HL Deb 20 July 1960 vol 225 cc516-33

2.38 p.m.

VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLS BOROUGHrose to call attention to the Report for 1959 of the Colonial Development Corporation and the Report of the Committee of Enquiry into the financial structure of the Corporation; and to move for Papers. The noble Viscount said: My Lords, I beg to move the Motion which stands in my name on the Order Paper. I wish that arrangements for this important debate could have been more opportune, but I gather that there are political calls in other directions which account for the thin attendance in your Lordships' House. I hope that that will not be understood as detracting from the importance of the case to be submitted and the importance which we attach to the reply to be given by Her Majesty's Government, through the noble Earl, Lord Perth.

The Report of the Colonial Development Corporation has always been, to us, a matter of considerable interest. We have followed its course through the early years of trial and error, when a great endeavour was made in circumstances which were exceedingly difficult and troublesome and brought in their train losses on some projects which had to be abandoned. But, looking back over the years, I think it should now be clear to us how very worthwhile has been the work of the Colonial Development Corporation; and the Report for 1959 is, I think, a very great tribute to that factor. I am sure that Members in all parts of your Lordships' House will welcome the very encouraging progress which is recorded in that Report. The position which has been attained so far is in itself a great tribute to those who have given very long service and to personalities such as the noble Lord, Lord Reith, a former chairman, and Sir Nutcombe Hume, the present chairman. I hope that Her Majesty's Government may be able to assure the House that they agree with our ready welcome of the story of growing and encouraging success revealed by the Report.

I am not going to deal with any details in the Report, first because I am not myself an expert; and, secondly, because I feel that perhaps it is better, on an occasion like this, in opening the debate, that I should deal with three or four main factors, and leave room for other people in the House to contribute and perhaps cover the whole ground, to enable the noble Earl to reply. Outstanding, however, is the factual figure which is shown in the Report: that is, that since 1955 there has been an increase in net revenue from trading and investment from a figure which stood at only £625,000 surplus to £2,273,000 surplus; and, when we have taken many other contingent factors into account, the Report makes it clear that the balance of profit has risen since 1955 from £409,000 to £1,334,000. I should think that even the Government, with whom it seems to me the Corporation have had to contend from time to time during their long and varied experience, will now agree that this is a very successful record of activity.

But, my Lords, the Corporation quite clearly suffer from two main difficulties—these have already been outlined in another place—on which, perhaps, I can expand a little. First of all, their activities, successful as they are, are in danger from a possible slowing down because their capital is likely to be insufficient to meet all the requirements for their varied operations. Secondly, there is the difficulty about the losses incurred in the Corporation's earlier years of trouble. I want to ask at the outset the specific question: What are the Government going to do about that problem?

The Corporation are under the obligation to pay interest on their borrowed capital, and that has become an increasing burden as the years have gone on, with the different bases upon which the rate of interest has been fixed from time to time. But they also have the obligation to repay that capital, including the capital which has been lost in the earlier ventures, some of which had to be abandoned. They have the obligation, also, that in the rendering of their Report they should, if at all possible, show the Government that they break even on the year's operation. These three things together make a very considerable task. The Corporation long since came to the view that the cumulative effects of the difficulties I have outlined in these two propositions would make the position insupportable. I do not need to remind the noble Earl, Lord Perth, that we debated that insupportable position at some length last year, and to me it is a matter of great personal disappointment that the views that were expressed from all parts of the House last year have not led to a firm Government decision and an enabling measure to set the Corporation on the road to further development and success.

Your Lordships will remember that when this position was the matter of, shall I say, controversy between the C.D.C. and the Executive Government before that debate took place, they had agreed as a Government to set up a Committee, which we refer to briefly as the Sinclair Committee. That Committee was to consider what was at that moment to the Corporation an insupportable position, considering what their capital commitments were likely to be in the future and what the prospects were of being able to obtain money beyond the present limit that can be borrowed from the Government—how they could possibly borrow additional capital, with the unsatisfactory capital structure that they were working under, in view of the early losses and the liability to pay continuing interest not only on the losses but on the cost of the Corporation's activities in what is called the fructifying period of development work.

We hoped very much in our talk last year—most of us had time, I think, to read only a sort of transcript copy of the Sinclair Report—that before we met again to discuss another Report the whole thing would have been dealt with, put in train, and a capital reconstruction carried out which would enable the Corporation to deal with their difficulties. That Committee was set up. I must emphasise that nobody had any criticism to make of its composition: it was a first-class Committee. It had a very able chairman who not only was a great leader in industry and in finance but had done a great deal of Government service for the country, in the course, especially, of war time; and he was assisted by men who were experienced in commerce, finance, industry, expert management and, above all, in the financial sense—those who could look at the capital structure position and be able to call upon actual precedents in private finance in corporations in which similar actions had to be taken from time to time, in order to bring likely success in the future to a particular company and to put the capital position on a sound basis. It was in the light of that that we read the Report of the Sinclair Committee and we all praised the fact, I think on all sides of the House, that this capital reconstruction might take place.

This Committee, your Lordships will remember, were appointed in April, 1959. With all the complexities to be gone into, with all the evidence to be called and visits to take place, they produced that very expert Report in three months, and in our debate before the Recess last year we were able to look at a transcript of it. Now here we are, on July 20, within two days of a year from the date of the signing of the Report. I ask the noble Earl to-day to tell us what has been done; and, if nothing has been done, why it has not been done. If the laymen in Parliament—laymen as regards some of the details of the position which the Sinclair Committee were studying—have had sufficient ordinary Parliamentary training to be able to understand the Sinclair Report and to assess what its effect might be upon the future success or failure of the Colonial Development Corporation, how is it that the Government have not been able to act on it in twelve months? Before I sit down to-day I hope to be able to convince your Lordships that, in the circumstances in the Commonwealth, especially in relation to the rest of the world markets and sources of supply, we really cannot afford to waste time in making decisions such as those to which I have been referring.

The question I therefore put to the noble Earl—I put it in a rather different form, but I should like to put it in this way to-day, in view of the delay—is: will the noble Earl clearly indicate what are the reasons why no action has so far been taken on the Sinclair Report? Am I right in saying that the members of the Corporation accepted the recommendations of the Sinclair Committee? And, if so, what are the objections to the attitude of the Corporation upon the Report of the Sinclair Committee? Because we really ought to understand exactly where we are. The other question I should like to ask the noble Earl is this: in the course of this twelve month period, how many consultations have taken place between the particular people in the Government dealing with this matter and the members of the Corporation? When was the first consultation on the Sinclair Report; when was the last; and when are we going to hear what results the Government wish to see coming out of those consultations? We feel so deeply about this matter that we think we are entitled to ask these detailed questions to see what has been standing in the way of progress.

Now I would say a personal word to the noble Earl. He has probably anticipated that I would say it, because something along the same line was said by my colleague in another place. It is perfectly true that the noble Earl, Lord Perth, is not an executive member of the Government for central policy. He is, of course, the Minister of State for Colonial Affairs, and there is a Secretary of State for the Colonies, who is the senior Minister. But no one can hide the fact that the noble Earl has himself been intimately connected with the work of the Colonial Development Corporation, and we know enough about the noble Earl to feel that he would be sufficiently anxious to get a success for this Corporation; and, on the particular matters to be studied upon the Sinclair Report, I do not think the noble Earl can plead that he is a layman.

As I understand it, not only is he a Minister of fairly long experience, with access to the advice of all the technical experts, but he seems to have come back into Government circles from the City, with a knowledge of finance corporations and the like. Why on earth has he not been able to bring such influence to bear as would induce the Government to come to an early decision upon this matter? That is personal to the noble Earl. It is not said in any way in order to be personally injurious—nothing of the kind; but we should like to know how it is that, with all this duality of experience, as Minister and of the City, he has not been able, in twelve months, to come to a decision such as a board of directors of a corporation would have arrived at in one month. Twelve months have elapsed without any real action being taken. Of course, I hesitate to suggest that he should leave any section of his personal loyalty to the Minister, but it would be very nice to know what he himself really thinks of the Sinclair recommendations, and how long he thinks it ought to be before they are in operation.

In general, I think we can deduce from the events in this matter during the last three or four years that the Executive Government have been fighting what might be called a rearguard action against—I will not say the majority, but certainly the larger proportions of the membership of both Houses of Parliament. Because, as was pointed out in another place, they have called upon ten different Ministers of the Crown to try to persuade Parliament that the Government were right and that the primary representations that were being made were wrong. In this House, we have had the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack pleading the case; we have had the very distinguished and respected Leader of this House, the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations; and we have had the noble Earl, Lord Perth; and I think there have been seven other Ministers in another place, varying, one might say, from the Secretary of State down to the Minister of Works. And, of course, the Treasury are always being brought in, at every conceivable stage of operations, to clinch the fact of their opposition. I think, therefore, that this really has become a sort of issue between the Legislature and the Executive; and we are taking the opportunity once more in Parliament of bringing, further Legislative Assembly pressure upon the Executive to try to get something done.

The fact of the urgency of the problem is, I think, clearly indicated in the Report of the Corporation. The Corporation is already committed by its present projects to £115 million out of the total of £130 million, which is the ceiling which is set upon their borrowing from Government sources. Of course, it is perfectly true, my Lords, that they are able, under their statutory power, to obtain another £20 1million from other sources. But what sort of chance have they in going to the public money market with a capital structure such as they have been left with at the present, with no reconstruction on the four separate categorical lines suggested in the Sinclair Report? What sort of response would be met by any general appeal to the market for that other £20 million? Indeed, if one thinks of the chaotic position of the money market—the difficulty in getting new funds—largely resulting from the economic policy of the Government, with the bank rate varying from 4 to 5 per cent., and from 5 to 6 per cent., and with overdraft charges at 61 to 7 per cent., what sort of chance have they of being able to borrow the other £20 million at such rates that the overall surplus they must make every year will be obtainable in connection with all their other commitments?

Of course, that is a very poor position to be in, and it must all the time make the Corporation hesitant about considering new applications that are being made. They need to be certain of their ability to obtain the funds to advance; and for these funds they ought to have complete Government backing in these days when, in spite of losses in some areas, they are showing these concurrent surpluses. What sort of hope can they have for the future unless something can be done about it? I resent very much this grave delay in bringing into being the capital reorganisation, and also the delays in certain other respects. There is another matter which I think is partly affected by this hesitancy. One good thing has emerged gradually during the last three or four years; that is, that as a result of their long operations the Corporation have steadily built up a staff of experts in management who not only provide advice in the earlier stages of schemes but continuously help to secure efficient and successful management in every section of their schemes.

There are a large number of institutions, both international and local—in- stitutions like the International Monetary Bank—for providing money for development. But whence comes the experience of management, the expert and constant attention to detail, the precaution to avoid losses and the maintaining of the highest rate of efficiency? If we cannot get a firm foundation in the Corporation's capital structure and confidence in the future borrowing of money, what is going to happen is that the area of operations will gradually decrease and create a lack of confidence in the staff of experts they have gathered together, with the result that members of the staff will leave for something giving them greater security and prospect of advancement. That would be a great pity indeed.

in present world conditions, about which I will say something more before I sit down, it is now proved that the Colonial Development Corporation, from the headquarters and staff here down to all the managers and staff of the schemes scattered throughout the Commonwealth, present a constant connection between the centre of the Commonwealth and the scattered territories that are being helped; and in this changing world this is a vast asset, from which we can work when dealing with changes in world trade and world markets. I have said before in your Lordships' House that over the last forty years I have had to change my views about the development of the Commonwealth and I would say that before we get into a panic about this or that foreign market, however essential is may be—and most of them are—we should be very careful before we do anything, or hesitate to do something, which might do harm to the continuance of the steady development of our Commonwealth relationships.

Your Lordships must have listened with great interest to the reply of the noble Earl the Leader of the House the other day, when he reminded us of the high percentage of our imports and exports with Commonwealth countries. At this stage in the development of world trade, I hope that we shall not lose sight of the fact that the biggest danger is that any changes in foreign markets open to us mean a reduction in our market, both ways, with the Commonwealth. We ought not to leave untried any method that would continue to expand the Commonwealth market. Moreover, in continuing and expanding goodwill in Commonwealth trade, we can go far to extend in the minds and hearts of the people, especially of the older Commonwealth countries, their feelings of loyalty to the home country, and also impress the people in the newer nations with the fact that our goodwill in granting freedom to them is not the only thing we can do for them.

This is a crucial moment in our Commonwealth relationships. The stubborn resistance of the Government to any suggestion that the Colonial Development Corporation should take any part in new projects in the emergent territories—those territories which have come from colonial status into complete independence—is to be greatly regretted. I am quite aware that it may he in the minds of Ministers, and particularly of Treasury officials, that constitutional difficulties are likely to arise. But we have not been hesitant during the past few years to put money into world organisation funds to deal with other undeveloped countries, which are not in the British family of nations at all. So why, because we see a country attaining independence within the Commonwealth, we should not continue to consider every kind of way in which we could help, I do not know.

I want to be quite fair. I am sure that it will emerge in the debate that where schemes have been started in colonial territories before they attained independence, any request that is specially made by the Corporation for further capital necessary to secure the success of a project would be considered. I know that that is so. But what about new ventures? So far as I am aware, at present a new venture in an emergent territory is absolutely barred. It is already barred in the cases of Ghana and Malaya. Within three months, it will be barred in Nigeria, and next year in Sierra Leone, and later the West Indies. These are all serious matters. These losses are bound gradually to reduce the operational sphere of the Colonial Development Corporation and to disperse this extraordinarily valuable collection of personnel trained in management—not only the Corporation's own staffs, but also the innumerable representatives of British firms in private enterprise, with whom the Commonwealth has been constantly engaged. The result will be to cause a serious breakdown of all this structure of connections and contacts.

What will be the general effect if the Government's hard-and-fast policy is not reversed? I have already dealt with the effect on staff, and I need not expand that further. But I also want to draw attention (I hope that I am in order, and I think I am on the general wide issue) to some of the contingent factors in world markets, world countries and production. We have had all the debates about the development of the European Common Market, the Community of Six, and one has asked from time to time what is the likely effect upon our general position in Commonwealth trade. I take the fact as being assured that the integration of the Six means that they can, on the whole, produce a product for export more economically than would be the case if they were all in competition with each other.

When I look at the result upon, say, Germany, the last twelve months' record that I have seen (I do not think it was an actual calendar year, but it was twelve months) shows that, partly as a result of German investment, as well as for other reasons, but mostly from the economic improvement in their position by integration in Europe, Germany's trade with the Commonwealth in one year had increased by 10 per cent., while our own trade with the Commonwealth had decreased by 5 per cent. It would require actual examination to get the proper calculation in relation to the size of the figures concerned, and that I have not had an opportunity of doing; but the percentage I have given indicates the general trend.

Moreover, we have seen the most extraordinary development, in my view, of the industrial export and financial policy of the Union of the Soviet Socialist Republics. The situation is vastly different from the position when my colleagues and I in the Government left office in 1951. It is quite clear that one of the great aids to Russia's growing power in this matter is the amount of actual market integration she gets within the whole of her satellite States. Of course, their treatment of their citizens has had a great deal to do with the steady and compulsory progress of their own production, distribution and balance under a planned economy for export. Moreover, by much more insistent and perhaps more questionable means they impress their position on these markets.

Let me take, for example, the position revealed to me in the Jewish Observer last Friday, July 15. It is strange to me that, somehow or other, our own communications to our own people—apart from the overseas wireless service—in these matters do not get over to our population or to the populations of the countries we desire to influence. The Jewish Chronicle said: Moscow has thrust its weight in full measure behind the so far unsuccessful attempt by the United Arab Republic to convince the newly independent States of Africa that they are compromising their independence by accepting aid from Israel.

Then it goes on to quote—I need not trouble your Lordships with it— various phrases from two broadcasts which were put over—on Friday, July 8, in English, and on Saturday, July 9, in French—to the African peoples warning them, in obviously severe language, about taking into their help the experts which have wonderfully grown up in Israel in the last twenty years.

Incidentally, the manner in which the Israeli people have applied science to their own internal economic development has been most striking, particularly in the position in which they have found themselves, surrounded by nations under the influence of the United Arab Republic and of the Soviet Union, and especially since we lost our great influence there after 1956. They have been able to make friends with both African and Asian nations, to arrange an exchange of certain goods—in spite of the boycott they suffer in the Suez Canal—and to offer expertise in certain industries and production, especially agriculture, to the territories which need that kind of help and development. So where does Russia come in now? I think of the days when this country under various Governments was faced with the constant Communist support of any effort by which the Israelis, when Britain had a Mandate, could evade the quotas of immigration. Now the Communist States are right on the other side. Here in Africa they use language in these broadcasts threatening the liberty of new African States as to what would be done if and when they were to take into their help and advice Israeli expertise.

That may sound to the noble Earl, Lard Perth, who is to reply, a little wide of the mark of the Report of the Colonial Development Corporation. But is it? We are debating this afternoon, first, the question: why has not the Corporation's capital structure been altered in such a way that they can move forward to success? And the second thing is that we want to plead for greater powers to the Corporation, and wider areas of opportunity for the emergent nations who have come from colonial status to independence. If in the case of 'these emergent territories I have referred to by name we are not allowed, through this Corporation, to do this work, to whom would they turn?


Would the noble Viscount explain to me to what work he is referring? After all, the Corporation are able to provide management and technical assistance if it is required. They, like Israel, provide it if the country concerned is anxious to have it.


It is easy for the Minister to turn aside the dynamic of the attack we are making in this respect by saying, "Let us confine it to whether we can supply one or two particular things", but I do not leave it there. I am referring to the whole question of whether the Government are prepared to deal effectively with any new requests from the emergent territories.


It is important that we should get this right before the debate proceeds further. The noble Viscount said, in effect, that we do not do anything for an emerging country. But in fact we made arrangements with Ghana, Nigeria and Malaya for just the facilities for which he is now asking, and those kind of arrangements go on.


I have already referred myself—I think it was perhaps before the noble Earl came into the Chamber—


I am sorry.


—to the fact that certain arrangements have been made in continuing projects which started during their Colonial status and which would require perhaps further financial help. Also, in the case of asking for a particular expert to help with the scheme, I am sure the Government would not hold that up. But I am asking whether that is sufficient.


If the noble Viscount will allow me to say so, that is not anything like the whole story. It is true that schemes can be carried on and new capital can be injected into them. It is also true that the Colonial Development Corporation can make management available to an independent Commonwealth country, whether on old schemes or not, if it wants it. What we do is to make a comprehensive technical and financial scheme for aid to the new territory when it becomes independent, and that scheme is again under review with the country concerned. There is nothing to prevent technical assistance to an independent Commonwealth country.


Then I find it extremely difficult to understand the continued repetition by the former Colonial Secretary, both in regard to the West Indies and other territories, that this could not continue as a matter of financial help in these emergent territories on new schemes. I have never seen that contradicted anywhere.


I will leave it to my noble friend.


Unless we can put a great deal more heart into this business, and a more promising certainty of being able to obtain the expanding funds required to be really effective, then I am certain—if you remember the intervention of Russian oil into Cuba; if you remember about the intervention being attempted in the Congo and in other parts of the world which has been going on fairly continuously—that in the end you will find that, instead of being able to continue the progress we have made already, we shall be in a receding and retrograde position. I hope that that will not happen.

Before the noble Earl the Leader of the House came in I said how devoted I ant to this question of development, not only of Commonwealth trade, but of the building up of the Commonwealth and the fellowship which can be associated with that trade. I hope very much that we shall get a better answer to-day. I direct: particular attention to the threat of the Common Market. I direct particular attention to the infiltration methods of the U.S.S.R. at the present time in all parts of the world, particularly addressed only ten days ago to Africa. I ask the Government to enable the Corporation to stimulate its accumulating and encouraging success of the last two years by being given a confident hope of further help to come. I beg to move for Papers.

3.22 p.m.


My Lords, I 'think we shall all be glad that the noble Viscount the Leader of the Opposition has raised this very important question before we adjourn for the Long Recess. The Report itself is worthy of debate. As usual, the Corporation has presented an admirably clear Report—this time even clearer accounts than usual—and has shown that it is doing admirable work in a great many parts of the world. I do not want to go into the details of that Report, but I wish to confine myself, in the short space of time I shall occupy the House, to one single proposition which figured prominently at the end of the speech of the noble Viscount: that is, what should be the scope of the activities of the Corporation, and in what areas ought they to be exercised? That is a very big question—indeed, it is the fundamental question of the whole of this matter. But I think I can say what I want to say about it fairly shortly. I want to say it quite definitely, because the noble. Viscount said that in the course of 40 years he has sometimes changed his mind. Well, in the course of twelve years I have changed my mind on this, because I think that circumstances have entirely changed.

When this Act was passed—in 1948, I think it was—the activities of the Corporation were confined to colonial territories. That was based on the assumption that the independent Commonwealth countries, as they attained independence, would be entirely self-supporting; that they would be what, in the jargon of to-day, I think is called economically and financially viable; that they would be in a position where, if their Governments wanted money, they could come on the money market and borrow, just as Canada, Australia and New Zealand have borrowed in the past, and that their commercial and industrial undertakings would be financed commercially by again appealing to the money market or by partnership with firms in this country. Indeed, it was almost one of the sine qua nons of independence that they should be financially sound and self-supporting. On that hypothesis it was quite reasonable—and I entirely supported it at the time—that the Colonial Development Corporation should be limited to the colonial territories, and should not have power to operate in what used to be called the Dominions.

But the situation has turned out to be something entirely different—the wind of change—and, as my noble friend the Leader of the House has indicated, what has happened is that these emergent territories (good luck to them, and I am sure they will become self-sufficient and self-supporting) all get large dowries on remarriage, as it were, into the Commonwealth, and they get other financial and economic support year by year. In those entirely changed circumstances, surely there is a strong case for reconsidering the position and allowing the Colonial Development Corporation to continue to operate in those countries where that Corporation has done such excellent work. It is an entirely changed situation.

Surely the Corporation has exactly the qualities that are needed to do that. It has tremendous experience. It has experience of individual countries and the accumulated experience of twelve years of work. Of course it made mistakes in the early days—all of us make mistakes—but, like wise people do, the Corporation has learnt from its mistakes, and the admirable financial showing of the Report to-day in the new developments and their current developments indicates how wise and discriminating but, at the same time, imaginative, the Corporation has been. It has become that with experience. It has an excellent Board, and I am sure we shall all in this House be delighted that that Board has been strengthened by the addition of the noble Lord, Lord Howick, who has [...]o recently joined us—a wise High Commissioner and a great Governor.

As the noble Viscount the Leader of the Opposition has said, the Corporation has an extremely expert staff, getting more expert year by year—exactly the kind of staff we want to investigate propositions and to decide whether they are the right thing to go into or to co-operate in or not; and the right staff not only to investigate but, as the last Report of the Corporation shows, to supervise the propositions when they are started and the Corporation has put its money in. It also has impartiality and independence. It has gone into successful partnership with commercial companies in these different territories, and one of the wise changes—I think it was negotiated by the noble Lord, Lord Reith, and has been carried forward—is the increasing tendency, when it invests money, to go into partnership with a commercial undertaking, whether in that territory or in this country. It has gone into partnership with local interests. It is acting, as the Report shows, as the expert agent for the International Finance Corporation, and I think—Lord Ogmore will correct me about this—it is acting as agent in some cases for the World Bank. Surely those are about twenty pretty good reasons why the Corporation should in these entirely changed circumstances—and I emphasise that—be allowed to carry on.

Of course, these self-governing countries must create confidence. They must establish security. As we should all agree, more particularly to-day in the conditions of the world to which the noble Viscount, the Leader of the Opposition, has referred, never were those two conditions more important. But if they do establish confidence and conditions of security, then they are entitled to help. And the whole policy of the Government—and it is a new policy; we used not to have to do it for the old Dominions—and, indeed, the policy of the free world, is that where the right kind of conditions are established, then those countries should be entitled to help, and it is enormously important that that help should be wisely given.

There is not a great deal of money in the world for investment. We have "never had it so good", and all that; that is quite true; but, at the same time, development of any enterprise to-day costs about three times the capital that it did before the war. You have only to look at a thing like the Kariba Dam. It is a tremendous success, but look at the enormous cost. So it is very important that, while we should find as much money as we can, we should give that money to the most deserving enterprises. And if we do that we shall create further confidence, and the creation of that further confidence will attract more capital to those countries. In fact by working in that way—and how can we do it better than through this Corporation?—we shall be carrying out what I thing was the wise principle my noble friend Lord Salisbury laid down in a debate the other day. He said that of course we must give help, but that it ought not to be indiscriminate; each case ought to be considered on its merits. I do not believe that anybody in any quarter of the House will disagree with one word that I have said up to now.

If my premises are right, is not this Colonial Development Corporation admirably fitted to do that job? I hope it will be given the opportunity. I am making this profession of faith—a new faith, if you like, or rather a new restatement of faith—in entirely changed conditions. Indeed. I am not dogmatic about this, but I think it is well worth consideration whether it would not be wise to go a bit further even than that and have one single Government-financed Corporation operating in all these territories. I do not know whether the Minister of State will be able to give an answer about that to-day. I hope he will not give us a negative answer. There is really no politics in this, and I do not believe a negative answer would be at all satisfactory to any quarter of the House. I read in the newspapers, who always know about these things, that we are going very soon to have a new Government—I do not mean noble Lords opposite. We are going to have a re-shuffle and re-deal on a large scale. I hope we are not going to lose any of my noble friends in the process.


A capital reconstruction.


A capital reconstruction, yes; but they are not going into liquidation and they have got very little to write off. I hope we shall not get just a negative answer to-day, and that when we do get a new Government they will have a new look at this.

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