Whereas in pursuance of an agreement made in the year eighteen hundred and ninety-two the sum of ten thousand pounds was advanced by the Public Works Loan Commissioners to the Eyemouth Harbour Trustees on the security of the harbour revenues with the collateral security of the Fishery Board for Scotland.
And whereas by an arrangement confirmed by Section three of the Public Works Loans Act, 1901, the liability of the Eyemouth Harbour Trustees in respect of the said loan was extinguished without prejudice to the liability of the Fishery Board for Scotland to repay the said loan, and in consequence thereof the said collateral security is the sole security for the repayment of the said loan:
And whereas the terms of the said collateral security are embodied in a memorandum of agreement between the Secretary for Scotland and the Public Works Loan Commissioners, dated the eleventh day of March, eighteen hundred and ninety-two, whereby a portion of the surplus herring brand fees as defined in Clause three of the said memorandum was pledged in security for the repayment of the said loan with interest by the instalments and at the times mentioned in the security given by the Eyemouth Harbour Trustees for the said loan, and it was provided that the said portion of the surplus herring brand fees of any one year should only be applicable to the repayment of one-fiftieth part of principal and interest on outstanding principal falling due under the security for the said loan in the same year, and should not be applicable to the repayment of arrears of principal:
And whereas the said portion of the surplus herring brand fees so pledged as aforesaid was in the year ending the thirty-first day of March, nineteen hundred and twenty-three, insufficient to discharge in full the instalment of principal with interest which fell due under the security for the said loan in that year, and the principal sum of two hundred pounds with interest amounting to one hundred and thirty-one pounds seventeen shillings now remains unpaid, and under the terms of the said memorandum of agreement is irrecoverable:
Now, therefore, the said principal sum of two hundred pounds shall be extinguished,
and the said arrears of interest amounting to one hundred and thirty-one pounds seventeen shillings shall be remitted.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."
§ Mr. SHORT
I should like some explanation of this Clause. The phraseology is not very clear and it is very difficult to understand what it all means. I have no doubt that the Member for Farnham (Mr. A. M. Samuel) will, if he likes, be able to explain the Clause. On the face of it it seems a simple proposition, but notwithstanding that, it requires some five paragraphs to explain it. If I understand it aright, it relates to the remission of arrears of principal and interest in respect of Eyemouth Harbour Loan. This loan dates back as far as 1892, 31 years ago, and it is very difficult for Members on this side of the House, and I think it must be so as far as Members of the House generally are concerned, to appreciate the significance of this loan. Thirty-one years ago is a long time. We have had no information placed before us as far as I am aware. There is no White Paper about it and it is not possible for us to go into the Vote Office and get details of this Bill.
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
I am sure the hon. Member does not wish to say what is not correct. The White Paper was issued by myself on 13th July of this year. There are full particulars in it.
§ Mr. SHORT
I am grateful for the explanation, but I shall give the hon. Gentleman an opportunity of explaining what it means. It is desirable we should have it from the Minister in charge at first hand. This is a loan for the Eyemouth Harbour Trustees on the security of the harbour revenues, with the collateral security of the Fishery Board for Scotland. I should like to know whether the Eyemouth Harbour Trustees is a private enterprise undertaking, whether it is run by private capital and whether, as far back as 1892, it has been dependent on a loan of the character. It is proposed to make some remission. I should like to be informed as to the exact nature of the liability and the position of the Fishery Board for Scotland in this connection. Here we have made a loan of some £10,000 to the Harbour Trustees, 2258 and it is now to be extinguished without prejudice. What does that mean? Then we are told in paragraph 3 of this Clause thatThe terms of the said collateral security are embodied in a memorandum of agreement between the Secretary for Scotland and the Public Works Loan Commissioners.What is the nature of that agreement? Was it circulated to Members of this House? What is its nature and precise meaning; to what extent is the Fishery Board for Scotland involved; and to what extent, if any, is the liability of the Fishery Board removed? Then later on it refers to the surplus herring branding fees. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will be able to explain what this surplus means. I must confess that I know little about this, but perhaps the hon. Member for Farnham will be willing to explain it. He is, I believe, something of an authority on herrings. These are questions which are germane to the Clause which we are now considering. I would like to call attention to the fourth paragraph of this Clause. It says:And whereas the said portion of the surplus herring brand fees so pledged as aforesaid was in the year ending the thirty-first day of March, 1923, insufficient to discharge in full the instalment of principal with interest which fell due under the security for the said loan in that year, and the principal sum of two hundred pounds with interest amounting to one hundred and thirty-one pounds seventeen shillings now remains unpaid, and under the terms of the said memorandum of agreement is irrecoverable.3.0 A.M.
Why is it that this sum, which we are told on the one hand, is insufficient, is now irrecoverable, and why a loan of £10,000 was granted, as I understand, in the year 1892 — 31 years ago—to the Eyemouth Harbour Trustees, which is a private undertaking. I did not know that we had given at that early stage private subsides. On what grounds and for what reasons are we asked to make this very important remission? I I have no doubt there are some good reasons, but it will be interesting to the Committee to know what these reasons are. We are entitled to a most explicit statement from the right hon. Gentleman. I know the right hon. Gentleman is not usually in favour of subsidies to private enterprises and to private 2259 employers. It is not one of the principles of his creed, and we shall expect some very clear and concise argument to justify this remission which is now proposed. I have attempted to deal as concisely as I can with the points embodied in these five paragraphs of Clause 3, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will be ready to afford me the requisite information upon this important matter.
§ Clause 4 (Short title), ordered to stand part of the Bill.