§ 9.27 p.m.
§ Mr. T. WILLIAMS
I beg to move, in page 15, line 24, at the end, to insert:Provided that no part of such allowances shall be paid in respect of any company which in the year nineteen hundred and thirty-four or nineteen hundred and thirty-five distributed cash reserves to their shareholders.Sub-section (1, b) enables the Treasury to provide to the transferor companies allowances not exceeding in the aggregate £315,000 in respect of interest on capital. This is a perfectly legitimate Amendment, and unless the Minister can satisfy the House that he is already under an obligation to make this payment, and that there is no Ministerial discretion about it, every Member on this side of the House will vote in favour of the Amendment. Practically all the beet sugar companies for the past 10 years have made fairly large profits, with the exception of the Anglo-Scottish and perhaps one other. In 1935 no less than £740,000 was paid in cash bonuses by the various beet sugar companies, and it seems a little odd that immediately on the morrow of the payment of those very large cash bonuses the Minister should take power to grant a further £315,000 to these companies. In view of the fact that on the passing of this Bill they will have a permanent right to draw anywhere between four to seven per cent. interest on £5,000,000 of capital, largely because of the intervention of the Treasury, we think that the Minister ought to accept this Amendment and teach a lesson to those directors who have exploited the nation in the past and who, knowing that some such Measure as this would be on the stocks shortly, took advantage of the opportunity of paying these cash bonuses to their shareholders.
§ 9.30 p.m.
§ Mr. ELLIOT
I am very interested in this Amendment, but I think that on consideration the hon. Gentleman will agree that he is being altogether too generous. The purpose of this Amendment is to provide that the whole of this relief should be concentrated on Lord Weir. That is a very comic idea.
§ Mr. T. WILLIAMS
Surely the right hon. Gentleman is not going to mislead the House like that. The Subsection reads "allowances not exceeding in the aggregate £315,000." It does not follow that if this Amendment were passed the right hon. Gentleman would necessarily be obliged to pay to Lord Weir the whole of that sum.
§ Mr. ELLIOT
In view of the reflections which have been passed on the Government and the accusations of ramps and all the rest of it which have gone on even during the course of this Debate, it shows a touching faith on the part of the Opposition for them to suggest that if their Amendment were carried I should thereupon exercise a discretion, when they have not been willing up to now to allow me any such discretion. I am not misleading the House at all. The purpose of this Amendment is to out out certain factories which have been more efficiently managed in the past, and to concentrate all the relief on the factories which may have been less efficiently managed. It is all to go to the Anglo-Scottish. I am sure that the hon. Member for East Fife (Mr. Henderson Stewart) will be only too pleased. But it is a little hard on some of the other companies. Chiefly on account of the inconsistency of the arguments of hon. Gentlemen opposite I ask the House not to accept the Amendment.
§ 9.33 p.m.
§ Mr. KELLY
It is very ingenious on the part of the Minister to suggest that this amount of money is intended to be handed over to the particular people he has just mentioned. He certainly would not be acting justly to the Government if he paid that money over to the individual whose name he has mentioned.
§ Mr. ELLIOT
The Amendment is enjoining me to subsidise only those who have not conducted their business with efficiency in the past.
§ Mr. KELLY
The Amendment does not do what the Minister has suggested. It is suggesting to him that people who anticipated that there might be something coming from this Government took great care that during last year and the year before they distributed bonuses and are now looking for more to be distributed to them. The Amendment says that no part of this allowance shall be paid to those who distributed cash reserves to their shareholders during last year or the year before.
§ Mr. ELLIOT
I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will agree that it also means that this must be paid to people who did not distribute cash reserves?
§ Mr. KELLY
I have no desire to interrupt the Minister at any time, but he has made every endeavour to instruct me in the way that he thinks I ought to go. If those people who distributed this money think that if they had not distributed it among themselves, there would appear to be less justification for the subsidy, they certainly are not entitled to receive and share money which comes from the pockets of the taxpayers.
§ 9.27 p.m.
§ Sir ERNEST SHEPPERSON
Is it not the case that the reserves were distributed by factories prior to the year 1935, and that this interest is from the year 1935–36, and was part of a bargain entered into between the companies and the Government to continue the sugar beet industry for that year?
§ 9.28 p.m.
§ Mr. OLIVER
I was a little intrigued by what the Minister had to say with respect to the distribution of this money. Am I to understand from his statement that companies which in the past have paid very substantial dividends and made large distributions of shares, will be entitled to participate in this sum of money as a reward for their efficiency, and that those companies which have not been in that favourable position will be denied assistance? I should like the Minister to clear up that point. It is an amazing situation that, unless the Amendment is carried, we shall be in the position that the companies who, in no sense of the term, are in need of financial assistance from the public purse, will be in the happy position of being in receipt of money that they do not require. On the other hand, the companies which have not been able to make the undertaking a paying proposition will be included in the same category as the more wealthy organisations.
There is a very large measure of justice, if I understood the Minister aright, in the proposition submitted by my hon. Friend who moved the Amendment, that those companies which have distributed any shares shall be excluded from participating in public money, which should be distributed very largely upon the same principle as that of the Government distributing public money to men who are unemployed. They do not give money to those whose income exceeds a certain figure. It is unreasonable that, when we are dealing with sugar beet factories and companies, they should be in a different position from the unfortunate men who have to draw public money through the medium of the public assistance committees in this country. I should like to hear the Minister make a clearer statement on this particular point than that which he has already made.
§ 9.40 p.m.
§ Mr. BROAD
The Minister has not given at any stage of this Bill any explanation or justification on the ground of the need for this largesse to be distributed to these particular people. He has tried to get away from doing it again to-night in an airy sort of way, and, no doubt feeling that he had made a mess of things in his speech, he continually interrupted my right hon. Friend. This 2263 sum of £315,000, as far as I can gather from him, is a reward for the efficiency of the people who run these companies. I should like to know where the efficiency comes in. They would not have had anything like the tremendous profits they have had and the enormous amount of reserves, which they have been able to share among themselves, if they had not been efficient in getting generous treatment from a very inefficient Government. Those profits were not legitimate profits and neither were those reserves a legitimate surplus from profits which they thought wise to distribute. They were entirely due to the provision made by the Government, which was one of the most unclean pages, I think of Tory finance in this country.
We could understand a company or a series of companies which, relying upon largesse from a Government and afraid that it might come to an end, made some provision in reserves for a distribution of profits on their shares when the subsidy no longer existed or was to come to an end, but the gentlemen were wise in their generation from their own point of view. They distributed all available funds and then said that they had no surplus or reserves to enable them to distribute the usual dividends to their shareholders, and now a generous Government have come along and said that they will give them £315,000 to share among themselves. This is the final stage in a disgraceful chapter in the management of industry in this country by means of Government subsidies. I hope that the House will rise to its responsibility to the taxpayer and the general public of the country in this matter, and will say that they are not going to give an additional penny, let alone £315,000 to a few favoured people who are not in need of it.
§ 9.44 p.m.
§ Mr. BARNES
Before we go to a Division, it would be an advantage if either the Minister or the Parliamentary Secretary would clear up the discrepancy in the statement of the Minister. I understood him to state that if the Amendment were carried he would still have to disburse this amount of £315,000 and, therefore, larger sums would go to those companies that were not covered by this Amendment. I do not know whether I got the implication of the speech of the 2264 Minister correctly, hut this is what he appeared to be telling Members of the House. If one examines the wording of the Clause there is a very significant difference in the language employed. After stating that there should be distributed certain moneys by Parliament in paragraph (a) referring to the Corporation, it states definitely that the allowance must be £240,000, but when you come to paragraph (b), which we are discussing in this Amendment, it does not enforce the obligation upon the Minister to distribute that sum. It says that the transferor companies' allowance is not to exceed in the aggregate £315,000. Therefore, it appears that if this Amendment were carried the State would be saved the amount of money affected by the Amendment. The Minister of Agriculture conveyed the impression that if the Amendment were carried he would have to distribute larger sums to a limited number of companies. We ought to have an explanation whether that is so or not.
§ Mr. ELLIOT
I can only speak again by leave of the House. I did not say that it would compel me, but I said that it would enable me. The argument from the other side of the House was that if I were able to do such a thing I should do it. It enjoined me to distribute money, whether it was extra money or not. I said that it would enable me to distribute a large sum, and that it enjoined me to distribute it only to companies that had no reserves.
§ Mr. ELLIOT
Has the hon. Member never heard of our motto?:Keeping our ain fish guts for our ain sea maws.The Amendment would enjoin me not to pay any money to certain companies, but by implication it would enable me to pay money to certain other companies, and those other companies are the companies of which hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite have repeatedly complained. They have drawn the Amendment in error, because it does not carry out the purpose which they have so repeatedly put before the House.
§ Question put, "That those words be there inserted in the Bill."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 118; Noes, 207.2267
|Division No. 138.]||AYES.||[9.50 p.m.|
|Acland, Rt. Hon. Sir F. Dyke||Grenfell, D. R.||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, S.)||Griffith, F. Kingsley (M'ddl'sbro, W.)||Potts, J.|
|Adamson, W. M.||Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth)||Price, M. P.|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'lsbr.)||Griffiths, J. (Lianelly)||Pritt, D. N.|
|Ammon, C. G.||Groves, T. E.||Quibell, J. D.|
|Anderson, F. (Whitehaven)||Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)||Richards, R. (Wrexham)|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Hardle, G. D.||Ritson, J.|
|Barnes, A. J.||Henderson, A. (Kingswinford)||Robinson, W. A. (St. Heiens)|
|Barr, J.||Henderson, J. (Ardwick)||Rowson, G.|
|Batey, J.||Holdsworth, H.||Seely, Sir H. M.|
|Bellenger, F.||Holland, A.||Sexton, T. M.|
|Benson, G.||Hollins, A.||Shinwell, E.|
|Bevan, A.||Hopkin, D.||Short, A.|
|Broad, F. A.||Jagger, J.||Simpson, F. B.|
|Bromfield, W.||Jenkins, A. (Pontypool)||Smith, E. (Stoke)|
|Burke, W. A.||Jones, A. C. (Shipley)||Smith, T. (Normanton)|
|Cape, T.||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Stephen, C.|
|Cassells, T.||Kelly, W. T.||Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)|
|Cluse, W. S.||Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T.||Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, N.)|
|Cocks, F. S.||Kirby, B. V.||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Compton, J.||Lawson, J. J.||Thurtle, E.|
|Cove, W. G.||Leach, W.||Tinker, J. J.|
|Cripps, Hon. Sir Stafford||Leslie, J. R.||Viant, S. P.|
|Dagger, G.||Macdonald, G. (Ince)||Walkden, A. G.|
|Davidson, J. J. (Maryhill)||McGhee, H. G.||Walker, J.|
|Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton)||McGovern, J.||Watkins, F. C.|
|Day, H.||McLaren, A.||Watson, W. McL.|
|Dobble, W.||Maclean, N.||Welsh, J. C.|
|Dunn, E. (Rother Valley)||MacNeill, Weir, L.||Westwood, J.|
|Ede, J. C.||Mander, G. le M.||Whiteley, W.|
|Edwards, A. (Middlesbrough E.)||Marklew, E.||Wilkinson, Ellen|
|Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty)||Marshal, F.||Williams, D. (Swansea, E.)|
|Fletcher, Lt.-Comdr. R. T. H.||Maxton, J.||Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)|
|Foot, D. M.||Montague, F.||Williams, T. (Don Valley)|
|Gallacher, W.||Morrison, Rt. Hn. H. (Ha'kn'y, S.)||Wilson, C. H. (Attercliffe)|
|Gardner, B. W.||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)|
|Garro-Jones, G. M.||Muff, G.||Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)|
|George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesey)||Naylor, T. E.||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Gibbins, J.||Oliver, G. H.|
|Graham, D. M. (Hamilton)||Parker, H. J. H.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Mr. Charleton and Mr. Mathers.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lt.-Col. G. J.||Chapman, A. (Ruthergten)||Errington, E.|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Comdr. P. G.||Clydesdale, Marquess of||Erskine Hill, A. G.|
|Albery, I. J.||Colfox, Major W. P.||Everard, W. L.|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. Sir W. J. (Armagh)||Colman, N. C. D.||Fildes, Sir H.|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. L. C. M. S.||Colville, Lt.-Col. D. J.||Findlay, Sir E.|
|Anstruther-Gray, W. J.||Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.)||Fleming, E. L.|
|Apsley, Lord||Cooper, Rt. Hon. T. M. (E'nburgh, W.)||Fremantle, Sir F. E.|
|Aske, Sir R. W.||Courtauld, Major J. S.||Furness, S. N.|
|Assheton, R.||Craddock, Sir R. H.||Ganzonl, Sir J.|
|Astor, Hon. W. W. (Fulham, E.)||Crooke, J. S.||Gibson, C. G.|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Croom-Johnson, R. P.||Gledhill, G.|
|Baldwin-Webb, Col. J.||Cross, R. H.||Gluckstein, L. H.|
|Balfour, Capt. H. H.(Isle of Thanet)||Crossley, A. C.||Glyn, Major Sir R. G. C.|
|Baxter, A. Beverley||Culverwell, C. T.||Goldie, N. B.|
|Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'h)||Davidson, Rt. Hon. Sir J. C. C.||Gower, Sir R. V.|
|Beit, Sir A. L.||Davies, C. (Montgomery)||Gridley, Sir A. B.|
|Birchall, Sir J. D.||Davies, Major G. F. (Yeovil)||Grimston, B. V.|
|Blindell, Sir J.||Denman, Hon. R. D.||Gritten, W. G. Howard|
|Boulton, W. W.||Donner, P. W.||Guest, Maj. Hon. O.(C'mb'rw'll, N.W.)|
|Bowater, Col. Sir T. vansittart||Dorman-Smith, Major R. H.||Gunston, Capt. D. W.|
|Bower, Comdr. R. T.||Drewe, C.||Guy, J. C. M.|
|Briscoe, Capt. R. G.||Duckworth, G. A. V. (Salop)||Hamilton, Sir G. C.|
|Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Duckworth, W. R. (Moss Side)||Hanbury, Sir C.|
|Browne, A. C. (Belfast, W.)||Dugdale, Major T. L.||Hannah, I. C.|
|Bull, B. B.||Duggan, H. J.||Harbord, A.|
|Butt, Sir A.||Duncan, J. A. L.||Hartington, Marquess of|
|Campbell, Sir E. T.||Dunglass, Lord||Heilgers, Captain F. F. A.|
|Cartland, J. R. H.||Dunne, P. R. R.||Hepburn, P. G. T. Buchan-|
|Carver, Major W. H.||Eckersley, P. T.||Herbert, Major J. A. (Monmouth)|
|Cary, R. A.||Eden, Rt. Hon. A.||Hills, Major Rt. Hon. J. W. (Ripon)|
|Castlereagh, viscount||Edmondson, Major Sir J.||Holmes, J. S.|
|Cazalet, Capt. V. A. (Chippenham)||Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.||Hope, Captain Hon. A. O. J.|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. N. (Edgb'fn)||Ellis, Sir G.||Hopkinson, A.|
|Horsbrugh, Florence||Morgan, R. H.||Selley, H. R.|
|Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.)||Morrison, W. S. (Cirencester)||Shaw, Major P. S. (Wavertree)|
|Hudson, R. S. (Southport)||Muirhead, Lt.-Col. A. J.||Shaw, Captain W. T. (Fortar)|
|Hunter, T.||Munro, P. M.||Shepperson, Sir E. W.|
|Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir T. W. H.||Nall, Sir J.||Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)|
|Jackson, Sir H.||Neven-Spence, Maj. B. H.||Somervell, Sir D. B. (Crewe)|
|Jones, Sir G. W. H. (S'k N'w'gt'n)||O'Neill, Major Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh||Somerville, D. G. (Willesden, E.)|
|Kerr, Colonel C. I. (Montrose)||Orr-Ewing, I. L.||Spens, W. P.|
|Kerr, H. W. (Oldham)||Petherick, M.||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Oliver (W'm'l'd)|
|Kirkpatrick, W. M.||Pickthorn, K. W. M.||Stewart, J. Henderson (File, E.)|
|Lamb, Sir J. Q.||Pilkinton, R.||Stourton, Hon. J. J.|
|Latham, Sir P.||Ponsonby, Col. C. E.||Srauss, H. G. (Norwich)|
|Law, R. K. (Hull, S.W.)||Procter, Major H. A.||Strickland, Captain W. F.|
|Leckie, J. A.||Radford, E. A.||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Leech, Dr. J. W.||Raikes, H. V. A. M.||Suetar, Rear-Admiral Sir M. F.|
|Levy, T.||Ramsay, Captain A. H. M.||Sutcliffe, H.|
|Lewis, O.||Ramsbotham, H.||Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)|
|Liddall, W. S.||Ramsden, Sir E.||Titchfield, Marquess of|
|Llewellin, Lieut-Col. J. J.||Rankln, R.||Touche, G. C.|
|Loder, Captain Hon. J. de V.||Rathbone, J. R. (Bodmin)||Tryon, Major Rt. Hon. G. C.|
|Loftus, P. C.||Rayner, Major R. H.||Tufnell, Lieut.-Com. R. L.|
|MacAndrew, Lt.-Col. Sir C. G.||Reed, A. C. (Exeter)||Wakefield, W. W.|
|McCorquodale, M. S.||Reid, W. Alian (Derby)||Walker-Smith, Sir J.|
|MacDonald, Rt. Hn. J. R. (Scot. U.)||Remer, J. R.||Wallace, Captain Euan|
|MacDonald, Rt. Hon. M. (Ross)||Rickards, G. W. (Skipton)||Ward, Lieut-Col. Sir A. L. (Hill)|
|MacDonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)||Robinson, J. R. (Blackpool)||Ward, Irene (Wallsend)|
|Macdonald, Capt. P. (Isle of Wight)||Ropner, Colonel L.||Warrender, Sir V.|
|McEwen, Capt. H. J. F.||Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge)||Waterhouse, Captain C.|
|McKie, J. H.||Rowlands, G.||Wedderburn, H. J. S.|
|Manningham-Buller, Sir M.||Ruggles-Brlse, Colonel Sir E. A.||Wickham, Lt-Col. E. T. R.|
|Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.||Russell, A. West (Tynemouth)||Williams, C. (Torquay)|
|Markham, S. F||Russell, S. H. M. (Darwen)||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel G.|
|Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J.||Salmon, Sir I.||Wise, A. R.|
|Mellor, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth)||Salt, E. W.||Young, A. S. L. (Partick)|
|Mills, Sir F. (Leyton, E.)||Sandys, E. D.|
|Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)||Sassoon, Rt. Hon. Sir P.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Mitcheson, sir G. G.||Scott, Lord William||Sir George Penny and Commander|