§ Order read for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [27th Feb.], "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
§ Question again proposed.
§ 4.0 P.M.
§ Mr. WADDINGTON
I wish to deal with some allegations which were made in the Debate yesterday. I will read one extract from the speech made by the hon. Member for Stirling (Mr. T. Johnston), who said:This is ostensibly a guarantee given to the Sudan Government. We know that the Sudan Government have passed on the contracts to the Sudan Plantation Syndicate, Limited, and we know that the Sudan Plantations Syndicate, Limited, is already paying 25 per cent. to the shareholders. There is no dispute on that."—[OFFICIAL REPOBT, 4th March, 1924; col. 1283, Vol. 170.]Later on the hon. Member proceeded to say:The fact is that £13,000,000 of public credit has been guaranteed to this concern."—[OFFICIAL REPOBT, 4th March, 1924; cols. 1234–5, Vol. 170.]I do not propose at the moment to deal with the particular point of dividends, and I will come to that later, but the statement that there has been £13,000,000 of public money guaranteed to the Sudan Plantations Syndicate is totally devoid of fact. What is the actual history of this credit? In the year 1919 there was a credit of £6,000,000 given to the Sudan Government, not to the Sudan Plantations Syndicate. The money was raised on the guarantee of the Sudan, supported by the guarantee of the British Government. How was that money expended? It was spent, not by the Sudan Plantations Syndicate, but by the Sudan Government, and if there was extravagant expenditure, which has been asserted from the Labour Benches in this House, surely it is not for them to make the charge of maladministration, because 1438 the expenditure of that money was under Government control. So far as is known that money was not spent. What happened when criticism was made in 1920? This expenditure had been going on and the criticism was made that there would not be enough money to complete the scheme. Who was it that made inquiry? It was not the Sudan Government; it was the British Treasury. They sent out an investigator, and he reported that the conditions under which the work was proceeding were not satisfactory, and the contract on that basis was terminated. What happened then? A further investigation was made and a deputation went to the Foreign Office. The then Foreign Secretary (the Earl of Balfour) agreed to a further loan, not to any syndicate, but to the Government of the Sudan, and to give the guarantee of the British Treasury. From start to finish, there has been no guarantee given to the Sudan Plantations Syndicate. The only money that that syndicate has had is an amount of £400,000 which was granted out of a loan in 1919, because the Government of the Sudan wanted to have certain houses and roads made according to their own conditions, and they asked the syndicate to make them under certain specifications which they would lay down. That £400,000, which is the only amount which the syndicate has had, was not a gift; it was a loan on debentures, a loan secured by values three times greater than its amount, and, whenever the syndicate comes to an end, that loan has to be repaid to the Sudan Government. I think the opposition which has been given to this Bill has been given under a misapprehension. It is a distinct loan to a Government, and the contract is a distinct contract with a Government. The syndicate does not come into the contract in any way whatever. I think that if the Financial Secretary to the Treasury had been a little more explicit it might possibly have saved this misunderstanding. If he had said plainly that no part of this money is going to the Sudan Plantations Syndicate, that, so far as the present expenditure is concerned, the syndicate has no control over it nor responsibility for it, but that it is entirely the Government of the Sudan, then there would have been less misunderstanding.
1439 The British Cotton Growing Association are partners in the Sudan Plantations Syndicate, but in Lancashire we have never thought that this syndicate was an important factor in any new scheme. It is a valuable incident in the development of the Sudan, but it is by no means indispensable, nor is it the principal factor in that development. I should like to refer to what this syndicate has done. It was established in 1904 and went on for several years losing money. It had no advantages. The cotton which it was growing was not being successfully grown, and it could not be successfully marketed. In 1911, in pursuance of an agreement made with the Egyptian Government, a further development took place on the Gezireh Plain. The agreement was considered disastrous to the syndicate, because the Egyptian Government would not allow water to be taken for the purposes of irrigation between 15th July and 1st March. That made it very difficult indeed for cotton to be grown. It could not be grown as a summer plant. The British Cotton Growing Association then tried to grow cotton as a winter plant, and it was the successful experiment of the Gezireh Plain with a winter grown plant which has made it a success. So far from the syndicate being a successful concern, they were ready in 1911 to go out of the Sudan. They were losing their money, and it was only the pressure of the British Cotton Growing Association which kept them making these experiments. The British Cotton Growing Association have a certain number of shares in it, and they have the right to appoint a director, and they have always exercised that right. When we are told that the syndicate consists only of a few people who are out for what is called financial blood, then those of us who come from Lancashire will demonstrate that that is quite contrary to the actual position.
We have heard of certain dividends given to certain shareholders, and an hon. Gentleman spoke of 35 per cent. When the Financial Secretary to the Treasury referred him to the average dividend, which is only 5.1 per cent. he said he would not have it. He told us that the dividend in 1920 was 35 per cent., but he did not tell us that last year the dividend was 17½ per cent. That is a reduction 1440 which brings this concern out of the category of undue profiteers, because the percentage is earned on capital which, when the premium at which the shares stand is taken into account, only represents a little over 6 per cent. on the year. I do not think it will be suggested that, with all the dangers of pioneer concerns and considering the advantages which they bring to the world if they are successful, 5 or 6 per cent. is good enough for the risk that is undertaken. What is the position of others in regard to this profit which is earned in the Sudan? I take the boom year, when they were able to make their best profits. In that year the average price of Egyptian cotton was 45d. per lb. Allowing 5d. for marketing, ginning, freight, and sale in Liverpool or Manchester, because all this cotton has been sold by the British Cotton Growing Association in Lancashire, that left 40d. which had to be divided between the three shareholders in the concern. The native grower got 16d., the Government of the Sudan 14d., and the syndicate got 10d. per lb. At those prices not only was the syndicate making money, but the Government of the Sudan was making money at a high rate, and so also was the native grower. Those, however, were boom times and quite exceptional. We are hardly likely to see them any more. Take the position this year. This year we have an average price of 19d. The cost of freight, ginning, and so on has come down to 3d. per lb., leaving 16d. to be divided between the three parties. That gives 6½d., practically, to the native, 5½. to the Government, and 4d. per lb. to the syndicate. We are not, therefore, going to have the very great profits either for the syndicate, the Government, or the native which were made in 1920. It will be difficult for the Government of the Sudan or the syndicate to pay reasonable dividends unless they can keep a high grade of cotton, as exported.
§ Mr. WADDINGTON
If the price happened to be 5d. per lb., both the Government of the Sudan and this particular syndicate would be very much out of cash, but that position is hardly likely to arise. No one expects to see Egyptian cotton down to 5d. per lb. It may, 1441 however, be that when the 100,000 acres are under cultivation, the syndicate's share of 25 per cent. may be too high. The conditions then will have altered since the agreement was made, and I suggest that it is reasonable to hope that this syndicate, if they find that their margin is too high and that there is room for adjustment of percentages, will meet the difficulties of the Government. They have this to deal with: they have only a 10-years' agreement, and, at the end of that 10 years, they will have to clear out of the Sudan unless they can make reasonable terms with the Government of the Sudan; and it is hardly likely that, at the end of that period, the Government of the Sudan would be willing to negotiate a further agreement if the syndicate exact too onerous terms now. The object of this syndicate should be to make it easy for the Government of the Sudan to carry the burden. What is the position in the Sudan so far as the actual working is concerned? How would it be possible to give the advantages to the native growers unless there were some organisation which was able to market the goods, able to see that the pumping arrangements were right, that the seed provided was of the right quality, and that the price obtained in this country was to the greatest advantage of the grower? Whether it be this syndicate or any other, unless there is some organised body able to function in this respect, you are not going to do anything to advantage the natives of the Sudan.
Lord Kitchener went into the Sudan to uplift the natives, to improve their conditions, and anyone who reads the reports of the progress of the Sudan will observe how great has been the improvement in that country. One hon. Member on the Labour Benches made a complaint that there was no possibility of getting to know anything about the Sudan, that no Report was presented to this House, that we knew nothing of the condition of the natives, and nothing of the balance sheet of the Sudan. Surely, hon. Members must be aware, or ought to be aware, that year by year there is presented to this House a full Report on the finances and administration of the Sudan. That has to come from the Governor-General of the Sudan, it is presented to the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs in this country, and it is published. If hon. 1442 Members have not seen the Report for the last complete year, it is Command Paper 1950 of 1923, "Report on the Finances, Administration, and Condition of the Sudan." I think the condition of the Sudan now is something of which we have every reason to be proud. The uplifting which has taken place as a result of the great educational work which is being done at the Gordon College, the abolition of the slave trade in the Sudan—it has been almost completely broken down by the operations of the Sudan Government—all this has been possible only because of the wealth which has been obtained from the cotton plantations, and these are in their infancy in that country. The suggestion has been made that we should limit the price of the cotton which comes to this country, in order that the Lancashire consumer of cotton may get advantages; but I wonder how much those who make that suggestion know of the cotton trade. We are getting in Lancashire, from these plantations, from 10,000 to 12,000 bales of cotton a year, and it is seriously suggested in this House—and His Majesty's Government have sent an inquiry on the matter to the Sudan—that we should limit the price of these 12,000 bales of cotton, which have to compete with the 3,500,000 bales which is the total consumption in this country.
§ Mr. WADDINGTON
I thought that that suggestion was made, but, if the hon. Member says it was not, I accept that.
§ Mr. WADDINGTON
The suggestion was made that a maximum price should be fixed for the cotton. That is the suggestion which has gone out to the Sudan from the Front Bench.
§ Mr. WADDINGTON
They will, then, have to take their own responsibility for misunderstanding their back-bench Members.
§ Mr. WADDINGTON
I am very glad to know that the suggestion is not to limit the price of cotton. But how is it proposed to limit the profits of the syndicate? The profits of the syndicate are governed by the price of cotton, and, if you are going to limit their profits, you will be compelled to limit the price of cotton. But there is no need to talk of a proposal which concerns only 12,000 bales out of 3,500,000. Another suggestion was that the use of this cotton should be restricted to the British Empire. I do not think that any Lancashire cotton traders, and particularly the trade organisations, are in favour of any such proposal. We want, not a limitation of the sale of cotton, but a development of the growth of cotton. If we can get enough cotton grown throughout the world, we are not concerned as to what market it goes into, because we are confident that Lancashire will be able to buy at the world price if there is cotton to be bought. I should like to say a word or two with reference to these grants to the different Dominions. I think it is very important that the Treasury, when they are making these grants, should consider whether, in the expenditure of the money, a reasonable amount is being devoted to research. Research in regard to cotton is one of the most important matters that have to be dealt with, and it is certainly unfortunate—
§ Mr. SPEAKER
There is nothing about research in this Bill. If the hon. Member will look at it, he will realise that it is not possible to allow him to go into all these matters, and so leave no time for other hon. Members.
§ Mr. WADDINGTON
I was trying to deal with the unwisdom of issuing this money unless we make provision that the growth of the cotton will not be destroyed by pests. When we remember that in America, in consequence of the absence of research, 2,500,000 bales of cotton are destroyed each year by the boll weevil—which is ten times the quantity grown in the British Empire, excluding India—I think the importance of research cannot be over-considered by the Treasury when they are making these grants. I should like, if it were possible, to see these subjects considered together. They are of the very greatest importance from the point of view of securing that this cotton 1444 shall be sufficiently and well grown. In Nyasaland we are talking of railways for developing the country for cotton growing, and Nyasaland is losing 33 per cent. of its crop because of the boll worm. Is it wise to develop—
§ Mr. TATTERSALL
In rising to support this Bill, I crave the indulgence of the House. Coming, as I do, from Lancashire, and representing three cotton towns, I feel that it is desirable that Lancashire should speak out when criticisms are made which may affect the growth of cotton in the Sudan. This Bill has my hearty support because it sets out to assist trade, and, especially, I think that the guarantee of our Government, the national credit of this country, cannot be better used than in connection with the growth of cotton and other products that we require as raw materials all over our Empire. With regard to this Vote of £3,500,000, I resent, as a Member of this House, the remarks that are made about men who, at a time when money was wanted to develop a portion of our Empire, came forward and were willing to risk their money to assist in its development, because they happen to have non-British names. Those names have been mentioned in this House, and the House has been asked to take particular notice of that fact. We in Lancashire take a broader view of these matters. We remember that in the 'seventies the coming into Manchester of merchants from different parts of the Continent extended our great cotton trade all over the world. Recently I was in the company of some 800 Americans, and, on analysing their names, I found that 60 per cent. of them had non-British names. I object very strongly—
§ Mr. TATTERSALL
There were Scottish names among them, but they were British, because we do include Scotland in Great Britain.
§ Mr. TATTERSALL
I want the House to be careful not to swallow this 35 per cent; too easily. It is not 35 per cent. on the actual money subscribed by the shareholders in that company. The bulk 1445 of the shareholders, instead of paying £1 for their shares, paid £2 10s. to the company, and that money remains in the company and is being used by the company in developing the Sudan cotton fields. Therefore, instead of there being a profit of 35 per cent. in 1920 and 1922, when, as my hon. Friend the Member for Rossendale (Mr. Waddington) has pointed out, the price of cotton was high, the actual percentages made in those two years were respectively 13.78 and 14.93. I have no interest in the company and I do not know a single person in it, but it is fair, when the name of a company is thrown across the House in the way it is done, that a proper statement should be made. In the last three years the company has paid on its capital—on what the shareholders paid into the company for their shares—9½ per cent. and in the last year 7¼ per cent. I do not think anyone will consider that 7¼ per cent. is too high a dividend for the risky operation of sending money out to cotton plantations which at the time the company was formed might or might not have proved a success. I hold very strongly that a number of rich men who come forward and risk their money for the sake of developing the Empire ought to be well thought of and their names ought not to be thrown across the House in the way they have been.
About this particular scheme, I appeal to hon. Members to remember that this is a most peculiar contract which we have set out in the arrangements between the Government and the natives and this company. It is a model which we should follow in other parts of the Empire, and even at home. For the Government to be a partner with the undertaking and with the workpeople is an admirable state of things, and whatever high price of cotton is reached, undoubtedly in this scheme the native will get his full share. I appeal on behalf of Lancashire for hearty support of the Bill. I appeal particularly because in this Gezireh plain there has been grown a particular kind of cotton which we want very badly in Lancashire to-day. During the last few years, instead of Egypt growing the very longest and finest staple, they have been growing the shortest staple, so that we are to-day short of that fine staple which we require for our fine manufacturers. We are dependent very largely, and shall be more dependent in future, on our fine spinning trade, because in the coarse 1446 numbers, where we use the short staple cotton of India and America, we have the competition of India, China and other countries. Our expenses are very heavy with the coarse numbers, and they are undoubtedly unable to compete with us in Lancashire. But in the fine numbers we have the skill of the workers, of the overlookers, and of the managers and some of the best machinery in the world for making these counts. It is extremely desirable that this particular field should be developed so as to produce the fine cotton which Lancashire wants. I support the Bill most heartily and trust the House will pass it as it stands.
§ Mr. HUGH O'NEILL
My observations will not be devoted to the rather thorny question of the guarantee to the Sudan Government, which arouses the ire, shall I say, of some hon. Members, and particularly of supporters of the Government. I want to say a few words with regard to the part of the scheme which deals with export credits. The Financial Secretary to the Treasury has, I think, created very nearly a record on this Bill because he has already spoken three times on the Second Reading. He got up on each occasion hoping thereby to curtail debate. But this is a very important subject. We are dealing here with a possible expenditure of as much as £90,000,000. It may be true that there was a Debate on the Committee stage and the Report stage of the Money Resolution, though the latter took place in the early hours of the morning, but what is the procedure of this House for with regard to money Bills if it is not to give ample opportunity for their discussion on the various stages? With regard to export credits, I am sorry the President of the Board of Trade is not here, because I think that is particularly his department. But I hope the Secretary to the Overseas Department will be able to reply with regard to one or two specific questions I propose to put. First of all, it has been stated that the exports credits scheme is not sufficiently known and sufficiently taken advantage of. May I suggest to the Government one reason why that may be so. The original Export Credits Act, 1920, contained a section to the effect that the Board of Trade shall publish quarterly a return showing the amount of any credits granted under this Act and the countries in respect of which credits 1447 have been granted. I have tried to find that return, and I cannot find it. I presume it must have been issued, because apparently it is to be issued by Statute, but searches in the Library have revealed no such return. It is true that a return is made with regard to the trade facilities portion of the scheme, and various concerns which raise capital under the guarantee of the Government appear in the Quarterly Return, but I cannot find anywhere a return showing the guarantees or the payments which have been made under the export credits scheme.
There is in the Annual Report of the Comptroller and Auditor-General a good deal of comment upon the administration of export credits, but that merely deals with the actual expenditure which has been incurred during the year, and it does not tell us the exact scheme for which that expenditure was incurred. We are told that £8,500,000 have been dealt with under the Export Credits scheme, and it is therefore important to know in respect of exactly what schemes the money has been guaranteed, because really what it amounts to is that in this respect the Government are undertaking a banking business, and that business entails considerable risks. The Report of the Comptroller and Auditor-General gives us some idea as to what those risks are. The hon. Gentleman knows that there was a large advance—it was before the guarantee scheme came in—against flax in respect of a contract in Czechoslovakia, and owing, I think, to the decrease in value of the flax and also to appreciation in the Czechoslovakian exchange, that transaction involved the Treasury in what, I think, is the largest loss they have yet incurred under this scheme. Can the hon. Gentleman tell us what the loss on that flax transaction amounts to at present? The last returns I have seen put it at something like £700,000, but the Comptroller and Auditor-General states in his Report that the total amount of the loss cannot be estimated. I should like to know what it is to-day, and whether it is more or less than that figure of £700,000.
Other losses were incurred. There was a small loss which arose out of bills being guaranteed in connection with a consignment of pickled herrings, and there was a loss in connection with another trans- 1448 action. I think the Advisory Committee were at fault in not having secured a bank guarantee against the depreciation of Rumanian currency, because a bill was guaranteed against a deposit of currency in Rumania, and the currency depreciated from something like 2,000 to 26,000 kronen, and the result was of course a loss to the Treasury. All these instances which I have quoted, and which are public property to anyone who takes an interest in the scheme because they are dealt with by the Comptroller and Auditor-General, go to show that there is some considerable risk undertaken by the Treasury in dealing with a banking business of this kind, and in default of any returns I have been able to find I think, before we grant a Second Reading to this Bill, the Government should tell us what losses have been incurred up to date, and also, more specifically than we have been told so far, to what extent what is called the premium, which is, I believe, charged by the Government in respect of these transactions, either has covered up to date or under an ordinary computation of chances will for a longer period cover that loss.
May I say one more word with regard to possible future transactions under the scheme. I gather that there is something like £17,500,000 still available under the Export Credits scheme. We have been told that £8,500,000 has been applied, and the total authorised was £26,000,000. Is any of that £17,500,000 going to be applied to granting credits to Russia—guaranteeing bills in respect of Russian business? We hear a good deal to-day about credits to Russia. I read the other day that the Russian Government are expecting credits of some such ridiculous sum as £300,000,000. The Prime Minister, when he made his statement on policy, stated definitely and specifically that the only credits to Russia which he contemplated were credits under the existing Trade Facilities and Export Credits schemes, so I presume he means that the only credits to Russia which the present Government contemplate can be credits which arise from the guarantee of the remaining £17,500,000 under the Export Credits scheme, in this Bill. Can the Government tell me this, because I think there is some misconception about it? Does this scheme apply to Russia at all? I believe it does. The original Act of 1449 1920 was to apply only to certain countries specified in the Schedule, but the subsequent amending Act of 1921 enlarged the field and covered the whole world, as far as I understand. If that is so, this money can be devoted to guaranteeing bills for Russia. As against that, I have the authority, privately, of a member of the Advisory Committee, the hon. Member for Farnham (Mr. A. M. Samuel), who tells me that this scheme does not apply to Russia.
§ Mr. O'NEILL
As far as I read the Acts of Parliament which deal with this matter, the Export Credits scheme now applies to every country in the world and any country in the world. Considering that the Prime Minister stated the other day that the only credits to Russia which he contemplated were credits under the existing legislation, I take it that this money will be available for guaranteeing Russian bills. Perhaps the Government will tell us whether any applications have been received up to date in respect of credits to Russia under this scheme. Owing to the non-recognition of Russia up to a few weeks ago, it may not have been legal to grant them, but I take it that in view of the recognition which has been extended to the Soviet Government within the last few weeks there is nothing to prevent the granting of credits to Russia now.
We all want, if possible, to rehabilitate our trade with Russia, but it will not be the panacea which hon. Members opposite think. It is going to be a long, arduous, difficult task to re-establish our trade with Russia, and it may be that in doing so credits will be required, but to suggest, as I saw it stated by an hon. Member of the party opposite the other day, that the corn bins are bulging with grain waiting to be sent to this country at practically a moment's notice, is absurd and fantastic in the extreme. Nevertheless, with a country of such vast resources and such immense possibilities, it is of great importance that trade should, as soon as possible, and as soon as anything like trust and Russian credit can be established, be resumed in its normal channels. I hope, and particularly 1450 with regard to the questions I have asked about Russia, that whoever replies for the Government will be able to give an answer which will enable the House to realise exactly what it is doing if it sanctions the continuance of the Export Credits scheme.
§ Mr. MAXTON
I rise to oppose the Second Reading of this Bill. I opposed it when it was first before the House, and my opposition has gathered force as I have seen the enthusiasm with which it is supported by hon. Members on the other side of the House and hon Members below the Gangway on this side. I have never ceased to admire the effrontery of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen who are so strongly in favour of these trade facilities. The only caveats that have been entered against the issuing of credits are in the case of Queensland and Russia. Where there happen to be the working class in power, hon. Members on the other side and below the Gangway on this side say: "Do not trust the working classes." [HON. MEMBERS: "NO."] I will cite another instance a little nearer home. We on these benches are asked to support a Bill which is pledging British credit up to £100,000,000, at least—credits and guarantees which under certain contingencies may become actual cash, and hon. Members on all sides say: "Hurrah! On you go. Make it £200,000,000, and we will stand by you." That view had the enthusiastic support of the right hon. Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Horne) and an hon. Member who spoke on this side. They say, in effect: "To the four corners of the globe with British cash and British credit, anywhere, so long as it is far enough away and the working classes have no say in the control of it."Ship mo somewhere East of Suez,Where the best is like the worst,And there ain't no ton Commandments—[HON. MEMBERS: "Go on! Complete it!"] No, I will not complete it, but the words I have quoted seem to me to represent the cry of British private enterprise. They say: "Do not ship our capital away. When the Labour party or the Socialist party come into power they are going to run away with all the capital in this country. Do not let them do that. We will carry it out to the Sudan and to Nauru, but the Labour Government, the Socialist Government, must stand behind 1451 us in case we might lose some of it." That is a humiliating position for private enterprise to be in—private enterprise that went out with a flaming sword to the far corners of the Empire to carve and to extend the destinies of British commerce and industry. They say: "We will go out and start as British independent commercialists. We will go wherever you like, provided the country guarantees us, so that we shall not lose our capital and our profits." That may be a form of commerce that is well worth consideration, but it cannot legitimately be called private enterprise. Only a week ago we had the Minister of Health pilloried for eight hours in this House, because he had agreed to the Poplar Board of Guardians issuing credits to a certain proportion of the population of Great Britain. The total sum involved in that matter was £150,000.
§ Mr. MAXTON
There is more than £150,000 cash in the present transaction. The reason why we are asked to vote this £3,500,000 credit to the Sudan is that if we do not vote it the £10,000,000 credit already voted will become an actual cash liability. If we do not vote this extra money to the Sudan we shall be involved in a cash loss of £10,000,000. The biggest men in the House of Commons were saying last week: "We must stop this profligate policy in Poplar: we must stop this giving of £150,000 of credit to the British working people." The giving of that credit was sounder economics than the present business. It is sounder economics to put the people of Great Britain in a position to be able to buy. Your export trade and your home trade will automatically right themselves. Somebody said that you cannot tinker with economic laws. Unfortunately, you can, and that is what the House has been doing. I believed that my hon. and right hon. Friends on the Front Bench had come into power, not to tinker with economic laws, as their predecessors have done, but to understand economic laws and to apply them to our industrial and commercial organisations: but they are tinkering with them in a hundred different ways. In Poplar, or in other parts of Great Britain, you must not issue credits to British people to enable them to live!
1452 If you issued a credit of £2 for each working-class family in Britain to-day, the trade of Great Britain would be £40,000,000 the better on Saturday. That would go into the hands of the small shopkeepers and into the hands of the rent collectors. [An HON. MEMBER: "It would come from their pockets."] It would come from their pockets, and eventually it would go back into the pockets of the wealthier classes of the community. In the first place, it would go from the pocket of the working man into the pocket of the shopkeeper for the purchase of the necessaries of life for wife and family. That would provide the shopkeeper with an opportunity of living, and it would provide the wholesaler behind him with an opportunity of living. It would provide something even for the landlords and the big capitalists and bankers on the other side of the House, who are always telling us of the desperate struggle they have to live in these times. It would help them, in the long run, if they would open their hearts, and voted money not to the Sudan or to Nauru, but to their own British people who they went here to look after.
§ Mr. KEDWARD
Does the hon. Member mean gifts of money, without any production? How long could that kind of thing go on?
§ Mr. MAXTON
It went on for five years during the War, when there was nothing but destructive production going on, and I am sure it could go on for 100 years, if alongside with it there was organised production of the necessaries of life. I do not want to go into the whole field of economics, but I am going to oppose this Second Reading upon the general principles upon which it is founded, which are not doing anything worthy of consideration—having regard to the expenditure and the risk to the nation which is involved—to mitigate the evils of unemployment at the present juncture.
I am prepared to allow this experiment to go on to its logical conclusion if I can have some assurance that Clause 4 of this Bill relating to the Sudanese Syndicate will not be made operative until such time as the Sudanese Syndicate comes to the Treasury and makes suggestions as to guarantees, effective control, methods of marketing produce and the selling of the finished product. We have a right to ask for 1453 this. If a person in Poplar wants £2 or £3 from the board of guardians, he has to go before the board, fill up his form and submit to investigation, and he does not get his credit unless for cause shown. If at any time during the course of his receiving that allowance he commits any fault in the eyes of the board of guardians his money at once stops. I think we on these benches have a right to be suspicious of a capitalist concern operating abroad, away from any sort of public control, free from the operations of public opinion in this country, free from the possibilities of surcharge and imprisonment, free from the Law Courts and the police. We have as much right to be as suspicious of lending the nation's credit to such a concern as hon. Members opposite have to be suspicious before they will give a working man £2 a week to keep his youngsters. I am amused at the attempts being made to apologise for the 35 per cent. The whole idea of this Trade Facilities Bill was just to provide that amount of national support to private enterprise that would encourage it to go ahead with schemes that, failing national support, would be dropped. I think 35 per cent is a very reasonable profit! That will be admitted among even the most rapacious of financiers. The Financial Secretary to the Treasury—the new apologist for capitalism—says that if you take the dividend over a period of twenty years, it only averages 5 per cent. I would remind the Financial Secretary that if he took the average over forty years, it would only reach 2½ per cent., and if he took it over one hundred years it would vanish altogether.
§ The FINANCIAL SECRETARY to the TREASURY (Mr. William Graham)
I do not in the least object to my hon. Friend's criticism, but obviously you have to confine it to the lifetime of the company. The argument of my hon. Friend is, therefore, perfectly irrelevant.
§ Mr. MAXTON
I am not quite sure. It may be legitimate at least to consider it from the time the idea was first evolved of the initiation of the company. The hon. Member for Rossendale (Mr. Waddington), who has certainly, one has to admit, a very great insight into the affairs of the company, calculated the dividend on what the shareholders paid 1454 for their shares and said it would not come to 35 per cent. But who are they trying to deceive by that? Is is the Financial Secretary, or is it the hon. Gentleman on the back benches behind him?
§ Mr. TATTERSALL
May I say that it is not a question of the amount paid to the Stock Exchange for the shares, but the money paid to the company being £2 10s. per share instead of £1. Therefore you must take the dividends on the amount paid.
§ Mr. MAXTON
It is a curious thing that my hon. Friend calculated it and found that they were only paid 7½ per cent., whereas the hon. Gentleman opposite found it was 17½ per cent.
§ Mr. WADDINGTON
I said that the dividend last year was 17½ per cent. paid by the company, the amount now only being 6 per cent.
§ Mr. MAXTON
Is not the proper figure to take the figure quoted in the newspaper from the Stock Exchange? Everyone else knows that quotations vary. For instance, if the shares were bought to-day, since the Labour Government has shown its benevolent disposition towards the scheme, the variation would be a slight one because the shares stand higher than ever before. The actual figures, without any juggling, were, in 1918, 25 per cent.; in 1919, 25 per cent.; 1920, 35 per cent.; 1921, 15 per cent.; 1922, 35 per cent.; and in 1923, as I am informed by the hon. Gentleman opposite, 17½ per cent. If the Financial Secretary to the Treasury will take these figures and get one of his permanent officials to calculate how they work out, he will find it comes to pretty much what I make it to be, roughly somewhere over 20 per cent. This is a firm which has been in that condition during the last six years, those six years being years during which British support has been offered, during which this nation has been standing behind them. I do not see how a Labour Government can defend it. I do not see how any honest hon. Member of this House can defend it. If we are going in for Socialist enterprise, enterprise owned and backed by the State, it 1455 is only legitimate that this Labour Government should exercise some form of public control both over the lives of the persons who are engaged in the actual production of cotton in the Sudan and over the company. My hon. Friend the Member for Rossendale tells us that a big share of the actual profits are going into the pockets of the workers engaged in the growing of cotton. That is quite true. According to the scheme laid down, the profits are divided in equitable proportions between the shareholders of the company and the workers in the Sudan. But it does not matter how much you give to these Sudanese people, it is a very trivial thing to give them because to a very large extent the syndicate holds the private property of many of the persons who are now its manual workers.
§ Lieut.-Colonel JAMES
I can state that I was in the Sudan many years and I can tell the hon. Member that that is absolutely and utterly incorrect.
§ Mr. MAXTON
Well, we will not fall out about it, but it is obvious that the hon. Member's denial of what I said is not based on any knowledge.
§ Lieut.-Colonel JAMES
Is it in order for an hon. Member to make imputations against the accuracy of my information?
§ Mr. MAXTON
I simply made my remark in reply to a denial of my statement. The hon. Member gave a flat contradiction of the statement I had made, and I contradicted flatly the flat contradiction he made. I think, therefore, we can consider that we are paired. But it does not really matter what the syndicate pay these labourers because, as far as I can gather from our investigations—which I admit were not made on the spot, but I believe my sources of information are very reliable and direct and immediate from people who have been on the spot—every single item that one of these cotton workers uses in his daily life, his food, his clothing, his pet animals, his domesticated animals, are subject to taxation, and you can quite easily give him £1 a week, 10s. a week, or 5s. a week, and then you would draw 1456 away from him, on the Micawber principle, everything by way of taxation and leave him with a bare subsistence. I am not suggesting that British capitalism in the Sudan operates in any other way than it operates here. I think that the Financial Secretary to the Treasury has been selected from the high office he now holds mainly because of the reputation of his country. I would ask him, why should we throw good money after bad without having some sort of reasonable expectancy that we are to have some control over the ultimate results? There is one other thing I want to deal with that does not arise in Clause 4 of the Bill, namely, the question of the composition of the Advisory Committee controlling Export Credits. Hon. Members opposite expressed approval of that Committee. The right hon. Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Horne) asked for an assurance that the composition of the Advisory Committee would remain unchanged, and I believe the Financial Secretary gave that guarantee by a nod of the head, though I am not quite sure. Is that fair and proper? There has been a change of Government. If the change had been the other way about and there had been an Advisory Committee consisting of three Socialists, they would not have been there now.
§ Mr. A. M. SAMUEL
May I say on behalf of my colleagues that we would be only too glad if the hon. Member or any hon. Member on these benches would come and help us. We would welcome them.
§ Mr. MAXTON
I am very glad to have that invitation, and I hope some of my colleagues, not myself, will have an opportunity of associating with him in that work. The Government of the day has a right to have direct representation on this Advisory Committee which is controlling the disposition of considerable amounts of money which this Government is directly responsible for. I do not doubt for one moment that the hon. Member for Farnham really means that he would welcome one of my hon. Friends, but the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillhead seemed anxious that there should be no change in the present Advisory Committee. I propose to carry my opposition to the Second Reading to the Division lobby with my hon. Friend the Member for Stirlingshire (Mr. 1457 Johnston), unless we can get some substantial guarantee that the Sudan Syndicate will recognise that this Government is not going to be fooled as its predecessors have been. We want to know how we are going to have some control. I hope that the Financial Secretary will be able in the course of this Debate to give us an assurance on this point.
§ Lord STANLEY
Unlike the hon. Member who spoke last, I desire to support this Bill. In doing so, I submit that I am furthering the interests of those men and women who work in Lancashire. I know of no one more anxiously awaiting the passing of this Bill than the men and women engaged in the cotton mills of Lancashire. It is true that capital has been carried out to the Sudan, but it has been carried out to that country for the benefit of Lancashire workmen. There is very little opposition in any part of this House to the ultimate object of these schemes, which is to increase the amount of raw cotton, but I am sorry to say, as one interested in these schemes, that there is a great deal of misunderstanding with regard to their management and administration. I should like to deal particularly with the statement that the natives have not been fairly treated. To make my case clear I may, with the permission of the House, go very briefly into the history of the cotton-growing scheme so far as the Sudan is concerned.
In 1900, when the British first went into the Sudan, they found everything there in a state of complete chaos. The population had declined from 12,000,000 to 4,000,000 and the Gezireh Plain itself, which had been fairly prosperous, was practically depopulated. As soon as the feeling of security increased, the holders of the old titles to the land came to the British official, demanded re-settlement, and asked that they should regain possession of the land. A Land Commission was appointed, and eventually the whole of this district was resettled. Naturally this took some time. Resettlement and the preliminary railway works, without which no scheme of development can go on, took about eight years. When that was over, it was time to think of developing the Gezireh for the benefit of our own country and the benefit of the natives of that country. The first step—and the hon. and gallant Member for Bromley (Lieut.-Colonel James) will 1458 bear me out—was that the Government rented the land from the natives who had been settled on it, at a price which, considering the valueless condition of the land at the moment, was a very generous one. About the same time an agreement was come to, under the auspices of Lord Kitchener, who was then in command in the Sudan, between the Sudan Government, the Sudan Plantation Company, and the native cultivators. This agreement has been touched on by many other speakers in the Debate but it is very important as showing how cotton was to be provided and how the responsibilities and the work were to be divided.
The terms were that the proceeds of the sale of the cotton were to be pooled in the following ratio: The native, cultivator who had his land rented by the Sudan Government gave his labour, and in return for that he got 40 per cent. of the proceeds of the sale. In addition to that, he got the whole of the subsidiary green crop which is grown with the cotton. He got education in how cotton should be grown, and he got free water for growing his crops. The Sudan Plantation Company got 25 per cent., in return for which they had to carry out all the subsidiary works, such as smaller canals, roads, bridges and pumping stations. They were also responsible for educating the native cultivators as to the best methods of growing cotton. They also had to act as land banks, in financing the cotton crop on behalf of the native cultivator. The Sudan Government, who did the main irrigation work, were to get 35 per cent. of these profits.
I do not wish to follow the hon. Member who spoke last through the maze of high finance into which he led us, but I will deal particularly with the case of the treatment of the natives. We must remember that when we went into the Sudan in 1900 the land was valueless. They only got a reasonable rainfall once every four years. That meant that they had a hope of getting a decent crop only once every four years. Since we have been there and started irrigation works, they get the equivalent of a good rainfall every year and they get a fair chance of raising a good crop every season. They also get what they never got before, the green crop which is grown as a subsidiary crop, and they also get the benefit of education and advice as to the cultivation of the land. Another matter 1459 which shows, I think, that they cannot be badly treated, is the number of natives from other parts of Africa, including the districts around Lake T[...]had, who used to pass through that country on their way to Mecca without being in any way tempted to remain there under the old regime, who now find the land so promising, so flowing with milk and honey under the present regime, that they settle down there to assist in this cotton growing. Another fact to be remembered is the very large number of the applications which come from natives who wish to be settled on the land, and which far exceed the amount of land that is vacant and could be distributed. So prosperous are these native cultivators that they are not only able to buy more cattle, which I admit is a necessity, but that they are also able to get an increased supply of wives, which, I believe, in those districts is looked on as the height of luxury.
§ Lord STANLEY
Quite apart from that, I would like to say a word as to the attitude towards the natives of those bodies in England who are interested in this development of cotton growing. I can speak with a certain amount of knowledge on that subject, as a member of the British Cotton Growing Association and of the Cotton Growing Corporation. Apart from the humane point of view of wanting to do what we can to improve those districts and to improve the standard of living, it is essential for us, from the material point of view, that the natives should be contented. If we get discontent among the natives the whole of this scheme, on which the future of the land depends and in which a great deal of money has been sunk, is bound to fail, because in places where the native standard of life is not very high, unless they get a fair return for growing the cotton crop, they will let the land go out of cultivation and will go back to some simple form of farming, and of growing some other kind of crop. It is very much to our interest that these native cultivators should get a good price for their raw cotton, and it is particularly to the interest of all those who come from Lancashire that they should have plenty of money to spend, because while we should 1460 be able to buy raw cotton from them, we hope that they will be able to buy the manufactured cotton goods which come from Lancashire.
I do not wish to go closely into the financial aspect, which has been dealt with by so many speakers previously, but there is one point which I wish to emphasise. The Sudan Plantation Syndicate have no control over the larger portion of the loan. To help them with the subsidiary works and with financing the crops they have been given a loan of £400,000. Over the remainder of that loan, which comes to £12,600,000, they have no control. Two points of great interest have been brought up in the course of the Debate. It would take somebody who is more at home in the intricacies of the cotton trade, as a part of cotton growing, than I am to answer them in detail. The first is as to making sure that all the cotton grown in the Sudan should come to Lancashire, and the second is that we should fix a maximum price for the cotton. I think both these proposals extremely desirable, but I think that there is a great deal of difficulty in carrying them out in detail. Nobody would be more delighted than I to see the whole of the cotton crop come to Lancashire. I am glad that it has done so in the past. I would like to see it certain that it would continue to come, but I cannot help feeling that if we put on an embargo like that, so that it could not go anywhere except to England, the other big cotton growing countries of the world might easily retaliate and it might be a very dangerous course of action on which to embark.
Though the Syndicate are not under any obligation to dispose of the cotton in any particular market every bale produced, so far, has been marketed in England and there is no reason to think that there will be any deviation from that course of action. I do not think that it is very much use in crying out before we are hurt. Another point to be considered is how a scheme of this kind can help other industries in the country indirectly. During the last three years orders have been placed by the company in this country for supplies amounting to £250,000. This may not be a very large amount, but it is of great assistance to this country. I do not wish to weary the House any longer with a subject on which we have heard many speeches during the 1461 last two or three days. I understand that the Government intend to have an inquiry into some of these subjects. I hope there will be no delay in that inquiry. We feel perfectly confident that the only result will be to show that the administration, so far, has been extremely good. I appeal to all parties to realise how very eagerly the passing of this Bill is awaited in Lancashire, and to pass with as little delay as possible a Measure which is a vital necessity to one of the greatest industries of the country.
§ Major MOULTON
In rising to address the House, I ask for the indulgence which is always extended to new Members. This is a Bill on the lines of those which have been introduced by three Governments. It is a Bill which, as far as one can see, commands the support of 90 per cent. of the House. Some of the criticisms of the Bill seem to show that certain misconceptions have arisen as to what the Bill proposes. As I read it, it is essentially a Bill for abnormal times of unemployment. It will pay a premium to those who will accelerate orders and place the orders here when we want work most. I was exceedingly surprised yesterday to hear the sponsor of the Bill, the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, say that he could not point to any direct return that we got for the paying of three-quarters of five years' interest. It seems to me that the Government gets a large direct return. The Government is now paying to a number of people, approaching something like a million, 15s. a week. If, by getting work placed here, you can save a large amount of this money, now paid by way of doles, you are getting a direct benefit.
There has been one rather curious criticism, that in some way the Bill infringes the principles of Free Trade. I am glad to say that that criticism came from an enemy of Free Trade. I cannot imagine it coming from any friend. The only thing is that you are asking the British Government to put up one-sixth, and it then says, in effect, "We will do it only if you place the work where it will save us money by keeping down the doles." That seems to me to be the purest and simplest and most straightforward business. There is one provision in the Bill about which I cannot see the good. I could understand that it should apply only to loans raised in the British Em- 1462 pire, and that it should apply only to money expended in this country. But why should it be stipulated that the loan should be raised in this country? If New Zealand cares to raise a loan to place work in this country, surely it is just as much benefit to us, and even more, than if the loan were raised here? I ask the promoters of the Bill to consider whether that limitation is necessary.
The loan to the Sudan seems to stand on an entirely different footing. I think it is a right principle, and that there is nothing we can do better than to develop portions of the Empire where development pays. One cannot shut one's eyes to the fact that we are running a very much greater danger there than we are in the case of any of the other loans or guarantees which we are giving. It is quite possible that in the course of the next 20 or 50 years there might be some serious re-arrangement which would cut off the Sudan or seriously diminish the value of our security there. Although I am anxious to see cotton-growing encouraged generally, yet I want to see also, if possible, that we have a definite hold on that cotton, so that it can be utilised for employment here. I ask the Financial Secretary to the Treasury to see, before this Bill gets through Committee, whether some scheme can be devised by which the country which is now giving the guarantee has, in case of need, the first call on the cotton. I am a supporter of this Bill and do not propose to delay the House any longer.
§ Mr. THURTLE
I would not have intervened in this somewhat protracted Debate had it not been for the fact that my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, and other speakers, have made what I consider to be serious misstatements in regard to the profits earned by this Sudan Plantations Company. I have been at considerable pains to ascertain the facts, both in connection with the capital of this company and the profits earned since its inception. I would refer the Financial Secretary to his statement last night, to the effect that if you take profits from the inception of the company up to the present time, you will find an average approximately of 5 per cent. on the capital of the company. My hon. Friend seems to have made a serious miscalculation. The subscribed capital of 1463 this company is at the moment £450,000, but up to May, 1920, the actually subscribed capital of the company was only £150,000. In other words, two-thirds of the capital has been subscribed since May, 1920. If you take the £150,000 up to that date and the profits made up to that date, you get an average of rather more than 6½ per cent. I am generous in assuming that from the very moment of the registration of the company in 1904 the whole of that capital of £150,000 was subscribed. Very probably the whole of it was not subscribed until some later period. If you come to the remaining £300,000 of the capital, which has been subscribed since May, 1920, you will find that on that amount up to the present time there have been dividends paid totalling 67½ per cent., or an average of 22½ per cent. on two-thirds of the present capital of the company.
Reference has been made to the fact that on the capital issued recently there was a premium put. For instance, the £150,000 issued to the shareholders in May, 1920, had a premium of £2 per share put upon it. The later issue of £150,000 had another premium of £1 10s. per share put upon it. You may say that the shareholders have paid these premiums, and that, therefore, they are entitled to a higher return upon their share capital. But this is not the end of the story. If you look at the accounts of this company you will find, on the assets side, an item of share premiums amounting to £636,744. That is undistributed; it is a reserve asset which can be used for the purpose of bonus distributions or anything of the kind. So that you see that when you go into the facts it is perfectly true to say that this company has been making, even for an exploration company, some extraordinarily high profits. I find, on looking at the last return, that there is a "carry forward," which really represents undistributed profits, of £168,000. There, again, you have practically 33⅓ per cent. profit not yet distributed. When this criticism has died down and Parliament has forgotten this little story, no doubt those undistributed profits will go in dividends to the shareholders.
§ Mr. THURTLE
If you take the balance sheet of any company and you see an item on the assets side of share premium account, it represents something over and above the liabilities of the company compared with the assets of the company.
§ Mr. THURTLE
It is something which can be swept out of existence and distributed; it can be distributed to the shareholders without any writing down of the other assets of the company. This is an extraordinarily fascinating story of the manipulations of high finance. You have a holding company, the Sudan Plantations, Limited. Someone said just now that this company had received very little of the money which had been guaranteed by the Government. I think that the amount mentioned was £400,000. I want to call attention to the fact that, in addition to the Sudan Plantations Company, there is a company called the Kassala Cotton Company. The Kassala Cotton Company is the child, the offspring, of the Sudan Plantation Company. Nearly the whole of the ordinary capital of the Kassala Company is owned by the Sudan Plantation Company. I am asked what the Kassala Cotton Company is doing? Is it having a very thin time; is it making very little profit? All I can say is that, if you care to look at the Stock Exchange Year Book, the last edition, you will find that the ordinary shares of the Kassala Company stand at 16s. 10½d., or a premium of nearly 1,700 per cent. Evidently this offspring of the Sudan Plantation Company is doing rather well. But even that is not yet the end of the story.
I look further, and I find beyond the Kassala Cotton Company there is the Kassala Railway Company, and all the shares of the Kassal Railway Company are held by the Kassala Cotton Company, and all the way along there is an interlocking of the directorates. We find directors of the Sudan Company on the board of the Kassala Cotton Company, and directors of the Kassala Cotton Company on the board of the Kassala Railway Company. How does the Kassala Railway Company interest us? I will tell hon. Members. I have discovered that £1,550,000 of the capital of that company is guaranteed by this country in respect of principle and interest, and the 1465 Egyptian State Railway, largely by means of that guarantee, is going to construct the Kassala Railway line, which will cover 227 miles. That railway is being handed over as a concession to the Kassala Railway Company for a period of 33 years expiring in 1955. They have not yet made any profits, but in view of the enormous premium at which the shares of the holding company, the Kassala Cotton Company, are standing, we may take it as certain that this railway company, by means of the large guarantee, provided by this country, is going to make enormous profits during this period of 33 years. I submit, as an ordinary business proposition, that companies of this kind in such an extraordinarily strong financial position, ought not to expect to get facilities except on the ordinary market terms. There are many companies and co-operative societies in this country which want to raise money, and these would be very glad indeed if when issuing their prospectuses they were able to say, as this privileged company has been able to say: "This money is guaranteed in respect of principle and interest by the Imperial Government."
There is absolutely no reason that I can see why the Government should have gone out of their way to assist in financing these comparatively prosperous and successful companies. If one studies the history of this company and of the guarantees received by it, and by its subsidiary companies, and if one studies the directorate of these companies, as I have done, one begins to have an uneasy suspicion that something very much akin to jobbery has been going on. I will not say any more than that, but I think it is sufficient. Hitherto, I understand, the record of this Parliament has been comparatively clean so far as jobbery is concerned. I say it comparatively; I know it is not absolutely clean, but it is a reputation of which this House ought to be very jealous, because there are other countries in which politics are notoriously corrupt, and we do not want this House to get the evil reputation for corruption and jobbery which some other representative assemblies have. Therefore, I invite the House to consider this matter very carefully before allowing any further support to go to this particular company. An hon. Member below the Gangway said we might regard the financing of this 1466 scheme as a model to be followed, a model of the co-operation which ought to exist between the Imperial Parliament and enterprising—I will not say plundering or rapacious, but enterprising—exploration and other companies. If we are to regard this as a model to be followed, then I can see this country becoming involved in a regular morass of corruption and jobbery. I hope we can, even now, partly redeem this particular error, but if we cannot, I hope we shall be careful to see that we never repeat it.
§ Lieut.-Colonel JAMES
Before dealing directly with the subject of the Debate, I wish to withdraw a remark which I made to the hon. Member for the Bridgeton Division of Glasgow (Mr. Maxton). I contradicted a statement made by the hon. Member, and said that there had been no expropriations of the natives of the Gezireh, and other places concerned in this Sudan cotton scheme. I find on subsequent research that a decree was brought in subsequent to my departure from the Sudan, of which I was ignorant, and I therefore wish to withdraw my remark. As regards the subject of the Debate, I should like to say at the outset, that I have no interest, direct or indirect, in the Sudan Cotton Company or any of the affiliated companies to which the hon. Member who spoke last has alluded. I desire to approach the subject from an entirely different angle. I am, perhaps, the only Member of this House to have spent several years as an official of the Sudan Government. I went there in 1899 very shortly after the fall of Omdurman, and the pursuit of the Khalifa, and I can assure hon. Members opposite that the claims of the natives of that country to their lands were most carefully considered from the beginning. A Lands Commission sat and examined them, claim by claim. Many of the claims admitted would possibly not have been viewed with so much favour in a court of law in England, but let that pass. Every native of the country who had a claim received a careful and sympathetic hearing. The policy of the Sudan Government was to give the natives of the country every chance, and that policy has been consistently followed by succeeding Governors-General and their staffs.
When hon. Members raise a question as to the control which should be exercised over the concessionnaires in this case, I 1467 feel confident that their alarms are without foundation, because in the Sudan there is the finest Civil Service in the world, or at any rate, as fine a Civil Service as is to be found anywhere in the world. You find there Englishmen who desire to make the Sudan their home, and who treat the inhabitants of the country as men and brothers, and who intend doing so to the end of the chapter. I support this proposal because I am confident there has been no collusion, no jobbery, and none of the underhand work suggested by the hon. Member who spoke last. To begin with, the policy of the Governors-General has been, and is, that when a would-be concessionnaire approaches the Government, the most careful inquiries are made into his status and antecedents, and if there is anything a bit off colour about him, he will find remarkable difficulty in obtaining a concession. It is quite true that the concessionnaire company in this case has very large capital resources, and is, I believe, directed by men of great skill and experience in organisation, but I believe that would be very good for the country.
§ Lieut.-Colonel JAMES
I believe they are men of great skill. I have not even gone to the trouble of studying their names, because I am confident that the Governors-General and their advisers have been fully informed directly and indirectly as to the personnel of the board. I know quite well what underlies the question of the hon. Member. It is that one, at least, of these gentlemen bears a name which cannot be described as Anglo-Saxon, and there may be others, but surely the chief thing we want to have is a body of good standing, which will do the right and honest thing towards the Sudan Government, the people of the Sudan, and the people of this country. Reference has been made to the Kassala Railway Company. I believe that would be an admirable scheme for this country. The railway material should be ordered in this country, and should provide employment for our hardly used engineers who do not know where to turn for work. Once the railway is in working order, it will carry cotton from that abounding Kassala district, that magnificent agricultural area 1468 hitherto only scratched, and it will carry that cotton to Port Sudan, giving employment to shipping, and to everybody who handles it. It will also benefit the Sudanese cultivators, and those people who, periodically, pass through the Sudan—because a great number of Hausas come from the West Coast of Africa, and in order to make the pilgrimage to Mecca they stay two, three or four years in the Sudan earning enough money to enable them to proceed to Mecca, and return as holy men. These men help to grow the cotton, and they will receive additional money which will be spent very largely on English commodities. Finally, cotton in the Sudan, if properly grown, as it will be under expert supervision, is second to none in the world and will provide Lancashire with the raw material which it so urgently needs.
§ 6.0 P.M.
§ Mr. DARBISHIRE
Unlike some hon. Members on these benches, I am not prepared to give very warm support to this Bill, because I do not see that it is going to achieve the objects which we are told it is intended to achieve. Its object, I understand, is to stimulate employment in this country, and I am glad that the rejection of the Bill has been moved, because I feel a little more information is required especially with regard to the Sudan development scheme. As I understand it, £10,000,000 have already been guaranteed to the Sudan Government, and we are told that unless we guarantee a further £3,500,000 all the money which has been spent is as good as wasted. I do not quite reconcile that statement with what has just been said by the hon. and gallant Member for Bromley (Lieut.-Colonel James) with regard to the great care that the Sudan Government have taken in examining the credentials of the various concessionnaires who have been entrusted with the work of development in this area. I remember hearing something the other evening about a gentleman with the name, which did not inspire me with very much confidence, of Alexandrino, I think it was, who apparently was able to make a very profitable business out of the initial development in this area. I am confirmed, by the statement that the money spent hitherto will be wasted unless we put up more money, in thinking there has not been that 1469 necessary examination into the credentials of the people who have been mixed up in this business.
I therefore feel that we should have a little more information from the Government, in the form of a Memorandum or of a White Paper, showing us exactly what has been done, what area has been reclaimed, what area is capable of being reclaimed, and what are the prospects of a return to the Sudan Government when the scheme is completed. There was mention made the other evening of 100,000 feddans, but that does not convey anything to me at all, and I think we ought to have some clear statement laid before the House to assure us what are the possibilities of profit in this business. I trust I shall not be accused of a lack of sympathy for the unemployed in this country in criticising this Bill, but there are one or two points in the Memorandum which I should like to put to the Financial Secretary to the Treasury. He states in his Memorandum that the maximum contingent charge to the taxpayer under these proposals is £26,000,000, but I understand there is also a running contingent liability on the other £38,000,000 guaranteed hitherto, so that the total contingent charges to the taxpayer will be something like £65,000,000 instead of the £26,000,000 referred to in the Memorandum.
I also wish to support the hon. Member for Farnham (Mr. A. M. Samuel)—and I am glad he has saved me the trouble of going into it—in his objection to advances to shipbuilders and shipowners. It seems to me an extraordinary thing that we should, at times like this, when we have hundreds of thousands of tons of shipping lying up, be advancing money to, or enabling money to be borrowed on preferential terms by shipbuilders or shipowners like Harland and Wolff and the Bank Line. As I read that prospectus, the £1,800,000 to be borrowed is going to be put into new ships, with Diesel engines, which are supposed to be more efficient and more cheaply run than the ships which are on the water now, so that there does not seem to be any reason why a Line which is quite able on its own credit to raise the money should be put on preferential terms in order to compete with our 20,000,000 tons of shipping of the old class which is on the waters to-day. I do not know whether that point 1470 has been taken into consideration by the advisory board or by the Treasury, which, I understand, controls the advisory board, or at any rate has the final word.
One reason why I am sceptical as to any advantage to be derived from this Bill is that, after all, there is no pool of capital, and you cannot attract capital into one industry and leave it in other places at the same time. I do not see how there is very much hope for employment in this Bill. If you attract capital into the Bank Line, you prevent it going into other industries, and you are consequently going to starve those other industries. I am sure the whole House was delighted the other evening to note the progress of the right hon. Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Horne) in his commercial studies. He seems to have arrived at the stage, at which one usually arrives in the embryonic stage of business, where he has got into the accounts and costing department, and he told us the very obvious thing that any addition to the cost, any increase in the rates, adds to the cost of production. That is true, and I only hope he will bear it in mind when the Votes for £10,000,000 on cruisers and £10,000,000 on Singapore come up, which will have to be paid by the taxpayers of this country.
He also told us that one of the objects of this Bill was to prevent foreign competition, or, at any rate, he alluded to the cost of goods in foreign countries being lower owing to the conditions of labour and the rate of exchange. I remember once talking to a very eminent contractor in Singapore, to whom I said: "I suppose you get this work done here more cheaply than in other parts of the world?" He had just come from Gibraltar. He said: "In my experience, after a long life of contracting, I find that labour costs the same all over the world. You may pay a man 1s. a day or 1s. 6d. a day at Singapore, but you will not get as much work out of him; when you come to finish up the contract and estimate your costs, you will find you are no better off than if you were paying a navvy a full wage in Great Britain." I venture to say there is a great deal too much made of the fact that wages in Germany, or France, or Belgium, or elsewhere are lower than they are here in Great Britain. If people are underpaid and starved, they cannot produce the 1471 same work as people who are working under better conditions. As regards the foreign exchange, I think it works out its own inevitable end, and when exchanges begin to depreciate they go on until the cost of production in the country with the depreciated exchange is just as high as it is in our country.
There is one other point to which I should like to refer, because the right hon. Member for Hillhead twitted Free Traders with supporting this Bill, and he referred, I think, to the provision in Clause 2 which makes it essential that goods should be bought in this country, if the Dominions are to get the benefit of the reduced rate of interest. There are Free Traders and Free Traders. There are natural Free Traders, who are Free Traders from the bent of their mind, who love liberty and do not believe in tariff wars any more than they believe in any other kind of wars, and there are Free Traders from experience, with a practical knowledge of commerce and economics, and I do not know to which class the right hon. Member for Hillhead was referring, but as a matter of fact from a free trade point of view there is no necessity to put that provision in at all. It does not affect the question, because if the money is raised here it must be spent here, whether it is spent by the Colonies borrowing the money or not does not matter. You cannot get away from that, and I hope my hon. Friend opposite will emphasise that point, as he did on a memorable occasion when he had to show a Chancellor of the Exchequer that he knew very little about economics. I refer to the right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Mr. A. Chamberlain).
The right hon. Member for Hillhead went on to say—and I do not know how he reconciled his statement with the opinion of the hon. Member for Farnham, who last night gave us a very eloquent address on the necessity of increasing our exports—that, if every one bought everything they wanted here, there would be no unemployment here; in other words, that, if we stopped our foreign trade, there would be no unemployment. Those are the kind of extremes we hear from the other side of the House—one which wants to increase our exports, and the other, as expressed by the right hon. 1472 Member for Hillhead, who apparently believes in stopping our foreign trade altogether in order that we may have no unemployment in this country. [An HON. MEMBER: "Nonsense!"] Well, he said so the other evening. The hon. Member for Farnham naturally takes a great interest in the export credits scheme, and he seemed to express some anxiety or surprise that no more had been done under that scheme. As a matter of fact, I think that one very often forgets that our exports are seven or eight hundred millions a year, and the total guarantee under this system is only about eight millions in four years, an infinitesimal percentage of our trade. What does it show? It shows that there is no need for this export credits scheme at all. As I understand it, the credits which are given under the scheme are long term credits that the banks will not have anything to do with. They are credits more in the nature of a loan transaction than of am ordinary business transaction.
§ Mr. A. M. SAMUEL
They are not all long term credits. Sometimes the banks have too much at risk with a firm, and if the firm cannot increase its liability to its bank, because of that position, it goes to the Export Credits Committee for the extra accommodation, and if the business proposed is sound, it is looked into, and every help that is possible under the Act is given.
§ Mr. DARBISHIRE
I am very much obliged to the hon. Member. I was only speaking from memory of what the ex-President of the Board of Trade stated in the last Parliament to the effect that the most of these credits were, as a matter of fact, credits sometimes running up to three and four years. We do not want to increase the length of credits. Most merchants are out to get money in as quickly as possible, and if the Government educate people to get long credits, it is not really to the advantage of the traders and merchants of this country. I trust we shall have some information given to us with regard to the Sudan Government and the £3,500,000 which we are asked to guarantee that Government.
§ Mr. STEPHEN
I wish to join in the protest against this Bill, and I do so for various reasons, one of which is that, so far as I can see, there has been a tendency to regard the provisions of these 1473 trade facilities and export credit schemes as something in the way of a material cure for the problem of unemployment [...] was interested yesterday in the speech of the hon. Member for Farnham (Mr. A. M. Samuel), when he said that he did not think this type of legislation would do very much harm, and it would not do very much good. Again and again I have heard it put to us that the Government of the country have been making a real attempt to deal with unemployment because of the fact that there have been upon the Statute Book the Trade Facilities Acts. There has been a great deal said with regard to the relationship of this question to Free Trade and to the different political points of view of individuals. So far as the present Government are concerned, I do not think the Financial Secretary to the Treasury has made it plain that this is simply a matter of inheritance, and that the Government are dealing with this Measure as a measure of inheritance from the Governments that have passed. There has been so little in this with regard to making provision for unemployment, that I think it is very necessary that that protest should be made at this time, in case it is considered that, in carrying a thing like this, we are doing something to help people who are in such hard circumstances.
The hon. Member for Farnham gave his objections to the provision of these guarantees for shipbuilding, and pointed to the fact that if there were 1,000,000 tons of shipping unemployed, or possibly, some 600,000 tons, it was a very useless sort of business to provide any more shipping until there was a prospect of employment for the shipping that was unemployed at the present time. I think there is a great deal in his argument in that respect. But what I want to suggest to the House is that that should drive us back to the consideration of the whole system under which we are living. There is all that amount of shipping unemployed; there is a tremendous amount of capital unemployed in the form of ships, factories, and workshops, and there are millions of people in this country in want of employment. I suggest, therefore, it is about time we were looking at this matter from a different view. It has often been said in the House, in connection with these Debates, that one of the great 1474 things to do is to find work for the unemployed, for the working-class people of the country. I believe that is an entirely wrong attitude to the fundamental problem we have to face to-day. It is not so much a matter of finding work, but what we have got to do is to arrange our society so as to find a decent standard of life for our people. We have got to find a society that will enable each individual in the community to be able to realise all the expression of his personality, to be able to use his gifts to the best advantage in order to add to the wealth of the community, and to make life a much richer and fuller thing. But we always come down to this: how can we find work for those poor people who are unemployed? Cannot we make a road somewhere? Cannot we electrify the railways of the country? Cannot we do something here or something there—bore a tunnel—and so make work for these people? The problem is not that at all. The problem is to secure for the individual a decent standard of life, and this Trade Facilities Bill, to my mind, is essentially a mockery of the millions of people in this country who are entitled to have full social opportunities in the land. I think I heard some hon. Member say, "Rubbish!" Well, he may think so, there has been so much rubbish in legislation in the past, so far as the interests of the majority of the people in this country are concerned, and I hope that a Labour Government, if it has not got power while it is in office, is not going to do anything to add to the rubbish in legislation that we have got from hon. Gentlemen opposite and those below the Gangway.
I want to say a word with regard to the Sudan. It does not seem to be a question of rubbish, but of something even worse than rubbish. There seems to be something very fragile and fishy about it altogether. I have been trying to make out the necessity for a guarantee of another £3,500,000 in connection with the Sudan. Already there has been given the guarantee of £9,500,000, and, naturally, I suppose, there has been a corresponding expenditure. Consequently, I would imagine that to-day, if there has been an expenditure of about £10,000,000 guaranteed by the British Government, you should have a property to-day upon which there would be no 1475 difficulty at all in getting an additional loan of £3,500,000, without any Government guarantee. I wonder whether the Government loan has got something to do with the extraordinary dividends about which we have heard—the 35 per cents. Those shares, we were told in the House, have risen from £1 to £7, and here we have got a Labour Government, and the people who put the Labour Government into power, asking us to give a guarantee of another £3,500,000. I think it has been said in this House that if we increase the purchasing power of the working-class people, if an additional £1 a week were going into the homes of the working class, you would get thereby such a stimulus to your trade, such a stimulus to industry, that there would be some real material improvement.
The hon. Member for Farnham said a lot of interesting things yesterday about inflation and deflation, about there being no real shortage of credit, and pointed to the fact that there had been only some £8,000,000 of credits taken up. I go back in my memory to the time of the boom after the War. I remember then that one heard on every side how the banks were pressing for the reduction of overdrafts. There was a boom going on. People were getting money, and there was a certain amount of happiness in the country, but there was also the feeling that it was too good to last. What a change there is to-day! Then, when you went along any street, you scarcely met a person that was not well-dressed. To-day you cannot go along any street, practically, without seeing ever so many evidences of the want of the people. When the boom was on, the banks began to press their customers to reduce their overdrafts. Manufacturers were finding that the banks were getting somewhat difficult to deal with, and there was this feeling. You had developed a psychology of fear that you had something which was too good to last. The banks reacted to it strongly. They tried to make themselves safe with regard to the treatment they gave to their customers, and the customers began to call for the reduction of the wages of their employés. The purchasing power of the people went down, and then the machinery of your business started. For example, the miners had their wages reduced. There was the 1476 reduction of so many hundred million pounds a year in the wages of the working class, and when the miner's wife went to the shop to get provisions she could only buy about half, possibly, of what she had formerly purchased. There were as many customers as ever, but they were only buying half the amount. If those people were only purchasing half the amount, the grocer found he was not getting rid of his goods. That went on right through the whole of industry, and here we are to-day with this Trade Facilities Bill giving credits, giving assurances or guarantees that the business is going to be absolutely safe for the moneylender. It is time that we were paying far less attention to the moneylender, and far more attention to the ordinary working-class person, to the unemployed man or woman.
I would like to know from the individual on the Front Bench who is looking after the Bill—I do not know whether the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs will be able to tell me or not—how it is, since he has spent about £10,000,000 in the Sudan, that these people require another £3,500,000. Cannot they get the loan on the property that has been built by the expenditure of all that money? If it is not a proposition good enough for the moneylenders, I think we are throwing away our money if we are going to put any more into it. It is all very well to say that Lancashire is waiting for the cotton, or Lancashire needs to get cotton supplies. Yes, we are all agreed that Lancashire should get its cotton supplies, but that is no reason why the community should be fleeced, and why we should be parties to exploitation such as is evident in this business. I am hoping that the Government are going to tell us that this is simply a matter of encouragement, that they are simply having these business operations until they get their plans to put before the House for a really satisfactory way of making provision for the millions of people in our country who in the past have only got from the House of Commons oppression and tyranny of one kind or another.
§ Sir FREDRIC WISE
I am sorry that the Financial Secretary to the Treasury is not in his place at the moment, for I should like to congratulate him on not increasing the amount beyond £65,000,000. There have been many persuasive speeches in this House which 1477 asked that the amount should be raised beyond the £65,000,000. It would be, I think, a great mistake at the present time to raise it beyond that figure. The objects of this Bill are two. One is to deal with unemployment, and I am sure the House must agree that we all sympathise with any effort to help the unemployment, and anything that can be done by this Bill to help to lessen unemployment should be done; and the second point is the raising of credit.
We have heard arguments and persuasions put forward that hundreds of millions of pounds can be raised by credit. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hendon (Sir P. Lloyd-Greame) suggested that the Indian railways should have £100,000,000 of credit, and other propositions have been put forward going into hundreds of millions of pounds. I wish the House to realise that there is only a certain amount of credit. You may say that there are two pools. In one pool you have what is called the balance of trade. That balance is left after the imports have been paid for. As right hon. and hon. Members realise, we import more into this country than we export, but with our invisible exports we have a balance of trade. In 1923 that balance of trade was approximately £97,000,000. That is £58,000,000 less than in 1922, and considerably less than it was in 1913. In the latter year the amount was £181,000,000. That is the only amount that can be invested outside this country unless you are going to depreciate your exchange. In January there were rumours about the Labour Government and the New York exchange fell because it was said a Labour Government had come into office here. I do not think that was the cause at all. I think we had overinvested in the United States, and, therefore, the dollar appreciated against the pound sterling. There is one other pool, and that other pool is what you may call the domestic pool. This is made up of issues in this country, and the issues in 1923 amounted to two hundred and three million pounds, of which £67,000,000 were invested in securities in this country and the balance in Dominion and foreign securities. That is quite apart from any Government borrowing. These two pools, which I may call the balance of trade 1478 pool and the issue pool, are all made up of the savings of the people in this country, and that is the only way credit can be given—that is by the savings of the people in this country. There is a great restriction of credit but no restriction for anything good. If you go across the water to Germany you will find the credit there is 20 per cent. In this country it is about 5 per cent. The more we take out of these two pools, whether it is for trade facilities or by any other proposed Government policy, the less there is to invest elsewhere. If you over-invest you get, as I have said, a depreciated exchange. It is very easy to give guarantees and forget all about them. It is far easier to give guarantees on account of the taxpayer, and with the taxpayer's money, and to forget all about the guarantees you have given. I have nothing to say against the Advisory Committee. I appreciate that Committee, and know what able men it is composed of, and what a great deal of work, as an Advisory Committee, they have put in in connection with the Trade Facilities Act. But I think some of their investments and credits really require criticism from the point of view of the taxpayer.
Before mentioning some of these credits, I should like to ask the Financial Secretary, who is now present, one or two questions. First of all, in these guarantees of credit does the Treasury receive regular returns as to how the companies are doing, every three months or—it may be—every six months? I brought that matter before the House last Session in June or July. I think the Treasury ought to receive regular reports so that they may know how a company is doing, and whether there is a chance of failure or not. Are these credits always first charges? Do the companies which have received credits up till now pay their interest regularly on these debentures which they got with our credit? There are two investments under this scheme, which I might mention, one is, I think, at least £50,000 for the Dalcoath Mine, and there is £10,000 for the Wheal Jewell and Marytavy Mine. I quite appreciate that these two mines bring employment to the Cornish tin miners, and that it is necessary, perhaps, that they should receive credit, but I am looking at this matter from the point of view of the taxpayer. I wonder if the Financial Secretary to the Treasury would invest in a 1479 company like this if he had not the taxpayer behind him? There are other investments I should like to mention to the Financial Secretary. There was a list issued on 9th November, 1923. I see from it that the North Wales Power Company received £200,000; the Atlantic Transport Company, £400,000; the Stand-fast Dyers and Printers, Limited, £90,000; the Anchor Donaldson, Limited, £400,000; the Bellaislah Steamship Company, £37,000; and the Seaham Harbour Dock Company, £100,000. The Seaham Harbour Dock Company may be safe as a credit, but that company does not pay anything on its preference or ordinary shares. It may give employment, but I am speaking from the point of view of the taxpayer. There is also the Waverley Shipping Company and the Grahamston Shipping Company, and also the Power and Traction Finance Company of Poland, Limited. I take an extract from the "Times" of 13th February dealing with the matter which says:The Power and Traction Finance Company, Limited, of London has granted, under the Trade Facilities Act, a credit of £1,250,000 to Polish electrical enterprise in the South Western Industrial centres. The Warsaw tramway system has refused credits but it is understood that its decision is not final. There is a possibility that Warsaw suburban narrow-gauged railways will be electrified. The entire credit is for British-made equipment. This is the first large British investment in Poland.May I ask the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, how is this going to be repaid? Will it be repaid in Polish marks? This loan is for 20 years, and that is a long time. I wonder what the position of Poland will be at the end of 20 years? Mention has been made here of the Bank Line. First of all, an increase of interest was granted from 4½ per cent. to 5 per cent., showing that one of the pools is not quite so fluid as it was. The Bank Line has floated £1,800,000 with a British Government guarantee of principal and interest, the ships being the security for £1,795,000. That does not sound very satisfactory from the taxpayers' point of view, nor from the Government point of view. There is one other point I should like to raise. It was raised by the hon. Member for Farnham (Mr. A. M. Samuel), and it is in reference to shipbuilding I do not like these advances. I do not like the advance of this money for shipbuilding. The hon. Member for 1480 Chiselhurst (Mr. Nesbitt) read an extract from Sir Alan Anderson's address as President of the Chamber of Shipping of the United Kingdom. In that address Sir Alan Anderson, who is a recognised business man, and who fully realises the importance of doing all that he can for employment in this country, criticises these Government uneconomic advances of credit on shipping and shipbuilding. I do not wish to trouble the House with reading the whole of the extract which was read by the hon. Member for Chiselhurst, but I should like to read the last few lines of Sir Alan Anderson's observations. He says:It seems probable that every ship which is built before its time by Government action will postpone a dozen or more other orders which would otherwise have been placed.That is very important. I do wish that the Financial Secretary would consider whether it is advisable that these loans on credit to shipping and shipbuilding firms should continue. I want him to realise—I do not wish to criticise the Advisory Committee, knowing, as I know, what able men they are who are on it—but I am only criticising it from the business point of view, and from that of the taxpayer!
May I come to Clause 2. I think this Clause was recommended, subject to this House, at the Economic Conference when the Dominion Ministers were over here. The arrangement was to give three-quarters of the interest on any credit. That is to say, supposing you raise your credit at 5 per cent., you are going to assist—and I am all for assisting the Dominions—with 3¾ per cent. of that 5 per cent. interest. That does seem to me to be unnecessary. You are not only going to assist them in that way, but you are going to raise the money as well! If you raise £5,000,000, which is the full amount which is allowed for in the five years, it means you are going to raise a credit of £30,000,000, and you are going to give three-quarters of that interest besides raising the money. One has to realise that you cannot go on expending these pools, which I have endeavoured to describe, for the pools are the results of the savings of the people. It is only those savings that will allow this £30,000,000 to be raised, and what you are doing is likely to jeopardise other loans in other directions. I do not wish to keep the House any longer. [HON. MEM- 1481 BERS: "Go on!"] No, other Members wish to speak; but I desired to raise these points, and I wish to impress on the Financial Secretary to the Treasury—and perhaps he will be good enough to pass it on to the Chancellor of the Exchequer—the necessity that credit must be restricted. You must be careful of credit, because there is only a certain amount. We have raised our rate of interest from 4½ per cent. to 5 per cent. on the Bank Line issue, and I hope the hon. Gentleman will be in a position to answer one or two of the questions which I have put, and which, I hope, I have put in a businesslike way, and from a protection of the taxpayer.
§ Mr. W. LUNN (Secretary, Overseas Trade Department)
There are certain advantages in a Bill like this coming before the House. It is an omnibus Bill, and it is so varied that it has enabled hon. Members in certain directions to throw stones at certain Departments and to pass on bouquets to other Departments. In the first two days of the Debate on the Second Reading of this Bill the third section received nothing but compliments. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Horne) was very outspoken in his desire to see the Exports Credits scheme developed as fully as possible, and he believes, what I have believed ever since I went to the Overseas Trade Department, that if it was more widely known, there would be more advantages come from that section to the trade of the country than what has been the case hitherto.
The hon. Member for Farnham (Mr. A. M. Samuel), who is a member of the Advisory Committee, was equally appreciative at the close of his speech in regard to what has been done, and may be done, in this direction. What my two hon. Friends who have had charge of the Trade Facilities have said about the Sudan business has, I believe, in the ordinary course of debate, exhausted their right to speak again. I have listened to the whole of the Debate since it began on the first day, and I do not think I have heard a single argument from those who criticised Clause 4 which has not been replied to previously. I think the speech of the hon. Member for Stirling (Mr. T. Johnston) contained all the points that have been made on that 1482 particular Section, and my two hon. Friends the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and the Financial Secretary have dealt with those particular points.
§ Mr. MACLEAN
Those points have not been dealt with. All that was done was to promise to reply to them when they came up during the Committee stage.
§ Mr. LUNN
The Committee stage has not yet been reached, and possibly then my hon. Friend will reply, but the position now is that they have exhausted their right to speak on the Second Reading. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Antrim (Mr. Hugh O'Neill) is the first Member who has raised any point with regard to the Export Credits scheme, and he has put four or five specific questions which I should like to answer. The first is, are there any returns published of the guarantees that are given under the Export Credits scheme? If my right hon. Friend will look at the Board of Trade Journal he will see that the returns are issued quarterly. The last returns were published on 7th February giving the figures up to 31st December last. The next quarterly returns of course are not yet due. The right hon. Gentleman went back to the time when the Act dealing with overseas credits, advances and insurance came before the House for the first time in 1920, and he dealt with the question of advances. I think he might have raised this question in years gone by.
He also asked me a question with regard to flax production in this country and the assistance given under the scheme as it existed in its first year. The granting of advances to flax producing firms came into operation in the first year when advances were given. It was understood when this Bill dealing with trade facilities and export credits was passed that risks should be taken. The Government undertook to take risks which private traders were not able to take at that time because of the difficulty of securing trade for this country and work for our people. I think they were justified in taking those steps to try and keep the factories in this country going instead of paying out charity and relief to people who were unemployed.
I am not here to say, nor have I heard it said in this Debate, that this Bill is a solution for unemployment. I do not look upon it in that way. This Bill does 1483 not allow a discussion upon the whole scheme of outdoor relief and unemployment, but those subjects have been dealt with by the Prime Minister, and I do not suppose they can come before the House in any one Bill. I am afraid there will be losses in connection with what was done to assist the flax industry at that time, but I am able to say that practically the whole of the losses that have taken place in connection with this Exports Credits scheme took place during the first year when the advances were made. Since 1921, when the principle was changed, I think it will be found that the losses are of no importance whatever. In fact, I think it is safe to say that the premium which is charged will provide, and is providing, a reserve fund which will cover the losses under that part of the scheme.
I have been asked what is the position with regard to Russia. The House will not expect me, or the two Under-Secretaries who have spoken, to tell the House what is the policy of the Government after the reply which was given by the Prime Minister a few days ago upon this question. If I am asked my personal view, I should say quite distinctly that I sincerely hope that this Export Credits scheme may become operative and apply to Russia. There is nothing in the Act to prevent it, because it provides that we may give credits to exporters who are trading with every country in the world, including our Dominions. Up to now the position as to Russia has not been decided, and it is under consideration. Consequently, I must leave that point until it has been decided by those who have the matter in hand on the lines which have been laid down in the Prime Minister's statement.
The Member for the Bridgeton Division (Mr. Maxton) entered into a very wide field of comparison, and it is a great danger to do that in a discussion of this sort. The question of whether we should discuss the whole effects of unemployment in this country, and compare it with the conditions in other countries, does not, I think, arise in connection with the particular subject now under review. I would remind hon. Members that it is important that we should do whatever we possibly can to see that we extend our export trade. It is a great advantage, 1484 indeed it is a necessity, for this country, and I shall do whatever can be done by the Department with which I am connected. Bearing in mind the statement of how small is the work we can do in connection with this particular Bill, I am prepared to take every means in my power to assist traders to find work for their workpeople, and to assist our people in this country, so that they may be able to work and earn a decent living wage. I do not say that all this can be done under Clause 3, but I think something more can be done that has been done in the past. I think there has been rather too much rigidity and severity in dealing with these applications in the past, and I am looking forward to more leniency in the days to come. The returns I have called for as to the trade done under the Export Credits scheme show that, during the last few weeks new business has only been sanctioned to the extent of about £25,000 a week. I would like to see that increased by at least four times that amount, and if this Bill is passed making provision for an increase of the period upon which guarantees can be given from September this year to September, 1927, and the period of liquidation from 1927 to 1930, there is a possibility of using the amount of money which was laid down in the Act of 1920 and is still unused before that time has run out at the rate I suggest of four times the amount of what has been done up to the present.
The constitution of the Export Credits Committee has been criticised. I have had opportunities of meeting the chairman of the Advisory Committee, and I must say that I am very pleased to find a man like the Hon. Sydney Peel, who has shown such interest in this question, and I believe he is most anxious to make the best use of this scheme in the interests of this country. At the same time, I think it is important that we should show some care in using the taxpayers' money. I have been connected with public life all my lifetime, and I have been accustomed to spending other people's money, and in doing that we should be as careful as if we were spending our own, and it is our duty to see that when it is spent it should be spent wisely and well.
I have taken steps to see that the Committee is increased by one member, and I have asked my hon. Friend the Member for Finsbury (Mr. Gillett) to become a member of this Committee, and I am 1485 pleased to say he has accepted. He will be able to attend the Committee, and assist them in doing more work than we have been in a position to do in the past. The Advisory Committee strongly recommends that we should extend the scheme in connection with Clause 3 of this Bill. This Committee is composed of more than 20 of the leading business men in this country who know something of industrial affairs, and they have strongly urged the necessity of extending the period at which guarantees can be given and the period of liquidation in accordance with the Bill. I think I am safe in saying, although it may not be a good point to make, that the late Government before it went out of office had decided to introduce a Bill on the lines of this measure with regard to exports credits, and intended to extend the period upon which credits may be given. I am not, on a Bill like this, going to enter into the great question of nationalisation or public ownership in industry. My own position is perfectly well known upon these matters. I do not see any reason why I should alter my views with regard to them, but the facts of life teach me that, although I want to reach that position, I shall have to endeavour to do something tangible for the people while I am alive. If I can do anything by means of a Bill like this to secure some opportunity of earning their livelihood for our workpeople, I am doing something in the proper direction, and something of a practical manner at the moment. It is not simply a question of diverting trade from one particular individual to another. Markets are becoming narrower by reason of the fact that countries abroad are developing their own industries, and by doing that they are narrowing the possibilities of this country. The Government should take risks of this kind, and continue to take risks in this matter, so that the trade which ought to come to this country, and which can come to this country, may be diverted from other countries to our own.
I am satisfied that there are opportunities that may be taken with regard to this Bill, and facilities that may be given which will be of an advantage to our people. I want to see this scheme, small as it may be, with regard to the whole question of trade development in the country, used to the full advantage. 1486 It is not satisfactory to me to hear the statement that has been made in this Debate, that, although the Government four years ago decided that the maximum to which we might go in this matter of export credits, should be £26,000,000, only £8,500,000 has been used up to the present moment. There are something like £17,500,000, and I hope and trust that in the period still left, we may find traders in this country, who do not know of this scheme, who will seek to do export trade, and take advantage of it more than they have done in the days gone by.
There was one point raised by the hon. Member for Farnham (Mr. A. M. Samuel) in his speech last night. He said that the applications which had been made to the Exports Credits Committee totalled £18,000,000, although they had only given out £8,500,000. The reason he gave was that trade was not there, and that they could not use the credit, although they had been guaranteed it, because of that fact. So far as I have heard from a very excellent body of men who conduct the Export Credits Department in connection with this business, the whole of the facts were not stated with regard to the advantages of this scheme in the figure of £8,500,000. I believe it is safe to say that after full and complete inquiries, which have been made in many cases by the Exports Credits Department, bankers themselves, in order to save the exporter the premiums, have backed the exporter, and so the trade has not come through the Export Credits scheme. I think that is one other instance in addition to what was said by the hon. Member for Farnham in his speech yesterday. I have so little to reply to with regard to this particular side of the question, that I may leave it, knowing that the Whole House, practically, is in support of this particular phase of the Bill. On the other matters, I feel, as I have stated, that we may leave those, in the light of what has been said in reply, after three days' debate, by the Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs, to the Financial Secretary to the Treasury to deal with on the Committee stage of the Bill. There are other opportunities in which hon. Members may discuss all the points in this Bill, and after three days' debate, in which there has been a great deal of repetition, I hope that we be able now, 1487 or in a very short time, to have the Second Reading of the Bill.
§ Mr. VIVIAN
I do not rise in any spirit of obstruction to offer a very few observations concerning this Bill. Before passing to the Bill itself, I would like to refer to one or two observations of the hon. Member who has just spoken, concerning trade and employment. I understood him to say that there was a contraction of our foreign trade, because other countries were engaged in manufacturing for themselves, and he implied that that was having the effect of closing our markets. I suggest to him that that is not in accordance with the fact. We have it on the authority of Mr. McKenna himself, the head of a great bank, that at this moment this country is doing a far bigger proportion of the world's trade than in 1913. It is the world's trade that has shrunk, and our share of it is greater than it was before. I suggest to the hon. Member that it is nearer the truth to say, not that foreign manufacturers have taken our place, but that they have not yet recovered their productivity which they lost owing to the War. I have never, in my little experience of Parliamentary life, known of such important recommendations concerning finance being made to the House with so little information concerning the experience in regard to the advances that have been already made. We have had no White Paper issued to us giving us particulars of what have been the results in regard to advances already made. I have no doubt some of these particulars can be discovered if we dig for them in different places. I suggest that it would have been more satisfactory, if in the submission of this Bill, the hon. Gentleman had given a summary of the results obtained up to now, as a result of the advances already made. Judging from his interesting and informing speech—more informing than any speech from the Government Bench—the hon. Member for Farnham (Mr. A. M. Samuel) did not encourage us to go far—I said I did not think the Bill was likely to do much good, nor, I added, was it likely to do much harm.That was on the introduction of the proposals. He proceeded:I may say that events have shown that thy forecast was justified. The Measure has 1488 not done much good, and little or no harm."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th March, 1924; col. 1267, Vol. 170.]That really is not strong recommendation for the Government proposals. I hope the Government, on the Committee stage, will give further information regarding their experiences with these advances. I would like to refer to the suggestion to which, I understand, the Government is rather favourable, that the cotton resulting from the enterprise in the Sudan should have its market practically limited to Great Britain. I hope the Government will not be betrayed into taking any action of that sort for various reasons. First of all, I would emphasise that, so far as the British Empire is concerned, it has been looked upon with tolerance, in the main, by the whole world, largely because we have not made it a private preserve on behalf of the industries of Great Britain. We have looked upon it in the spirit of trusteeship, rather than in the spirit of exploitation. I trust the Labour Government will not take a step away from that great standard which has been set in the past. It does incite other countries to take similar steps, and I suggest that if we antagonise the rest of the world by treating these other parts of the Empire as our private preserves, we may expect a retaliation from other countries. For instance, take the United States. We know how much Lancashire depends on the cotton of the United States. If we put restrictions along the lines suggested, we may expect retaliation from other countries. My third and last point, and the main point which causes me to rise, is that I want to direct the attention of the House and the Government to these words in Clause 2. It speaks of guaranteeing a certain rate of interestsubject to the loan being expended in the United Kingdom.Paragraph (c) in the earlier part of that Clause says:The application of the proceeds of the loan in the manner proposed is calculated to promote employment in the United Kingdom.I ask my hon. Friend: Does he hold the view that it is necessary, desirable, or expedient to lay it down that this money must be spent in the United Kingdom in order to increase employment in this country? I have a much higher opinion of my hon. Friend than that. I have 1489 not come into close contact with him, personally, but I can assure him that I have watched with interest his position in politics, and I am satisfied that he does not believe that. I hope that he will see his way in the Committee stage to delete that restrictive condition:expended in the United Kingdom.Hon. Members smile. Do they believe that? Evidently, hon. Members opposite associate themselves with the remark, I occasionally hear in the House, about sending money abroad. Do they really believe that that is how business is done? There is not a single answer. Do they really believe that "sending money abroad" is the right expression to use in describing a commercial transaction? The only object of exporting is to obtain imports; there is no other object in business. That seems to be perfectly clear, and it follows that there is no decrease in employment in this country because the money voted under this Clause happens to be spent abroad. Let me take the illustration which my hon. Friend the Member for West Middlesbrough (Mr. T. Thomson) has already brought to the attention of the House, namely, that of the importation of cement in connection with the carrying out of a work of public utility, where the foreign quotation was 11s. per ton below that of the British combine. Is it suggested that if that public authority bought that cement from, say, Belgium, it would lessen in any way the demand for labour in this country? It might lessen the demand for workers in the cement trade, but, surely, Belgium does not get paid until the equivalent in goods or services has gone back to Belgium. Hon. Members opposite smile at that; I await their explanation of some other method by which trade is carried on. It is only on that basis that you can carry on trade. If you attempt to carry it on on any other basis, unless you are a philanthropist, you will find yourselves in gaol, or in the Bankruptcy Court, or in a lunatic asylum.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Sir PAGE CROFT
Would it not be better in that case to invest all our money in foreign industries?
§ Mr. VIVIAN
If you were paid your interest that would be excellent, and I presume the hon. and gallant Gentleman would be satisfied with that. I suggest 1490 that one of the results of such restrictive Clauses—and it is a real, practical issue—is to hand over those who are spending this money to the tender mercies of combines. I wish the hon. Member for Farnham were in his place, because he is a member of the committe dealing with the administration of these funds, and I feel sure he would agree that it would be helpful, to those who are arranging for these funds to be laid out an enterprises, that they should have freedom of choice in regard to the markets in which they should deal. Once you deny them freedom of choice you put them under the heel of a national combine, with the result that prices are inflated, and the usefulness of the money that has been voted is restricted. I am going to plead with my hon. Friend as to whether he cannot see his way, before this Bill passes through the Committee stage, to delete that objectionable provision.
I would conclude by saying that this is not without its importance in connection with world opinion. The action taken by this House has its effect upon opinion outside these islands, and I am sure my hon. Friend agrees with me that one of the great needs in Europe at this moment is to get those small nations, which have been created out of the Peace Treaty, to fall into line, to break down their barriers, and to arrange for exchanges amongst themselves on a Free Trade basis. There is not a banker or business man who knows that part of Europe who would deny that it was one of the worst features of the Peace Treaty that it did not provide for Free Trade between those newly-created nations for at least 10 or 20 years. They are at the present moment engaged in strangling themselves by restrictive tariffs, and taking themselves deeper and deeper into bankruptcy and poverty. It does not help us in bringing these nations into line on a better economic plane if this House goes back on its policy of freedom and Free Trade, and introduces into Bills of this sort Clauses of the protective kind to which I have alluded. I apologise for having taken up so much time and I assure my hon. Friend that it has not been for any purpose of obstruction. I hope he will see his way to reform this Measure when it goes to a Committee.
§ Mr. WARDLAW-MILNE
My hon. Friend the Financial Secretary knows quite well that I support this Bill, and, 1491 therefore, have no intention of delaying its Second Reading or of speaking for purposes of obstruction. I only rise because this is, probably, the only opportunity, throughout the whole passage of the Bill, of dealing with a point which I think has only been mentioned to-day in connection with the guarantees given by the Committee which has been referred to from time to time. I am in a little difficulty in this matter, because I have such a very high regard and admiration for the excellent and disinterested work which is done by these very influential and highly respected gentlemen, who are known so well throughout the City, and, indeed, throughout the country. I do not think, however, that they will object to my criticism, if it can be called a criticism, when they realise that its object is to put before them the wish of a certain number of people, at any rate, that, instead of concentrating quite so much upon the protection of the taxpayer, they should, if necessary, consider opening their hands to some extent.
From time to time applications are submitted for large guarantees for the purpose of promoting trade and helping employment. I have not a word of criticism about them except from one standpoint. In this country, to-day, who is it that wants money? It is not the large trader, but the small man who has difficulty in getting money. I do not suggest that this Measure will immediately help the little man, or that it is possible to set up an organisation which would remedy the difficulties of the present system, but let us be clear what the difficulty is. It is not the great business houses, the great manufacturing concerns, that have difficulty in finding money; it is the small man, and it is, perhaps, not unfair to say that that arises from the circumstance that in recent years a large number of the smaller banks have been amalgamated in a few large concerns. I daresay those amalgamations have resulted in good in some directions; I am not criticising them; but I do say that I think it is a pity—that it has done away with the intimate touch which existed in the old days between the private banker and the small tradesman or manufacturer. The result is that a large number of small people cannot get money at all. They may have perfectly sound schemes, perfectly sound enterprises, but, unless they can show a sufficient series of 1492 years of good profits, a sufficient series of good balance sheets, it is impossible for them to get money from the public. Unless, indeed, they are on a sufficiently large scale, they cannot get money from the public at all.
I think it might be possible, through some central organisation, to help the small man and to do a certain amount of good. It is only reasonable that these eminent gentlemen should be more than careful over the taxpayers' money, and I do not want to suggest that they should not be; but the point is that, if too great care is taken, the result is that, while a large amount of money may be guaranteed to large concerns, enabling them, perhaps, to raise money a little cheaper—which, perhaps, is a good thing if it anticipates work that they would not otherwise do—it does not really get over the difficulty of the small man. I do not want to go into the question of loans for the building of ships, as that has already been dealt with, but certainly it is not unfair to suggest that it is a little doubtful whether it is advisable to guarantee money for building in advance a large number of ships. I have spent a good many years in the shipping industry, and I am not sure that I can say I think this is the most likely way of bringing about a revival in shipping. An anticipation of trade requirements in that way may not always be good, but there are other directions in which you can anticipate, particularly in connection with manufacturing, which would be very valuable, and that is why I have suggested some sort of organisation.
It may be very difficult to help the private trader or the small man, but there is one matter with which I came into touch, in connection with this Act, only a few months ago, namely, an attempt to promote a sugar beet factory. That, I think, can be taken out of the category either of the small man or of the large concern. It is simply put forward from the point of view of the public interest. A certain amount of money was subscribed in the neighbourhood of the Kidderminster Division, which I represent. It was subscribed locally, largely in the public interest, and something like £50,000 was raised in ordinary shares. They then proposed to ask the Trade Facilities Committee for a guarantee, to enable them to raise some of the other 1493 money that was required. The Committee were very nice about it, and said they would certainly consider it, but, when it came to the point, they said, "We will give you a guarantee for a further £150,000, provided you give us first mortgage debentures on the proposed factory." The people who had raised the £50,000 objected, somewhat naturally, as I think. They said, "We do not want to invest in sugar; we are not sugar experts; we are investing in this business in ordinary shares because we hope it will be prosperous and give us good returns, but also largely because we think it is a good thing for the country, that it is a patriotic venture. If the Government are going to do anything, surely they do not want to take a mortgage on the whole concern, and put us in the cart if anything goes wrong? Will they not come in on the same basis as ourselves"? That was a not unreasonable attitude.
I do not say the thing entirely failed from that point of view, because I am afraid that, as in the case of many other ventures of the same kind, it remains for another right hon. Gentleman to make a statement very soon which will assure the people who are interested in sugar beet that the present Government will carry on the decisions of the last Government in connection with that question. It is a vital matter to the country, though it would not be in order to discuss it now. I only want to say that I hope it will be brought to a head when it is known that that industry is going to be encouraged by being given some sort of security over a term of years. It would have been perfectly possible, or almost possible, to raise the money for which we asked in the City of London on the same debentures. I do think that those eminent gentlemen who have this matter in hand will not object to a criticism which says it is not much use holding their fist so tight that they will only give money practically on the same terms on which it can be raised from the public by the ordinary channels. If it is going to be of value it should be a little easier than that. I know it will not be taken that by that I mean they should open their hands too widely to all sorts of schemes.
One last point I want to ask hon. Members to bear in mind. There has been a great deal of discussion, some of 1494 which, if there were time and if it were fair to do it, I should like to follow on these various schemes which have been passed, but does not the hon. Gentleman think a great deal of this could have been avoided if it had been possible to put before the House a short and simple statement as to some of the reasons which have been prominent in the mind of the Committee in granting these guarantees? I do not suggest that they should be in any way bound to do it. I do not suggest that they should give a longwinded statement or that they should attempt to answer criticisms. I have every confidence in them in every way, but I think it would obviate criticism if it were possible for them or for the officials to attach to the statements which are issued to the House of Commons some very short account of the reasons which have led them to give these guarantees—something more than the mere building of ships in Glasgow or Belfast.
§ Mr. WARDLAW-MILNE
If the hon. Member looks through this list he will find that Glasgow has not been neglected at all. In fact, I think Glasgow has got a little more than its fair share, if it is possible for Glasgow to get it from this House. At any rate, it would be of value in obviating criticism and would make the public even better acquainted than they are at present with the great work the Committee is doing. I should like to have talked about the Sudan, but time will not permit. I hope the House will give the Bill a Second Reading. I know it will do good.
§ Mr. MACLEAN
I should like to reply, before going further, to the statement the hon. Member made at the end of his speech with regard to the guarantees to shipbuilding or ship owning firms for the building of ships. If he looks at the place where those ships have been built he will find that Glasgow has not received any of them, and consequently Glasgow has not received even its own share, to say nothing of receiving more than its share.
§ Mr. WARDLAW-MILNE
I do not think it necessary to defend Glasgow. I am certain there are enough Members 1495 in the House to look after Glasgow without me. In the very first item of the list I have here it says, "Harland and Wolff, £1,493,000 for the establishment of ship-repairing works on the Thames and constructing new wharves at Glasgow."
§ Mr. MACLEAN
Wharves are an entirely different thing. By far the greater part of the money which was guaranteed was spent in other places.
§ Mr. MACLEAN
I am not defending them either. I should like more spent there. I should like to see some of the money which is presently being guaranteed for foreign purposes spent on excavating the Renfrew Dock, the scheme passed by the House many years ago, but the work on which has been held up for certain reasons. It would be of considerable advantage to the people in the Clyde area and in Renfrewshire, and it would guarantee them a considerable amount of employment for a year or two to come. I should like to welcome the hon. Member for Ilford (Sir F. Wise) amongst the opponents of the Bill. He read out certain things from a list and suggested that he was here as the guardian of the taxpayer and that he watched over the expenditure of the taxpayers' money. I noticed that in all the lists that he read, and in all the names he read from those lists, he did not mention the Sudan Company. I hope when we go to a Division he will show that he is equally virtuous in looking after the taxpayers' money in other matters and that he will be identically the same when it comes to spending money on the Sudanese company. The hon. Member who is on the Advisory Board made a reference to the surplus of shipping which we have and objected very strongly to the Trade Facilities Fund being used to guarantee the building of ships on the ground that there are already at least 600,000 tons of surplus shipping.
§ Mr. A. M. SAMUEL
The ground was that I think it would do more harm than good to the shipbuilding men whom the hon. Member wishes to help.
§ Mr. MACLEAN
I quite agree, and I recognise the force of the argument that 1496 where you have a surplus tonnage, to go on constructing more is not serving any useful purpose in providing work. If I might make a suggestion to the President of the Board of Trade, it would be that he should bring the Plimsoll load-line back by abolishing the Regulation which was passed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) when President of the Board of Trade, and which was considered to be equal to making a present to the shipowners of a million tons of shipping. If you abolish that Regulation and re-establish the Plimsoll line, the existing surplus of 600,000 tons would not be sufficient to make up the million tons which the abolition of that load-line gave to the shipowners.
§ Mr. MACLEAN
I am aware that there is a Plimsoll line, but the Regulation passed by the right hon. Gentleman raised it and made a present to the shipowners which is estimated at nearly a million tons. We want that abolished and the load-line put back to the safety measure established by Plimsoll in this House. Quite a few Members who have been supporting the Bill have been taking exception to the strictures which have been passed upon it by hon. Members on these benches who have been discussing the guarantee to the Sudanese Company. Might I draw their attention to the Title of the Bill? It isto amend the Trade Facilities Acts, 1921 and 1922, to authorise the Treasury to contribute towards the interest payable on certain loans, the application of which is calculated to promote employment in the United Kingdom.Then, finally,to amend Section 3 of the Trade Facilities and Loans Guarantee Act, 1922.The amendment of that Section 3 brings the Sudanese Company in with the extension of the guarantee which the House is asked to give to it. The purpose of the Bill is that the loans which are to be guaranteed have to be applied or spent in such a way as will be calculated to promote employment in this country. I want to know why the guaranteeing of the construction of a railway in Poland is going to guarantee employment in this country, unless the material has to be manufactured in this country, and in that 1497 case it is only the material for the railway which will be manufactured in this country. The whole laying down of the railway will be in Poland, and that will take up a very large part of the expenditure of the sum which the House is asked to guarantee. [Interruption.] Are you going to build the railway here and then take it over there? Of course you are not. The unemployed in this country have not benefited very materially by any of the loans which have been guarteed under the Act. Right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Bench, who have only been a matter of five weeks in office, may not have all the details concerning the previous Acts which have been passed, but I challenge any right hon. Gentleman on the Opposition Bench who has had anything to do with the previous Trade Facilities Act or the guaranteeing of loans, or the supervising of any of the applications which were made, whether they can point to any scheme for which money was given which has brought employment in any degree to working men who have been unemployed in this country. There is no reply from any of them, not even the member of the Advisory Board. They know perfectly well that the money that is being spent does not materially affect the number of the unemployed in this country. Consequently the purpose of the Act is not carried out according to its title and the Acts have proved ineffective, and there is no guarantee from anyone on the Front Bench that this Bill will be any more effective than have those which were passed previously. With regard to the Sudanese company, the Secretary to the Overseas Trade Department says there has been a great deal of repetition. A great deal of repetition has come from the Front Bench, repeating excuses previously made by occupiers of that bench.
§ Mr. MACLEAN
There is a question about that. [Interruption.] I do not include the Noble Lady (Lady Terrington). She is not yet sufficiently experienced in the ways of the House. With regard to the Sudanese guarantee, we 1498 require to repeat things which have been stated previously, because we have not yet received any reply from any one on the Front Bench as to what is going to be done regarding this. The only thing we have had in any way resembling a reply is the statement of the Financial Secretary to the Treasury that, if we did not give this further guarantee of £3,500,000, we might lose all the money we had greviously guaranteed by the Sudan Government being called upon to make good that which had already been guaranteed and the expenditure that had already gone on. Is this to be a never-ending guarantee to this Sudanese Government and to the company? Have we to go on constantly finding money? Is there to be a special Section in the Trade Facilities Bill of this year, and a special Section in the Trade Facilities Bill of coming years, giving an additional guarantee, and are we going to have the same excuse put forward on the next occasion by the present Financial Secretary to the Treasury, or his successor, giving the identical excuse that was given by Members opposite when they were in office? Is it not time that this thing should be stopped? Why is it that we are finding money for the Sudan? Has it brought employment to this country? Is it likely to bring employment to this country? The Financial Secretary was asked whether it was the case that these 70,000 bales of cotton which are expected to be grown in this area, once the work had been completed, would come to the Empire, and that the Empire would have first claim upon all the cotton grown in that area. He could not give us that guarantee. The cotton can be sold at the world's price to anyone who chooses to buy it, irrespective of the nation to which they belong. Therefore, the statement made by some hon. Members that this scheme is in the interests of the Lancashire cotton workers is entirely erroneous.
§ Mr. MACLEAN
That does not always follow. We produce millions of bales of cotton, and these 70,000 bales will be a mere drop in the bucket in so far as they will affect the world's price. Do be 1499 sensible, even though you are Liberals. The whole question has been, not one of reducing the price, but of finding work. One argument has been that these 70,000 bales of cotton are going to afford more employment to the cotton operatives of Lancashire. That was the only argument put forward, until some Liberal Member, by a brain wave, discovered, by way of interjection, a new argument. The three hon. Members who are now on the Government Bench have exhausted their right to reply, but we have the President of the Board of Trade, the Chancellor of the Exchequer and other Members of the Government who might very easily give to us the guarantee for which we are asking, and give us the reply for which we are asking, and not fob us off with the statement: "We have discussed this matter long enough; these same matters can be brought up in Committee, and we shall have an answer ready." Some of the hon. Members on the Front Bench took part in the discussion and in the Division on this Clause a year ago, and the arguments which we advanced when we were sitting opposite are as sound to-night as they were on that occasion. To-night we intend to divide if we do not get the satisfactory assurance from our Front Bench which we asked for from the other Front Bench a year or so ago. It is not sufficient to say that our Front Bench are carrying an evil inheritance. No one need carry an evil inheritance any longer than it is necessary, and it is not necessary for the Labour Front Bench to carry this inheritance. They can throw it over, and tell the Sudan Government that they will not carry it any longer, unless they get the guarantees for which we have asked.
Reference has been made to the men of wonderful business capacity and directive ability who deal with these matters in the Sudan. They are the men who handed over the contract to a Greek and allowed him to waste £6,000,000 of money on the erection of this barrage. They allowed him to get off with £600,000, and we are told that they are men of directive ability. These are the men who are to be guaranteed against loss by the British taxpayers and the British Government. The thing is preposterous. Men with names like Eckstein, Wernher, Wagner, and Beit are, surely, not men who are very patriotic towards this country. [An HON. MEMBER: "Are they not high- 1500 landers?"] If they are, they come from the highlands of Palestine. I know that none of them were in the Gordon Highlanders. They may have been in the Jordan Highlanders. I would ask the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, in view of the statement he made last night, whether he remembers statements he has made in other places and on other occasions, and I would ask the Secretary for Overseas Trade, in view of the statement he has made to-day, whether he remembers other statements he has made in other places and at other times. We want to do something for the people while we are alive. As the Secretary of Overseas Trade spoke to-night, it seemed to me that he was repudiating the doctrine which he has advocated inside and out-side this House. Are we to take it that it is a repudiation on his part?
§ Mr. LUNN
I know that my hon. Friend does not wish to misrepresent me. I do not give way to him or to any member of the Labour party in my desire to attain what I have stood for all my life. I make that very clear. The objects that I want to reach are, as I have stated many times in this House, objects within my own lifetime—it may be a short lifetime, for life is short—and I want to take the opportunity of doing what I can to provide work for our people, realising that the other thing is not as immediate as is the call, that is, that we should find work.
§ Mr. MACLEAN
In that case, you look upon it as being a long distance ahead before you can secure it.
§ Mr. MACLEAN
I am taking your own words, and their meaning, and that is the interpretation I put upon them.
§ Mr. MACLEAN
It may be sufficient for you, but it is not sufficient for me. I am optimistic enough to believe that we can get a great deal more than is suggested in this Bill, in our lifetime. This thing has not brought work, and I do not think it will bring work to those who are unemployed. In these circumstances, a stronger attitude ought to have been taken up by our Front Bench in regard to bringing forward these proposals. They ought 1501 not merely to claim that it is an inheritance from the past Government. In taking up that inheritance they should have taken stronger and more secure safeguards that this was going to find work. They have not done so. They come before us simply with a hotchpotch and a hash-up of what was given to the previous House by the previous Government. It is stretching our loyalty to the party too far to invite us to vote for the addition of another £3,500,000 to this gang of Sudanese, who are exploiting the credit of this country for their own purposes. If we are to carry on this jobbery any longer I say, frankly, that it is inviting us to stretch our loyalty too far to support this project, more particularly after the opposition which we took up when we were sitting on the benches opposite. If a Division is called to protest against the giving of any further guarantee of money to the Sudanese Government I shall cheerfully go into the Lobby, knowing that I can explain my vote and stand by it on any platform in the country.
§ Sir ROBERT THOMAS
An hon. Friend opposite deprecated the raising of the grant from £50,000,000 to £65,000,000. I am heartily in favour of £65,000,000 for trade facilities for the purposes in view, namely, the improvement of trade and the diminishing of unemployment, but as one who has been engaged for a quarter of a century in shipping, I must associate myself with the hon. Member for Farnham (Mr. A. M. Samuel) and others who have spoken against the subsidising of shipping. I do so, although I am interested in that industry, because I am conscious of the fact that this will not increase trade and employment and that it will do no good to the shipping industry. I hold in my hand the prospectus which was issued by the Bank Line for £1,800,000 5 per cent. debenture shares, guaranteed by the British Government. Although guaranteed by the British Government, there is an agreement in existence dated the 18th February, 1924, between the company of Andrew Weir and Company, of which company Lord Inverforth is the chairman, and Messrs. Mullens, Marshall, Steer, Lawford and Company to underwrite the issue for seven-eighths per cent. I fail to see what is the good of a guarantee by the British Government if at the same time this issue is to be underwritten. 1502 The fact of the matter is that a five per cent. debenture issue in shipping would not be underwritten without a Government guarantee.
In the first place, the security is not there. When a ship takes the water, however good that ship may be, there is an immediate depreciation of about 20 per cent. Therefore, I very much doubt the security which this debenture issue has to start with, and I am sorry to say that, in my opinion, it casts a reflection upon the advisers of the Overseas Department. I understand that there are three of them. I have no doubt that they are men of honour; one is a director of the Bank of England, and another is a very eminent auditor, Sir William Plender. But what do these men know about shipping. I doubt very much whether they know anything about shipping. For instance, a condition attached to the advancing of money to a shipping company is that the steamers to be built must have Diesel engines. If a steamer has a triple-expansion engine there would be no money advanced by the Government. One hon. Member quoted Sir A. Anderson, a shipping expert, who was associated with the Coalition Government in connection with the Ministry of Shipping, and he has condemned it because the Diesel engine is not yet a success; it is in the experimental stage. Steamers with this make of engine are to be found breaking down on the ocean highways continually, and here you have £1,800,000 guaranteed by the British Government on steamers that must have Diesel engines. That is a very serious matter. Here we have a spectacle of tens of thousands of tons of shipping laid up in all parts of the world. Many of those boats built during recent years have cost fabulous sums, £60 and £70 of ton dead-weight. Here you have those boats choking the harbours of the world, many of them with Diesel engines, boats that may be considered quite up-to-date, and here you have the Government subsidising the Bank Line, and incidentally Harland and Wolff, to build a dozen more ships of the same kind. As one who knows something about shipping, I protest in the name of the ratepayers in this country against what I consider gross extravagance and the bad advice given to the Department. I would suggest, if I am 1503 in order, that when public money is to be expended on this scale—I agree that it is necessary, and I agree with this Bill; it is necessary if judiciously spent—the Government ought to be advised by experts who are approved by this House. Who had the appointment of those two gentlemen? I take it the President of the Board of Trade. I submit that when vast sums like this are to be spent, the men who are to advise the Ministry ought to be men who have the confidence and approval of the House of Commons. There are many ways in which this money could be spent to better advantage. What are you doing for the greatest industry of the country—agriculture?
§ Mr. W. GRAHAM
I am very reluctant to interrupt my hon. Friend, but surely he is under a misapprehension. There is not one penny of public money in this at all. It is merely a guarantee. The responsibility rests on the firm of saying whether it will undertake the work, and if it indicates that, then the responsibility does not fall on the Government.
§ Sir R. THOMAS
I think my hon. Friend is wrong. If anything goes wrong, the prospectus is quite clear upon the point that the Government are responsible. Otherwise, what is the good of the guarantee? Any depreciation in this stock is a matter for the Government, and, as I clearly pointed out, there is immediate depreciation, as soon as these ships take the water, of about 20 per cent., and for anything that goes wrong with this issue the Government are responsible. There is no getting away from that. The Government should be very careful who their advisers are.
§ Mr. GRAHAM
On that point I would like to say that we must leave this to an Advisory Committee. They get all the facts and look to all the circumstances. I would also say that, out of a total amount of about £38,000,000 guaranteed, this country has been called upon to pay only one small sum of £4,000.
§ Sir R. THOMAS
It is too soon. The injudiciousness and folly of making advances on these ships will be only discovered a few years hence, when perhaps a Liberal Government will be in power. I thoroughly agree with advancing money to facilitating trade and 1504 diminishing unemployment; but it should be done in our own country. I am really surprised that my hon. and learned Friend has not done more for agriculture. He has done nothing yet to help the agricultural labourer, for whom he has spoken most sympathetic words. I suggested to him on a previous occasion that he might do something for credit banks. The trouble to-day is that the farmer has not the money to carry on the work on business lines, and that affects the farm labourer. I suggest that before he advances money on very unsafe things, such as these shipping debentures, he should consider something much safer and nearer at home.
§ Mr. REMER
I do not propose to follow the hon. Baronet in the speech he has just made, because a great deal of it was on technical detail's, on which I am not competent to follow, but I think he has missed one material point, namely, that the issue in question is guaranteed personally by the partners, and they are well able to look after their own business. Neither do I propose to follow the hon. Member for Govan (Mr. N. Maclean) in the fraternal quarrel amongst comrades, which we have listened to this evening with reference to the Sudan. I will say, that if he represented a constituency anywhere in the region of Manchester he would not have made that violent attack which he has made this evening. It is quite easy to point out that the cotton supply from the Sudan is very small, but the prospective supply will, I think, in the next few years very materially increase beyond the 70,000 bales to a figure which will enable Lancashire to be independent of America. I am quite sure, from observations I have heard from a large number of Lancashire people, that the only hope of their cotton trade is to secure a large and increasing supply of cotton.
There is something that is even more important than the supply, and that is the quality of the cotton. I am told that the quality of the Sudan cotton is higher than that produced in any other part of the world. It is rather in improving the quality of the cotton supplied in Lancashire than by any other means that we are to secure the trade of producing cotton for the world. I believe the only thing that is keeping what small proportion of that trade remains in existence 1505 is the fact that our Lancashire goods are better in quality than those produced in any other part of the world. In supporting this proposal for cotton-growing in the Sudan. We are going further than we can by any other means to achieve that object. There has been a great deal said in the course of this Debate about keeping the supply of cotton for this country. Anyone who knows the City of Liverpool, where the great Cotton Exchange operates, and who goes to see the cotton merchants selling their cotton not only to this country but to the whole world, will realise that it would be a great mistake if there were any dictation to them as to whether it shall be sold to any particular
§ part of the world. The result would be that we should lose a great deal of our valuable entrepot trade. It would be a profound mistake if we dictated that that cotton must come to this country. I give this Bill my blessing. I believe it is the foundation by which we can secure increased trade, and those people who are advising can safely be trusted to give every consideration to every scheme. For those reasons, as far as I am concerned, I will have no hesitation in voting for the Second Reading of the Bill.
§ Question put: "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 297; Noes, 43.1507
|Division No. 14.]||AYES.||[8.13 p.m.|
|Acland, Rt. Hon. Francis Dyke||Deans, Richard Storry||Henn, Sir Sydney H.|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. William||Dickie, Captain J. P.||Hennessy, Major J. R. G.|
|Agg-Gardner, Rt. Hon. Sir James T.||Dixey, A. C.||Hillary, A. E.|
|Alden, Percy||Duckworth, John||Hindle, F.|
|Allen, R. Wilberforce (Leicester, S.)||Dudgeon, Major C. R.||Hirst, G. H.|
|Allen, Lieut.-Col. Sir William James||Dukes, C.||Hobhouse, A. L.|
|Alstead, R.||Duncan, C.||Hodges, Frank|
|Ammon, Charles George||Dunnico, H.||Hogbin, Henry Cairns|
|Aske, Sir Robert William||Ednam, Viscount||Hogg, Rt. Hon. Sir D. (St. Marylebone)|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Hope, Rt. Hon. J. F. (Sheffield, C.)|
|Attlee, Major Clement R.||Edwards, G. (Norfolk, Southern)||Howard, Hon. G. (Bedford, Luton)|
|Baker, W. J.||Emlyn-Jones, J. E. (Dorset, N.)||Hudson, J. H.|
|Banton, G.||England, Lieut.-Colonel A.||Hume-Williams, Sir W. Ellis|
|Barclay, R. Noton||Eyres-Monsell, Com. Rt. Hon. B. M.||Inskip, Sir Thomas Walker H.|
|Barnes, A.||Finney, V. H.||Isaacs, G. A.|
|Barnston, Major Sir Harry||Forestier-Walker, L.||James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert|
|Becker, Harry||Franklin, L. B.||Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath)|
|Beckett, Sir Gervase||Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||Jephcott, A. R.|
|Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake)||Galbraith, J. F. W.||John, William (Rhondda, West)|
|Berkeley, Captain Reginald||Gardner, B. W. (West Ham, Upton)||Jones, C. Sydney (Liverpool, W. Derby)|
|Betterton, Henry B.||Gardner, J. P. (Hammersmith, North)||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)|
|Black, J. W.||George, Rt. Hon. David Lloyd||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)|
|Bondfield, Margaret||George, Major G. L. (Pembroke)||Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd)|
|Bonwick, A.||Gibbs, Col. Rt. Hon. George Abraham||Jowitt, W. A. (The Hartlepools)|
|Broad, F. A.||Gilbert, James Daniel||Kay, Sir R. Newbald|
|Bromfield, William||Gillett, George M.||Keens, T.|
|Brown, A. E. (Warwick, Rugby)||Gilmour, Colonel Rt. Hon. Sir John||Lamb, J. Q.|
|Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)||Gosling, Harry||Lane-Fox, George R.|
|Buckle, J.||Gould, Frederick (Somerset, Frome)||Laverack, F. J.|
|Burman, J. B.||Graham, W. (Edinburgh, Central)||Law, A.|
|Butler, Sir Geoffrey||Gray, Frank (Oxford)||Lawrence, Susan (East Ham, North)|
|Buxton, Rt. Hon. Noel||Greenall, T.||Lawson, John James|
|Caine, Gordon Hall||Greene, W. P. Crawford||Leach, W.|
|Campion, Lieut.-Colonel W. R.||Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne)||Lee, F.|
|Cape, Thomas||Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||Livingstone, A. M.|
|Cassels, J. D.||Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Lloyd, Cyril E. (Dudley)|
|Chapman, Sir S.||Gring, Lieut.-Col. Sir Edward W. M.||Lloyd-Greame, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip|
|Charleton, H. C.||Grundy, T. W.||Lorimer, H. D.|
|Clarke, A.||Guest, J. (York, Hemsworth)||Loverseed, J. F.|
|Clayton, G. C.||Hacking, Captain Douglas H.||Lowth, T.|
|Climie, R.||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Lumley, L. R.|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.||Harbison, Thomas James S.||Lunn, William|
|Collins, Patrick (Walsall)||Harbord, Arthur||McCrae, Sir George|
|Cope, Major William||Harland, A.||MacDonald, R.|
|Costello, L. W. J.||Harris, John (Hackney, North)||M'Entee, V. L.|
|Courthope, Lieut.-Col. George L.||Harris, Percy A.||McLean, Major A.|
|Cove, W. G.||Hartington, Marquess of||Macnaghten, Hon. Sir Malcolm|
|Croft, Lieut.-Colonel Sir Henry Page||Hartshorn, Rt. Hon. Vernon||Maden, H.|
|Crooke, J. Smedley (Deritend)||Harvey, T. E. (Dewsbury)||Makins, Brigadier-General E.|
|Cunliffe, Joseph Herbert||Hastings, Sir. Patrick||Mansel, Sir Courtenay|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Hastings, Somerville (Reading)||Marks, Sir George Croydon|
|Davies, Ellis (Denbigh, Denbigh)||Hayday, Arthur||Martin, F. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, E.)|
|Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil)||Hayes, John Henry||Masterman, Rt. Hon. C. F. G.|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Henderson, A. (Cardiff, South)||Meller, R. J.|
|Davies, Sir Thomas (Cirencester)||Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Burnley)||Meyler, Lieut.-Colonel H. M.|
|Davison, J. E. (Smethwick)||Henderson, W. W. (Middlesex, Enfld.)||Middleton, G.|
|Millar, J. D.||Robinson, Sir T. (Lancs., Stretford)||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)|
|Mills, J. E.||Ropner, Major L.||Thomson, Trevelyan (Middlesbro, W.)|
|Milne, J. S. Wardlaw||Roundell, Colonel R. F.||Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)|
|Mond, H.||Royce, William Stapleton||Thornton, Maxwell R.|
|Morrison, Herbert (Hackney, South)||Russell-Wells, Sir S. (London Univ.)||Tillett, Eenjamin|
|Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Morse, W. E.||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth. Putney)||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Moulton, Major Fletcher||Samuel, H. Walter (Swansea, West)||Tout, W. J.|
|Muir, John W.||Savery, S. S.||Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. C. P.|
|Muir, Ramsay (Rochdale)||Sexton, James||Turner-Samuels, M.|
|Murrell, Frank||Sheffield, Sir Berkeley||Turton, Edmund Russborough|
|Nall, Lieut.-Colonel Sir Joseph||Sherwood, George Henry||Vaughan-Morgan, Col. K. P.|
|Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)||Shinwell, Emanuel||Viant, S. P.|
|O'Grady, Captain James||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)||Vivian, H.|
|O'Neill, John Joseph||Simon, E. D. (Manchester, Withingtn.)||Walsh, Rt. Hon. Stephen|
|Paling, W.||Simpson, J. Hope||Ward, G. (Leicester, Bosworth)|
|Palmer, E. T.||Sinclair, Major Sir A. (Caithness)||Ward, Col. J. (Stoke-upon-Trent)|
|Pattinson, S. (Horncastle)||Sitch, Charles H.||Warne, G. H.|
|Penny, Frederick George||Smillie, Robert||Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D (Rhondda)|
|Perkins, Colonel E. K.||Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)||Webb, Rt. Hon. Sidney|
|Perring, William George||Smith, T. (Pontefract)||Wedgwood, Col. Rt. Hon. Josiah C.|
|Perry, S. F.||Smith, W. R. (Norwich)||Weir, L. M.|
|Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.||Smith-Carrington, Neville W.||Wheatley, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Phillipps, Vivian||Snell, Harry||Wheler, Lieut.-Col. Granville C. H.|
|Pilkington, R. R.||Spence, R.||White, H. G. (Birkenhead, E.)|
|Ponsonby, Arthur||Stamford, T. W.||Wignall, James|
|Potts, John S.||Stanley, Lord||Williams, A. (York, W. R., Sowerby)|
|Pringle, W. M. R.||Starmer, Sir Charles||Williams, Lt.-Col. T. S. B. (Kennington)|
|Raffan, P. W.||Stewart, J. (St. Rollox)||Williams, Maj. A. S. (Kent, Sevenoaks)|
|Raffety, F. W.||Stranger, Innes Harold||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)|
|Raine, W.||Stuart, Lord C. Crichton-||Wilson, Col. M. J. (Richmond)|
|Ramage, Captain Cecil Beresford||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)|
|Rankin, James S.||Sullivan, J.||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Rathbone, Hugh R.||Sutcliffe, T.||Wintringham, Margaret|
|Rawlinson, Rt. Hon. John Fredk. Peel||Sutherland, Rt. Hon. Sir William||Wise, Sir Fredric|
|Rawson, Alfred Cooper||Sutton, J. E.||Wood, Sir H. K. (Woolwich, West)|
|Rea, W. Russell||Sykes, Major-Gen. Sir Frederick H.||Wood, Major M. M. (Aberdeen, C.)|
|Remer, J. R.||Tattersall, J. L.||Wragg, Herbert|
|Rendall, A.||Terrell, Captain R. (Oxford, Henley)||Yerburgh, Major Robert D. T.|
|Rentoul, G. S.||Terrington, Lady||Young, Andrew (Glasgow, Partick)|
|Richardson, Lt.-Col. Sir P. (Chertsey)||Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)|
|Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)||Thomas, Sir Robert John (Anglesey)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Robertson, T. A.||Thompson, Luke (Sunderland)||Mr. Frederick Hall and Mr.|
|Robinson, S. W. (Essex, Chelmsford)||Thomoson, Piers G. (Torquay)||Parkinson.|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Kenworthy, Lt.-Com. Hon. Joseph M.||Stephen, Campbell|
|Ayles, W. H.||Kirkwood, D.||Thurtle, E.|
|Batey, Joseph||Lansbury, George||Turner, Ben|
|Compton, Joseph||Linfield, F. C.||Wallhead, Richard C.|
|Crittall, V. G.||Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan)||Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)|
|Darbishire, C. W.||Martin, W. H. (Dumbarton)||Welsh, J. C.|
|Dickson, T.||Montague, Frederick||Westwood, J.|
|Foot, Isaac||Murray, Robert||Whiteley, W.|
|Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||Nichol, Robert||Williams, Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)|
|Groves, T.||Oliver, George Harold||Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)|
|Hardie, George D.||Purcell, A. A.||Windsor, Walter|
|Haycock, A. W.||Ritson, J.||Wright, W.|
|Henderson, T. (Glasgow)||S[...]rymgeour, E.|
|Hoffman, P. C.||Scurr, John||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Jackson, R. F. (Ipswich)||Seely, H. M. (Norfolk, Eastern)||Mr. T. Johnston and Mr. Maxton.|
§ Bill accordingly read a Second time.
§ Bill committed to a Committee of the Whole House for To-morrow.—[Mr. W. Graham.]