§ 53. Mr. WHITE
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer the amount of 5 per cent. guaranteed debenture stock of the Silver Line, Limited, issued under the Trade Facilities Act, which is still outstanding; whether the Government have had to implement their guarantee in connection with the issue; and, if so, to what extent?
§ 54. Mr. HOLDSWORTH
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether the effective control of the Silver Line, Limited, whose 5 per cent. debenture stock is guaranteed under the Trade Facilities Act, is in the hands of American or English owners?
56 and 57. Mr. DAVID ADAMS
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) the total sum owing to the Treasury by the Silver Line, Limited, London, for advances under the Trade Facilities Acts in which the Treasury have been called upon to implement their guarantees;
§ (2) whether he is aware that the Silver Line, Limited, London, is largely owned in the United States of America; and that it is operating vessels from the East Coast of America to the Far East and the Cape of Good Hope in competition with British lines and inflicting serious loss upon them by rate cutting; and whether he will consider realising as large a proportion as possible of the indebtedness of this company by the sale of these vessels in order to relieve British shipping companies of what is really foreign competition financed by the British Treasury?
It has been the invariable practice to treat as confidential details concerning particular guarantees under the Trade Facilities Acts, if they 610 relate to companies engaged in active business, and are outside the scope of the information which the Acts themselves require to be published. I understand that while a substantial part of the share capital of Silver Line, Limited, is held by United States interests this does not amount to voting control. The ships, moreover, are British manned. The hon. Member for Consett (Mr. David Adams) is under a misapprehension in speaking of them as constituting foreign competition. As regards the general issues raised, I would add that in this, as in other like cases, the Treasury will continue to be guided by the advice of the Trade Facilities Advisory Committee.
Mr. DAVID ADAMS
Is the Minister aware that the total capital of the Silver Line Limited, was £925,985, and that there was held in the United States—[HON. MEMBERS: "Order!"] I take it, Mr. Speaker, that I am in order?
I am giving the figures supplied by Somerset House showing that the major portion of the capital of this concern is held in the United States.
§ Mr. WHITE
Will not the right hon. Gentleman make further inquiry into this matter and find out where, in fact, the real control of this company does lie, and to see whether it may not be necessary to take further steps to protect the Treasury from loss and English companies from serious competition?
I have made full inquiries, and I am satisfied that my statement is correct that the holding of the United States interest does not constitute voting control. As regards possible loss to the Treasury, the hon. Member may rest assured that that is having very careful consideration.
§ Mr. THURTLE
Will not the Chancellor answer that part of the question which asked whether the Government had had to implement any of those guarantees, and, if so, to what amount?
If the hon. Gentleman means to ask whether we have sustained any losses, the answer is, "No, 611 not up to the present time," but the matter is not yet ended.
§ Mr. BENJAMIN SMITH
Is it not a fact that the Minister who was then Minister for the Board of Trade has since become a director of this company?
I want to ask the Minister whether he is aware that the total capital of this concern is £925,985, and that of that capital there was held in the United States of America and Spain—
§ Miss WILKINSON
On a point of Order. Are not we on this side of the House to be protected—[Interruption.] I appeal to you on the part of those who are distinctly nervous when asking questions to know whether we cannot have the protection of the Chair against derisive cheers from the other side?