§ 11.14 p.m.
§ Mr. ARTHUR GREENWOOD
I beg to move, in page 2, line 4, to leave out Sub-section (2).
When the Money Resolution and the Bill first came before the House, it was implied that the Bill was merely a continuance of the subsidy under the conditions which prevailed when the original Act was passed. The ships which were eligible for subsidy under the Act of 1935 were as follow—I quote from Subsection (2) of Section 1 of that Act—The vessels eligible for subsidy under this Part of this Act are vessels to which this Act applies, being vessels registered at ports in the United Kingdom, which have beer British ships since the first day of January, 1934, or, in the case of vessels completed after that date, since they were completed, so, however, that vessels completed after that date shall not be eligible for subsidy unless they were built in the United Kingdom.Sub-section (2) of Clause 1 of this Bill says:The vessels eligible for subsidy under the said Part I in respect of tramp voyages or parts of tramp voyages carried out by them in the year nineteen hundred and thirty-six, shall include and be deemed to have included as from the beginning of that year vessels to which the principal Act applies which are registered at ports in the United Kingdom and which became British ships on or before the first day of January, nineteen hundred and thirty-six; and accordingly Sub-section (2) of Section one of the principal Act shall, as from the beginning of the year nineteen hundred and thirty-six, have effect as if for the words nineteen hundred and thirty-four' there were therein substituted the words nineteen hundred and thirty six.'1336 I make this serious complaint, that the Government have not, during the debates either on the Money Resolution or on the Bill, pointed out that there is a change in the extent to which the subsidy runs.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the BOARD of TRADE (Dr. Burgin)
I understand the right hon. Gentleman to say that when the Money Resolution and the Bill were brought before the House the inference was that this was a mere continuation Measure and that the difference between this Bill and the 1935 Act was not pointed out. I would like the right hon. Gentleman to refresh his memory by looking at the OFFICIAL REPORT for 11th February, 1936; cols. 769 and 770, where he will see that the whole of the details of the change were stated in full when the Financial Resolution was moved.
§ Mr. GREENWOOD
I can only say that the change was not made as clear as it might have been nor were the implications pointed out to the Committee. The Act put on the Statute Book in 1935 provided that all tramp ships which were registered on or before 1st January, 1934, and tramp ships registered after that date if British built, should be eligible for the subsidy. This Bill to continue the subsidy applies to all tramp ships registered before 1st January, 1936, which means that foreign built vessels built during 1935 may qualify for subsidy. The point I wish to put is: Ii foreign built ships bought in 1934 could not qualify for the subsidy why should foreign built ships bought in 1935 qualify for it? This change is an extension of the subsidy to ships which were not included in the Act passed last year.
This is a point of some substance, because shipowners have in years past been getting rid of their ships to foreign flags, and I understand there are foreign built ships now under the British flag which will become eligible for the subsidy. The Committee are entitled to know why the Government are extending the subsidy to ships built abroad, registered first, perhaps, under a foreign flag, and now transferred to this country. It is 1337 an extension of the subsidy to the tramp shipping industry. On these grounds we felt it necessary to put down this Amendment.
§ 11.21 p.m.
§ Colonel ROPNER
I would like to obtain an assurance from the President of the Board of Trade that the Amendment which this Bill makes to the original Act will not be repeated from year to year. The right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down has quite rightly said that the Act which this Bill amends makes eligible for subsidy ships registered in the United Kingdom since 1st January, 1934, and also all new ships completed after that date registered and built in the United Kingdom. The Bill leaves matters where they were with regard to the eligibility of new ships. Any new ship will have to be registered and built in the United Kingdom. It makes eligible for subsidy any ships now registered in the United Kingdom, or any ship which was registered in the United Kingdom between 1st January, 1934, and 1st January, 1936, without any qualification whatsoever. In other words, ships bought from foreigners during the last two years, or ships built abroad during the last two years but now registered in the United Kingdom, will qualify for subsidy.
These categories of ships were expressly excluded from subsidy under the Act of 1935. When the subsidy was introduced, the Chamber of Shipping recommended to the Board of Trade—if my memory is correct—that ships which had recently been transferred to the Red Ensign should be excluded. Shipowners felt that their colleagues who had registered their ships under a foreign flag in order to make things easier for themselves, as for instance, by employing foreign labour or failing to maintain the rates of wages laid down by the Board of Trade, should, if anything, be penalised, and certainly not rewarded by being given the subsidy.
I believe I am right in saying that only 22 ships are covered by the Bill, but the danger that I foresee is the yearly extension of the subsidy by a further 12 months, and it is in this connection that want an assurance from the Board of Trade. If the subsidy be extended this year, the Board of Trade may advance the date of the subsidy by a further year next year and so bring in more ships 1338 which are being built abroad. I am not sure that it is altogether a bad thing that ships bought from the foreigner should qualify for subsidy. I have always believed that the original intention was to bring as many ships as possible under the Red Ensign. In that way foreign seamen are displaced, more of the ships of the world are competing on fair terms, and fewer foreign ships have the advantages which so many foreign nations give to their flags. But of one thing I am sure, and that is that no British owner should be encouraged to believe that, if he builds a ship abroad to-day, he may at some future date qualify for the subsidy. I have always regarded the subsidy to shipping as a measure calculated to bring assistance, not only to shipowning, but also to shipbuilding, and we shall defeat the object of the Bill if shipowners believe that they can build abroad.
Very serious difficulties have had to be met recently by British nationals in connection with frozen credits in Germany. To-day there was on the Order Paper a question with regard to ships being built in Germany. I hope it will be made quite clear that those ships will never qualify for the subsidy, and that in future all ships, in order to qualify, must be built in British yards. I trust that I shall receive that assurance from the President of the Board of Trade. I should like also to know exactly what motives have actuated him in advancing the date two years, to which I have no objection. If I can receive an assurance that the date will not be moved forward year by year, I shall certainly support the Government in resisting this Amendment.
§ 11.28 p.m.
§ Mr. H. G. WILLIAMS
For once I do not find myself in entire agreement with my hon. and gallant Friend who has just spoken. Both he and the right hon. Gentleman opposite have assumed that all the ships to which this Sub-section applies will be ships built in foreign yards, but it may apply to ships built in British yards. A ship may be built in a British yard and registered, in the first place, under a foreign flag. Because of the introduction of the subsidy, that ship, which is entirely British built, and all the wages spent on building which have been paid to British people, comes back to the British flag, and, if it does, the point raised by my hon. and gallant Friend begins to apply, namely, that the condi- 1339 tions of employment in that ship will be our conditions, which I think, broadly speaking, are better than the conditions in the bulk of the mercantile marines of the world.
Therefore, I think there is a good deal to be said for the Sub-section. If between now and Report the President of the Board of Trade and the Parliamentary Secretary would consider the possibility of a slight alteration to Sub-section (2), by the insertion in line 9, after the word "vessels," the words "built in the United Kingdom," so that only vessels originally built in the United Kingdom would enjoy the privilege conferred by Sub-section (2), the whole point raised by the right hon. Gentleman would be met, the interests of shipbuilding in this country would be saved, and at the same time we should get the advantage of having brought back to the British flag ships that were originally registered under a foreign flag. I hope the hon. Gentleman will consider this point. Nevertheless, on balance, I think the Bill better with the Sub-section in than if it were left out.
§ 11.31 p.m.
§ Dr. BURGIN
I hope the Committee will resist the Amendment. In reply to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Barkston Ash (Colonel Ropner), there is no suggestion of repeating an alteration of this character and the alteration of the date is final. I think the Committee realises that the charge made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) that this matter had not been brought to the attention of the Committee is unfounded. I see that on the Financial Resolution it was explained in the opening sentence that there were one or two slight modifications, from a mere repetition of the earlier Act, and the alterations were dealt with in detail later, and with regard to these questions of the date and the vessels eligible there are two half-columns in the OFFICIAL REPORT. That, therefore, can be left on one side. What is the story of the alteration of the date? It was feared that there might be an addition to the British register of an undesirable number of ships for the express purpose of participating in the subsidy. Consequently the date for which registration on the British register was 1340 to count for subsidy purposes was put back to the date when the subsidy was first mentioned by the President of the Board of Trade. Twenty-two vessels have since come on to the British register. Not one of them was built within the last two years. So that one of the points raised by the right hon. Gentleman opposite is found to be without foundation. The question of being built in foreign yards does not arise. I have the names of all of them. The larger proportion of these vessels are now, as the result of additions to the register, those under British control and there is no justification for withholding the subsidy from them, hating regard to the alteration in date.
There is a definite advantage in having these vessels included in the subsidy. One of the objects of the whole of this legislation is to increase the employment of British tonnage and British seamen and officers and to secure higher rates of pay. As a condition of obtaining the subsidy these vessels must comply with the regulations of the National Maritime Board. They must, where practicable, employ British crews and pay proper wages. Some of there in the past have not been doing that. They will have to alter their practices and come into line. The effect of qualifying for the subsidy will mean better employment and better wages and there can be no possible reason why the Amendment should not be rejected.
§ Mr. H. G. WILLIAMS
Why does the hon. Gentleman say once and for all? There may be another 22 ships next year.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ 11.34 p.m.
§ Mr. SHINWELL
I beg to move, in page 2, line 25, to leave out "two," and to insert "one."
If we have to take this important Amendment at so late an hour, it is no fault of Members on this side. The task has been imposed on us by the Government itself. We can discuss the general principles involved in the Bill on the Third Reading. I can, therefore, content myself with a very few observations and submissions to the Government in respect of this Amendment. I am moving that 1341 the subsidy be reduced from £2,000,000 to £1,000,000, on the ground that we have had no information whatever as to the specific disposal of the subsidy. We have been informed, it is true, that £2,000,000, or round about that sum, in the past year has been placed at the disposal of the Administration Committee responsible for the general administration of the subsidy, but we have no information whatever as to which shipowners have received the subsidy and as to the specific amounts dispersed. Before dispensing financial assistance of this kind, we are entitled to know whom the recipients are. It is not sufficient to tell us that the shipowners are to receive this money; we are entitled to know who they are, so that we may acquaint ourselves with all the facts relating to the position.
Really, the argument of the hon. Gentleman would be more appropriate on the Motion, "That the Clause stand part," and if he continues the argument, he must not repeat it when I put that Question.
§ Mr. SHINWELL
As far as I am personally concerned, I do not propose to repeat the argument, which, once stated, should be sufficient for our purpose. I am in the hands of hon. Friends behind me, but that is my view of the situation.
If that is agreeable to the Committee, I think that it would meet the general convenience.
§ Mr. SHINWELL
I leave myself unreservedly in your hands, Captain Bourne, and in the hands of the Committee. I submit that we are entitled to some information as to the specific disposal of these amounts in order to ascertain whether the payments are justified in the circumstances, and, moreover, we ought to have some information as to whether the payment of a £2,000,000 subsidy is essential in the circumstances that confront the tramp shipowners at this particular time. It was stated in the Second Reading Debate that among the grounds for the payment of a subsidy to tramp shipping was the fact, if indeed, it be a fact—it is merely alleged by the Government side—that in other parts of the world maritime nations were affording their tramp shipping a subsidy similar to the one contemplated in this Measure. On that day we received very little information indeed. I addressed questions 1342 to the right hon. Gentleman on several occasions, and, after some reluctance on the part of the right hon. Gentleman, I was informed that certain kinds of assistance were furnished by other maritime nations to tramp shipping. But as to the nature of that assistance and the amount of it, we are left completely in the dark. It has never yet been firmly established that—and I ask the Committee to note that we are not concerned with liner shipping, but with tramp shipping—there exists a method of subsidising tramp shipping on a wholesale scale in other countries. Therefore, my submission, in the absence of such information as would guide the Committee as to whether a subsidy of this kind is necessary, is that we are entitled to submit the Amendment.
It is suggested that in order to promote rationalisation in tramp shipping, and for the purpose of compelling shipowners to consider reorganisation, which is regarded by the Government as essential, it is necessary to provide a subsidy, that without a subsidy tramp shipowners would not respond to the needs of the time; in short, that they would not rationalise the industry. That amounts—if I may use a blunt expression—to a bribe. It is necessary to bribe tramp shipowners in order to induce them to respond to the needs of tramp shipping in this country in relation to world trade. That is a most injudicious reason why the Government should come to the aid of tramp shipowners. If the only means of securing their assistance in respect of rationalisation is to provide them with public money it is unworthy of the tramp shipowners and unworthy of the Government. Moreover, I submit that we have no information as to whether £2,000,000 or £1,000,000, or £500,000 is required for the purpose. What is the case of the Government? They maintain that because of acute and chronic depression in tramp shipping it is necessary to provide a measure of financial assistance. Let us ignore all irrelevant issues in relation to the Maritime Board, rates of pay and the comparative rates in other maritime countries and condition of ships, let us ignore these considerations, the short point is whether the tramp shipping of this country requires any measure of assistance at all in order to escape from this depression. It was mentioned in the Second Reading Debate by the President 1343 of the Board of Trade and by hon. Members opposite, speaking on behalf of the shipowners, that there were no additional profits as a result of this subsidy, and that indeed shipping is in as depressed a condition as it was when the subsidy was introduced. If that be so surely there can be no case for the continuance of a subsidy which is bringing no grist to the mill of tramp shipowners. It has been demonstrated over and over again, and I am fortified by a statement which appears in a document issued by the Liverpool Steamship Owners' Association, thatno amount of subsidising the tramp shipping will take tramp shipping out of the trough of depression in which it now finds itself.That is the statement of the Liverpool Steamship Owners' Association. It may be that they are antagonistic to the tramp shipping of the country; there may be a difference of opinion, but, nevertheless, they are an important shipping association. They also say:The British mercantile marine as it now exists cannot find sufficient employment in the trade of this country or in that of the British Empire. It, like all other British industries, can only operate with advantage in a prosperous world trade.That is the solution, and it is to that solution that the right hon. Gentleman ought to be addressing himself, instead of fiddling about with grants to shipowners and to other concerns without any questions being asked.
To sum up, I submit that there is no control over the payments that are made to the shipowners, that there has been a paucity of information, that there is no value in the proposal—in short, that this is a gross imposition, a gross waste of public money, and that, if the Committee cannot abolish the subsidy, it ought at least to reduce it by a half.
§ 11.46 p.m.
§ Mr. STOREY
As I listened to the hon. Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell), I could not help reflecting that there seems to be something in the air of Seaham Harbour which breeds a profound antipathy to my constituency of Sunderland. It was an ancestor of the Noble Lord the junior Member for County Down (Viscount Castlereagh) who, when he founded Seaham Harbour, said that his intention 1344 was to make grass grow in the streets of Sunderland. I did not think that, after a few months as the representative of Seaham, the hon. Gentleman would have imbibed so much of the spirit of the Lord Londonderry of a previous age. For what would be the effect of this Amendment if it were carried? It would not be to grow grass in the streets of Sunderland, but it would be to grow grass in the shipyards of Sunderland. Sunderland depends on shipbuilding as its main industry, and shipbuilding depends on shipping. Therefore the people of Sunderland owe a great debt of gratitude to the Government for this subsidy and for the scrap-and-build scheme, because they have been the means of enabling tramp shipowners to operate their vessels and to place orders for new vessels. As a result of these measures we have some 20 ships to build in Sunderland. Therefore, I hope the Committee will reject this Amendment and give us the subsidy.
§ 11.48 p.m.
Mr. DAVID ADAMS
It would be unfortunate if the opinion went forth that the Opposition is vehemently opposed to the idea of this shipping subsidy. I am satisfied that the object of the Mover of this Amendment is to obtain some information, which will perhaps be forthcoming from the President of the Board of Trade or from his deputy. After all, the scrap-and-build proposals in the Bill as the scheme proceeds will undoubtedly gradually tend towards greater efficiency in the mercantile marine of this country, and both for peace purposes and for purposes of defence that is an imperative necessity. My constituents have asked me to give the best consideration possible to supporting the Government in this matter. The subsidy will lead to work in the steel and engineering industry and certainly in the shipbuilding industry of the North East Coast. For that reason, in addition to the fact that an increase in the mercantile marine of Great Britain must lead to more employment, we ought to hestitate before voting against the subsidy, unless the reasons are substantial and overwhelming.
It is true to say that shipowning, owing to the prevailing depression, has been in a relatively bankrupt condition, and it is somewhat extraordinary to expect the mercantile marine of this country to be fulfilling all the obligations 1345 of a well-financed profitable undertaking in the conditions through which it has passed during recent years. The damage was put upon this industry by Parliament in the restrictions upon international trade, and it seems to me that the hand that wrought this injury to an industry which finds so much employment both in shipowning and shipbuilding ought to repair some of the damage which has been done to it. The subsidy is only a temporary expedient and the restoration ought not to be a long process. The House is only committed to one year. The subsidy itself, in my judgment, considering the amount of tonnage over which it is spread is reproductive expenditure, in which not only those who are the owners of the vessels and those who man the vessels share the advantages, but also the nation at large. Shipping is a national service and its efficiency is an imperative necessity at all times. Having regard to the fact that shipowning in this country had fallen to the lowest point in comparison with the fleets owned by other nations, I express my satisfaction at the increase in shipowning which has taken place, and I look upon it as being a step forward in the industrial develop- ment of the country.
§ 11.53 p.m.
§ The PRESIDENT of the BOARD of TRADE (Mr. Runciman)
The speech which we have just heard is the authoritative voice of Tyneside, and I should be delighted to hear what the hon. Member has to say in support of the Bill. He is right in saying that we are taking this proposal step by step. We are providing for one year at a time, and the safeguards which no doubt he had in his mind will be found year by year, because so long as this subsidy goes on it will be necessary to come to the House and ask for permission to make these grants. I only hope that there may be a sufficient recovery of the freight market to render that unnecessary. In the scheme as laid down in the House and in operation during the last 12 months provision is made so that as the freight market index numbers rise the amount of the subsidy falls, and if and when it rises to the level of the 1929 freights the subsidy will disappear. I am not without hope that that may be the general tendency, although I must 1346 confess that during the last few months the setback in the freight market has not done much to encourage it.
The hon. Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell) asked whether I could give him any further particulars in regard to the subsidies paid by other countries. I thought I had given him so much information at Question Time that he would not require more. I told him that subsidies beyond those which were given for liners were paid Belgium, France, Germany, Holland, Russia, Spain, Japan and the United States of America.
§ Mr. SHINWELL
What I said was that the right hon. Gentleman had not told me the amounts of these subsidies.
§ Mr. RUNCIMAN
I think it would be extraordinarily difficult to ascertain the exact amounts. As subsidies are granted and they are sufficient to provide just the amount of income to enable competition to be conducted efficiently against the British Mercantile Marine, we have evidence to show where the difficulties lie. There is, too, the disadvantage from which all shipping is suffering, namely, the shrinkage in world trade, and these two factors combined account for the troubles of the tramp fleets with which we are concerned.
§ Mr. RUNCIMAN
I cannot say what the volume is. The subsidy has been given with the deliberate object of putting shipping on a profitable basis. Another reason it has been given is that you cannot provide for renewals of these fleets unless there is money forthcoming from somewhere. Many people, when they hear the word "depreciation," think there is something mysterious about it and that it is the hushing up of some payments or other. In shipping it means a fund for the renewal of the fleets.
§ Mr. SMITH
Does the right hon. Gentleman say that the £2,000,000 subsidy to tramp shipping has gone specifically in the direction of renewing the fleets and not for helping the industry generally? According to the statistics the increase in tonnage last year was 900,000. Does the right hon. Gentleman attribute that to the subsidy or to the 1347 increase in trade about which the Government have been plastering the walls all over the country?
That there has been an increase of trade everybody knows perfectly well. That is not the point which is before the Committee to-night. Nobody knows better than the hon. Gentleman, who has had an intimate knowledge of the Mercantile Marine, that unless there are funds for renewals, the deterioration of our merchant fleet is bound to come. You can neither provide orders for the shipyards nor improve the conditions in the ships unless funds are available. What has happened in the last two or three years? I go back three years to show where the money was most necessary and where it was not provided until we came to the House to ask for this subsidy. In 1933 the total earnings of the tramp shipping companies, taking the 30 or 31 companies which are tabulated each year by one of the technical papers, was not sufficient to pay a dividend of more than 0.97 per cent. Everybody knows that they were quite inadequate to provide depreciation or for the ordinary upkeep of the Mercantile Marine. The amount that ought to have been set aside on a 5 per cent. basis for depreciation was nearly £1,200,000. The only amount available was £394,000. In the following year, 1934, there was a slight increase in the dividends, and the total percentage was 1.42—still an abnormally low figure. The amount available for depreciations and renewals, instead of being £1,200,000, was under £135,000. It is obvious that there can be only one end to an industry which lives in that way. It becomes extinct. If it becomes extinct, it means loss to the shipowners and those dependent on the organisations connected with the industry, loss to the crews who cannot find employment, loss to the repairing yards which will not get any of the ordinary income which comes from maintenance, and loss to the shipyards which cannot exist without orders.
§ Mr. BENJAMIN SMITH
Will the right hon. Gentleman say whether the fabulous profits which were made prior to this sum being given, which were handed out in dividend or bonus shares, were written off by the companies before they came to this House?
§ Mr. RUNCIMAN
I can deal only with the state of the Mercantile Marine as it has been in the last few years. I would like to sum up by pointing out that it is well known to every well-informed person that the tramp shipping industry has had a most disastrous experience in the last few years, and that experience has been shared by other industries; that it has been unable to provide anything like the requisite sums for renewals; that many of the shipping companies have disappeared; and that unless this assistance had been given there is little doubt that the rest would not have been able to survive any length of time. I hope therefore that the Committee will agree to this sum.
§ 12.1 a.m.
§ Sir STAFFORD CRIPPS
Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us whether there is any provision by which this subsidy cannot be distributed by way of dividends? I understand from his figures that the division of profits is made between dividends and depreciation funds. In the first year he gave it as a decimal point dividend and £345,000 depreciation, and in the following year 1.42 dividend and £135,000 depreciation, obviously showing that of the profits a much larger amount had gone in the second year to profits and a much smaller amount to depreciation. Is there any provision by which we can be assured that this subsidy will not go to dividends? The second question is this. I understand that depreciation funds are used to a considerable extent in the building of new ships. That being made up largely in future of sums paid by the Government, is there any reason why, if we pay for them, we should not own the new ships?
§ Mr. RUNCIMAN
I have no intention of entering upon a debate with the hon. and learned Gentleman. As to the purely practical point of what becomes of the money, it is a matter of indifference to those in these companies whether the money is devoted entirely to renewals or used in the payment of a moderate dividend. It is certain that unless some dividend is paid on the capital in these industries you cannot attract capital to them, and without the attraction of capital there would be no work for the shipyards. The hon. and learned Gentleman's other point s that we should 1349 differentiate in the use to which the subsidy is put, that we should provide that it should not be devoted to the payment of dividends. We must trust to the discretion of those responsible for the shipping companies for the way in which they use their resources, and the same applies to every other industry. You must rely on their safeguarding the interests of their concerns, not squandering the money but using it to strengthen their services.
§ Sir S. CRIPPS
I was under the impression that the object of this money to a large extent was to encourage shipbuilding, and that the money which encourages shipbuilding comes out of the depreciation funds and not out of the dividend funds. Surely, therefore, it is of great importance if it is desired to encourage shipbuilding that we should see that this money goes into the depreciation funds and not into the dividend funds. The right hon. Gentleman says that we must maintain the profitability of business. What has happened to his Liberal conceptions of the individual power of the capitalist to be competitive in any efficient industry? Are we, as regards every industry, concerned only with maintaining profits? Is that the new doctrine of the right hon. Gentleman? Surely, if in exceptional circumstances, as I understand these to be, we are to pay a subsidy to this industry, we are entitled to say that the money shall be applied to the depreciation fund in order that it may be used for building and not applied to securing larger dividends for shareholders to spend in whatever way they please. I should have thought that the right hon. Gentleman, even in carrying out his own policy, would have said that he was prepared in the circumstances to ensure that the taxpayers' money would not be transferred directly to the pockets of private owners to be used for their own purposes.
§ 12.6 a.m.
§ Mr. BRACKEN
It is rarely that I find myself in agreement with the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps) but I am bound to say that I am shocked to hear the doctrine that Parliament should vote money, to be shovelled out by way of dividends and I am particularly surprised to hear that doctrine being enunciated by the 1350 right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade. I consider it to be a most appalling development, that the Government should be asked to provide money for the payment of dividends to shareholders. It is bound, inevitably, to lead to the belief that the speculator in the City of London is the person who is most considered in connection with national finance. Why should shareholders in a shipping company receive dividends when the company is not earning dividends There have been prosecutions against shipping companies for attempting to pay money by way of dividends which they had not earned. It is the most scandalous thing I have ever heard of that Parliament should be asked to vote public money for the payment of dividends and not for the purpose of meeting depreciation.
If this money is not applied to the depreciation fund, what is the alternative? Is the shipowner to be left free to apply it in payment of dividends on shares which he puts on the market to attract what the Americans vulgarly call "suckers" to buy them? Then if, in this case, it is found that Parliament has allowed such money to be paid in dividends, demands will be made on Parliament by all sorts of other companies. Why limit it to shipbuilding? It is a profound disappointment to me to see the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade, whom I have always regarded as a very severe financial moralist, defending a proposal of this kind. I remember that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill), when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer, received the most excoriating rebukes from the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade who accused him of unsound finance. But the provision of public money for the payment of dividends which may be used to inflate shares and sell them on the market, seems not only unsound but an absolute departure from the traditions of the House of Commons.
Our duty is not to support speculation but to guard the public purse and I think hon. Members ought to wake up to that fact and realise what is involved in a proposal of this kind. Their constituents may want to know more about it. There are other industries not paying dividends at the present time and not able to make proper allocations for depreciation. They 1351 will be entitled to come here and ask for money to pay dividends or to make proper allowance for depreciation and the House of Commons will become a sort of almshouse. [HON. MEMBERS: "It is now!"] I do not think the Socialist party object to that. I am objecting to the Socialist concept of finance. I beg of the Committee to consider what we are doing. On the authority of the President of the Board of Trade, who has always been regarded as one of the most austere financiers in this country, we are, I re-
§ peat, being asked to vote public money for the payment of dividends on shares which may be valuable or may be valueless. Anyone who cares, for the tradition of guarding the public purse ought to vote against a Measure which has been defended in such an extraordinary way by the right hon. Gentleman.
§ Question put, "That the word 'two' stand part of the Clause."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 187; Noes, 110.1353
|Division No. 84.]||AYES.||[1 2.10 a.m.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lt.-Col. G. J.||Findlay, Sir E.||Pickthorn, K W. M.|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Comdr. P. G.||Fleming, E. L.||Plugge, L. F.|
|Albery, I. J.||Fox, Sir G. W. G.||Ponsonby, Col. C. E.|
|Anderson, Sir A. Garrett (C. of Ldn.)||Fraser, Capt. Sir I.||Procter, Major H. A.|
|Anstruther-Gray, W. J.||Fremantle, Sir F. E.||Radford, E. A.|
|Aske, Sir R. W.||Furness, S. N.||Raikes, H. V. A. M.|
|Assheton, R.||Ganzoni, Sir J.||Ramsbotham, H.|
|Astor, Visc'tess (Plymouth, Sutton)||Goldie, N. B.||Rankin, R.|
|Baldwin-Webb, Col. J.||Goodman, Col. A. W.||Rathbone, J. R. (Bodmin)|
|Balfour, Capt. H. H. (Isle of Thanet)||Greene, W. P. C. (Worcester)||Rayner, Major R. H.|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Gridley, Sir A. B.||Reed, A. C. (Exeter)|
|Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'h)||Grimston, R. V.||Rickards, G. W. (Skipton)|
|Bernays, R. H.||Gritten, W. G. Howard||Robinson, J. R. (Blackpool)|
|Blindell, Sir J.||Guest, Hon. I. (Brecon and Radnor)||Ross, Major Sir R. D. (L'derry)|
|Bcrodale, Viscount||Guest, Maj. Hon. O.(C'mb'rw'll, N.W.)||Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge)|
|Boulton, W. W.||Guinness, T. L. E. B.||Rowlands, G.|
|Bower, Comdr. R. T.||Gunston, Capt. D. W.||Ruggles-Brise, Colonel Sir E. A.|
|Bowyer, Capt. Sir G. E. W.||Guy, J. C. M.||Runciman. Rt. Hon. W.|
|Boyce, H. Leslie||Hamilton, Sir G. C.||Russell, A. West (Tynemouth)|
|Braithwaite, Major A. N.||Hanbury, Sir C.||Russell, S. H. M. (Darwen)|
|Brass, Sir W.||Hannah, I. C.||Salt, E. W.|
|Brown, Col. D. C. (Hexham)||Hannon, Sir P. J. H.||Sanderson, Sir F. B.|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. E. (Leith)||Harvey, G.||Sandys, E. D.|
|Bull, B. B.||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel A. P.||Sassoon, Rt. Hon. Sir P.|
|Bullock, Capt. M.||Hepworth, J.||Scott, Lord William|
|Burgin, Dr. E. L.||Herbert, A. P. (Oxford U.)||Shaw, Major P. S. (Wavertree)|
|Campbell, Sir E. T.||Herbert, Major J. A. (Monmouth)||Shaw, Captain W. T. (Forfar)|
|Carver, Major W. H.||Holmes, J. S.||Shute, Colonel Sir J. J.|
|Cary, R. A.||Hope, Captain Hon. A. O. J.||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir J. A.|
|Castlereagh, Viscount||Horsbrugh, Florence||Smith, L. W. (Hallam)|
|Channon, H.||Howitt, Dr. A. B.||Smith, Sir R. W. (Aberdeen)|
|Chapman, A. (Rutherglen)||Hulbert, N. J.||Southby, Comdr. A. R. J.|
|Chorlton, A. E. L.||Hunter, T.||Spears, Brig.-Gen. E. L.|
|Christie, J. A.||James, Wing-Commander A. W.||Spens, W. P.|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston S.||Keeling, E. H.||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Lord (Fylde)|
|Clarry, Sir R. G.||Kerr, Colonel C. I. (Montrose)||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Oliver (W'm'I'd)|
|Colfox, Major W. P.||Lamb, Sir J. Q.||Storey, S.|
|Colville, Lt.-Col. D. J.||Leckie, J. A.||Stourton, Hon. J. J.|
|Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.)||Leech. Dr. J. W.||Strauss, E. A. (Southwark, N.)|
|Cooper, Rt. Hn. A. Duff (W'st'r S.G'gs)||Liewellin, Lieut.-Col. J. J.||Strickland, Captain W. F.|
|Crooke, J. S.||Lloyd, G. W.||Stuart. Lord C. Crichton- (N'thw'h)|
|Crookshank, Capt. H. F. C.||Loftus, P. C.||Sutcliffe, H.|
|Cross, R. H.||Lyons, A. M.||Taylor, C. S (Eastbourne)|
|Cruddas, Col. B.||Mabane, W. Huddersfield)||Thomas, J. P. L. (Hereford)|
|Davidson, Rt. Hon. Sir.J. C. C.||McCorquodale, M. S.||Thomson, Sir J. D. W.|
|Davies, Major G. F. (Yeovil)||Macdonald, Capt. P. (Isle of Wight)||Tree, A. R. L. F.|
|De la Sere, bère R.||McEwen, Capt. H. J. F.||Tufnell, Lieut.-Com. R. L.|
|Dodd, J. S.||McKie, J. H.||Turton, R. H.|
|Dorman-Smith, Major R. H.||Maclay, Hon. J. P.||Wakefield, W W.|
|Dugdale, Major T. L.||Macmillan, H. (Stockton-on-Tees)||Walker-Smith. Sir J.|
|Duggan, H. J.||Magnay, T.||Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Duncan, J. A. L.||Maitland, A.||Ward, Irene (Wallsend)|
|Dunglass, Lord||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.||Warrender, Sir V.|
|Dunne, P. R. R.||Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J.||Waterhouse, Captain C.|
|Eastwood, J. F,||Mellor, Sir.J. S. P. (Tamworth)||Williams, H. G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Eckersley, P. T.||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord|
|Edmondson, Major Sir J.||Moreing, A. C.||Wilson, Lt.-Col. Sir A. T. (Hitchin)|
|Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.||Morgan, R. H.||Womersley, Sir W. J.|
|Ellis, Sir G.||Morris, J P. (Salford, N.)||Wragg, H.|
|Emery, J. F.||Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univ's.)|
|Emrys-Evans, P. V.||Muirhead, Lt.-Col. A. J.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES —|
|Evans, Capt. A. (Cardiff, S.)||Munro, P.||Sir George 'eon, and Dr. Morris-|
|Everard, W. L.||Nicolson, Hon. H. G.||Jones.|
|Fildes, Sir H.||Patrick, C. M.|
|Acland, R. T. D. (Barnstaple)||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A.||Parker, H. J. H.|
|Adamson, W. M.||Griffith, F. Kingsley (M'ddl'sbro, W.)||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'Isbr.)||Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth)||Potts, J.|
|Ammon, C. G.||Hall, G. H. (Aberdare)||Price, M. P.|
|Anderson, F. (Whitehaven)||Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)||Quibell, J. D.|
|Banfield, J. W.||Hardie, G. D.||Riley, B.|
|Barnes, A. J.||Harris, Sir P. A.||Ritson, J.|
|Barr, J.||Henderson, J. (Ardwick)||Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.)|
|Bellenger, F.||Holdsworth, H.||Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens)|
|Benson, G.||Holland, A.||Rowson, G.|
|Bracken, B.||Hollins, A.||Seely, Sir H. M.|
|Broad, F. A.||Jagger, J.||Sexton, T. M.|
|Bromfield, W.||Jenkins, A. (Pontypool)||Shinwell, E.|
|Buchanan, G.||Jenkins, Sir W. (Neath)||Silverman, S. S.|
|Burke, W. A.||Johnston, Rt. Hon. T.||Simpson, F. B.|
|Cape, T.||Jones, A. C. (Shipley)||Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe)|
|Cocks, F. S.||Jones, H. Haydn (Merioneth)||Smith, E. (Stoke)|
|Compton, J.||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Smith, T. (Normanton)|
|Cove, W. G.||Kelly, W. T.||Stephen, C.|
|Cripps, Hon. Sir Stafford||Kirby, B. V.||Stewart, W.J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp, ng)|
|Daggar, G.||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. G.||Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, N.)|
|Dalton, H.||Lawson, J. J.||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Davidson, J. J. (Maryhill)||Lee, F.||Thurtle, E.|
|Davies, D. L. (Pontypridd)||Leonard, W.||Tinker, J. J.|
|Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton)||Logan, D. G.||Viant, S. P.|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Lunn, W.||Walker, J.|
|Day, H.||Macdonald, G. (Ince)||Watson, W. McL.|
|Debbie, W.||McEntee, V. La T.||White, H. Graham|
|Dunn, E. (Rother Valley)||McGhee, H. G.||Whiteley, W.|
|Ede, J. C.||MacMillan, M. (Western Isles)||Wilkinson, Ellen|
|Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty)||Marklew, E.||Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)|
|Evans, D. O. (Cardigan)||Marshall, F.||Williams, T. (Don Valley)|
|Fletcher, Lt.-Comdr. R. T. H.||Maxton, J.||Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)|
|Gallacher, W.||Messer, F.||Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)|
|Gardner, B. W.||Milner, Major J.|
|George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)||Morrison, Rt. Hn. H. (Ha'kn'y, S.)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Gibbins, J.||Oliver, G. H.||Mr. John and Mr. Mathers.|
|Graham, D. M. (Hamilton)||Paling, W.|
Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill," put, and agreed to.
§ Clause 2 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
§ Bill reported, without Amendment; to be read the Third time upon Thursday.
§ The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.1354
§ It being after Half-past Eleven of the Clock upon Tuesday Evening, Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER adjourned the House, without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.
§ Adjourned at Nineteen Minutes after Twelve o'Clock.