It appears to me that the burden of the argument of the party on the opposite Benches above the Gangway is principally that they are afraid that some profits may be made by some private individuals or by some private enterprise. I welcomed the advent of those Scottish battalions to the House, and I suppose they were sent with very large majorities to impress the House with their point of view, which was, in particular, directed against private enterprise. I happen to be one 2173 whose majority was certainly no less than those, of many hon. Members opposite, and I have been sent here to voice exactly the contrary view. I would ask hon. Members who are so afraid of any profits being made in industry, who are so afraid that all the trouble of unemployment in industry has come about because a few years ago large profits were made in industry—I would ask them to read the speeches of their predecessors on those benches, who, many of them, are not now there. They used to ask a great many questions and grumble a great deal two or three years ago when profits in industry were being made.
I would ask hon. Members opposite, whom I believe to be very sincere in their desire to do something to help forward schemes to solve the great problem of unemployment, not to be so bitter against what. I think, is the best means of solving that problem. This scheme is one of such means, and I can perhaps explain to hon. Members in a simple way why I support it. Hon. Members seem to think that no one will support any of these schemes unless they can see some definite return for themselves in the way of dividend. My principal reason for supporting this scheme is that I am engaged very closely in the cotton trade of Lancashire, and I believe that this scheme in particular will benefit that trade; and anything that benefits the great cotton trade of Lancashire, which is the second largest industry in the country, will, I believe, eventually be to the benefit of this country as a whole. Why do I support this scheme for a loan to the Sudan? Not because it will increase cotton-growing as regards the particular staple in which I am interested, because I am more interested in the American staple than in the Egyptian. I begin to wonder, sometimes, when I hear such speeches as I did the other night from hon. Members opposite. Although I have been engaged in the industry all my life, I then heard more about long-staple cotton than I have ever heard before, and that from men who very evidently knew nothing about it.
I cannot answer many of the questions that were put, but I think I am entitled to answer as to why people who, like myself, are engaged in the cotton trade, are interested in this loan and support it. But I would like to take hon. Members a little further back. They agree, I 2174 think, that when you have to solve a great problem you ought not to look always to the present, or even to the immediate future, but, if you possibly can, you ought to take a very long view. I am far from being a wealthy man to-day, but many years ago—20 or 30 years ago—I was, if possible, poorer than I am to-day. When I tell you that the total of my worldly possessions would certainly not be £80 you will get a good idea of what I mean. There is the Cotton Growing Association, a firm in which there is no possibility of any dividend or return on the capital, and I took up ten shares. It is because the British Cotton Growing Association in its development supports such schemes as this that I ask the Committee to support it. When, two and a half years ago, hon. Members used to ask so many questions about the profits of industry, questions which were often misguided, they never said anything at all about the rise in wages compared with 1914, although they knew that in nearly all instances they were 200 per cent, to 300 per cent, higher. Their endeavour seemed to be to show that industry was making fabulous profits. Questions were put about two particular mills in the town in which I live but they never gave the House to understand what were the real facts of the case. They never told the House that the share capital of the companies was only a very small proportion of the total capital, and had they taken the trouble to do an ordinary proportion sum they would have found that the total return on the whole of the capital was very small and very reasonable indeed. Two and a half years ago, when industry was prosperous, there was no unemployment. They were not satisfied then. They called men engaged in business, who worked almost as hard as they did profiteers and demanded that all profits should be stopped and pulled down, and they have had their way. Profits have gone. The hon. Member who spoke about the profits of a company connected with this Bill did not tell us about 1021 or 1922. He does not know what they were. I can make a very fair guess and say they were none at all.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
If the hon. Member has a point of Order to raise I shall listen to what he has to say. Otherwise he has no business to stand up.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
It is certainly not in order to accuse another hon. Member of telling a lie. If the hon. Member does not agree with what has been said the proper course to pursue is, after the speaker has resumed his seat, to get up and refute what has been said on the other side, and not interrupt in the course of a speech.
§ Mr. GREENWOOD
We are sent herein the main to see if we cannot evolve a scheme for settling the unemployment question, and I welcome the sincerity of hon. Members opposite with regard to this matter, but I ask them to realise that when they insist that businesses must be carried on at a loss they are going to make the problem no better but a great deal worse. I am glad that some of the hon. Members of the Labour party are in support of the Bill, but many other hon. Members give it only a qualified support, because they are afraid that in trying to do good for a great many people it is just possible that they may do a little bit of harm. Even at the risk of doing a little bit of harm, we had better try to do a great deal of good. If you compare the rate of profit, the rate of employment and the condition of industry when industry was making profit, two and a half to three years ago, with the present time, hon. Members will agree that it would be far better if we had these times back again, when industry was making profits and not losses, and when unemployment was practically nil, instead of as it is at the present time amounting to nearby 1,400,000 people.
I ask hon. Members to realise this, and to agree for once with me. I ask them to agree with me in the theory that the interests of those who are making profits, and not ashamed of them, are identical with those who are out to look after what they call the interests of those who work in industry. Those who work in industry, no matter to which side they belong, 2176 stand or fall together, and it is only by a better co-operation of the two interests that industry can stand. I ask hon. Members to agree to industry, being assisted in every possible way. I also support the request of the hon. Member for Silvertown (Mr. J. Jones), with whom I agree very largely, that the Government ought to be asked to support the municipal corporations with regard to schemes for finding work. As regards the Sudan Loan, this is not going to help employment directly, but indirectly it will. To-day employment in Lancashire is very bad. The cotton crop of which we use the most, namely, the American crop, is again a short one, and it is no use hiding our heads in the sand and thinking that all is right. We must provide for the future, and I ask hon. Members to support this proposal because it is in the best interests of the country.
§ Mr. NEWBOLD
During the last few minutes I have been rubbing up my acquaintance with the Sudan Plantations Syndicate, Ltd. It is very interesting to discover, or, rather, to rediscover, that it is apparently the same crush that went into the Rand many years ago that is again developing the Sudan under this syndicate, and I trust that we shall have in the course of this Debate a statement from one of the directors who sits on the benches opposite, because it would be interesting to know if he can throw any light upon the support on those benches for this Measure. [HON. MEMBERS: "Name!"] I believe that it is not customary to mention names unless one gives the hon. Gentleman information beforehand. I do not, however, think myself that this matter is quite so important as the actual guaranteeing of the principal of the loan. Why should this assistance be given for the building of a barrage on the Nile rather than, should we say, for some great scheme financed by a municipality in Scotland? The reason is obvious, and such as we would expect from hon. Members opposite. The scheme has, I believe, the indorsement of that brilliant financial expert, than whom there is probably no more expert man in his line, Sir Robert Kindersley. Sir Robert Kindersley is one of the most expert bankers that this country has at its disposal. He is a man who is pre-eminently concerned with finance, employment for the unemployed, primarily the unemployed bank deposits 2177 of banking persons who are desirous of getting bank deposits off their hands at a higher rate of interest than they are able to get at the present time. One might say of the two Committees that endorse these schemes, that one is a Committee for finding remunerative employment at not too competitive rates and in not too free a market for bank deposits, and the other, the Unemployment Grants Committee, is appropriately presided over by the Chairman of nine of the biggest investment syndicates in this country—Lord St. Davids. I congratulate the Government and the late Government upon their choice of a man who nakedly represents the interests of hon. Members opposite. Were they to engage in the building of a dam in this country they would have to employ members of the general labourers' unions. They would have to pay the current trade union rate of wages. They could not work the men for more than eight or nine hours a day. They would have to house them well, and they would have a high cost of wages compared with the wages that are needed to pay the men engaged on the dam in the Sudan. Hon. Members opposite, being primarily concerned for the unemployed bank deposits, for the unemployed investment capital, for the unemployed money in their tills, for the unemployed money in their cash boxes, and for the unemployed money in their ledgers, are quite right, from their class point of view, representing as they do in reality rent, interest and profit, while we, on these benches, represent salaries and wages. It is quite fit and proper for those hon. Members to choose people to defend their interests. Whatever hon. Members around me may think, we of my party—[HON. MEMBERS: "We!" and Laughter.] I would remind hon. Members opposite that 30 years ago there appeared a phenomenon in this House called Keir Hardie. He was the only man in that party. Thirty years afterwards there are 142 or 143 of them. A generation has gone by and a change has taken place. Another generation, and I do not think you will be sitting in this Chamber. A great change will have come over this country in the interim. You represent landed property and capitalist property. I say that from your point of view you are perfectly right to look after your interests. I wish, however, that you would always be frank enough to state 2178 that they are your interests. We, on this side, so far as I speak for myself (laughter)—I know I speak for very many members of the Labour party—represent the interests of the workers by hand and by brain, and nobody else. You are here representing your crowd. Go on doing it. We, on this side, will represent our interests, the interests of the workers—[HON. MEMBERS: "NO!"] I do not suppose hon. Members opposite think they do. [An HON. MEMBER: "When do you work?"] At the present time.
I want to raise another matter in connection with the Sudan Loan. I want to know what effect it is going to have upon the rental value of the land in the Sudan Valley? It is a curious fact that prior to the building of the Assuan dam one-third of the land in the Sudan had a rental per year of £2,000,000. It was estimated that the effect of the dam would increase the rent accruing from certain lands ten-fold. On that occasion it went into the pockets mainly of the people interested in the National Bank of Egypt, in the Mortgage Company of Egypt, and the Agricultural Bank of Egypt. I should like an assurance that in the event of that land being so improved by this scheme the money is not all going into the hands of the same gentlemen on this occasion. It will be very interesting, after you have built the dam, to see the effect on rents and on the liberties of the people who live in that Valley. It will also be very interesting to note whether or not it will accelerate your evacuation of Egypt. Your forefathers pledged you to get out of Egypt. You have no intention of getting out of Egypt, none whatever. You intend to stick to it, you intend to stick to the Sudan. You intend to appropriate Abyssinia at the first possible moment, and you would take the Sahara as well if you could find means of irrigating it.
§ Mr. BALDWIN
I should like to assure the hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. Wheatley), who challenged me a few minutes ago, that I had not the slightest intention of avoiding my share in this discussion, but it is customary for members on the Front Bench to allow all Members, as far as one can tell, to say what they have to say before one rises to speak. The hon. Member who has just spoken said he represented the hands and brains 2179 of the world. I do not know what I represent. I can hardly claim to represent the hands; and one of my old colleagues intimated clearly in one of his recent speeches that he took all the brains of our party with him.
§ Mr. BALDWIN
I wish I did. The first charge made was that this Sudan Loan did nothing for unemployment. It does one or two things; I do not say it does a great deal, but it does one or two things. Already orders have been placed in this country value about £200,000, and I hope more will be placed, for various requisites for the building of the dam. There is no doubt, at least no doubt in the minds of those who are well qualified to judge—and I am not, because I know very little of the cotton trade—that if a serious effort is not made to increase the cotton crops of the world, the position of Lancashire within a few years may become very precarious. The next charge, if I understood it aright, was that some firm is getting public credit. That is not the case. The Loan is a Loan raised by the Sudan Government. The guarantee is from us to that Government. The Sudan Government is using it for the purpose of building this barrage. The third charge made, if I understand it aright, was that a certain syndicate of which I know very little, and who has no relations with the Government, has had some very profitable years. That seems to prove to me conclusively that cotton-growing is a paying proposition in that district, which will very much cheer the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy). It also made me wish that the hon. Member for Stifling (Mr. Johnston) and I were members of the syndicate; but I am not, and I do not think he is. Now I come to a point that did puzzle me. The word "charges" was used, and I wish to ask the hon. Member for Stirling (Mr. Johnston) straight out if he has any charge to make against the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith)?
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
I make no charge. I asked for explanations. [HON. MEMBERS: "Insinuation!"] No, I asked very carefully for explanations two nights ago, and I did not get them. I have repeated 2180 the request to-night, and I say that we ought to have them.
§ 12 M.
§ Mr. BALDWIN
There is no Member who is better able to take care of himself than the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith), and I have only to say this, that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Paisley introduced a deputation to the Foreign Office on the subject. When deputations attend on important matters, they naturally like to be introduced by a person of weight and character, and no better representative for that purpose could be found than the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Paisley. I should like to have him introduce any deputation of which I was a member. The fact that the right hon. Gentleman appears to have a son who is connected with this syndicate—a fact which was not known to me—proves, to my mind, that in introducing the deputation the right hon. Gentleman would have been able to do what people who introduce deputations often cannot do—he would be able, in case of need, to speak upon the subject with, at any rate, secondhand information. The hon. Member for Stirling did not mention the spokesman of that deputation. The spokesman was the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Platting (Mr. Clynes). I wonder what syndicate he represented? I wonder what brought him there? I wish he were in his place to-night to explain what he was doing. Now in both these suspicious cases, neither the right hon. Member for Paisley nor the right hon. Member for Platting are here, and I think notice ought to have been given to them that their conduct was going to be called into account.
§ Mr. BALDWIN
The development of this territory under the auspices of the Sudan Government, not of the British Government, is a development which will be, I believe, for the good of this country and, I hope, for the good of the Sudan, and I trust therefore hon. Members will agree to the Measure.
§ Mr. SHINWELL
When the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer commenced his speech, he went up in my estimation because of his exceeding modesty. As he progressed in his 2181 speech, I could understand quite well that he spoke with his tongue in his check, and that modesty, as far as he was concerned, was conspicuous by its absence. The right hon. Gentleman has engaged to-night in one of the cheapest debating tricks I have heard for some time. [HON. MEMBERS: "Order."] Hon. Members must take their gruel when they get it. I am one of those who do not interrupt hon. Gentlemen opposite, and if they can only restrain themselves as I can on occasion, perhaps we may come to grips with the subject under review. What is the position? A definite and most specific statement has been made regarding the existence of a syndicate interested in the Sudan. Certain gentlemen interested in that syndicate are associated with certain right hon. Gentlemen in this assembly. There may be nothing at all in the association on the deputation, between the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Paisley and those who are more closely concerned with the particular syndicate, but the fact remains that the general public becomes more suspicious of these intimate relations, particularly when large sums of money are involved. An attempt has been made to bring the right hon. Member for Platting (Mr. Clynes) into this discussion. That right hon. Gentleman can speak for himself, but in so far as I may be permitted to express a view, with which I think he will not disagree, he on that deputation, representing, as he does, a Lancashire constituency, was interested in the cotton industry.—[An HON. MEMBER: "What about Paisley?"]—The hon. Member who spoke about Paisley knows that the situation in Paisley as far as the cotton industry is concerned is vastly different from the position in Lancashire so far as the cotton industry is concerned The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Platting has no relatives who are concerned—[An HON. MEMBER: "HOW do you know?"]—I know simply because I know, and hon. Members opposite do not know simply because they do not know. If hon. Members on the other side did know something critical of the right hon. Member for Platting, they would say it only too quickly.
§ Mr. SHINWELL
If the hon. Member for a very small portion of the county of Lanarkshire would generate as much heat into his support of social reform as he does while debates are proceeding in this House, he would be a much more valuable Member of this Assembly. We impeach the Government, not that we think it will have very much effect, brass-faced as they are—
§ Mr. SHINWELL
The hon. Member for Stockport (Mr. W. Greenwood) is a most amusing person. He rose to make some observations with regard to the desirability of continuing private enterprise, and indulged in a very loud wail about the difficulties of private enterprise on particular occasions. He cannot have it both ways. Either private enterprise is good or it is bad. In my judgment, it is often indifferent, and the hon. Member, when he endeavoured to make a case for private enterprise, and when he pleaded that private enterprise was not in quite so fortunate a position to-day as it was during the War—and it is admitted that private enterprise did exceedingly well during the War and that none of those who were engaged in private enterprise during the War required to approach the boards of guardians and similar authorities, and that none of those who are associated with private enterprise now, despite the alleged losses, require to approach the boards of guardians to-day or to line up at employment exchanges. [An HON. MEMBER: "How, again, do you know?"] May I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer that there is something in what he says about the absence of brains.
§ Mr. SHINWELL
Having regard to the remarks of the hon. Members opposite, it is very difficult to circumscribe one's remarks. I suggest that there has been no reply from the Government Benches which is calculated to allay suspicion with regard to this syndicate which is to obtain a loan from the Government. My hon. friend the Member for Stirling (Mr. Johnston) informed the right hon. 2183 Gentleman on the Treasury Bench of the relations between the syndicate and the Sudanese Government. £400,000 was borrowed by the syndicate from the Sudanese Government, and the loan which is now to be provided for the Sudanese Government may find its way, quite properly and quite naturally, and probably inevitably, into the pockets of the syndicate referred to by the hon. Member for Stirling, and that is precisely what we on these benches object to. We are not in this particular debate quarrelling about the merits of private enterprise as against public ownership. The hon. Member for Stockport tried vainly to side-track us, but we are not to be side-tracked by any consideration of that kind in this discussion. We are agreed that any proposal emanating from the Government, or from any other quarter which can produce more employment abroad or in this country is desirable, nut we wane to assure ourselves and those whom we represent that schemes contemplated by the Government, and put into operation either by themselves or by some intermediary body, shall be schemes which will not and do not permit of private enterprise and private interests extracting more profit than is their due.
That is our view, and we are entitled to demand that, before State credits are provided, as in this instance, to a private syndicate—that is exactly what it means, having regard to the situation in the Sudan—we should have guarantees, explicit and specific guarantees, that profits will not be as profits have been, that there will not be a 25 per cent, dividend with bonuses on top of that, that there will not be a 25 per cent, dividend at a time when, in the opinion of the hon. Member for Stockport, profits are falling here at home and private enterprise is in a bad way. That is our case, and I submit that there has been no answer from the Treasury Benches which can allay suspicion. I have only this further observation to make. Hon. Members opposite seem to imagine that we on these benches have no other point of view to present than that of attacking private enterprise. They are mistaken. In so far as private enterprise must continue—and I presume it will continue, because of their presence on those benches, and I accept the fact, because I believe it to be desirable to face facts, 2184 that hon. Members opposite have been sent here by their constituents because all the constituencies in this country do not believe that private enterprise is wholly bad—I accept that, but hon. Members opposite must recognise that the minds of people are changing day by day. It is quite possible that the minds of hon. Members opposite may change, and if their minds were quite so open as they might well be, they would change much more rapidly than they do. Having regard to the necessarily continued existence of private enterprise—so long as hon. Members opposite are where they are—we do not merely content ourselves with attacking private enterprise, but we do say that if private enterprise is to maintain its existence, and to make out a case for itself, then it must not come to the State and ask the State to do for it what it cannot do for itself.
§ CLAUSES 4 (Period for which guarantees under the Overseas Trade Acts may remain in force), 5 (Charm on the Consolidated Fund of sums required for fulfilling guarantees and presentation of annual statement to Parliament), and 6 (Short Title) ordered to stand part of the Bill.
§ Bill reported, without Amendment; to be read the Third time To-morrow (Friday).