§ The articles of association of the Communications Company shall prohibit the issue of any share or loan capital with interest or dividend exceeding the rate for the time being prescribed by the Treasury. —[Mr. Malone.]
§ Brought up, and read the First time.
Mr. L'ESTRANGE MALONE
I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."
This is a very necessary precaution in order to preserve certain privileges of this House of Commons. At various times during the Debate, the representatives of the Government have compared this company to a, public utility society. All that this new Clause does is to put that assertion into a practical form. It has frequently been stated that it is necessary to provide some incentive. I want to remind the Committee exactly what are the financial conditions under which the company will act. According to the White Paper, a standard net revenue of £1,865,000 is going to be paid to the Communications Company. That corresponds to a fixed revenue of 6 per cent. After the 1st April, 1921, 12 per cent. of any increase is going to go to the Government, and the remainder is going to be allocated, 50 per cent. to the company and 50 per cent, to the reduction of rates, or to such other purposes as the Advisory Committee may approve. Surely, when we are paying 6 per cent., that is a sufficient incentive to carry on the business of this company. There is no need for any more. We have all the engineers, all the trained staff, all the electrical experts, all the radio experts possible to conduct this business under the State.
I suggest that the real cause of this refusal of the Government to make it a properly constituted public utility society is to allow full control to this 1744 great combination which is going to have a capital amounting to more than £83,000,000 so that it can rig and manipulate the markets and run the whole thing in its own interest. As an example of what is going on on the Stock Exchange we have only to observe that since this Committee adjourned on Friday the shares of one of the interested concerns in a part of this organisation have gone up by over 100 on the New York Stock Exchange. I suggest that it would be far better, and indeed sufficient, to insert these provisions in the Bill and to allow the Treasury to fix a reasonable rate which might, for the purposes of example, be sufficient at 1 per cent. above the Bank rate.
§ The FINANCIAL SECRETARY to the TREASURY (Mr. Arthur Michael Samuel)
I think it will be convenient if I say a few words at this stage. I have taken note of what the hon. Gentleman has said, and it seems to me that this is how the Amendment would work. The Amendment would limit the Communications Company to paying interest or dividend within a limit prescribed by the Treasury. But when hon. Gentlemen look at the Report they will see that the Conference, on the contrary, recommended that the capital should be limited to £30,000,000 sterling, but they did not restrict the actual rate of dividend subject, however, to certain important qualifications, namely, that all profits earned over the standard net revenue of £1,865,000—and here I would point out to the hon. Gentleman, if I understand him rightly, that there, is no provision that the sum of £1,865,000 must be paid; it has to be earned first—the qualification to which I have referred is that, after a net revenue of £1,865,000 has been received, 12 per cent. of the surplus must be paid to the State, and half the remainder of the surplus profit must be applied for the benefit of the users.
How can we be assured that the public will get the other half? There is nothing laid down in the White Paper. It only says that they may do so.
§ Mr. SAMUEL
It is the essence of the arrangement. Under the recommendations of the Report which the hon. Gentleman holds in his hands, after 12 per cent. has been paid on the excess of profits over £1,865,000, the remainder is to 1745 be divided into two portions—one portion can go to the company, and the other portion is at the disposal of the Advisory Committee, which is composed of representatives of the partner Governments. The Advisory Committee can either claim that rates for services can be reduced or they can say that further facilities shall be given to users, or they may devote the funds to such other purposes as they on behalf of their Governments may think proper.
§ Mr. WALLHEAD
Will the hon. Gentleman tell the Committee as to where is the binding instrument to effect this? What does it consist of? As far as this Committee know, we have nothing whatever laid before us and there is nothing but this Report, which, I take it, is not binding upon anybody.
§ Mr. SAMUEL
Evidently the hon. Gentleman has not taken part in the early stages of this Debate. An undertaking has been given that that will be laid before the House. Therefore, as the Report now stands, there is in the recommendations an inducement to the company to increase its earnings and to give better services, and no increased dividends can be paid unless the taxpayer and the consumer take their share, as I have already pointed out. The Amendment as it now stands would wreck the scheme. Perhaps that may be the wish of the hon. Gentleman, and therefore a greater reason why I should not be willing to accept it. It would certainly put a clog on progress. To restrict dividends, to offer no reward for enterprise and good management, would be no inducement to make progress. For this reason I would ask the Committee to reject this Amendment.
§ Mr. WEDGWOOD BENN
There are one or two questions which I should like to ask the Financial Secretary to the Treasury about the Advisory Committee. Is the Advisory Committee to have power to say to the Communications Company, "You shall do this," or is it merely to be consulted? It is not clear from the White Paper whether the Advisory Committee is to have mandatory powers or advisory powers—[Interruption]. The hon. and gallant Gentleman no doubt knows, perhaps he will tell us. It is advisory!
§ Mr. BENN
What an advantage it is to have outside assistance in this matter. The hon. Gentleman has just given us to understand that "advisory" means "mandatory." That was the gist of his speech. The City opinion seems to be that the Advisory Committee is only to be advisory. I am inclined to think, judging by the effect of this Bill, that the City opinion is right, and that the Advisory Committee is not going to count for much in the whole business. It is perfectly true that the Communications Company is to share anything over 6 per cent., after a 12 per cent. deduction for the benefit of the taxpayer between rates and dividends—half is given to dividends to encourage private enterprise, and the other half to rates. As we understand it, we are going to set up two monopolies, a monopoly of communications and apparently a monopoly of manufactures.
As far as I can understand this, the Marconi Company—I am almost unique in the House in this respect, that I am not an expert in these technical wireless matters—but, as far as I can understand it, there is a monopoly of manufactures in the hands of the Marconi Company. The directors of the Communications Company are also going to be directors of the Merger Company which will include the Marconi Company. What can prevent the directors of the Merger Company saying: "We do not want too high a dividend, because, if so, half will have to go to the miserable users of cables. Let us therefore restrict our dividend by charging ourselves a little more in respect, of the company with which we are concerned." Is the committee likely to be advisory or mandatory in a matter of that kind? Perhaps the hon. Gentleman can tell us. We really ought to know some of these things. We believe that these things are in an advanced stage of completion. There was a meeting of a telegraph company —I think of the Western Telegraph Company—when Sir John Denison Pender stated that these documents were in an advanced state of completion. Surely it is not fair when being asked to support this Bill in the House of Commons that we should be told that there is nothing in existence and that we must wait, while the City has this 1747 information. It is known that things are in an advanced state, and everyone may see them except the House of Commons.
There is another point with reference to the company and its powers and its dividends. I asked a question when the thing was first introduced. I imagined that there was a communications company, and I proceeded on that assumption and asked many questions of the Government to try and find out about it. I found that there appeared to be no such thing as a communications company. Of course, they said that it did not exist until they had received the necessary powers to carry out the contract and bring the necessary company into existence. I accepted that as the official explanation, but the Noble Lord representing the Post Office told us on Friday that they had been negotiating. If I can find it, I should like to repeat the passage from the OFFICIAL REPORT. He said:At the present moment the Postmaster-General and the Treasury are carrying on negotiations through the proper channels." [OFFICIAL REPORT, 7th December, 1928; col. 1651, Vol. 223.]Surely we are entitled to know something about the proper channels. We asked, first of all, that we should not complete the business until we have had the provisions laid before the House. It was not an unreasonable or an unbusinesslike request. Now we find that negotiations are in fact going forward. It would be much better and would assist Debate if the Postmaster-General would tell us where we stand in the matter. How far is the Communications Company in existence? What terms are being set up, and especially what particular instrument does he intend to use to set up the Advisory Committee, and with what powers does he intend to endow the Advisory Committee? The answer to some of these questions would very much assist the Debate and make towards the rapid progress of the Bill.
§ Mr. WILLIAM GRAHAM
I was unavoidably absent from the very interesting proceedings of Friday, but in any case the question which is now before the Committes is largely new—at any rate during the Committee stage—and I certainly think that hon. Members 1748 behind are entitled to a rather fuller explanation. The position in connection with this part of the scheme is curious, and, as many of us think, disadvantageous to the public. First of all, in all the Debates that have taken place the Government have never given any clear indication as to how this capital of £30,000,000 for the Communications Company has been reached. All that we have been told up to the present time is contained in the White Paper. On the facts submitted to the Conference in these various details, which have never been accessible to the House, this sum of £30,000,000 is regarded as appropriate for the task of the Communications Company as distinct from the manufacturing and investment side. But the Communications Company is simply a duplication of the merger. The two parts are bound up together. We have not had that information and, as was pointed out on the Second Reading of the Bill, that information is fundamental to the whole future of this scheme, particularly as related to the charges which will fall upon the consumers. In fixing the £30,000,000 we are, for all practical purposes, determining 6 per cent. or the £1,865,000 which is to be of the nature of a form of guarantee or of a promised return under this scheme.
Let us notice some of the other points in the proposal. Part of the defence of the Government is that they are establishing a public utility undertaking. The House will observe that, first of all, there is this form of promise to the Communications Company and then there are the safeguards of 12 per cent. to the public or the Treasury above the standard revenue, which 12 per cent. is incorporated in part of the terms covering the lease of the Beam wireless, and when you have passed beyond that point, there is distribution as to 50 per cent. to the Communications Company of the additional profit and 50 per cent. to the users in reduced charges. On the face of it, this is a very good proposition so far as the Communications Company is concerned, if we are invited to regard it as a public utility undertaking. Will hon. Members observe the safeguards which have so far emerged. There is to be an advisory committee constituted of representatives of the Governments interested, but only with 1749 the power of consultation and withholding assent to increased charges as above those at the date of inception. That is a promise or guarantee for all practical purposes of what is in operation at the inception of the scheme.
Part of the outside criticism of the plan has turned on the fact that while there is a certain regulation, the return is based on what some of us regard as a generous upward trend. There is no guarantee for the downward tendency with respect to the charges on the consumers. Many people, not of our persuasion, have pointed out that the chances are that the Communications Company may not charge the highest rates, but may fail to charge the lowest which may be possible under the terms of the merger and the company, with the greater efficiency and measure of combination which are involved. From beginning to end of this plan there is no safeguard to the public on that side of the scheme. While we have a difficulty in drawing our Amendments to keep them within the rules of Order, there can be no doubt that the present proposed Clause would go far in the direction which we desire. Accordingly, before we press it to a Division, the very least the Government can do is to indicate plainly, first, how the £30,000,000 has been reached, and, secondly, what protection exists not for the upward tendency of the charges but for the downward tendency which should be possible.
§ Mr. SAMUEL
The right hon. Gentleman has assumed that there will be a form of guarantee by the Government with respect to the £1,865,000. There is no such guarantee. The money has to be earned. I will deal with some of the further points pub by the right hon. Gentleman and the hon. Member for North Aberdeen (Mr. Benn). With respect to capitalisation, the proposed capitalisation of the Communications Company will bear a direct relation to the purely communications side of the assets. This arrangement will enable a scheme to be drawn up for the equitable apportionment of the future profits derived solely from communications operations as between the shareholders of the company and the cable and wireless users. This capitalisation has been arrived at by the investigations of two gentlemen who are as well known to 1750 the hon. Members opposite as they are to me, who have acted on behalf of the Government, Sir Otto Niemeyer and Sir William McLintock. The hon. Member for North Aberdeen asked me to define what I meant by control by the advisory committee. In the first place, the Communications Company, as will be arranged in accordance with Recommendation 6 of the Conference, will consult the advisory committee.in regard to questions of policy, including any alteration of rates.It is further provided that:No increase of rates prevailing at the date of the formation of the Communications Company is to be made except with the assent of the Advisory Committee.The Advisory Committee is to be composed of gentlemen nominated by the great sister Dominions and His Majesty's Governments of Great Britain and India. They will represent the users and the Governments concerned. It is further provided that:The Imperial Advisory Committee should have access to all information in the hands of the Communications Company which is necessary to enable it to carry out its duties.I would remind hon. Members opposite of the further provision that:the Imperial Advisory Committee should be given absolute powers in regard to any proposed increase to existing rates, and the allocation of the funds which become available for rate reduction, etc.There are other recommendations:such as the institution of new services, the discontinuance of any services which become commercially unprofitable, and the general distribution of traffic between alternative routes. For example, in regard to the question last mentioned, it will be desirable that a reasonable proportion of the total cable traffic between Great Britain and Australia and New Zealand should continue to pass over the route by way of Canada, which does not touch foreign territory at any point. It is not possible to prescribe in advance for all such contingencies. They can only be judged in the light of the circumstances obtaining at the tune.In addition, there are a number of points of detail which will have to be included in the formal agreement with the companies concerned. Here are three or four of them in black and white:An undertaking on the part of the Communications Company to submit their accounts, if required, to examination on behalf of the Advisory Committee; an 1751 undertaking on the part of both the Merger and Communications Companies not to dispose or allow any serious diminution in the control of their communications assets; safeguards against undue preference or excessive payments for apparatus manufactured or patented by the Merger Company; precise terms in regard to the transfer of personnel, etc. Points such as these can only be dealt with fully in a legal document.Those are the lines upon which we have acted. I cannot add, I am unable to add anything further, nor would I seek to add a word to the very able, definite and exhaustive recommendations made by the imperial Conference, which are set forth in black and white, which recommendations, it must be borne in mind, have been made by representatives of His Majesty's Government in Great Britain and of the Dominions Governments. If hon. Members opposite will not accept the recommendations as covering pretty exhaustively all the points which they have raised, then it is beyond my power to say more.
§ Mr. BENN
I will not press the hon. Member further than is necessary, but we have not had an answer to the question which we have put, namely, by what power is the Advisory Committee to do these things. We have all read the White Paper, and we should not be asking these questions if the White Paper had answered them. The hon. Member has read textually from the White Paper. What we are pressing for is for information as to the exact powers under which the Advisory Committee will act. Take a point which is mentioned on page 2() of the White Paper, the question of the price of apparatus. The hon. Member says that the Advisory Committee will adopt safeguards against undue preference. What safeguards? Can they say that the price is too high? Will they be empowered to say to the communications company: "You are paying too much to yourselves as manufacturers for this apparatus"? Can we have a simple answer to such a question as that?
It is a great mistake and a very dangerous thing to drag in the names of the Dominions. If there is a matter in which the Dominions are concerned, we on this side of the House would be as careful as anyone else to preserve a proper respect for their independence. To 1752 drag in the names of the Dominions on every occasion in order to show the in-competency or worse of those who criticise these recommendations, is not a very decent or Imperial-minded action. The hon. Member's manuscript has been taken from pages 19 and 20. We find on page 19 the statement:It will be desirable that a reasonable proportion of the total cable traffic between Great Britain and Australia and New Zealand should continue to pass over the route by way of Canada.That means by the two Imperial Cables. The Advisory Committee, therefore, has to take on the carrying through of the spirit of the old policy of what was called the All-red route. That is, we were to have a cable route entirely on British soil. The Advisory Committee, we are told, according to this document, is to be responsible for seeing that that policy is carried out. But we were told by the Postmaster-General that you cannot be sure of getting messages across unless you have two cables across the Atlantic. That was the reason, I understand, why we purchased the second cable in 1920. The Advisory Committee is to see that this security of transmission through Canada by the Atlantic cables is maintained. It would all sound excellent, if it had not been that one of the Government officials the other day told us that, without waiting for all this nonsense about the Advisory Committee, the gentleman with whom the negotiations are proceeding—I think it was the Noble Lord the Assistant Postmaster-General (Viscount Wolmer) who stated it—have already decided to sell the second cable, or to scrap it. I am not sure whether he said that they had decided to sell it or to scrap it, but, at any rate, they were going to put it out of action. Does the Postmaster-General deny that?
§ The POSTMASTER-GENERAL (Sir William Mitchell-Thomson)
I said nothing of the kind.
§ Mr. BENN
Certainly, someone from the Government Bench told us that one 1753 of the reasons why they were able to offer this price was that they would not be under the obligation to maintain one of the cables. What a quibble. If they are able to give a good price because they are not taking up the obligation to maintain the cable, where does the Advisory Committee come in? Is the Advisory Committee to see that both cables are kept going, so that there may be the All-red route?
§ Sir W. MITCHELL-THOMSON
The hon. Member is completely forgetting that the All-red route may exist by way of cable or by way of cable and wireless. It is, therefore, quite possible that the Communications Company will use, on the one hand, perhaps one of its cables or possibly both—I do not know—with the wireless to Canada as an alternative. There is still your All-red route.
§ Mr. BENN
Yes, I assume that wireless is not operative at all times. One of the reasons set out in this Report for the maintenance of the cables is to make certain of getting a message through, as there are times when the wireless cannot be relied upon. Whereas the Government had to maintain two cables in order to maintain the All-Red Route the Communications Company will dispose of one of them; and this Advisory Committee is set up to see that they maintain the All-Red Route. Let Ministers harmonise these different statements if they can. The fact is that the Advisory Committee is nothing at all; it is only an essay on a piece of paper. Has any document been drawn up showing what controlling powers they are to have? Is it too much to ask for an answer? It is, of course, open to the Government to say nothing, but the worst possible deduction will be drawn from their silence. The watch-dog is to be the Advisory Committee; the money-maker is to he the Communications Company. The Communications Company, by which the public will in my opinion be grossly exploited in the future, is going to be considered. On the 1754 other hand, Sir J. Denison Pender says that the document is far advanced. The document is going forward, but the safeguards are not begun.
It would be much better if the Government were frank. Give the Committee the draft agreement on the Table of the House. It should have been done long ago. Why not give us the draft document on which the Advisory Committee is to operate? Is the Advisory Committee to have power to say "No"; or is it only to give advice except in the case of the specified power. The specified power is trivial and most perfunctory. They are to have power to say that rates shall not be advanced over the rates which were in force at the time when the Communications Company came into existence. I hope the rates will not be increased. The whole purpose of this scheme is to reduce rates; and the beam service would reduce rates a great deal more than this scheme, if it had been left alone. All that the Advisory Committee can say is that rates shall not he raised beyond the point at which they stood when the Communications Company came into existence. That is the only power they have. The Government ought to answer these questions. They are not unreasonable; and opinion is growing in public circles that there is something behind all this business which will not redound to the public interest.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
In answer to the right hon. Member for Central Edinburgh (Mr. W. Graham) the Financial Secretary to the Treasury spoke of a sum of £30,000,000 as the capital of this company. On page 14 of the Report of the Imperial Conference, I see a reference to the capital as being S;53,700,000.
§ Lieut. - Commander KENWORTHY
Let rue take £30,000,000. I think this company is going to be grossly over-capitalised. It starts with millions of watered capital. Let me give the Committee a few figures. It starts with the following visible assets. They pay for the Imperial cables, in cash, £1,267,000. I am glad t3 see the right hon. Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Horne) in the House at the moment because he has become a great financial magnate. That is what is 1755 paid to the Government in cash—£1,267,000. That is the admission of the Postmaster-General, and other Ministers, from whom we have been able to drag information as with a corkscrew.
I have allowed a good deal of latitude on this new Clause, and, although many of these points are relevant when they start, I must ask hon. Members to bear in mind that the Clause we are dealing with now is one merely to provide that the rate of dividend or interest on the capital of the company must be limited. I do not think we can go too far into the capital of other concerns.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I am much obliged by your Ruling, and I will reserve my remarks for a later Amendment.
§ Mr. GILLETT
The Financial Secretary to the Treasury, after he had read long extracts from the Report of the Imperial Conference, said that that was all he knew about the whole problem. He then went on to say certain things about the Advisory Committee, but what he said about the Advisory Committee does not coincide with the Report of the Imperial Conference. There is a reference to the Advisory Committee, in the sixth recommendation of the Imperial Conference, and I would draw the attention of the Financial Secretary to the fact that it is divided into two parts. In the first part it says that the Communications Company are to consult the Advisory Committee, and an hon, Member on the back benches opposite has told us what the word "consult" means—that they will simply consult. The Communications Company is to consult on certain matters. The Financial Secretary has told us that the Advisory Committee are to have certain powers; and in the second part of this recommendation the one thing on which the assent of the Advisory Committee must be obtained is definitely stated. If you particularise one thing on which assent is essential, is it not fair to assume that it implies that assent is not essential on other matters? That does not tally with the observations of the Financial Secretary, because he said that the Advisory Committee had practically mandatory powers over the doings of the 1756 Communications Company. I challenge him on that statement. I think he is entirely mistaken.
Many of these companies have accumulated in the past large reserve funds in order to be ready to lay down new cables if necessary for ordinary business purposes. Suppose this new company decides to dispose of these reserves in the form of bonus shares, will the Financial Secretary, who does not wish to know anything more than what is in this Report, tell us whether they would have power to hand over these reserves by way of bonus shares to the shareholders without the assent of the Advisory Committee. That is an important point. One or two of these companies have two or three millions of pounds in reserve and if, on the top of the £30,000,000, these two or three million pounds are going in the form of bonus shares, then the whole balance of the money coming to the users is going to be affected. I should like to know if the Financial Secretary has considered this point and, if he has, perhaps he will give the Committee his reply.
§ Mr. WALTER BAKER
I am certain that the Financial Secretary has done his best to enlighten us on this subject and it must be our fault that we have failed to obtain the information we are seeking. The point submitted by the hon. Member for North Aberdeen (Mr. Benn) has not been answered, nor has the point submitted by the hon. Member for Finsbury (Mr. Gillett). The position with regard to this fusion is particularly important so far as Government control of policy is concerned, but it is equally important that there should be adequate financial control. The Bill only deals with certain assets which are to be transferred from the Government to private hands and nothing at all is said as to the future development of the business we are now considering. I believe there is absolutely no limit to the future possibility of these services and, therefore, to transfer them to a private company without taking adequate steps to safeguard the future, not only as regards policy and finance, but as regards new inventions, is directly against the public interest. The source of a great deal of the information in relation to this subject has been the "Daily Mail" and the "Evening News," and I am sure hon. Members will 1757 be glad to know that the "Daily Mail" says that a new beam marvel is coming by which power and light will soon be transmitted by wireless. Are we to understand that the future possibilities of this science are to be left to this company without Government control at all? Our view, as expressed in the Amendment, is that it is absolutely essential to lay down the condition that even after the company is in full operation there shall be the most complete control over all new capital issues and over the financial policy to be pursued by the company. The point made by the hon. Member for North Aberdeen with regard to the transactions between the Communications Company and the merger is a point of considerable substance.
I am not quite sure that I ought not to have stopped the hon. Member for North Aberdeen (Mr. Benn) before he reached this point in his speech. I think I am right that the Communications Company with which we are dealing only takes over what are called communication assets, and, under this condition, the capital and reserve funds held by other companies has nothing to do with the. Communications Company.
§ 5.0 p.m.
§ Mr. BAKER
The point I am submitting is entirely connected with the finances of the Communications Company. We know that large reserves, to the extent of £20,000,000, are being left in other hands, but there seems to be no provision made to prevent the Communications Company itself building up large reserves which may be distributed as the hon. Member for North Aberdeen suggested. I do not want to pursue that point unduly, but I must stress as strongly as I can our dissatisfaction at the failure of the Government to deal with what is a strong financial criticism of this Measure. We have repeatedly called attention to the different bases on which the public assets and the private assets are being brought into the company. We have submitted figures and have shown that, whilst the Government assets are coming in at cost less depreciation, the assets of the private company are coming in on the basis of shareholdings.
The hon. Member cannot pursue that point now. It is clear that the question of the price which has to be paid for a particular asset cannot be discussed under this new Clause.
§ Mr. BAKER
I bow to your Ruling, of course, and I will endeavour to make a further point that I have in mind, namely, that in the case of this particular company, for national reasons and Imperial reasons, close control should be maintained over not only the issue but the rate of interest or dividend which shall be paid. In the "Times" of 8th December, in the "City Notes," there is a paragraph which seems to sound a note of very grave warning. The paragraph refers to one of the parts of this Communications Company, and says:A special meeting of the Marconi International Marine Communication Company has been summoned for December 14 to consider a special resolution altering the articles of association so as to ensure that the Company shall remain under British control.Those are not my words. They are the words of the "Times," in relation to contemplated actions by one of the actors in this Communications Company. The article goes on:The reason for taking action is that recently there has been substantial foreign buying of the shares, and the directors feel that they cannot ignore the possibility of such buying having for its object the placing of the Company under foreign control.Can the House of Commons afford to ignore a warning of that kind? There you have a warning published in the financial columns of the leading daily newspaper. You are definitely warned that it is feared that an attempt is being made or may be made to secure control of the capital of this company.
The hon. Member must remember that, the Marconi Company is not a company which is concerned under this Bill.
I do not want to misunderstand the hon. Member, nor do I want him to misunderstand me. The Marconi Company, we all know, does 1759 exist. If the hon. Member means the Communications Company, he must be careful to say so. I called him to Order for saying something that apparently he does not mean. This Bill and this Clause have nothing whatever to do with the question whether the Marconi Company is controlled by British shareholders or by shareholders of any country in the world.
That is where the hon. Member makes a mistake. These companies only sell certain assets and the companies remain in separate existence uncontrolled by the Communications Company.
I think there is a new Clause on the Paper on which the hon. Member can discuss that point. This is a question of the directors of the Communications Company. It has nothing to do with the other company.
§ Mr. WALLHEAD
It seems to me that the matter has been stated fairly by my hon. Friend the Member for North Aberdeen (Mr. Benn). The reason for this new Clause arises from the inadequate powers of the Advisory Committee. It It is fair to assume that there will be a fairly large profit on the operations of this new Communications Company, when it is called into existence under the Bill, and that the powers of the Advisory Committee are illusory so far as charges are concerned. I should have thought that the first effect of the establishment of the company would be a reduction of rates—that the service would be made cheaper. In that case the Advisory Committee does not operate at all; it has no power to operate over charges unless there is a proposal to raise them. Surely if the Advisory Committee is to be effective from the public point of view it should be able to advise a reduction 1760 of charges without waiting for the Communications Company to take a step in that direction. The Advisory Committee should be able to say "Circumstances have now arisen in the operation of the company of such a kind that prices ought to be reduced." The charges ought then to be lowered without the company being able to manipulate its figures: If the public are to have the confidence that they ought to have in this Advisory Committee, and if the Committee is not to remain a mere illusion, this new Clause ought to be accepted.
§ Mr. KELLY
I was hoping that either the Financial Secretary to the Treasury or the Postmaster-General would have replied giving the views of the Government on this new Clause. Although the Financial Secretary spoke for some minutes, in not one syllable did he make any reference to the new Clause. He told us a great deal about the care that we should take not to criticise the Dominion Governments. He told us that the Advisory Committee would have certain powers. But he did not refer to the limitation of those powers. Not once did he give any justification for the Communications Company not having its interest and dividend limited, so that it does not exceed the rate for the time being prescribed by the Treasury. Surely if this Communications Company is so anxious to help this country and the Dominions, it has no concern in getting a, free hand to raise all it can and make all it can out of this particular concern. If the money had been raised by the Government there would have been a limitation imposed by the Treasury. I do not want to be unduly suspicious. I but it does have the appearance that there is something to hide with regard to this transaction. In fact I am asking myself who is behind all this, and I am not at all sure that it does not make one wonder whether there are people concerned with this particular House or the other House who may be behind this transaction. It is the fact that we are not receiving replies from the Government Front Bench, and that makes one feel that there is some suspicion with regard to the whole transaction.
I do not wish to discuss the Advisory Committee. That Committee is not a safeguard on the point that is raised 1761 in the new Clause. As to the point that you, Mr. Deputy-Chairman, put a few moments ago—that the Communications Company is only a Company for the taking over of certain assets—may I remind you that on page 18 of the White Paper there is a reference to these companies to which you referred, the Marconi Company and the others—and the White Paper speaks of them and the boards of the various companies involved, and if the Boards were not identifiable, there would be risk of conflicting policies being pursued by the different entities of the undertaking. Therefore we cannot leave out of account the existence of the companies which were referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for East Bristol (Mr. W. Baker). I ask the Postmaster-General to give us some reason why the Government cannot accept the Amendment. These people in the Communications Company ought to be prepared to accept the limitation that is prescribed by the Treasury. If they are concerned with our having communications that will be of advantage to the Dominions and to this country, they ought to look in that direction rather than in the direction of lining their own pockets.
§ Sir HENRY SLESSER
On the Second Reading of the Bill I attempted to give an explanation of certain words in the Bill, which, if interpreted in a certain way, might make this Amendment unnecessary, but I frankly state that, speaking from the point of view of legal interpretation it is absolutely impossible to understand what the Clause proposes to do.
We are not now discussing the Clause in the Bill at all. We are discussing a new Clause, the Second Reading of which has been moved.
§ Sir H. SLESSER
I quite appreciate that. I understood the Financial Secretary to the Treasury to say that the new Clause was unnecessary because of certain provisions which are contained in the Report. I am still seeking to understand what the Report has to do with this Bill, and it is on that point that I was referring back to the first Clause of the Bill in order to ask the Committee to consider why this new Clause is or is not necessary. I 1762 understand that in the first Clause it is provided that the Board may sell the Pacific Cable undertaking to the Communications Company as from the first day of April, 1928. There is a similar provision in Clause 2 with reference to the West Indian undertaking. That is an absolute power to sell, without any qualification whatever, and what the Committee may or may not recommend is wholly irrelevant. Once you have the consent of the partner Governments to sell, the recommendations of the Committee can have no bearing whatever on the conditions of sale or the articles of association or the limitation of share or loan capital with interest or dividend which is dealt with in the proposed new Clause. Then it is further provided:and if the recommendations aforesaid with respect to the said undertaking are carried into effect, the following provisions shall come into operation.There you have two different subject matters dealt with in Clause 1. First there is the absolute and unconditional right of sale. Then you have the word "and," which I take it is used here in a disjunctive and not conjunctive sense. They may sell the undertaking to the Communications Company "and" if the recommendations are carried into effect, certain provisions shall come into operation. Those provisions are not in the Reports quoted to us by the Financial Secretary to the Treasury. As they are the only provisions mentioned in the Clause, it follows that these other things are nothing more than mere pious opinions. The Financial Secretary to the Treasury tried to assure us that our proposal was unnecessary because of these various recommendations, but that is perfectly irrelevant to the question.
I speak as a lawyer and not as an economist. If this Measure ever comes into a Court of Law, what possible indication is there, in any of its words, that the recommendations and views of the Dominions and all the other matters about which we have heard, will in any way be brought to the attention of any Judge? I should say that if anyone attempted to introduce such irrelevant matter, the Court would at once say, "What has this to do with us? We are not concerned with what these bodies recommended, but with what is in the Measure itself." There being nothing 1763 in the Measure to control the sale price, the dividends or anything else, we come forward with this proposal which says quite definitely that the articles of association of the Communications Company shall contain a certain limitation as to dividends. The Financial Secretary says the Government cannot accept that proposal because of something which is not in the Bill.
Surely it is treating the Committee with some want of respect to try to make us believe at this late hour that there are protections and limitations and other matters in the Bill which we all know by now—as I hope the country knows by now—are not in the Bill. The Bill contains no limitation and affords no protection in this respect and if right hon. Gentlemen opposite oppose our proposal, they ought to oppose it on its merits and not by referring us to recommendations which have no relevancy whatever. I should be out of order if I inquired why none of these recommendations find a place in any of the Schedules of the Bill, but I would submit that in any ordinary Bill dealing with an enabling power to make a contract, the consideration of the contract and the conditions and all those matters are laid down in the Bill. In this Measure there is not the slightest indication of any control or check on this Communications Company at all. The Company itself is not even defined. We do not know whether it is to be a corporation or an un-incorporated society, whether it is to be limited or unlimited.
The extraordinarily persistent refusal on the part of the Government to give the Committee information; the extraordinary incompetency on the part of the people who prepared the Bill—not the technical draftsmen but the hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite—the almost painfully stupid attitude which has been taken up; the refusal to do what is required in regard to every other Bill of the kind—all this I must put down to design. I refuse to believe that the Government are so foolish that they cannot put their intentions into proper legal form and therefore their persistent refusal must be the result of design. Our proposal at least would give some measure of assurance to the public that certain dividends ought not to be ex- 1764 ceeded. It may be that it should be done in some other way, but one thing is certain. Mere reference again and again to recommendations which find no expression in the Bill, cannot satisfy what is a fair and reasonable demand. It is proposed to sell public assets and the public are entitled to know what consideration is to be given for those assets and under what conditions the sale is to take place. I am surprised that hon. Members opposite who pride themselves so much on their Imperialism, should sit quietly by and see these public and Imperial assets disposed of without limitation or check to irresponsible private interests.
§ Sir W. MITCHELL-THOMSON
The observations of the hon. and learned Gentleman for South-East Leeds (Sir H. Slesser) are more ingenious than convincing, indeed he might properly have made them on the question "That Clause 1 stand part of the Bill," because they were really all directed to the substance and wording of Clause 1 and I question how far I should be in order in replying to them in detail. The capital error into which the hon. and learned Gentleman has fallen and into which he has sought to lead the Committee, arises from the fact that he failed to read the whole of Clause 1. He has not even been wholly communicative to the Committee in what he did read. What he read of Clause 1 suggested to the Committee that the only proviso was the enabling power to sell. Even at the risk of making many vain repetitions I would say again that this is an enabling Bill. The hon. and learned Gentleman said what the Bill did was to enable the sale to be made with the consent of the partner Governments, but there is more than that in it. Why did not the hon. and learned Gentleman read the other words which dispose of the whole case which he has sought to build up. The provision is that the sale may be madewith the consent of and on terms approved by, all the partner Governments.The hon. and learned Gentleman did not mention the words "and on terms approved by." We have said repeatedly, and at the risk of being out of order I must repeat it, that the terms approved by the partner Governments, in so far as they are approved by His 1765 Majesty's Government, and in so far as they become matters to which His Majesty's Government are parties, will, when they are in the form of contracts, be brought before the House of Commons. That will provide for the exercise of powers by the Advisory Committee, and if the hon. and learned Gentleman and other hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite dislike those powers, they have their proper remedy, which is to censure His Majesty's Government.
§ Sir H. SLESSER
I think the expression "on terms approved by" makes no difference at all. The right hon. Gentleman knows that I was referring to the recommendations which have been mentioned and whether it is "with the consent of" or "on terms approved by" obviously does not matter. But what I want to ask is this. Will he undertake that this Bill shall not come into operation until those terms have been laid on the Table of this House for 40 days and have received the consent of this House?
§ Sir W. MITCHELL-THOMSON
How can I undertake a thing of that kind? The hon. and learned Gentleman knows that the whole purpose of the Bill is to enable the Government to enter into contracts. What I have said is that when the contracts are entered into they shall be laid.
§ Mr. JAMES HUDSON
Will the Communications Company be able to do what the Assistant Postmaster-General has suggested they might be able to do, namely, allow the Atlantic Cable to go into disuse, without first consulting the Advisory Committee?
As far as the question of the Advisory Committee having any power in relation to the limitation of dividends is concerned, the Advisory Committee is a legitimate subject for discussion at this stage; but where it is a question of the management of the cables, I am afraid the hon. Gentleman cannot discuss it on this new Clause.
§ Mr. RENNIE SMITH
We are trying by this new Clause to insert in the Bill a principle which is recommended in the Report itself. The Report lays it down that this company should be a company on public utility lines. The Postmaster- 1766 General is inviting the nation to buy a pig in a poke and we should like to know, in these circumstances, what the Government themselves understand by a company which is built on public utility lines. We take the view that one characteristic of a company built on public utility lines is that there should he a reservation as to price—some way of controlling the price at which things are sold. The right hon. Gentleman knows that there is very little power given here with regard to the regulation of price. I submit that there is a very small amount of public restraint possible in that respect and therefore it is all the more important that we should have the second characteristic of a public utility company, namely, restraint on dividends. That matter ought to be specially safeguarded. If the Postmaster-General maintains that the nation must buy this pig in a poke; if the present Government claim that we are to give them 100 per cent. trust at this time of day with regard to this concession, then I should like them to lay down a definition to guide us. What do they understand by a public utility company and how do they relate the characteristics of a public utility company to the proposed Communications Company?
§ Mr. W. PALING
I would not have intervened in this discussion but for the failure of the Financial Secretary and the Postmaster-General to answer direct questions put from this side. The Postmaster-General has just accused the ex-Solicitor-General of being more ingenious than convincing, but I am not sure that the remark does not apply to the Postmaster-General himself. I have listened to a great part of these discussions and it appears to me that the Postmaster-General and the Financial Secretary have avoided all the questions put to them. An answer to those questions is due to the Committee, and if no answer is forthcoming, hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite should tell us that they do not know and it can go at that. The first question which I would recall is "Can bonus shares be issued?" That was a very distinct question and there has been no attempt to answer it.
I have some knowledge of what may happen in this connection. In mining, for instance, I understand there may be cases where profits go up so that it 1767 becomes dangerous to publish them or people might be asking for better wages and all sorts of things. Accordingly, there is an attempt to hide them by giving bonus shares, thus creating false values but bringing down the rate of dividends. Have the Advisory Committee power to stop that kind of thing? Then I understand that there is to be another company which will supply materials to this Communications Company, but they will really all be part of the same undertaking. If the dividends over and above the figures mentioned in the Bill were rising to such an extent that questions might be asked, would it be possible by raising the price of the materials to bring down the dividends in one company, but give it to themselves in the other company?
That is one of the questions that I have ruled cannot be discussed on this Clause—the question of what are the powers of some other company with which this Communications Company may have to deal.
§ Mr. PALING
Then I will leave that point, but I hope the Postmaster-General will answer it when the opportunity occurs. The last thing I will ask is whether the prohibitive power of the Advisory Committee is limited to the paragraph in Recommendation (vi) which says:
No increase of rates prevailing at the date of the formation of the Communications Company to be made except with the assent of the Advisory Committee.
§ That appears to be a very definite power. Does it mean that in everything else, even though the Advisory Committee may dissent, if the people want to do it they can do it, and that the Advisory Committee has no mandatory power except on this one particular issue?
I do not think that is a question which can be asked on this new Clause. It has been to some extent referred to in a general discussion, but it is not in order here.
§ Mr. WALLHEAD
If this company is what the Government claim it to be, namely, a public utility company, how does it become such if its dividends are not limited?
§ Question put, "That the Clause be read a Second time."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 90 Noes, 221.1769
|Division No. 42.]||AYES.||[5.34 p.m.|
|Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro')||Griffith, F. Kingsley||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)|
|Ammon, Charles George||Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Mosley, Sir Oswald|
|Baker, J. (Wolverhampton, Bllston)||Grundy, T. W.||Naylor, T. E.|
|Baker, Walter||Hall, F. (York. W.R., Normanton)||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)|
|Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)||Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.|
|Barr, J.||Hardle, George D.||Ponsonby, Arthur|
|Batey, Joseph||Hayday, Arthur||Potts, John S.|
|Beckett, John (Gateshead)||Henderson, Right Hon. A. (Burnley)||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)|
|Bellamy, A.||Hirst, G. H.||Salter, Dr. Alfred|
|Benn, Wedgwood||Hirst, W. (Bradford, South)||Scrymgeour, E.|
|Bondfield, Margaret||Hudson, J. H. (Huddersfield)||Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)|
|Briant, Frank||John, William (Rhondda, West)||Shepherd, Arthur Lewis|
|Broad, F. A.||Johnston, Thomas (Dundee)||Shiels, Dr. Drummond|
|Buxton, Rt. Hon. Noel||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)||Shinwell, E.|
|Charleton, H. C.||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Slesser, Sir Henry H.|
|Ciuse, W. S.||Kelly, W. T.||Smillie, Robert|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.||Kennedy, T,||Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)|
|Cove, W. G.||Kenworthy, Lt.-Com. Hon. Joseph M.||Smith Rennie (Penistone)|
|Davies, Evan (Ebbw Vale)||Lansbury, George||Sutton, J. E.|
|Day, Harry||Lawrence, Susan||Taylor, R. A.|
|Dennison, R.||Lawson, John James||Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)|
|Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Lee, F.||Thurtle, Ernest|
|Gardner, J. P.||Lowth, T.||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Garro-Jones, Captain G. M.||Lunn, William||Viant, S. P.|
|Gillett, George M.||Malone, C. L'Estrange (N'thampton)||Wallhead, Richard C.|
|Gosling, Harry||March, S.||Wedgwood, Rt. Hon. Josiah|
|Graham, Rt. Hon. Wm. (Edin., Cent.)||Montague, Frederick||Wellock, Wilfred|
|Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||Morris, R. H.||Westwood, J.|
|Whiteley, W.||Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Wilkinson, Ellen C.||Windsor, Walter||Mr. A. Barnes and Mr. Paling.|
|Williams, Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|Albery, Irving James||Fenby, T. D.||Nield, Rt. Hon. Sir Herbert|
|Alexander, E. E. (Leyton)||Fermoy, Lord||O'Neill, Major Rt. Hon. Hugh|
|Allen, Sir J. Sandeman||Fielden, E. B.||Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S.||Forrest, W.||Pennefather, Sir John|
|Applin, Colonel R. V. K.||Foster, Sir Harry S.||Penny, Frederick George|
|Apsley, Lord||Foxcroft, Captain C. T.||Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)|
|Atkinson, C.||Fraser, Captain Ian||Perkins, Colonel E. K.|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||Perring, Sir William George|
|Bainlel, Lord||Ganzoni, Sir John||Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Gates, Percy.||Peto, G. (Somerset, Frome)|
|Barnett, Major Sir Richard||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||Pilditch, Sir Philip|
|Bellairs, Commander Carlyon||Goff, Sir Park||Power, Sir John Cecil|
|Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake)||Grant, Sir J. A.||Pownall, Sir Assheton|
|Bennett, A. J.||Grattan-Doyle, Sir N.||Preston, William|
|Berry, Sir George||Greaves-Lord, Sir Walter||Price, Major C. W. M.|
|Bethel, A.||Grenfell, Edward C. (City of London)||Ramsden, E.|
|Betterton, Henry B.||Grotrian, H. Brent||Reid, D. D. (County Down)|
|Birchall, Major J. Dearman||Guinness, Rt. Hon. Walter E.||Rentoul, G. S.|
|Boothby, R. J. G.||Gunston, Captain D. W.||Richardson, Sir P. W. (Sur'y, Ch'ts'y)|
|Bourne, Captain Robert Croft||Hacking, Douglas H.||Roberts, E. H. G. (Flint)|
|Briggs, J. Harold||Hall, Admiral Sir R. (Eastbourne)||Robinson, Sir T. (Lancs., Stretford)|
|Briscoe, Richard George||Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Shetland)||Rodd, Rt. Hon. Sir James Rennell|
|Brittain, Sir Harry||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Ropner, Major L.|
|Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Hartington, Marquess of||Ruggles-Brise, Lieut.-Colonel E. A.|
|Brooke, Brigadier-General C. R. I.||Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H.C.(Berks, Newb'y)||Haslam, Henry C.||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)|
|Brown, Ernest (Leith)||Headlam, Lieut.-Colonel C. M.||Sandeman, N. Stewart|
|Buchan, John||Hennessy, Major Sir G. R. J.||Sandon, Lord|
|Buckingham, Sir H.||Herbert, S. (York, N.R., Scar. & Wh'by)||Savery, S. S.|
|Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James||Hilton, Cecil||Sheffield, Sir Berkeley|
|Bullock, Captain M.||Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S J. G.||Simms, Dr. John M. (Co. Down)|
|Burton, Colonel H. W.||Hohler, Sir Gerald Fitzroy||Skelton, A. N.|
|Carver, Major W. H.||Hopkins, J. W. W.||Smith, Louis W. (Sheffield, Hallam)|
|Cautley, Sir Henry S.||Horne, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert S.||Smith, R.W. (Abard'n & Kinc'dine,C.)|
|Cayzer Sir C. (Chester, City)||Hudson, Capt. A.U.M.(Hackney, N.)||Smithers, Waldron|
|Cayzer, Maj. Sir Herbt.R.(Prtsmth, C.)||Hume, Sir G. H.||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)|
|Cazalet, Captain Victor A.||Hume-Williams, Sir W. Ellis||Southby, Commander A. R. J.|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Sir Evelyn (Aston)||Hunter-Weston, Lt.-Gen Sir Aylmer||Spender-Clay, Colonel H.|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord H. (Ox. Univ.)||Hurd, Percy A.||Stanley, Lieut.-Colonel Rt. Hon. G. F.|
|Chadwick, Sir Robert Burton||Hurst, Gerald B.||Steel, Major Samuel Strang|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Ladywood)||Hutchison, Sir Robert (Montrose)||Stott, Lieut.-Colonel W. H.|
|Charteris, Brigadier-General J.||Iliffe, Sir Edward M.||Strauss, E. A.|
|Churchman, Sir Arthur C.||Inskip, Sir Thomas Walker H.||Streatfeild, Captain S. R.|
|Clayton, G. C.||Jackson, Sir H. (Wandsworth, Cen'l)||Stuart, Crichton-, Lord C.|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Joynson-Hicks, Rt. Hon. Sir William||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||Kennedy, A. R. (Preston)||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser|
|Cockerill, Brig-General Sir George||Kindersley, Major G. M.||Tasker, R. Inigo.|
|Cohen, Major J Brunel||King, Commodore Henry Douglas||Templeton, W. P.|
|Cooper, A. Duff||Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)|
|Cope, Major Sir William||Lamb, J. Q.||Thomson, Rt. Hon. Sir W. Mitchell-|
|Couper, J. B.||Lister, Cunliffe, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Courtauld, Major J. S.||Locker-Lampson, Rt. Hon. Godfrey||Vaughan-Morgan, Col. K. P.|
|Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities)||Looker, Herbert William||Ward, Lt.-Col. A.L.(Kingston-on-Hull)|
|Craig, Capt. Rt. Hon. C. C. (Antrim)||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Vere||Warner, Brigadier-General W. W.|
|Craig, Sir Ernest (Chester, Crewe)||Luce, Major-Gen. Sir Richard Harman||Warrender, Sir Victor|
|Crawfurd, H. E.||Lumley, L. R.||Watson, Rt. Hon. W. (Carlisle)|
|Crookshank, Col. C. de W. (Berwick)||MacAndrew, Major Charles Glen||Watts, Sir Thomas|
|Crookshank, Cpt.H. (Lindsey,Gainsbro)||Macdonald, R. (Glasgow, Cathcart)||Wayland, Sir William A.|
|Culverwell, C. T. (Bristol, West)||Macintyre, Ian||Wells, S. R.|
|Curzon, Captain Viscount||McLean, Major A.||Williams, Com. C. (Devon, Torquay)|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Macmillan, Captain H.||Williams, Herbert G. (Reading)|
|Davidson, Rt. Hon. J. (Hertford)||Macquisten, F. A.||Wilson, Sir C. H. (Leeds, Central)|
|Davies, Dr. Vernon||Maitland, A. (Kent, Faversham)||Wilson, R. R. (Stafford, Lichfield)|
|Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)||Maitland, Sir Arthur D. Steel-||Winby, Colonel L. P.|
|Dawson, Sir Philip||Makins, Brigadier-General E.||Withers, John James|
|Dean, Arthur Wellesley||Margesson, Captain D.||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Eden, Captain Anthony||Marriott, Sir J. A. R.||Wood, E.(Chest'r, Stalyb'dge & Hyde)|
|Edmondson, Major A. J.||Merriman, Sir F. Boyd||Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir Kingsley|
|Elliot, Major Walter E.||Mitchell, W. Foot (Saffron Walden)||Wood, Sir S. Hill- (High Peak)|
|Ellis, R. G.||Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)||Woodcock, Colonel H. C.|
|Erskine, James Malcolm Montelth||Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. B. M.||Wright, Brig.-General W. D.|
|Everard, W. Lindsay||Moore, Lieut.-Colonel T. C. R. (Ayr)|
|Fairfax, Captain J. G.||Moreing, Captain A. H.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Faile, Sir Bertram G.||Morrison, H. (Wilts, Salisbury)||Captain Bowyer and Captain Wallace.|
|Fanshawe, Captain G. D.||Nicholson, O. (Westminster)|
The next proposed new Clause on the Paper—(Communications Company to be incorporated by Royal Charter)—is not in order, because it deals with the Royal Prerogative.
No, I am afraid not. It would be an alteration in the shadow and not in the substance.