The following Notice of Motion stood upon, the Order Paper in the names of Mr. ARTHUR, HENDERSON and other hon. Members, followed by a number of Amendments in the names of other hon. Members:
That, in view of the statement of the Minister of Health made in this House on the 8th day of July, 1926, a Select Committee be appointed to consider how far in the public interest a Minister of the Crown may be associated with a public or private company during his term of office, or with any company which is in contractual relations with the Government of which he is a member, and to report.
§ 4.0 P.M.
§ Major COLFOX
On a point of Order. I desire to know if there are any means of ensuring that a definite decision will be come to at the end of this Debate, and that, after the Closure has been applied, as undoubtedly will be the case, and all the words after the word "That" have been left out, the Motion will not then be talked out and nothing appear on the Records of the House. Does the Closure Motion, supposing it be moved, entitle you, Sir, to put the Question, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question," and, then, when those words have been left out, to put the Motion with the Amendment incorporated.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
That is a matter with which I must deal when the occasion arises. It is always competent for the House, if it so wish, to complete the Question under consideration, including the Amendment, if the assent of the Chair be given.
§ Mr. HENDERSON
I beg to move,That, in view of the statement of the Minister of Health made in this House on the 8th day of July, 1926, a Select Committee be appointed to consider how far in the public interest a Minister of the Crown may be associated with a public or private company during his term of office, or with 86 any company which is in contractual relations with the Government of which he is member, and to report.I notice on the Order Paper a number of Amendments, and the wording of those Amendments renders it necessary for me to remind hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite that this question, in one or other of its aspects, has engaged the attention of the House on several occasions in years gone by. We were reminded on Thursday of a very important Debate on this question which was initiated on the 10th December, 1900, by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George). Again, in 1906, the late Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman had to submit to a considerable amount of heckling at the hands of a very ardent Conservative Member, Mr. Claude Hay, who was. then a Member of the Opposition. On that occasion, Sir Henry was invited to define the private companies of which be deemed it proper that Ministers of the Crown should hold directorships, and he gave this reply:The company of which my right hon. Friend the Paymaster-General is a director is a private family company.Mr. CLAUDE HAY: I beg to ask the First Lord of the Treasury if he will define the private companies of which he deems it proper that Ministers of the Crown should hold directorships.Sir HENRY CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN it is impassible to give a definition in precise terms. What is meant is that class of company in which the interests of the Minister, being a director, is substantially the same as the interest of a partner in a. business firm.Again, in 1924, the present Parliamentary Secretary of the. Ministry of Health (Sir K. Wood) called attention to the case of Mr. Frank Hodges. I suppose we must take it for granted that the Member for West Woolwich (Sir K. Wood) and Mr. Claude Hay, the then Conservative Member for Hoxton, and other Conservative Members who have. interested themselves in this question when in opposition were always actuated by a desire to maintain proper standards of public propriety, and were in no sense engaged in throwing mud at their political opponents. But if the Parliamentary history of this subject be. kept in mind hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite will find that they have not very good grounds for all the talk that has been engaged in since we gave 87 notice of our Motion and for all the language that has been used in the Amendments on the Order Paper, where reference is made toan organised campaign of calumny and insinuation.At any rate, history shows, and it should be kept in mind, that those who are talking to-day so freely about attacks upon personal honour and of clearing the air of poisonous vapour are not like Caesar's wife, above suspicion.
The Motion raises two distinct issues to which I must give attention. First, the issue of Cabinet Ministers holding directorships in public or private companies; and, secondly, the question of investments in any company in which the Minister has an investment or is a director, that company having contractual relations with the Government of which the Minister is a Member. The Motion asks for an inquiry through a Select Committee, and we on this side of the House believe, when the case has been made out, as it will be made out to-day, that such an inquiry is of essential importance. In stating the case for the Motion, I am not going to enter into censure. I am going to state facts. I will try to allow the facts, as they are known to me in this particular case, to speak for themselves.
I first come to the question of directorships. The Minister of Health, in his statement on Thursday last, admitted to the House that he had retained his directorship in the firm of Hoskins and Sons. He also referred to a statement made during the Debate in 1900 by Colonel Milward that the firm of Hoskins and Sons was mainly the business of Mr. Neville Chamberlain. That admission is of the greatest importance, and we want to try to understand the sense in which the reference was made in the Debate of 1900. What was the defence then set up by the late Mr. Joseph Chamberlain? It was a defence that cannot possibly be set up to-day, and that is where the significance of the reference comes in. The defence of Mr. Joseph Chamberlain was the smallness of his investment in the concern, and the insignificant amount of work that was being done for the Government Departments at that time. May I be permitted to quote a few sentences from the speech that Mr. Chamberlain made on that occasion:— 88Here, without my knowldege, involuntarily, by a casual accident, which I could not possibly foresee, it appears that I, in investing in a neutral company, became perhaps interested to the extent of £60 in a company which does 5 per cent.—I do not know what it is, but let us say 5 per cent.—of its business with a Government Department. Work it out arithmetically, and it will be found that my interests in Government contracts in this matter is confined to a few pounds or a few shillings.I repeat, as I hope I will be able to show, that no such defence can be put to the House to-day on behalf of the Minister of Health. One more quotation, which has some bearing on this Debate, I may perhaps be permitted to give from the speech of Mr. Joseph Chamberlain. Speaking of his relations, including his family, he said:They are sought for as directors and chairmen of companies, because they are known not to be, to use a proverbial expression, guinea pigs, that is to go into a company without large proportionate interests of their own, and without giving the best of their time and their labour to the work of the company.Coming back to the firm of Hoskins and Sons to-day, I find, according to the returns—and I am not going to apologise for the use that has been made of the returns at Somerset House, because I think, for purposes of greater accuracy, it is well, if we are going to make a case at all against colleagues in this House, that we should go to the very best official documents in order to obtain the facts upon which we are going to base our case —the Minister of Health holds 2,395 shares out of a total of 5,000 ordinary shares. Thus the position of the Minister of Health, as I have already hinted, is entirely different from that of his illustrious father in 1900. I noticed there was a disposition on the part of the Prime Minister the other day to accept the maxims that had been laid down in 1900 or 1906 by the late Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman. If those maxims have to be applied then, in my opinion, they in no sense fit the present case. During that 1900 Debate there was a very important statement made by Mr. John Burns. In the course of the Debate he quoted the Lord Advocate—the Conservative Lord Advocate—as having stated on the previous 8th May:There may be certain directorships which would involve a conflict of interest, and if there were such directorships I am certain nobody on this Government Bench 89 would continue to hold them. Of course, no Minister would continue to hold a directorship which brought him into contact with the Departments of the Crown dealing with Government contracts.That was the statement in 1900 of a Conservative Lord Advocate. Doubtless we shall be told, as we were on Thursday last, that the right hon. Gentleman has observed the conditions that have stood since 1906, which were laid down by the late Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman on the Liberal Government coming into office. If that claim be made, and if it be confined solely to a directorship of a private company, I think the claim could be sustained. If, however, it is claimed that Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, in 1906 or at any other time during his Prime Ministership, approved in the slightest degree of Ministers being directors of private companies in contractual relations with any Government of which the Minister was a member, then I say that in my judgment no such claim can possibly be sustained. Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman considered the small private family company, as was shown in the answer I read at the opening of my remarks, most like a partnership, but he was well aware, as I believe most Members of this House are aware, that should a member of a private firm enter into contractual relations either as a Member of this House or as a Minister of any Government the Disqualification Act, 1782, would undoubtedly apply.
This brings me to the question of Members holding shares in a company having contractual relations with the Government. I take, first of all, Hoskins and Sons. The contracts to which I am about to refer are entered in the "Ministry of Labour Gazette." I have the dates here. They can be quoted if necessary. I have the material concerned in the contract. All can he quoted if necessary, but, unless I am challenged, I will merely, in order to save time, quote the dates of the contracts: January, 1925; April, 1925; August, 1925; October, 1925; December, 1925; January, 1926; January, 1926. Thus, this company, Hoskins and Sons, have received seven contracts since the present Government came into power. The "Ministry of Labour Gazette" shows that during the eight months of the Labour Government in 1924 the same firm received only one contract.
90 I now come to the connection with Elliott's Metal Company. In the last return of this company to Somerset House, 5th October, 1925, the Minister is shown as having 23,250 ordinary shares in this company, and I believe I am right in saying that, as in the case of the first company I referred to, the Minister is the largest shareholder connected with it. Since the present Government came into office this company have had 14 Government contracts. Perhaps I ought to say in fairness to the Minister—[Laughter]. As you do not like it, I will not say it. I will occupy my time in giving you a few more contracts. With regard to this company, the contracts are as follow. I have again the names of the Departments, the nature of the material, the date upon which the contract is entered in the "Ministry of Labour Gazette." The dates of the contracts are: May, 1926, Post Office; May, 1926, Colonies; April, 1926, Colonies; April, 1926, Admiralty; January, 1926, Post Office; December, 1925, Colonies; October, 1925, Post Office; October, 1925, Post Office; September; 7925, Post Office; July, 1925, Post Office; June, 1925, Admiralty; June, 1925, Post Office; February, 1925, Post Office; January, 1925, Post Office. May I contrast the position I have just brought to; the notice of the House with the position of an hon. Member of this House as it was revealed to us in a letter which you, Mr. Speaker, read from the Chair an. 10th February, 1925:MY DEAR MR. SPEAKER,I send you herewith copy of the letter-which I have received from the Secretary to the General Post Office, with copy of my reply thereto.Immediately I received the letter from the Secretary to the General Post Office I took legal advice as to my position, and I am informed that, although the contracts referred to were entered into prior to my adoption as a candidate, and were trivial in amount, the fact that I held them at the date of the General Election made me incapable of being elected a Member of Parliament.Under these circumstances I desire to-express to you, Sir, and to the Members of the House, my sincere apology for taking part in the proceedings of the House, whilst at the same time assuring you that in so doing I acted in absolute good faith."— [ OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th February, 1925; col, 41, Vol. 180.]
§ Mr. HENDERSON
I am told that was a private business. I am well aware of that. But in stating a case such as I have to state to-day, it is absolutely essential, I think, to bring out the contrast between the position of the private Member in a private firm and the company which is nearest related, according to Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, to a private firm, namely, a private limited company.
§ The MINISTER of HEALTH (Mr. Neville Chamberlain)
The right hon. Gentleman is confusing two companies. This is not a private limited company. Elliott's Company is a public company.
§ Mr. HENDERSON
I am well aware that Elliott's is a public company. This refers, as was shown by my last remark, to a private company, and the statement that I was about to make before was that the right hon. Gentleman, when his Government came into office, resigned his directorship of the public company. When the Labour Government came in lie took up his directorship again, and when the present Government came in he again resigned. That was because it was a public company. [Interruption.] The Chancellor of the Exchequer says it was a pity I did not say it. Hon. Gentlemen who, according to these Amendments, are so very careful about the standards of public life, might have permitted me to make my speech in my own way. Whether the present position is governed by law, or by precedent, or by the maxims laid down in 1900 in Debate, or in 1906 by the late Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, it appears to me that the position to-day is uncertain, unsatisfactory and anomalous. It must be obvious to all that the position requires to be thoroughly examined. It is certainly necessary that it should be clarified, and I would have thought, if there was a Member in this House more anxious than all the rest of us that an immediate inquiry should be held into this position in all its bearings, that that gentleman would have been the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Health. During the past week we have been engaged in this House in trying to establish what will be to him a more satisfactory standard of propriety in local administration. The author of such 92 legislation should remember that those who live in glass houses should never throw stones.
§ Lord HUGH CECIL
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he intends to impute personal corruption to my right hon. Friend or not?
§ Mr. HENDERSON
In my speech I said that I had no intention of censuring anyone. [HON. MEMBERS: "You did! "] I have made no such suggestion. [HON. MEMBERS "You did!"] I have made no suggestion of corruption against the right hon. Gentleman, and I leave the facts to speak for themselves.
§ The PRIME MINISTER (Mr. Baldwin)
It is quite true that there have been Debates of this nature in the past, although it is some time since one has taken place. They are never very satisfactory Debates; they never show this House at its best, and they seldom lead to any definite conclusion. I understood when the question was put by the right hon. Gentleman as to whether we would afford time for a Motion of Censure—not from anything he said, but from his appearance—that a Vote of Censure would be put down, to which it was at once my duty to give an affirmative reply. But we are apparently devoting to-day to debating this Resolution in which he specifically says he makes no suggestion of dishonesty and no censure. There has been a certain amount of insinuation. I will reassure the right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken that, able as he is as a speaker and skilled as he is as a Parliamentarian, he is a mere child in insinuation to the right hon. Gentleman who opened the Debate in 1900.
The right hon. Gentleman spoke about law, and he spoke about practice. I do not propose to say much about law, for I am not a learned man, but about practice I would like to say a word or two It is a matter of some 20 years ago that Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman gave the reply in the House of Commons which I quoted a day or two ago, and to which the right hon. Gentleman has alluded. I will read it once more, as it is very short:The conditions laid down on the formation of the Government was that a director ship held by a Minister must be resigned except in the case of honorary directorships, directorships in connection with philanthropic undertakings, and directorships in private companies.93 For good or for ill, that has been the practice, as far as I know, both in that Government and in each successive Government, and it is worth remembering, considering what has been said about my right hon. Friend, that he held office in exactly the same circumstances and the same conditions under the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), Mr. Bonar Law and under myself, and no question arose in the mind of anyone of the three of us that there was anything in that holding that was contrary to what had been laid down by Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman. It has always been the practice, as far as I know, in all Cabinets with which I have had acquaintance, and I believe in Cabinets before I had the honour of serving, that whenever the question of private interest comes in the Minister affected always makes a declaration to that effect, and sometimes does not take part in the discussion, or, if he does, it is with the full knowledge of all his colleagues. I wish to explain to the House that occasions sometimes arise—I shall have something to say about this, not only in regard to Ministers, but in regard to hon. Members—where there is a conflict between private interest and public duty, but I am convinced that in 99 cases out of 100 in this country public duty wins.
The question really raised in this Motion is, shall this practice of the last 20 years be modified? I think this is an opportunity for the House to consider the conditions in which such modification might take place, and what the consequences of such modification might be, because the question itself, like most questions, is by no means so simple as it appears to be on the surface, as anyone who has occupied my position is fully aware of. In the first place, we will assume anyone being asked to join a Government who has some private property of some kind. It is impossible for him to tell beforehand whether, and, if so, when, any question may arise where his own pecuniary interests will be affected. Is he therefore to sell out everything that he has, or is he to wait, and, when the question arises, act, as it were, ad hoc But, whichever of these courses, he pursues, he is confronted by a fresh series of difficulties. Having sold out the tainted stock, what is the innocent 94 stock in which he has to put his money, whether it be a large amount or a small amount? Shall he put it into railways? Dangerous things, railways! Supposing, for instance, quite apart from legislation in this House that may affect them, there came a great railway strike, and a Member of the Government was a holder of railway stock? He might then be accused of trying to bring the strike to an end, not to secure the peace of the country but for the benefit of his own pocket.
Is he to put it into a bank? That again raises difficulties. In an industrial company? Any industrial company may have difficulties, too. Land—a most dangerous thing for legislation with the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the party opposite at large. There may be conflicting interests at any moment. Is he to put it in Consols? There, again, by supporting a Government which is doing all it can to strengthen the financial stability of the country, he is adding to the price of gilt-edge stocks and thereby putting again from the nation into his pocket. You may have at any time the question of personal interest raised. The question of personal interest would undoubtedly be raised. It would not be raised in the first place by the Front Bench, but it would be raised and probably be supported by them. I have come to the conclusion that the only safe thing to do is to lend your money to the Soviet Government.
Now comes the question, not mentioned to-day, which figured very largely in the Debate of 1900.What about a man's relations and friends? It. is perfectly obvious that a man may very often be influenced by wanting to help his relations and friends more than by what will help himself, and you come back to the question which was put in 1900 or 1906, that, if you really are to fulfil the position of the lady alluded to by the right hon. Gentleman opposite, the only thing that the Prime Minister can do when asked to form a Government is to advertise " Wanted a foundling, with no relations, and penniless." In considering how we are to protect the honour of Ministers I, as one who spent most of his life on the back benches, am no less anxious to protect the honour of back benchers. Have they no interest of any kind in shares which they may hold? Have 95 they no directorships? Let me put this point—it is absurd, but it is as good a point as some I have heard put. You get the question of Railway Bills. We have often heard how private interests are cut across in the House. I do not think I have ever heard a case in which private interest has been allowed in the matter of Railway Bills to deflect this House from the honest course.
After all, every Member of this House pays Income Tax. What about him when he votes for a reduction of Income Tax, or the reduction of any tax? He is voting pro (onto and to that extent to increase his own income. There is no getting out of that. I think we should think of ourselves in the House as a whole and our honour too in these matters. We see in this House Members interested in cooperative societies taking a lively interest in the question of taxing co-operative societies. No one has ever insinuated, nor would ever insinuate that in holding the views they do, and giving the votes they do, they are doing anything that is not perfectly honourable because, I for one have always believed, that the wider political question entirely swamps that of personal interest or the interest of one's friends. In an exactly similar way, supposing you had in this House a Bill—and one was brought in once for the alteration of the system of the political levy—which might easily affect the financial status of a great many Members. It never occurred to me to suggest that Members in opposing that Bill were doing it on any other grounds than that they believed it would weaken the movement which they believed to be essential in the interests of the country. But it is just as much open to impute motives in that case, if people care for that kind of thing, as it is in any other case.
There is no subject in which it is more necessary to clear the mind of cant than this subject of pecuniary interest. You may take, as Governments have done, what, on the whole, you believe to be all reasonable precautions, but ultimately you are always faced with the question—whether the case be that of a member of the Government or a private Member—of the interest or otherwise of each individual in question. This matter aroused a great deal of interest in Mr. Bottomley, who took it up in 1906, and put questions to Sir Henry Campbell- 96 Bannerman upon it; and Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, in spite of his questions, saw no reason to make any alteration in the rule that he had laid down. There is nothing in an inquiry of that nature—in the inquiry itself—to which anyone in this House could take any objection; but, in view of the opening words of the Motion, and in view of the attacks that have been made on my colleagues, I am not going to support at this moment any application of that kind, and, if my right hon. and Noble Friend the Member for Oxford University (Lord H. Cecil) moves his Amendment, I shall support that Amendment when the time comes.
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
Last Thursday, probably in preparation for the questions that were to be put in this House, a daily Press organ with a very wide circulation, from which many Members opposite appear to take their political ideas, came out with a flaming placard and broad headline to explain that those questions had been ordered or instigated by Moscow —it was a red-hot plot right from the Zinovieff factory. I can only say that, so far as I am aware, there never has been any contact, direct or indirect, with Moscow or any of its agents so far as these questions are concerned; and, further, I believe that it is part of one's public duty to put these questions, and to put them whether Moscow or any of its agents are pleased or displeased as the result.
We have heard a great deal in the Press, and we have had some references this afternoon, to innuendo. Has innuendo never been used by the party opposite? Do not the party opposite and its chief Press organ habitually slander Members on these benches? Are we not continually told, or is it not suggested by innuendo, that we are the recipients of red gold? Are we not told at election after election by innuendo that we are wife beaters, that we are free lovers, that we are atheists, that we break every one of the Commandments as a matter of course, and as a matter of principle? And when I turn to some of the speeches at the last General Election, I find that, so far as I can ascertain, the one Secretary of State, the one right hon. Gentleman on the Government Bench who went out of his way by innuendo to attack my right hon. Friend 97 the present Leader of the Opposition personally, was the present Minister of Health. There was never an attack in any form in which it could be met, there was never any formal Motion in this House; but not only the Minister of Health, but many hon. Members opposite, went about the hustings shouting the vulgar word "biscuits." [Interruption.]
The present Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health rose in this House, when the Labour Government was in office, and asked questions designed to secure that Mr. Frank Hodges, who was then Civil Lord of the Admiralty, should be compelled to resign his directorship—an unpaid directorship—in the Victoria House Printing Company; and very promptly the then Leader of the House, my right hon. Friend the Member for Platting (Mr. Clones), rose and said that he had drawn Mr. Hodges' attention to these questions, and Mr. Hodges had forthwith tendered his resignation. Was there any innuendo there? If the hon. Gentleman was acting purely in the public interest and from a sense of public duty, in putting those questions, then certainly we are equally actuated by a right sense of duty in putting our questions to his superior in the present Ministry. From all of which I draw the aphorism that people who live in glass houses should not shout "Biscuits."
There is a phase of this question that has not been referred to this afternoon. One day last week—on Monday, I think it was—I asked if it were the case that the firm of Hoskins and Sons had failed to register its annual return fox the year 1924; and the answer I received from the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade was that the company had not filed a return for 1924, but that there ices no intention to prosecute the company for its failure to register that return, because the company's return for 1925 was in identical terms with the return it had filed for 1923. Indeed, the Parliamentary Secretary said that it would be oppressive were a prosecution to take place in the circumstances. I hold in my hand documents relating to a small company of ex-service men who started a business in Cheshire, and who failed to send in a return for 1924—precisely the same year. Did they get off? What happened was that when they filed their return for 1925 they got a form saying that a similar return made up with 98 reference to the ordinary general meeting held in 1924 must also be filed, and a document from Somerset House, dated the 22nd June, in black type draws attention to the penalties which they must suffer. Not the firm of Hoskins and Sons, but this poor company of ex-service men, are told—If the return above referred to be not lodged at this Office within Fourteen days from the date hereof, the default will be reported to the Solicitor to the Board of Trade, who has received instructions from the Board of Trade to institute proceedings in this class of default without further notice of any kind. It must he borne in mind that there is no obligation to give this notice.Further, the Registrar—Mr. CampbellTaylor—said thisI would point out that the company is liable to a fine not exceeding five pounds for every day during which such default continues, and that every Director and Manager of the Company who shall knowingly and wilfully authorise or permit such default incurs the like penalty.[An HON. MEMBER: "Were they summoned?"] No; they filed a return. [Interruption.] This small company filed its return; the firm of Hoskins and Sons has not filed its return, and we shall be glad, I am sure, to have the assistance of the hon. Gentleman in the Lobby to ensure that some protest shall be made by Parliament against the non-filing of the return.
My right hon. Friend who initiated this discussion this afternoon has gone over the list of contracts taken by this firm of Hoskins and Sons, and by Elliott's Metal Company since the present Administration took office, and I do not propose to take up the time of the House by repeating them. I would only add this, that to a great deal of what the Prime Minister said nobody can take any objection. It is a difficult matter to put down exactly where one can draw the line. I would even go further than the Prime Minister went, and say that any man who derived interest from a War Savings Certificate, or from £5 worth of War Loan, would to that extent be a beneficiary from the Treasury, and would therefore to that extent have some financial interest in whatever financial transactions took place in this House. But, surely, there is a clear, definite distinction between a private company with two directors, when one of those directors is one of His 99 Majesty's principal Secretaries of State, and the other class of companies to which the Prime Minister referred. Further, it must surely be obvious that to have a Secretary of State as a director of a company such as Messrs. Hoskins and Sons does confer certain trade advantages upon that firm over its competitors—not necessarily with the Government, but, given two travellers competing for an order outside, with one traveller able to say that the Minister of Health is a director, I do suggest that such a fact carries, advantages to tat firm and to that traveler against their competitor. Again, I do not think it can be denied that there would be some subtle psychological effect upon the minor officials of a Government if it were known to them that one of the directors of a company with whom they were dealing was a member of the Cabinet. As a matter of fact, we have something like that already proved this case of the non-filing of the return for 1924. Messrs. Hoskins and Sons Ltd. get off, but the smaller firms are threatened with the utmost rigour of the law. [An HON. MEMBER: " How do you know the company were not threatened?"] Let me repeat, for the sake of hon. Members who have not been paying particular attention, that the return for Messrs. Hoskins is not yet filed, and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade did not put it as his defence in this House that he was endeavouring to get the return, but that the return for 1925, when it did come in, was substantially the same as the return for 1923. Therefore, there was no necessity for prosecuting in respect to 1924.
§ 5.0 P. m.
Yes, for 1925. They failed in 1924, and they were threatened with prosecution and the utmost rigour of the law if they did riot file their return for 1925. I want to suggest that the development of joint-stock enterprise in this country has made it more than ever necessary that a Select Committee should draw the fine, clearly and definitely, how far a Minister of the Crown may have trading relationships, direct or indirect, 100 with the Government of which he is a member. Up to now, if a man is interested in a public company, he is barred; but if he holds interests in a private company, he is welcomed. I say it ought to be the other way round. Surely, if an hon. Member holds £5 or £500 of shares in a railway company, such as the Prime Minister referred to, he cannot direct policy, he cannot influence in the way of contracts; but, if a member of His Majesty's Government is also a director in a private company, it is more likely that he is able to influence policy and influence contracts than if he were merely a director in a public company. At any rate, I submit that the case put forward by my right hon. Friend the Member for Burnley (Mr. A. Henderson) has so far not at all been met by the Prime Minister. No statement of fact made by my right hon. Friend has been challenged, and to the best of my knowledge and belief, no such statement of fact is challengeable. It will not do, so far as the people of this country are concerned, to fob us off with the difficulties of drawing a fresh line of demarcation and refusing to meet the specific details set forth by my right hon. Friend. Surely, the whole question is a fit and proper subject of inquiry, and it ought to be the duty of this House to make that inquiry without any reference whatsoever to the gibes and jeers about malevolent Muscovy or anything else. We have to perform a common duty here, however unpopular it may be in certain instances, and, when we get a Minister of Health who himself is not afraid to level wholesale charges of corruption against a board of guardians because certain members may have done that which was wrong and which was indefensible, then, like my right hon. Friend who initiated this discussion, I think that the first person who should have demanded a Committee of Inquiry to clarify the whole position ought to have been the Minister of Health himself.
§ Lord HUGH CECIL
I beg to move to leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof the wordsthis House, while willing on any suitable occasion to review by Select Committee or otherwise the rules and practices which have hitherto guided the action of Ministers in respect of their private interests during their tenure of office, which rules have been 101 on all occasions strictly observed by His Majesty's present Ministers, declines to enter upon any such task by way of concession to an organised campaign of calumny and insinuation which has no justification in fact.The subject which has been brought before the House to-day is certainly one of great interest, and, as already shown in the speeches which have been delivered, it is also one of great complexity. I do not at all complain of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Burnley (Mr. A. Henderson) bringing it to the notice of the House, for it well deserves that notice, nor do I think, as this Amendment says, that it would be at all unwise that there should be a judicially minded Committee of Inquiry for the purpose of clearing the whole subject up and defining, as everyone wishes to define, what are the rules which ought to govern the cases of supposed or possible conflict between private interest and public duty which may arise in respect to Ministers of the Crown or even in respect to Members of the whole House of Commons, for that matter. As the right hon. Gentleman said, there is a great history behind this subject, and he referred to an ancient rule, which is the law of the land, that a Member of this House who is a, member of a private firm which makes a private contract with the Government vacates his seat. But it should be remembered that that law was passed to stop real corruption. At that time, contracts of a fictitious, colourable kind were given to Members of Parliament for the purpose of giving them money as a direct bribe, and the purpose of the law was to stop actual corruption, about which there were very grave grounds for suspicion. It was important that I should ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he meant to imply private and personal corruption or not, not merely as a matter of rhetorical dispute, but because, of course, the Debate must be quite differently conducted in the one case and in the other. If there had been a charge of personal corruption against any Minister, it might be the duty of the Opposition, or indeed of any Member of the House, to bring such a charge, but naturally it must be specific. It must show what the corrupt act was and what was the corrupt inducement. Obviously, if such a charge were made, there must he an inquiry 102 immediately, and no one would wish it more than the accused Minister himself. But the right hon. Gentleman did not make such a charge. He said he wished to make a general statement of facts, which, he said rather vaguely, he would leave to speak for themselves. I will come back to that aspect of the speech before I sit down.
The Prime Minister has pointed out that, if you are going to deal with cases of conflict between private interest and public duty, there is no end to that kind of thing. He gave a great many instances, and I will add one or two. For example, you might imagine the Cabinet debating the Finance Bill. It might easily be that all sorts of different interests will be affected by the Finance Bill. Among the Ministers who sit round the table there might be one possibly interested in the wine trade, who is against the liquor duties. There might be a total abstainer, who wanted a reduction of the taxes on tea. There might be a person who on his income has to pay Super-tax, who would like the Super-tax reduced. There might be a person enjoying some exemptions given on the Income Tax in respect to marriage or children who wanted to continue these exemptions, while another Minister, more fortunately placed, or it might be less fortunately placed, thought that such exemptions should be abolished.
You could conceive of any number of conflicts between private interest and public duty arising. Since the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Burnley went beyond directors, which was a most remarkable thing to do, to the case of shareholders, let me give him an illustration, and as it is so difficult to make these illustrations inoffensive to everyone, I will take an illustration which affects myself, so that no one can interrupt me by rising and objecting that I am imputing corrupt motives to anyone. What I am to tell the House is actual fact. When I succeeded to certain money which was left to me in 1903, I made a certain investment—happily, only to a small extent—in German Government stock. At that time nothing seemed to be more prudent or more reasonable, and nothing, indeed, would have seemed more patriotic than such an investment, because the two Governments were on excellent terms, 103 and, so far as we took sides in the controversy of 1903, it was on the German rather than the French side in the diplomatic dispute. There was no sign of war, and everything seemed to be reasonable and prudent in what I had done. At that time, even in the case of war, European Governments were in the habit of retaining their solvency and paying their debts—unhappily a tradition which has passed away. When the War came, it happened in the discussions that arose, in a very heated atmosphere, that I supported the claims of the conscientious objector to consideration, and I became suspect to the most ardent section of those who were maintaining and upholding the policy of the War. I was in fact subject to a great deal of criticism on that head. I used to live in apprehension that my unhappy investment would be disclosed to the public, and I could not conceive anything more unfortunate than the effect which that would have. It would have been said, "We always said he was a pro-German; he has this money invested in German stock. He wants to make a profit out of the transaction. No wonder he is a friend of every enemy of his country." You can press this argument of a conflict of interest a very long way. Supposing I had held office and it had happened to me, when the War broke out, and there could he no question of selling the stock that I had held—not a small sum but a large sum, which made all the difference to me between comfort and comparative poverty—then when Lord Lansdowne made a proposal for an early peace, what could more directly have affected my personal interest, and how embarrassing would have been the situation.
The answer, then, is that you must leave these things to the discretion and the personal judgment of the individual concerned. It is true there are cases so extreme—perhaps that would have been such a case—as to make their tenure of office impossible. But there are cases, which cannot be distinguished from it by formal classification, which are perfectly trivial and in which no one would dream of suggesting there could be any real conflict. You must leave the matter to be determined by the honour of the person concerned. All personal conflicts of interest must be so determined, and if any additional reason is wanted surely 104 this is really, from the practical point of view, a conclusive reason, that if you cannot trust the honour of Ministers there is another way and an easy way by which they can make quantities of corrupt money and no one be the wiser, and that is the may of secret speculation. It is possible for a Minister of the Crown, through the simple method of one or two intermediaries which cannot possibly be traced, to use his knowledge to make any quantity of corrupt money and no one know anything about it. If you are exposed to such a danger as that, it is foolish to boggle about these small, indirect, inconclusive temptations to the deflection of national policy in deference to some corrupt consideration.
Naturally there is a thing which Members often impute and which is not an unreasonable thing to impute to all Governments, a certain fellowship between people who are similarly interested. The House of Lords, for example, in discussing the Irish land question, was often accused of being an assembly of landowners, though of course a very small proportion of the assembly owned Irish land, which alone was concerned. But there was an imputation of general sympathy between one landowner and another, which was not in itself an unreasonable imputation, and if you have Ministers composed on one side of business men or on the other side of Labour Members, there will be a sort of general sympathy with persons in similar positions. We must be guided by human beings who are subject to normal infirmity. You cannot get away from that general sympathy of people to whatever class or category of life they belong.
I want to make my position precise, not in any party interest, but in the interest of clearing this matter up, because it is necessary to clear it up. I reject the whole case of conflict of interest, because you cannot draw any rational distinction or put it on rational lines. I reject it because a self-interested and dishonourable Minister can easily make money if he chooses. I reject it because —from the public point of view quite as important—the general sympathy of one man for another belonging to his own class cannot be restricted by law, and in fact is just as likely to deflect people from the pure pursuit of patriotism as any more directly corrupt interest. Therefore I set it aside.
105 But that does not cover the case of direction. I am sorry the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Burnley did not seem to appreciate that the case of direction is quite a different case from the case of a shareholder. A shareholder is one case of a great many of personal interest. A director may be a case of divided allegiance. That is quite a different case. A man of the most scrupulous honour might find himself in a difficulty as a director of a public company if he went from a Cabinet Council in which a certain discussion had taken place to a board of direction, and found that something that related to the very same matter arose, and he had to give an opinion about it. It would not be enough to say, " I must subordinate my private interest to the public interest of the country." He would have to say, "I must betray the interest of my shareholders, because otherwise I shall be betraying the secrets of my colleagues," and that is an unfair position to put a person in, and an undesirable position ever to hold. It is not desirable that a person should have two perfectly honourable motives in conflict: not as when an honourable motive is in conflict with a dishonourable motive, as in the case of a conflict of private interest and public duty: but to put a person in the position that he may have to do wrong to one set of people or another is an unfair thing. Obviously the personal honour of the individual concerned is no protection. He has to betray either the shareholders, who trust him, or the public, whose servant he is as a Minister of the Crown. That is the real reason, and the only reason I know of, why Ministers should not be directors of public companies; and if my right hon. Friend had not explained that his direction was a perfectly nominal one, and that he never took part in the actual direction of the company, I should have thought that would be fair ground for asking him to resign his directorship. If he has no share in the direction, such a conflict cannot arise.
§ Lord H. CECIL
My right hon. Friend stated in his personal explanation the other day that he did not know anything about the business of the company, and 106 did not know what contracts had or had not been entered into. There is no dispute, I gather, that that is perfectly protected by Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman's exception. He is a director of a private company. Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman said nothing about that
§ Lord H. CECIL
It was not the point of Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman's statement. The right hon. Gentleman's argument was of quite a different kind. It was the same as the shareholding point, and I am sure that is unworkable. If you really suspect the Minister of Health of being deflected from his public duty by personal interest, you must erect a new system of rules altogether, and rules which would practically exclude from public life almost everyone. It would break down the machine of public life almost entirely if you tried to distinguish people and exclude all those whose private interests conflict with their public duty. The case of direction was not put forward by the right hon. Gentleman as a genuine ease of direction against my right hon. Friend, but as a matter of private interest. I say, therefore, that the present principle is perfectly plain.
Where a man may be brought under the conflict of two honourable motives, he ought to resign his directorship. Where he may be required to do something, because of his duty to the company, which is different from what he ought to do as a. Minister of the Crown, he ought to resign. Any other case ought to be left to the judgment of his own personal honour because we cannot, practically speaking, appeal behind that tribunal. You must rely upon his personal honour, or chaos comes, and you drive out of public life many very useful people. That is a real danger. It is anything but desirable in a democratic country that you should drive out of public life the solid leaders of commerce and industry, who have great experience in business matters, and whose services are therefore very valuable as Ministers of the Crown. If you make their lives harder, if you are going to search and find out how many shares they have in this and that, and trace out indirect connections between those shares and the policy the Government may be pursuing at the moment, you will make the posi- 107 tion intolerable to sensitive people, and in the end the public will suffer because it will lose men of real ability to conduct its affairs.
My Amendment does not deny at all that there might, and should be at some convenient time, an inquiry into the whole subject. I have tried to make it perfectly plain that, as I conceive it, there is now a clear distinction and a clear rule and a rule that does not imply that Ministers are not to have private interests which may conflict with their public duty. That is to be left to their own personal honour. Nevertheless an inquiry would certainly not he amiss, if only for clearing up suspicion. It is one of the evils of these discussions that they tend to promote suspicion in all sorts of minds, and already there have been a crop of suspicions. Some people think that this organised attack, for such it certainly is, is promoted from abroad. That it is organised I do not think admits of any doubt, because a quite impartial person like Dr. Shadwell wrote to the "Times" on Wednesday to point out that the. Prime Minister had been violently attacked in the last few weeks. [An HON. MEMBER: `So have the miners."] Certainly, with, I think, more provocation on their side.
The organised attack has been shown by the repeated attacks on the Prime Minister and by the character of the attack on the Minister of Health. Even in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Burnley there were evidences of industry, shall we say? He knew all the details. He had quite a catalogue, which must have taken some time to prepare. Industry is a beautiful virtue, but it is seldom less amiably displayed than in making attacks of this kind. There are, I believe, persons whose business it is to furnish information to people who engage in litigation, such as prosecutions, questions of corruption or questions of divorce, who are called "private detectives." They are industrious persons, and therefore, if in no other respect, they resemble those who are behind this Motion. They actively engage in all sorts of researches. They go to Somerset House, I dare say, quite as often as the right hon. Gentleman and his friends. They go because they are employed to go in the course of litigation. 108 No doubt it is often a useful public service, but at the same time, oddly enough, they do not stand very high in public esteem.
I am not going to say anything about Russia. [An HON. MEMBER: "Tell us about the Red Letter"] I am waiting for the hon. Member to tell me. I know nothing about the relations with the Communists or the extreme Socialists of Russia, but I gather that some Members of the Labour party believe such relations exist. I may be permitted to say that no less competent advisers as to the tactics of English party politics than Russians could be imagined, because the Russians are a very inexperienced, and we can honestly say a very foolish people in tactics, while the English are the most intelligent people in the world and may very easily see through Russian tactics. Therefore, if there be anyone—I am far from saying there is, because I do not know—who is guided by Russian advice in these matters, I think he is an injudicious person. My theory of the Motion is rather a different one.
§ Lord H. CECIL
No; I do not say anything about it. As to innuendo I only want to make the same sort of innuendo as your own leaders would make. My theory is rather different. I read a very interesting note in the current number of the "New Leader," which filled me with interest. I will not read the whole of it unless it be wished. [HON. MEMBERS: "Read it all!"] Very well:Naturally, the House has been excited and the Labour benches demonstrative throughout the discussion of this Bill. Inevitably, Mr. Baldwin, as the wavering apostle of peace in industry, was the subject of a concentrated attack, but the use of language, whether in the Press or in the House or on the platform, which describes him as a 'liar,' a. hypocrite,' or a murderer,' is to defeat our own purpose—That is, perhaps, not the most elevated reason. Nevertheless, it is, no doubt, a perfectly sincere one—We all know that Mr. Baldwin is a weak but well-meaning, man, surrounded by much stronger and more sinister forces. Mr. David Kirkwood protests in an article which we print elsewhere, against the action of Mr. MacDonald in disavowing and rebuking these scenes.109 Here is the part which I had intended to read:The real moral, to our thinking on this and some other occasions, is that the violence of our back-benchers is directly caused by the weakness of our front-bench. When it fails to argue militant Socialist policy in plain, if Parliamentary, language"—such as we have listened to from the right hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Henderson) to-day—and when it seems to adapt its tone to its Tory audience, then the irritation and disappointment of the rank and file will inevitably reveal itself in angry demonstrations.That gives an interesting glimpse of the inner life of the Labour party, a life full, as it seems to me, of warmth and colour. It is not an unfamiliar picture of a party. One has, first of all, the dissatisfied front-bencher, who says, "Rowdyism does us no good in the country." The rejoinder of the dissatisfied back-bench man is, "It is all very well to complain, but what use is the Front Bench anyway They suit their tone to the Tory audience." Then the mediator—there always is a mediator—comes along, and he says, "Well, perhaps disorder is undesirable, but cannot the Front Bench adopt a more militant line?" Then there is this Motion. This is the beginning of "the plain and Parliamentary language" which is to take the place of disorder. From our point of view, we have nothing to complain of in the change. I confess that if I wanted to call the Prime Minister a hypocrite and a murderer, I should find the language of the Motion a little an#æmic, but as that is not my point of view I make no complaint.
I think the front-bencher is not unlike a particular schoolboy, whom I think we can all recall in our school days, who, essentially law-abiding, and abstaining from all serious offences against school discipline, is not quite happy in being regarded as a milk-sop by his friends, and therefore indulges in a few mild expletives in conversation. The right hon. Member for Burnley seems to me like an innocent child saying "damn" for the first time. Far be it from me to add to the difficulties of the Front Bench in such a situation. But I must say that in matters of propaganda, if one wrote a manual on the subject, one would have to devote a 110 chapter to the essential difference between veracity and verisimilitude. The judicious propagandist, if he is an unscrupulous person, will say a great many things that are untrue, but he will not say anything that is totally lacking in verisimilitude. The attacks on the Prime Minister seem to fail, according to standards of wise propaganda, in verisimilitude. Does anyone really believe that the Prime Minister is a corrupt person, putting forward a coal policy in order to add to his profit? Why say so, if no one believes it? It is a waste of breath, which might be preserved for more profitable mendacity. Therefore, I should deprecate ignoring the principle that, when you are conducting a campaign against the Government, you should always say what a reasonable person may believe or, at any rate, a person whose vote is doubtful at the General Election. That is the thing that the propagandist has to think about. That rule of propaganda, strictly observed, would, I believe, have excluded almost all that has been said in support of, I do not say this Motion merely, but of the much more extreme accusations which have been made inside and outside this House.
In our Amendment we reject the whole of that campaign of calumny and insinuation. I do not gather that right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Opposition Bench uphold that campaign. It is true that the right hon. Member for Burnley said something about not throwing stones when you live in a glass house. The hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Johnston) said a good deal of the same kind. Let us clear our minds upon the point. Either this is mud slinging or it is not. If it is mud slinging, it is no defence to say that other people have slung mud at another time, much of the same kind. [Interruption.] If, on the other hand, it was not mud, what becomes of the Minister who was then assailed. If it was mud slinging to talk about biscuits—[Interruption.]. If hon. Members really think that there is anything in these charges they ought to say so. If they think there is nothing in them, they ought not to talk about glass houses, because that implies that there is something in them. That is the objection to bringing forward Motions of this kind, except on very peremptory occasions, because they inevitably lead to the more respectable 111 Members of the Opposition lending themselves, perhaps unconsciously, to the tactics of the less respectable Members, and there comes a sort of tendency to enable other people to say something which you disapprove of their saying. I do not think that is a legitimate or desirable thing in public life, although I should be far from saying that all parties do not yield to the temptation from time to time. I am far from maintaining that the Conservative party consists entirely of haloed saints, who never do anything wrong.
The sound principle is that if you are going to deal with these matters at all, you should deal with them only when you have an unanswerable case, and then you should say what you mean, neither more nor less, otherwise it is much better not to bring these matters before Parliament at all. The effect is not to raise the reputation of public life; it tends to make for that atmosphere of suspicion which everybody agrees—I am sure that right hon. Members on the Front Opposition Bench must agree—is mischievous and discreditable. Our real purpose should be to get public issues discussed on public grounds. What could be more absurd than to attack the Prime Minister for putting forward a coal policy from interested motives, when it is clear from the nature of the charge that he could only profit personally if his policy were completely successful, while at the same time the Opposition are maintaining that it cannot possibly be successful? What could be more absurd than a general accusation against a person of making a profit in his own business, or in the business in which he is supposed to be interested, when that profit will be shared by the whole community? Obviously, he ought never to have taken office at all. If he is to be stopped from doing what is profitable to himself and also profitable to the whole community, he could never do what is profitable, in his judgment, to the whole community. In that case, his business as Prime Minister from the beginning would he a mistake. That is an illustration of the absurdity which you get when you make these accusations.
§ Lord H. CECIL
I am discussing the Opposition's campaign, and if the hon. 112 Member reads the Amendment he will see why I am making these remarks. In the end, I think it will be found that the Labour party have done more harm than good to themselves by this move, for move it is in a party game. Those who teach others to sneer while not sneering themselves are, according to the poet, not objects for esteem. I believe it will be found when the last result is achieved that the Labour party will have done little but add to the venom which already surrounds the name of Party, and add dishonour to the honoured name of Labour.
§ Mr. THURTLE
It is a very curious fact that the two speakers we have heard from the Conservative party have talked about everything else under the sun except the very formidable case against the Minister of Health. The Noble Lord entertained us to a very lively account of the anxieties he went through during the War, because of the fact that he had a certain holding of German bonds and he thought that he might be charged with some kind of corruption. It does seem strange to me, in the light of history, that a member of the house of Cecil should be at all concerned about a charge of corruption. I remember hearing, some time ago, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) referring to the house of Cecil. He said—I think he particularly referred to the Noble Lord—that the Noble Lord's hands were dripping with the fat of privilege. [An HON. MEMBER: "Sacreligioue fat!"] It was fat obtained in some mysterious fashion. It is not at all curious that the Noble Lord, when he sees a Motion directed towards making public life more pure and making it more difficult for Members of the Government to obtain certain perquisites, should have to rush to the rescue of the Minister assailed.
The Prime Minister sought to ridicule the Motion on the Paper by suggesting that it is impossible for a member of the Government to put his investments into any form which will render him immune from suspicion, and he instanced railways, land, and other things. The logic of that is this, that if it is impossible to take any satisfactory precautions at all we might as well have no precautions whatever; we might allow Cabinet Ministers to be directors of public and private companies, participating fully and 113 freely in every Government contract which may be going. The Prime Minister also said, and I cannot think the House will take it seriously, that in any question as between private interests and public duty you could invariably count upon Members and Ministers coming down on the side of public duty. He suggested to the House that corruption is practically unknown here. If we like to turn our minds back to comparatively recent times, to the history of electricity companies and the legislation in connection with them, to the beet-sugar industry, and to many other instances where this House has been concerned in passing legislation which would be beneficial to private indiviluals, it is clear to any honest Member that private interests do enter, and quite largely, into the consideration of public policy.
I want to discuss the question of the Hoskins Company with perfect frankness. It is common ground, I think, that we want to see His Majesty's Government free, not only from corruption, but also from the suspicion of corruption, which is rather a different thing. A Minister ought so to order himself in his public and private affairs as to be free, not only from corruption, but from the very spirit of it In the interests of public purity, I propose to discuss this question of the Hoskins Company with a certain amount of frankness. I am not going to indulge in any allegation or charge which does not seem to me to be reasonably based on the facts of the case. The right hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. A. Henderson) said, quite fairly, that we were not indulging iii a campaign of calumny. We are letting the facts speak for themselves, and we are quite content that the facts should speak for themselves. In our view they tell a very eloquent and significant story. There is no need for any Member of the Government or any member of the Conservative party to lash himself into a fury while these facts are discussed. What are the facts in regard to Hoskins and Sons? It is a private company, owned to all intents and purposes by the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Health and his brother, the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. They have by far and away the great bulk of the ordinary shareholding. It is true there are some other shareholders, but their holding is really quite nominal 114 This private company, which is owned by the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Health and the Foreign Secretary, has been taking public contracts, and has been deriving from these public contracts profits which have gone into the pockets of the two right hon. Gentlemen to whom I have referred. We have, therefore, without any suspicion, or innuendo, or calumny, these plain facts, and I say that there is a prima facie case for investigation.
On the question of the directorship of the Minister of Health, I am prepared to admit that he has a defence, but it is a purely technical defence—technical and nothing else. If he is content with that, well and good. It has been laid down in the past that a director of a private company need not resign when he becomes a member of the Government, and, therefore, if the Minister of Health is content with a defence like that, he is entitled to make the best use he can of it. But I want to point out that this only serves to show how illogical and anomalous the present rule is in regard to private companies and public companies. A distinction is made between private companies and public companies, and I hope it will be explained some time during the course of the Debate the grounds upon which that distinction is made, why a member of the Government is called upon to resign a directorship in a public company while he is allowed to continue a directorship in a private company. I do not profess to be an expert in Company Law or in regard to the possibility of corruption, but to the Uninstructed lay mind there seems to be a much stronger ease for compelling resignation from a private company directorship than there is for compelling resignation from a public directorship. I will explain why. Normally, a director of a public company has not anything like a controlling interest in the shares of the company. He has often a large holding, but except in very exceptional cases it is nothing like a controlling interest, whereas in the case of a private company, the very reverse is the case.
In almost all eases directors in private companies have a controlling interest in the shares of that company. If you are going to lay it down on the ground e f public purity and to prevent any possibility of corruption or suspicion of cor- 115 ruption that a public directorship is to be resigned, surely, there is infinitely more reason for asking that private directorships should be relinquished. If there is a clash of interests as between private interests and public duty, the clash is much more likely to be marked in the case of private companies than in the ease of public companies. It has been said that if this rule be insisted upon it will involve hardship upon particular individuals. It may be that the individual who wants to become a member of the Government might be caved upon to relinquish directorships with which he has been associated for a long time. Even so. I say that individuals have to make their choice between serving the country in a representative capacity as members of the Government and their interests as directors of private companies. If you are going to weigh in the balance the private interests of an individual as against the public interest, certainly, public interest should come first every time.
I want to draw attention specifically to the position of the Minister of Health himself. He has got what I may call a technical defence, but if he has kept to the written law or the unwritten conventions of the country, I submit, and this is really our charge against him, that he has violated not the letter of the law but that he has most seriously violated the spirit of the law. Let me explain what I mean. There is a law on the Statute Book of this country making it an offence., involving resignation of the seat, and heavy penalties by way of fines, if a private Member of this House gets a contract with the Government. It was passed a long time ago, but it was passed in order to secure the freedom and independence of Parliament and presumably with the idea of raising the standard of public purity. Under that law a Member would vacate his seat and may he fined heavily if he indulges in a contract with the Government. What is the position of the Minister of Health in relation to that particular law? In reality, if not in form, the right hon. Gentleman and the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs have been contracting with the Government. They own practically the whole of the ordinary shares of this company, and in fact, if not in 116 legal form, what it amounts to is this, that you have a partnership consisting of Chamberlain Brothers—nominally it is Hoskins and Sons—and any profits which are made by this partnership go, in the main, into the pockets of these two main shareholders. If any profits are derived from public contracts they get the benefit of those profits, and, therefore, in substance, if not in legal form, you have these two right hon. Gentlemen indulging in the very offence of entering into contractual relations with the Government which, according to the law of 1782, involves the vacation of the seat and also heavy penalties by way of fines.
The defence is made that this is a private company. According to my researches private companies, as they are now known, were not in existence in 1782 when this law was enacted. They have sprung up since, and they are given a definite form under the Companies Act, 1907. It is quite likely that when the Act of 1782 was framed to prevent corruption this particular point was overlooked.
Here is one fact which I think is significant. Again, I make no charge and indulge in no innuendo, but let the facts speak for themselves. This is a private company. A private company may consist of two or more members. It need not consist of 10 members. It may consist of five or of two members. This particular company consists of over 10 members. I believe that is rather an unusual number in private companies. It consists of 12 members. The curious fact is that in order to get those 12 members there are five members of the company with perfectly nominal holdings—five clerks, I think, who hold one preference share each. I submit to the House generally that that is really the quintessence of a nominal holding—one preference share— but by means of these five additional members the company has a membership of over 10. I may be asked why I am spending time in developing this particular point, and what significance it has in relation to the point under discussion. I will explain to the. House what the significance is. Under this law of 1782, to which reference has been made, even if the right hon. Gentleman were trading as a public company, if that company had a membership of less than 10 members 117 he would be amenable to the law, but as it has a membership of over 10 he is not, amenable to the law, and really if I were a prosecuting counsel in a Court of Law, I think I should be entitled to emphasise this fact as one of some significance.
The charge which we are making against the right hon. Gentleman is not a charge of corruption. We cannot say definitely—it would be wrong for us to say, because we have no proof—that the right hon. Gentleman is guilty of corruption, but we can say, and say with perfect fairness that he has acted in such a way as to expose himself to a suspicion of corruption. I submit that a Member of the Government ought not to indulge in any act which is likely to expose him or his Government even to a suspicion of corruption in connection with public affairs. Therefore, we are perfectly entitled to press this Motion to a Division, and indeed, to ask the House to accept it, because, apart from the reference to the right hon. Gentleman—I have endeavoured to give the ground which justifies us in making that reference—there is long overdue a full inquiry into the facts governing the conditions under which Members of the Government can indulge in contracts with the Government. There is also long overdue an inquiry as to how far Members of the Government who have large shareholdings in private companies, the bulk of whose business is done with the Governmcnt—as to whether that is right and proper according to a decent conception of public propriety.
§ Lieut.-Colonel SPENDER-CLAY
The hon. Gentleman who has just spoken stated that he was making no charges of corruption and indulging in no innuendoes, but it struck me during the whole time that I listened to him that from first to last the hon. Gentleman wished the House to understand that the brothers Chamberlain were combining together in their official capacity as Members of the Government in order to secure contracts for their firm. I am not going to deal with that case; I will leave it to my right hon. Friend the Minister for Health himself. But I must say that certainly did not get the impression from his speech that he was not making charges of corruption. I rise to support the Amendment which was moved by my 118 Noble Friend the Member for Oxford University (Lord H. Cecil) with such force and with the ability which we always expect from him. I hope that the same publicity may be given to that speech as was given to the misleading statements regarding the Minister of Health and the Prime Minister which have appeared in certain parts of the Socialist press.
I want to point out the absolute futility of the Committee which has been asked for. The only way by which this country can be assured of a Government which is free from corruption is by trusting the personal character and by knowing the personal character of Ministers of the Crown. It is impossible to lay down a hard and fast rule as to what a member of the Government should have or should not have in the way of investments. The Prime Minister said that you would have to advertise for a foundling. If you had men who were not engaged in business you would probably have those who had failed in business, or second-class lawyers, and cannot think that a Government composed of all the duds would he conducive to the national well-being. If a Minister with a knowledge of, say, foreign affairs, or possible industrial troubles, used that information in order that his friends or relatives, by purchases or sales on the Stock Exchange, might make a profit, no Select Committee could possibly clear up such a case.
I want to examine the position as it might be if the party opposite formed a Government. I would like for a moment to discuss what the composition of that Government would probably be. You would have the leaders of trade unions; you would have some of the intelligentsia of the Labour party; and you would have possibly one or two men who belonged to the Socialist party, the kind of men who go to their constituencies in a Rolls Royce or a Hispanio-Suiza and complete the latter part of the journey in a tramcar, while their wives cover up their pearls with red jumpers. Then you might have professors of economies who never had an opportunity of putting their theories into practice. That is what would probably he the future Labour Government.
119 Are not Members of this House who are members of a trade union really delegates from that trade union and not free Members at all? There are Members who throughout their lives have been connected with mining. There are over 40 paid officials of the miners' trade union in this House. If they got a job in the next Government would not they be obliged, whether they wished it or not, to obey the orders of their union? If they showed independence, when the Ministry came to end they would have to go back to their union, and if they were still in disagreement with the Miners' Federation they would have either to work at the coal face or go to the guardians. There would be no alternative. They must remain delegates of the Miners' Federation even while members of the Government. There is not the slightest doubt that members of the Miners' Federation who were Members of the House would have a direct interest in such a question as nationalisation. No Committee which could be set up could possibly deal with cases like that.
Take another aspect of the case. Take the position of a man like Mr. Cook or Mr. Herbert Smith, not members of the Government. One of them comes clown and makes a speech in some part of the country. That speech might have an immediate effect on the iron and steel industry of the country, and people might make money on the Stock Exchange. Then take the case of the right hon. Member for Derby (Mr. J. H. Thomas) and the hon. Member for Barrow-in-Furness (Mr. Bromley). If they were crooks and went 'down to their constituents and said, "There is trouble in the railway unions. We cannot stand this imposition of the companies," the effect of such a speech would be to lower the value of the ordinary shares of the railway by several points. It is perfectly obvious that by that means, also, there might be corruption. But no Select Committee that you could set up would deal with such cases.
We recollect what has happened to Members of this House. There are the hon. Members for Mansfield (Mr. Varley) and Broxstowe (Mr. Spencer). Both of them have shown some independence in the miners' dispute. They were whistled to heel by Mr. Cook and Mr. Smith. 120 They had to go back. If they had not gone back they would have lost their jobs. The case of Mr. Hodges is in the newspapers to-day. He has shown independence. I do not say whether he is right or wrong, but I do state that no one knows more about the miners than Mr. Hodges. We saw this morning that Mr. Cook had said "Hodges must go," and, presumably, Hodges will go. You cannot have hard-and-fast rules dealing with cases such as those. If a man is a crook he will we a crook, whether a Minister of the Crown or anything else. If a Committee were appointed there is another danger which is patent to some of us. It is quite possible that a man, a prominent politician, might by some means or other secure a huge political fund, and he might be able to make or mar the political prospects of scores of young men in the country. He might say, "If you do not toe the line I shall not give you any money." That, also, is a case where you cannot lay down a hard-and-fast rule, because in a man does not wish to run straight no rule on earth can possibly make him run straight.
I object to the terms of the Motion. On the whole, it has been debated quietly and with dignity. There have not been the interruptions to which we have been accustomed. I have been a Member of this House for more than 15 years, and I have seen stormy times here. We expect them. But I do not think I have ever seen a more steadily organised system of interruptions than that which we have seen in the past few months. In the Press and in speeches in the country there have been innuendoes against those, such as the Prime Minister, whom we most respect in political life. When such an attempt is made to drag them into the dirt it makes the blood of Members on this side of the House boil. I think there has been extraordinary forbearance on the part of members of our party in the way we have stood this constant interruption which has amounted at times almost to unbridled licence. I must say I bitterly resent it myself, because I think that, as far as the Prime Minister is concerned. nobody could have acted in a more patriotic way, and nobody could have made less profit out of his opportunities as a business man, and I deeply resent the imputation which has been cast upon the right hon. Gentleman. I do not think 121 this is the moment to have a Committee of this description. I am certain it would not do any good. It could not legislate for all the eases which may arise. It is only by choosing your public men from those whom you trust, from those about whom no breath of suspicion has ever been aroused, that you can secure pure government in this country.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
I should not have intervened in this Debate were it not for the fact that I happen to have written and said a good many things on this subject outside the House, and I should nor like to say outside the House what I would not be prepared to say inside the House. Before I deal with the subject generally, I desire to congratulate the Noble Lord the Member for Oxford University (Lord H. Cecil) on once more being able, by the use of that skill which everyone knows him to possess, to confuse the issue most thoroughly. Of all the men in this House, the Noble Lord is the last who, at this time of day, ought to stand up in defence of law and order in the House. On occasions when it has suited him and his noble relative, they have been among the most disorderly persons this House has ever had within its precincts. I am astounded at the agility with which he has been able this afternoon to turn his mind and to give those who sit on this side a sort of sanctimonious lecture as to our good behaviour, or want of it. Knowing as I do, from my own experience, how the Noble Lord has acted when he has been in a rage defending vested interests and knowing the lengths to which he can go when it suits him, I am astonished that even he has had the audacity to lecture us as he has done. I think also of other Noble Lords and especially of that Noble Lord who sat below the Gangway there, and who, on one memorable occasion, charged the Prime Minister of the day, whom everyone in the country respected, by telling him "to go back to his bottle—to go back to his drink."
§ Mr. LANSBURY
No, the Noble Lord the Member for Oxford University did not do it, but another Noble Lord did, who sat within two seats of where the Noble Lord is sitting now. It is quite too late in the day for Noble Lords and hon. and right hon. Gentlemen on the other side who heaved books at one 122 another and shouted down Mr. Asquith time and time again during the Home Rule discussions—
§ Mr. HANNON
I submit that the hon. Member is putting up a line of argument which has no relation to the subject under discussion.
§ Mr. HANNON
The Noble Lord the Member for Oxford University (Lord H. Cecil) made no reference to the point with which the hon. Member is dealing.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I did not hear it, but I gather that the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury) is replying to a previous statement.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
The Noble Lord was at great pains to give to my hon. Friends and myself a lecture as to how we ought to behave ourselves in Parliament, and I think I am entitled to retort, that, in my recollection of his own conduct, he has been on occasion one of the most disorderly Members of this House.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I am afraid that occasions of this sort are taken up with tu quoques which lead nowhere.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
As a matter of fact. I am not anxious to pursue that line of argument except to recall to the House that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen, some of whom now sit on the Front Bench opposite, some of whom are now in another place and some of whom still sit below the Gangway, when they have been moved by passions which they considered legitimate and right have not only interrupted the proceedings of this House, but have definitely held up the business of this House in order to show their indignation and their contempt for the Ministry of the day. Because I feel like that, I resent very much the kind of lecture we have had from the Noble Lord this afternoon. He gave us that lecture 123 because neither he nor anybody else, so far, has attempted to defend the position which we are attacking. Nobody has said that the position in which the Minister of Health finds himself is either legitimate or right. I am waiting to hear somebody do so
§ Major OLIVER STANLEY
Does the hon. Gentleman make the accusation that the Minister of Health has acted in a manner which is illegitimate and wrong?
§ Mr. LANSBURY
If the hon. Member allows me to finish my speech, he will know exactly what I say. I do not think anyone can charge me, at any rate, with not trying to make people understand what I say, and I will try to do so on this occasion. I was pointing out that up to the present no one has controverted the facts of this case. Again I turn to the Noble Lord the Member for Oxford University. He apparently thinks that when a set of circumstances arise which do not appear to be quite right, those who ask for an investigation of those circumstances are guilty of unworthy motives. I do not charge the Noble Lord with it, but, if my memory serves me aright, I think it was someone belonging to his house who pursued the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) in connection with the Marconi business, in a very much more virulent manner than any of us have adopted to pursue the right hon. Gentleman opposite. Therefore, it does not lie with the Noble Lord to give us a curtain lecture on that subject either. It is a case of "physician heal thyself" when he attempts to charge us. We had a perfect right, when it was brought to our notice that the right hon. Gentleman was interested in two companies which were in contractual relation with the Government to call for an investigation of that matter. I am certain if it had been brought to the right hon. Gentleman's notice that I, or any of my colleagues on the Poplar Board of Guardians, had an interest in buying property from or selling goods to the board of guardians, he would have done his duty by appointing an official to investigate the matter. I could not complain about it. It would be his duty to do so, as it was our duty to do this, and I am certain, had the boot been on the other foot, hon. and right hon. Gentlemen 124 opposite would have been quite willing to investigate such a charge as this, if made against the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Shettleston (Mr. Wheatley) when he was at the Ministry of Health. No amount of argument can get over those facts. I would like the Attorney-General who may, one of these days, like his predecessors, have to prosecute some unhappy member of a local authority for being in a position similar to the position of the right hon. Gentleman to-day, to answer the question: Are we to have one standard of business morals for Members of this House and of the Government and another for members of local authorities? If not, I claim that we were entitled to take up the attitude which we have taken up in regard to the right hon. Gentleman's holding of these shares.
I turn to the broader issue. More and more in this House there will come up for discussion questions connected with the transference of big businesses from private concerns to the State, and men and women will be called upon to decide purchase prices, and so forth. We have had cases of that character. Anyone who does not care to take any notice of what I say, may, if he chooses, read the OFFICIAL REPORT of the proceedings of the Standing Committee which is dealing with the Electricity Bill upstairs, and anyone who does so cannot get away from the fact that hon. and right hon. Gentleman in that Committee quite openly say that they are speaking on behalf of certain private interests or certain bodies. As the days go past, and as industry comes more and more under the control of Parliament, the man who has vested interests, that is, the man who owns shares and who is acting as a director, cannot play a kind of Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde part—one moment full of concern for the public service and the next taking care of his own private interests. I think the time has come when a Committee such as that for which we are asking ought to be set up.
The Noble Lord made great play about the use of the epithet "murderer," which he said has been flung across the Floor at the Prime Minister. I want to say--and I say this with a full sense of what I am saying—that I believe the miners, when they claim that the eight hours working day means more accidents and 125 more deaths in the mines. I think they are quite right in calling that Bill a "Murder Bill" and I also hold—and this is a view I hold very strongly indeed—that the right hon. Gentleman's Bill, which got through this House last Friday, is a Bill which will safeguard that murder and will force the men back. The Noble Lord said we had two arguments about the Mines Bill, one that it would not work and the other that the Prime Minister and others were voting for it in order to get themselves money. I do not think any of us have ever said that it was impossible to drive the men back to work by starvation. I think it possible that such a thing may happen. I have never taken the view that if you starve women and children by tens of thousands, the men can stand by and see them starve for ever, and the right hon. Gentleman has taken power, in the Bill passed last week, which will enable this starvation to come about. That is why I call it a "safeguarding of murder Bill."
I, therefore, maintain that the Government which is responsible for passing that Bill into law are, in effect, responsible for the slow murder of the men in the pits and for the increased accidents which will follow that Bill. When I am told that I am to respect the motives of the Prime Minister and the motives of other people who have huge interests in coal, all I can say is, that, as I understand that Bill, it is a Bill for the express purpose, at least in the minds of the promoters—and this is what the Noble Lord has to keep in his mind—of making those companies that at present do not do so pay their way. I am entitled to say, what I have said outside, and only for myself, that those who originated and passed that Bill into law have passed a Bill which will, in their judgment, enable money to come into their own pockets. I think that at least men who were intensely interested in the mining industry might have stood on one side and allowed other people to bring in the Bill. I do not think the working people of this country will ever forgive the Government and the Prime Minister for having brought in that Bill, knowing, as they do know, the enormous amount of benefit that will come to the people who own coal-mining shares and iron foundry shares and so on. It is not really that this will benefit the coal industry; it will benefit every industry that is 126 dependent on the coal industry. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] Then hon. Members opposite give me my case entirely. They hope that by the passing of that Bill their dividends and rents and so on will be increased. Hon. and right hon. Members—
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury) began by saying he was replying to something said by the Noble Lord the Member for Oxford University (Lord H. Cecil). He is now going on to discuss a Bill which left this House some days ago.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
With very great respect, the Noble Lord chaffed us with having said that that was a murder Bill, and that we charged the Prime Minister and other Ministers with having passed it in order to put money into their own pockets, and I am replying to that charge.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I allowed the hon. Member to reply, but I think he is going on to a general discussion of that point.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
I had to do that in order to make my argument. The whole point is that, if money is going to flow in the way of dividends and profits because of that Bill, we were entitled to make our criticism of the Prime Minister and others interested in the coal industry. I am quite certain of this, that without raising the argument of "You are another," any of us in a similar position would not have had one minute's mercy—I should not expect it and should not want it—from hon. and right hon. Members opposite. I believe the miners of this country are going to be treated in the most abominable manner in order that rents, royalties, profits, and dividends may be made.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
I charge those who passed the Bill with having passed it and with having risked the murder and maiming and bruising of miners in order to feather their own nests.
§ Sir JOHN SIMON
I desire to bring the House back to what seems to me to he the immediate matter involved. I very much regret, I very deeply regret, that the question which this Motion brings before the House should be complicated 127 by personal references or should have its origin in anything that has been done or that is said to have been done by any individual occupant of the Treasury Bench. It is quite inevitable, if those are the circumstances in which a Motion of this sort is put down, that you should get, and very properly get, on the side of the House where the Minister sits a body of people. who are determined at all costs to defend him against any suggested imputation—every Englishman can only respect that feeling, and I share it to the full—and, on the other hand, you are quite certain to get speakers who, while repudiating any suggestion of corruption, at the same time make a great many rather personal references. I think it a profound pity, because the truth is that the question that is involved in this Resolution is a very important question, and—I say it in the presence of the Attorney-General, who may be going to speak—I do not think it is covered by any ruling of Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman or anybody else. The Prime Minister obviously thought it was, because, when he was challenged about it, he referred to the Campbell-Bannerman ruling, and I have no doubt many hon. Members think so quite honestly.
I do not profess to be informed of every ruling that has ever been given, but, as far as I can see, the question, if we are prepared to face it in general terms, and apart altogether from the case of the right hon. Gentleman opposite, is not only obviously an important question, but it is a new question. We have to distinguish between two things, which have got nothing in the world to do with one another, but which in this particular Resolution are brought before the House in combination. One question is: In what circumstances ought a Minister of the Crown to retain a directorship of a company, whether public or private? About that, no doubt, rulings have been given from time to time, and I am not aware of anything, if I may be allowed to say so, in the behaviour of the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Health which in the least transcends that rule—not in the least. But there is a second and quite distinct, question, which was no part of the Campbell-Bannerman ruling at all, and which arises in a perfectly different connection, and that is this: 128 Should a Cabinet Minister continue to be the director of a company, whether public or private, which has contracts with the Government? That is a perfectly different question, and Sir Henry Camp-bell-Bannerman, as far as I know, never laid down any ruling in favour of that at all.
The point put to the former Prime Minister was this, if I may put it in very colloquial language: Should a Cabinet Minister be a guinea pig? Should a man who was getting a substantial salary as a Minister of the Crown add to that salary by serving as a director of a company? It was before the days when I was a Member of this House, but I remember as a young man reading the debates, and I remember the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, Lord St. Aldwyn, or Sir Michael Hicks-Beach, making a speech ,in which he said, referring, no doubt, to Mr. Balfour, as he then was: " Some of my colleagues take their relaxation in playing golf. I take my relaxation in walking down the Embankment and taking part in a board meeting of a company." That was the question which was raised and ruled upon by Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, and he took this view. He said, in general: It is desirable that people who are Ministers should get rid of their other business occupations, and devote the whole of their time to their Ministerial duties. I think that is, prima facie, a perfectly good rule. But, he said, there may be cases where it is difficult or impracticable for a Minister to do that. He ought not to continue on the board of directors of some public concern, such as Brunner Mond, Levers, a railway company, or whatever it may be. There is no reason why he should. He should resign his directorship and let somebody who is not a Minister take his place. But, said Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, there may be cases where it is practically very difficult for the Minister to do that.
He described it as a private company, though I think it was before the days when the technical definition between private companies and public companies had been drawn up. Nowadays, if I am not mistaken, a private company means, among other things, a company that does not issue a prospectus and invite public subscriptions, and things of that sort, but Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, not 129 laying down an abstract rule for the guidance of Law Courts but as a matter of common sense, said: If my colleague is a director in some family company, some private company, which is really nothing more than a family business which has been turned, for the purpose of convenience, into a company, I do not think I can lay down an absolute rule that he must give it up, and I think, in the circumstances, he might retain it. Of course, always lying behind that rule is the obvious, prime condition that we expect—and we expect in every case—that Ministers of the Crown will always act like honourable men. That was the ruling of Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, but the House will see that that has nothing in the world to do with the question as to whether or not a Minister should continue as a director of a company, whether public or private, if the company has contractual relations with the Government, and it seems to me such a pity that this subject, which is a very important one, one on which it is quite in the public interest that we should have profound deliberation and serious conclusions, should be presented in this atmosphere of innuendo and counter-innuendo, which T utterly repudiate, because I have not the faintest doubt in the world that the right hon. Gentleman opposite, whose name has been brought in in this matter, has acted with just as much candour and straightforwardness as the Leader of the Opposition did when he was rebuked in some quarters in connection with the motor car and a firm of biscuit manufacturers.
I do not care which side is taken. You do nothing hut degrade the House of Commons if you seek an occasion to raise these large questions of public conduct in the atmosphere of innuendo and counter-innuendo. But I must say that on the merits of the question itself, it is useless to tell the House of Commons that the ruling of Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman decided the point. It decided nothing of the sort. If I may most respectfuly suggest it, without making the smallest reflection upon anybody, I confess I should 'have thought, if a Cabinet Minister came to realise that he was in fact a director of a company which was making contracts with the Government, that most people in. those circumstances would have felt a 130 little bit the ambiguity of the situation. It is a matter which I have no doubt cannot have been very prominently brought to the right hon. Gentleman's attention, but I repeat, as the Prime Minister has been good enough to come in, that it is not the least the case that this general question is governed by Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman's rule at all.
The question here—I do not like to put it personally and individually, because it is a general question—is: Should people, when they become Ministers of the Crown, notwithstanding that they avail themselves of the practice by which they may remain directors of a family or private company, continue to be directors when they find out that that company is contractual relations with the Government? I confess that I should have thought there was a vast deal to be said for the view that they should not. The difference between a firm and a company in this matter is purely technical. The Noble Lord the Member for Oxford. University. (Lord H. Cecil) said just now that the old rule, which applied to individuals, arose in very different circumstances, but it is a rule which to-day works sometimes with very great harshness and with extraordinary technicality. T am sure there must be many—and I daresay the Attorney-General is one of them—who have known cases of a Member a the House who, in the most complete good faith, without any knowledge of his own That the thing was being done, has been horrified to find that the firm in which, perhaps, he is merely a sleeping partner as a matter of fact, entered into some perfectly harmless contract with the Government, and yet the House of Commons has thought it well to lay down a rule about it.
It is all very well for the Noble Lord to say that we must leave these things at large, and trust to the honesty and good sense of public men. I am all for affirming the honesty and good sense of public men, bat still, we have found cases where it is desirable rather more precisely to lay down rules of conduct, as much for the protection of ourselves as for any other reason, and the truth is that if you for a moment will consider the case of contractual relations with the Government, there is not really 131 any substantial difference between a family firm with two or three partners, not one of whom could be a Member of the House of Commons, if there was any contract made with the Government, and the case of a family company, perfectly honestly and properly controlled, which has got two of its members directing and which, for all I know, has got the whole substantial shareholding in one or two hands. This matter has been raised in, I think, a most unfortunate way—I entirely agree with the right hon. Gentleman—but, being raised, it is a proper subject for the most careful consideration. I wish very much that the Prime Minister, or the Attorney-General, if he is going to speak, would say that it, is the intention of the Government in a clear atmosphere to have the matter investigated, because, as things are, observe how extraordinarly abnormal and how very ridiculous the situation really is! I am not talking about any right hon. Gentleman in particular.
Suppose I were a Member of a Government, and I had been for years a family director of a private company. What is the position? As it is a private company it is within the exception of the Campbell-Bannerman ruling so far as holding Cabinet Office is concerned. If it were a public company, under the Campbell-Bannerman ruling I should either have to resign my directorship or refuse to accept the offer of the office as Minister. Again, in the private company the rule does not apply: seeing that it is a family firm the company may have what contractual arrangement it pleases or can secure from His Majesty's Government. I cannot believe that the Prime Minister, who has the practical business sense, will think this situation is one, which, in the circumstances, there is nothing to be cleared up. It is quite right, I should have thought, that ordinary business people, that ordinary sensible people, will not desire to leave the practice in a state of doubt. For these reasons I should very much like to receive an assurance from the Treasury Bench that this matter is going to be faced by, I hope, with the assent of everybody, even at the risk of mistakes, and made the actual subject, in calm weather, of an impartial inquiry. It would not be right to leave it where it is.
132 I must conclude by saying—I do not want to leave this in doubt—that I find it quite impossible to vote for this Motion. It is useless for people to protest that it is not intended, or that it is not in the nature of a personal attack. It is in fact the ripost; it is really intended as a retort, as an answer, to some very, very damaging, and I think very injurious things, which have been said at the expense of hon. Members on this side. I can well understand it. It is extraordinary how virtuous we can all be, and in what abstract terms we can express ourselves, when we are engaged in covertly criticising individuals on the other side of the House—in calling the kettle black. I remember the scene very well in which the Noble Lord the Member for Oxford University (Lord H. Cecil) was the ringleader in one of the most disgraceful scenes the House of Commons ever witnessed. As a matter of fact the "Times" described the Noble Lord as "the ringleader in Parliamentary rowdyism." I am not in the least interested in these contests between one set of people and the other. We are all of us always immensely virtuous in general terms at what is thought to be the mistakes of individuals on the other side. I will undertake to say that I can give three cases in turn connected with each of the three parties in which hon. Members will reject and then confirm what I am saying.
Take the Marconi case. Whatever may have been said of the prudence or the propriety of the Marconi investment, it was a monstrous misuse of Parliamentary opportunity to suggest that it was proved corruption—monstrous! Among other people the right hon. Gentleman the present Minister of Health, though he was not then a Member of the House, used sonic very strong language, which I have here. I am content, however, to quote the then Leader, Mr. Balfour, who said:I regard all this charge of corruption as perfectly futile and absurd from the beginning, and unworthy of the consideration of this House.Yet there were people in the Conservative party who went on month after month with the plainest suggestion of corruption, largely at the expense of Liberal Members. Exactly the same thing happened the other day when there was some criticism about. the present Leader of the Opposition in regard to his acceptance 133 of a motor-car. I think that in this particular case he got off much more lightly than most people might have expected. But that does not alter the fact that it would have been a most gross misuse of Parliamentary opportunity if anybody had tried to build up a case against the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Aberavon. [Interruption.] I am only saying whoever did that, whatever party did it, it was quite unjustified. The real effect of it is to discredit the reputation of the House of Commons outside. I would appeal to the Prime Minister, if he is going to speak at all, to give us the assurance that in this particular matter there shall be a prompt and impartial inquiry and consideration into what should be done. In the meantime, like decent people, let us all put it on record that we will have nothing to do with innuendo and imputation covertly made against hon. Members in whatever quarter of the House they sit.
§ Mr. CADOGAN
The Prime Minister, I gathered from his speech, made the observation that this might be an appropriate occasion to investigate the merits of the issue raised by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Burnley (Mr. A. Henderson). Those of us, however, who have put our names down to the Amendment moved by the Noble Lord the. Member for 'Oxford 'University (Lord H. Cecil) are surely precluded from taking the course suggested for a very obvious reason. The wording of our Amendment makes it quite clear that while we are all quite willing to have this matter investigated, we decline to have it investigated at a time when it would appear to be a concession to what we insist is an organised campaign of calumny and insinuation. I have never been the ringleader of any disgraceful scene, while have been in this House at any rate, and in this respect I am on a firmer ground than the Noble Lord who moved the Amendment.
I have no intention of following the speech of the right hon. Gentleman who moved the Motion, which I thought ended rather abruptly, as though he did not quite relish the theme which his followers provided for him, nor the: speech of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Dundee (Mr. Johnston), the chief warrener of the party, whose ferreting in the burrows of Somerset House has apparently met with indifferent success 134 Perhaps the House will allow me to indulge in a personal reminiscence, seeing that allusion has been made to what took place in 1900, a reminiscence in which in all likelihood very few Members in the House are able to share. I remember distinctly on the occasion of that Debate in 1900 getting a seat in one of the Public Galleries, where I heard that historical Debate, and I am certain it never occurred to my mind on that occasion that after the lapse of many years I would be witnessing the Opposition engaged in the ghoulish occupation of distinterring the dry bones of a controversy which should have been laid to rest a quarter of a century ago. No one shows to advantage in impugning the personal honour of a political opponent, it matters not to what party he belongs. The personal attack too often recoils upon the assailant. Too often the impression is created that the personal attack merely conceals a complete lack of substance in the charge. I am not one of those who care to trace every manœuvre of the Labour party to sinister influences outside this House or even outside this country. But it is difficult to resist the suspicion that these scurrilous attacks upon the integrity of Ministers of the Crown, combined as they are with an obvious attempt to impair the dignity and the prestige of the Imperial 'Parliament, are contrived by some authority over which the Front Opposition Bench have no authority or control.
The attack developed somewhat unexpectedly a few days ago, when the Prime Minister became a target for unworthy disparagement and unworthy insinuations. I do not know what impression was conveyed to the minds of other hon. Members, but for my part the sequence of events was exactly the reverse of what I had anticipated. One might have expected from the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition some remonstrance when that attack was made: that he would have administered some rebuke to his followers. Exactly the reverse happened. The right hon. Gentleman remained in his place, with that air of melancholy resignation which has become so familiar to the House. He observed a discreet silence which Members on this side of the House had a right to interpret as a sympathetic acquiescence in the behaviour of his back bench 135 members. Now we have the attacks developing on a wider front. Its objective is presumably to include the whole of our front line. It is not my intention, as I have said before, to deal with the personal aspect of the matter. The hon. Members immediately concerned, if they consider it worth while, can reply themselves but, as I said before, I will confine myself to exploring the motives which influenced the Opposition to table the Resolution we are now discussing. There are several motives. Perhaps the least reprehensible is to he traced to the old obsession, the undying ambition to break down the capitalist system.
Does any hon. Member on any side of the House really believe in his heart that if one were to alter and revolutionise the whole of our social, industrial and political systems, human nature would be any different to what it is, or that there would be no one on the make and no one with an eye to the main chance? If there be any corruption on an extensive scale in our public life—and I indignantly deny that there is anything of the kind—I believe it would be rather aggravated than modified if our fortunes were entrusted to the hands of those of that type of individual we associate with State control. If the proposal of hon. Members opposite were pressed to its logical conclusion, you would, of course, eliminate many of those elements which are extremely valuable in the conduct of our affairs.
It was pointed out in the Debate which I listened to 26 years ago, that the reductio ad absurdum, of this experiment would be that only a pauper would be eligible to take any part in our public life. I will go further than that and say it would be a pauper both in body and in mind who alone would be eligible to conduct our affairs. Let hon. Members rest assured that the net result of your self-denying ordinance being made rigid and relentless would undoubtedly be to eliminate every element except the professional politician, the street orator, and the hireling agitator. Is that a consummation which is to be desired Surely it is one or the glories of our system that you can attract into the sphere of government representatives of every human interest and every conceivable kind of 136 human activity. I have always been opposed to the suggestion which has been pressed from those benches opposite that we should meet here in the morning. The reason I have opposed it is that it would undoubtedly mean the elimination of those who have to control interests outside the sphere of political life. That would be the only result of such an innovation, and it is just those men of affairs and business whose judgment and advice is so immensely valuable in this House and in local government as well. It is to those very individuals that we turned for advice and assistance during our peril in the Great War and not to the professional politician or to the hireling agitator, who was not available but was skulking in holes, leaving others to make the world safe for democracy. Hon. Members opposite are always complaining that this country is in the hands of financiers. I would far rather see it in the hands of men who understand finance than have the fortunes of this country at the caprice of men who are utterly ignorant of the first axioms which govern industry.
Before I sit down, I should like to address myself to the motive which it has been alleged by certain hon. Members is actuating those who arc bringing forward this Motion. I am prepared to believe that this is part and parcel of a larger scheme to bring Parliament and democratic government into discredit. No one who has had the devastating experience in the last few weeks of sitting through our Debates could have carried away with him any other feelings than those of repugnance and disgust. I do not know how far any section of the community outside endorses the behaviour we have witnessed in the last few weeks in this House nor do I know how far it will affect the fortunes of the party opposite. They have won a by-election recently, and they may win others again. Success is quite easy for a party who can with impunity indulge the electorate with seductive promises of higher wages and shorter hours without any immediate prospect of having to carry them into fulfilment. But if the party opposite believe that they can find any mandate in any success they have had at the polls for the kind of campaign that has been instituted recently, or that the seal of public opinion is set on the cam- 137 paign of frightfulness we have recently witnessed, I can only say they are suffering under a very grave delusion.
I believe our institutions will survive long after the echoes of the last few weeks have died away. On the other hand—and this is a serious point—if this combined attack does succeed—and it is not always the right which prevails in our human affairs—then I can only say that there are men in every quarter of this House who rate their own careers and their own small personal ambitions far below their steadfast solicitude for the dignity and honour of the Imperial Parliament, and, if this does succeed, you will hound out of public life men whom, at this particular juncture when pernicious influences are at work, England can ill afford to spare.
§ Mr. RAMSAY MacDONALD
I have read the week-end Press, which generally represents the opinions and sometimes is moved by the hand of the Government and its followers, with a great deal of interest, and I have listened to the Debate with a good deal of expectation. I understand that hon. Members opposite, when the next election comes, are going to conduct the campaign at any rate with a certain amount of decency. I am not quite sure that what they are really arguing is this. The speech of the right hon. Gentleman (Sir J. Simon) rather seemed to indicate he was arguing this, that if you want to slander anybody, do it outside the House of Commons and not inside.
§ Mr. MacDONALD
I am quite sure that the right hon. and learned Gentleman did not mean this conclusion, but his argument was that it is degrading to our Parliamentary institutions to bring certain matters like this, which one would call personal affairs and accusations, to the Floor of the House on which our Debates always take place; that the House never shines in these circumstances, and that everybody concerned, whether they sit on that side or this, at the end of the Debate, if they will make a solemn confession, are rather ashamed of the whole affair. That is perfectly true, but the deduction from that surely is that if there is something that is to be brought up relating to the conduct 138 of Ministers in public affairs, if there is any objection to a certain action—if there is any objection to a certain action of my own, if it were true, as the right hon. Gentleman said outside, in using my position inside, sitting where the Prime Minister now sits, I have acquired certain things to enable me to loll through life in comfortable cars for the rest of my days—candidly I prefer it should be done inside here where there is an opportunity of this kind. It was not taken. Why not?
I wonder whether it is possible for the Attorney-General, who I believe is going to reply, to address himself to the real question which is raised to-clay. It is this. We have a rule relating to Ministers being directors of public companies. I hope that that rule is so well-established now that never will any Minister try to be a director of a public company and at the same time to retain his office in the Government. We have a, rule that so far as the private company is concerned —I hope the House will remember that it is the old-fashioned private company and not the new-fashioned private company, and I want to make it perfectly clear that in making that distinction am not making any accusation against the right hon. Gentleman opposite, as the private company, as I understand it, of which he still remains a director is an old-fashioned company and not a new-fashioned company—
§ Mr. MacDONALD
What I mean is this. Private companies now have an extended scope and have changed their character on account of the Amendment made to the Public Companies Act; embodied in. the Consolidation Act which followed the Debate of 1906 and the explanations preceding that. But regarding private companies, there was also a rule laid down by Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, which I think is a very, reasonable one. It may have to be considered from time to time as circumstances change, but it is a rule which this House can take as the basis of any further consideration which it may have to give to the subject and the basis of any re-drafting which may have to be made regarding the imposing of responsibilities on Ministers.
139 The reason why it has been laid down, so far as I can make out, that Ministers may, while they are Ministers, retain directorships in private companies was simply this, that in the days when the rule was pronounced a private company was practically an individual or partnership concern. If two or three of us here were partners in a private company, and the success of the business depended on our co-operation, and if no public interest was affected, I think it would be very hard to make it impossible for a Minister, who found it possible, to give his time and to keep his eye and his hand upon the business done by that company. As the right hon. and learned Member for Spen Valley says, that is not the question raised here. Nobody has raised that question at all. There has been no statement made about the position which the right hon. Gentleman opposite holds in the Government and in this private company, that began with that statement and ended with that statement. I would ask the Prime Minister if he will tell the Attorney-General to answer this: When he knew that his colleague—he says he was informed of it—was a director of a private company, did he know at that time that that private company was holding contracts with various Departments of the State?
That is the whole point. It is a very simple case. Did he know? If the Minister said to the Prime Minister, or to his predecessor, Mr. Bonar Law, "I am a director of a private company," and said nothing more, that would be one thing. If he said, I am a director of a private company, but I ought to warn you that the private company of which I am a director holds contracts with the Government, "that is a totally different thing. May I say, quite candidly, that if anyone were to make the former statement only to me, and the company of which he was a director had contracts with the Government and it was not disclosed to me—well, perhaps it would be better if I drew a curtain over what would happen as soon as I discovered it.
The whole thing is there. That is the kernel of the question, and that is the kernel of this "attack," if you call it so. It is the reason why this Resolution is moved in the House to-day. The very 140 ingenious Noble Lord the Member for Oxford University (Lord H. Cecil) tried to widen all this out into the question of conflict of interests and so on. What I felt as I was listening to the Noble Lord was this. If I could have indulged in the luxury of a running interruption, and asked him almost sentence by sentence what exactly he meant by his words—if instead of my having to listen to a speech by him and he having to listen to a speech by me, he had had a conversation with me and I had inquired the real meaning of his words, sentence by sentence and statement by statement, as they fell from his lips—I am not at all sure that we should not in the end have agreed, and that instead of voting against us to-night the Noble Lord would have voted with us. I have got so much confidence in the independence of action of the Noble Lord that I dare to make that prophecy regarding the attitude he would take at the end. He knows perfectly well, in talking about general conflict of interests, that that is formal, that to say that you have got to trust your Ministers is not good enough. He knows that this House has said it is not good enough. He knows that his own Prime Ministers have not trusted their Ministers regarding directorships of public companies.
The Noble Lord accepted the part of the argument that suited him. I do not blame him for that. I knew he would. But I would call to his memory the part of the argument that did not suit him but which suits me and suits the truth, and that is that one of the reasons why it. is improper that a Minister should be a director of a public company is that it is impossible for him to divide himself into two and be two personalities, that he cannot serve the public interest and at the same time sit as a director of a public company without using his knowledge, whether he discloses it or not, in the interests of his company. That is regarded, quite properly, as being a conflict between interests, and in the conflict the personal interests of the Minister would prevail over the national interests which he represented as Minister. The Noble Lord knows perfectly well that it is just because of this conflict of interest that in foreign countries at any rate, a tremendous flood of corruption has crept into the public life. I need not specify. I leave the statement where it is, for I
141 know perfectly well that everybody who has an intimate knowledge of the evolution of the degradation of public life in some countries on account of the increasing authority of the commercial interests over the political interests can trace that increasing authority to a loose application of the doctrine laid down by the Noble Lord. It really will not do.
The Noble Lord was in great difficulty with his own argument, and he did his best not to show it. He laid down the doctrine about directorships of private companies which had no contracts with the State.
§ Mr. MacDONALD
Perhaps the Noble Lord will wait till I have finished, and if I have misrepresented him he will no doubt be good enough to correct me. Then the point as to contracts was reached. When the question of Government contracts was raised, obviously he was in a difficulty, because if any hon. Member—and not only a Minister, but any hon. Member—was a partner in this private company he could not sit in this House. Obviously we cannot leave this working rule where it is, that if three or four hon. Members are partners in a company having contractual relations with the Government they are not eligible for membership of this House—
§ Mr. MacDONALD
In a firm. I am much obliged to the hon. Gentleman. It is a technical correction. I had that in mind, but I am very much obliged for the technical correction. If three or four hon. Members are partners in a private firm, they cannot hold contracts with the Government and sit in this House, but if that firm he made a private company, it is the same thing in a changed form, except that certain forms are given it which it had not before. Substantially its business, its trade, its organisation, its offices are the same; you have just got to change a brass plate and issue something or another—I am not sure if you have to do that, for I am not a lawyer; but, as a matter of fact, I have been advised that this private firm could be changed into a private company, and that then the four Members, acting 142 exactly as they did as partners but now becoming directors of the company, could not only sit in this House but could act as Ministers.
That is an unsatisfactory state of affairs. How does the Noble Lord get out of that? I am sorry we cannot raise this question without referring to personalities. There is no question of personalities. He happens to be the unfortunate man, just as I should have been if he had raised my case here instead of talking about it outside.
§ Mr. MacDONALD
I am not accusing the right hon. Gentleman of corruption. I defy him to take from my speech now, or anything I have said, anything that would bear that interpretation. But I say the time has come when the House ought to face the facts. I do not like to refer to the right hon. Gentleman. I would prefer to say the right hon. Mr. A. [Laughter.] I am sorry. That can be explained afterwards. It is rather an awkward position we are in, and the House must face the substance of it. There is not a Member of this House, be he Conservative, Liberal or Labour, who will not say that the new liberty, the tremendously extended liberty, that has come on account of the insignificant change that I have just described, is something this House can continue to overlook.
The Noble Lord says he can excuse the right hon. Gentleman in this case because he is assured that he takes no interest in the business, that though it is quite true he is a director, that as a director he does nothing. That is unsatisfactory. The right hon. Gentleman said, I understand—I was away at the time—"I am a trustee." The right hon. Gentleman really must not give currency to the doctrine that a trustee can justify himself for anything by neglect of his trust. [Interruption.] Well, as I say there is nothing further from my mind than what 143 is known as a personal attack. If hon. Members do not believe me—well. I say that, quite clearly, a question of public policy has come up. There is a new case. We have got rules for a public company and for a private company, but I say the House has got no rules for the private company with Government contracts, and the House ought to appoint a Select Committee to inquire into it.
Let there be no hypocrisy about this. I am perfectly certain that if hon. Members sitting opposite had been sitting here and we had been there they would have regarded this as something which had to be settled in the public interest. I certainly regard it as such, and I have made it clear. I have stated it, I repeat it, and I say it again, that there is no rule and therefore there can be no accusation regarding individual action up to the moment. But I say to this House now that this question has been raised, whether by our Resolution or the Amendment—the Amendment does not go against us. We state it is wrong, and the Noble Lord says, with that wideness of language and of ideas which we know so well, "As a good Tory I cannot allow myself and my friends to vote for this Resolution; there is far too much truth in it; and therefore what I have got to do is to devise some means by which I will get this straightforward Resolution defeated and put a Resolution in its place that practically means the same thing, only, instead of meaning it on Monday, it may mean it on Monday week." I congratulate the Noble Lord.
The right hon. Gentleman may feel that if this Motion is passed it will be a censure upon him, but I would like to point out that if the Noble Lord's Amendment is passed the sentence upon the right hon. Gentleman is "not guilty, but you must not do it again," and I am quite willing to leave it there. Of course, I know the Attorney-General will say that this is related to an attack which was made upon other right hon. Gentlemen and that it is an organised attack. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] Hon. Gentlemen opposite cheer, but in order to really gain the cheers of his hon. Friends will the Attorney-General be good enough to deal with the kernel of this subject, that is, the question of 144 private companies with directors who are members of the Cabinet entering into contractual relations with the Government and excusing themselves by saying that although nominally they are directors as a matter of fact they take no interest in the business? I think the House of Commons ought to protect itself by a new rule against this kind of thing.
§ The ATTORNEY - GENERAL (Sir Douglas Hogg)
In view of some of the speeches we have heard from the opposite side of the House it is a little important, before the House registers its decision on this Motion, that it should satisfy itself as to what really is the meaning underlying the Motion. It is all very well for the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Burnley to say that there is an anomaly and an uncertain condition of the law which wants to be cleared up. It is all very well for the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Johnston) to say that the development of joint-stock company law makes it necessary further to define the position. It is all very well for the Leader of the Opposition to cite to us the old laws of the eighteenth century, and to remind us that there has been in recent years a great development of company law. He tells us it is unreasonable that if three Members of this House are partners in a firm they lose their seat by contracting with the Government, and if the same three Members formed themselves into a private company they can enter into the same contract with impunity, and he says that that is a matter which requires investigation and regulation. That may be so, but that is not what this Resolution says. That is not the Resolution which deals with the different position of Members of this House, according to whether they are partners or members of a limited company. This Resolution deals with Ministers of the Crown, and in its opening sentence it declares that it is brought forward, not because of an anomaly in the law or an uncertainty as to the position of hon. Members of this House, but in view of the statement made by the Minister of Health in this House last week. The matter does not merely rest with that statement in the Resolution. As the Amendment very truly states, this is no isolated attack, because it is part of a campaign of calumny. We have had attacks upon my right hon. Friend the 145 Prime Minister, upon my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade, and we have now this attack upon my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health, and yet we are told that this attack contains no charge. Why, Sir, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Burnley (Mr. A. Henderson) was careful to quote from the OFFICIAL REPORT, and he explained that the reason why he did so was that when you are making a charge against your colleagues in this House, you have to be very careful with your loaguage. What does that observation mean if the right hon. Gentleman was making no charge'? It is true that no Member of the House, so far as I know—and nobody outside this House so far as I know—has ventured to formulate a definite and distinct charge against my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health, but they have ventured upon a conspiracy of insinuation, which is far worse. The Leader of the Opposition said, in reply to what was stated by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Spen Valley (Sir J. Simon), that he thought my right hon. Friend was suggesting that a slander could not be uttered inside this House, but only outside.
§ Mr. MacDONALD
I do not think I said that. At any rate what I meant to convey was that it might be taken that he did mean that.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
My right hon. Friend thought somebody else might take it to mean that. What I suggest to this House and to the right hon. Gentleman is that if you have a charge to make, whether inside or outside this House, the right way to do it is to formulate it in definite terms and not make suggestions which you dare not crystallise into a charge. All you say is "I make no charge, but I leave the facts to speak for themselves." I have already said that this is no isolated case but it is part of a campaign and it may well be it is one which the Members of the Opposition on the Front Bench may profoundly regret and disclaim, but they are driven into it by the irresistible pressure of those behind him. Let me give the House, from some of these outside sources, the sort of insinuation which is being made outside this House. I hold in 146 my hand the latest specimen of the Yellow Press called "Lansbury's Labour Weekly." [An HON. MEMBER: "How much is it?"] It is not worth as much as it costs anyhow. In the "Editor's Corner," on the front page, there is this note to stimulate the interest of the readers:In the centre pages you will find some fairly startling financial documents about certain Cabinet Ministers. You can make your own comments.Encouraged by that editorial note, I turned to the centre page, and I found there in big block type across the centre of the page the announcement: "Chamberlains and Baldwins." It is an anonymous article. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] Well, at any rate it is not signed.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
I have often seen statements to the contrary. Let me read two or three of these observations:In these pages we print a further instalment of facts with regard to Baldwins. Ltd., and the profits of that great coal and iron enterprise. But before we had completed this exposure—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] Hon. Members cheer that, and yet they say they make no charge. I will proceed with the quotation—but before we had completed this exposure news of an even more startling character came to our hands concerning another member of the Cabinet, Mr. Neville Chamberlain. It concerns the shareholdings and directorships of Mr. Neville Chamberlain in certain companies, and also certain shareholdings of his brother, Sir Austen. It also concerns certain Government contracts allotted to these firms. It is not necessary to impute personal and direct corruption to either of the right hon. Gentlemen.I should think the editor might probably and more truthfully have said it is not safe. The article proceeds:Commerce and capitalist morality generally is of a kind that has not even a nodding acquaintance with the Ten Commandments, and we are prepared to believe that Mr. Baldwin and the Chamberlain brothers are better specimens than many others. We make no comment whatever upon the Chamberlain revelations. We shall simply recall three well-known facts.The House will notice that those three "facts" are untrue. 147(1) It has been for years a salutary custom that all Ministers should resign their directorships on taking office, and this principle has been reaffirmed this week by Mr. Baldwin.That is untrue, because the case being dealt with was a private directorship, which is expressly excluded from the rule.Secondly, it has been a further custom (also endorsed by Mr. Baldwin) that contracts should not he granted to firms in which Ministers are heavily interested.That is untrue. The third fact is:It was Mr. Neville Chamberlain who had the arrogance to use the word corruption' in accusing the West Ham Guardians of granting local unemployed, not related to them, a scale of relief ho conceived as too high.Nobody who heard the Debate last week will agree that that was the charge made against the West Ham guardians. The true rule as to directorships has been repeated so often that I am not going to take up the time of the House by reciting it again. It comes from Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman's statement in 1906.The true rule as to contracts has also been laid down by a member of the Liberal party—by no less a person than its Leader, Lord Oxford and Asquith, in 1913; and, since that has not been referred to, I would ask the indulgence of the House while I just cite what he said the rule was. He said this:I have seen some suggestions made lately indicating a rather exaggerated state of public conscience in some quarters, which are not only impracticable but quite absurd. It is said that a Minister ought not to hold shares in any company with which the Government has or may have a. contract. Are you going really to lay that down as part of the ethics of public life? It is a perfect absurdity.He went on to give cases, and then laid down a rule, and I would like the House to bear with me and listen to what the rule is, as formulated by that right hon. and most experienced Gentleman:There is only one rule in relation to that matter. It is a very simple one. It is that if you have, as a shareholder or in any other way"—that would include, of course, a directorate—any interest in a Government contract which comes .before you as a Minister—that is, in regard to the making or the execution of it—if you have any voice, whether by way of advice or administration, in making a decision or otherwise, you must 148 disclose fully to your Parliamentary or administrative chief the nature of your interest, and stand aside while the transaction is going through.The OFFICIAL REPORT goes on with a note: "HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!'" showing that there was general agreement, and then the right hon. Gentleman went on to say:I am glad to have got a general agreement on that matter.— OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th June, 1913; cols. 555–6, Vol. 54.]That is the rule which was laid down in 1913. Does any Member of this House suggest that my right hon. Friend has transgressed it? I have not heard a suggestion, so far, that he has. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition put to me a perfectly legitimate question, which he said he regarded as the kernel of the matter, and was the answer to the question why this Motion had been brought forward—
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
Then I misunderstood the right hon. Gentleman again. I am sorry. At any rate, it sounded very like that. The question that he put to me—and I hope I have not got this wrongly—was: Did my right hon. Friend, when he took office, tell Mr. Bonar Law and, later, the present Prime Minister, that the company of which he was a director was one which had Government contracts? That is, I think, fairly stating the question, and I agree that it is a very proper question. The answer is that my right hon. Friend did tell both Mr. Bonar Law and the present Prime Minister—Mr. Bonar Law when he took office in October, 1922, and the present Prime Minister when he took office under him in May or June, 1923. [Interruption.] I am going on to tell the House what Mr. Bonar Law said when he was told. He said to my right hon. Friend—and I would like the House to listen to this, because, after all, it is, as the Leader of the Opposition said, and as I agree, most important—Mr. Bonar Law said, "Do these contracts form a very large proportion of the business of the company? Is it a company which is mainly occupied with Government contracts?" My right hon. Friend assured him that they formed a very trifling portion of its business. I have had the figures given to me for the four years 1922, 1923, 1924 and 1925, and the total pro- 149 portion of Government contracts to the rest of the business of Messrs. Hoskins arid Sons was 2.08 per cent.
§ Captain WEDGWOOD BENN
Is the Attorney-General aware that the Minister of Health stated in this House the other day that he did not then know anything about the contracts?
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
Does the hon. and gallant Member really think that that is inconsistent with what I have said? [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes!"] If so, either I was very unfortunate in my statement or he is very limited in his intelligence. My right hon. Friend knew perfectly well that Messrs. Hoskins and Sons had occasionally, as an infinitesimal part of their business, contracts from the Government, and I have told the House what in fact the percentage was during the last four years. He did not know the contracts which were obtained in 1925—I think that was the year mentioned. He did not know about the obtaining of any of those contracts; he knew nothing at all about their existence. There is no inconsistency between knowing that your company occasionally gets a contract from the Government and not knowing that it has got a particular contract.
§ Mr. MacDONALD
I am sorry to interrupt; I only want to get this doctrine elucidated. Is the doctrine which is now being laid down this—and this is very important, because it will be quoted for years and years—that it is perfectly legitimate to get 6d. out of a Government contract, but not to get 9d. out of it?
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
No, Sir; neither was that doctrine being laid down nor any other doctrine. I was telling the House, in answer to a specific question from the right hon. Gentleman, what actually happened. He asked me what happened, and surely he cannot complain if I tell him. But before I got to that I laid down the doctrine, not in my own language but in that of the present Lord Oxford and Asquith, that the only one rule is that, if you have any interest in a Government contract, either as a shareholder or in any other way, which comes before you as a Minister, it is your duty to disclose, fully to your Parliamentary or administrative chief the nature of your interest and to stand aside while the transaction is going through.
§ Mr. MACDONALD
After the laying down of that doctrine by Mr. Asquith, we had a new supplementary doctrine laid down by Mr. Bonar Law. Was I right or was I wrong in assuming that the meaning of that was that, if the Minister had been a director of a company of whose business, say, one-half was Government contracts, Mr. Bonar Law would not have allowed him to continue as a Minister? Am I right in assuming that it was because Government contracts were only 2 per cent. of its business that Mr. Bonar Law agreed that the ministerial office should be held?
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
The House will realise that it is impossible for me to state with authority what Mr. Bonar Law would or would not, have done. I only referred to the conversation at all because I was specifically asked a question and was anxious to answer it fully. I imagine, however—and here I am merely guessing for myself, and any other Member of the House is just as capable of forming his own opinon—that, if Mr. Bonar Law had found that the principal business of the company was that of Government contracts, he might have said—I do not know—that it was desirable that there should be some other person managing it and that my right hon. Friend should take no part in the proceedings. If that be what he would have said, the House will observe that in fact what my right hon. Friend has done has been exactly what I should anticipate Mr. Bonar Law would in those circumstances have suggested, because he has in fact taken no active part in the management of this company, and knows nothing about its Government contracts.
I have tried to answer the question which was put to me. I have read to the House this Yellow Press attack. [Interruption.] It may well be that, as hon. Members say, it came from Moscow. [HON. MEMBERS "Mustard!"] Oh, mustard. Some people scorn to enjoy very hot stuff, regardless of whether it is accurate or not. I have read that attack in order 151 to show to the House how right those responsible for this Amendment were in saying that this inquiry cannot be granted by way of concession to a. campaign of calumny. Why is it, the House may ask, that these attacks have been launched one after the other against my right hon. Friend? Why is it that hon. Members opposite have devoted their industry, or have employed others to do it for them, in searching the files of Somerset House? [An HON. MEMBER: "They have a perfect right to do so."] They have a perfect right to do so, but I am asking the reason why. The hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury) was careful to explain in his speech, which was largely devoted to the Coal Mines Bill, that the reason they called the Prime Minister a murderer was because they were afraid that outside, as a result of the Bill, some miners might go back, and, if that be right, if you can suggest to people that the Government are not disinterested in the matter, that they are actuated by interested motives and are playing for their own hand, you are likely, if you can get people to believe that, to destroy the reputation which my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has won for his efforts for peace during those last months—[Interruption.[ The hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Johnston) told us that, if these attacks have now been extended to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health, it is not because there was anything startling in the discoveries, but that it is, as the hon. Gentleman himself told us, because my right hon. Friend had the temerity, in the discharge of his duty, to voice in this House charges of corruption against a board of guardians who were not doing their duty.
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
On a point of correction. The right hon. Gentleman must be aware that I definitely stated that that was only one of the reasons why these charges were made.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
As long as the hon. Gentleman said it was one of them, it is the only one which carries any force, and I think I am right—the OFFICIAL REPORT will show to-morrow—in saying that that is the only reason which he thought it necessary to mention.
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
On a point of correction. I definitely said that in my judgment it was a public duty to do it.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
The hon. Gentleman said it was a public duty, and he went on to say why. He said it was because my right hon. Friend had brought forward this Bill last week. The fact is that these charges, whatever the motives that actuated, them, are not going to produce the result which some hon. Members opposite seem to hope. In England we do not believe in stabbing a man in the back. [Interruption.] There is such a thing as hitting below the belt, and it does not pay in English circles, whatever foreign mentalities may think of it. These charges, which I agree the Leader of the Opposition was careful not himself to make, but which are fathered and endorsed by the Resolution he has put down, are either believed or not believed by those who insinuate them. If they do not believe them, what does the House think of politicians who are not ashamed to seek to besmirch the honour of their political opponents with charges which they know to be false, in order to gain political advantage? [Interruption.] But if, on the other hand, they do believe them, then what sort of mentality have people who can think that on this material there is any reflection on the honour of a Minister of the Crown? What a flood of light that admission throws on the standard of public life of those who hold those views. I profoundly regret that this Motion has been brought before the House. I regret it, not because of any fears for the honour of the right hon. Gentleman whom I am proud to call my friend—his honour stands too high to be reached by mud scooped from the gutter Press; his honour rests protected by the esteem and admiration of his fellow-citizens—but I profoundly regret that this Motion has been brought forward, because, after all, we are all Members of this House of Commons, and we are all jointly custodians of its traditions, and I cannot help feeling that a Resolution put down in these circumstances and using this language is putting upon our Parliamentary system and upon our Parliamentary honour a stain which even its certain and overwhelming defeat will never entirely wipe out.
§ 8.0 P.M.153
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the TREASURY (Commander Eyres Monsell)
rose in his place, and claimed to move; "That the Question he now put."
§ Question put, "That the Question be now put."
§ The House proceeded to a Division.154
§ Major Sir HARRY BARNSTON and Major COPE were appointed Tellers for the Ayes, but there being no hon. Members willing to act as Tellers fur the Noes, Mr. SPEAKER declared that the Ayes had it.
§ Question put accordingly, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided: Ayes 95; Noes, 341.155
|Division No. 363.]||AYES||[8.7 p.m.|
|Alexander, A.V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro')||Hartshorn, Rt. Hon. Vernon||Riley, Ben|
|Ammon, Charles George||Hayday, Arthur||Saklatvala, Shapurji|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Hayes, John Henry||Scrymgeour, E.|
|Baker, J. (Wolverhampton, Bliston)||Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Burnley)||Scurr, John|
|Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)||Henderson, T. (Glasgow)||Sexton, James|
|Barnes. A.||Hirst, G. H.||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)|
|Barr, J.||Hirst, W. (Bradford, South)||Sitch, Charles H.|
|Batey, Joseph||Hudson, J. H. (Huddersfield)||Smillie. Robert|
|Broad, F. A.||John, William (Rhondda, West)||Smith, Rennie (Penistone)|
|Bromley, J.||Johnston, Thomas (Dundee)||Snell, Harry|
|Buchanan, G.||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)||Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip|
|Buxton, Rt. Hon. Noel||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Spencer, George A. (Broxtowe)|
|Cluse, W. S.||Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd)||Stephen, Campbell|
|Compton, Joseph||Kelly, W. T.||Sullivan, J.|
|Cove, W. G.||Kennedy, T.||Sutton, J. E.|
|Dalton, Hugh||Kenworthy, Lt.-Com. Hon. Joseph M.||Taylor, R. A.|
|Day, Colonel Harry||Kenyon, Barnet||Thomas, Rt. Hon. James K. (Derby)|
|Dennison, R.||Kirkwood, D.||Thurtie, E.|
|Duncan, C.||Lansbury, George||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Gardner, J. P.||Lawrence, Susan||Townend, A. E.|
|Gibbins, Joseph||Lawson, John James||Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. C. P.|
|Gillett, George M.||Lee, F.||Viant, S. P.|
|Gosling, Harry||Lowth, T.||Wallhead, Richard C.|
|Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||Lunn, William||Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)|
|Graham, Rt. Hon. Wm. (Edin., Cent.)||MacDonald, Rt. Hon.J. R.(Aberavon)||Webb, Rt. Hon. Sidney|
|Greenall, T.||Mackinder, W.||Whiteley. W.|
|Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne)||Montague, Frederick||Williams, David (Swansea, East)|
|Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Windsor, Walter|
|Groves, T.||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W||Young Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|Grundy, T. W.||Ponsonby, Arthur|
|Guest, Haden (Southwark, N.)||Potts, John S.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Hall, F. (York., W.R., Normanton)||Purcell, A. A.||Mr. Allen Parkinson and Mr. Charles Edwards.|
|Hardle, George D.||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut,-Colonel||Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William Clive||Clayton, G. C.|
|Agg Gardner, Rt. Hon. Sir James T.||Briscoe, Richard George||Cobb, Sir Cyril|
|Alexander. E. E. (Leyton)||Brittain, Sir Harry||Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.|
|Alexander, Sir Wm. (Glasgow, Cent'l)||Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Cockerill, Brig.-General Sir G. K.|
|Allen, J. Sandeman (L'pool,W. Derby)||Brooke, Brigadier-General C. R. I.||Cohen, Major J. Brunel|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S.||Braun-Lindsay, Major H.||Colfox, Major Wm. Phillips|
|Applin, Colonel R. V. K.||Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'I'd., Hexham)||Collins, Sir Godfrey (Greenock)|
|Apsley, Lord||Brown, Brig.-Gen.H.C.(Berks, Newb'y)||Conway, Sir W. Martin|
|Ashley, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Wilfrid W.||Buckingham, Sir H.||Cooper, A. Duff|
|Astor, Maj. Hr. John J. (Kent, Dover)||Bullock, Captain M.||Cope, Major William|
|Astor, Viscountess||Burman, J. B.||Cooper, J. B.|
|Athoil, Duchess of||Burton, Colonel H. W.||Courtauld, Major J. S.|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Butler, Sir Geoffrey||Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities)|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Butt, Sir Alfred||Cowan, Sir Wm. Henry (Islingtn, N.)|
|Balniel, Lord||Cadogan, Major Hon. Edward||Craig, Ernest (Chester, Crewe)|
|Banks, Reginald Mitchell||Caine, Gordon Hall||Craik, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Campbell, E. T.||Crawfurd, H. E.|
|Barnston, Major Sir Harry||Cautley, Sir Henry S.||Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.|
|Beamish, Captain T. P. H.||Cayzer, Sir C. (Chester, City)||Crocke, J. Smedley (Deritend)|
|Bellairs, Commander Carlyon W.||Cayzer, Maj. Sir Herbt. R. (Prtsmth.S.)||Crookshank, Col. C. de W. (Berwick)|
|Bennett, A. J.||Cazaiet, Captain Victor A.||Crookshank, Cpt.H.(Lindsey, Gainsbro)|
|Berry, Sir George||Cecil, Rt. Hon. Sir Evelyn (Aston)||Cunliffe, Sir Herbert|
|Betterton, Henry B.||Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord H. (Ox. Univ.)||Curzon, Captain Viscount|
|Bird, E. R. (Yorks, W. R., Skipton)||Chamberlain, Rt.Hn.Sir J.A.(Birm.,W.)||Dalkeith, Earl of|
|Blades, Sir George Rowland||Chapman, Sir S.||Dalziel, Sir Davison|
|Blundell, F. N.||Charteris, Brigadier-General J.||Davidson, J.(Hertf'd, Hemel Hempst'd)|
|Boothby, R. J. G.||Chilcott, Sir Warden||Davidson, Major-General Sir John H|
|Bourne, Captain Robert Croft||Christle, J. A.||Davies, Dr. Vernon|
|Bowater, Sir T. Vansittart||Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston Spencer||Davies, Maj. Geo.F.(Somerset,Yeovil)|
|Bowyer, Capt. G. E. W.||Churchman, Sir Arthur C.||Davies, Sir Thomas (Cirencester)|
|Brass, Captain W.||Clarry, Reginald George||Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)|
|Dawson, Sir Philip||Inskip, Sir Thomas Walker H.||Rice, Sir Frederick|
|Dean, Arthur Wellesley||Jackson, Lieut.-Col. Rt. Hon. F. S.||Roberts, E. H, G. (Flint)|
|Dixey, A. C.||Jackson, Sir H. (Wandsworth, Cen'l)||Roberts, Sir Samuel (Hereford)|
|Drewe, C.||Jacob, A. E.||Robinson, Sir T. (Lanes, Stretford)|
|Eden, Captain Anthony||James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert||Ropner, Major L.|
|Edmondson, Major A. J.||Jephcott, A. R.||Ruggles-Brise, Major E. A.|
|Edwards, J. Hugh (Accrington)||Jones, G. w. H. (Stoke Newington)||Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter|
|Elliot, Major Walter E.||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)|
|Ellis, R. G.||Joynson-Hicks, Rt. Hon. Sir William||Rye, F. G|
|Elveden, Viscount||Kennedy, A. R. (Preston)||Salmon, Major I.|
|Erskine, Lord (Somerset, Weston-s.-M.)||Kidd, J. (Linilthgow)||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)|
|Erskine, James Malcolm Monteith||Kindersley, Major Guy M.||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)|
|Evans, Captain A. (Cardiff, South)||King, Captain Henry Douglas||Sandeman, A. Stewart|
|Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univer.)||Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement||Sanders, Sir Robert A.|
|Fairfax, Captain J. G.||Knox, Sir Alfred||Sanderson, Sir Frank|
|Falie, Sir Bertram G.||Lamb, J. Q.||Sassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustave D.|
|Fanshawe Commander G. D.||Lane Fox, Col. Rt. Hon. George R.||Savery, S, S.|
|Ford, Sir P. J.||Leigh, Sir John (Clapham)||Scott, Sir Leslie (Liverp'l, Exchange)|
|Forestier-Walker, Sir L.||Little, Dr. E. Graham||Shaw, Lt.-Col. A. D. Mol. (Renfrew, W)|
|Foster, Sir Harry s.||Locker- Lampson, G. (Wood Green)||Shaw, Capt. W. W. (Wilts, Westb'y)|
|Foxcroft, Captain C. T.||Loder. J. de v.||Sheffield, Sir Berkeley|
|Fraser, Captain Ian||Looker, Herbert William||Simms, Dr. John M. (Co. Down)|
|Frece, Sir Walter de||Lowe, Sir Francis William||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John|
|Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Vere||Sinclair, Major Sir A. (Caithness)|
|Gadle, Lieut.-Col. Anthony||Luce, Major-Gen. Sir Richard Harman||Skelton, A. N.|
|Galbraith, J. F. W.||Lumley, L. R.||Slaney, Major p. Kenyon|
|Ganzonl, Sir John||Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.)||Smith, R. W. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)|
|Gault, Lieut.-Col. Andrew Hamilton||Macdonald, R. (Glasgow, Cathcart)||Smith-Carington, Neville W.|
|Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||McDonnell, Colonel Hon. Angus||Smithers, Waldron|
|Glyn, Major R. G. C.||Macintyre, Ian||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)|
|Goff, Sir Park||McLean, Major A.||Spender-Clay, Colonel H.|
|Gower, Sir Robert||Macmillan, Captain H.||Sprot, Sir Alexander|
|Grace, John||McNeill, Rt. Hon. Ronald John||Stanley, Col. Hon. G.F.(Will'sden,E.)|
|Grant,- Sir J. A.||Macquisten, F. A.||Stanley, Lord (Fylde)|
|Grattan-Doyle, Sir N.||MacRobert, Alexander M.||Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westm'eland)|
|Greene, W. p. Crawford||Maitland, Sir Arthur D. Steel-||Steel, Major Samuel Strang|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hn.Sir H.(W'th's'w, E)||Makins, Brigadier-General E.||Storry-Deans, R.|
|Grenfell, Edward C. (City of London)||Manningham-Buller, Sir Mervyn||Stott, Lieut.-Colonel W. H.|
|Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John||Margesson, Captain D.||Strickland, Sir Gerald|
|Grotrian, H. Brent||Marriott, Sir J. A. R.||Stuart, Crichton-, Lord C.|
|Guinness, Rt. Hon. Walter E.||Meller, R. J.||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Gunston, Captain D. W.||Merriman? F. B.||Styles, Captain H. Walter|
|Hacking, Captain Douglas H.||Meyer, Sir Frank||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser|
|Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)||Milne, J. S. Wardlaw||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid|
|Hall, Vice-Adml. Sir R. (Eastbourne)||Mitchell, S. (Lanark, Lanark)||Sykes, Major-Gen. Sir Frederick H.|
|Hall, Capt. W. D'A. (Brecon & Rad.)||Mitchell, W. Foot (Saffron Walden)||Tasker, Major R. Inigo|
|Hanbury, C.||Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)||Thompson, Luke (Sunderland)|
|Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Mond, Rt. Hon. Sir Alfred||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)|
|Harris, Percy A.||Moore, Lieut.-Colonel T. C. R. (Ayr)||Thomson, Rt. Hon. Sir W. Mitchell-|
|Harrison, G. J. C.||Morden, Col. W. Grant||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Harvey, G. (Lambeth, Kennington)||Morrison, H. (Wilts, Salisbury)||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)||Morrison-Bell, Sir Arthur Clive||Vaughan-Morgan, Col. K. P.|
|Haslam, Henry C.||Murchison, C. K.||Waddington, R.|
|Hawke, John Anthony||Nail, Lieut.-Colonel Sir Joseph||Wallace, Captain D. E.|
|Headlam, Lieut.-Colonel C. M.||Nelson, Sir Frank||Ward, Lt.-Col. A. L.(Kingston-on-Hull)|
|Henderson, Capt. R. R.(Oxf'd, Henley)||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)||Warner, Brigadier-General W. W.|
|Henderson, Lieut.-Col. V. L. (Bootle)||Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)||Warrender, Sir Victor|
|Heneage, Lieut.-Col. Arthur P.||Nicholson, O. (Westminster)||Waterhouse, Captain Charles|
|Henn, Sir Sydney H.||Nicholson, Col. Rt.Hn.W.G.(Ptrsf'ld.)||Watson, Rt. Hon. W. (Carlisle)|
|Hennessy, Major J. R. G.||Nield, Rt. Hon. Sir Herbert||Wells, S. R.|
|Herbert, Dunnis (Hertford, Watford)||Nuttall, Ellis||Wheler, Major Sir Granville C. H.|
|Herbert, S. (York. N. R., Scar. & Wh'by)||Oakley, T.||Williams, A. M. (Cornwall, Northern)|
|Hills, Major John Waller||O'Connor, T. J. (Bedford, Luton)||Williams, Com. C. (Devon, Torquay)|
|Hilton, Cecil||Oman, Sir C.||Williams, Herbert G. (Reading)|
|Hoard, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William||Wilson M. J. (York, N. R , Richm'd)|
|Hogg, Rt. Hon. Sir D. (St. Marylebone)||Pennefather, Sir John||Wilson, R. R. (Stafford, Lichfield)|
|Hohler, Sir Gerald Fitzroy||Penny, Frederick George||Winby, Colonel L. P.|
|Holbrook, Sir Arthur Richard||Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)||windsor-Clive, Lieut-Colonel George|
|Holt, Captain H. P.||Perkins. Colonel E. K.||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Hope, Capt. A. O. J. (Warw'k, Nun.)||Perring, Sir William George||Wise, Sir Fredric|
|Hope, Sir Harry (Forfar)||Peto, Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)||Withers, John James|
|Hopkins, J. W. w.||Peto, G. (Somerset, Frome)||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley)||Philipson, Mabel||Womersley. W. J.|
|Hore-Bellsha, Leslie||Pleiou, D. P.||Wood. E.((Chest'r, Stalyb'dge & Hyde)|
|Horlick, Lieut.-Colonel J. N.||Pilcher, G.||Wood, Sir Kingsley (Woolwich, W.).|
|Howard, Captain Hon. Donald||Pownall, Lieut.-Colonel Sir Assheton||Woodcock, Colonel H. C.|
|Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)||Preston, William||Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.|
|Hudson, R. S. (Cumberland, Whiteh'n)||Ramsden, E.||Wragg, Herbert|
|Hume, Sir G. H.||Rawson, Sir Cooper||Yerburgh, Major Robert D. T.|
|Huntingfield, Lord||Reid, Captain A. S. C. (Warrington)||Young, Rt. Hon. Hilton (Norwich)|
|Hurd, Percy A.||Remer. J. R.|
|Hurst, Gerald B.||Remnant, Sir James||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.ߞ|
|Hutchison,G.A.Clark (Midl'n & P'bl's)||Rentoul, G. S.||Commander B. Eyres-Monsell and Colonel Gibbs.|
|Illffe, Sir Edward M.||Rhys, Hon. C. A. U.|
Question, "That those words be there added," put, and agreed to.
§ Words added.158
§ Main Question, as amended, put.
§ The House divided: Ayes, 341; Noes, 98.159
|Morrison, K. (Wilts, Salisbury)||Ruggles-Brise, Major E. A.||Thompson, Luke (Sunderland)|
|Morrison-Bell, Sir Arthur Clive||Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)|
|Murchison, C. K.||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)||Thomson, Rt. Hon. Sir W. Mitchell-|
|Nail, Lieut.-Colonel Sir Joseph||Rye, F. G.||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Nelson, Sir Frank||Salmon, Major I.||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)||Vaughan-Morgan, Col. K. P.|
|Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)||Waddington, R.|
|Nicholson, O. (Westminster)||Sandeman, A. Stewart||Wallace, Captain D. E.|
|Nicholson, Col. Rt.Hn.W.G.(Ptrsf'ld.)||Sanders, Sir Robert A.||Ward, Lt.-Col. A. L.(Kingston-on-Hull)|
|Nield, Rt. Hon. Sir Herbert||Sanderson, Sir Frank||Warner, Brigadier-General W. W|
|Nuttall, Ellis||Sassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustave D.||Warrender, Sir Victor|
|Oakley, T.||Savery, S. S.||Waterhouse, Captain Charles|
|O'Connor, T. J. (Bedford, Luton)||Scott, Sir Leslie (Liverp'l, Exchange)||Watson, Sir F. (Pudsey and Otley)|
|Oman, Sir C.||Shaw, Lt.-Col A.D.Mcl. (Renfrew,W)||Watson, Rt. Hon. W. (Carlisle)|
|Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William||Shaw, Capt. W. W. (Wilts, Westb'y)||Wells, S. R.|
|Pennefather, Sir John||Sheffield, Sir Berkeley||Wheler, Major Sir Granville C. H.|
|Penny, Frederick George||Simms, Dr. John M. (Co. Down)||Williams, A. M. (Cornwall, Northern)|
|Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)||Sinclair, Major Sir A. (Caithness)||Williams, Com. C. (Devon, Torquay)|
|Perkins, Colonel E. K.||Skelton, A. N.||Williams, Herbert G. (Reading)|
|Perring, William George||Slaney, Major p. Kenyon||Wilson. M. J. (York, N. R., Richm'd)|
|Peto, Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)||Smith, R.W.(Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)||Wilson, R. R. (Stafford, Lichfield)|
|Peto, G. (Somerset, Frome)||Smith-Carington, Neville W.||Winby, Colonel L. P.|
|Philipson, Mabel||Smithers, Waldron||Windsor-Clive. Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Pleiou, D. p.||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Pilcher, G.||Spender-Clay, Colonel H.||Wise, Sir Fredric|
|Pownall, Lieut.-Colonel Sir Assheton||Sprot, Sir Alexander||Withers, John James|
|Preston, William||Stanley, Col. Hon. G.F.(Will'sden, E.)||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Ramsden, E.||Stanley, Lord (Fylde)||Womersley, W. J.|
|Rawson, Sir Cooper||Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westm'eland)||Wood. E.(Chest'r, Stalyb'dge & Hyde)|
|Reid, Capt. A. S. C. (Warrington)||Steel, Major Samuel Strang.||Wood, Sir Kingsley (Woolwich, W.)|
|Remer, J. R.||Storry-Deans, R.||Woodcock. Colonel H. C.|
|Remnant, Sir James||Stott, Lieut.-Colonel W. H.||Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.|
|Rentoul, G. S.||Strickland, Sir Gerald||Wragg, Herbert|
|Rhys, Hon. C. A. U.||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)||Yerburgh, Major Robert D. T.|
|Rice, Sir Frederick||Styles, Captain H. Walter||Young, Rt. Hon. Hilton (Norwich'|
|Roberts, E. H. G. (Flint)||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser|
|Roberts, Sir Samuel (Hereford)||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Robinson, Sir T. (Lanes., Stretford)||Sykes, Major-Gen. Sir Frederick H.||Commander B. Eyres-Monsell and Colonel Gibbs.|
|Ropner, Major L.||Tasker, Major R. Inlgo|
|Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro')||Hartshorn, Rt. Hon. Vernon||Riley, Ben|
|Amman, Charles George||Hayday, Arthur||Ritson. J.|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Hayes, John Henry||Saklatvala, Shapurji|
|Baker, J. (Wolverthampton, Bilston)||Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Burnley)||Scrymgeour, E.|
|Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)||Henderson, T. (Glasgow)||Scurr, John|
|Barnes, A.||Hirst, G. H.||Sexton, James|
|Barr, J.||Hirst, W. (Bradford, South)||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)|
|Batey, Joseph||Hudson, J. H. (Huddersfield)||Sitch, Charles H.|
|Benn, Captain Wedgwood (Leith)||John, William (Rhondda, West)||Smillie, Robert|
|Broad, F. A.||Johnston, Thomas (Dundee)||Smith, Rennie (Penistone)|
|Bromley, J.||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)||Snell, Harry|
|Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip|
|Buchanan, G.||Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd)||Spencer, G. A. (Broxtowe)|
|Buxton, Rt. Hon. Noel||Kelly, W. T.||Stephen, Campbell|
|Cluse, W. S.||Kennedy, T.||Sullivan, J.|
|Compton, Joseph||Kenworthy, Lt.-Com. Hon. Joseph M.||Sutton, J. E.|
|Cove, W. G.||Kenyon, Barnet||Taylor, R A.|
|Dalton, Hugh||Kirkwood, D.||Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)|
|Day, Colonel Harry||Lansbury, George||Thurtle, E.|
|Dennison, R.||Lawrence, Susan||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Duncan, C.||Lawson, John James||Townend, A. E.|
|Gardner, J. P.||Lee, F.||Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. C. P.|
|Gibbins, Joseph||Lowth, T.||Viant, S. P.|
|Gillett, George M.||Lunn, William||Wallhead, Richard C.|
|Gosling, Harry||MacDonald, Rt. Hon.J. R.(Aberavon)||Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)|
|Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||Mackinder, W||Webb, Rt. Hon. Sidney|
|Greenall, T.||March, S.||Whitelev. W.|
|Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne)||Montague, Frederick||Williams, David (Swansea, East)|
|Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Windsor, Waller|
|Groves, T.||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|Grundy, T. W.||Ponsonby, Arthur|
|Guest, Haden (Southwark, N.)||Potts, John S.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Hall, F. (York., W.R., Normanton)||Purcell. A. A.||Mr. Allen Parkinson and Mr. Charles Edwards.|
|Hardle, George D.||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)|
That this House, while willing on any suitable occasion to review by Select Committee or otherwise the rules and practices which have hitherto guided the action of Ministers in respect of their private in-
terests during their tenure of office, which rules have been on all occasions strictly observed by His Majesty's present Ministers, declines to enter upon any such task by way of concession to an organised campaign of calumny and insinuation which has no justification in fact.