HL Deb 18 December 1920 vol 39 cc580-2

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, this is a measure which I think will meet with general approval. It is proposed to hold as soon as possible—but I think it cannot be held in less than two years from now—a large Exhibition in London, the object of which is to make every part of the Empire better acquainted with the economic capacities of the other parts. These large International Exhibitions are sometimes nothing more than shows and opportunities of amusement, but every care is being taken that in this instance the Exhibition shall be thoroughly well arranged and calculated to give really valuable information to those who arc interested in the economic development of the Empire. The matter has been promoted by the Department of Overseas Trade, and the project is warmly supported by the Board of Trade and has been strongly taken up in the Dominions, from which we expect to get a great deal of support.

The object of this Bill is simply to enable the Government to assist the project by taking over part of the Guarantee Fund which is necessary in order to insure the promoters of the Exhibition against in, curring any loss. We hope altogether to get a Guarantee Fund of £1,000,000. The Government proposes to take liability for £100,000 of that million, but only if private outside subscribers will undertake to guarantee £500,000. In case that £500,000 is subscribed, the Government will thus become responsible for one-sixth of any possible loss on the Exhibition up to £1,000,000. We do not anticipate that there will be any loss. There is no reason why the Exhibition should not be self-supporting.

The only other fact I might mention in connection with it is that a considerable amount—I think £110,000—is already privately guaranteed, and that we feel no doubt whatever that we shall get the half million which is a condition of the Government undertaking to put up £1,000,000. In order to ensure that the Exhibition will be conducted on lines of which we can approve and that it will be a really serious and valuable Exhibition and not a mere show, it is provided that it is a condition of the guarantee that the executive committee and the general manager of the Exhibition shall be appointed with the approval of the Board of Trade. Already a general manager has been selected, who has done distinguished service for the Government in various capacities and whose name will command universal confidence. I beg to move.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Viscount Milner.)


My Lords, I am aware that this project has been under consideration for some time, and I am convinced that it will be received with general sympathy, if only because, as we know the great Dominions, speaking generally, are taking a most keen interest in the plan, and this of itself would ensure its receiving the most favourable consideration from us. I do not suppose that the noble Viscount is as yet in a position to state anything of the circumstance or site of the Exhibition, beyond the very general terms in which he has told us that in this case—although, of course, there can be no intention of neglecting the ordinary attractions and even the frivolities which accompany all Exhibition—its purpose is serious, and its economic aims will no doubt receive all the weight that it is possible to give them.

There is one point on which I confess I should like to be reassured. The art of conducting an Exhibition of this kind is understood to be a very peculiar one. There have been in the past people who for some reason or other have developed an extraordinary skill in promoting affairs of this kind. One quite understands, in view of the Government undertaking to bear a share of possible loss, should it be incurred, that their approval and imprimatur may be reasonably demanded for the general arrangements, but the promotion of these affairs being almost as special an art as the promotion of boxing competitions one hopes that the Government will refrain from anything like interference in the general arrangements. There must be some temptation to a Department to mix itself rather too closely in the actual details of projects of this kind, and one cannot help feeling that the more liberty that is allowed to the promoters to run the machine in their own way and with the experience of past Exhibitions, the more it is likely to succeed. If the Exhibition is conducted too departmentally I should have great, fears that not only the country but the guarantors as well may be called upon to produce larger sums of money than they would otherwise have to provide.


My Lords, I believe I am expressing the feelings of almost all Imperialists n saving that we rejoice that such a has been brought forward, and especially brought forward by the noble Viscount who has always taken a leading part in anything connected with the Empire. I believe I am correct in saying that this is the first time the British Government has ever guaranteed money for such ft purpose. If so, it is a momentous and very important occasion. It shows an enormous advance in the attitude of the Government towards Imperial questions. It shows that the Empire is considered now to be the most important factor in the world, and 1 hope that every effort will be made to make this Exhibition a great success. I am not quite certain that I agree with the noble Marquess in regard to the Government not taking a lead in this matter. I quite agree with him that the promoter must be encouraged to carry out the work on his own lines, but at the same time I hope the Government will keep an eye on the way it is carried out so that it may not become a fiasco. I congratulate the Government on having taken such an important step.

On Question, Bill read 2a.

Then (Standing Order No. XXXIX having been suspended) House in Committee: Bill reported without amendment.

Bill read 3a and passed.