§ Considered in Committee under Standing Order No. 71A.
§ [MR. ENTWISTLE in the Chair.]
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That it is expedient to increase from one hundred thousand pounds to six hundred thousand pounds the amount up to which guarantees may be given under the British Empire Exhibition (Guarantee) Act, 1920, as amended by the "British Empire Exhibition (Amendment) Act, 1922."—[King's Recommendation signified.]
§ Mr. LUNN (Secretary, Overseas Trade Department)
It will be remembered by some hon. Members that under the British Empire Exhibition Acts of 1920 and 1922 it was decided that the Government should guarantee the sum of £100,000. This sum was given on condition that there was guaranteed by private firms, corporations, etc., a further sum of £500,000. I believe that during the Debates many doubts were expressed as to whether the guarantors for the further £500,000 would come forward. At that time many of us did not see quite so far what would happen, but the exhibition to-day is something far more comprehensive than was in the mind of Members of the House at that time. We have the British Empire Exhibition to-day in reality, and I take it that most Members of the House will have taken the opportunity of having some kind of a look round at what there is to see. It is quite impossible to see the exhibition in one, two, three or four days, and without spending an additional penny after the entrance money one may go for days and be entertained and see something worth seeing and something quite new from what has ever been seen before. Over and above that, it is pleasing to know that every part of the Empire is taking part in this exhibition. In addition to the pavilions provided by the British Government, there are pavilions for every part of the British Empire, in which we may see displayed phases of life and industry in each separate Dominion or Colony. More than that, one may see in the Palace of Industry and the Palace of Engineering remarkable displays of the mechanical skill and beautiful work of British manufacturers and workmen. We are hopeful that the exhibition may do a great deal to encourage trade after or even before it is closed.
1421 Guarantees have not only been given for the sum of £500,000, but for over £1,200,000. With regard to the guarantors who have come forward to enable the exhibition to be carried on, there are many hundreds of people in this country who have guaranteed from £1 to £10 each. The cost borne by the exhibition authorities directly up to the opening of the exhibition is £2,823,000, less revenue £594,000, or a total of £2,229,000. There is required a further sum of £379,000 to complete the construction, which cannot be met from revenue. That is the reason why the Government are asking that the original guarantee of £100,000 should be increased to £600,000. I think it is quite wrong to describe these guarantees as grants. They are not grants; they are guarantees. We are hopeful that the guarantees that we are asking for, and which have been given already, will mean no loss either to the individuals or to the Government. It is intended that the additional Government guarantee shall rank equally with the original Government guarantee and equally with those guarantees given by firms, corporations, private individuals, etc.
I should like to give the Committee some detail of the expenditure and of the estimated revenue. It is estimated that the total expenditure of the exhibition, so far as the Board of Management is concerned, will amount to £3,720,000, of which the purchase of the freehold and leasehold of the site represents £99,000. Under maintenance is included salaries, wages and interest on overdraft, and this is estimated at £867,000, but by far the largest sum is construction, which includes the Stadium and the Palaces of Engineering and Industry, and which represents £2,754,000. Of the total of £3,720,000 the sum of £2,823,000 has been expended up to the date of opening, 23rd April. Against this expenditure the receipts up to the date of opening amounted to £594,000.
§ Mr. LUNN
A White Paper has been published, which, I admit, after the discussion that has taken place on the last Resolution, is not so satisfactory as hon. Members would desire. Against 1422 this expenditure of £2,823,000 we have to place the receipts up to the date of opening, which amount to £594,000. By far the greater amount of that sum represents rent for the space occupied by the exhibitors. The overdraft at the date of opening was £2,229,000. To this must be added £379,000 for construction in respect of work which was not completed on the date of the opening or had not been certified by that date. If the cost of construction which has still to be met is added to the overdraft the sum is £2,600,000, which it is estimated will be the maximum overdraft likely to be required.
The reason for asking that the House should give this guarantee is that Lloyds Bank have agreed to allow the Exhibition authorities an overdraft of £2,600,000 on the understanding that the Government increase their guarantee by £500,000. Assuming this is done, Lloyds Bank will then hold as security the guaranteed fund of approximately £1,200,000 (including the £100,000 Government guarantee), and this further £500,000, and the title deeds of the land and buildings belonging to the British Empire Exhibition, against which it will be seen that they have advanced £900,000.
I should like to give some further reasons for asking for this sum. The original estimated expenditure on construction was £1,600,000, excluding, of course, the British Government Building, the Dominion, the Colonial and the Indian Buildings. Increased participation by different parts of the Empire has been responsible for an additional expenditure in many ways. Some parts of the Empire were very late in deciding to take part and others were averse, but a change has taken place, and now, with the exception of Southern Ireland and British North Borneo, every part of the British Empire is concerned and has an interest in this exhibition.
It will be understood that we have not had the best of weather during the last few months. This has been a source of great trouble to the management of the exhibition, and it has led to considerable increase in the expenditure upon the roads. Those who went to the exhibition a few days before the opening and saw the very heavy machinery passing through the grounds would see that they 1423 left the roads absolutely out of condition, and much expense has had to be incurred as the result of what happened. There has also been additional cost in the way of bridges, gardens and lay-outs. The catering concession at the exhibition was not settled until September last.
§ Mr. LUNN
I will tell the hon. Member directly. In organising an exhibition of this kind it is necessary, towards the date of the opening, that additional workpeople should be put on, and that everything should be done to increase the speed of the work, so that it may be something worthy when the exhibition is opened. There was considerable additional cost prior to the opening by reason of that fact on account of the delays of various kinds which took place. There is one point of some importance with regard to the exhibition to most of us who have given any sort of consideration to the question of providing work for our people. For many months the number of persons employed at the British Empire Exhibition was 19,000, and even to-day the estimated number of persons employed there is 21,250, so that it is a real relief to unemployment, and if we take into account what may have been saved in this way in regard to unemployment relief, even if the Government lost the £600,000, they will have saved a great deal by the provision of work which is far better relief than any other that could be provided.
With regard to the revenue, again I have to complain of the weather, which has not been upon its best behaviour until to-day, which is a nice day, and you will see the effect of it at Wembley to-day, as I have seen it, in the very large crowds that happen to be there on this occasion. The management are not dissatisfied with the position up to this moment, not that the numbers are anything like what they would desire, but the total of the first £1,000,000 will, it is hoped, be reached to-day. Those who remember last Saturday and the weather which prevailed, when there were 86,000 people visited Wembley, will quite understand the Board of Management not feeling dissatisfied 1424 with the results up to this moment.
I am not an expert on exhibitions, but I am advised that in this type of business you do not expect your greatest crowds at the opening, and it is estimated that you would not reach more than one-third of your estimate in the first half of the period for which the exhibition will run, and two-thirds during the second period, so that it is not expected that the revenue received up to now from the gate money will have more than met the ordinary current outgoings of wages, salaries, bands and other matters that come under the heading of maintenance. I may mention that the total estimated figure for maintenance is £867,000, of which £351,000 had been incurred before the opening date, leaving a balance of £515,000 still to be met.
§ Mr. LUNN
It includes the provision of salaries and wages and all costs which come under maintenance, and it is hoped that the revenue will come in more rapidly until at least the overdraft is paid off. It is very difficult to estimate what will be the total revenue from an exhibition like this. So far as rent and space is concerned there has been more than £500,000 realised. The estimate of the number of people visiting the Exhibition which the British Empire Exhibition authorities have made is something like 30,000,000 people. They estimate that during the run of the exhibition this summer there will be no less than 30,000,000 people visit the exhibition. If these figures are realised, the revenue would amount to £2,350,000, while, on the same basis, concessions and entertainments should bring in £950,000, or a total of £3,800,000, against an estimated expenditure of £3,720,000. I hope that estimate will be realised, and that we shall see this large number of people take advantage of this wonderful opportunity to see the most remarkable exhibition that has ever been held in any part of the world.
I ought to say a word or two with regard to the Amendments which are down on the Paper. The first one stands in the name of the hon. Member for Westbury (Mr. Darbishire) and other hon. Members below the Gangway. I do 1425 not know that I can say any more than I have already said with regard to the cost and the revenue, but I am sure that it is impossible to accept the Amendment standing in the name of the hon. Members. I have tried all I know, not only to accept his Amendment but to avoid the possibility of his Amendment coming before the House. It is not one of the pleasantest things for anybody who occupies the position which I do to come here and ask for money. I have tried to avoid this, but I find it is absolutely necessary that we should ask for this sum in order to complete the cost which is to be borne by the Board of Management.
With regard to the Amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Dewsbury (Mr E. Harvey) as to the provision by the exhibition authorities of free sanitary accommodation and mess room accommodation for the exhibitors' assistants, that matter has been raised on many occasions and dealt with by Question and Answer, and I am only able to say that the Home Office have called the attention of the Empire Exhibition authorities to the Public Health Act, 1890, on this subject. Section 22 of that Act provides that suitable accommodation in the way of sanitary convenience must be provided in every building where persons are employed in any trade or business. Arrangements have been made by the exhibition authorities, whereby a charge of 1d. should be made for the use of the w. c. s, or alternatively 12s. 6d. for a season ticket, entitling the holder to such accommodation for the period of the exhibition. These are charges which must be borne by the employers.
The Home Office have pointed out that the authorities must take some effective action, and bring the matter to the notice of the exhibitors that they are under an obligation to provide lavatory accommodation for their workpeople. That has been done. A letter has been sent by the authorities to each exhibitor, pointing out what are their duties in the matter under the Act. With regard to those employed by the exhibition authorities, they are provided with accommodation, and the requirements of the Act have been met. With regard to the amusement concessionnaires, they also have provided facilities for their employés. Messrs. 1426 Lyons employés have separate accommodation.
§ Earl WINTERTON
On a point of Order. I think it is a rather inconvenient arrangement, and I am not sure that it is in order, to discuss Amendments before we have disposed of the Main Question. It would be more convenient if the hon. Member dealt with the Main Question, and we discussed the Amendments when we come to them. Otherwise, the Chairman may rule that we cannot discuss the Amendments, because they have already been discussed.
I have considered that point. The hon. Member is not strictly out of order. I have permitted him to proceed, because I thought it might influence hon. Members in not moving some of their Amendments. I considered it would be convenient to deal with Amendments briefly in this way, but any discussion on the Amendments should take place on the Amendments when they are moved.
§ Earl WINTERTON
I am much obliged for what you have said, and I am sure that the point had not escaped your notice. It is not a very convenient way to deal with the matter.
§ Mr. LUNN
I appreciate the intervention of the Noble Lord, and I agree with what he suggests. My point was that there might be a likelihood of discussion upon these matters, and I thought that if I could give information in moving the Resolution it might help the Committee to come to a decision upon the matter. I might add that in regard to the Amendment standing in the name of the hon. Member for Louth (Mrs. Wintringham) as to the employment of women police, the Exhibition authorities have provided a number of women police, and, if it is found necessary, they are quite ready to provide more at the Exhibition.
There is another matter with which I should like to deal in order that we may avoid anything in the nature of acrimonious discussion. I refer to the recent 1427 attacks in the Press on the subject of wages and conditions of employment at the Exhibition. I have had an interview with the Trade Union Congress on this matter, and it was a very pleasant interview, with the object of arriving at some point of agreement in regard to the conditions of employment affecting the many thousands of people employed at the exhibition. I am sorry that the Press have taken this matter up at this moment, because, as a life-long trade union official, I would rather settle matters than be all the time grumbling about things that happen to exist at the moment. Out of that interview I was able last Friday to some to an understanding by which a joint committee will be set up and will meet under my chairmanship next Friday, to try to come to some understanding which will avoid exposure of this kind and, perhaps, lead to the better understanding which there ought to be between employer and workmen, rather than that we should have feelings of enmity. The joint committee will represent the Trade Union Congress and the large employers, together with a member of the Board of Management of the exhibition, and I expect they will meet next Friday morning.
In conclusion, I would point out that, apart from the sum which I am now asking the Committee to guarantee, the British Government are in this exhibition, and the Dominion Governments are in the exhibition, all anxious that it should be a great success. As this Vote will cover all possible contingencies, I hope the Committee will agree to it.
§ Sir ALFRED BUTT
I do not wish to criticise the hon. Gentleman who has just made a statement in regard to finance, but it seems to me extremely unfair that we should be asked to deal with figures of £3,000,000 or £4,000,000 in guarantees of receipt or expenditure, and only have the figures as they are read out to us by the hon. Member. I do not know whether it is in order, but if so I should like to move to report Progress in order that we may have an opportunity of considering the figures in the form of a White Paper. The only White Paper that was issued was a request for a further £500,000. No details whatever were given as to how the money was going to be applied or secured. The hon. Member has made a very lengthy and interesting statement 1428 and has given us a rosy account of the probable receipts, and something in regard to expenditure, but we have to carry the figures in our heads. I should like to move that we have a White Paper before we consider the matter further.
I am not prepared to accept a Motion to report Progress, if that is what the hon. Member means.
§ Sir A. BUTT
I gather that that is a technical way of saying that we cannot have a White Paper to-day. It is true that the exhibition has grown much beyond the original anticipations, so much so that to-day, I think, I am not exaggerating when I say that the honour and prestige of the British Empire is very much involved in the exhibition. In these circumstances, I do not think there is anyone in this House, and I hope there is no one in the country, who is not prepared to do his utmost, not only to make the British Empire Exhibition a great success, but also to help it in its present difficulties, and not to direct destructive criticism against it. But that does not prevent hon. Members from asking questions in regard to what is going to become of the exhibition in the future. It will probably be within the memory of many hon. Members that, unfortunately, almost from its inception, the British Empire Exhibition has been a matter of grave concern. There have been most disquieting rumours in regard to the management. In the early days, there were grave scandals in regard to indecent haste in the issuing of many contracts, and in regard to the long and unnecessary delay in issuing other contracts. In that respect the hon. Gentleman said that the contract for catering was not entered into until September of last year. There was no reason why the contract for catering should not have been entered into two and a-half years ago. It was only delayed because people wanted to serve their own ends.
I do not propose to deal with what happened in the past. All that has gone, and we have to make the best of the circumstances, and try to make the exhibition a great success. I gather that at the present time there is, substantially, £1,200,000 guaranteed, including the British Government guarantee of £100,000, against an expenditure of something 1429 like £3,750,000. The hon. Member says that the difference between these figures, of substantially £2,500,000, is going to be produced as to £500,000 from the British Government and £2,000,000 from various receipts throughout the exhibition. I hope his Estimates are accurate and that they will be realised. But I should like to know what is going to become of the equity of this exhibition when it is finished. We have heard that the freehold and leasehold grounds have been purchased for something like £99,000. That is a drop in the ocean when we are talking about £3,750,000. We have also heard about the very large sums that have been expended on various buildings that have been put up, but we have not been told what security the guarantors have for their money, what security the British Government are going to have for the further £500,000, and, what is even more important, what assets have already been alienated from these assets.
I should like the hon. Gentleman to tell us, quite frankly, the whole facts. I am not casting any reflection upon him, because I know that the Colonial Secretary and the hon. Gentleman have only just taken the matter in hand. Are these assets already allocated to subsidiary companies, who are going to get a gigantic share of profit, and are going to deprive the British Empire Exhibition of very large profits, which, if the exhibition had been capably managed, they would have had to meet the enormous expenditure, and are this House and the other guarantors being asked to contribute capital expenditure in order that these people may make big profits? The figures show a lamentable difference between the original estimates and the subsequent cost. It is only fair that all the contractors who are making abnormal profits out of the original mismanagement in connection with the exhibition should be asked to forgo some portion of their abnormal profits, and so relieve, not only the public, but the private guarantors, and also relieve the Chancellor of the Exchequer of this additional charge. It may perhaps be in the knowledge of the right hon. Gentleman that so long ago as December, 1922, there was considerable criticism of the management of the British Empire Exhibition in the public Press. It continued to accumulate to such an extent that eventually the then President of the 1430 Board of Trade appointed a Departmental Committee, and I will read two short extracts from the Report of that Committee, which was presided over by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Twickenham (Sir W. Joynson-Hicks):I am of opinion that there have been unfortunate occurrences in connection with the negotiations for this concession which, full information as to the negotiations not being in the possession of those outside the exhibition management, might justify criticism as to the method adopted, and might in fact create suspicion that improper methods were being adopted, or that there was a lack of business aptitude on the part of those responsible.Later on he says that throughout the negotiations there was a woeful lack of business acumen and business method, and he concludes in this significant paragraph:In this connection, too, I would point out that, had it not been for the subsequent entry of other competitors, an offer from the competitor would undoubtedly have been accepted at or about the end of September on terms less advantageous to the exhibition than those ultimately offered from the same source.I am merely reading that, because I think that it is generally a very fair summary of what happened in regard to almost every concession in connection with the British Empire Exhibition. If we are to be asked to find an extra half-million, which we must find for the honour of the Exhibition, those people who are getting abnormal profits should be asked to disgorge some portion of it. The hon. Gentleman, in his estimate of the probable revenue, said that, given fine weather, which I sincerely hope the Exhibition will enjoy, one might reasonably hope that the amusements section would yield £1,000,000 to revenue. I think the figure was £950,000. Does that mean £950,000 as the share of the British Empire Exhibition, or £950,000 added to the receipts?
§ Sir A. BUTT
If it merely mean £950,000 additional to the receipts, the net sum available to help to wipe off the huge overdraft will be comparatively small, because I do not think that the British Empire Exhibition will benefit to any large extent from the receipts of the 1431 amusements. I understand that the proportion is 33 per cent., or less. Unfortunately, though the Exhibition is only going to get 33 per cent., I believe that what is militating so much against the success of the amusements section of the Exhibition is that that concession was immediately disposed of, not at 33⅓ per cent., but at something like 66½ per cent. What is bad for the Exhibition is that the concessionnaires—and I hope that the Committee will forgive me for introducing a personal note, but I have been inundated with letters from them—have to pay 64 per cent. The result is that these people necessarily have to put their prices high, and the result is that there is so much less patronage for the amusements section I submit that this is a matter in which we can properly ask the Minister to ask these people to reconsider the terms of their contract because if they have to get less of this gigantic profit on the difference between what the exhibition is given and what the concessionaires are asking the many features in the amusements section will probably lower their prices. And I suggest that in those circumstances the net receipts would be very much larger, and consequently the amount received by the exhibition would be larger, and would materially reduce the large overdraft. The hon. Gentleman went on to explain, and indeed the only White Paper we have states, that this £500,000 is largely required because of the great participation of the Dominions and Colonies in the exhibition, a participation which everyone in this House is delighted is so large and so beautifully carried out.
I can only regret that, while on the one hand we are inviting our Dominions and Colonies to show all their wonders, yet in another way we are refusing to hold out the hand of friendship. I cannot imagine a more inappropriate time to show the wonders of the British Empire at Wembley than when we are refusing to carry out a large number of the recommendations of the recent Imperial Conference. I only hope that all the visitors from the Dominions who are coming here will not think that we are an illogical as well as an impractical people. We ask them to come over and spend their money by showing 1432 us their wares, and then we tell them that we are not going to give them any special facilities for selling them. Perhaps I have digressed for a moment, but I do not know that I have done so more than hon. Members opposite.
I think that the hon. Member has digressed, and he must not pursue that subject.
§ Sir A. BUTT
I regret my digression. I understood from the paragraphs in the Press that the Dominions and Colonies had voted huge sums for their own particular buildings. Are we to understand that the figure that the hon. Member mentioned, £3,700,000, includes the contribution from the Dominions and Colonies or is this in addition, and, if so, can he tell us in what way we have had increased expenditure because the Dominions and Colonies have come in? We all wish for the success of the exhibition so that the guarantors, all those public-spirited men who came forward and guaranteed a very large amount of money, shall receive back, if not 20s. in the £, as the hon. Gentleman anticipated, at least 10s. in the £. I do hope that the hon. Gentleman will first of all insure that the real assets and the real equity of this exhibition shall be held in trust equally for the guarantors and the British Government, and secondly that, before we give this extra half million, he will look into all those huge contracts, which I do not wish to enumerate here, in connection with Wembley, and I would like him to say to those people: "We are putting up an extra £500,000 which we did not anticipate and which we were never asked for. We are putting it up for the honour of the British Empire. You are getting all the profit without any extra risk. Before we put up this extra money you must amend your contract so that the British people may get something back for their money."
§ Sir CHARLES OMAN
The right hon. Gentleman who is in charge of this matter may be relieved when he understands that I speak as one who does not wish to reproach him for the doings of officials, who were functioning in last September or at other remoter dates before he entered on his present office, and that I do not speak as one who wishes to associate himself with the attempt to cut down the sum now asked for, which is 1433 proposed on the other side. He is being addressed by one who wishes all success to the institution, and is surprised to see such a wonderful thing functioning successfully, and fully hopes to see its treasury bulging in the most satisfactory fashion as the summer months come on, when the good weather, denied to us in April and May, supervenes, let us hope, in July and August. But I have a little plea to put to the right hon. Gentleman. He did not mention in connection with the British Empire Exhibition what, I think, is not altogether undear to him and for which I myself have the greatest regard. That is the projected Imperial pageant which is to come off in July. I was hoping to hear from the right hon. Gentleman that some of the large extra credits which he is asking for, and which I have no doubt the Committee—
The SECRETARY of STATE for the COLONIES (Mr. Thomas)
There is not a solitary amount included in this Estimate which applies to the pageant.
§ Sir C. OMAN
I do not see that that prevents me from observing that I did not notice the right hon. Gentleman mentioning the pageant. The right Hon. Gentleman has stated for me precisely what I was stating for myself, and I therefore can only consider that he is preaching to the converted. But I wish to know whether in this sum or some other sum the right hon. Gentleman cannot find some way of pushing on the arrangement for the pageant, It is a small question of finance, of a very few thousand pounds, and this I regard as a suitable time for asking him—he and I having an equal wish to see the whole exhibition go through in the most satisfactory way—whether a feature of it to which the attention of the public has been called, and which as a student of Imperial history I myself hope might be a great lesson to the British Empire, as showing the development of our communities from their small beginnings through the great events of the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, might not have a little attention paid to it when the right hon. Gentleman is dealing with the other features which will make the Exhibition as I hope a very great success. It would be a thousand pities if a small hitch caused the cutting down of a very great and noble idea for which many people have given up their leisure during the past months. While I acknowledge that 1434 this does not come into the Motion, yet I venture to make this plea to the right hon. Gentleman, in the hope that he will look upon it with a kindly eye and that the blessing which follows good deeds may supervene upon his benevolence.
§ Mr. DARBISHIRE
I beg to move, in line 2, to leave out the word "six," and to insert instead thereof the word "two."
The object of this Amendment is to reduce the extended guarantee from £600,000 to £200,000. In the first place, I would like to associate myself with the hon. Member for Balham (Sir A. Butt) in his expression of regret that we have not had any White Paper giving us figures, or some fuller explanation, why this money is necessary. We are asked to increase the national expenditure of this country by £500,000, and we have nothing given us except figures stated verbally by the Secretary to the Department of Overseas Trade—figures which it was quite impossible for us to carry in our minds in order to base our remarks upon them. It is most deplorable that there should be this omission. The Secretary to the Department of Overseas Trade is never more graceful than when doing something distasteful, and I could not help feeling that he was doing something that he would rather not have done at all. I am confirmed in that thought by the fact that in 1920, when the original Bill was passed authorising £100,000, the hon. Member went into the Division Lobby to oppose the grant of that small sum. I forgive him the peculiar inconsistency with which he now rises to increase that sum by £500,000.
When the original Bill was introduced the amount of £100,000 was asked for, on the definite understanding that other guarantees would amount to £500,000; in other words, that the risk which the British Government ran should be one-sixth of the total risk run. As I understand the matter, the outside guarantors, apart from the Government, account for £1,100,000. It is proposed now to increase the Government guarantee by £500,000, making it £600,000, which would bring the total guarantees up to £1,700,000. Therefore, instead of having one-sixth of the risk, as when the Bill was introduced, it is now increased to less than one-third That is a breach of the understanding upon which the original Bill was introduced and passed. I was not in the House 1435 in 1920. Had I been here, I should have found myself associated with such vigilant watchdogs of the national expenditure as the present Lord Banbury, the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary, and the Secretary of the Department of Overseas Trade. I was very glad the other day to hear an answer from the President of the Board of Trade, in which he said that it was no business of the Government to find markets for manufactures.
§ Mr. DARBISHIRE
Then I withdraw my remark, and I am sorry that I cannot associate the right hon. Gentleman with the views I hold as to the duties of a Government regarding foreign trade. In my view it is no business of the Government at all to bother about foreign trade. As Mr. Gladstone once said, it is the function of a Government to govern and not to trade. What has the Government to do with exhibitions of this kind at all? I understand that these exhibitions are run for the benefit of the trade of the country. We are told that the total expenditure of this exhibition is to be only £4,000,000. The total foreign trade of this country is something like £2,000,000,000 a year. A trade of that extent can afford to run its own exhibitions and not ask this House to recoup it for any loss on an exhibition. The Exhibition seems to be the child of that egregious excrescence, the Department of Overseas Trade. In my opinion it is of no value to the trade of this country.
§ Sir E. HUME-WILLIAMS
On a point of Order. I submit that this is going beyond the Motion that we are now considering.
The hon. Member must bear in mind that he is moving a reduction of the amount. His argument now is inclined to be against the giving of anything at all.
§ Earl WINTERTON
If we are to have from the Benches opposite an exposition 1436 of the whole case for Little-Englandism, many of us on this side of the Committee will keep the Debate going indefinitely.
§ Mr. DARBISHIRE
I am afraid that I do not associate myself with the view that we on this side of the Committee are Little Englanders. I quite appreciate the fact that I was overstepping the limit of the Debate in dealing with the Department of Overseas Trade. There will be another opportunity of dealing with that subject. When the first Bill was introduced and the original sum of £100,000 was named as necessary, Mr. Kellaway, who introduced the Measure, told us that the exhibition would be self-supporting and that the country would never be called upon to pay this £100,000. It is quite clear this afternoon that, not only shall we have to find the £100,000, but an additional £500,000. I have been unable to follow the figures given to us. I understand that the original estimate was that the revenue of this exhibition would be £1,800,000 and the expenditure £1,500,000, and that there would be a surplus of over £250,000. On those figures the guarantors and the Government were asked to subscribe money. A year ago we were told that the gross estimated expenditure to the end of the exhibition would be £2,400,000. A year later we were told that the gross estimated expenditure to the end of the exhibition would be £3,700,000. The estimate is "out," therefore, by £1,300,000. The exhibition is under the control of the Board of Trade. I object to the Government financing it. In any case I hold that the proportion of one to five should not be altered. That is the reason why my Amendment mentions the sum of £200,000, because that maintains the same proportion to the guarantors as it was originally arranged for the Government to subscribe, namely, the proportion of one to five. That is roughly the same as a proportion of two to eleven. When this Bill was introduced one of the arguments was that exhibitions assisted our trade. Mr. Kellaway told us we had just had an Imperial Timber Exhibition in this country, which showed that there was no need to depend upon foreign sources for our timber. What was the result? In 1921, the year of that exhibition, we imported from our Colonies 10 per cent. Of the timber used in this country. Two years later—
§ Sir BURTON CHADWICK
On a point of Order. Is the hon. Member not arguing that there should be no exhibition at all?
I have ruled that as out of order. The hon. Member must restrict himself to the Amendment.
§ Mr. DARBISHIRE
I am giving my reasons for not increasing the amount. Surely, it is pertinent to quote arguments used on the original Bill? Two years after this Imperial Timber Exhibition the imports from the Colonies decreased to 8 per cent.; we were buying more from foreign countries than at the time of the exhibition. Another argument which was used was, that always after an exhibition there is a great increase in foreign trade. I have gone to the trouble of taking out some figures. I find that that statement is correct. But I have found that before an exhibition there has been a decrease from the previous years, which shows that these exhibitions are nearly always held at the bottom of a cycle of trade; exhibitions are always held at the nadir of these depressions, because there are numbers of busybodies running about the country who have nothing to do but to get up one of these exhibitions.
§ Sir E. HUME-WILLIAMS
Is not the hon. Member again going into the whole question of the holding of the exhibition?
The hon. Member has been transgressing my ruling. He must not do it again, or I shall ask him to conclude his speech.
§ Mr. DARBISHIRE
I am very sorry, but I cannot, see how I have transgressed your ruling. The real reason why I move this Amendment is to suggest that there should be an inquiry into the whole management of the exhibition. We have had one inquiry in which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Twickenham (Sir W. Joynson-Hicks) took buckets of whitewash and whitewashed the whole thing.
§ Earl WINTERTON
I ask you, Mr. Deputy-Chairman, is the hon. Member in order in bringing a charge which amounts to one of bad faith against my right hon. Friend by accusing him of having thrown buckets of whitewash over the exhibition? 1438 This is a very serious matter. This was a Committee of Investigation on which my right hon. Friend sat in a judicial capacity. I submit the reference is entirely out of order and has nothing to do with this discussion, and that it is wrong for the hon. Member to impute most serious motives of bad faith to my right hon. Friend.
It is quite a disorderly expression, and it is wrong to impute motives to any hon. Member.
§ Mr. DARBISHIRE
I withdraw, at once, any suggestion of motive against the right hon. Gentleman to whom I referred, but I think it regrettable that the evidence of that inquiry was not published to the House as was demanded at the time. I wish to deal with the question of the Amusements Committee. As I understand it, the Amusements Park is the one part of the exhibition which seems to attract people. Perhaps I had better not pursue that subject either, or another point of order will be raised. Hon. Members opposite seem to think that we on this side of the House, because we question expenditure of this kind, have no love for and no sympathy with the Empire.
The hon. Member must not start on that subject. I am not allowing any general discussion as to which party is for the Empire and which is not. It would be quite out of order on this Amendment.
§ Mr. DARBISHIRE
I have said all that I need say. I move the Amendment because I regard the Resolution as contradictory of the original understanding which was come to in this House, that the contribution from the Government should be in the ratio of one to five, and not in the ratio of six to seventeen as this Resolution would make it.
§ Mr. T. JOHNSTON
Hon. Members on this side of the Gangway do not accept in its entirety the political philosophy which has just been explained from the benches below the Gangway. We do not take the view that a Government has no concern with the trade or prosperity of the people, and we definitely take the view that by such means as this exhibition we could greatly stimulate Empire trade and bind our Empire more closely together. We agree, however, with the hon. Member 1439 who has just spoken that there should be a careful inquiry into the financing of the concessions in connection with this exhibition. It is one matter to have an Empire Exhibition, with the principle of which we agree, but it is another matter to allow a horde of financial robbers to fasten on to that exhibition idea and skin it. We are now asked to vote another £500,000.
Who is this money for? We are told by an hon. Member opposite that, within his knowledge, there are extraordinary profits in the sub-contracting, that the first, contractors give 33 per cent., and then sub-let, and there is another 33 per cent. Obviously, if that charge be well founded, something ought to be done, and I am surprised and rather disappointed that the hon. Gentleman who knew the details about the amusements contract, at any rate, did not give those details to the House. The one protection which the British public has in these matters is publicity, and I hope some hon. Member who knows something about the original contract which was given out to one big firm will give us the details of it. At any rate, I do not think we should agree to this extra guarantee until we are perfectly sure that the money is not disappearing into the pockets of some of the financial exploiters who seem to fasten round everything connected with the Empire. The Department of Overseas Trade should offer some explanation as to what they intend to do to prevent the British people who come to the exhibition from being robbed by hotel proprietors.
I cannot see how that topic would be in order on an Amendment to reduce the guarantee.
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
Perhaps I should have kept that topic to the end. May I, however, direct attention to a statement made by the Secretary to the Department of Overseas Trade? In asking for this £500,000, his calculations are based upon a certain amount of income which can only be obtained if the exhibition is a success, and if a large number of people—a million extra—are attracted to the exhibition. I submit it would be in order to suggest to the Department of Overseas Trade ways and means whereby they can attract that extra million of people to the exhibition and so make it a success. One 1440 of the barriers which is keeping people back from the exhibition is the fact that hotel keepers in some cases have doubled their prices. I know of one hotel in which, a short time ago, visitors to Wembley were allowed bed and breakfast at the rate of 7s. per day, and now that rate has been jumped up to 12s. 6d.
I suggest that the Secretary for the Department of Overseas Trade should take steps to secure a dozen or two dozen of the great steamships which are lying idle in our ports, have them brought up the Thames and let out the berths at reasonable prices to people who come to the exhibition. It could well be done, and I hope I am not transgressing the rules of order in making the suggestion. These ships are now rusting and doing nothing, and if the Secretary to the Department of Overseas Trade has them brought up the Thames, advertises the fact that we have gone in for the nationalisation of the hotel business and lets out the berths, as I say, at a reasonable rate, a very large number of people will be attracted to Wembley, the exhibition will be a financial success and probably the taxpayers will not be called upon to meet this £500,000 additional guarantee. I submit that all the troubles which have afflicted this exhibition, or are likely to afflict it, are due entirely to the fact that we have allowed private enterprise or private concessionnaires to come in at all. These private concessionnaires and hotel-keepers are going to rob the visitors, but let the hon. Gentleman go in for the nationalisation of the hotel business and he will stop the robbery of the visitors.
It seems to be thought by some hon. Members that the subject of nationalisation is in order on almost any topic. I cannot allow it on this Amendment, and the hon. Member must stick to the Amendment.
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
I will drop the word "nationalisation" altogether. I know the Secretary to the Department of Overseas Trade wants the Exhibition to be a success and does not want to see the country people who come into London to visit the exhibition being robbed, and I repeat the suggestion to himself and to his friend the right hon. Gentleman the Colonial Secretary—who is a gentleman of considerable initiative and who would not stick at a small matter of this 1441 character—that if by to-morrow morning they announce a plentiful provision of hotel accommodation for the people visiting London in connection with the Exhibition, then the exhibition will likely be a bigger success than if the hotel accommodation is not provided. There are other points which I would like to bring up, but I fear I might transgress the ruling which you, Mr. Deputy-Chairman, have just made, and I should not care to do that.
In conclusion, may I say it is not good enough that we should be asked to vote this sum when it is common report and common rumour that concessionnaires are reaping fabulous fortunes out of the exhibition. I know perfectly well it is not the present Government who enters into the arrangement. It is the old damnosa hæreditas again, but the Government ought to clear themselves and tell us all they know about it. It would be one consolation which we would get out of a Labour Government, anyhow—to expose the rascals whom we never would be allowed to expose but for the fact that we have a Labour Government. Let the Government tell us about them, give us their names and the amount of plunder they are getting, and give us an explanation of the extraordinary prices which are charged even for a cup of tea at Wembley. The prime purpose of this exhibition is to popularise the Empire, to let the people of this country know that there is such a thing as an Empire, to show them what it means and to show us all the products of the Empire. Do not make it difficult for people to get to Wembley, and do not rob the working classes who go to the exhibition in the interests of exploiters, some of whom, at any rate, are aliens and foreigners.
Marquess of HARTINGTON
It would be too much to expect the Liberal party not to raise its voice on an occasion of this kind, and I have no doubt the Mover of the Amendment was inspired partly by the rancour which he feels for the Empire and all that appertains to it, and partly by a fellow feeling with—
I have already ruled out of order the hon. Member who moved the Amendment, and I cannot allow the Noble Lord to deal with that subject either. He must confine himself to the Amendment.
§ 7.0 P.M.
Marquess of HARTINGTON
I feel also that the objection to the spending of further money at Wembley may be due to some fellow feeling with the steers which are going to take part in that exhibition, steers which are likely, after having served their purpose, to be slaughtered. Objection was based on the fact that the private traders of this country ought to be able to put up enough money and to stand the whole of the risk. I would like to point out to the hon. Member that when the hon. Gentleman explained the figures he was dealing with the figures of the exhibition authorities, and he was not dealing with the enormous expenditure which has been undertaken by the private traders. They have come forward and spent a very large amount of money which may or may not come back to them in the form of increased trade. They have undertaken immense expenditure, and it is reasonable that the country, which stands to gain a very great deal from this exhibition, should take at least some share of the risk.
I was exceedingly glad to hear the hon. Gentleman who moved the Resolution say he was hoping that one million admittances would be reached to-day. That is very encouraging. I think an exhaustive examination of figures is hardly required to-day. It is perhaps regrettable that the figures with which we were supplied were not more complete. We know the broad fact that if some 30,000,000 people visit the exhibition it will be a financial success, and no guarantor will be called upon. If substantially more, it will be a great success; if substantially less, some of the guarantors will be called on for part of their guarantee. The risk of a wet summer may prevent some of the public from visiting the exhibition. The risk is there, and the banks are insisting on that risk being taken from their shoulders. I hope very sincerely the House will grant this money, and I believe, even if it has to find every penny of it, it will be a sound investment.
I rise at this early stage, because it is necessary to get the Vote 1443 before 8.15 p.m. I had some doubt as to whether this was a serious Amendment prior to coming into the House. I had no doubt after I heard the speech, because I am quite satisfied my hon. Friend not only does not represent his party—that is a generally agreed point—I am not only satisfied that his party deplores his speech, but I am equally satisfied that the real object of this Amendment was to give him an opportunity of saying to the Committee that not having much to do, he had looked up the Records of the House and had found that my hon. Friend had given a second vote three years ago, and my hon. Friend had made a speech that he never made this afternoon. That is the sum total of the object of this Amendment, because, after all, I know the district my hon. Friend represents very well. Our information is that there are no people so anxious to visit the exhibition as the people in the Westbury district. I am not going to deprive his constituents of the opportunity they desire, and, he unfortunately wants to prevent them enjoying.
I draw the attention of the House to the different motive of the Seconder of the Amendment. Here we have an Amendment for a reduction with a view to killing the exhibition, seconded by an hon. Member who makes a contribution to help the exhibition. In other words, he says: "Well, I am only seconding this Amendment because I believe, it is a miserable Motion, because I think it is an unworthy Motion, because I think it is a Motion that ought not to be carried, but it enables me to make a speech which will be useful rather than harmful." Therefore, I am going to deal with his contribution. His contribution is an all-Scots one. That is to say, that he, in spite of all that is said about my friends from Scotland, has given another illustration of how patriotic they are. He has given an illustration to demonstrate this fact, that he said to a large number of his constituents in Stirling: "Now, whatever you may think of Glasgow, whatever you may think of Scotland, if you really want to see what the Empire stands for, come to London. Then they said to him: "What does it cost?" And he said: "I have been looking into it, and it is seven bob bed and breakfast." These wicked profiteers come along and falsify 1444 all his promises to his friends at Stirling, and he says: "Now, why not bring into the Thames—commandeer them if you like, but get them—a number of ships, label them 'Bonnie Scotland.' and my friends will be satisfied."
I want to say quite seriously, the Government are disturbed about the profiteers, and everyone in this House ought to be disturbed—[HON. MEMBERS: "We are!"]—and is. I do not assume for a moment that Members on any side would be less anxious than another. It is not only wrong, but it is foreign to the intention of those responsible for the exhibition. It is contrary to their wishes, and this is profiteering of the worst kind. You find men and women coming to London anxious to bring their families and let them see what this exhibition really stands for, and they find themselves exploited. That is the object of the Seconder of this Motion. That is what he wants to stop. That is what we desire to stop. We do not want to cramp the exhibition. Everybody wants to make it a success, but everyone wants to stop abuses, and certainly the discussion this afternoon will be conveyed to the responsible authorities, and anything that can be done will be done not only on behalf of the Government, but on behalf of every section of the House to join in saying that this kind of thing must stop, and we intend to stop it.
It is only fair that I should explain the Government position. There was criticism of my hon. Friend: why did the Government come forward with this Estimate of £600,000. When we knew not only that £3,000,000 had been spent, but I venture to assert that, including the whole of the Dominions, the whole of the Protectorates and the Colonies, and the private manufacturers, no less than £24,000,000 to £30,000,000 had been spent, we would have been wanting in our duty if we had not said, regardless of our view, "We are going to make this a success." I was an early member of the Executive Committee. I could say much in criticism of the earlier stages, as everyone could. I could say to the Committee that I was dissatisfied with a thousand and one things, but when we had reached a stage when hundreds of thousands of people were on their way here, when millions of people were looking forward 1445 to it, when millions of pounds had been expended, how could we have done other than say, "No, having reached this stage, we are going to make a success of it, regardless of the abuses of the past." That is the Government's connection with it. We are not apportioning the blame. This is not the stage at which to apportion the blame. In spite of all the criticisms, no one who has visited Wembley can be other than satisfied on two points. They have not only got their money's worth; they are not only satisfied that it is a great exhibition; but they cannot be other than impressed with the possibilities within the Empire as displayed by the Wembley Exhibition.
As to the future, because that is really the important point, my hon. Friend raises the question, What about the assets of the future? Will you give us any guarantee? This is the guarantee that I can give. I will give a guarantee that the exhibition will neither be destroyed nor its assets sold, nor any profiteer or exploiter allowed to take advantage of the situation without full consideration of all that is involved in the question. No one can say at this stage what the future is going to be. No one can say what will happen, because it may be at a later stage that it may be decided—and, I quite frankly, am speaking for myself alone—that the exhibition will be continued. That is my private view. At any rate, I am determined that the assets will not be thrown away.
With regard to the amusement contract, of course, it is wrong for one person to come in. The Government get 30 per cent. up to the first £1,000,000 and 40 per cent. over £1,000,000. These are the terms of the contract. I understand that contract, which was an original contract, has been now sub-let to someone else, and they are getting the difference. I do not know anything about it. We are not responsible for it. We do not defend it in the least, but do not even let that prevent us making the best of the situation as it is at this moment. It is a magnificent success. I venture to say that not a copper of the £600,000 will be necessary. That shows how optimistic I am. I do not believe we will require the guarantee, but we were compelled to come to the House for it, having sanctioned it.
1446 There are criticisms on the Labour side. The Committee generally will be pleased to know that we are going into those immediately, and steps are being taken by my hon. Friend to deal with that side of the situation. We will also go into the question of exploitation which has been mentioned, and I only ask the Committee to vote us this sum, not because they are getting the Government out of a difficulty, but because the Government have again demonstrated that they can rise above party interests; because the Government have given one of the many illustrations that when the real things that matter come up they play the game. We are playing the game to-day. This Estimate is an Estimate which we do not defend in every detail, but it is an Estimate which we defend on general broad principles. On those principles we ask the House to give us this money. We believe that is the right thing. I am satisfied my hon. Friend will be more sorry when he reads his speech to-morrow morning, but equally he will say to himself, "Well, after all, it was an afternoon that appeared free. I wanted a free afternoon's entertainment. I endeavoured to get the House of Commons, and if they were pleased and are free from the Entertainment Duty, no one is the worse for the effort."
§ Mr. ROYLE
I do not wish to associate myself with the Amendment, because I am not in favour of it, but I want to express a very earnest desire—and I sure I am speaking the feeling of Members on this side—that the exhibition should in every sense of the word be a great and triumphant success. I have had brought to my notice during the last few weeks something in the nature of what may be profiteering on the part of railway companies in connection with this matter. We are very desirous that everybody who can make it convenient at all shall come up to Wembley, but always the question of expense comes upon the scene, and I am wondering if the Ministers responsible could use any influence with the railway companies so that the travelling facilities might be improved. I have had brought to my notice, for instance, to-day from my own constituency the fact that a party of 25 are desirous of coming to the exhibition, but they want to make it a two days' visit instead of a one-day visit. Therefore they are not eligible for the one day 1447 excursion. The railway companies and the exhibition authorities unitedly desire as far as possible that advantage should be taken of the mid-days of the week rather than of the week-end. This particular party want to come on the Wednesday and Thursday, but they are told they can have no excursion facilities at all, and must pay the ordinary fare from my town of £2 5s. 4d. for the two days. Surely that is a case where the railway companies ought to be able to do something in the way of meeting the situation.
I have the honour to be chairman of my own local education authority, and we are anxious to bring up to the exhibition a number of our school children. We find that we can bring a company of about 1,000 children and over 100 teachers, and we ask the railway companies for their terms. We are told that the various companies running from the town have entered into an arrangement over prices, in consequence of which we find that we shall have to pay for this trip for the children a sum of nearly £700 to bring them up and take them back. We think that is a sum of money that is altogether too large when only one train will be required, and in consequence I feel that this will be a hindrance. We all want to make the exhibition a great success, and I beg that the Ministers responsible shall see how far they can assist the situation by making an appeal to the railway companies concerned.
§ Mr. HARMSWORTH
I would like to back up the appeal made by the hon. Member for Stockport (Mr. Royle) regarding the railway companies and school children, because I do not think this House or the Government could wish to help any project so much as that children should go to Wembley to see the exhibition and gain some knowledge of the British Empire. Besides seeing the products of the Dominions, they can get a knowledge of the history of the Empire, and it can but do good. I think we should have some arrangement whereby every child who is old enough to appreciate the exhibition on its educative side should have a chance of going there and of paying only a very small entrance fee, if any. As far as the amusement side is concerned, that is another matter, and I 1448 would not touch on that side at all in this connection. After the speech of the Colonial Secretary, I think we can but feel extremely pleased at the attitude of the Government towards the exhibition, and I would heartily endorse the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman concerning the speech of the Mover of the Amendment. I am sure the hon. Member did not mean a great deal of what he said. I sincerely hope he did not, in any case. There are certain points that many would like to raise, and I have heard many rumours concerning contracts that perhaps should not have been entered into, but when it comes to suggesting, as the hon. Member opposite did, that the price charged for a cup of tea was too high and that there was not hotel accommodation, I think we should remember that that kind of thing will be reported in all parts of the country and possibly in the Dominions, and if it is read that there is not enough hotel accommodation, a great many people will cancel their coming to London to see the exhibition.
The whole idea of the exhibition is to bring people from all over the world to London, and the return that we shall get, on the commercial side, for the £3,500,000 that we have laid out is in the money these people will bring into the country and into London, and they will bring a much greater sum of money to spend here than the small amount of £600,000 which we are voting to-day. Personally, I never thought the £100,000 would be sufficient for the exhibition. Anybody who has been to the exhibition—and I expect a great many hon. Members have been there already—can but have come to the conclusion that it is a gigantic and successful effort, and I think a great deal is due to the Dominions, which have helped in every way to make it a success. After going into the Canadian building or the Australian building, or even into those representing smaller Dominions and Colonies, we cannot but feel a certain amount of gratitude to them for combining to make the exhibition a success, and I hope that a great deal of this guarantee money will be repaid, but I shall be perfectly satisfied myself to vote it, even if it be not repaid, providing the exhibition is a great success. So far as these benches are concerned, we are wholeheartedly out for the success of the exhibition, because we believe, not only 1449 that it will add to the trade of this country, but that it will bring the different parts of the Dominions and Colonies together with the Mother Country, and add to the prosperity of the whole Empire.
§ Mr. LEIF JONES
I should like to associate myself with the last two speakers with reference to the parties of children coming from the country to attend the exhibition. My own county of Cornwall is sending 1,000 children up, to which the education authority is contributing 10s a head, and they are coming for four days, with all the paraphernalia of nurses, doctors, and teachers, at very considerable expense. I hope the Government will help with the railway companies and with the whole of the charges which are being made in connection with these school children's excursions to the exhibition. While I am on that point, may I repeat a question which I put a few weeks ago, when the House was pleased to be very much amused because I asked whether water would be abundantly provided for these visiting parties of children? It is most essential, if large parties of children are to wander about these very extensive grounds, that there should be plenty of opportunities for them to obtain drinking I water and also opportunities for washing. There is another thing which I wish to put before the right hon. Gentleman. You have to pay 2d. for a seat in many parts of the exhibition, and there ought to be some provision—a good deal of provision—of free seats for visitors who wander about these grounds. These are small points, but the Government, especially when they are increasing the guarantee, have great influence in the matter, and can induce the exhibition authorities to put these small matters right. I am sure we all wish localities and towns to organise these parties of children, believing that nothing could be better for their education than to realise what the British Empire does for them.
My name is attached to the Amendment that has been moved, and I put that Amendment down with a very definite purpose, which has been achieved by the Debate to-day. I am bound to say that it was not the purpose, apparently, of the Mover of the Amendment, who had some further purpose in his mind, but my purpose was to bring home to the Government, if I could, that they ought to publish a White Paper in regard to 1450 these Financial Resolutions, giving to the House a clear view of the purpose for which the money is wanted. Our original guarantee for the exhibition was £160,000, which was to be met by guarantees to the extent of £500,000 from private people. I did not know until to-day how generous had been the guarantees made by certain people in this country and that there were actually £1,100,000 of guarantees, apart from the guarantee of £100,000. That is a very remarkable contribution from private people towards this exhibition, and that, I think, might well have been stated on the White Paper, in which case one would have realised that, when so much more than the original £500,000 had been put up by private enterprise, the Government might well make a larger contribution than the original £100,000. Originally, we were to guarantee one-sixth of the necessary guarantee, but now the Government are guaranteeing about one-third of the total guarantee, and I think, on the statement which we have had to-day, that that is not an unreasonable extension of the Government responsibility in this matter, seeing the way in which the exhibition has grown and the large amount which has been guaranteed by people outside the Government. Had that information been conveyed, I do not know that I should have gone to the trouble of putting down an Amendment to ask for an explanation, and I would press on the Government that in all these Financial Resolutions they should make clear what are the responsibilities to be undertaken by the nation and the full reason for undertaking them. If they do that, they will, I am sure, have less trouble in getting their Financial Resolutions through the House than they have at the present time.
In putting down this Amendment, neither I nor my friends had the slightest idea that we were doing anything unfriendly to the exhibition. Quite the contrary. Remarks have been hurled at the Liberal party from the other side in regard to our attitude to the British Empire. I do not know that I can agree with the views of hon. Members opposite, but I am not likely to be unfriendly to the Empire. I was educated in Australia; I have travelled widely throughout Canada and Australia and the Empire, and I am, I believe, a faithful and true son, not only of this country, but of the British Empire, and, therefore, if our 1451 methods do not always agree with those of hon. Members opposite, I beg that they will not attribute this fact to the "thin-lipped Little Englandism" of which we have been accused. It was not with any unfriendly feeling towards the exhibition, and still less with any desire to detract from the greatness of the British Empire, that I thought that this guarantee required explanation. Having had this Debate, having had the informing speeches that we have had from the representative of the Overseas Trade Department and the Colonial Secretary, and having got the facts which we might have had in a White Paper before the Debate began, I venture to ask my hon. Friend the Member for Westbury (Mr. Darbishire) to withdraw his Amendment.
§ Mr. DARBISHIRE
In view of what has been said by my right hon. Friend who has just sat down, I have great pleasure in asking leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Main Question again proposed.
§ Sir PHILIP LLOYD-GREAME
I am very glad the Amendment has been withdrawn, and that the speech of the right hon. Gentleman who spoke last, and who speaks with more authority and weight in this House than the hon. Member for Westbury (Mr. Darbishire), was different both in tone and substance from that with which the other hon. Member entertained the Committee. I should, indeed, be sorry if this Vote did not come as a unanimous vote from the whole of the Committee. Frankly, I think the Secretary for the Department of Overseas Trade would not have had serious difficulties to contend with if his White Paper had been rather less jejune. I myself, with a knowledge of the exhibition going over some years, was able to supply deficiencies, which, naturally, other Members in the House could not. I only want to say three things in support of this proposal. The first is, that I am sure the Committee will agree that, looking at the total amount of money which has been supplied not only by the guarantors, but spent by private firms and by the Dominions and Crown Colonies, the contribution which this House is asked to make, be it observed, not as a direct grant-in-aid, but only as 1452 a guarantee, is, indeed, not out of proportion, and we should be sorry not to subscribe that amount. I would say two things to those who criticise the administration. It has been a task of colossal magnitude, and I say this having nothing whatever to do with the management. I am certain, whoever had been managing this, there were bound to be mistakes somewhere; but I am satisfied that to-day you have got the administration of the exhibition in the most efficient hands you could collect if you went over the whole country, and it would be a profound misfortune if anything were said or circulated which would withdraw the confidence in those now in charge of the undertaking—a confidence which is most thoroughly deserved.
Something was said about amusements, and I only refer to this because I think it is right to do so, as I understand—I was not in the Committee at the time—a rather long speech was made on this subject, and I think it right, therefore, to draw the attention of the Committee to the paragraphs in the report of my right hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham (Sir W. Joynson-Hicks), who made, at the request of the then Government, and the whole of the exhibition authorities, a very full investigation in connection with the organisation of the exhibition. On the question of amusements, he said:Although I do not entirely approve of the business methods adopted by the exhibition management, I am, however, satisfied that it would be wise now to enter into a contract with the competitor whose offer was recommended for acceptance on the terms finally offered to him, as if there is much move delay the possibilities of success of the exhibition will be seriously jeopardised. For the reasons stated above. I therefore, recommend that this contract should immediately be signed.That was the recommenlation of the right hon. Gentleman after making a full investigation. I cannot do better than quote the words with which he closed the report, namely, that it is the duty of all of us to work togetherwith the object of ensuring the complete success of this undertaking, believing that it is not merely a business venture, but a project of great Imperial significance.I am sure that the appeal made at that time was universally accepted, and now that the people have seen the exhibition, and realise what it means, it will be more than ever endorsed, and, I hope and trust, unanimously acted upon.
§ Mr. HARDIE
The hon. Member who introduced this subject to-day made reference to the title deeds of the grounds upon which the exhibition stands as a guarantee. There has been controversy about this ground and the title deeds more than once, and I myself cannot accept those title deeds as of any value as a guarantee, because when the Page estates were under discussion some years ago, it was stated that all the lands in those estates, on part of which the exhibition stands, were left by two brothers, who left no will, and, as there was no heir, they remained Crown land. That being so, the land should remain Crown land until an heir comes along, and I shall vote against this sum unless I get some guarantee that these title deeds will be put on the Table or somewhere where we can get access to them. I want to get right down to this question, whether or not there is some underhand work so far as the Page estates are concerned. I say it is not a guarantee, and I defy anyone to produce a title to the land on which the exhibition is situated.
I have been to the Wembley exhibition, and I want to pass some remarks about it. Hon. Members have been wondering to-day why so much money has been spent. The reason is that it was not approached as an exhibition. All the exhibitions with which we can associate our minds in this country and other countries began with buildings that were temporary, but here you have a class of building for which you cannot very well say there is no more use. There is the best of ferro-concrete The mismanagement was not so much mismanagement as that those in charge of this business at the beginning either had no knowledge of what they were doing, or were absolutely in the hands of the contractors, who planned out the thing in order to bring them the greatest amount of plunder. I want to come to some of the sections in the exhibition. The Colonial Secretary said that anybody who entered the exhibition got his money's worth. What I should like to see about our exhibitions is the same relation to truth as the Colonial exhibitions. In their case you find the actual facts, stated, either by pictures or actual products, but go to what is called the "model coal-mine." It no more represents the average conditions in a mine to-day than Buckingham Palace represents 1454 a slum. I visited the supposed model mine. Everything on the surface is an exact model, but we want to educate the public about the actual conditions underground. Instead of that, you have a representation of people working quite comfortably in a place six feet high, whereas actually in mines they have to wriggle about. Some ladies near me said, "This is not half bad; it is quite comfortable walking about here." If we wished the British nation to realise the conditions of one section of it, we would see at Wembley these people crawling about the model mine as the miners have to crawl. As regards the question of cost, the hon. Gentleman suggested that if you pay to go to the exhibition you could see it without paying anything more. I do not know how he does it, and he is not a Scotsman. I think you must have a good pocketful with you in order to do the exhibition. You go into a tea room—4d. for a cup of tea is nothing. You want something with the tea, and you get two slices of bread about the thickness of paper—I do not know how they manage if; it is scientific cutting—and then they give you a photograph of a piece of ham. Now we come to the question of bleeding the public who come to this country as visitors. The suggestion made by an hon. Member about ships came up once before when we wanted a ship near the House, because we could not get places in which to live. When I left this House the other morning at two o'clock to go a mile and a quarter beyond Ealing Broadway, I could not get a taxi, and had to walk. I rang all the hotel bells, but was told the hotels were full up. It would be very handy for Members of the House of Commons if a ship were lying here for them. You would then have more Members on the night shift, and better decisions. Unless I get some guarantee about the title deeds of the Page Estates, I shall vote against this.
Mr. EDMUND HARVEY
I beg to move, in line 4, at end, to add the words—provided that satisfactory arrangements are made by the Exhibition authorities to provide free sanitary accommodation and mess-room accommodation for the exhibitors' assistants.I rise to call attention to a point which, I feel sure, will have the sympathy of the Committee. The Colonial Secretary has reassured the 1455 Committee by what he has said as to the measures which the Government pro pose to take to prevent exploitation. I am not referring to the effect of financial exploitation, but we do need to see, above all, that in this great exhibition, which is associated with the interests of the Empire, the human conditions of labour should be worthy of the nation. Unfortunately, the arrangements, through somebody's negligence, have been such that it is only with the utmost difficulty, and after repeated questions to different Departments, that a step forward to satisfactory conditions has been made. The authorities of the exhibition, apparently, were unaware of the existence of the provisions of the Public Health Act, and when the question was first raised as to the necessary hygenic accommodation required for the assistants of the exhibitors, the Member who raised it was informed that arrangements had already gone so far that nothing could be done. The exhibition is open from 10 in the morning till 10 or 11 at night, and I think I am correct in saying that many thousands of persons of both sexes are employed in carrying on the work, without which the exhibition could not be a success. I think it is right that this House should insist in making this great grant—I do not begrudge it if it is properly used—that the Labour conditions should be entirely satisfactory, and hygienic conditions should be secured, not by the payment of a fee on the part of the assistants, but as a right. Unfortunately the position at present is that, at the last, after a considerable effort on behalf of the Minister, arrangements have been made by which messroom accommodation and lavatory accommodation can be secured may be secured on the payment of a big fee of 25s. on the part of the men and 20s. on the part of the women, which is an inclusive fee. So far as I can see we have no security now that the exhibitors will not pass on that charge to the assistants. I think we ought to know, on behalf of the Government, that that charge will not fall in any case upon the assistants who are taking advantage of the accommodation. Many of them are poor people. We know many of them have been unemployed until recently and that they cannot afford to pay a charge like this. In addition there is a charge 1456 to those who make use of the accommodation provided for washing their hands, and that charge is 2d. It may seem a trifling thing to Members of this House, but it is not a light thing for the girls and young women assistants who are employed in great numbers if every time they require to wash their hands they had to pay 2d. in addition to the inclusive charge for accommodation to which I have referred.
It is all very well, I think, for the contractor, whoever he may be, to turn necessities into a glorious gain, but we need to secure on behalf of this House that hygienic conditions should be attended to. As a matter of fact it is right that the Government should give their guarantee that no charge will be made to the assistants for the accommodation provided, and that they will insist upon hygienic conditions, and the provision of proper rest rooms and messrooms for the assistants who have to work, not merely eight hours a day, but 10 or 12 hours a day; possibly more in some cases. I think, I say, we have a right to ask this, and I am sure I have the sympathy of members of the Government in making the request that I do.
§ Mrs. WINTRINGHAM
I beg to support the Amendment which has been so well explained by my hon. Friend the Member for Dewsbury (Mr. Harvey).
Perhaps it will shorten the Debate on this Amendment if I say a few words here. I am informed for the first time that it is true that the charge to which the hon. Member refers is being passed on. It shall have our attention. I entirely disapprove of it. It is wrong. It is contrary to what one expects. I would ask my hon. Friend to withdraw his Amendment and to leave the matter for the moment where it is, and we will deal with it in the very best way.
In view of the assurance of the Government, which I am very glad to get, and for which I would thank them, I shall have pleasure in withdrawing my Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Mrs. WINTRINGHAM
I beg to move, in line 4, at end, to add the wordsprovided that among the police required for the purposes of the exhibition the authorities undertake to employ a proportion of women police.1457 I welcome the promise that has been given by the Secretary for the Colonies that the question of providing more women police has already been considered, and, if it is found necessary, more policewomen will be appointed. It is not my purpose to-night to speak at length as to the necessity for women police; that has been debated in the House previously, and will no doubt be debated again. The case for women police has been put very well previously on many occasions, but it is in connection with Wembley that the case is just as important to-day as before, in fact it is more so. The danger is identical in Wembley as in London We have had it stated that the Metropolitan Police can not be spared from the London streets. I want, therefore, to suggest to the Secretary for the Colonies that he should give us an assurance that an adequate number of women police will be appointed at Wembley. The need is obvious. The work the women police have to do has to be done by somebody, and I make a plea to-night that it should be done by the right sort of person, by the women who have been trained for the special purpose of police work.
The Secretary for the Colonies has stated that there are at present 21,000 persons employed at Wembley. One feels that the young girls working there on behalf of exhibitors need the protection of the police. Protection is needed for girl guides who give voluntary service. There are, too, thousands of children visiting the exhibition, and I think the Secretary of State said that it was anticipated that probably 30,000,000 would visit the exhibition. I hope it may be so. But one does want to have the security of the supervision of women police for these thousands of children who are visiting Wembley during the season.
Then, there are the girls who happen to be stranded at nights, or who may be ill, or injured, or destitute, or those who have a tendency to drift in the exhibition. We want to have the protection of the women police for those, and also for the young men. The work is preventive. We all have the same desire as the Government to make this exhibition a success, so that it may have a high standing with our Colonies. We believe in binding our Empire together, but we want to ensure that our visitors from the Dominions when they 1458 are over here shall have the right of protection and particularly the young people. We heard of the Palace of Industry to-night. We have heard of the Palace of Engineering. To-night I want to emphasise a plea for a palace of protection, not the sort of Protection we heard of yesterday, but protection for the workers and for the visitors to the exhibition. A personal visit, to the exhibition makes one proud of the Empire. We realise that at present there are, as the Secretary for the Colonies says, a certain number of women police. But what is that number? It is only four, and as these four work in two shifts, it means that there are only two policewomen on duty at the same time at the exhibition. They have a distance of 15 miles to patrol.
I do not wish to say a word other than that of praise for the work of the male police, but surely, when we are having such a number of women and children visiting the exhibition, the number of four women police to 250 male police is altogether out of proportion. These two women are engaged on their particular work. They take observations, look after petty thefts, and, above all, it is important that they should concentrate in the way of supervision upon the coloured men who form an attraction to our English girls. These four women have been selected from the force dismissed when the Metropolitan Police were reduced. There are many more available from the same source. I want to know whether the Government to-night will give an assurance that others, will be appointed. We are now in the early stages of the exhibition, and we all want to make a success of it at Wembley, and so give us a standing with all the members of our Empire.
I have only one observation to make. I am sorry that my hon. Friend emphasised that special protection was necessary because of the coloured races. I must dissociate myself from that point of view. There is no evidence whatsoever to the effect suggested, or that adequate provision is not made, and I think I need not say another word about that. On the other hand, I am quite sure that she would be the last to suggest, that this is purely a moral question. That again would be a wrong impression, and not be justified by our 1459 experience at the exhibition. That there is room for the protection of girls we are, I think, agreed. At the moment, four women police are acting; this, however, is but the early stages of the exhibition. We have taken what seemed to be the necessary steps, but if more women police are required, they will be employed. I can give that assurance at once, and I want to say that those that are employed have justified everything that my hon. Friend has said in the past in favour of them. Therefore, there is no pressure necessary, except, perhaps, to say that we have already the power, and if we feel it necessary we will exercise the power. We do not, however, want it, and doubtless the hon. Member does not desire it to go forth that there is something wrong in the exhibition. There is nothing wrong. There is no evidence to show that; on the contrary, everything is working satisfactory, but I will give the hon. Member an assurance that her Amendment will be given effect to.
§ Mrs. WINTRINGHAM
I did not wish to convey to the Committee that there was anything wrong at all. It is only one's natural instinct. One is very anxious on occasions of this kind that certain protection, whoever it comes from, men or women, should be there. I ask leave to withdraw my Amendment on the assurance that, if there are more women police required, they will be given.
§ Mr. STURROCK
I think before the Amendment is withdrawn it should be more fully considered. We have not had an opportunity of considering this to-night. The Amendment has really no direct reference to the Wembley exhibition, and, as the right hon. Gentleman has pointed out, it does convey some sort of reflection upon people who are coming from all parts of the Empire to enjoy the exhibition at Wembley. As to its bearing upon the general question of women police, I suggest that the whole agitation in favour of women police at Wembley or elsewhere has been most horribly misused. There is no indication in any part of the country that the extension of the force composed of women is desired in any degree whatsoever.
§ The CHAIRMAN
We are not in that respect discussing the question of women police in England or Scotland.
§ Mr. STURROCK
I challenge anyone, to show any evidence whatsoever—and there are many people who are coming to the Wembley exhibition from all over the land—that in any part of Scotland there is the least desire for women police on duty.
§ Mr. SULLIVAN
Has not the Amendment been withdrawn, Mr. Chairman, and is it in order to go on discussing it?
§ The CHAIRMAN
The proposal was that the Amendment, by leave, be withdrawn, but that is objected to, and, for the moment, we are discussing the question of women police at Wembley.
§ 8.0 P.M.
§ Mr. STURROCK
I shall confine my observations to Wembley. Wembley is the home of the whole Empire, and if my hon. Friend presses for an extension of women police at Wembley, she is asking this House to agree to the idea that women police should be on duty, not only at Wembley, but throughout the whole territory for which this House legislates. If women police are to be at Wembley, then ipso facto they ought to be on duty in every town and village throughout the land. There is no justification whatever for the case my hon. Friend has put forward. Indeed, I am rather surprised that my right hon. Friend the Colonial Secretary should give what will, I expect, be described as a sympathetic answer to the Amendment, because the women police force is the most extravagant thing, from the point of view of expense, that has ever been suggested in this House, or elsewhere. We cannot get away from the fact that no feminine police can go anywhere without the escort of a similar officer of the other sex. What is proposed, in actual fact, is that the police force at Wembley shall be exactly doubled. This is no time for the Committee of the House of Commons to agree to any such Measure. The whole case for the extension of the force of women police has never been made out properly, and the Committee ought to resist any proposal whatsoever, especially in this particular case of Wembley, to extend them. It is entirely wrong to suggest, that women police are necessary for duty 1461 at Wembley because of suggested circumstances which, I believe, will never arise. As a Liberal, especially I do believe in not trying to emphasise the force of law in any direction whatsoever. I believe in liberty. I submit, with great respect, to my hon. Friend that she has not made out a case for the Amendment she has put down.
§ Mr. R. W. ALLEN
After the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Louth (Mrs. Wintringham), it is hardly necessary for me to speak at all, but I wish to dissociate any Member of the party that occupies these benches from the statement which has just fallen from the hon. Member for Montrose Burghs (Mr. Sturrock). It seems to me extraordinary that an hon. Member who calls himself Liberal should suggest, as he has suggested, that the case for women police has not yet been made out. We are not here to discuss the question of women police in general, and I leave that entirely on one side. I want to suggest to this Committee, by way of protest against the remarks which have just been made, that if there is a case anywhere for women police it is in connection with this particular exhibition, especially in view of the thousands of children that will be visiting Wembley. I have listened to the Debates which have taken place in this House on the subject of women police, and I do not recall that any objection was taken to them on the ground of expense. Of course, the question of expense docs enter, but I submit that it is such a small item that we really cannot object to this proposal solely on that ground. I associate myself with the Amendment, and I venture, I hope without presumption, to dissociate my party from the remarks of the hon. Member for Montrose Burghs.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Main Question again proposed.
§ Mr. D. G. SOMERVILLE
There are one or two questions I wish to ask in reference to this guarantee which the Committee is going to pass. I should be very glad to hear from the Colonial Secretary whether, if the Government have to find any actual cash under this guarantee, there is any security for such advance. Is there anything on which we could collect any amount we contributed? What amounts have the Colonies contributed? 1462 I understand the sum is a very large one, and very much in excess of the amount we are ourselves guaranteeing. In regard to the allegations as to contracts, I understand the main contract given in this exhibition was arranged on a basis of cost, plus percentage. I understand the percentage was a very small one, but I would like to know approximately the amount of commission up to date. I am informed, on very good authority, that the total cost of the exhibition, including the exhibitors' buildings, is nearly £10,000,000. It would be interesting to have some information on that subject. I would like to point out that this exhibition has been put up, and has been got ready practically in time, to a large extent through private enterprise, and that private enterprise is taking a very considerable risk. Nearly everybody who is carrying out work there is giving a guarantee against the cost of the exhibition. I do not suppose that the profits they may, or may not make, will cover their expense, though everybody in this House hopes there will not be any loss.
There are only two questions I need answer. While it is true that the Dominions are not guarantors in the sense that the British Government is a guarantor, it is equally true to say that probably every one of them is spending more than the British Government has spent—very much move. With regard to the question of contractors, I understand the arrangement was on a basis of 9 per cent. Messrs. McAlpine were guarantors to the exhibition of £150,000, and it is only fair to say that no complaint of any sort or kind has been made against that firm as to the manner in which they have done their work. I therefore hope, now that this useful and profitable information has been given and in view of the cheap advertisement of the exhibition this afternoon's proceedings will have afforded, we may be able to get the Resolution.
§ Mr. SULLIVAN
I would like to see the exhibition a success, but I do not agree we should guarantee money to allow the people in London to exploit the people that come from the country. That is already taking place in the case of boarding-houses and hotels who are putting up their prices.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I am not sure that it is in order to discuss the prices charged by hotels and boarding-houses since the Colonial Secretary can do nothing to remedy that matter.
§ Mr. SULLIVAN
If nothing can be done, at least we can draw attention to the shameless exploitation of the public by refusing to agree to this guarantee. I appeal to hon. Members to make a protest in this matter. People believe in the Empire and they want to see the exhibition, but they do not wish to be robbed when visiting from the country.
§ Mr. WIGNALL
I would like to bear testimony to some of the statements that have been made as regards the enthusiasm and interest taken in the Dominions to make this exhibition a real success. I am sorry that there is any need for a guarantee, but I am glad the Government have faced the position and have brought forward this Motion so that the guarantee may be forthcoming and the money provided if necessary. I feel ashamed, however, when I see the lack of interest shown here, and the cold-hearted way in which this question of the world's greatest exhibition is being dealt with in the home country. It is in marked contrast to the organisation and willingness to spend which exist in all other parts of the Dominions. People are scraping together every available penny they can save so that they may come to England for the exhibition. The Dominion Governments are unstintedly voting the money needed. Therefore I am glad we are taking part in the efforts to bring about the success that the exhibition must attain.
§ Resolution to be reported To-morrow.