HC Deb 17 March 1938 vol 333 cc597-9
80. Mr. T. Johnston

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is now in a position to amplify his statement regarding the operations of companies supposedly interested in the production of mushrooms and guaranteeing a 10 per cent. dividend to investors and a return of capital in full upon six months' notice; whether he is aware that a meeting of creditors of the Cucklington Mushrooms limited company has been called and that the excess of liabilities over assets is in the neighbourhood of £200,000; how many of the unit pushers of this concern are no longer in Great Britain; and whether it is proposed to take any steps in the matter?

The President of the Board of Trade (Mr. Oliver Stanley)

My attention has been called to a Press report that a or more smallholdings under the Department of Agriculture; the number of holders who do not reside on their holdings; and the number of the original holders of holdings at Forse, Reay, Watten, Murkle, and elsewhere in the county?

Mr. Elliot

As the answer involves a number of figures, I propose, with the hon. Member's permission, to circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Following is the answer:

The information desired, so far as relating to estates owned by the Department of Agriculture for Scotland in Caithness, is as follows:

resolution for the winding up of Cucklington Mushrooms, Limited, as a creditors' voluntary winding-up will be considered in the near future, I have, however, no information as to the liabilities or assets of the company, and I have no power to take any action with regard to the proposed winding-up; nor am I in a position to make any statement with regard to the whereabouts of those concerned in the sale of units of the scheme operated by the company. The right hon. Gentleman will, however, be aware that the Government propose to deal with schemes of this kind in the forthcoming legislation in regard to share-pushing.

Mr. Johnston

Does the right hon. Gentleman recollect that he and the Board of Trade were warned about the operations of this gang as far back as the beginning of November last; does he not think it is a great scandal that men like these should "get away with it"; and is it the case that within his knowledge these men have taken 40 and 50 per cent. of all the money that has been sent in by the unit investors?

Mr. Stanley

Certainly on two, if not three occasions within the last few months I have given the strongest possible warning to the public not to have anything to do with mushroom companies of this kind. We are pressing on with the utmost speed with the drafting of careful and detailed provisions in the new legislation, but I do not think anyone in the House can say that the Board of Trade has not had its fair share of legislation in the past few months.

Mr. Garro Jones

Has the right hon. Gentleman communicated with the Director of Public Prosecutions such information as he has with regard to the share registration and other matters in connection with this company; and, if not, why not?

Mr. Stanley

Under the Companies Act, it is for the liquidator, in a voluntary winding-up of this kind, to report to the Director of Public Prosecutions any information of that kind.

Mr. Johnston

If the liquidator proves to-morrow, at the meeting of creditors at the Cannon Street Hotel, that there is a swindle of over £200,000 in this case, will the right hon. Gentleman use all his endeavours with the Director of Public Prosecutions to take whatever steps are possible under the criminal law?

Mr. Stanley

I have no doubt at all that, if the liquidator has any report of that kind to make to the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Director will take whatever steps are possible.