§ The CHAIRMAN
The first Amendment on the Paper—in page 3, line 23, at the beginning, to insert the words:Subject to the provisions contained in the Schedule to this Act.is not in order. With regard to the second and third Amendments—in page 3, line 23, to leave out the words "and on terms approved by," and in line 24, after the word "may," to insert the wordsat a price to be approved by a resolution of the House of Commons—they deal with the same subject.
§ Mr. WEDGWOOD BENN
I think you are under a misapprehension, if I may say so with very great respect. There are two separate subjects dealt with here. One is a body called a Communications Company and the other is an Advisory Committee. A reference to the Paper will show that these are two quite separate organisations. The first Amendment standing in my name and the names of other hon. Members relates to the Advisory Committee, some conditions concerning which I intended to set out in a Schedule. The second Amendment deals, as I understand, with the sale of the property and with the Communications Company, and my submission is that these are two quite separate subjects.
§ The CHAIRMAN
The second and third Amendments deal with the question of price, and if hon. Members like to move the first of those Amendments it may be for the convenience of the House to have a full discussion on the principle of the Clause on that Amendment. If any Members attach special importance to the third Amendment, we might have a Division upon it, but I hope the discussion will be upon the second Amendment.
§ The CHAIRMAN
The objections are, first, that it would be inconvenient to deal with it in this way, because the same words would have to be repeated in each Clause, and, as far as that goes, the proper way to deal with that would be by some Clause to cover the three transactions contemplated in the Clause. In the second place, it fails on the ground of incompleteness, because it does not carry out the intentions of the authors, that is to say, the passage lays down conditions, but, as a matter of fact, as I construe the Schedule, the result would be that the transaction might be carried through, and then various things would come into operation afterwards; but there is nothing to prevent the transaction being carried through first, and there is no provision of resumption by the Board of its powers, if those conditions were not carried out. I think, also, without going into further details, some of the provisions are out of Order on merits.
The CHAIR MAN
I should have to see the Clause first. Some parts would be suitable for a new Clause; others would not.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I understand that certain of the five paragraphs in the proposed new Clause would be in order as a new Clause, and you would consider them?
§ The CHAIRMAN
I must not be taken as giving a binding ruling until I see the Clause as a new Clause. I think, however, paragraphs 1 and 2 would be in order.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I am inclined to think that I should not agree with that. A Money Resolution is necessary when you are voting money—not when you are receiving money. From the Government point of view it is better to receive than to give. When they receive, no Money Resolution is necessary, and they avoid the special procedure.
§ The CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member will, no doubt, be able to raise the question, but I doubt if he will receive a different answer. I may say that it may be for the general convenience of the Committee that a general discussion should be taken on this Amendment, and as regards the next Amendment a Division might be taken if it is desired. I take it that is agreed.
§ The POSTMASTER-GENERAL (Sir William Mitchell-Thomson)
It will be the same principle in the case of the other Clauses.
§ Mr. WALTER BAKER
I beg to move, in page 3, line 23, to leave out the words "and on terms approved by".
I have already referred to this subject on three occasions, and it will not be necessary to go over the whole ground again, but I think it will be necessary to touch on some of the points already submitted. Yesterday, at the end of Questions, I asked the Prime Minister whether the statement of accounts of the Pacific Cable Board for the year ending 31st March, 1928, would be available for Members of this House for the discussion to-day. Until this morning I was under the impression that the conditions laid down in the Act of 1901 still held good as far as those accounts are concerned. It was only when, on application to the Vote Office this morning, I received the document for which I was inquiring, that I found that the accounts of the Pacific Cable Board had not been presented to Parliament, and that in the file containing similar documents there was no record 1434 of such document having been received. That caused me to make inquiries, and I then found that whereas the Act of 1901 contained a provision making it necessary for the accounts of the Pacific Cable Board to be presented to Parliament, the consolidating Act, which received the Royal Assent on the 29th June last year, omitted that provision. I would respectfully ask whether the spokesman on behalf of the Government will explain to me and my colleagues exactly why it was that just before the calling of the Imperial Conference when, I am inclined to think, this subject was already exercising the mind and receiving the attention of the Government, this remarkable alteration should be made with regard to the necessity of presenting these accounts to Parliament.
If I may, I should like to congratulate the Committee upon the fact that the Postmaster-General, for the first time, has taken his rightful place with regard to this. Bill. Up to this point the gentleman responsible for the enormous business of telegraphic communications has been kept out of these discussions, and I think it will be a great advantage to the Committee to have his presence and his voice here this afternoon. I want, in the first place, to justify these Amendments by once more referring to the cost of the various cables which it is proposed to transfer to the Communications Company. As I understand it, the original cost of the Pacific Cable in 1902 was £2,000,000, that it was duplicated, the duplication being completed in 1926 at a cost of £2,720,000, and that the price to be paid by the merger is to be £517,000, plus the outstanding debt of £1,233,000. In passing, I would like to make a reference to that outstanding debt of £1,233,000 which is liable to an interest of 3 per cent., a figure at which the Communications Company, the Cable Companies and the Marconi Company are not able to borrow money. I have caused the price of the debentures of the Cable Companies to be examined, and I find that the return on those debentures is almost exactly 5 per cent. at the present moment. I would like to suggest that it is altogether unsatisfactory that the Communications Company should be permitted to hold a sum of money of this magnitude at 3 per cent., and that the difference between 3 per cent. and the 5 per cent. which they 1435 would have to pay in the open market constitutes a gift to them which the actual figures do not reveal.
I understood the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, on the last occasion when the matter was under discussion, to speak as though the Pacific Cable Board had not been doing particularly well, and in those circumstances I would like once more to call attention to the latest figures which are given in the accounts for 1927–28. Although the traffic receipts of the Pacific Cables for 1927–28 were down by £80,000 as compared with the previous year—that is to say, as I explained on the last occasion, by about 17 per cent.—the expenditure was reduced by £32,000, they were able to devote £77,544 to the payment of interest and to the repayment of capital, they placed £10,000 to the reserve fund, and there was a surplus of over £42,000 remaining for division between the partner Governments. I want to endeavour to re-emphasise that point, since I regard it as being of major importance that, because Government undertakings have to repay their capital, they are being treated on an altogether different basis from concerns which raise the money for their business by the issue of shares, and which do not repay that capital, but merely pay dividends upon it. My information, which is supported by the figures I have just quoted, is that the Pacific Cable Board, unlike the privately owned cable companies, was not brought to a serious position by the beam competition. If I read paragraph 18 of the Conference Report aright, that is admitted in that Report.
Then we come to the Atlantic Cables. The first Atlantic Cable was taken from Germany under the Versailles Treaty. It was laid during the period 1900-1903, and I understand that there may be some doubts as to its value at the present moment. It appears, however, in the accounts of the Post Office at its original cost less depreciation, and the figure is £1,480,000. The second cable was laid in 1874, and was purchased for £570,000 from the Direct United States Cable Company, so that the cost of the two cables together was £2,050,000. I would ask the Postmaster-General particularly to observe this point, which I repeat for the information of the Committee, namely, that in the commercial 1436 accounts presented by the Post Office, the depreciated value to the 31st March, 1928, is £770,000, and yet the merger is to have these cables for £450,000. If it be held that my point about the original cost of the Government-owned cables as compared with the privately-owned cables does not hold water so far as the Committee is concerned, I submit, nevertheless, that there should be a closer approximation between the price paid by the merger and the Communications Company and the figure at which they appear in the commercial accounts of the Post Office. As regards the West Indian Cables, they were originally laid in 1890, and have been supplemented at various dates up to 1924. The total capital expenditure has been over £364,000, and they are to be disposed of for £300,000. The actual fact is that cables which cost £7,134,797 are to be handed over for £2,500,000.
That is the Government side, and, in order that there may be no doubt on this occasion as to the accuracy of the figures which I am putting forward, I am going to attempt to summarise a quotation from the "Times," in order that we may see what the "Times" has to say with regard to the other side of the transaction. On the 2nd August, the "Times" City column contained a long statement on this subject. I am not giving the exact words, because I want to save the time of the Committee, but this is an attempt to summarise what the article contains. It is to this effect. The Communications Company will purchase the interest by an issue of its own shares, which will be held by the Eastern and Marconi Companies. The shares of the Eastern and Marconi Companies will be exchanged for shares in the merger, and the revenues of the Communications Company will pass to the merger company through the Eastern and Marconi Companies. Neither the cable nor the wireless companies will be wound up, as they will retain important businesses. The cable companies have large liquid funds, and those assets will remain, giving the companies the character of investment trusts—and, incidentally, I might say, extraordinarily strong investment trusts; and the Marconi Company will be left to carry on its manufacturing and other activities. Moreover, and this I regard as being the important part of the quotation, the 1437 Marconi Company is to receive in shares from the merger company a sum of £17,350,000-£3,500,000 in 5½ per cent. cumulative preference shares, £8,000,000 in 7½ per cent., non-cumulative "A" ordinary shares, and £5,850,000 in "B" ordinary shares. The sum of £17,350,000 is to be divided among £2,277,414 of capital—that is to say, the Marconi Company, on the "Times" showing, with a capital of £2,277,414 divided between 10s. and £1 ordinary shares and £1 preference shares, is to receive over £17,000,000 in new share holdings in respect of its £2,277,000.
The "Times" goes on to say that clearly the terms must be acceptable to the majority of the ordinary shareholders, who hold the 10s. shares. But there is, surely, another aspect to be considered, quite apart from the question whether the 10s. shareholders will or will not regard this as a good bargain. The "Manchester Guardian" would lead one to suppose that the 10s. shareholders are by no means certain to regard this as equity. It may very well be that, despite the passage of this Bill through Parliament, the 10s. shareholders in the Marconi Company—who, I understand, are in a position to control a large majority of the votes at a general meeting —may consider that the way in which they have been treated in the past will not justify them in agreeing to go into this Communications Company and merger. But, whatever the 10s. shareholders in the Marconi Company may decide, I want to draw attention to the fact that when this merger was mooted the shares of the Marconi Company stood at nothing like their present figure on the Stock Exchange, but, after the most terrible speculation, after manipulation on the most astounding scale, the present market price of the whole of the Marconi shares is not equal to the amazing figure that this Government is prepared to let them have. As a matter of fact, if the lbs. shares are taken at the figure of £4, the £1 shares at the figure of £5, and the 7 per cent. preference shares at £5, the present market value of the Marconi undertaking is no more than £16,250,000; and yet we find, as I said a moment ago, that the Government are prepared to let them have over £17,000,000 in shares in this new company.
1438 It seems to me to be most amazing and one of the strongest things that I have to say with regard to this transaction is that I consider that the Government should insist that the value of the Marconi Company should be the value of the shares prior to the commencement of this boom. The boom was engineered as a result of information which was obtained from the Imperial Conference by improper means. The Government have never attempted to deal with that; they have never attempted to deal with the fact that the "Daily Mail" gave prior information to persons who made huge fortunes as a result, and I challenge the Government once more to say why it is that papers like the "Daily Mail" and the "Evening News" are allowed to publish prior information, confidential information—
§ The CHAIRMAN
I am not quite clear how this is relevant to the particular transaction set out in this Bill. The Bill carries out a certain transaction, it may be as a result of various negotiations between the Government and other Governments—Dominion Governments and so on; but there is nothing in the Bill except certain cable undertakings in which the Government hold shares, and which are to be sold to the Communications Company. Probably the hon. Member has a relevant argument, but I want to hear it.
§ The ASSISTANT POSTMASTER-GENERAL (Viscount Wolmer)
The Communications Company? Is it not the merger?
§ Mr. BAKER
The Noble Lord will forgive me if there is a muddle between the two terms. I want now to call the attention of the Committee to the fact that the Pacific Cable Board have large funds to which this Clause does not refer, and with which it does not deal. They have a Provident Fund, the balance of which on the 31st March was £172,000 odd. They have a Pension Guarantee Fund, the balance of which was £31,862 1439 at the same date; and they have a Pension Fund, the value of which on the 31st March was £139,860. Perhaps the Postmaster-General will tell us what is going to be done with those funds, to whom they are to be transferred, who is to be responsible for their safe custody, and why it is that arrangements are not made in this Bill to deal with them.
I should also like to ask what steps have been taken to safeguard the position of the staffs of the cable and wireless services. Are they covered by funds built up as for the staff of the Pacific Cable Board? Perhaps we can be told what is the present staff at the moment who are affected by this Bill and exactly how they are allocated. I also want to ask for an assurance—and I think it is well that the Postmaster-General should be dealing with this matter, because he alone can give such an assurance—that the men in the Post Office Service who are indirectly affected by this transfer will not have their position prejudiced. Many men have been transferred to London and trained for service in connection with the beam system, and, as a consequence of the transfer of the beam system, they will either have to leave the Government service, which they have no desire to do, or find themselves redundant, with the possibility that their position and prospects may be very seriously prejudiced. I would ask the Postmaster-General to give very careful consideration to these men, and I would make a special appeal for a similar inquiry with regard to many Marconi men who are affected. I do not wish to detain the Committee longer at this point, but I would appeal once more to the Government to realise that there is a growing feeling that this is an unsatisfactory bargain, and that, even though the bargain cannot be stopped, it is essential that the Government should give us greater safeguards; and I rejoice to find that one of the most influential members on the other side of the Committee has tabled an Amendment, which is the first sign of life I have seen, indicating that the necessity for safeguards is beginning to be realised.
§ Mr. WELLOCK
The question that has been foremost in my mind from the start has been the inequality of treatment 1440 between the Government holding on the one side and the private companies on the other. The first thing that strikes me in regard to the proposed transaction is that the Government should be paid for its holdings in cash whereas the private companies are to be given shares in the company. Why is that? Why should not the Government holdings, whatever they may be worth, be taken over in the form of shares in the same way as the Eastern Telegraph Company? Is that in order that we shall not have our requisite number of Directors on the Board, or is it that Members of the Government take an entirely different attitude to investments or property in the control of the State from what they do in regard to property in the control of private individuals?
I want to know the relative value of the property belonging to the State as compared with the property belonging to the Eastern Telegraph Company. I have not seen or heard so far what proportion of the £30,000,000 capital in the Communications merger is to he allocated to the Eastern Telegraph Company. From the quotation my hon. Friend read from the "Times" it would appear that £17,250,000, or thereabouts, of that £30,000,000 is to be allocated to the Marconi Company, and that would leave £12,000,000 and something odd to the Eastern Telegraph Company. Does that give the correct proportion between these two allocations and, if it does not, will the Government give us some enlightenment upon that question? If it does represent the actual situation I should like to see how the allocation to be made to the Eastern Telegraph Company compares with the attitude that is taken up towards the Government property. We have spent upon the three cables, the Atlantic £2,050,000, the West Indian £364,000, and the Pacific £4,720,000. The Financial Secretary on the Second Reading pointed to the fact that the Pacific cable was constructed out of the reserve fund, but that does not matter in the least. This reserve fund stands in exactly the same position as bonus shares in any company. We have spent actually £7,134,000 on the various cables I have named. If this had been in a private company in addition to the £7,130,000 there would have had to be additional capital for working 1441 expenses and that would have made a total capital of something like £8,000,000 at the least.
For the whole of this property we are to receive a mere matter of £1,217,000 in cash and a debt, which is to be acknowledged, of £1,233,000 to be repaid on a basis of 3 per cent. If we take the total of £2,250,000, that is what we are to receive for an outlay of £7,134,000. It is true some of this plant has been in existence for quite a time. Nevertheless repairs are always going on, parts are being renewed, and the length of time these cables have been in service is no indication of the actual worth of the property at the moment. That figure of £7,134,000 has to be compared with the amount in the telegraph companies' capital that is concerned with cables. The total capital of the Telegraph Company is £9,000,000 and a portion of it is, of course, connected not with cables but with other concerns. If we come to the actual amount concerned with cables, we do not know how much that is, but it may be £7,000,000. So you have a comparable figure of £7,000,000 in the Eastern Telegraph Company devoted to cables and £7,134,000 of outlay by the Government. These two are fairly comparable figures and, so far as we have been able to ascertain from any figures given us by any authority whatever, the Government is to receive a total sum of £2,250,000 and the Communications Company is allocating, presumably, though I do not know—it may be £12,000,000 or £13,000,000 to the Eastern Telegraph Company. One would like to know if that is so, whatever the figure is, whether anything has been allowed for the appreciation in value of the Eastern Telegraph shares between, say, February and December of this year.
In looking up the prices of their shares I find about 12 months 'ago, on 9th and 21st December, they were quoted at 147, in January at 146, and on 23rd February 141. I chanced on these dates. They are not selected at all. A few days ago they were quoted at 253, so that there has been an appreciation of £100 on a £100 share since February last. I want to know how much of that appreciated value has been reckoned in this £30,000,000 for the Communications Company. We are entitled to know these things, because it seems to me to be nothing more nor less than day- 1442 light robbery. These people have come in to save their skins. They have not only saved their skins, but they have skinned the Government and the country. We cannot tolerate the Bill going through unless we know very much more about the financial facts of the situation than we do at the moment. For these reasons I very strongly support the Amendment.
§ Commander BELLAIRS
I desire unreservedly to congratulate the Government on the acceptance of the Report of the Imperial Commission on this matter, 'and also to congratulate the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Financial Secretary to the Treasury for the able Report that Commission brought in. The first case of Government ownership of cables was when we laid the Pacific cable, and our position prior to that was one of complete supremacy. The moment the Government entered the field the downfall of British cable supremacy began. In 1896, the French Budget Commission reported that British cable supremacy forced all the extra-European nations, and those of Europe also, to pay tribute to England. The moment we had this Government competition none of the cable companies felt secure, and the Government did one thing that no private cable company would do. They laid a cable with the longest span in the world. It made the cost of cabling very much greater and the speed much slower.
I was the only naval officer to give evidence before the Pacific Cable Commission in 1900, and I stated at the time that the result of the Government entering the ownership of cables would be not only the downfall of British cable supremacy, but that that cable, if it went to Fanning Island away from the commercial route that goes to Honolulu, would be the only British cable cut when war broke out, and it was the only British cable cut. The Commission acknowledged that if the cable were laid to Honolulu there would be a very material reduction in the charges of interest and sinking fund, and the capital required would be less. The result of the Government holding the ownership of just a few cables was that they maintained a cable ship at great expense, and during the whole of 1927, as you will see from this Report, it was only engaged on three minor repairs. It would be infinitely better to have one company holding all 1443 the British cables. I prophesy with some confidence that everyone will see in the course of a few years that this project of the Government is a magnificent success. What the Opposition fear is that it will lead to fresh demands for private enterprise to step in.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
It is refreshing to find the hon. and gallant Gentleman coming to the support of the Government on this matter, if only because he gives at least one cogent reason why the scheme will lead to economy and efficiency. Apparently we are going to be left with only one cable repairing ship for the whole of the cables of the new merger. I am astonished that he should not see, as a naval officer, the danger of having no repairing staff except this one ship, which might be torpedoed.
§ Lieut. - Commander KENWORTHY
The hon. and gallant Gentleman made out that it is no use having a number of cable ships, because there is not enough work for them, and he insisted, therefore, that you must only have one. [Interruption.] II., is no use hon. Members making animal noises. I am giving a cogent argument. You will disperse, on grounds of economy and the making of profits for shareholders, an irreplaceable skilled body of seamen trained up in repairing cables. I am astonished to find the hon. and gallant Gentleman advocating such a thing. However, I would rather have his views than those of the right hon. Baronet the Member for Walthamstow East (Sir H. Greenwood). He made a very interesting speech on the Second Reading and walked out of the House and has not been back since. He did not even come back to hear what the Minister had to say. The hon. and gallant Gentleman, however much I disagree with his views, is at any rate taking a continued interest in it and is, therefore, entitled to speak.
My hon. Friends are objecting to this bargain because it is too unfavourable to the State. It is true we are getting nominally a sum of money which is apparently going to come into the revenue, but we are handing over assets that are worth 1444 very much more. Under this Clause sums of money are going to be paid to the Treasury and will, therefore, go to balance next year's Budget. The hon. and gallant Member for Ripon (Major Hills), who I see in his place, is a financial authority. Does he approve of selling Government assets—never mind for a moment about the price—and putting the realisation of the sale of those assets to current account?
§ Lieut. - Commander KENWORTHY
Does it make it any better? That was the practice of the Coalition Government which the hon. and gallant Gentleman assisted in destroying. It was their ridiculous custom after the War in selling War stores, but we have passed the War period now. We are selling public assets, and the proceeds are going to be used to balance the Budget, and enable the Chancellor of the Exchequer to make some sort of remission in view of the General Election.
§ Major HILLS
May I answer the hon. and gallant Gentleman? We pay capital charges out of income, and we put capital receipts to income, because of the simple fact that we have no capital account, and for very good and excellent reasons.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I think they are very bad reasons. Of course, it is a capital asset., arid if the hon. and gallant Gentleman was on any Board and such a proposal came before that Board, it would only be carried over his dead body. I know enough of his business acumen to know that he is driven to this ridiculous argument because he has to support this indefensible proposition of the Government. Coming to the question of price, I am not going over the figures. They have been dealt with over and over again in this House by my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol East (Mr. W. Baker), and have never been answered. I think that his figures should have made the most stalwart supporter of the Government squirm. I am going to quote a piece of evidence from an irreproachable source. Briefly my hon. Friend's case is that something like £7,250,000 worth of property is being handed over for half a million in cash, and a million-and-a-third in debentures. 1445 Let us see the result of this on the Stock Exchange. I hold in my hand a cutting from the "Evening Standard" of 27th June when the information began to leak out, when those in the know began to get confirmation of private information.The announcement of the Government's decision is awaited with the greatest interest not only in this country but also throughout the Empire.It is from the City Correspondent of the "Evening Standard," and he is not attacking the Government, and the paper is not attacking the Government, at any rate, on this occasion. I will leave out a good deal of explanation with which I need not trouble the Committee, because lion. Members are familiar with the matter. It goes on to say that the new combineis in a position to make a large cash offer for the Post Office external telegraph system, and for any independent concerns which could be operated more successfully by the combine. Expectation of an imminent announcement of the Cabinet's approval brought in further buyers of wireless and cable shares to-day, and active dealings took place in the stocks and shares of the company's concerns.Now this was on the announcement of the Government's decision and shows the dimension of the leaking out of information.Eastern Telegraph stock following yesterday's rise to £223 10s. soared 19 points further, to £242 10s. Eastern Extensions and Westerns were also buoyant, Easterns putting on 2¾, to 24. Westerns went to 24¼. Marconi shares resumed their overnight advance with a rise of Is. 9d. to 67s. 9d., while Marconi Marines appreciated 6d. to 47s. 6d. Radio Corporations were £1 higher at £36.No wonder the Postmaster-General referred to himself yesterday as being an unhappy Postmaster-General. The Secretary of State for Scotland was the father of this little deal, and what the City thinks of the Secretary of State for Scotland, the Stock Exchange shows us in some of the things I have read out. The skinning was good, and they went on with the skinning and the killing, and the killing is not over yet. That was only one example which I kept at the time, and I think it shows better than any evidence that we can bring from this side that the Government must have made an extraordinarily bad bargain for such a phenomenal and sensational rise in the shares of these companies to take 1446 place. What is the Government's object with regard to this scheme if they say that this business was all above board and perfectly honourable to both sides? Of course, I do not impeach their personal honour in this matter. How do they account for the fortunes which must have been made by fortunate speculators on the Stock Exchange who had private information of what was going to happen?
How does the Postmaster-General like it? It is not a question of handing over a Government property to private enterprise. We say that the price and the bargain are inequitable, unfair and unjust to the taxpayer. That is our position; that is our case. I await with great interest what the Postmaster-General may have to say in the matter. I think that my hon. Friend the Member for East Bristol was a little premature in his pleasure at seeing the Postmaster-General on the bench opposite. We have not heard a word from the Postmaster-General in debate yet. The matter has been left exclusively in the hands of the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Financial Secretary to the Treasury. I am no; sure that we are going to have the Postmaster-General now, but I hope we shall. I hope we shall also hear from the Noble Lord the Assistant Postmaster-General. They should have been in charge of this Debate from the beginning and responsible for safeguarding the taxpayer and the public interest. If they were not content with the bargain, they have no right to continue to hold their positions. If the Postmaster-General approves of this bargain, I hope he will explain why he approves of it, or how he accounts for it if he is not satisfied. He ought to stand by the State and State enterprises that have been successfully brought to profitable development by his servants, and not desert them.
Finally, I want to answer the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Maidstone (Commander Bellairs), who spoke of the strategical and Imperial aspects of this business, by quoting what the Prime Minister said in 1923:It is necessary in the interest of the national security that there should be a wireless station in this country capable of communicating with the Dominions and owned and operated by the State.What has happened since 1923 to alter that view of the Chairman of the Com- 1447 mittee of Imperial Defence? I will tell the Committee what has happened. The beam wireless system was made a success. That is what has happened. Competition was felt by the cable companies. [Interruption.] Perhaps my hon. Friends below the Gangway will bear with me for a moment, because they voted for the Bill, and I hope they are going to repent and vote for our Amendment. The cable companies came to the Government and said: "We cannot go on. We are not making money. We are going into liquidation, and will probably be bought up by Americans." If there is a different aspect of this, perhaps the Postmaster-General will say so. The usual Cabinet Committee was set up and the Secretary of State for Scotland put in charge of it—I do not know what action the Postmaster-General has taken—and then we get this bargain which the Government say is a good one. The answers to that have been found in the Stock Exchange manipulations which have taken place. We say that this whole thing is a disgraceful, an impeachable ramp. The days of impeachment have gone by, but I hope that the matter will be brought home to the Government, and that the public will visit them with the only punishment that the taxpayers for their own protection can inflict upon them.
Major-General Sir ROBERT HUTCHISON
I expressed my views on the whole proposition on the Second Reading of the Bill, and I am still unconvinced that the views which I then expressed are wrong. I am one of those who believe that, owing to the success of the beam system, our cable systems were in process of being squeezed out. Anyone who knows what happened during the War realises that it is vital to the interests of this country that cable communication with the various parts of our own Empire and the world should he preserved from the point of view of secrecy and from every point of view. Therefore, it was obviously up to the Government to see in what way they could preserve this form of communicating with the rest of the Empire. There were two ways in which this could be done. One was by the Government taking over the whole service, including the putting down of cash to buy the various cable companies and the wireless. The other is the pro- 1448 cess which they are now proposing to pursue. I believe that the present arrangement is, in the interests of the people, the best way of carrying out the preservation of our cable communications.
I am not one of those who believe that the bargain that the Government are making at the present moment is a bad one, and for this reason. However much we may deplore the loss of capital, we have come down to actual present-day values. If we take the balance sheets of the various companies in this country to-day, we shall find values which are out of all proportion to their earning capacity. You get values on the money spent in buildings, plant and other things which are of no earthly use to businesses to-day. It is exactly the same with the cable companies. They have plant there which, from the point of view of the economic value in the market, has no relation to its present value. Therefore, you have to look at the actual value of these cables, which have been very closely scrutinised by other Governments as well as our own. I am not at all sure that the present company who are taking over this business are really paying real value. I doubt very much whether these cables are worth what they arc paying for them with the beam wireless so efficient and growing more efficient. But the fact remains that we who hold these views believe that the preservation of our cable service is vital to this country. I have not been disturbed in that view after all the various speeches I have heard in this House on this subject. I venture to say that the actual Stock Exchange manipulations of the values of shares such as Marconi shares and the Eastern and Western Telegraph shares have very often proved to be wrong. It is quite within recent recollection that in regard to the Duophone Company, about which a question was asked in the House the other day, that company's shares a short time ago were in the market at £4 10s., while to-day they are worth only a few shillings. It shows that speculators who rush in to buy these shares very often get left with the baby. Perhaps on the bargain made by the Government, those who bought the shares on these terms will discover that the rate of interest on their capital expenditure is somewhat small. Whatever may he the 1449 opinion of hon. and right hon. Members above the Gangway, I believe that the Government, on the whole, are putting forward the best proposition, and I shall certainly support them.
§ 5.0 p.m.
§ Sir W. MITCHELL-THOMSON
It will perhaps be convenient if I say something at this stage on some of the general questions which have been raised in the Debate. I can assure the hon. Member for East Bristol (Mr. W. Baker) and the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy), that the reason why I have not taken any part in the Debates on this question was not because desired to withhold any information. On the contrary, I have been and always shall be willing to give all the information I can to enable hon. Members to come to a sound conclusion. The only reason why I have not taken part in the Debates on this subject was that those who were best qualified to explain matters were the two members of the Government who were themselves members of the Conference. I should like to stress the word "conference" because the hon. and gallant Member for Hull, no doubt quite unwittingly, rather scoffed at this body as a Cabinet committee. I beg him and the Committee to realise that it was in the fullest sense of the word an Imperial Conference, composed of delegates fully accredited by their respective Governments and sitting as the representatives of their respective Governments.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
We were told at an earlier stage—I cannot recollect the exact date—that this decision was taken by a Cabinet Committee presided over by the Secretary of State for Scotland. That is how I fell into the error.
§ Sir W. MITCHELL-THOMSON
The recommendations were put forward by the Imperial Conference. I stated that to the House when I first announced that the body was going to meet. I was then asked if it was going to be a Committee, and I said that it would be an Imperial Conference. It was an Imperial Conference. What has happened so far as this House is concerned is, that the recommendations of the Imperial Conference have been accepted by His Majesty's Government in Great Britain. 1450 That is the constitutional position in which the Committee finds itself to-day. Perhaps it may be convenient if I try to clear up one or two general matters on which I think there is genuine misconception on the part of hon. and right hon. Members opposite. I should like, first of all, to correct an impression which was left, perhaps unwittingly, by the Leader of the Opposition when he spoke on the Second Reading. He rather led the House to infer that the system of the beam was something which had been successfully pushed on by his Government in the teeth of opposition by experts in this country. I am not sure that he did not go so far as to say that the opposition was by Post Office experts. I am not sure on that point, but certainly he led us to believe that it was pushed on by his Government in the teeth of expert opposition. My right hon. Friend the Member for Waltham-stow East (Sir H. Greenwood) certainly went a good deal further than that. That is a complete perversion of the history of the matter. What actually happened was—
§ The CHAIRMAN
It appears to me that the beam system can only be referred to as affecting the question whether this sale was or was not a good one. I can understand that it may have some effect on the assets of the cable companies, but I think that is as far as it is relevant.
§ Sir W. MITCHELL-THOMSON
That ruling makes the position a little difficult. I should like to have a ruling for my guidance. Do I understand that any discussion as to the terms on which the beam is to be leased to the Communications Company will be outside the scope of the discussion?
§ The CHAIRMAN
Yes, I do so rule. It is in order to refer to the success of beam wireless as influencing the value of the assets. That is as far as we can go.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I do not think that has convinced me. Of course, I am open to be convinced if any hon. Member can connect that line of argument with these 1451 sales in the course of his speech. On the face of it, we are concerned only with cables, and other considerations must be related to that.
§ Sir W. MITCHELL-THOMSON
Hon. Members opposite will probably agree with me that this ruling places the Committee in a position of some difficulty, because if I apprehend their attitude rightly, what they are objecting to is not so much to the sale of the cables, although they do object, but to the action which the Government propose to take in regard to the beam wireless service. If, therefore, we are placed in this position that our action, which I am thoroughly prepared to justify, is not to be discussed, it leaves us with rather an incomplete ending to our deliberations. However, perhaps we can raise the matter when we get to Clause 4. Meantime, perhaps I shall be allowed to make one reference, because I think an injustice has been done to the service by some of the things that have been said. I have read the report of the chief wireless expert of the Committee, which was made to the Government of the right hon. Gentleman opposite, and it contains a remarkably accurate forecast of what would be the effect of working the beam system.
§ Sir W. MITCHELL-THOMSON
He was the chief wireless adviser to the Government, Dr. Eccles. I will leave that matter and approach again the general question. The discussion has ranged over very much the same ground as the discussion on the Second Reading. The Second Reading discussion was summed up accurately, as always, by the right hon. Member for Central Edinburgh (Mr. W. Graham). He said that he admitted the alternatives which the Conference suggested for dealing with the problem. He further said: "We all admit that there is a problem. I have looked at the alternatives. I dismiss the idea that you can sit still and do nothing. You cannot sit still and let the cable companies go out of existence. I dismiss the policy of subsidy as equally objectionable. You are left with the policy of fusion, but you have adopted the wrong line or, rather, the Conference 1452 have made a mistake and have recommended the wrong kind of fusion. The fusion which they ought to have recommended was fusion under Government control instead of fusion as put forward by the Government." That, I think, sums up the views of the right hon. Gentleman and I should like to say a few words in regard to them.
If right hon. Members opposite had found themselves sitting on this Bench and holding the offices which we hold, without arguing the question of whether that view was right or wrong, they would have found themselves unable to carry out the policy which they desire. Let them remember that this is not a matter which His Majesty's Government in this country can consider by themselves. Had right hon. Gentlemen opposite been sitting here they would have found themselves in this position that their views on this question did not coincide with the views of the Governments of the Dominions. In these circumstances, the course which the right hon. Member for Central Edinburgh suggests is practically out of the question. Even supposing the Governments of this country and of the Dominions had been, more or less, agreed in the view that fusion under Government control was something which was desirable to try to achieve, it would have been very difficult to achieve it in the face of the provision which was inserted by the Government of the party opposite when they were in power in the agreement with the Marconi Company. I will deal with that more fully if the opportunity occurs later. Meantime, I would invite the hon. Member for Camberwell, North (Mr. Ammon), to study Clause 19 of the Agreement for the setting up of the beam stations, and if he reads that he will perceive what a difficulty there was in the way of achieving any system of fusion under Government control.
As regards the actual terms of the Amendment, and the method under which it is proposed to carry out this transaction, perhaps I might explain to the Committee, because I think there is some misapprehension, that there is no question of having one contract, to be concluded by the Postmaster-General or anyone else. I was asked yesterday, who was going to make the contracts transferring Post Office property. The obvious answer 1453 was that in such a case nobody but the Postmaster-General could be responsible, because the property is vested in him. In order to achieve the transfers which are contemplated in this Bill, a long series of different agreements will be necessary. It is obvious that there will have to be at least five main agreements. There will have to be an agreement by the Pacific Cable Board for the sale of the Pacific cables. There will have to be an agreement by the Pacific Cable Board for the sale of the West Indian cables. There will have to be an agreement by the Postmaster-General for the sale of the Imperial cables. There will have to be an agreement by the Postmaster-General for the lease of the beam wireless service, and there will have to be a licence by the Postmaster-General to the Communications Company, which is to be formed to work the system. I am not prepared to say at this stage what other agreements there may be. I have no knowledge of what agreements there may be concluded between the Dominion Governments and the wireless or cable companies operating in realms under their control, but I can and do say that as far as His Majesty's Government in Great Britain are concerned, when the agreements which we make and for which we are responsible to this House have been concluded, they will be laid on the Table, and it will then be open to the Opposition if, after seeing the terms of the agreements, they are not satisfied with the terms, to adopt their proper Parliamentary remedy and to move a Vote of Censure upon His Majesty's Government.
It, is an entirely new doctrine to me, and I have sat in this House for a good many years now, that His Majesty's Government have to get the prior approval of the House of Commons before they dispose of Government property. That is a new and, if I may say so, a rather vicious doctrine. This particular transaction, even putting it at the highest figure which hon. Members opposite have put upon it, is a mere bagatelle to the transactions which have taken place in the past without the prior approval of the House of Commons. I do not know what was the value of the ships which were sold by the Government, but I think it was not less than £60,000,000 or £70,000,000.
§ Sir W. MITCHELL-THOMSON
We are coming to the House of Commons for the repeal of legislation. We are doing that in this Bill. If I understood hon. Members opposite rightly, their great ground of complaint is that all the information, all the details of the contracts were not before them and that the Government did not get the prior approval of the House of Commons before the contracts were entered into. Really that is neither constitutionally right, nor is it practicable. It is not possible to enter into contracts and agreements because there is nobody in existence with whom contracts can be made. The Bill provides that if the Communications Company is constituted then contracts or agreements will be made with it, and, as I have said, when they are made they will be laid on the Table of the House. If hon. Members opposite do not like the terms of any of these contracts it is for them to move a Vote of Censure on the Government for having made them. I do not think I can say anything fairer than that. The very proper point was made by the hon. Member for North Aberdeen (Mr. Benn) in regard to the question of contracts, that there may be a contingency under which one of the clauses of a suggested agreement might conceivably be found to impose a charge on the State for the rental of certain portions of a station for telephonic purposes. I should like to have said something about telephony at a later stage but I have grave doubts whether telephony is in order seeing that the beam wireless is not in order—
§ Sir W. MITCHELL - THOMSON
Therefore, this particular contract to which the hon. Member referred, if it is ever made, will be a separate contract and will be laid before the House of Commons separately under the Standing Order. None of the other agreements can come under Standing Order 72, and hon. Members opposite have the right to ask the Government the question: Are you satisfied, and how are you satisfied, that the prices which are going to be Secured by the Post Office for these various assets, which are being disposed 1455 of, are fair prices? I suggest that we should deal with these other items separately; that in this Amendment we should deal with the Pacific cable; in the next Clause with the price of the West Indian cable and afterwards with the price of the Imperial cables. In these circumstances I hope the Committee will allow my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary to the Treasury to deal with the question of the price for the Pacific cable and the West Indian cable as these particular cables have never been the direct concern of the Post Office. In so far as His Majesty's Government are concerned, they have been administered for many years by the Treasury, and it was not until last year that the Post Office had any representation on the Pacific Cable Board. Therefore, my hon. Friend will deal with the question of the price for these two cables, and I shall be prepared to justify fully the price we are receiving for the Imperial cables which the Post Office has at the present time.
I must really say a word or two in reply to the speech of the hon. Member for Bristol East (Mr. W. Baker). He gave vent to the most wild and whirling allegations of corruption, and went so far as to say that money had been made by information improperly obtained through members of the Imperial Conference. Really, I do not think he has any right to use that sort of language either in public or in this House without some justification for it. Everybody knows that there is intelligent anticipation and unintelligent anticipation on the Stock Exchange. Sometimes the people on the Stock Exchange guess right, sometimes they guess wrong, but they will always guess, but the Government have no sort of responsibility for the speculating which goes on. At any rate, I am certain that no leakage took place through any member of the Imperial Conference, and standing here as one of His Majesty's Ministers, I must take the earliest possible opportunity of repudiating that suggestion.
The hon. Member also went into a good deal of detail with regard to the question of the possible allocation of capital as between the Marconi Company and Eastern Telegraph Company. All these matters affect the capitalization 1456 and creation of the Merger Company, and for that His Majesty's Government in Great Britain and the Dominion Parliaments have no responsibility, and take no responsibility. The body with whom we deal is the Communications Company. For that capitalisation we take responsibility, for the standard revenue we take responsibility; but all these other matters are completely out of the control of His Majesty's Government and, indeed, out of the control of Parliament. Parliament cannot be asked to determine the respective rights of one class of shareholder as against another. The only way that could be done would be by a private Bill, and if you attempt to legislate on that subject you will have competing claims at once set up. These matters cannot be included in the discussion in This Committee; with them we have no concern. Hon. Members are barking up the wrong tree when they talk about Stock Exchange movements and the capitalisation of this or that company. The one company with whom we are concerned is the Communications Company, and as to that we are perfectly prepared at the proper time to defend the figures which appear in the Report.
§ Mr. W. BAKER
Do I understand the right hon. Gentleman to say that as this legislation has been introduced and the Merger formed in order to save the cable companies, it is no concern of his as to what are the resulting financial commitments?
§ Sir W. MITCHELL-THOMSON
The hon. Member suffers from a constitutional inability to put his case correctly. The Merger Company has not been formed. In the Report he will see that it is in contemplation of formation, and I gather from the hon. Member's speech that he thought it was quite possible there would be great difficulties in the way because of the several classes of shareholders.
§ Sir W. MITCHELL-THOMSON
That is precisely what I was trying to point out to the hon. Member. I probably failed to make it quite clear, but in the hope that you, Mr. Chairman, have suc- 1457 ceeded I will leave the matter there. If it is the wish of the Committee my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary at a later stage will deal specifically with the question of the price allotted in the case of the transfer of the Pacific Cable Board.
§ Mr. BENN
I am sure that everyone who has participated in these debates will be glad that the Postmaster-General, who is always so well informed and so courteous, has taken charge of this matter. I do not wish to pass any reflection on other hon. Members opposite, but I think he is the proper Minister to answer on a matter which we consider is primarily the concern of the Post Office. I accept his assurance that he is under no vow of silence in this matter. What is his defence? His defence is that the House of Commons has no control because other Dominion Governments have settled the question. That is not a satisfactory defence. It is no defence to say: "What is the good of criticising, you have to remember that this is an Imperial matter." It is perfectly true that we have to take into account the wishes of other members of the Commonwealth, but it is not a sufficient defence to a transaction merely to brush it aside by saying that Parliament has no control over it. The Noble Lord the Assistant Postmaster-General I know looks with a complacent smile on the disposal of Government property because he declares that Government Departments and Ministers are not the most competent people to carry on an enterprise, and, speaking for himself, he is quite justified in that view. But it is not a sufficient defence merely for the Postmaster-General to say that other Governments are concerned. He has to defend British interests in this matter, and it is on that point that we should like more information.
One of the most surprising things in the Report of the Imperial Conference is this: They set out five possible courses, and the fifth is fusion. There are two kinds of fusion, as the right hon. Member for Central Edinburgh (Mr. W. Graham) pointed out; fusion in a private concern and fusion in a public concern, but this Report never takes into account at all a possible public fusion. It treats fusion as though it means fusion in a private concern. Hon. Members opposite may 1458 consider that private enterprise is preferable to public control, but in a matter like this I think we should have had some guidance from the Conference as to why they considered fusion under public control was not wise or expedient. As a matter of fact, Government policy has differed a great deal. First of all we started on the basis of public control. Mr. Bonar Law turned it on to a private basis. The Labour Government turned it on to a public basis, and now we are reverting to a private basis—I am referring to the beam service. What has the right hon. Gentleman to say about Parliamentary control? He says that Standing Order 72 will be complied with. I have no doubt it will be. When the contract has to be taken out to provide for the use of the beam wireless for public service, the Standing Order comes into effect, but if you read Standing Order 72 it is of no importance in itself. What is important is public control of public finance, and Standing Order 72 is clearly directed to prevent corruption and inefficient contracts. I do not know why they should use such words so many years ago.
What is it that we actually want to know? In the White Paper certain conditions are laid down, and very proper conditions if you are going to have private control—that in time of war two of the directors shall be approved by the Government, that rates shall be under the control of an advisory committee—but there is not one single word of them in the Bill. The White Paper has no meaning to us. It is merely a document, a statement, and absolutely of no value to us in attempting to exercise any control over these contracts. When we ask why we cannot have control before we dispose of the property, the Postmaster-General says that the Communications Company has not yet been formed. Is this Bill to be the means of the formation of the Communications Company? Is the passing of this Bill necessary for its formation? Not at all. Hon. Members must really get out of their mind the idea that anything in the Preamble of the Bill has any statutory value whatever. It is a long Preamble and, apparently, this long Preamble is a sort of excuse for the Government for producing this legislation in a form which 1459 gives the House of Commons the minimum of control over the contract. We think this should be under public control. This company is being given the monopoly of a State service, and the interests of the public should be safeguarded.
Suppose that hon. Members do not agree with this contract. Suppose that we come to the stage where these things are to be handed over to private enterprise. Is it unreasonable that we should say that before we dispose of a valuable asset we should like to see the terms of the contract? There is no reason why we should not be told those terms. It is ridiculous to say that until we have passed this Bill we cannot have a communications company. A company could he made as quickly as a merger. The Postmaster-General says that there is not a merger in existence. I am not going to embark on the technique of finance, but the appearance of the business to the ordinary observer is this that these cable and wireless interests have had the Government by the throat from the beginning, that they will not form a merger unless they are to get certain things transferred to them, and they will not complete the contract until House of Commons control is finished, until we have decided to give away these cables. As far as this House is concerned we are to he out of the picture before anything at all can he done. Is that reasonable? I contend that, Standing Order or no Standing Order, it is only businesslike to ask that the contract should be laid on the Table of the House before we are asked finally to do the deed which nuts any further control completely out of our power.
Then as to beam wireless, it is not for me to challenge any rulings of the Chair, and I would he the last to wish to do so. T do not know how far the. Preamble of the Bill governs questions of Order. I do not know whether we have to go by the Title and Clause or whether the Preamble is concerned at all. It does mention the competition of beam wireless. But accepting the ruling of the Chair that the beam wireless leasing is not to he discussed, see how we stand.
§ The CHAIRMAN
When I said that this should be a general discussion I 1460 meant that the policy of Clause 1 should be discussed and not merely the narrow points of the Amendment. There is nothing in the Clause or in the succeeding Clauses which deals with beam wireless at all. I imagine that that is a matter of administration.
§ Mr. BENN
I am not sure whether it is pertinent to ask whether a new Clause on the Paper dealing with beam wireless, is in order or not. It is perhaps premature to ask the question. I presume, however, that we can refer to beam wireless inasmuch as the price paid for this property is due to the fact that they are to get beam wireless on certain terms. That is the material consideration. The situation is this: The Government have stated the minimum necessary to secure consent to the disposal of these properties: they have specially and specifically excluded anything that can give us a voice on the question of disposing of what is valuable—not a thing that is diminishing—namely, the lease of the beam wireless.
§ Sir W. MITCHELL-THOMSON
That really is a suggestion of motive on the part of the Government. The plain fact is that the Government are asking in this Bill for powers for which they must ask. They have no power to sell without the consent of Parliament. They have power to lease without the consent of Parliament and that is the only reason why in the Bill they have not asked for power to lease.
§ Mr. HENN
I do say definitely that the tactics of the Government have been to make the minimum demand on Parliament and to conceal as far as possible, and to hold hack, all the necessary particulars, until they have the consent of Parliament. I do say that. If the Postmaster-General denies it, he has a. perfectly simple remedy. Let him put the contract on the Table before the Bill goes through. Then we shall have particulars about beam wireless and the condition laid down in the White Paper, not one of which was certified by this Bill. The contract should be laid on the Table. Can it be that the situation is that the Government has only decided to dispose of these assets and has not yet come to any conclusion as to what it is to get in return? The Financial Secretary to the Treasury, I see, makes 1461 a face, but that is not a sufficient answer. Apparently the situation is that I have made a false charge, that I should not have said "Lay the contract," because there is not a contract. The Government have not yet decided how they are going to enforce the terms which in the public interest are necessary if these assets are to be disposed of. Therefore, I say that the summing up of the matter is this: If the Government, instead of adopting these tactics of taciturnity—in spite of the garrulity of the Postmaster-General to-day—if instead of taking all our questions and lumping them into one to be answered by, the Financial Secretary, who says he has no information to give —if instead of doing that the Government had taken the open, frank and businesslike course, the matter would now be on a more satisfactory footing.
Mr. L'ESTRANGE MALONE
I hope that two of the subsequent Amendments on the Paper will give the Postmaster-General the opportunity which he desires, and which many of us desire, to discuss the developments of telephony and the beam service. The Postmaster-General gave us precedents for the disposal of Government property by referring to the sale of old warships and other war stocks. They are not comparable precedents for the selling of this great organisation on which the security and strategic requirements of the Empire depend. The right hon. Gentleman referred to the speed with which the scheme was considered by the Imperial Conference. Why was the Conference in such a great haste to get through its business? Why had it not time to wait for the evidence from Australia? Why was the expert of the Post Office, I think it was the Chief Engineer, not called to give evidence on beam wireless? Why were all the six parties who gave evidence before the Imperial Conference merely interested parties representing vested interests 2 Would it not have been better to have got some of the eminent scientists like Professor Eckersley, or the engineering staff of the Postmaster-General, to give evidence? The right hon. Gentleman has on his staff radio engineers and other engineers who are second to none in the world. Surely it would have been better to have got their advice before corning to a decision?
I was very glad to hear the Prime Minister say this afternoon that the 1462 Committee of Imperial Defence had approved the recommendations of the Report, including the measures contained in this Bill. I only express the hope that the Committee of Imperial Defence had more evidence to consider than this House has had laid before it in the last few weeks. One thing is rather disquieting, and that is that the Committee of Imperial Defence has charged its mind in the course of the last four years. Four years ago, when the whole matter was discussed, the Donald Committee reported quite definitely that Imperial communications ought to be kept within the control of the Post Office. Now the Committee of Imperial Defence has reversed its decision. I presume that it had an opportunity of discussing these matters four years ago. It is certainly rather disquieting, because it leads one to fear that the Committee is now open to political influence.
One of the most unsatisfactory things connected with this contract and the transfer of these assets is the question of the rates. Before the Postmaster-General brought in this Bill I would have liked to have seen him lay down certain stipulations in regard to the charges for telegrams. I believe that when the interests of the City of London, apart from those that are directly concerned with the financial aspects of this Conference, realise how they have been "had" they will strongly oppose this scheme. What are the rates now? The rates per word are 9d. to Canada, 1s. 1d. to India, 1s. 6d. to South Africa, and 1s. 11d. to Australia. The ordinary man in the street imagines that it costs more to telegraph a word to Australia than it does to telegraph it to Canada. It may have been so under the old cable system. Under the beam system it will cost exactly the same to telegraph from here to Canada or the longest distance to Australia, because, as the Postmaster-General knows, exactly the same transmitting station using the same power at the same cost is utilised in both cases.
There is no reason why the charge for transmission of a cablegram to other parts of the Empire should be any more than the charge of 9d. a word to Canada. I believe it could be reduced very much more. The Secretary of State for the Dominions is interested in the development of cheap communication throughout 1463 the Empire. I believe it is possible to reduce the rate per word to 5d. Possibly the aim of a penny per word rate for the Empire, which has often been mentioned in this House, is not unattainable. Before the Postmaster-General agreed to the disposal of these assets he ought to have taken some steps with regard to the price that is to be charged by the companies for communications within the Empire. I shall not go into alternative suggestions, but it might well be that the increased communications, the increased number of cables which business people will send to different parts of the Empire, would make up for the decrease in the cost of messages. It might work out much more cheaply to the taxpayer to pay a subsidy to keep these cables in commission for strategic purposes within the Empire, and to gain to the Exchequer an increased revenue by having an all-round 5d. per word rate to every part of the Empire. I very much regret that a stipulation regarding the rates to be charged has not been made.
The Postmaster-General referred to the fact that there is no merger and no communications company in existence. Is it not a fact that steps have already been taken to acquire new premises on the Embankment, where all these telegraph undertakings, now carried on at the Post Office, will function, as soon as this organisation is complete? It seems to me that these bodies have disregarded this House and have gone on the assumption that this Bill and all these proposals are going to be carried without opposition. I learned only this morning that a contract has been arranged, amounting to several hundreds of thousands of pounds, for the purchase and equipment of new premises on the Embankment. It will cost a great deal of money and it does not sound very economical, because it means that the office at present used by business men in the City, and all these pneumatic tubes and special lines and other apparatus will have to be transferred from the General Post Office at Newgate Street to the Embankment. At present you have the Central Telegraph Station right in the centre of the City where the bulk of the work is done, and if it is going to be transferred to the Embankment, to a site 1464 which is far from the scene of operations, great inconveniences will be caused.
Further it seems to me to show a disregard for the rights of this House that the company should go ahead with this matter at the present stage. I am glad to notice that the Secretary of State for the Dominions is now in his place because I am sure he will support my plea for cheap Dominion and Colonial rates. I hope he will use his influence with the Postmaster-General to secure the insertion in the contract of something on the lines which I have just indicated. I have looked at the Report of the Pacific Cable Board and I find it difficult to get the actual figure as regards the number of words sent, but I understand that 12,000 words were sent on the Australia line alone. If we reduced the rates to an all-round rate of 5d. to all Dominions, I believe that the present figure would be increased to 50,000,000 or even 100,000,000 words a year and it would be a tremendous benefit to business at home and in all the outlying parts of the Empire. Consequently I hope the Secretary of State for the Dominions will read the remarks which I have already made on this subject.
The hon. Member for East Bristol (Mr. W. Baker) referred briefly to the question of the staff. We had some questions on that point during the Second Reading Debate and the Financial Secretary to the Treasury again referred to it, in reply to a question on Tuesday. We want to have something more specific and definite on that point before we pass this Clause. I wish to bring to the notice of the Postmaster-General some of the difficulties which may affect the staff who are working on these cables and who are now employed by the Postmaster-General. In this connection I have to mention both the cables and the beam, and I believe that when the cables and the beam are transferred from the Postmaster-General something like 250 operators, including supervising officers, will be rendered redundant. I regret that before these discussions took place the human element was not considered. The Conference discussed the transfer of material, and the profit-making side of the question, but the human factor has never been discussed at all. The conditions of service of these men has never been discussed with the men themselves 1465 or their responsible organisations, and the Postmaster-General would do well to take the earliest opportunity of meeting the representatives of the appropriate organisations concerned and discussing with them the question of tine change over. There will be an opportunity later on, of going into this question in detail, but I believe that some of the staffs of the Post Office stations are now in negotiation with the Postmaster-General in regard to an increase in wages, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will see that the transfer of these services does not prejudice any decision in regard to that increase of wages. I have been in communication with some of the organisations concerned, and I would like to read a considered opinion from a branch chairman in one of these organisations.
§ The CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member is quite in order in referring to the officers affected by the particular transfer under discussion, but the point which he is now raising would appear to be one which should come up on the Post Office Estimates.
I was about to read a resolution passed by one of the organisations concerned about the transfer.
§ The CHAIRMAN
Is it about the transfer which is dealt with in this Clause, or about the other transfers which are dealt with in the succeeding Clauses?
I was getting very near to the question of the transfer of the beam stations. After all, they are all servants of the Postmaster-General. However, the resolution which I was about to read can be mentioned at the appropriate moment. As regards the transfer of the telegraph stations, there is another danger to which I would draw attention. On these long distance cable routes there are now relay stations. At these stations operators were employed up to recently for passing on the messages to the distant stations; but in the last few months these relay operators have been replaced by mechanical regenerators. I understand that in the Eastern Telegraph Company alone 400 operators have been put out of employment. Will those men be used by the new company in order to put the Postmaster-General's men out of employment? I hope that the right hon. 1466 Gentleman will be careful to see that his own men are given full opportunities under the new conditions, because there are these 400 relay operators, and, undoubtedly, the cable companies will want to find jobs for them. That is all I desire to say at the moment on the staff question, as other points can be raised later.
§ The FINANCIAL SECRETARY to the TREASURY (Mr. Arthur Michael Samuel)
I think it will be convenient if I refer to the observations just made by the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Malone), before I address myself to the questions which were put by the hon. Member for North Aberdeen (Mr. W. Benn) and the hon. Member for East Bristol (Mr. W. Baker). Let me read again, if I may, an extract from the Report of the Conference—and here I would like to say, even if I weary the Committee by repeating it, that this is not the view of a British Committee, but is the view of a conference between the representatives of the British Government- and the representatives of the Dominions, the Crown Colonies and India. Therefore, it cannot be looked upon merely as a United Kingdom view. This is what they say:Our recommendations will, we believe, establish this service on a firm foundation, lead to its development, and provide for its administration in a manner well calculated to bring to the communities which it is its function to serve all the benefits which naturally flow from a rapid, cheap and efficient system of communications.Who are the people whom we wish primarily to serve? They are the commercial community—of course, taking account of the necessities of the fighting services and the defence of the country. What do the representatives of the great industrial communities say? The hon. Member for Northampton said quite rightly, and I agree with him, that we should look forward to a reduction, if possible, in the rates. That is provided for here, because, by the fusion, you get an opportunity to cheapen rates and to give and to get better facilities for our commercial purposes. What is the view of the people who represent the great commercial firms of England? They are not unacquainted with the terms of these proposals, and I had a letter sent to me personally only half an hour ago from the Council of the Association of British Chambers of Commerce. These are the 1467 people who will provide the revenue of these great services, wireless or cable, and they are the people for whom these organisations are primarily intended. This letter is signed on behalf of the President, Mr. George A. Mitchell, who is chairman of the Glasgow Chamber of Commerce, and this organisation represents the whole of the business community of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
§ Lieut. - Commander KENWORTHY
My hon. Friend will excuse rue, but he and I have been Members of chambers of commerce and I am a member of one now, and surely he does not say that they represent the whole of the business community. They do not pretend to represent the whole of the business community.
§ Mr. SAMUEL
If one were to say that the Manchester Chamber of Commerce or the London Chamber of Commerce did not represent the great bulk of the business community in Manchester or in London, one would be contradicted. This is an organisation which represents all these chambers of commerce. It is a very representative body and may be called the Parliament of the Chambers of Commerce. What does this body say?
§ "IMPERIAL TELEGRAPHS BILL.
§ 14, Queen Anne's Gate,
§ 5th December.
§ I have the honour, by direction of Mr. George A. Mitchell, the President, to inform you that, at the monthly meeting of the Executive 'Council of this Association held this afternoon, the following Resolution with reference to the above Bill was unanimously adopted and I am directed to transmit a copy to you."
Again I remind the Committee that these are the people who find the money. The resolution is as follows:
The President and Council of the Association of British Chambers of Commerce having considered the Report of the Imperial Wireless and Cable Conference are unanimously of the opinion that the scheme of amalgamation of the Cable Companies and the other proposals contained in the Report will, if carried into effect, be of benefit to British trade.
The President and the Council, therefore desire to record their support of the Imperial Telegraphs Bill now before Parliament which seeks to give effect to the recom-
mendations of the Imperial Wireless and Cable Conference as regards the sale of the Pacific, West Indian and Imperial Transatlantic cable undertakings.
These are people whose views are entitled to respect, and I can conceive of no greater support for our efforts on behalf of the business community than a letter of that kind.
§ Mr. W. BAKER
In contra-distinction to that letter, will the right hon. Gentleman read paragraph 29 of the Report and especially the latter part?
§ Mr. SAMUEL
I do not think that is cognate to the proposals with which we are now dealing. May I get on to the other points raised by the hon. Member for Northampton? He said he looked for a cheapening of the rates. The Report shows that after having taken highly competent advice on the matter, the Conference laid down the proviso that everything above the fixed standard of profits, after payment of the 12 per cent. which comes to us, is to be divided, half going to the purpose of cheapening or improving the services. You have there an effort to secure the increased facilities and cheaper service for which the non. Member asks.
What guarantee is there that this money will be devoted to cheapening the rates, and not to buying more apparatus to assist the company?
§ 6.0 p.m.
§ Mr. SAMUEL
That is a suspicion which can be at once dispersed. You have the Advisory Committee which has very large powers and which is to deal with the very point raised by the hon. Member. But my main task is to justify by argument why the price should be £517,000 plus the taking over of the debt of £1,233,000, and not the £5,000,000 mentioned in the Amendment. Before dealing with that, may I address myself to one or two minor financial points put by the hon. Member for East Bristol. The answer to the question as to why 3 per cent. interest is included in the annuity, is that when the annuity was set up in 1903, that was roughly the value of money at the time. The hon. Member expressed some astonishment as to why there was a repayment of capital on Government undertakings because it was not usual in ordinary commercial undertakings. The answer is that in a great undertaking like this cable undertaking, 1469 cables become obsolete. Only £10,000 had been provided this last year, for replacement of worn-out equipment. The other point he put was about a provident fund on the Pacific Cable and the West India Cable. There is an Amendment down dealing with this point, and I do not think it would be in order for me to deal with it now. The same may be said with regard to the question raised by the hon. Member for Northampton with regard to stocks. There is an Amendment down about that too, and I would prefer to deal with it when that Amendment comes up.
I am asked why the valuers have put the figure of £517,000, plus £1,233,000, rather than the suggested amount of £5,000,000 put down by the hon. Member for East Bristol and by the hon. Member for Finsbury (Mr. Gillett). The £517,000 is the figure put by these most competent examiners as representing what the value now is. I do not know whether those who framed the Amendment meant that the debt for £1,233,000 should also be added to the £5,000,000, making £6,233,000, but let me take note of the smaller figure of £5,000,000 and let me ask what justification there would be for that sum rather than for the sum of £517,000. To place that sum as a proviso in this Bill would be tantamount to forbidding a sale, because no one would pay such a price. What have been the results for the last few years? In the best time of the boom years the figures of profits reached £123,000 in 1921, £169,000 in 1922, £164,000 in 1923, 2167,000 in 1924, £70,000 in 1925, £100,000 in 1926, £42,000 in 1927, and this year hey are estimated at nil.
§ Mr. SAMUEL
After paying interest and only £10,000 towards repairs and renewals in the last year. The capital value of the undertaking is obviously to be measured by its earning capacity. If it yields nothing, the capitalisation is nothing. But there is another side to that which I think hon. Members opposite have entirely lost sight of. Here is this Conference which gives a unanimous report. We are not the predominant owners of this cable. It is not for us to say to our partners, if they have other 1470 views and have unanimously come to the conclusion that the sum proposed in the report is satisfactory to them, that they are wrong. We are not the predominant partners, and that seems to have been overlooked. We are asked to brush aside the decisions of the partners who hold the controlling interest. The ownership of the Pacific cable is divided up into 18 portions, and we do not hold all those portions or even half of them. Some 13 out of the 18 portions are held by Governments other than His Majesty's Government in Great Britain. We hold only five-eighteenths of them, or less than a third, Australia holds six-eighteenths, Canada five-eighteenths and New Zealand two-eighteenths. Therefore, although the owners of thirteen-eighteenths say that they are quite willing and ready and content to sell at the sum put down in the Report, hon. Members opposite want us, who hold only five-eighteenths, to legislate for the whole property.
§ Mr. SAMUEL
Out of the £517,000 we only have a right, legal and moral, to a sum of about £144,000. We are not the predominant partner by any means. That has been overlooked throughout the whole of these discussions.
§ Mr. SAMUEL
It has not been given proper weight, then. There was no pressure. I was a member of that Conference, and everything that we arrived at was done freely, without any pressure from anybody.
§ Mr. SAMUEL
We are not. We think the line which was taken by the Conference was the right line, and we agree with what they have proposed. But 1471 what hon. Members opposite ask us to do is to bring pressure on our partners in a way which we think would not be justifiable. They want us to impose their views, against the will of our partners, upon them.
§ Mr. SAMUEL
I was present at about 34 meetings, and the whole scheme was examined as hon. Members opposite would wish it to be examined, exhaustively, over a long period. I think that is all I need say at the moment.
§ Mr. AMMON
The Financial Secretary to the Treasury has certainly raised one or two interesting queries, particularly when he has made reference to the measure of responsibility between different contracting parties in the Empire as to the disposal of this particular cable. Everyone here is aware that we would not be discussing this particular Measure if it were not for the fact that it is the first link in a very much longer chain that has for its object the taking in of the cable and wireless communications, and I would like to ask, when stress has again and again been laid on the fact that this has been an Imperial Conference and not a Committee, if we have not the right to inquire what has happened during the intervening years to cause that Imperial Conference to change its mind on this subject.
The right hon. Gentleman the Postmaster-General made a reference to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition in his statement of the position taken up by the Post Office as to the taking over of the wireless communications. I do not think it was quite as the Postmaster-General stated, although I am sure he did not intend to give any wrong impression. But the statement gave credit to the late Government for putting this into operation. What really happened was that the matter came under discussion, and the Government of the day were advised by their technical expert as to the possibilities within the wireless scheme, but there was a doubt whether or not the venture would be too large, as compared with cables 1472 which were tried and tested; and it was on the advice of their expert adviser that the Government took the plunge that they did and went in for wireless. I think the right hon. Gentleman will agree that that is a fair statement of the case.
That brings me to other considerations, because I knew something of the discussions that were going on in certain quarters and the frantic efforts that were being made by the Marconi and other companies to get hold of the wireless communications. At that time, and again and again over a period of years, the Imperial Conference met, and they carried unanimously—and this has never been denied, though I have put it to the House again and again in the presence of the Dominions Secretary—a Resolution that these communications should be in the hands of the State, owned and controlled by the State. Further, a communication was issued to all Government Departments, signed by all Government Departments with the single exception of the Scottish Office, but including the Dominions Department and that of the Postmaster-General, laying down and emphasising the urgent need of this particular means of communication being under the control of the State. They were unsuccessful in getting that through. What seems to have happened is that they anticipated that the competition of the new beam system would have such an effect that it would take away the trade from the cable companies, and one of the immediate results was that the cable companies had to reduce their charges, while the result of that was that a larger flow of business came to the cable companies.
Evidently some pressure was going on behind the scenes—and this Committee has a right to know what it was—whereby the Government refused to put into operation the decisions of the Imperial Conference, hut waited until this particular position had arisen. Now they are proceeding via the cable companies, on the ground that the cables are being put out of business. That is the whole gravamen of our charge. The cable companies are being put out of business, it is said, by this new invention which is developing at such a rate. When the Postmaster-General, whom we were delighted to hear take part in the dis- 1473 cussion at last, comments adversely on the suggestion of my hon. Friend the Member for East Bristol (Mr. W. Baker) that there has been some corrupt practice, though I have never made any such statement myself, I suggest nevertheless that there is a good deal of colour lent to that sort of thing, and, further, the Government are adding to it by not giving frank statements to the House as to what transpired in regard to the business. We are still waiting for a reply as to what pressure has been brought or what has caused these various Governments to change their minds. It looks very much as though certain interests behind the scenes have been waiting their opportunity. There have been changes of Government in all the Dominions and in this country too, and they have waited for this opportunity to come forward and get hold of this new business under cover of the breakdown of the cable system. Up to now there has been no reply to that charge in this House, and I think we have a right to demand that a reply should be given to indicate what has caused all these Governments to make a change of face and to bring about the position in which we now find ourselves.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for DOMINION AFFAIRS (Mr. Amery)
It might be convenient if I replied at once to the point, which, I agree, is an important point, raised by the hon. Member. His contention is that, in spite of resolutions passed over a long period by Imperial Conferences in favour of State-owned wireless, we have suddenly decided to go away from the system of State-owned wireless, and, on the pretext of competition with cables, have substituted a privately-owned cable and wireless system. I agree with the hon. Member that in the beginning the Imperial Conference did commit itself to the system of State-owned wireless stations. In 1911, the Imperial Conference passed a resolution expressing the desirability of a chain of State-owned wireless stations being established within the Empire. In 1921, a similar resolution to the same effect was passed, with one rather important qualification. The Prime Minister of Australia only accepted it subject to giving full freedom of action to Australia to decide the method by which Australia would co-operate. Within the next few months, early in 1922, Australia showed 1474 that her conclusion was to co-operate, not by means of State-owned wireless, but by giving a licence to the Australian Amalgamated Wireless Company. Australia was followed in the same year by South Africa and Canada, and in 1923 the Government of India followed, although to some extent under the general control of this country, and committed itself to private wireless.
Accordingly, when the Imperial Economic Conference discussed this question in October, 1923, it no longer confirmed or could confirm the desirability of a State-owned system of wireless, because wireless outside this country in every important part of the Empire was already in private hands. Therefore, all that it could commit itself to was the desirability of establishing as quickly as possible an efficient Imperial service, and it expressed the opinion that the several Governments should take immediate action to remove any difficulties that delayed the accomplishment of this, and to provide adequate safeguards against the subordination of public to private interests. We believe that the system which has been inaugurated as the result of the recent Conference exactly fulfils the conditions laid down by the Imperial Economic Conference of 1923. It is the only kind of fusion or amalgamation possible in view of the fact that, not only is a large part of the cables in private hands, but every other beam station in the Empire is in private hands. Hon. Members opposite speak as if this were a matter of the Government-owned beam service competing with inefficient private cables. As a matter of fact, the beam service, as a service, was not Government-owned. A beam has two ends to it, and while one end of the beam here was operated by the Government, the other end was operated by a private company. In this way the beam, as such, was competing with cables, some of which were Government-owned, and some were privately-owned.
It was not the privately-owned cables that asked for action, it was the Dominion of Canada, as one of the partners in the Pacific cable, and in November last year they suggested that, in view of the menace to the revenues of the Government-owned cable service from the private-cum-Government-owned beam wireless, a conference should meet 1475 to consider the whole question of how the future maintenance of the cables, from the point of view of defensive and commercial secrecy, could be maintained. Out of that Conference was evolved, not at the initiative of the British Government, but from the consideration at the Conference of all the alternatives, the present scheme which, while it secures unity of administration and the economies consequent upon such unity of administration and the flexibility of private control, also secures Government control of the things that are essential to the community. I have always been of the opinion that in recent years the newest form of Socialism is not direct bureaucratic Government management, but great public utilities organised on private lines and subject to Government control, the Government participating in the profits and making arrangements for the community to participate in the profits or in the increasing development of the system. Here, the Government get their share of the revenue, they get an immediate financial reward, and are enabled to secure what I believe to be an ever-increasing measure of provision for extending or improving the service for the benefit of the community, or for cheapening the rates with the same object.
§ Mr. GILLETT
What the right hon. Gentleman has said does not seem to coincide with some information I have here. He has spoken about the Australian Company which is. I agree, a limited company, but 500,001 shares out of 1,000,000 are the property of the Government. The Government of Australia appoint three of the directors, and when the right hon. Gentleman speaks about these companies as if they were purely private concerns, he ought, in fairness to the Committee—
§ Mr. GILLETT
The right hon. Gentleman hardly gave the Committee a fair description of the private company. Technically, I agree that is correct but a private company in which the majority of the shares is held by a Government, is in a different position. Both the other 1476 companies in South Africa and Canada, are, I agree, private companies, but both are working under an annual licence.
§ Mr. GILLETT
At any rate in the Australian Wireless Company, the Government have considerable control. The point I wished specially to mention is that I confess that the Financial Secretary to the Treasury has not answered my fears, with which we are concerned in this Amendment, as to the price at which we are going to dispose of the one cable with which we are concerned. I was hoping that he would give us some definite figure. What I have to complain about is that when the hon. Gentleman introduced the proposals in his speech two or three weeks ago, he spoke about the position of the cables as if the cable companies were almost bankrupt concerns. At the same time, in the Debate this afternoon mention has ben made of the extraordinary position of the private cable companies. I was rather surprised when the hon. and gallant Member for Midlothian and Peebles (Sir R. Hutchison) referred to the various transactions that had taken place on the Stock Exchange as if they were of no importance. There are many transactions to which it would be absurd to attach too great importance. What happened was that the reports came that the cable companies were going to be amalgamated. I agree with the principle of amalgamation, because I believe that in big business today, there has to be amalgamation, and the only thing that could be done was to amalgamate—"fusion" is the term used in this report. What happened? Rumours went round that this fusion was taking place, and the ordinary shares, which only last year at one time were as low as 139, have been this year at 255 or 260: and when you find the same change in Marconi shares from 41s. last year to about 84s., the highest figure, this year, one gets an expression of opinion that the public think that this fusion will have a definite advantage to the cable companies. It is almost certain that it is bound to have such advantage. The Financial Secretary, however, when he introduced his Resolution, spoke as if these concerns were bankrupt, and that all the cables were in a bad way. I 1477 should like to draw his attention to a speech made by Sir John Denison-Pender at a meeting of the Eastern Telegraph Company on 25th July this year. He was speaking of the beam competition, and he said he repeated what he said at the Globe Telegraph and Trust Company.
§ Mr. A. M. SAMUEL
I never made any reference to these cables. The cables with which we are dealing are the Pacific Cables.
§ Mr. GILLETT
What I am pointing out is that some are private cables and others are Government cables, and the lion. Gentleman made out that the Government cables, on account of the beam competition, were more or less worthless. I say that if the Government cables are worthless, the private cables are worthless also, and I am quoting what Sir John Denison-Pender said about the private cables. He said:The Eastern and Associated Cable Companies still continue to carry both a much larger volume and value of traffic than the Government wireless services between the respective countries where they are in competition, and this in spite of the materially lower wireless rates. It is clear, therefore, that the cable still holds a definite and important part in the communications of the world.He maintained that the cables still have a place, but the Financial Secretary seemed to imply that the Government cables were out-of-date, and that we should dispose of them for anything. My argument is that the Stock Exchange quotations show that the public think that, owing to the fusion, the value of the private cables is increased. I rather think that the hon. Gentleman agrees with me. I say that the same thing applies to the Government cables, and the Government cables ought to be looked after in the same way.
The hon. Member made a very bad mistake in his speech, and I was rather surprised that, with his knowledge of finance, he should have made it. He spoke last time of the Pacific cables earning only sufficient money to pay interest upon their loan capital. If he looks at the accounts, he will find that last year they paid in interest £38,000 but also paid off capital to the extent of £39,000. I agree that many hon. Members might have passed the thing over, but I cannot understand a financial 1478 expert like the hon. Member speaking in a slip-shod fashion like that, saying they could only just pay their interest when they had also paid off £39,000 of their capital. The reason why I look upon it so seriously is that the hon. Member must know perfectly well the difference between public finance and private finance. He said he did not know why the figure of £5,000,000 was put in the Amendment. I will tell him. That sum is, in round figures, the original capital expenditure on these cables—the exact figure is, I think, £4,720,000. There was a first loan for £2,000,000. Then, as I understand, another cable was put down, on which £2,700,000 out of the reserves was expended. In other words, it cost £4,700,000 to lay down these cables.
Supposing this had been a private company, what would have been the position? I take it that the company would appear to-day with a capital of £4,700,000; roughly, £5,000,000 would have been their capital. On the other hand, they would have been steadily putting away money to pay off that capital, a point which the hon. Member ignored in his slip-shod statement, and that is why I charged him with being so careless; he had overlooked the fact that they were paying off capital all the time. During all this discussion of public and private finance hon. Members are overlooking the difference between a private company and the method by which we financed this. A private company puts its money to reserves; a Government concern writes off its capital. That is the position. As far as I can gather, £4,700,000 was spent in putting down these cables, and the hon. Member tells us to-day that there is still a debt of £1,000,000. What has happened to the rest? Presumably it has been paid off, either by sinking payments, paying off a definite amount each year, or, as I gather, the profits of certain years which were rather large were used in order to put down this second cable. Now the hon. Member is going to hand his cables, on which a debt of £3,000,000 has been paid off, to the new company in return for the sum of £1,200,000 to pay off the remainder of the debt, plus the sum of £500,000.
I wish to ask the hon. Member whether it is not the case that the second cable was laid down only two or three years 1479 ago? It cost nearly £2,700,000. The amount written off a cable each year is one-fortieth of the capital expenditure. Even after taking off one-fortieth a year for those two or three years, the value of this one cable alone must be somewhere in the neighbourhood of more than £2,000,000, but the hon. Member is not going to get even £2,000,000 for it, and is giving the second cable as well. These are the figures which I want the hon. Member to explain. It does not seem to me that he gave us an explanation which made it clear as to why he had arrived at the figure he quoted. He said: "I will now explain why we have arrived at the figure of £570,000," but went on with his speech without, as far as I remember, making any reference whatever to it.
§ Mr. A. M. SAMUEL
We appointed two extremely competent men to advise the conference. One was Sir Otto Niemeyer and the other was Sir William McLintock, both held in high esteem in their profession. I will not say that I formed any opinion, because the hon. Member has said that I am a man of slipshod methods. The capital value of a possession is what rental or profit it will bring. The two expert persons provided to advise the conference what the capital value of this cable was came to the conclusion that it would, in future, earn sufficient money to justify a capitalisation of £517,000 after the loan debt of £1,233,000 had been provided for. That is the whole thing in a nutshell.
§ Mr. GILLETT
We do not specially know who these gentlemen are, and what I am complaining of is the extraordinary contrast between this and a privately-owned concern. If this cable is only worth this figure, why is it that the private cable companies are bringing into being a merger company with this enormous increase in capital, and why is there all this rise in share values? Look at the Marconi Company. The face value of their capital is somewhere about £2,000,000 to £3,000,000, but in the merger they have been given shares to the face value of something like £17,000,000. I quite agree with the Postmaster-General that that has nothing to do with the subject before, us—except this, that the whole crux of the problem is why the Communications Company re- 1480 quire £30,000,000. What I do say is that all this movement of shares on the Stock Exchange proves what people are thinking is going to be the worth of these things, while at the same time the hon. Member has nothing to tell us except the opinions of one or two experts and some figures.
I am a little doubtful about their experts, because although we had from the Postmaster-General a very glowing description of Professor Eccles, strange to say his name does not appear among the list of witnesses who appeared before the Conference. It would be interesting to know, also, whether the people who gave this expert opinion were qualified to do so, and why it was that Professor Eccles was not called to give evidence. It seems to me that the defence of the hon. Member is a very poor one. I do not wish him to think that I regard him, speaking generally, as being slipshod, and I did not say so. It is because I think so highly of him that I feel that on this occasion he was very slipshod. I should have thought nothing of it if certain hon. Members had made the statement, but I know the hon. Member is an authority on finance, and, therefore, I could not forgive him for it when it is so vital to the case.
§ Mr. WARDLAW-MILNE
In regard to what the hon. Member for Finsbury (Mr. Gillett) has said, it is interesting for the Committee to know that in his opinion, at any rate, the fact that certain movements take place in certain shares which are quoted on the Stock Exchange shows that those who take part in those operations possess some knowledge of affairs which is concealed from the rest of the world, and are better able to forecast values than other people. To many of us who have some connection with these matters quotations quoted on the Stock Exchange prove nothing at all; in very many cases prices are merely manipulated for the purpose of gulling some very gullible people. It does not appeal to me, therefore, as a strong argument against the price fixed in this contract to say that there have been certain operations on the Stock Exchange in the last few months in connection with Cable Company's shares. On the general question, the hon. Member for Finsbury appeared to base his argument in favour of a price of £5,000,000 upon the fact that that was 1481 what the cables originally cost. In other words, he appears to want to charge £5,000,000 because that was the amount paid for the cables in the first place, quite ignoring the fact that not only has there been considerable depreciation since they were laid down but also ignoring the fact that the earning value of these cables has materially declined. The whole basis of the proposals which we are now discussing is that the earning power of the cables has decreased so much that a merger is necessary. If that be so, surely he must see that the case for charging £5,000,000, because that was the cost of the cables when they were laid down, goes by the board. Apart from the fact that this valuation has been arrived at by experts in the manner which has been described to us by the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, it surely is clear that in arriving at their value to-day we must take into consideration what is their earning capacity and what competition, if this merger were not carried through, they would likely have to face.
I feel we must press for a reply to one point on which the Financial Secretary has omitted to say anything. I thank him for his reply, but there was one question which I put to which he would not be able to make a reply. I saw the Secretary of State for Scotland there, and thought he might answer. It was a point which was raised by myself earlier in the Debate, and by my hon. Friend the Member for Finsbury (Mr. Gillett) just now. The question is why no technical witnesses were called before this Conference. We have heard about these two learned financiers Sir Otto Niemeyer and Sir William McLintock, but by no conceivable stretch of the imagination can they be regarded as technical officers, and I want to know why eminent independent men like Professor Eccles were not called as witnesses, and why some of the engineers of the
§ Post Office were not consulted about the scheme. I suppose the Postmaster-General has got on his staff cable and radio engineers second to none in the world. Why were they not called as witnesses before the Conference? Six groups of witneses gave evidence, but every one of those groups represented a private liability company, with vested interests in the result which has been produced; and I want to know why other independent advice from outside, or from the Postmaster-General's own staff, was not sought. If we could be assured that such witnesses were called, we should have much greater confidence in approving the Regulation.
§ Sir W. MITCHELL-THOMSON
The problems arising of a technical nature were not such as to require the evidence and the advice of technical experts on their own technical ground. Had those problems presented themselves I do not hesitate to say the conference would undoubtedly have asked for technical advice. They were aware in general terms of the various aspects of the problem, because they had expert advice from the Post Office and the Treasury, and from any other necessary Departments, but actual technical advice on matters of radio machinery and radio telegraphy was not necessary, because the Conference did not require it.
Does the right hon. Gentleman tell us that the co-ordination of the beam service with the cables is not a technical matter?
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 212; Noes, l28.1485
|Division No. 26.]||AYES.||[6.46 p m.|
|Albery, Irving James||Bellairs, Commander Cariyon||Brown, Ernest (Leith)|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S.||Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake)||Bullock, Captain M.|
|Applin, Colonel R. V. K.||Bennett, A. J.||Burman, J. B.|
|Apsley, Lord||Berry, Sir George||Burton, Colonel H. W.|
|Ashtey, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Wilfrid W.||Birchall, Major J. Dearman||Caine, Gordon Hall|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Bird, E. R. (Yorks, W. R., Skipton)||Cassels, J. D.|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Bourne, Captain Robert Croft||Cautley, Sir Henry S.|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Bowater, Col. Sir T. Vansittart||Cayzer, Sir C. (Chester, City)|
|Balniel, Lord||Briscoe, Richard George||Cecil, Rt. Hon. Sir Evelyn (Aston)|
|Banks, Sir Reginald Mitchell||Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Ladywood)|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Brooke, Brigadier-General C. R. I.||Charteris, Brigadier-General J.|
|Beckett, Sir Gervase (Leeds, N.)||Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Berks, Newb'y)||Christie, J. A.|
|Clayton, G. C.||Heneage, Lieut.-Col. Arthur P.||Price, Major C. W. M.|
|Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||Henn, Sir Sydney H.||Raine, Sir Walter|
|Colfox, Major Wm. Phillips||Hennessy, Major Sir G. R. J.||Rees, Sir Beddoe|
|Cooper, A. Duff||Herbert, S. (York, N.R., Scar. & Wh'by)||Reid, D. D. (County Down)|
|Cope, Major Sir William||Hills, Major John Waller||Rentoul, G. S.|
|Couper, J. B.||Hilton, Cecil||Richardson, Sir P. W. (Sur'y, Ch'ts'y)|
|Cowan, Sir Wm. Henry (Islington, N.)||Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.||Rodd, Rt. Hon. Sir James Rennell|
|Craig, Capt. Rt. Hon. c. C. (Antrim)||Hope, Sir Harry (Forfar)||Ruggles-Brise, Lieut.-Colonel E. A.|
|Craig, Sir Ernest (Chester, Crewe)||Howard-Bury, Colonel C. K.||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)|
|Crooke, J. Smedley (Deritend)||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)||Salmon, Major I.|
|Culverwell, C. T. (Bristol, West)||Hudson, R. S. (Cumberland, Whiteh'n)||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)|
|Davies, Sir Thomas (Cirencester)||Hume, Sir G. H.||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)|
|Davies, Dr. Vernon||Hunter-Weston, Lt.-Gen. Sir Aylmer||Sandeman, N. Stewart|
|Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)||Hurd, Percy A.||Sanders, Sir Robert A.|
|Dawson, Sir Philip||Hurst, Gerald B.||Sandon, Lord|
|Dean, Arthur Wellesley||Hutchison, Sir Robert (Montrose)||Sassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustava D.|
|Drewe, C.||Illfis, Sir Edward M.||Savery, S. S.|
|Edge, Sir William||James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert||Shaw, R. G. (Yorks, W. R., Sowerby)|
|Edmondson, Major A. J.||King, Commodore Henry Douglas||Shaw, Lt.-Col. A. D. Mcl. (Renfrew, W)|
|Elliot, Major Walter E.||Kinloch-Cooke, sir Clement||Sheffield, Sir Berkeley|
|Ellis, R. G.||Knox, Sir Alfred||Skelton, A. N.|
|Erskine, Lord (Somerset, Weston-s.-M.)||Lamb, J. Q.||Smith, R.W. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)|
|Erskine, James Malcolm Montelth||Lister, Cunliffe-, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip||Smithers, Waldron|
|Evans, Captain A. (Cardiff, South)||Livingstone, A. M.||Spender-Clay, Colonel H.|
|Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univer.)||Loder, J. de V.||Stanley, Lord (Fylde)|
|Everard, W. Lindsay||Long, Major Eric||Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westm'eland)|
|Falle, Sir Bertram G.||Looker, Herbert William||Steel, Major Samuel Strang|
|Fanshawe, Captain G. D.||Luce, Major-Gen. Sir Richard Harman||Stott, Lieut.-Colonel W. H.|
|Fenby, T. D.||Lynn, Sir R. J.||Stuart, Crichton-, Lord C.|
|Fermoy, Lord||MacAndrew, Major Charles Glen||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Ford, Sir P. J.||Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.)||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser|
|Forrest, W.||Maclntyre, Ian||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid|
|Foster, Sir Harry S.||McLean, Major A.||Tasker, R. Inigo.|
|Foxcroft, Captain C. T.||Macmillan, Captain H.||Templeton, W. P.|
|Fraser, Captain Ian||Macnaghten, Hon. Sir Malcolm||Thorn, Lt.-Col. J. G. (Dumbarton)|
|Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||Macquisten, F. A.||Thompson, Luke (Sunderland)|
|Gadie, Lieut.-Col. Anthony||Maltland, Sir Arthur D. Steel.||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)|
|Galbraith, J. F. W.||Makins, Brigadier-General E.||Thomson, Rt. Hon. Sir W. Mitchell-|
|Ganzonl, Sir John||Margesson, Captain D.||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Gates, Percy||Marriott. Sir J. A. R.||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Gault, Lieut.-Col. Andrew Hamilton||Mason, Colonel Glyn K.||Vaughan-Morgan, Cot. K. P.|
|Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||Milne, J. S. Wardlaw-||Warner, Brigadier-General W. W.|
|Glyn, Major R. G. C.||Mitchell, S. (Lanark, Lanark)||Warrender, Sir Victor|
|Goff, Sir Park||Mitchell, W. Foot (Saffron Watden)||Waterhouse, Captain Charles|
|Grace, John||Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)||Watson, Rt. Hon. w. (Carlisle)|
|Grant, Sir J. A.||Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. B. M.||Watts, Sir Thomas|
|Greaves-Lord, Sir Walter||Moore, Sir Newton J.||Wells, S. R.|
|Grenfell, Edward C. (City of London)||Moreing, Captain A. H.||White, Lieut.-Col. Sir G. Dairymple-|
|Grotrian, H. Brent||Nail, Colonel Sir Joseph||Williams, A. M. (Cornwall, Northern)|
|Guinness, Rt. Hon. Walter E.||Nelson, Sir Frank||Williams, Com. C. (Devon, Torquay)|
|Gunston, Captain D. W.||Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)||Wilson, R. R. (Stafford, Lichfield)|
|Hacking, Douglas H.||Nicholson, O. (Westminster)||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)||Nicholson, Col. Rt. Hn. W. G. (Ptrsf'ld.)||Womersley, W. J.|
|Hammersley, S. S.||Owen, Major G.||Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir Kingsley|
|Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Pennefather, Sir John||Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.|
|Harland, A.||Penny, Frederick George||Wright, Brig.-General W. D.|
|Hartington, Marquess of||Perkins, Colonel E. K.|
|Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)||Perring, Sir William George||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Haslam, Henry C.||Peto, G. (Somerset, Frome)||Captain Wallace and Captain Bowyer.|
|Henderson, Capt. R. R.(Oxf'd, Henley)||Preston, Sir Walter (Cheltenham)|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (Fife, West)||Clynes, Rt. Hon, John R.||Griffith, F. Kingsley|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Compton, Joseph||Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)|
|Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro')||Connolly, M.||Grundy, T. W.|
|Ammon, Charles George||Cove, W. G.||Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton)|
|Baker, Walter||Dalton, Hugh||Hardle, George D.|
|Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)||Davies, Evan (Ebbw Vale)||Hayday, Arthur|
|Barr, J.||Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Henderson, Right Hon. A. (Burnley)|
|Batey, Joseph||Day, Harry||Henderson, T. (Glasgow)|
|Beckett, John (Gateshead)||Dunnico, H.||Hirst, G. H.|
|Bellamy, A.||Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Hirst, W. (Bradford, South)|
|Benn, Wedgwood||Gardner, J. P.||Hudson, J. H. (Huddersfield)|
|Bondfield, Margaret||Garro-Jones, Captain G. M.||Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath)|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Gibbins, Joseph||John, William (Rhondda, West)|
|Briant, Frank||Gillett, George M.||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)|
|Broad, F. A.||Gosling, Harry||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)|
|Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)||Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||Jones, C. I. Mardy (Pontypridd)|
|Buchanan, G.||Graham, Rt. Hon. Wm. (Edin., Cent.)||Kelly, W. T.|
|Cape, Thomas||Greenall, T.||Kennedy, T.|
|Charleton, H. C.||Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne)||Kenworthy, Lt.-Com. Hon. Joseph M.|
|Cluse, W. S.||Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||Kirkwood, D.|
|Lawrence, Susan||Riley, Ben||Townend, A. E.|
|Lawson, John James||Ritson, J.||Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles|
|Lee, F.||Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O.(W. Bromwich)||Viant, S. P.|
|Langbottom, A. W.||Saklatvala, Shapurji||Wellhead, Richard C.|
|Lunn, William||Salter, Dr. Alfred||Waish, Rt. Hon. Stephen|
|MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R.(Abaravon)||Scrymgeour, E.||Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)|
|Mackinder, W.||Scurr, John||Wedgwood, Rt. Hon. Josiah|
|Malone, C. L'Estrange (N'thampton)||Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)||Wellock, Wilfred|
|March, S.||Shepherd, Arthur Lewis||Welsh, J. C.|
|Maxton, James||Shiels, Dr. Drummond||Westwood, J.|
|Montague, Frederick||Shinwell, E.||Wheatley, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Smillie, Robert||Wilkinson, Ellen C.|
|Mosley, Sir Oswald||Smith, Ban (Bermondsey, Rotherhithes)||Williams, David (Swansea, East)|
|Murnin, H.||Snell, Harry||Williams, Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)|
|Naylor, T. E.||Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip||Williams, T (York, Don Valley)|
|Oliver, George Harold||Stamford, T. w.||Wilson. C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)|
|Palin, John Henry||Stephen, Campbell||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)|
|Paling, W.||Stewart, J. (St. Roltox)||Windsor, Walter|
|Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)||Sullivan, J.||Wright, W.|
|Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.||Sutton, J. E.||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|Ponsonby, Arthur||Taylor, R. A.|
|Potts, John S.||Thurtle, Ernest||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Purcell, A. A.||Tinker, John Joseph||Mr. A. Barnes and Mr. Whiteley.|
|Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)||Tomlinson, R. P.|
§ Mr. W. BAKER
I beg to move, in page 3, line 24, after the ward "may," to insert the words:at a price to be approved by a resolution of the House of Commons.
§ Question put, "That those words be there inserted."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 128; Noes, 213.1487
|Division No. 27.]||AYES.||[6.51 p.m.|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (Fill, West)||Hayday, Arthur||Scrymgeour, E.|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff, Cannock)||Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Burnley)||Scurr, John|
|Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro')||Henderson, T. (Glasgow)||Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)|
|Ammon, Charles George||Hirst, G. H.||Shiels, Dr. Drummond|
|Baker, J. (Wolverhampton, Bilston)||Hirst, W. (Bradford, South)||Shinwell, E.|
|Baker, Walter||Hudson, J. H. (Huddersfield)||Smillie, Robert|
|Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abartillery)||Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath)||Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhitha)|
|Barr, J||John, William (Rhondda, West)||Snell, Harry|
|Beckett, John (Gateshead)||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)||Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip|
|Bellamy, A.||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Stamford, T. W.|
|Benn, Wedgwood||Kelly, W. T.||Stephen, Campbell|
|Bondfield, Margaret||Kennedy, T.||Stewart, J. (St. Rollox)|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Kenworthy, Lt.-Com. Hen. Joseph M.||Sullivan, Joseph|
|Briant, Frank||Kirkwood, D.||Sutton, J. E.|
|Broad, F. A.||Lawrence, Susan||Taylor, R. A.|
|Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)||Lawson, John James||Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Darby)|
|Buchanan, G.||Lee, F.||Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plalstow)|
|Cape, Thomas||Longbottom, A. W.||Thurtle, Ernest|
|Chariston, H. C.||Lunn, William||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Cluse, W. S.||Mac Donald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Aberavon)||Tomlinson, R. P.|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R||Mackinder, W.||Townend, A. E.|
|Compton, Joseph||Malone, C. L'Estrange (N'thampton)||Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles|
|Connolly, M.||March, S.||Viant, S. P.|
|Cove, W. G.||Maxton, James||Wallhead, Richard C.|
|Dalton, Hugh||Montague, Frederick||Walsh, Rt. Hon. Stephen|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)|
|Day, Harry||Mosley, Sir Oswald||Wedgwood, Rt. Hon. Josiah|
|Dunnico, H.||Murnin, H.||Wellock, Wilfred|
|Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Naylor, T. E.||Welsh, J. C.|
|Gardner, J. P.||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)||Westwood, J.|
|Garro-Jones, Captain G. M.||Oliver, George Harold||Wheatley, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Gibbins, Joseph||palin, John Henry||Wilkinson, Ellen C.|
|Gillett, George M.||Paling, W.||Williams, David (Swansea, East)|
|Gosling, Harry||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)||Williams, Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)|
|Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)|
|Graham, Rt. Hon. Wm. (Edin., Cant.)||Ponsonby, Arthur||Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)|
|Greenall, T.||Potts, John S.||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)|
|Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Coine)||Purcell, A. A.||Windsor, Walter|
|Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||Richardson, R, (Houghton-le-Spring)||Wright, W.|
|Griffith, F. Kingsley||Riley, Ben||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Ritson, J.|
|Grundy, T. W.||Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O.(W. Bromwich)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton)||Saklatvala, Shapurji||Mr. A. Barnes and Mr. Whiteley.|
|Hardie, George D.||Salter, Dr. Alfred|
|Albery, Irving James||Apsley, Lord||Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S.||Ashley, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Wilfrid W.||Balfour, George (Hampstead)|
|Applin, Colonel R. V. K.||Atholl, Duchess of||Balniel, Lord|
|Banks, Sir Reginald Mitchell||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Glyn, Major R. G. C.||Nicholson, O. (Westminster)|
|Beckett, Sir Gervase (Leeds, N.)||Goff, Sir Park||Nicholson, Col. Rt.Hn.W.G.(Ptrsf'ld.)|
|Bellairs, Commander Carlyon||Grace, John||Owen, Major G.|
|Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake)||Grant, Sir J. A.||Penny, Frederick George|
|Bennett, A. J.||Greaves-Lord, Sir Walter||Perkins, Colonel E. K.|
|Berry, Sir George||Grenfell, Edward C. (City of London)||Perring, Sir William George|
|Birchall, Major J. Dearman||Grotrian, H. Brent||Peto, G. (Somerset, Frome)|
|Bird, E. R. (Yorks, W. R.. Sklplon)||Guinness, Rt. Hon. Walter E.||Preston, Sir Walter (Cheltenham)|
|Bourne, Captain Robert Croft||Gunston, Captain D. W.||Price, Major C. W. M.|
|Bowater, Colonel Sir T. Vanslttart||Hacking, Douglas H.||Raine, Sir Walter|
|Braithwalte, Ma|or A. N.||Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)||Rees, Sir Beddoe|
|Briscoe, Richard George||Hall, Capt. W. D'A. (Brecon & Rad.)||Reid, D. D. (County Down)|
|Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Hammersley, S. S.||Rentoul, G. S.|
|Brooke, Brigadier-General C. R. I.||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Richardson, Sir P. W. (Sur'y, Ch'ts'y)|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H.C.(Berks, Newb'y)||Harland, A.||Rodd, Rt. Hon. Sir James Rennell|
|Brown, Ernest (Leith)||Hartington, Marquess of||Ruggles-Brise, Lieut.-Colonel E. A.|
|Bullock, Captain M.||Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)|
|Burman, J. B.||Haslam, Henry C.||Salmon, Major I.|
|Burton, Colonel H. W.||Henderson, Capt. R. R.(Oxl'd,Henley)||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnnam)|
|Calne, Gordon Hall||Heneage, Lieut.-Col. Arthur P.||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)|
|Cassels, J. D.||Henn, Sir Sydney H.||Sandeman, N. Stewart|
|Cautley, Sir Henry S.||Hennessy, Major Sir G. R. J.||Sanders, Sir Robert A.|
|Cayzer, Sir C. (Chester, City)||Herbert, S. (York, N.R.,Scar. & Wh'by)||Sandon, Lord|
|Cayzer, Maj. Sir Herbt. R. (Prtsmth. s)||Hills, Major John Waller||Sassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustave D.|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Sir Evelyn (Aston)||Hilton, Cecil||Savery, S. S.|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Ladywood)||Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.||Shaw, R. G. (Yorks. W.R., Sowerby)|
|Charteris, Brigadier-General J.||Hope, Sir Harry (Forfar)||Shaw, Lt.-Col. A.D. Mcl.(Renfrew,W.|)|
|Christie, J. A.||Howard-Bury, Colonel C. K.||Sheffield, Sir Berkeley|
|Clayton, G. C.||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney.N.)||Skelton, A. N|
|Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||Hudson, R. S. (Cumberland, Whlteh'n)||Smith. R. W.(Aberd'n & Kine'dine, C.)|
|Colfox, Major Wm. Phillips||Hume, Sir G. H.||Smithers, Waldron|
|Cooper, A. Duff||Hunter-Weston, Lt.-Gen. Sir Aylmer||Spender-Clay, Colonel H.|
|Cope, Major Sir William||Hurd, Percy A.||Stanley, Lord (Fylde)|
|Couper, J. B.||Hutchison, Sir Robert (Montrose)||Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westm'eland)|
|Cowan, Sir Wm. Henry (Islington, N.)||liffle, Sir Edward M.||Steel, Major Samuel Strang|
|Craig, Sir Ernest (Chester, Crewe)||James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert||Stott, Lieut.-Colonel W. H.|
|Crooke, J. Smediey (Derltend)||King, Commodore Henry Douglas||Stuart, Crichton-, Lord C.|
|Culverwell, C. T. (Bristol, West)||Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Davies, Sir Thomas (Cirencester)||Knox, Sir Alfred||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Frater|
|Davies, Dr. Vernon||Lamb, J. Q.||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid|
|Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)||Lister, Cunliffe, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip||Talker, R. Inlgo.|
|Dawson, Sir Philip||Livingstons, A. M.||Templeton, W. P.|
|Dean, Arthur Wellesley||Loder, J. de V.||Thorn, Lt.-Col. J. G. (Dumbarton)|
|Drewe, C.||Long, Major Eric||Thompson, Luke (Sunderland)|
|Edge, Sir William||Looker, Herbert William||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)|
|Edmondson, Major A. J.||Luce, Maj.-Gen. Sir Richard Harman||Thomson, Rt. Hon. Sir W. Mitchell|
|Elliot, Major Walter E.||Lynn, Sir R. J.||Tltchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Ellis, R. G.||MacAndrew Major Charles Glen||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Erskine, Lord (Somerset, Weston-s.-M.)||Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.)||Vaughan-Morgan, Col. K. P.|
|Erskine, James Malcolm Montelth||Macintyre, Ian||Warner, Brigadier-General W. W.|
|Evans, Captain A. (Cardiff, South)||McLean, Major A.||Warrender, Sir Victor|
|Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Unlver.)||Macmillan, Captain H.||Waterhouse, Captain Charles|
|Everard, W. Lindsay||Macnaghten, Hon. Sir Malcolm||Watson, Rt. Hon. W. (Carlisle)|
|Falle, Sir Bertram G.||Macqulsten, F. A.||Watts, Sir Thomas|
|Fanshawe, Captain G D.||Maltiand, Sir Arthur D. Steel-||Wells, S. R.|
|Fenby, T. D.||Makins. Brigadier-General E.||White, Lieut.-Col. Sir G. Dalrympla-|
|Fermoy, Lord||Margesson, Captain D.||Williams. A. M. (Cornwall, Northern)|
|Ford, Sir P. J.||Marriott, Sir J. A. R.||Williams, Com. C. (Devon, Torquay)|
|Forrest, W.||Mason, Colonel Glyn K.||Wilson, R. R. (Stafford. Lichfield)|
|Foster, Sir Harry S.||Milne, J. S. Wardlaw||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Foxcroft, Captain C. T.||Mitchell, S. (Lanark, Lanark)||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Fraser, Captain Ian||Mitchell, W. Foot (Saffron Walden)||Womersley, W. J.|
|Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)||Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir Kingsley|
|Gadle, Lieut.-Col. Anthony||Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. B. M.||Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.|
|Galbralth, J. F. W.||Moore, Sir Newton J.||Wright, Brig.-General W. D.|
|Ganzoni, Sir John||Moreing, Captain A. H.|
|Gates, Percy||Nail, Colonel Sir Joseph||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Gault, Lieut.-Col. Andrew Hamilton||Nelson, Sir Frank||Captain Wallace and Captain Bowyer.|
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
An Amendment which is moved for that purpose must be of such a form as to be 1489 effective and one which would not have the effect of making the Bill absurd. The hon. Member's Amendment is to leave out the words "Communications Company," but I cannot accept that because the whole of the rest of the Bill is based upon what will be arranged with the Communications Company.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
No, I am afraid it would not. The hon. Member has to make some totally different Amendment. This Communications Company is referred to all through the Bill.
§ Mr. AMMON
I beg to move, in page 3, line 27, to leave out the word "twenty-eight" and to insert instead thereof the word "thirty."
This may seem quite a trivial matter, but, having regard to the discussions which have taken place this afternoon and on previous occasions, it is more important than appears at first blush. We have had great difficulty in getting the necessary information in order to understand all the implications of this Bill and all that has transpired previous to its appearance. Within the last few minutes, we have had from the Secretary of State for the Dominions the reply to a question to which we have been striving to get an answer for six months. That is an indication of our difficulties. I am moving to alter the date in order that we may be supplied with fuller information particularly with regard to the evidence submitted to the Imperial Conference, which caused them to alter their previous decisions. We might also have information as to why Professor Eccles and other distinguished persons were not called upon to give evidence. This is necessary that the public may be informed.
We are parting with a valuable property belonging to the public, and one which is in some senses an essential service. It ought to be maintained and owned by the State, particularly in times of disagreement with other Powers, as otherwise we would be exposed to very 1490 great dangers. That was our experience during the last War. Difficulties arose owing to the leakage of information, and action had to be taken in order to bring the cables wholly under the control of the Government. It is difficult to discuss this important problem within the compass of the Bill, but it is necessary to have this information that we may discuss it with greater clarity than at present. Two years would give ample time to get that information, especially as there is every likelihood of a change of Government within that time and other persons may then occupy the Front Bench who will be imbued with a greater sense of their responsibility to the public than the present Government. This delay will also give the Postmaster-General time to consult with his administrative colleagues, so that he may hand on their views to his successor, who will not be so likely to part with these services.
§ Sir W. MITCHELL-THOMSON
I do not want to be disrespectful to the hon. Gentleman or to speak discourteously of his Amendment, but, of course, this is purely a wrecking Amendment, which, if carried, would destroy the whole scheme and finance upon which the proposals have been based. The terms of sale and every figure given throughout the whole of the White Paper are based upon the consideration as they are at the e of the financial year 31st March, 1928. The hon. Gentleman is asking the Committee to start again. I am certainly not prepared to assent to such a proposal. He must remember that the Conference was called because an emergency had arisen owing to the effects of the increasing competition of the beam with the cable services. The Financial Secretary has already explained the position as regards the Pacific cables and has frankly told the Committee that the earnings of the Pacific cable have been dwindling. When the next Clause is reached, he will explain the position of the West Indian cables, and, when the Imperial Cables are reached, I will tell the Committee that their earnings have reached vanishing point. His Majesty's Government in Great Britain would be very loth to go on in this way for two or three years, and it is clear that that view is equally and even more emphatically shared by the other partner Govern- 1491 ments. Under these circumstances, I could not agree to an Amendment which would delay the operation of this Bill for two years.
§ Mr. BENN
The object of this Amendment is to give time. We are very much in the dark about this Bill. This is the very first day that we have had any statement from the Post Office. We are selling something to a thing called the Communications Company. Does it exist? If it does not, is it unreasonable to ask for a few months to enable this purchaser to come into existence There is a scheme for a merger. Has it happened? We are to have so many directors. Have their names been put forward? Is it unreasonable to ask for a little time before we sell? The Postmaster-General cannot say whether it exists. Perhaps the Financial Secretary or the Secretary of State for Scotland knows? I ask an hon. Member with a special significance in these Debates, the hon. Member for the City of London (Mr. E. C. Grenfell), whether it is unreasonable to move for a little delay before we hand over these things, whether valuable or not, to some company, the existence of which is in some doubt and as to the control of which nothing has been laid down by the Committee.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
The Postmaster-general told us that we were not the only parties in this little—how shall I call it—frame-up. I wish he would not look so pained. I will give my reasons why I use that term in a moment. It means a thing fixed up beforehand and about which you afterwards produce the necessary evidence to prove that it was the only thing that could be done.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
Where the hon. and gallant Member learned some of his phrases. I learned it with His Majesty's Forces where he learned much of his choice vocabulary. We all feel sorry for the Postmaster-General who has to part with his assets and with a successful service. He tells us that the Indian and Dominion Governments are concerned. On this Conference which was set up the Chairman, the Secretary of State for Scot- 1492 land, and his assistant and right hand man, the Financial Secretary to the Treasury—dare I call him Sancho to his Don Quixote—were the representatives of this House. Let us see what witnesses they called. Their names are on page 22 of this report. Every one of the witnesses was associated either with the Canadian Marconi Company, the Marconi Wireless Company, the Indo-European Company, or the Eastern and Associated Telegraph Companies. We had Lord Inverforth and Mr. Kellaway who is associated with the Board of the Marconi Company and who is a predecessor of the right hon. Gentleman. Another witness who was called was Mr. Brand, who has been mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for West Bristol (Mr. W. Baker) in one or two Debates, and who, apparently, had some function to perform. Several witnesses of this kind were called, but earlier in the day the Postmaster-General referred to the Government's adviser, Professor Eccles—
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
I must remind the hon. and gallant Gentleman that we have passed through that earlier in the Debate. We have now passed from the general discussion to the simple question whether the date shall be altered from 1928 to 1930.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I am going immediately to hinge my remarks on the question of the date. I ask for more delay because there are still undisclosed details, one of which I was referring to. This expert, who has given such valuable advice, was not called before this Conference, and, because the witnesses were chosen to give a certain kind of evidence, I consider that the matter should not be rushed through in this way, and that to bring it into operation as from the 1st April, 1928, is an undue acceleration of the business. It is particularly objectionable because it is being done by a dying Government in the last months of its term of office. It is making good business for its friends in these last months; I have previously referred to the extraordinary dealing which has been done on the Stock Exchange as a result of this business.
The country ought to have a chance of speaking its mind on this business, and we ought to try and save the Govern- 1493 ment from doing this until they have faced the electorate. It is part of a deliberate policy of doing these things while they have the opportunity. One day it is the London County Council tramways; soon it will be the Export Credits Department of the Department of Overseas Trade. All these nice little pickings are being got rid of while the Government are in office. This is a sort of reverse spoil system. In some foreign countries, whenever the Government is changed, they give all their friends jobs; they change their officials from the Postmaster-General down to the very postmen. This is the spoil system before the Government go out of office. I am not making any personal accusations against the two Ministers who were members of the Conference, but I accuse them of having been made to do certain things which were a bad bargain for the Government. They were easy game for the extremely clever financial brains behind this whole movement. They could have made a far better bargain if they had used the greatest bargaining asset that they had, namely, their whole control of the beam wireless system, on which they could have got any terms.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
I am afraid that the hon. and gallant Member might hang by hinges a great many things on to this discussion which cannot be got inside the Amendment.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I will only say that, in view of the approaching end of the Government, a further delay of two years would be decent.
§ Mr. W. BAKER
I support this Amendment, because I think that anyone acquainted with the history of the deals which have taken place in regard to wireless communication in this country will agree that there has been no consistent policy in the past, and that a change of Government has on at least one occasion caused a complete reversal of the policy which otherwise would have been pursued. Had it not been for the short period during which the Labour party was in office, we should not have been faced with this problem to-day, because the State would not have secured control of the beam wireless stations in this country. I venture to hope, if not to predict, that this subject 1494 is gradually becoming a subject of interest to the general electorate in this country. Rightly or wrongly, they are beginning to share our point of view, and, rightly or wrongly, even some Members on the other side are not quite satisfied that everything is as it should be. The hon. Member for the City of London (Mr. E. C. Grenfell), to whom I referred earlier, does share our fears to some small extent. In these circumstances, I would plead that these assets, which are not directly referred to in the Bill, but which are intimately connected with the matter that we are discussing, should not be taken from the State by a Government which has not the confidence of the people, which never had the confidence of the people—[Interruption]—and which is quite certain, so far as indications can tell us anything, to receive a very heavy defeat on its next appeal to the country. This matter is one on which the general electorate have a right to be heard. It has been extraordinarily difficult for then to know the facts, because of the attitude, not only of the Government, but of the newspapers which serve them so well. I am certain that our plea for delay will appear perfectly reasonable to a very large section of the citizens of this country.
§ Mr. WELLOCK
I also support the Amendment, for the reason that by 1930 we shall know much more about the realities of the situation, particularly in its financial aspect, than we know at present. The beam wireless is a new service, but, although it has only been in operation for a very short time, it has had an enormous effect on the cable services. If that has been the case during the last year or so, we shall by 1930 know almost exactly what the situation will be, and shall be able to avoid the necessity for paying more than scrap prices for a service which will probably be a scrapped plant by that time. While the Postmaster-General was lamenting the fact that the cables are worth comparatively little to-day, and we may be losing money in a year or two, he forgot to mention the beam wireless, which, of course, cannot come into this discussion, but which nevertheless ought to be kept in our minds. The beam wireless service is the milch cow which is outisde the House of Commons for the moment, as it were, but all the time we are relying 1495 upon it, and we need not worry about what we are going to lose on the cables, because we shall gain abundantly through the beam wireless. Not only need we not worry about losing on the cables at present, but, through the development of the beam wireless service, we could avoid having to pay enormous sums, as we are presumably going to do, for cables which are deteriorating, and which by 1930 will be recognised as having to be sold at scrap prices.
There is another reason for postponing the date for two years, and that is the site of the new central offices which are going to be used by these companies. We have heard a great deal to-day about the nebulous merger and the nebulous Communications Company. Some people seem to assert that they exist, and some seem to assert that they do not. According to my information, they are beginning very actively to function. I understand that they have already entered into a contract to take over the old Education Office of the London County Council on the Embankment, in order to centralise the different services which are now performed by the Post Office.
With all respect, this cable is now operated from the Central Telegraph Office at the General Post Office, but it is proposed to operate it from another site, which I am going to show is unsatisfactory.
I am dealing with the date of taking over. I do not want this undertaking to be taken over until we are quite sure that the Postmaster-General has approved of the arrangements for handing it over at this end, and I support the proposal to postpone the date for two years in order that the matter may be given further consideration. The time suggested may be too long, but I support the Amendment because the new site is not the best site for a central telegraph office. The bulk of the business which is handled by the lines that are dealt with in this para- 1496 graph is not the business of the Chambers of Commerce, to which the Financial Secretary referred, but is the business of financial houses in the City. The General Post Office is very conveniently situated near the financial centre of the City, and there are underground cables between the Central Telegraph Office and the sub-offices in the City—
I have had no reply yet. If this is going to be moved on to the Embankment, it will be put further away, and it will be necessary to build new underground systems, pneumatic tubes, and so on—
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member may be able to get this in—I am not saying that he can or cannot—on some other Amendment, but he cannot get it in on a discussion of the arrangement which it is the object of this Amendment to make.
I content myself, then, with saying that I hope the Postmaster-General has considered whether this new site is suitable as a central telegraph office for this country, both from the business and from the strategical point of view, and whether—
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
That is the point which I have ruled that the hon. Member cannot raise on this Amendment.
I support the Amendment because I think that the site is not suitable, and that the decision should be postponed for two years in order to give the matter further consideration.
§ Mr. KELLY
I rise to support the Amendment, and to ask whether we can have some more explanation than has been given up to the present. We are being asked, on the 6th December, 1928, to approve of this merger being operative as from a date many months before the introduction of this Bill. [Interruption.] I agree that the 1st April is a Saint's day, but I am anxious to know why it is that we are given no explanation of the choice of that date, and are being asked in December to approve of this being operative as from the 1st April this year. I suggest that it is to the benefit of the country and to the benefit 1497 of the people of this country that this matter should be held up for a further two years, in order to afford an opportunity of examining the whole position, so that it may be well understood when it comes into operation. At this moment it is not understood, and there are excellent reasons for many of the suspicions which have been voiced in this Chamber. It has the appearance—one may not be justified in saying more than that—of being rushed because it is not considered wise that people should have a complete understanding of what is being done. The Government might well accept this Amendment and postpone the date till 1930, so that the matter may be thrashed out and may be well understood by the people who are really concerned with this merger, and who probably by that time will realise that it would be far better to have it in their own hands than to pass it over to the merger company.
§ Mr. A. V. ALEXANDER
I should like to say a word on the Amendment from the point of view of the users of the services. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for North Aberdeen (Mr. Benn) that I do not see any particular merit in the actual date of 1930, but we are entitled to use the Amendment to get information which seems to me to be essential. The Secretary of State for the Dominions was present with me last night at a function in connection with a very large trading organisation which has depots and businesses in all parts of the Empire, as well as certain foreign countries, and they are typical of a large number of other organisations which will have to depend in the future increasingly upon the services to be rendered by the new form of international communication. There was every hope in our hearts that, with the extraordinary success achieved by the Postmaster-General and his staff in that direction, we should have considerably cheaper international communication for business purposes in future.
I am not going to suggest, without further information, that it is now to be said that our hopes are necessarily doomed to disappointment for certainty. That remains to be seen, but I ask the Postmaster-General whether he considers that the great users of these services have really had adequate time to consider the scheme and to have made plain to them 1498 whether the safeguards suggested have actually been well and truly laid. I cannot find in the Report, not in the report of the Debate in the House, anything which will give complete confidence to the large users of the service in that direction, and I really think there is a case, either for delay or for a much fuller statement as to what the safeguards are.
I gather some statement has been made that a resolution or two has been received from bodies like the Association of Chambers of Commerce, a very important but mixed body, composed of all classes of traders, financiers, stockholders, and some, no doubt, who will be interested in the matter from many points of view, but I want it looked at from the point of view mainly of the user of the services, and the effect of that use on the service and on the general trade and interest of the country. There are large numbers of users who cannot be found in the membership of the Association of Chambers of Commerce—I am sure the Financial Secretary will not deny that—and some of them are quite important trading bodies. Have they been consulted? Have they been asked for their opinion? If they have not, is there anything yet formulated in the scheme of the Government which will give them adequate protection in regard to their use of the services? I cannot find anything. I might change my view if the Postmaster-General would go a little further.
I understand from the Report that there is to be an Advisory Committee and that there is to be an understanding that rates cannot be advanced without consultation with the Advisory Committee. How is the Advisory Committee going to be constituted? I think we are entitled to ask, before we agree to a date of a retrospective character like this, what is the protection? We are anxious to make fuller and fuller use of the new, efficient and cheaper communications, and if there is going to be anything that is likely to interfere with that, it will be a very serious thing indeed. Who is to be represented upon the Advisory Committee? What is to be their actual power in dealing with applications by the companies concerned for any possible advance in rates?
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
I think, on consideration, the hon. Gentleman will 1499 come to the conclusion that this will be better discussed on a substantive Amendment later on.
§ Mr. ALEXANDER
The point you make, Sir, is one that we must bear in mind, but, when we are dealing with the date of the operation of the scheme, it would facilitate business if the Government would make the statement for which we are asking them. If you are going to give adequate representation to the large users of the cable service on the Advisory Committee, and if the Advisory Committee is going to have fairly adequate powers in dealing either with inefficiency of service or with the advancing of rates, my mind would be very much more at ease than it is at present. [Interruption.] Whatever forecast we make from either side—and forecasts are not confined to this side of the House; I have observed some of the Postmaster-General's speeches in the country—after all, we are going to put something on the Statute Book, and, before we do that, we are entitled to ask for these safeguards for these large and important users of the service.
§ Sir W. MITCHELL-THOMSON
There is an Amendment later on, which is to be moved as a new Clause, dealing specifically with the constitution of the Advisory Committee and its powers. That
§ will be the occasion to say what I think on the matter. What the hon. Gentleman is asking me to do is to delay the operation of the Bill because he is not yet satisfied that, if and when the Advisory Committee is constituted, some of the interests with which he is concerned, or which he thinks ought to be represented, will be represented. I say that is not an adequate reason. The general terms on which the service is to be arranged and taken over have been before the country for five months. It is five months to a day since the White Paper was issued. Have the Government had representations in shoals from the traders of the country asking for delay? Not a bit. The only representation made to me was in favour of the passage of the Bill, After all, please let the hon. Gentleman remember that this is an enabling Bill. It enables the Government, and it is necessary in order to enable them, to get on with the programme which has been recommended and which they accept.
§ Question put, "That the word twenty-eight 'stand part of the Clause."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 197; Noes, 122.1501
|Division No. 28.]||AYES||[7.42 p.m.|
|Albery, Irving James||Cecil, Rt. Hon. Sir Evelyn (Aston)||Ford, Sir P. J.|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S.||Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Ladywood)||Forrest, W.|
|Ashley, Lt. -Col. Rt. Hon. Wilfrid W.||Charteris, Brigadier-General J.||Foster, Sir Henry S.|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Christie, J. A.||Foxcroft, Captain C. T.|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Churchman, sir Arthur C.||Fraser, Captain lan|
|Balniel, Lord||Clayton, G. C.||Fremantle, Lieut. -Colonel Francis E.|
|Banks, Sir Reginald Mitchell||Cobb, Sir Cyril||Gadle, Lieut. -Col. Anthony|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||Galbralth, J. F. W.|
|Beckett, Sir Gervase (Leeds, N.)||Colfox, Major William Phillips||Ganzoni, Sir John|
|Bellairs, Commander Carlyon||Cooper, A. Duff||Gates, Percy|
|Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake)||Cope, Major Sir William||Gault, Lieut. -Col. Andrew Hamilton|
|Berry, Sir George||Couper, J. B.||Gilmour, Lt. -Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John|
|Bird, E. R. (Yorks. W. R. Skipton)||Cowan, Sir Win. Henry (Islington, N.)||Glyn, Major R. G. C.|
|Bourne, Captain Robert Croft||Craig, Sir Ernest (Chester, Crewe)||Goff, Sir Park|
|Bowater, Col. Sir T. Vansittart||Crawfurd, H. E.||Grant, Sir J. A.|
|Bowyer, Captain G. E. W.||Crooke, J. Smedley (Derltend)||Greaves-Lord, Sir Walter|
|Braithwalte, Major A. N.||Culverwell, C. T. (Bristol, West)||Grenfell, Edward C. (City of London)|
|Brass, Captain W.||Davies, Sir Thomas (Cirencester)||Grotrian, H. Brent|
|Briscoe, Richard George||Davies, Dr. Vernon||Guinness, Rt. Hon. Walter E.|
|Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Dawson, Sir Philip||Gunston, Captain D. W.|
|Brooke, Brigadier-General C. R. I.||Dean, Arthur Wellesley||Hacking, Douglas H.|
|Brown, Brig. -Gen. H. C. (Berks, Newb'y)||Drewe, C.||Hall, Capt. W. D'A. (Brecon & Rac.)|
|Brown, Ernest (Leith)||Edge, Sir William||Hammersley, S. S.|
|Bullock, Captain M.||Edmondson, Major A. J.||Harland, A.|
|Burman, J. B.||Elliot, Major Walter E.||Hartlngton, Marquess of|
|Calne, Gordon Hall||Ellis, R. G.||Haslam, Henry C.|
|Cassels, J. D.||Everard, W. Lindsay||Henderson, Capt. R. R. (Oxf'd, Henley)|
|Cautley, Sir Henry S.||Falle, Sir Bertram G||Heneage, Lieut. -Col. Arthur P.|
|Cayzer, Sir C. (Chester, City)||Fenby, T. D.||Henn, Sir Sydney H.|
|Cayzer, Maj. Sir Herbt. R. (Prtsmth, S.)||Fermoy, Lord||Hennessy, Major Sir G. R. J.|
|Herbert, S. (York, N. R., Scar. & Wh'by)||Moore, Sir Newton J.||Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westm'eland)|
|Hills, Major John Waller||Moreing, Captain A. H.||Steel, Major Samuel Strang|
|Hilton, Cecil||Nall, Colonel Sir Joseph||Stott, Lieut. -Colonel W. H.|
|Hope, Sir Harry (Forfar)||Nelson, Sir Frank||Strauss, E. A.|
|Howard-Bury, Colonel C. K.||Neville, Sir Reginald J.||Stuart, Crichton-, Lord C.|
|Hudson, R. S. (Cumberl'nd, Whlteh'n)||Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Hume, Sir G. H.||Nicholson, O. (Westminster)||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid|
|Hurd, Percy A.||Nicholson, Col. Rt. Hon. W. S. (Ptrsf'ld.)||Tasker, R. Inigo.|
|Hutchison, sir Robert (Montrose)||Nield, Rt. Hon. Sir Herbert||Templeton, w. P.|
|Iliffe, Sir Edward M.||Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William||Them, Lt. -Col. J. G. (Dumbarton)|
|James, Lieut. -Colonel Hon. Cuthbert||Owen, Major G.||Thompson, Luke (Sunderland)|
|King, Commodore Henry Douglas||Penny, Frederick George||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)|
|Knox, Sir Alfred||Perkins, Colonel E. K.||Thomson, Rt. Hon. sir W. Mitchell-|
|Lamb, J. Q.||Perring, sir William George||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Little, Dr. E. Graham||Power, Sir John Cecil||Vaughan-Morgan, Col. K. P.|
|Livingstone, A. M.||Price, Major C. W. M.||Wallace, Captain D. E.|
|Lloyd, Cyril E. (Dudley)||Raine, Sir Walter||Warner, Brigadier-General W. W.|
|Loder, J. de V.||Rees, Sir Beddoe||Warrender, Sir Victor|
|Long, Major Erie||Reid, D. D. (County Down)||Waterhouse, Captain Charles|
|Looker, Herbert William||Renter, J. R.||Watson, Rt, Hon. W. (Carlisle)|
|Luce, Maj. -Gen. Sir Richard Harmar||Richardson, Sir P. W. (Sur'y, Ch'ts'y)||Watts, Sir Thomas|
|Lynn, Sir R. J.||Rodd, Rt. Hon. Sir James Hennell||Wells, S. R.|
|MacAndrew, Major Charles Glen||Ropner, Major L,||White, Lieut. -Col. Sir G. Dalrymple|
|Macdonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)||Ruggles-Brise, Lieut. -Colonel E. A.||Williams, A. M. (Cornwall, Northern)|
|Macintyre, Ian||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)||Williams, Com. C. (Devon, Torquay)|
|McLean, Major A.||Sandeman, N. Stewart||Wilson, R. R. (Stafford, Lichfield)|
|Macmillan, Captain H.||Sanders, Sir Robert A.||Windsor-Cilve, Lieut. -Colonel George|
|Macnaghten, Hon. Sir Malcolm||Sandon, Lord||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Macquisten, F. A.||Sassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustave D||Womersley, W. J.|
|Maitland, Sir Arthur D. Steel-||Savery, S. S.||Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir Kingsley|
|Makins, Brigadier-General E.||Shaw, Lt. -Col. A. D. Mcl. (Renfrew. W.)||Woodcock, Colonel H. C.|
|Marriott, Sir J. A. R.||Sheffield, Sir Berkeley||Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon, Sir L.|
|Milne, J. s. Wardlaw-||Skelton, A. N.||Wright, Brig. -General W. D.|
|Mitchell, S. (Lanark, Lanark)||Smith, R. W. (Aberd'nt Klne'aine. c.)|
|Mitchell, W. Foot (Saffron Walden)||Smithers, Waldron||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)||Spender-Clay, Colonel H.||Captain Margesson and Major|
|Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. B. M.||Stanley, Lord (Fylde)||The Marquess of Titchfield.|
|Adamson. Rt. Hon. W. (Fife, West)||Henderson, Right Hon. A. (Burnley)||Shepherd, Arthur Lewis|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Henderson, T. (Glasgow)||Shiels, Dr. Drummond|
|Alexander, A. v. (Sheffield, Hillsbro')||Hirst, G. H.||Shinwell, E.|
|Ammon, Charles George||Hirst, W. (Bradlord, South)||Slesser. Sir Henry H.|
|Baker, J. (Wolverhampton, Bllston)||Hudson, J. H. (Huddersfkfd)||Smillie, Robert|
|Baker, Walter||Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath)||Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithel|
|Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)||John, William (Rhondda, West)||Snell, Harry|
|Barnes, A.||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)||Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip|
|Barr, J.||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Stamford, T. W.|
|Batey, Joseph||Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd)||Stephen, Campbell|
|Beckett, John (Gateshead)||Kelly, W. T.||Stewart, J. (St. Rollox)|
|Bellamy, A.||Kennedy, T.||Sullivan, J.|
|Benn, Wedgwood||Kenworthy, Lt. -Com. Hon. Joseph M.||Sutton, J. E.|
|Bondfield, Margaret||Kirkwood, D.||Taylor, R. A.|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Lawrence, Susan||Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)|
|Broad, F. A.||Lawson, John James||Thome. W. (West Ham, Plalstow)|
|Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)||Lee, F.||Thurtle, Ernest|
|Buchanan, G.||Lunn, William||(Inker, John Joseph|
|Cape, Thomas||Mackinder, W.||Tomlinson, R, P.|
|Cluse, W. S.||Malone, C. L'Estrange (N'thampton)||Townend, A. E.|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.||Maxton, James||Viant, S. P.|
|Compton, Joseph||Montague, Frederick||Wallhead, Richard C.|
|Connolly, M.||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Walsh, Rt. Hon. Stephen|
|Cove, W. G.||Mosley, Sir Oswald||Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)|
|Dalton, Hugh||Murnln, H.||Weilock, Wilfred|
|Day, Harry||Naylor, T. E.||welsh, J. C.|
|Dunnico, H.||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)||Westwood, J.|
|Gardner, J. P.||Oliver, George Harold||Wheatley, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Gibbins, Joseph||Palin, John Henry||Whlteley, W|
|Gillett, George M.||Paling, W.||Wilkinson, Ellen C.|
|Gosling, Harry||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.||Williams, David (Swansea, East)|
|Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||Potts, John S.||Williams, Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)|
|Graham, Rt. Hon. Wm. (Edln., Cent.)||Pureed, A. A.||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)|
|Greenall, T,||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)||Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercllffe)|
|Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne)||Riley, Ben||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)|
|Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||Ritson, J.||Windsor, Walter|
|Griffith, F, Kingsley||Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O. (W. Bromwich)||Wright, W.|
|Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Saklatvala, Shapurji||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton*|
|Grundy, T. W.||Salter, Dr. Alfred|
|Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton)||Scrymgeour, E.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Hardie, George D.||Sexton, James||Mr. Allen Parkinson and Mr.Charles Edwards.|
|Hayday, Arthur||Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Pruston)|
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
With regard to the remaining Amendments to Clause 1, none of them is in order, at any rate at this stage.
§ Mr. BENN
I submit that it is not in order to put this Clause to the Committee, because it says in paragraph (b), in page 3, that certain sumsshall … continue to be charged on and paid out of the Consolidated Fund of the United Kingdom.Naturally, a charge on the Consolidated Fund must depend upon a Money Resolution. There has been no Money Resolution to this Bill, and therefore I submit that it is not possible to put that Question from the Chair.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
I think that these words must be taken really as an extra precaution. The whole of this scheme is merely to provide for the receipt of money and for what is to be done with that money when it is received. The charge of the annuities upon the Consolidated Fund exists at present. No new charge is being put on it at all, but naturally, as part of the annuities are paid off from time to time they have to be precalculated from time to time.
§ Mr. BENN
With great respect, Mr. Hope apparently was under that impression when the point was raised at an earlier stage on the Clause. I submit with very great earnestness that it is impossible for the State to assume contingent liability without a Money Resolution of this House. Nothing is more clearly laid down. I submit that it is impossible unless there is an existing Money Resolution covering this matter. We cannot make a contingent charge on the Consolidated Fund without a resolution passed in Committee of the House.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member is, of course, perfectly right in his statement as to what cannot be done without a Money Resolution, but in this case, these annuities have been charged on and paid out of the Consolidated Fund for a great many years past. I am fairly certain that had they not been properly supported by a Financial Resolution, the question would have been raised. At any rate, it is too late to raise the question as to whether they were properly supported by a Financial 1504 Resolution when they were first charged. The words are merely a recital of the fact that a charge which exists is not to be interfered with.
§ Mr. BENN
You, Mr. Deputy-Chairman, are the guardian of the rights of the Members of this Committee. It is the fact that there was originally the Money Resolution guaranteeing a number of these annuities in the Pacific Cable Act, 1927. In this Clause that Money Resolution has been repealed as from 1st April last.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
May I interrupt the hon. Member for one moment? There is no question of repealing a Money Resolution.
§ Mr. BENN rose—
§ Mr. BENN
If the hon. Gentleman would assist the business of the Committee with an occasional articulate contribution instead of constant and, I think, unmannerly interruptions, it would be better. The case which I am submitting is this: There is a contingent charge created. No doubt a contingent charge requires a prior Money Resolution. That is your reply on the matter.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
No. I did not say that a contingent charge is created or that any charge is created by the words of this Clause. The hon. Member has failed to satisfy me on the point that any new charge is being created.
§ Mr. BENN
I submit that even an annuity, unless otherwise provided for, is a charge upon the Consolidated Fund. The wording of the Clause states that these annuities shall—I leave out the word "continue"—"be charged on and paid out of, the Consolidated Fund." I submit that it is quite impossible to create a charge or contingent charge upon the Consolidated Fund without a Financial Resolution. My statement, further, is that in regard to the Act of 1927, there was a Money Resolution empowering this House to create a contingent charge. But what the Government have overlooked is that in paragraph (c) they have repealed Section 5 of the Act of 1927 which, passed as it was no doubt upon a Money Resolution, 1505 authorised this charge. Therefore, the Government in their endeavour to avoid a Money Resolution—this point was raised at the very beginning when the Bill was first mentioned—have gone too far. I submit that it is impossible for you, Mr. Deputy-Chairman, to put from the Chair a Clause which creates a contingent charge on the Consolidated Fund when the only Money Resolution on which it could ever have been based is repealed by the Clause itself.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
No, I am unable to see that the hon. Member has a case. He cannot make a case by quoting words from the Bill with the omission of the word "continue." The whole point of my Ruling is that no charge is created here. The charge exists and is stated to be continuing and the hon. Member apparently suggested that whatever power there was to make such a charge is repealed by some other part of the Bill.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
Any intention of that sort is negatived by these prior words here, which prevent anything of that kind. The words, as I first said, are of a precautionary nature and are only really for the purpose of continuing the existing charge. They do not create any new charge either contingent or otherwise.
§ Mr. BENN
I apologise for pressing this point, but in the Act of 1927 you will find these words:The [Government] share of such deficiency shall be paid out of moneys provided by Parliament.That was based upon a Money Resolution, and it became an Act of Parliament. That is now repealed and to use the word "continue" when there is no such provision in existence as far as this Subsection is concerned and there has not been since the 1st April, I submit makes plain the need for another Money Resolution. That is what I submit to you, Mr. Deputy-Chairman.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
Will the hon. Member read a little further and he will see that they are not completely repealed. They are repealed subject to a proviso that nothing in this repeal shall affect the operation of the Sub-section.
§ Mr. BENN
I would point out that it may be that such a meaning can be read into those words, but, as a matter of fact, the contingent charge on the moneys provided by Parliament or on the Consolidated Fund is quite a minor item in this Sub-section. The Section deals with all sorts of other matters, and of course this provision deals with all material parts of the Section. But that part of the Section with regard to the charge on the Fund I submit is repealed. I put this point to you, Sir, in the interests of the Committee.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
I am very much obliged to the hon. Gentleman for the way in which he has argued this matter. I am quite satisfied that the words here are such that his case is impossible. They are merely precautionary words to continue this charge.
Motion made, and Question proposed,That the Clause stand part of the Bill.
§ Mr. TINKER
I want to take objection to Clause 1 standing part of the Bill. I think the Committee will agree that on this Clause the whole of the Bill depends. The Postmaster-General told us that this was an enabling Bill. I agree with him on that, and it is because of that that I object to it. The Government have no right to ask for power to sell undertakings that are of vital importance to the community. My party represent a particular line of thought, namely, that the Government should acquire undertakings and not sell them. We are of the opinion that the time has come when the Government should have more control than they have now. Under this Bill we are going the opposite way. We are taking a backward step by selling to private concerns something of which the State ought to retain possession.
The White Paper issued in July last said that there were five things that could have been done. The fifth proposal was to amalgamate as far as possible in one undertaking all the cable and wireless interests and include the various parts of the Empire so as to have security of control and unity of direction. Why could not the State have taken over the whole of the other undertakings What is to prevent that from being done? Why should we go out of the way to hand over to other people 1507 something which we all recognise we must keep and continue. I should have thought that the inquiry would have given us the idea that we ought to acquire all the other undertakings. The fear is that eventually the five concerns may be driven out of the market and then desire to sell out to foreigners. I do not know who these private concerns are, but, if there is any loyalty to the British Empire, there should be no thought of selling to foreign interests in a matter like this. But eventually these people, regardless of what the Empire wants, may sell out to other people if it suits them to do so. This matter is of vital importance. I do not know much about the details of the Measure, but I think that the Government have taken a wrong step, and I hope that every attempt will be made from these benches to prevent the Measure from going through.
§ 8.0 p.m.
§ Mr. W. BAKER
I am sorry to have to bother the Committee again, and I am assured by my hon. Friends that it is possible to repeat at this stage everything that has been said in earlier speeches. I promise that I do not propose to follow that course. There are certain points which I consider should still be brought before the notice of the Committee, though obviously it is quite useless to try and reason with hon. Gentlemen opposite. It is important that it should be on record that this decision was taken in full knowledge of the opinions which have been expressed by important authorities in this country, and in full knowledge of the policy which is being pursued by countries overseas. I suppose the most important body which has ever dealt with this question of Imperial communications was the Imperial Wireless Telegraph Committee, presided over by Sir Henry Norman, which sat in 1919–20 and which presented its report in June, 1920. This very skilled and very technical Committee made important pronouncements with regard to the Imperial communications not only in relation to commercial affairs but also in relation to the question of strategy and the needs of the Empire in times of trouble. Although I have referred on previous occasions in general terms to these matters. I think it is important before 1508 this Clause is agreed to that I should quote some of the very weighty pronouncements for which that Committee was responsible. On page 4, paragraph 6, they say:The objects to be served by an Imperial scheme of wireless communications are two: strategic and commercial. Strategic needs are common in a large degree to the Navy, the Army and the Air Force. In many cases the same place will be a naval base, a military headquarters, and a centre of aviation. Such places would often be also commercial centres. Thus, strategic and commercial needs will frequently be met by the same station. Where this is not the case, the Navy requires the possibility of quick communication with every naval base in the Empire. Further, the Admiralty desires that the scheme shall afford means of transmitting naval orders to every ship of and above the class of light cruiser, wherever it may be at sea between latitude 60° north, and latitude 60° south. This last requirement, apart from the question of latitude, may he met by arranging for the substitution at any moment of hand transmission for automatic transmission in every Imperial main station.Without continuing the quotation, I submit that the Norman Committee in that paragraph emphasised the extreme importance of Imperial wireless communication and, inferentially, made it perfectly clear that the importance of control was so great that such matters should not pass into private hands. In paragraph 9, they proceed to deal with the second half of the problem, namely, commercial requirements. They say:In considering commercial requirements, it is necessary at the outset to define what is here meant by a satisfactory commercial wireless service. The three chief factors of this are reliability, speed and cheapness. In other words, the quality of a commercial service depends upon the number of words correctly transmitted and recorded in given time, and the charge per word. If the service aims at becoming self-supporting, while offering low rates to the public, sufficient paying traffic must ultimately he secured to keep the stations occupied for practically 24 hours a day at high speed. This cannot be done unless three conditions are fulfilled. First, the wireless route must be not only quick, but also accurate. In every commercial message there are necessarily several non-paying service words, and in a State-owned system a number of official non-paying messages must he transmitted every day; but of the remainder a high percentage must be paying words, that is, there must not he a large amount of unremunerative traffic in the shape of requests to repeat, and the repetition of, words incorrectly or only partially received. … Third, even a chain of stations fully occupied with fast and accurate traffic at a low rate would result in a heavy financial loss for generation, in- 1509 terest, depreciation and operation, unless it had been so designed and constructed as to avoid a huge initial capital outlay and an excessive annual expenditure for maintenance and operation.I submit that the concluding words of paragraph 9 are particularly appropriate in this discussion. A chain of stations or a series of beam stations supplemented by cable communications cannot be remunerative, and, at the same time, afford the cheapest possible means of communication unless you avoid a huge initial capital outlay. It is the strength of our case to-day that the figure which has been fixed for the capital and the conditions under which the transfer is taking place from the Government will compel a standard revenue which must have the effect upon the commercial user of making his service so much more expensive or more unsatisfactory than it would be in other circumstances.
It is important in this connection to turn to the experience of America. The American nation appears to be in no doubt on this particular matter. I understand that as a result of their experience the United States Senate in 1921 passed a Bill giving the President sweeping authority to issue, withhold and revoke licences as to cable landings and to obtain concessions for the United States of America in other parts of the world. The President in granting any such licences has power to insist that the rates and conditions shall be reasonable. The whole object of the United States Government is to guard against consolidation or amalgamation with other cable lines which may have unfortunate effects upon the position of the United States and the people of the United States. In this respect America is showing us an example which we might well follow. As I stated earlier, if we could secure adequate control, about which so far the Government have said nothing, if we could secure a majority of directors, directly nominated and representing the Government, I would have nothing to say, but the difficulty is that not only is the finance of the scheme wrong but we are failing to secure and to maintain that adequate control which the United States of America regard as being essential and overwhelmingly important. I am informed that the 'United States of America is determined to press forward its claim to the best possible service both cable and wireless, 1510 and it is advancing towards that end in an entirely different manner from our own Government.
In conclusion, I would like to draw the attention of the Committee to a quotation from the Report of the Dominions Royal Commission of 1917, in which the view is expressed that:At no distant date the nationalisation of private cable interests will become one of the most urgent problems for statesmanship. It appears difficult, if not impossible, to attain the desired cheapness of cable communication without interfering with the rights of private companies.That quotation is taken from the Encylopedia Britannica. It was not selected by the author of the Encyclopedia Britannica article with a view to the present crisis, but it has a very remarkable bearing upon the present situation. As far as I know; no really first-class authority is backing the view of the Government in regard to the transfer of these interests to private hands. As far as I know, no one of standing is in agreement with them that these undertakings should be handed over without adequate and complete control being secured. We are pressing this point to-night because we believe that when the members of the Chambers of Commerce really know the facts they will clearly understand that the policy which is being pursued by the Government must mean increased rates to them, and even if it does not mean increased rates for them it means that the rates will not have been reduced they otherwise would have been.
§ Mr. DAVID GRENFELL
This Clause refers only to the transfer of the Pacific cable business to the Communications Company. Without any technical knowledge or intimate acquaintance with the means by which our wireless and cable services have been carried out, I have read the White Paper and I find in the first paragraph that the Committee were appointedTo examine the situation which has arisen as a result of the competition of the Beam Wireless with the Cable Services, to report thereon and to make recommendations with a view to a common policy being adopted for the various Governments concerned.When we proceed to read this wonderful document we find that the common policy desired is not a common policy to bring about greater efficiency, not a common policy to cheapen the rates or to 1511 link up distant parts of the Empire, but a common policy to thwart progress and to retard the improvement of communications which the Mother country and me Dominions need so much. In paragraph 10 of the Report it is stated that there have been enormous reductions since the beam wireless system, owned by the Post Office, came into competition with the cable companies. For instance, the rates to Australia have gone down from 2s. 6d. to 1s. 8d. a word.
§ The CHAIRMAN
This is only a limited Clause as to whether the Pacific Cable Company should be taken over. We have had a full discussion, by general consent, on the first Amendment, and I must ask the hon. Member to confine himself to the limited aspect of this Clause.
§ Mr. GRENFELL
As we are still on the Motion that the Clause stand part. I thought that I was allowed to cover the same ground. If not then my task is very easy because I do not know the technical reasons for the change. I look at it from the standpoint of a citizen of this country, and I think it is a serious thing that national property should he handed over to a private company without a single advantage accruing from the national point of view. There is no reason why this change should be made, so far as the ordinary man can see. The White Paper itself, where argument upon argument is piled up against the proposal, is the most powerful indictment of the proposals in this Bill, which is supposed to be based on this Report. Referring to the present beam rates the Report says:
§ The CHAIRMAN
This Clause has nothing to do with the beam rates. It authorises the Board to sell the Pacific Cable undertaking, that is the whole question. With the general consent of the Committee it was understood that there should he a general discussion on the first Amendment and if, when that has taken place, we are to have it all over again on the Motion of the Clause standing part it will be really impossible to allow a discussion beyond the strict terms of the Amendment on another occasion.
§ Mr. BENN
Any arrangement which was come to will, I am sure, be strictly observed by hon. Members on this side of 1512 the Committee, but was it not arranged that the discussion on the first Amendment should cover the other Amendments and that that arrangement has been most faithfully observed. I do not think there was any understanding that we should not debate the Question of the Clause standing part, because there are certain points I desire to raise myself.
§ The CHAIRMAN
It is quite true there was no such explicit arrangement, and the hon. Member will be in order in debating the Clause on the Question that the Clause stand part. The understanding was that the Debate on the first Amendment should cover the two following. It was not explicity stated but I think it must have been implied that we should not have the same discussion over again on the Question of the Clause standing part.
§ Mr. GRENFELL
I only wanted to emphasise and support what has already been said in order to show that there is a general opposition on this side of the House to the proposals contained in the Bill. The Clause deals with the sale of the Pacific cable undertaking to the Communications Company as from the 1st of April, 1928. To me this transaction is a greater mystery than ever. We do not know the price that is to be paid, in fact, we know nothing at all about the sale, and this House is being asked to approve of a sale without any price being stipulated and without knowing any of the conditions or arrangements which have been made. The Preamble to the Bill is much longer than the Bill itself. There is Clause after Clause of explanation, but when we come to the Bill itself we find that the explanation bears no relation whatever to the Bill. It is one of the most confusing Bills I have ever read and I think we are justified in refusing to pass a Clause until we get much more definite information. We owe it to the country to hold up this Bill until the Government offer some explanation or excuse for proposing to set up a system which will not cheapen wireless rates or cable rates, but which will cost the users of both cable and wireless services much more than they are paying now. The Bill protects certain cable interests and plays into the hands of those people who are monopolising these services in their own financial interests. I shall oppose most strongly this proposal to hand over the 1513 most promising of our assets to people who will succeed in making huge fortunes for themselves by overcharging the public.
§ Mr. KELLY
I shall oppose this Clause, and I hope even at this stage that the Assistant Postmaster-General will make some statement which will clear up various matters which have been raised. I should like to ask whether the Post Office gave evidence before the Imperial Conference Did the Postmaster-General or the Assistant Postmaster-General, or any officer of the Department, give evidence before the Imperial Conference and put the view of the Department? Will the Noble Lord tell us what is this Communications Company? Who are these people? Let us have some idea to whom we are handing this national property. They have already commenced to take over the beam service. I know that I am not allowed to discuss the beam service, but this company has been taking over property since the 1st of April this year for which they have not the authority of this House. It has been referred to as a public utility company. In that case have similar conditions been inserted as were laid down in the Electricity Acts, 1926, which made it quite clear that Members of this House or the other House were not entitled to hold places on the Electricity Board. Are we to understand that Members of Parliament and Members of the other House will not be entitled to hold positions in this Communications Company? I think we ought to know. If we are handing over this property to this Communications Company, which is to be composed of people who sit in this House or the other then the country should be told. I ask for a full explanation of paragraph (c). Why is the Government bringing before us legislation of this nature, which asks us to repeal retrospectively the Pacific Cable Act as from 31st March last? I ask the Assistant Postmaster-General, whom I see present, to give us some information on these few points.
§ The CHAIRMAN
A number of Amendments dealing with the constitution and powers of the Communications Company have been handed in, and most of them are in order. The subject of the powers and constitution could properly be raised on one of those Amendments.
§ The CHAIRMAN
That is not the question at present. The question is whether the Pacific Cable Board should sell this undertaking.
§ Mr. HARDIE
The question before the Committee is whether the nation is to sell part of its property. Such a proposal I would oppose at all times, no matter whether it referred to a cable or anything else. This Bill would never have been introduced but for the fact that today, by the new system, we can send 400 words a minute as against the 42 under the old system. Had the beam been a failure we should quickly have been told that it was incapable of development. Behind all this is the great desire of those who have no national outlook and no patriotism. Here is a scientific invention which is likely to prove a great thing to the whole of the people of the nation, but because it is very profitable and is going to be a really good thing, it is to be legally stolen by a Bill in order to be put into the hands of those who—
§ Mr. HARDIE
Yes, I am. But for the success of the beam wireless this Bill would not have been introduced.
§ The CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member cannot discuss that. The Pacific Cable Board is in legal possession of the cable, and all that is proposed in this Clause is that they should be able to sell it.
§ Mr. HARDIE
Of course the word "sell" is used in the Bill, but we use the word in another sense. We say that the nation is going to be sold by these 1515 few words. Seeing that this thing is to be retrospective, I want to know who was consulted about the rearrangement of the staff. When evidence was being taken for the preparation of this Bill, did it contain anything about the arrangements regarding the staff? Undoubtedly the Pacific Cable Board have a staff. Are they to be sold as well? I know from the speeches of the Assistant Postmaster-General that his idea is to have everything put into private hands, so that employers can get their heels on the workers. They are very angry at seeing the nation as an employer of labour. The noble Lord shakes his head, but if he persists I shall quote his exact words, and then I shall not be in order. The Government do not separate the beam business for purchase, but they separate the cables for sale. In high business circles that would be called smart business. The whole intention of the sale is simply to destroy the national grip upon these important communications. I can see what is going to happen if the sale takes place. There will be a number of men in charge who will be able to use first-hand information to raise and lower the price of stocks and make something out of them, or it may be, by creating confusion, drive nations into war. That has happened before. My hon. Friend the Member for East Bristol (Mr. W. Baker), in the first Debate on this subject, referred to what took place during the Great War. All this has its basis in everything that is anti-national. This Clause means that the Government are without the slightest sense of patriotism and without the slightest regard for the rights of the people of Britain. They place individual property ownership in front of every national consideration. The Nation is all right in time of War when men have to go and fight for those who have created the War, but now, in a matter such as the matter of these cables, the nation comes last. With these words I intimate my strenuous opposition to this proposal.
§ Mr. A. M. SAMUEL rose—
§ Viscount WOLMER
The Post Office has nothing to do with the Pacific Cable Board, and that is why the Financial Secretary to the Treasury proposes to reply to the criticisms which have been offered in reference to this proposal. The specific question which the hon. Member asked me as to whether the Post Office gave evidence at the Imperial Conference, raises the only point on which I can give any information. The reply to that question is that the Post Office supplied the Conference with all the information they wanted throughout their sessions. I do not think the Postmaster-General or the Secretary to the Post Office appeared as a formal witness, but if the members of the Conference wanted any information the Post Office was only too glad to give it.
§ Mr. HARDIE
It is quite evident from what is appearing in the Press—and that is all we have to go upon, since we cannot get information direct from the Government—that people have been mentioned as likely to be directors.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
May I ask the Financial Secretary, as the watch dog of the Treasury at this Conference, how he explains the words which have been put into the mouth of the Postmaster-General to the effect that we had to sell the Pacific Cable undertaking at this knock-out price—a breakup price really—because we had no choice in the matter; that we only had 5/18ths of the shares in this Pacific cable undertaking and therefore had to accept what the financiers and the cable companies offered? It is admitted that the introduction of beam wireless was the cause of the depressed position of the private cable companies. We, having the beam wireless, and having made a great success of it—to the great delight of the Noble Lord who was thus reinforced in his belief in the Post Office and its capabilities—had immense bargaining power. Why did we not make a better bargain. That question has not been answered, and the Financial Secretary, who was 1517 representing the Treasury, and the House, and the country, is in duty bound to see that that question is answered. We could have made practically any terms we liked, instead of which we disposed of these invaluable assets at this ridiculous price. What cost over £4,500,000 we allowed to go for just over £500,000 in ash. I address that question to the Financial Secretary, because the Post Office are washing their hands of the whole proceeding; they are yielding to force majeure and saying that they are the unhappy people who have to sign the contract finally, but that they have nothing to do with it now.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
Exactly, but the Financial Secretary to the Treasury has something to do with it. He went into that Conference with 5/18th of the shares, and the great rival system of beam wireless which was making the position of the private companies so difficult. The Postmaster-General's reason will not bear a moment's examination. I notice that the witnesses called were mostly managing directors and chairmen and traffic managers of wireless companies and cable companies, financiers, entrepreneurs and so forth; but the man who was not called as a witness was the man complimented by the Postmaster-General earlier in the day, namely Professor Eccles. Why was he not called? He was responsible for the advice given to my right hon. Friend the Member for Aberavon (Mr. MacDonald) to go on with the beam; system. Why were the only witnesses called those who would bolster up the ease for selling these Government assets, at a. knock-out price, to a great combine which is being formed to the great profit of certain interets; and why were the Government's usual advisers not permitted to give evidence?
§ Mr. A. M. SAMUEL
I am sorry that my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy) has not been in his place, and has not heard the answers which have already been given with regard to the question of price and also with regard to the question of calling Professor 1518 Eccles as a witness. An answer on that point was given by the Postmaster-General and, if the hon. and gallant Gentleman wishes me to weary the Committee by doing so, I shall try to repeat it. As far as I remember, my right hon. Friend the Postmaster-General explained that, had the Conference wished Professor Eccles to be called, he would have been called—[Interruption]—I do not understand why hon. Gentleman opposite always take up that attitude. After all, the Secretary of State for Scotland and I are both well known to the Members of the House of Commons. We have both been in the House for a very long time and I think hon. Members know that we are neither rogues nor fools. If we thought it was necessary to do something in the interests of the country, we should do it, and, had we considered that the calling of Professor Eccles as a witness was necessary, we should not have hesitated about it. This was not, however, a technical or scientific examination. It was an examination into quite another thing. The Postmaster-General is a Privy Councillor, and he assisted, as required by the Imperial Conference.
§ Mr. SAMUEL
He gave us all the information that we asked for, but he was not there as a member of the Conference.
§ Mr. SAMUEL
There may have been many points on which he may have said, "I think this should be done this way" or "If think it should be done that way."
§ Mr. SAMUEL
The Postmaster-General was complete accord with the policy of His Majesty's Government, otherwise he would not be supporting this Bill. As 1519 to who is selling the property, we our-selves are not the owners of this Pacific cable. We are merely partners. The consequence is that the decision was taken by all the partner Governments, of which we were one, unanimously. The price recommended was regarded by our-selves and our partners, the Dominions and Colonies and India, as satisfactory. Hon. Members opposite cannot impose their will or judgment on men who know the business and who own 13/18ths of the cable. The Conference came to the conclusion that this was a fair price and recommended that it should be accepted. Hon. Members opposite say that these people do not know their business or their interests and that the price recommended should not be allowed to stand. We are not singular in this policy. The hon. Member for East Bristol said what America was doing and was not doing. I took down his words, and be said that the United States of America was showing us an example which we might follow. He seems to have overlooked a Commission which has been set up in the United States—probably he did not know of it—only very lately. I take this from a report of a cable company in America:Only very lately in the United States a similar fusion has taken place between the International Telegraph and Telephone Corporation, the Commercial Cable Company, and the All-America Cables Incorporated, announced in the early part of this year. The All-America Cables Incorporated own cables between the United States and South America. The Commercial Cable Company, owning cables between Europe and the United States, together with a land line system in the United States, worked under the name of Postal Telegraph, and the International Telegraph and Telephone Corporation own telephones and electrical manufacturing businesses in Europe and wireless and telephones in South America. There are rumours of another American combination, the Western Union Telegraph Company, taking concerted action.
§ Mr. SAMUEL
I apologise. I was making the point that, so far from our not doing what America is doing, we are following exactly what America is doing, according to the wish of the hon. Member for East Bristol (Mr. W. Baker). In the opinion of the Conference a fusion 1520 will improve and cheapen the message rates, and on top of that there is a progressive community. [Interruption.] Hon. Members need not ride off by making fun of a body like—
On a point of Order. Is it competent for the Financial Secretary to go through the whole of these arguments for at least the third time to-day? I have heard these very words myself three times in this Debate, and is it necessary that he should again be allowed to repeat his arguments?
§ The CHAIRMAN
I understood, when I agreed to a general discussion on the first Amendment, that that would not be repeated on any side, but, if that was not understood, I am afraid that these arguments are not irrelevant on either side. I shall, however, have to take this into account when any wish for a general discussion is voiced on another Clause.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
On that point of Order. May I defend the Financial Secretary by saying that we have had new matter in every one of his speeches? He has told us a plain set of facts, but he has given us new information all the time, and it is most valuable.
I did not say that new matter was not brought into the discussion. What I complained of was the repetition of old arguments.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I was relieved of my duties before the Financial Secretary spoke on the last occasion, and therefore, I did not hear the whole of his arguments, and I cannot say if this is repetition. If he transgresses the Rules of Order, I hope I shall show him no more leniency than I should any other hon. Member.
§ Mr. SAMUEL
I apologise for having gone over the ground again. I did not wish to do so, but as a matter of fact, out of courtesy to the hon. and gallant 1521 Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy), I rose. I hope we shall now go to a Division.
§ Mr. AMMON
So far as I am aware, the Committee has not transgressed the understanding with you, Mr. Chairman, and has endeavoured to keep strictly to your Ruling, but I ask the Committee to look at this Clause and to see the absolutely absurd position in which we are placing ourselves. We are asked, first, to give power to the Government to sell an undertaking to the Communications Company as from the 1st April, 1928; that is to say, we are to sell this undertaking from a date already past to a company that does not exist. That is one of the most extraordinary things that this House has ever been called upon to do. One has heard the saying about buying a pig in a poke, but what we are doing here is buying a pig in a poke and selling it to a man who is not there. Further, it goes on to say that the amount of the share of His Majesty's Government shall be a certain proportion, but what that proportion is we do not know. It is a certain percentage of an unknown number, so that we are selling the cable
§ from a past date to a company that is not yet in existence for an amount of money that we do not know and on terms to be understood, and on that information the Government are seriously asking this Committee to part with a valuable Government monopoly. Again and again reference has been made to the amount of money that is proposed to be paid for it. It has been called a knock-out price, but that is not a fair estimate of this at all. The whole of this thing ought to have been gauged, like any other business, on the wider implications of the whole scheme. This is merely part of a bigger scheme which is intended to take in something else. The other thing is to give the value to this, and that ought to have had its part in fixing this price. The Committee ought to be clear of the absurd position in which the Government are placing them, and the extraordinary thing which the Government are asking them to do.
§ Question put, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 178; Noes, 117.1523
|Division No. 29.]||AYES.||[8.57 p.m.|
|Albery, Irving James||Davies, Sir Thomas (Cirencester)||Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.|
|Alexander, E. E. (Leyton)||Davies, Dr. Vernon||Hope, Capt. A. O. J. (Warw'k, Nun.)|
|Balniel, Lord||Dawson, Sir Philip||Hope, Sir Harry (Forlar)|
|Banks, Sir Reginald Mitchell||Dean, Arthur Wellesley||Howard-Bury, Colonel C. K.|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Drewe, C.||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M.(Hackney, N.)|
|Bellairs, Commander Carlyon||Edmondson, Major A. J.||Hume, Sir G. H.|
|Berry, Sir George||Ellis, R. G.||Hutchison, Sir Robert (Montrose)|
|Birchall, Major J. Dearman||Ersklne, James Malcolm Monteith||Iliffe. Sir Eoward M.|
|Bird, E. R. (Yorks, W. R., Skipton)||Evans, Capt. Ernest (Weish Univer.)||King, Commodore Henry Douglas|
|Boothby, R. J. G.||Everard, W. Lindsay||Knox, Sir Alfred|
|Bourne, Captain Robert Croft||Fenby, T. D.||Lamb, J. Q.|
|Bowater, Col. Sir T. Vansittart||Fermoy, Lord||Little, Dr. E. Graham|
|Bowyer, Capt. G. E. W.||Ford, Sir P. J.||Livingstone, A. M.|
|Braithwaite, Major A. N.||Forrest, W.||Lloyd, Cyril E. (Dudley)|
|Brass, Captain W.||Foster, Sir Harry S.||Loder, J. da V.|
|Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Foxcroft, Captain C. T.||Looker, Herbert William|
|Brooke, Brigadier-General C. R. I.||Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||Luce, Major-Gen. Sir Richard Harman|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H.C.(Berks,Newb'y)||Gadle, Lieut.-Col. Anthony||Lynn, Sir R. J.|
|Brown, Ernest (Leith)||Galbraith, J. F. W.||MacAndrew, Major Charles Glen|
|Burman, J, B.||Ganzoni, Sir John||Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.)|
|Cassets, J. D.||Gates, Percy||Macintyre, Ian|
|Cautley, Sir Henry S.||Gault, Lieut.-Col. Andrew Hamilton||McLean, Major A.|
|Cayzer, Sir C. (Chester, City)||Gilmour, Lt.-Col, Rt. Hon. Sir John||Maltland, Sir Arthur D. Steel-|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Sir Evelyn (Aston)||Gower, Sir Robert||Makins, Brigadier-General E.|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Ladywood)||Grace, John||Margesson, Captain D.|
|Charteris, Brigadier-General J.||Greaves-Lord, Sir Walter||Marriott, Sir J. A. R.|
|Christie, J. A.||Grenfell, Edward C. (City of London)||Mason, Colonel Glyn K.|
|Churchman, Sir Arthur C.||Grotrian, H. Brent||Milne, J. S. Wardlaw-|
|Clayton, G. C.||Hacking, Douglas H.||Mitchell, S. (Lanark, Lanark)|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Hall, Capt. W. D'A. (Brecon & Rad.)||Mitchell, W. Foot (Saffron Walden)|
|Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D,||Hammersiey, S. S.||Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)|
|Colfox, Major Wm. Phillips||Harland, A.||Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. B. M.|
|Colman, N. C. D.||Hartington, Marquess of||Moore, Sir Newton J.|
|Cooper, A. Duff||Haslam, Henry C.||Moreing, Captain A. H.|
|Couper, J. B.||Henderson, Capt. R.R. (Oxf'd,Henley)||Nail, Colonel Sir Joseph|
|Cowan, Sir Wm. Henry (Islington, N.)||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P.||Nelson, Sir Frank|
|Craig, Sir Ernest (Chester, Crewe)||Henn, Sir Sydney H.||Neville, Sir Reginald J.|
|Crooke, J. Smedley (Derltend)||Hills, Major John Waller||Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)|
|Culverwell, C. T. (Bristol, West)||Hilton, Cecil||Nicholson, O. (Westminster)|
|Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William||Shaw, Lt.-Col. A. D. Mcl.(Renfrew,W.)||Wallace, Captain D. E.|
|Owen, Major G.||Skelton, A. N.||Warrender, Sir Victor|
|Penny, Frederick George||Smith, R. W.(Aberd'n & Kinc'dlne.C.)||Waterhouse, Captain Charles|
|Perkins, Colonel E. K.||Smithers, Waldron||Watson, Rt. Hon. W. (Carlisle)|
|Power, Sir John Cecil||Spender-Clay, Colonel H.||Watts, Sir Thomas|
|Preston, Sir Walter (Cheltenham)||Stanley, Lord (Fylde)||Wells, S. R.|
|Price, Major C. W. M.||Stanley. Hon. 0. F. G. (Westm'eland)||White, Lieut.-Col. Sir G. Dalrymple-|
|Raine, Sir Walter||Steel, Major Samuel Strang||Williams, A. M. (Cornwall, Northern)|
|Rees, Sir Beddoe||Stott, Lieut.-Colonel W. H.||Williams. Com. C. (Devon, Torquay)|
|Reid, D. D. (County Down)||Strauss, E. A.||Williams, C. P. (Denbigh, Wrexham)|
|Remer, J. R.||Streatfeild, Captain S. R.||Wilson, R. R. (Stafford, Lichfield)|
|Richardson, Sir P. W. (Sur'y, Ch'ts'y)||Stuart, Crichton-, Lord C.||Windsor Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Rodd, Rt. Hon. Sir James Rennell||Stuart, Hon. J, (Moray and Nalrn)||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Ropner, Major L.||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid||Womersley, W. J.|
|Ruggles-Brlse, Lieut.-Colonel E. A.||Tasker, R. Inlgo||Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir Kingsley|
|Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)||Templeton, W. p.||Woodcock, Colonel H. C.|
|Rye, F. G.||Thom, Lt. -Col. J. G. (Dumbarton)||Wright, Brig.-General W. D.|
|Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)||Thompson, Luke (Sunderland)|
|Sandeman, N. Stewart||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Sanders, Sir Robert A.||Thomson, Rt. Hon. Sir W. Mitchell-||Major Sir George Hennessy and|
|Sassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustave D.||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of||Major Sir William Cope.|
|Savery, S. S.||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (Fife, West)||Grundy, T. W.||Sexton, James|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Hall, F. (York, W.R., Normanton)||Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)|
|Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro')||Hardle, George D.||Shepherd, Arthur Lewis|
|Ammon, Charles George||Hayday, Arthur||Shiels, Dr. Drummond|
|Baker. J. (Wolverhampton, Bilston)||Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Burnley)||Shinwell, E.|
|Baker, Walter||Henderson, T. (Glasgow)||Slesser, Sir Henry H.|
|Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)||Hirst, G. H.||Smillie, Robert|
|Barnes, A.||Hirst, W. (Bradford South)||Snell, Harry|
|Barr, J.||Hudson, J. H. (Huddersfield)||Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip|
|Batey, Joseph||Jenkins. W, (Glamorgan, Neath)||Stamford, T. W.|
|Bellamy, A.||John, William (Rhondda, West)||Stephen, Campbell|
|Benn, Wednwood||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Stewart, J. (St. Rollox)|
|Bondfield, Margaret||Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd)||Sullivan, J.|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Kelly, W. T.||Sutton, J. E.|
|Broad, F. A.||Kennedy. T.||Taylor, R. A.|
|Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)||Kenworthy, Lt.-Com. Hon. Joseph M.||Thomas, Rt Hon. James H. (Derby)|
|Buchanan, G.||Kirkwood, D.||Thurtle, Ernest|
|Cape, Thomas||Lawrence, Susan||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Charleton, H. C.||Lawson, John James||Tomlinson, R. P.|
|Cluse, W. S.||Lee, F.||Townend, A. E.|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.||Lunn, William||Viant, S. P.|
|Compton, Joseph||Mackinder, W.||Wallhead, Richard C.|
|Connolly, M.||Malone, C. L'Estrange (N'thampton)||Walsh. Rt. Hon. Stephen|
|Cove, W. G.||Maxton, James||Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)|
|Dalton, Hugh||Montaque, Frederick||Wellock, Wilfred|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Welsh, J. C.|
|Day, Harry||Murnin, H.||Westwood, J.|
|Dunnico, H.||Naylor, T. E.||Wheatley, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Oliver, George Harold||Whiteley, W.|
|Gardner, J. P.||Palin, John Henry||Williams, David (Swansea, East)|
|Gibbins, Joseph||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)||Williams, Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)|
|Gillett, George M.||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.||Williams, T. (York. Don Valley)|
|Gosling, Harry||Potts, John S.||Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercllffe)|
|Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||Purcell, A. A.||Wilson. R. J. (Jarrow)|
|Graham, Rt. Hon. Wm. (Edln.,Cent.)||Richardson, R. (Heughton-le-Sprine)||Windsor, Walter|
|Greenall, T.||Riley, Ben||Wright, W.|
|Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Calne)||Ritson, J.||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O.(W.Bromwich)|
|Griffith, F. Kingsley||Salter, Dr. Alfred||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Scrymgeour, E.||Mr. B. Smith and Mr. Paling.|