§ MR. WILES (Islington, S.)
I beg to ask the President of the Board of Trade whether his attention has been called to the fact that the South Metropolitan Gas Company made a contribution to the funds of the London Municipal Society previous to the late London County Council election; and, if so, is he in a position to state the amount of such contribution.
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF TRADE (Mr. LLOYD-GEORGE, Carnarvon Boroughs)
I am informed by the South Metropolitan Gas Company that they subscribed a sum of £21 to the funds of the London Municipal Society in January last. I am causing the directors' letter, which is rather too long to read to the House, to be printed with the Votes.
§ [The letter was as follows]:—
§ "South Metropolitan Gas Company.
§ "709, Old Kent Road, S.E.
§ "8th May, 1907.
§ "The Assistant Secretary
§ "(Harbour Department),
§ "Board of Trade,
§ "7, Whitehall Gardens, S.W.
§ "In reply to the question anent a subscription to the London Municipal Society in your letter of the 1st instant, which was read to my Board to-day, being their first meeting after its receipt, I have to say that this company subscribed £21 to that society in January last.
§ "In response to your further inquiry for any observations the directors may have to make on the subject, I am instructed to say that this company is one of the largest ratepayers in South London, paying £88,000 a year in rates, being an increase of 50 per cent. in the last seven years.
§ "Under the operation of the sliding scale as applied to gas companies whereby gas shareholders and gas consumers 792 are made partners, gains or losses are divided in the proportion of about 6½to the consumers to 1 to the shareholders. Consequently of this large sum about 86 per cent., or £75,000, a year is paid by the consumers, the predominant partner.
§ "Parliament having by the sliding scale united the interests of consumers and shareholders, it is the duty of the company as well as its interest to do the best for both parties by economising in every possible way.
§ "It is to the advantage of the consumers, who are all ratepayers, as well as that of the company's shareholders and its employees, who are also shareholders, that the waste and extravagance of the local authorities should be checked, and that honest and capable men should be elected on public bodies to secure economical and efficient management, for efficiency cannot be separated from economy. The directors consider it their duty to adopt all lawful means to that end, and they believe the action they have taken is for the public good.
§ "I am also instructed to direct attention to the gross injustice which the continuance of the present system inflicts on all joint stock companies, they pay a very large and increasing proportion of the rates with no control whatever over their expenditure, and with no voice or vote in the election of the London and borough councillors or the members of the boards of guardians. Such taxation without representation cannot be justified. The system, or rather the want of system, has been allowed to grow with the growth of joint stock companies, and a remedy is urgently needed to give them their proper share in municipal government.
§ "I am, etc.,
§ "(signed) FRANK BUSH,