HC Deb 11 May 1922 vol 153 cc2380-1
47. Mr. BRIGGS

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he is aware that the promoters of the Grampian Electric Supply Bill have received a letter, dated 20th April, 1922, from the Secretary of the Trade Facilities Act Committee stating that, subject to the approval of the Electricity Commissioners, the Committee would be prepared to recommend a guarantee of both capital and interest of the debenture issue of the company equal in amount to the ordinary share capital of the company; and is he satisfied that the commercial future of this company warrants the use of public money to guarantee capital and interest to such a proportion of debenture issue?


As I stated during the passage of the Trade Facilities Act, I propose to be guided in the guarantees given under that Act solely by the advice of the Trade Facilities Act Advisory Committee which consists of three business men of very great experience and ability. I understand the Committee are prepared to recommend a guarantee in this case provided the scheme matures in time.


Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that it is the intention of the promoters of this Bill, if they obtain the State guarantee, to refer to it on their prospectus, and does he not think that that would only lead the public into the same position that they have got into in similar cases?


I am not aware of any such intention. As the House very well knows, we committed the discussion of the applications which were put forward in order to relieve unemployment to a skilled Committee, and designedly remitted entirely to it to deal with such applications as were made. It would be a very unfortunate thing if the Chancellor of the Exchequer could be "Lobbied" in connection with any scheme which might be put forward. Therefore it was right that I should trust to the judgment of men of skill and experience, and I have the greatest confidence in their judgment. As to what my hon. Friend says about the prospectus, of course I know nothing.


Is it expected by the Government that the Trade Facilities Committee will not only make grants, but that these grants will be used as an influence in a prospectus inviting investments in a venture which, however desirable it may be, after all is very speculative and does not cover the real nature of the venture as far as the public are concerned?


My hon. Friend is quite in error. The Committee is not entitled to make any grants whatever. The only principle they can act upon is by way of a guarantee which, as my hon. Friend knows, is a totally different thing. As to the use which may be made of a prospectus, I should like to have notice of that question.


Is it not reasonable to suppose that these highly-skilled gentlemen who are looking after this matter are quite well aware that misuse can be made of these facilities, and have taken that fact into consideration before granting them?


I should think that is very likely, but I do not know of my own knowledge.


It is open to hon. Members to make their own representations to the Committee.