HC Deb 08 February 1932 vol 261 cc482-3
68. Lord SCONE

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he is aware that 11,000,000 of preference and debenture shares of the Anglo-Argentine Tramways Company out of some 16,000,000 held by British investors are in default, mainly owing to the refusal of the Argentine authorities to sanction an increase in fares, although the company are working under the same conditions as in 1908, with the addition of various new difficulties; and whether he will consider the advisability of addressing official representations to the Argentine Government as to the hardship involved thereby to numbers of British investors?


His Majesty's Government have watched with growing concern the progressive deterioration in the position of this important company, which appears to be due to factors outside their control. While various causes, including unrestricted competition by "taxi-buses" have contributed to this state of affairs, it is understood that the chief difficulty has been the obligation still imposed on the company to continue working under a scale of charges originally fixed in 1908, which has little relation to present-day conditions. A Commission was appointed in April last to study the question, and His Majesty's Ambassador in Buenos Aires, who has, under instructions from His Majesty's Government, frequently drawn the attention of the Argentine Government to the great hardship imposed on numerous investors by the persistence of these conditions, had good grounds for hoping that action would be taken. Unfortunately no progress appears to have been made, but my right hon. Friend will continue to give the matter his close attention.


Is it not a fact that this company has had to suspend payment on the interest of one of its mortgage debenture stocks and is unable to do anything to ameliorate the conditions of its workers—with whom it has always maintained friendly relations—simply because of the unyielding attitude of the Argentine Government?


I believe that that is so. We hope that the matter will be settled by negotiation. If it is not, then His Majesty's Government will obviously have to consider what further steps they can take.


Is it not the case that both the Under-Secretary and the hon. Gentleman who put the question believe in unrestricted competition?