§ 7. Major OWEN
asked the Under-Secretary of State for India whether, seeing that the Commonwealth Trust has been in existence for more than seven years, he can state what is the total amount of surplus profits transferred by the directors of this trust to the trustees for the purposes of education in India?
§ Earl WINTERTON
I understand that the shareholders of the Commonwealth Trust, Limited, resolved at their general meeting on 13th December, 1927, that out of the profits of the financial year ended 30th June, 1927, a sum of £2,500 should be paid, by way of anticipation of future surplus profits, to the Commonwealth Welfare and Education Trustees for application to the purposes of the trust in India.
§ Earl WINTERTON
I think I have answered the question. They have set apart this sum of money in anticipation of future surplus profits?
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for the COLONIES (Mr. Amery)
The reply to the hon. Member's question is that the directors of the Commonwealth Trust Limited were informed by letter in September, 1925, that I had had under consideration the future of the Commonwealth Trust Limited in so far as its works in the Gold Coast were concerned, and that I had come to the conclusion that it would be desirable that the Trust should cease to operate in the Gold Coast and that the former properties of the Basle Mission Trading Society held by the Trust should be returned to the Local Board of Trustees.
§ 22 and 23. Mr. KELLY
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies (1) whether, seeing that under the trust deed of the Commonwealth Trust provision is only made for the payment to Christian missions out of surplus profits, the payment to missions in India of sums of money out of the assets of the trust was ever disclosed to the trustees or to the shareholders of the company;
(2) the amount of money advanced to Christian missions in India by the Commonwealth Trust Limited; and whether, seeing that at the time these advances were made the Commonwealth Trust was losing large sums of money, his sanction was sought before these advances from capital resources were made by the directors of the trust?
§ 29. Major OWEN
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether, seeing that the Commonwealth Trust has been in existence for more than seven years, he can state what is the total amount of surplus profits transferred by the directors of this trust to the trustees for the purposes of education in the Colony of the Gold Coast?
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
May I ask why the missionaries in India should have some of these surplus profits and the Colony of the Gold Coast none?
§ 30. Major OWEN
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether, seeing that the capital of the Commonwealth Trust is £50,000, and that by the admission of the directors of the company their trading losses during the period of its existence exceed £350,000, he was at any time consulted by the directors as to the steps to be taken to meet these losses; and whether any and, if so, what official advice was given to the directors?
§ Mr. AMERY
Yes, Sir. In a letter of the 4th of December, 1923, the Commonwealth Trust drew attention to the trading losses that had been incurred and indicated various alternative courses of action which might be adopted in the circumstances. One of these courses was the return of their properties to the Basle Mission Trading Society, upon full provision being made for securing the rights of the creditors of the Commonwealth Trust and for repaying to the shareholders the amounts paid upon their shares together with all arrears of dividends. Advice in this sense was subsequently given to the Commonwealth Trust, but no agreement was reached, and the situation of the Trust has since shown substantial improvement. I ought, perhaps, to add that most companies trading 1492 in West Africa over the period in question had also made considerable losses.
§ 24. Mr. WALTER BAKER
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether, seeing that the directors of the Commonwealth Trust propose paying £2,500 out of profits not yet earned to Christian missions in India, whereas any surplus profits are divisible between India and the Gold Coast, according to the areas in which profits are earned, he will say whether his sanction has been sought for this action?
§ 25. Mr. W. BAKER
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether his attention has been drawn to the statement made at the annual meeting of the Commonwealth Trust that schemes were being advanced for a change in the management of this Trust which would mean instantly depriving the employés of their livelihood; and whether he can make a statement about the intentions of the Government with regard to the liquidation of the Commonwealth Trust?
§ Mr. AMERY
My attention has been drawn to a notice issued on the 8th of March to the shareholders of the Company calling an Extraordinary General Meeting for the 27th of March, which contains the statement to which the hon. Member appears to refer. It is the intention of the Government, subject to conditions which are under consideration, to resume possession of the properties in the Gold Coast formerly belonging to the Basle Mission Trading Society and now held by the Commonwealth Trust. The position of the employés of the Trust is a factor in the situation which would obviously have to be taken into account.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
Why is it that the "Times" is taking up such a line of antagonism to the Colonial Office in this matter?