HC Deb 18 August 1919 vol 119 cc1922-4W
Lieut.-Commander NORMAN CRAIG

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what number of shares in the Royal Dutch Petroleum Company were acquired by His Majesty's Government in and subsequently to November, 1917, without reference to the wishes of the holders of such shares; under what Section of the Defence of the Realm Act or of the Regulations there under this interference with private property in invested moneys was undertaken; whether the compensation paid was at the rate of £51 per share or at what other price, and how such compensation, was assessed; whether he is aware that the shares stand at the present time at £66 per share or thereabouts, and that, but for the expropriation abovementioned, the holders of such shares issue rights attaching thereto of considerable value would have enured to the benefit of such shareholders as exercised the same; whether any compensation has been paid for the deprivation of such rights; by whom are the shares now held; whether the issue rights obtained with the acquisition of the shares were and to what extent exercised by His Majesty's Government; what is the present market value of the shares so acquired and of the shares acquired by virtue of any such issue rights, after deducting any payments made in respect of the latter class of shares; whether the acquisition of a particular form of private property was decided upon in order to maintain the Dutch exchange; whether the Government considered whether the desired result could have been obtained by borrowing and holding the shares; and whether it is proposed to grant any further consideration to the holders of shares expropriated as aforesaid?


5,323,100 florins shares in the Royal Dutch Petroleum Company were requisitioned under Treasury Order No. 5, of 1917, issued under Defence of the Realm Regulation 7 c, the holders receiving compensation at the current market value at the time of requisition, at a cost to the taxpayer of over £2,700,000. I have no information as to the sixth and eighth parts of the question. The answer to the fourth, seventh, ninth and tenth parts is in the affirmative. As regards the last part, when private property has to be requisitioned for public purposes in times of national emergency I do not see what fairer basis of compensation can be arrived at than the actual market value at the time of requisition, which, of course, includes the estimate which the market puts on future prospects as well as the value of current profits. If it were suggested at the time of requisition that the risk of future depreciation should be taken by the late owner I think he would be the first to object. If the taxpayer is to take this risk of depreciation the taxpayer must clearly be allowed to take any benefit arising from appreciation.