§ The Chairman of the Communications Company shall be approved by His Majesty's Government and shall devote the whole of his time to the service of the company and not undertake any other directions or occupations without the consent of His Majesty's Government.—[Mr. E. C. Grenfell.]
§ Brought up, and read the First time.
§ Mr. E. C. GRENFELL
I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."
This new Clause has been put down in collaboration with the hon. Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Withers). I suppose, roughly speaking, that I might be said to represent the capitalism of money and the hon. Member for Cambridge University the capitalism of brains. Since then two hon. Members opposite, who have already taken considerable part in these discussions, have 1812 done us the honour of adding their names to the proposal, thereby completing the trio—the capitalism of intelligentsia. With these three together I hope I may be able to give unprejudiced advice to His Majesty's Government and that there will now be none of that acrimony which has been rather a distinguishing feature of the Debate, and the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy) will not wish to make any more use of those opprobrious epithets which he told us he learnt when he was in active service in the Navy. In moving this new Clause let me say that I consider the Government will be deceiving themselves if they believe that they will have any real influence or any real control over the Communications Company and its allied companies by having two directors. I have always been against Government control in any shape over commercial companies, but in 1813 view of the fact that in peace, and certainly in war, the Communications Company will be as necessary to the Government as the Army and the Navy, I think the Government should have effective control on at least one member of the board. A few days ago we have heard a criticism of directors, as such, by the Prime Minister; and there is much truth in what he said.
There are two big companies in which the Government by its holding in capital has an interest, and on account of that interest has appointed directors. In the case of the Suez Canal Company it is true that it is a foreign corporation, but the Government has had and has exercised the right of appointing directors on the board. In the case of the Anglo-Persian Oil Company they also have exercised the right of nominating or approving directors, but in those eases it cannot be said that the nomination of the two directors has made it possible for the Government really to know what is going on in these companies. The conception of a director, merely from his name, is that he directs the company; that he has a large share in appointing people; really, that he knows all about the company. Nothing is more fallacious. A director of most companies is a part-time man who serves the company to the best of his ability by giving advice when asked. No one imagines that the director of a big company, especially when he is one of a board of 22, is fully conversant with all that goes on in the company. In the White Paper it is proposed that the Government should approve of two directors, one of whom is to be the chairman of the Communications Company. If that means anything, it means that the controlling figure in that company, the chairman, will be fully conversant with all that goes on. He is part of the executive; the directors are not. He is head of the executive in that he appoints the executive, and has power of dismissal.
It is essential in this case that the Government should approve or appoint a chairman of outstanding merit, and I feel sure that they will do so. I have not mentioned the ordinary director or criticised him, nor is there anything in the new Clause about him, but only in today's paper I noticed an advertisement of a very large company which is appeal- 1814 ing to the public for capital and on the board of directors is a gentleman appointed by a past Government to the post of director on the Suez Canal Company. In this new company which is appealing for capital that gentleman's qualification to become a director of the Ford Motor Company is that he is labelled as being a director of the Suez Canal Company. What do we judge from it? It is this; that that person who is appointed by the Government to one of the directorships for which they have the right to nominate can use his position, or it is useful to him to use the position of Government director in order to get other positions of emolument. In appointing the chairman I hope and feel sure that the Government will be able to procure the services of an eminent and satisfactory man, but I do think that in a concern of this magnitude they should have the right to the whole time of that gentleman. That is to say, that they should have the power of veto over his taking other appointments, and I do not say that they need be appointments which bring him in more emolument. All through history, as we know, too much has been put on the willing horse. We have only to consider the people who have been advising the Government in this matter, and in all matters of difficulty; whether it is Sir William McLintock, Sir Otto Niemeyer, or Sir Josiah Stamp. Many of these men have overworked themselves for no reward at all under a sense of public duty. When the Government have been in a difficulty it has appointed a Royal Commission or a Select Committee and in every case it will be fond that they have over-worked the willing horse by putting him on these various commissions.
I hold that as regards this company the Government should be very careful, having appointed a man to see that he does not take on such extra burdens, paid or unpaid, which will diminish his power of exercising absolute supervision over the Communications Company and its allied companies. There is nothing derogatory in suggesting that this eminent gentleman should be to a certain degree restrained. I belong to a firm in the City which has a partnership deed similar to many other deeds, and in that deed it is laid clown that no partner shall do outside work or take other occupations except with the permission of the senior partner 1815 or his other partners. It is true that they do take on outside work, gratuitous or paid, but they only do so after consultation with their partners. I also know big corporations with which I have been connected, with many directors, where no director can take any other direction without submitting the offer he has received to the other directors and receiving their assent. There is, therefore, nothing derogatory to the man who is appointed to this high position in asking that for the future he should submit to the Government any proposal he may receive and that the Government should have the right of veto. I hope the Government will consider this point. I do not lay it down as absolutely necessary but I think the Committee would like to see it done.
§ Mr. WITHERS
I beg formally to support the Clause. I do not think I need add anything to the words of the Mover.
§ 8.0 p.m.
§ Mr. W. BAKER
I hope that the hon. Member for the City of London (Mr. E. Grenfell), who moved this new Clause, will forgive me for having added my name to it. It was felt that it might be a wise precaution for someone on this side of the Committee to indicate our agreement with a Clause which has emanated from such ad influential quarter. I hardly feel that it is necessary for me to try to strengthen the arguments which have been submitted to the Committee, but there are one or two points of importance to which the attention of the Committee should be drawn. If I understood aright, the hon. Gentleman mentioned that there were to be 22 directors. I do not remember having received that piece of information before.
§ Mr. BAKER
I am sorry that I missed it. It seems to me that the provision in the White Paper regarding the directors is altogether unsatisfactory. I understand that the Government are to have a right to approve two directors, who are to be nominated by the cable companies. Why the cable companies, the persons whose business was in such a dying condition that the merger had to 1816 be formed, should be regarded as the predominant partner and should be given the right of nomination, and the Government be compelled to accept their nomination, I am at a loss to understand. In reading the current issue of "The Round Table" I have come across a statement which appears to be made on high authority to the following effect:It is fortunate that the Marconi Company has in the end been able to obtain a position of equality in the directorate of the new company.I have no knowledge of having heard that statement made to this Committee, and I shall be glad if the Financial Secretary to the Treasury would state when the House was informed that the Marconi Company had secured a position of equality with other interests, so far as the directorate of the new company is concerned. The Mover of the new Clause referred to the Prime Minister's speech on the subject of directorship. I would like to say that the remarks of the hon. Gentleman were very sympathetically received by my hon. Friends. We believe that the hon. Gentleman put his finger on a very grave social ill, and if by supporting this new Clause we can do even a little to improve the position, this discussion will have been worth while.
I have another reason for desiring to support the new Clause. There have been many rumours with regard to the identity of the person who was to fill this important position. I have heard the salary put at any figure from £15,000 to 45,000 per annum, and if rumour had any basis in fact and the lucky person were to be the gentleman who is so successful in finding glittering prizes and has just secured a very satisfactory sugar plum, perhaps it is not particularly kind on our part to interfere with his desire to increase his income. Nevertheless, I feel that the original note struck by the hon. Member for City of London is one of the things which should govern this position. This Communications Company will be vital to this nation in the event of war. It will hold the key of the situation probably much more than either the Army or the Navy. In those circumstances, we should be wasting the whole of the money which we spend on preparation and defence, if we pass into private hands that key of the situation. There is an unanswerable case to be met. I should like to see the matter taken a 1817 good deal further and much stronger representation of the Government secured on the Board, but if we cannot secure more adequate control we are happy to vote for this new Clause.
§ Mr. T. GRIFFITHS
I am very pleased that this Amendment has been moved by the hon. Member for the City of London (Mr. E. Grenfell), and I can assure him that he will get all support from this side if he carries his Motion to a Division. The hon. Gentleman mentioned the speech of the Prime Minister in Glasgow on 22nd November. In case those sitting on the Government Front Bench have not read that speech, I shall read a portion of it to help them to come to a wise decision. Two nights previously, when we were discussing this Bill in the House, I used practically the same language as the Prime Minister, when I described the new revolution that was taking place in industry. The Prime Minister said at Glasgow:We are in the midst to-day of an industrial revolution as important as that which occurred a century ago, but of a very different nature.My language was that it was a greater revolution to-day than that of a century ago. The Prime Minister went on, in that speech:The end of it no man can foretell. That resolution means incalculable hardship to the men engaged in industry. I would ask you all to hear that in mind if you are ever tempted to judge harshly of impatience on their part or of wild words. The heavy end of the stick at these times falls always on those least able to bear it. They deserve our sympathy.The Premier prophesied that British industry would yet prove the most competent and efficient in the world, though the path was hard. He advised them to call on the youth of the nation and the ability of the nation to help them, and added:This is no time for those who are incompetent whatever their age is.He then spoke of parasitical directors battening on industry, and said:The country will never watch with tolerance, at a time when hundreds of thousands are being thrown out of work through no fault of their own through the rationalisation of industry, those who hold positions as managers or directors, or those who allocate to themselves the position of a freehold, who will not for the sake of rationalisation remove themselves unless they be bribed to do so.1818 Those are the words of someone who took a very active part in industry in the early days. I would tender the same advice after 40 years experience of industry. I hope the Government will make sure that they get a capable and experienced man as Chairman of Directors of this Communications Company—a man who will devote all his time to the work. We who have been engaged in industry know that from the directorship right down to the foreman, there are always soft jobs found for the sons of directors or of those who have some cash to spend. They are really not capable; they really have no experience to enable them to conduct industry. We read in the Press the names of directors and we find out the number of directorships held by different people in different industries. We know very well that they are not capable of understanding the coal trade, the iron and steel trade, the machine trade, the cotton trade and other industries, all at the same time.
Look at the list of directorships held even by Members sitting on the Government side of the House. We find that 106 Members hold 568 directorships. I guarantee that not a single soul of them who owns five or six directorships knows anything about industry at all. The only thing they know is the balance sheet, with the profits and the dividends that they take. Therefore I urge the Government to take the advice of the Prime Minister. Perhaps it will give a lead to other people working in other industries. The Mover of this new Clause is an experienced commercial gentleman who has taken a big part in the business of this country. He knows more of the inner working that I do, for I have never been a director. Think of a certain gentleman whom I know. He gets £50,000 a year for being Chairman of Directors of a certain company. I shall not give his name. He is also a director of 13 subsidiary companies, and of the Suez-Canal. For this gentleman to look after the interests of the big company for which he gets £50,000 a year, and also the Suez Canal, and thirteen subsidiary companies is an impossibility.
I would impress on the Government that thinking working men in the industries of the country know these things even better than some of the people on the other side, and that is what is caus- 1819 ing discontent and disturbance in industry to-day. It is because these people whom the Premier described as living on the fat of the land—these parasites—take far more out of industry than those who are producing. I hope the Government will accept the New Clause. If they fail to do so they will turn down their own Prime Minister and they will prove that they are there to look after vested interests in this House and in the country. If they do accept the proposal they will give a lead to industries in the country, so that in the future we shall find suitable, capable and experienced men devoting their time wholly to the industries in which they are concerned.
§ Mr. PETHICK-LAWRENCE
I have not taken any part so far in the discussions on this Bill and I intervene only for a few moments. My object is to ask the Government to consider this New Clause on its merits. My hon. Friends on this side have put down a number of Amendments in all seriousness, and with a view to improving the Bill; but I can quite understand that, coming from the Opposition Benches, those Amendments are looked upon by the Government in a party light. The Government, accordingly, have called upon their supporters to vote solidly against those Amendments. This proposal, however, comes from the Government side of the House, and it carries weight, not only because of the position of the Mover and supporter, but because it represents a great feeling among important people in the City and elsewhere with regard to this Measure. The Financial Secretary to the Treasury cannot deny that the terms of the Bill and the whole of this transaction are regarded with a certain amount of uneasiness, if not misgiving, by people who think about these matters. I hope, therefore, they will not lightly reject this proposal. The hon. Member who spoke last said he hoped that we would go to a Division against the Government on this matter. I hope there will be no Division—not because of the New Clause being allowed to lapse without one, but because the Government will see that this is not a matter in regard to which they can oppose the weighty opinion which favours it. I hope the Government will bow to that view and take a reasonable course, 1820 viewing this proposal on its own merits, and having regard to the weight of evidence with which it is supported.
I wish to support my hon. Friend in urging the Government to consider this New Clause. It has the backing of hon. Members in both of the parties which take an interest in this Measure, and I trust that that consideration will weigh with the Financial Secretary. The proposal is a purely non-party one. I would like to go very much further, as I have frequently said in the course of these Debates, but the Government will not accept the Amendments which we propose and, in those circumstances, I am content to support this New Clause. The Mover, as the representative of the City of London, possibly knows a great deal more than any other hon. Member of this House about the business of the City, and much cannot be added to what he has already said. There is, however, one example in the minds of hon. Members which goes to support the reasons for this proposal. The hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy) called attention the other day to the Anglo-Persian Oil Company. In that company there are two directors appointed by the British Government. A short time ago the company joined with certain other groups to maintain what some of us considered to be an unnecessarily high price for petroleum spirit. When that situation arose we ascertained by question and answer in this House from the Chancellor of the Exchequer that the two Government directors were absolutely powerless to control the policy of the company.
That is one example out of many which could be given to substantiate what has been said by the hon. Member for the City of London (Mr. E. C. Grenfell). This new Clause would not be necessary if the Advisory Committee which we have so often discussed, had statutory powers. Indeed had the Government told us something about that Committee it might not be necessary to press this matter at all. If we knew who were going to be on the Committee, how it was going to be elected, from whom it would be selected, there might be less need for this proposal. But the Government as the constitution is at present, cannot even appoint two directors to the 1821 Communications Company. They can only express an opinion on two directors already nominated by the cable companies. Can the cable companies withdraw these directors at any time? Are they appointed for the ordinary statutory year, or for any fixed period, or indefinitely? Can the cable companies at any period, to use a vulgar phrase, "give them the sack?" Why are the cable companies nominating these two directors and not the wireless company. This is a wireless concern.
I am not sure whether the hon. Member is in order or not in asking these questions, but I am certain that if the Minister attempts to answer them I shall have to rule him out of order.
Then I content myself with asking one question relating to this new Clause. Is, or is not, the name of Lord Birkenhead being considered as the chairman of this company?
§ Mr. A. M. SAMUEL
Before I address myself to the proposals contained in the new Clause, the hon. Member for East Bristol (Mr. W. Baker) may like me to give him the information for which he asks concerning the proportion of directors. If the hon. Member consults the OFFICIAL REPORT, he will find that on 5th December I answered two questtions put to me by the hon. Member for Hillsborough (Mr. A. V. Alexander) on this subject. I do not know if I am in order in dealing with the matter, but if I am allowed to proceed, I shall repeat the substance of the answer which I gave on that occasion. I referred the hon. Member for Hillsborough to Recommendation IV of the Imperial Conference on page 18 of the White Paper, and I added:It is, I understand, contemplated that there would he at the outset 22 directors. 10 nominated by the wireless group, and 12 by the cable companies. Of the latter, two must he approved by the Government, and excluding the Government directors there will be equal representation."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 5th December, 1928; col. 1226, Vol. 223.]
§ Mr. SAMUEL
I cannot give an opinion on the article, as I have not seen it. I can only say what I have already said in reply to the question of the hon. Member for Hillsborough. In regard to the proposal contained in the new Clause, the hon. Member for the City of London (Mr. E. C. Grenfell) asks that the chairman of the Communications Company shall be approved by His Majesty's Government. I have listened most closely to every word which has fallen from the lips of the hon. Member for the City of London, and from those Members of the Opposition who have spoken on this matter, and I would reply at once to hon. Members on all sides. If hon. Members will look at page 18 of the Report they will find that the general arrangements for the transfer of the services provide that the chairman of the Communications Company must be approved by the Government. These general arrangements, as hon. Members will realise, concern the partner Governments as well as ourselves. It would in such circumstances be inappropriate that the appointment or the conduct of the duties of the chairman should be subject to separate legislation in this House as is now proposed.
§ Mr. SAMUEL
There are the partner Governments to be considered. The Government, however, are in full agreements with what is conceived to be the motive and intention of the proposed new Clause. There is no doubt that the business of acting as chairman of the Communications Company will necessarily form the main preoccupation of the holder of that important office. The hon. Member for West Leicester (Mr. Pethick-Lawrence) has asked us to consider the proposed new Clause on its merits. We have gone further, and we declare that we are in full agreement with the motive and intention of the Clause. I hope my hon. Friend the Member for the City of London will be content with that expression of opinion and see his way to withdraw the Clause.
§ Mr. GILLETT
I do not think the Financial Secretary to the Treasury does agree entirely with the proposed new Clause, because he said that in the main the chairman would be confined to this work, and we think he should be 1823 entirely confined to it. One of the points that I should like to have made if I had been called before the Minister was that it seems most important that this gentleman should be in an entirely impartial position. We know that one great industry, namely, the Press, would have very important relations with this Communications Company, and it is most important that the chairman should not be believed to be connected with any section of the Press or dependent upon it. The same thing applies to certain great business interests, and, therefore, I do not think that the reply of the hon. Member, while it went part of the way, is by any means sufficiently defined
§ to satisfy us. I entirely support what was said by the hon. Member for the City of London (Mr. E. C. Grenfell), in his most interesting speech, which brought out some very important points, but I think the reply on behalf of the Government was only partial, and it certainly will not satisfy those of us who sit on this side of the House.
§ Mr. E. C. GRENFELL
In view of what the Minister has said, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Clause.
§ Question put, "That the Clause be read a Second time."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 105; Noes, 196.1825
|Division No. 45.]||AYES.||[8.32 p.m.|
|Ammon, Charles George||Hamilton, sir R. (Orkney & Shetland)||Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)|
|Baker, J. (Wolverhampton, Bilston)||Hardle, George D.||Shepherd, Arthur Lewis|
|Baker, Walter||Harris, Percy A.||Shiels, Dr. Drummond|
|Barker, G. (Monmouth, (Abertillery)||Henderson, T. (Glasgow)||Shinwell, E.|
|Barr. J.||Hirst, G. H.||Slesser, Sir Henry H.|
|Batey, Joseph||Hirst. W. (Bradford, South)||Smillie, Robert|
|Bellamy, A.||Hudson, J. H. (Huddersfield).||Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotharhithe)|
|Berry, Sir George||John. William (Rhondda, West)||Smith, Rennle (Penistone)|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charlie W.||Johnston, Thomas (Dundee)||Snell, Harry|
|Briant, Frank||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip|
|Broad, F. A||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)||Stewart, J. (St. Rollox)|
|Brown, Ernest (Leith)||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Strauss, E. A.|
|Buxton, Rt. Hon. Noel||Jones, W. N. (Carmarthen)||Sutton, J. E.|
|Cape, Thomas||Kelly, W. T.||Taylor, R. A.|
|Charleton, H. C.||Kennedy, T.||Thorne, W, (West Ham, Plaistow)|
|Cluse, W. S.||Lansbury, George||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.||Lawrence, Susan||Tomlinson, R. P.|
|Connolly, M.||Lee, F.||Townend, A. E.|
|Conway, Sir W. Martin||Livingstone, A. M.||Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles|
|Cove, W. G.||Lowth, T.||Viant, S. P.|
|Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities)||Lunn, William||Wallhead, Richard C.|
|Dalton, Hugh||Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan)||Walsh, Rt. Hon. Stephen|
|Davies, Ellis (Denbigh, Denbigh)||MacNeill-Weir, L.||Watson, W, M. (Dunfermline)|
|Dennison, R.||Malone, C. L'Estrange (N'thampton)||Webb, Rt. Hon. Sidney|
|Duncan, C.||March, S.||Wedgwood, Rt. Hon. Josiah|
|Fenby, T. D.||Montague, Frederick||Wellock, Wilfred|
|Garro-Jones, Captain G. M.||Morris, R. H.||Westwood, J.|
|Gillett, George M.||Paling, W.||Whiteley, W.|
|Gosling, Harry||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.||Wilkinson, Ellen C.|
|Graham, Rt. Hon. Wm. (Edin., Cent.)||Ponsonby, Arthur||Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercilffe)|
|Grentell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||Potts, John S.||Wilson, R. J. Narrow)|
|Griffith, F. Kingsley||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)||Windsor, Walter|
|Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Ritson, J.||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|Grundy, T. W.||Salter, Dr. Alfred|
|Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton)||Scrymgeour, E.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Scurr, John||Mr. Allen Parkinson and Mr. Charles Edwards.|
|Albery, Irving James||Bowyer, Capt. G. E. W.||Christie, J. A.|
|Alexander, E. E. (Leyton)||Briggs, J. Harold||Churchman, Sir Arthur C.|
|Allen, Sir J. Sandeman||Brittain, Sir Harry||Clarry, Reginald George|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S.||Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Clayton, G. C.|
|Atkinson, C.||Brooke, Brigadier-General C. R. I.||Cobb, Sir Cyril|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'I'd., Hexham)||Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.|
|Balniel, Lord||Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James||Cockerill, Brig.-General Sir George|
|Banks, Sir Reginald Mitchell||Bullock, Captain M.||Cohen, Major J. Brunel|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Carver, Major W. H.||Colman, N. C. D.|
|Barnett, Major Sir Richard||Cassels, J. D.||Cooper, A. Dun|
|Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake)||Cayzer, Maj. Sir Herbt. R. (Prtsmth. S.)||Couper, J. B.|
|Bethel, A.||Cazalet, Captain Victor A.||Courtauld, Major J. S.|
|Bevan, S. J.||Cecil, Rt. Hon. sir Evelyn (Aston)||Craig, Sir Ernest (Chester, Crewe)|
|Birchall, Major J. Dearman||Charteris, Brigadier-General J.||Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.|
|Crooke, J. Smedley (Derltend)||Hurst, Gerald B.||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)|
|Crookshank. Col. C. de W. (Berwick)||Illffe, Sir Edward M.||Rye, F. G.|
|Crookshank, Cpt. H. (Lindsey, Gainsbro)||Inskip, Sir Thomas Walker H.||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)|
|Culverwell, C. T. (Bristol, West)||Jones, Sir G. W. H. (Stoke New'gton)||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)|
|Curzon, Captain Viscount||Kennedy, A. H. (Preston)||Sandeman, N. Stewart|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Kindersley, Major Guy M.||Sanders, Sir Robert A.|
|Davidson, Rt. Hon. J. (Hertford)||King, Commodore Henry Douglas||Savery, S. S.|
|Davies, Dr. Vernon||Lister, Cunliffe-, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip||Shaw, Lt.-Col. A. D. McI. (Renfrew, W.)|
|Dawson, Sir Philip||Little, Dr. E. Graham||Shepperson, E. W.|
|Dean, Arthur Wellesley||Locker-Lampson, Rt. Hon. Godfrey||Skelton, A. N.|
|Dixey, A. C.||Looker. Herbert William||Smith, Louis W. (Sheffield, Hallam)|
|Edmondson, Major A. J.||Lucas-Tooth. Sir Hugh Vere||Smith, R. W.(Aberd'n & Kinc'dine. C.)|
|Elliot, Major Walter E.||Luce, Maj.-Gen. Sir Richard Harmon||Southby, Commander A. R. J.|
|Ellis, R. G.||Lumley, L. R.||Stanley, Lieut.-Colonel Rt. Hon. G. F|
|England, Colonel A.||MacAndrew, Major Charles Glen||Steel, Major Samuel Strang|
|Erskine, James Malcolm Monteith||McDonnell, Colonel Hon. Angus||Storry-Deans, R.|
|Everard, W. Lindsay||Macintyre, Ian||Stott, Lieut.-Colonel W. H.|
|Fairfax, Captain J. G.||McLean, Major A.||Streatfeild, Captain S. R.|
|Falle, Sir Bertram G.||Macmillan, Captain H.||Stuart, Crichton-, Lord C.|
|Fanshawe, Captain G. D||Maitland, A. (Kent, Faversham)||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Fermoy, Lord||Makins, Brigadier-General E.||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid|
|Ford, Sir P. J.||Manningham-Buller, Sir Mervyn||Tasker, R. Inigo.|
|Forestler-Walker, Sir L.||Margesson, Captain D.||Templeton, W. P.|
|Foster, Sir Harry S.||Marriott, Sir J. A. R.||Thom, Lt.-Col. J. G. (Dumbarton)|
|Foxcroft, Captain C. T.||Merriman, Sir F. Boyd||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, S.)|
|Fraser, Captain Ian||Milne, J. S. Wardlaw||Thomson, Rt. Hon Sir W. Mitchell.|
|Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||Mitchell, S. (Lanark, Lanark)||Tinne, J. A.|
|Ganzoni, Sir John||Mitchell, W. Foot (Saffron Walden)||Vaughan-Morgan, Col. K. P.|
|Gilmour. Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)||Wallace, Captain D. E.|
|Goff, Sir Park||Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. B. M.||Ward, Lt.-Col. A. L. (Kingston-on-Hull)|
|Gower, Sir Robert||Moore, Lieut.-Colonel T. C. R. (Ayr)||Warner, Brigadier-General W. W.|
|Grant, Sir J. A.||Moreing. Captain A. H.||Warrender, Sir Victor|
|Greaves-Lord, Sir Walter||Nelson, Sir Frank||Waterhouse, Captain Charles|
|Grotrian, H. Brent||O'Connor. T. J. (Bedford, Luton)||Watson, Rt. Hon. W. (Carlisle)|
|Hacking, Douglas H.||O'Neill, Major Rt. Hon. Hugh||Watts, Sir Thomas|
|Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)||Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William||Wayland. Sir William A.|
|Hall, Admiral Sir R. (Eastbourne)||Pennefather, Sir John||Wells, S. R.|
|Hamilton, Sir George||Penny, Frederick George||White, Lieut.-Colonel G. Dairymple|
|Hammersley, S. S.||Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)||Williams, Com. C. (Devon, Torquay)|
|Hanbury, C.||Perkins, Colonel E. K.||Williams, Herbert G. (Reading)|
|Hartington, Marquess of||Perring, Sir William George||Wilson, Sir C. H. (Leeds, Central)|
|Harvey, G. (Lambeth, Kennington)||Peto, G. (Somerset, Frome)||Winby, Colonel L. P.|
|Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)||Pitcher, G.||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Headlam, Lieut.-Colonel C. M.||Pilditch, Sir Philip||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Hennessy, Major Sir G. R. J.||Price, Major C. W. M.||Wood, E. (Chest'r, Stalyb'dqe & Hyde)|
|Hilton, Cecil||Ramsden, E.||Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir Kingsley|
|Holbrook, Sir Arthur Richard||Rawson, sir Cooper||Woodcock, Colonel H. C.|
|Hopkins, J. W. W.||Rhys, Hon. C. A. U.||Wright, Brig.-General W. D.|
|Hudson. Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney. N.)||Richardson, sir P. W. (Sur'y, Ch'ts'y)|
|Hume, Sir G. H.||Roberts, E. H. G. (Flint)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Hume-Williams, Sir W. Ellis||Robinson, Sir T. (Lanes, Stretford)||Major Sir William Cope and Major|
|Hunter-Weston, Lt.-Gen. Sir Aylmer||Rodd, Rt. Hon. Sir James Rennell||The Marquess of Titchfield.|
|Hurd, Percy A.||Ropner, Major L.|
§ Preamble agreed to.
§ Bill reported, without Amendment.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That the Bill be now read the Third time.
§ Mr. SHINWELL
On a point of Order. May I ask whether, in view of the fact that there does not appear on the Order Paper any reference to the Third Reading, it is in order to proceed with that stage?
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr. Dennis Herbert)
It is perfectly in order. The Bill appears on the Order Paper, and the Committee stage having been concluded, and the Bill reported without Amendment, it is quite in order to take the Third Reading.
§ Mr. SHINWELL
If no reference appears on the Paper to the Third Reading, and if the reference is confined to the Committee stage of the Bill, I submit, with great respect, that this is not the time to proceed with the Third Reading.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
It is the recognised procedure of this House that the Third Reading can be taken when a Bill is reported without Amendment.
§ Mr. AMMON
I was saying that this is the last opportunity which we shall 1827 have of discussing this Bill before it goes on to the Statute Book, and it is necessary, even if we cannot get Members on the other side of the House to vote for its rejection, that certain things should be said, and should find their place in the records of the House, because they will certainly be required in the immediate future, and should stand in evidence against those who have so betrayed the public in this matter. The difficulties and the importance of the Bill have been shown very largely by the endeavours that my hon. Friends have made to bring out how very much more is implied in the Bill than is represented in its terms. This Bill, after all, is the first link in a very much longer chain which will be forged outside this House, and there will be little or no opportunity for Members then to discuss its implications and bearings. This is the beginning of the handing over of a very large public interest and service to a private capitalist enterprise, a matter without precedent, probably, in the history of this country. It is not unknown for the nation to take over large public concerns and businesses because they have been found to be of public concern and interest, and to run them. It is, however, entirely new—or at any rate a very rare thing—for the Government to hand over great public enterprises in order that they might be exploited by private interests as against the public good.
It is rather remarkable to observe how history has repeated itself, for in everything concerning the communications of this country, whether they be postal, telegraphic, telephonic or, as in this case, wireless, there has always been a certain amount of wirepulling and suspicion, not to say charges of financial jugglery and bad dealing behind the scenes. I was interested, in turning up the report of this House for as long ago as 1895, to observe how history has repeated itself to a remarkable extent. The father of my hon. Friend the Member for North Aberdeen (Mr. Benn) played a conspicuous part in the Debates on that occasion when the House was concerned with the transfer of the National Telephone Company to the Post Office. It is worth while remarking that the Liberal party were differently constituted then from the Liberal party nowadays, for they stood 1828 up for public interest as against private interests, even though it were against their own Government. It is germane to what is happening just now that in March, 1895, Mr. John Williams Benn, afterwards Sir John Williams Benn, moved for an appointment of a Select Committee to consider a draft agreement between the Postmaster-General and the National Telephone Company. The Motion, which was hotly discussed, was carried by this House. There was then precisely the same condition of affairs as has been indicated by my hon. Friend the Member for East Bristol (Mr. W. Baker) in some of the speeches which he has made during the discussions for which he has been chided by hon. Members.
A good deal of what is known as "rocketing" of shares of the Telephone Company occurred on the Stock Exchange, and the father of the hon. Member for North Aberdeen took very much the same line that has been taken by my hon. Friend the Member for East Bristol and showed the House how the shares had been manipulated and juggled, and how prices soared up when it was seen that something was to be gained at the expense of the Exchequer or the public service. Very much the same sort of discussions took place in the House then as have taken place to-day, and hon. Members on the opposite side of the House then expressed their indignation that any hon. Members should dare to suggest that any such thing could happen. They said "Are we not all honourable men?" The sequel was shown when following the report of the Select Committee, the business was transferred to the State—a reversal of what is happening in this case—because it had fallen into such a condition that it was a crying scandal. When this transaction took place a Conservative Minister said that the whole business was a disgusting financial ramp. That was the verdict given on that occasion, and the Tory party were then, as now, implicated in the handling of a public service. A writer of that day said:Throughout, the Report the Select Committee"—that is, the Select Committee which reported in 1898— 1829suggests that the National Telephone Company does exercise, or is liable to exercise, in a manner contrary to public policy, its power to refuse supply and to give preferential subscription rates.That is the very position which the passing of this Bill is going to bring about with regard to the new Communications Company—the power for them so to create a monopoly and to corner this service that they will have a complete hold, and can ignore the larger public interests, which a publicly owned concern is bound to consider. They can run this business as they like, in the interests of a few, as long as they get their margin of profit. All through this Debate it has been consistently pointed out that there is no safeguard whatever in this Bill for the public interest—none whatever. The Communications Company itself is a mythical company. The price to be paid is unknown. None of the safeguards is worth anything. Again and again Ministers have taken refuge behind the White Paper, that is, the Report of the Imperial Conference, and when they have been pressed they have again taken cowardly shelter behind the suggestion that we have been attacking the Dominions or other representatives of the Empire. They know full well that in point of law and in fact that White Paper is worth no more than the paper and print of which it is composed. If any question of legality should ever arise, the Judge will be concerned only with the words of the Bill itself, and the Bill itself has no safeguards whatever in these particular respects.
Again it is worth noting how history is repeating itself, and it is not inappropriate that I should quote a paragraph from the report of the Select Committee issued in 1898, which report resulted later in the transfer of the National Telephone Company to the State:Under the peculiar conditions (or freedom from conditions) of its licence the Company has an obvious reason for limiting the number of its subscribers. As subscribers upon an exchange increase, the cost of the service increases so much that a point is at last reached at which an increased number of subscribers fails to repay the additional cost. The Company, unlike the Post Office from which it receives its licence, has power to refuse service and thus to pick and choose its subscribers, and thereby to limit their number, and in doing this it is materially assisted by the grant of extensive areas, which afford a wide choice of the most remunerative sub- 1830 scribers, and at the same time go far to protect it against competition. As the number of subscribers on an exchange is thus restricted, the number of exchanges within an area must in consequence be increased. The cost of thus sending a message through two or three exchanges and over the junction wires has of course to be paid for by somebody, and it is paid for in the disguised form of a larger annual subscription. Under A scheme of smaller areas than those which have in fact been allotted to the Company the wires which connect such exchanges would in most instances have been Government trunk wires, directly producing a revenue to the Post Office.That was the position of the National Telephone Company prior to the service being taken over by the Post Office. That, also, was the position of the cable companies prior to the establishment of the beam wireless system. It is proposed now to hand the whole of these communications back to those companies and we shall no doubt revert to the old condition of affairs, for there is no safeguard to prevent this, at least for 25 years.
What are the facts we have tried to put before the House? Until the establishment of the beam service the cable companies were running their services at a prohibitive rate. They were not giving the best service, but they had such a complete monopoly that they could afford to do absolutely what they liked. Then came the working of the beam service, after it had been adopted by the Labour Government. The result of that was at once not only to increase the telegraphic and telephonic communications between this country and the Dominions by the beam but immediately to cause a fall in cable rates; and by that method further business was in turn attracted to the cable companies. That business has grown, and the cry the cable companies have now set up is really based on the fact that their restricted and privileged position has been abolished by virtue of the establishment of the beam service. They have so influenced the Government, and other Governments, that at last they have managed to get this affair wholly into their own hands, with the result that we are undoubtedly faced with a reversion to the old condition of affairs.
Let hon. Members bear in mind—a point which was confirmed by the Secretary of State for the Dominions the other day—that this is not a fight of yesterday, this is not a campaign which began with 1831 the introduction of this Bill. This has been going on for the last 17 years, at the very least. The records of the Imperial Conference will show that all along certain interests which will be in the Communications Company and in the merger have seen the possibilities of wireless, and have schemed and intrigued and gone to all sorts of lengths, which have been more freely exposed in some of the Colonial newspapers, in order to get hold of this particular service. Again and again over a period of years, right down to 1923, the imperial Conference has come down on the side of those who say that this service must be nationally owned and nationally controlled. That view has always been maintained, so much so that all the Departments of the State in this country have subscribed to it, and have sent up a resolution to that effect confirming this decision to the Imperial Conference.
The Postmaster-General told us that certain things had taken place which had caused the Imperial Conference to change its mind. One knows what happens after there has been a good deal of intriguing in all the countries concerned, and, without imputing any connivance on the part of those in this country, one knows the manner in which financial interests work and influence certain affairs and manage to get their own way. After a lapse of years, these people found the Government and others subject to certain pressure, with the result that this Bill has been brought before us. This question has been brought before this House in such a manner as to give to the people's representatives and the country a minimum of information as to what is going to be done in order to make these arrangements operative when these powers have been granted.
I put it to hon. Members that there seems to have been a tremendous change since years ago this country was concerned about the good name of this House being linked up with a financial ramp. We are all aware of the result of the decision which brought the telephone system over to the State. We all know that the Pacific Cable dealt with in this Bill is really only the shadow, and that the substance is contained in the other services which contain the value which these com- 1832 panies hope to secure. Neither this House nor the Postmaster-General has any hold whatever over these companies. I hope hon. Members opposite have observed the significance of the fact that time and again the Post Office have been challenged and told that they are not in agreement with these proposals, and we have not had that statement officially contradicted. But the Post Office is concerned with this matter; that is the department which is responsible, and I think it would be interesting to know what is the real view of the Postmaster-General in regard to this particular business.
It is no good repeating arguments, but it is worth while noting that one particular organ of public opinion has stated that it was a pity that the Debates on this Bill had been so one-sided, and that it was not a good thing to leave all the arguments to the Opposition. That is not the least grave aspect of this question. In the Press cuttings which I have seen of former Debates on this subject they have come mostly from the syndicated Press, and, generally throughout the country, it is apparent that the same hand has been concerned in issuing those reports giving their own particular impressions of the Debates. To that is going to be added the very grave danger that in addition to the controlling of the Press you are going to place the supplying of news into the hands of a few people. How grave that matter may turn out I will leave to the imagination of hon. Members. This arrangement of things at the present time may be to the advantage of hon. Members opposite, but they may find that it is possible it will be a boomerang which will recoil on their own heads. Powers such as those which are conferred under this Bill can be used to a very great extent in rigging the market for Stock Exchange quotations by unscrupulous people. There are no guarantees in this Bill to protect us against anything of that kind, and those are some of the dangers to which the country is going to be exposed. Therefore, I think I am justified in saying that the opposition which has been put up to this Bill has been none too strong, because we can see its implications and possibilities.
By way of an anti-climax, I come down to the point concerning the staffs which 1833 Will be transferred. In this, as in other things, no guarantee has been given, and no definite promises have been made. There is no reason whatever why assurances should not have been made part and parcel of this Bill, so that the staffs who will be displaced might have some guarantee as to their position in the future. For that argument we have ample precedents. In the Telephone Transfer Act of 1911 there were certain clauses concerning the right of the transferred staff so far as superannuation and other matters were concerned. If those responsibilities are imposed upon the State when it takes over a private concern, why is it that the State does not demand similar guarantees to those who will be affected by the passage of this Bill. With regard to a guarantee of this kind, we have not been able to get any promise at all, and' there is nothing to show that, when the Communications Company is set going and the merger is completed, these people who entered the service of the State on the expectation that it will be a life service, are not likely to find themselves in very great difficulties. It has always been the practice to give compensation to those who are displaced by changes of this sort.
I think there ought to be a guarantee to these officers to the effect that if they do not feel inclined to take service with an outside company they should be compensated for the loss of their appointments. I hope we shall get some further satisfaction on these particular points. I will conclude, as I began, by pleading that hon. Members should look at this question as one which transcends all party differences, and involves the integrity and honour of this House as the guardians and custodians of the public service. We are handing over without any guarantee a public service which is not a losing but a successful service, and we are handing it over to the unsuccessful competitors because they have lodged the complaint that their private interests are being injured. The Government are prepared to sacrifice the public weal and the public interest in order that private ends may be served.
§ Mr. W. BAKER
When I first introtroduced this subject, my critics referred to my suspicions, and I doubt very much whether anyone would regard the word 1834 "suspicion" as being adequate to meet the case at the present moment. I have listened as carefully as I could to what the Government have to say in the very limited defence which has been put forward, and I very much regret to say that it is my considered opinion that the Government have had to cloak their weakness behind a very undignified silence. My hon. Friend who has just spoken has referred to many of the defects in this Bill. I have not had a long experience, and cannot compare this Bill with many others, but it does seem to me that the striking thing about this Measure is what it omits rather than what it contains. Taking the last point which my hon. Friend made, with regard to the staffs, the Assistant-Postmaster-General, towards the end of our deliberations on Friday, said that the staffs employed in connection with this work were civil servants, and, consequently, they had security of status. I believe that it was quite an unintentional mistake which the Noble Lord made, but the fact remains that there are very many men who are not established, who have not the status of civil servants—
§ Viscount WOLMER
Only about 50. The Postmaster-General has given his pledge that not one of them will lose his appointment.
§ Mr. BAKER
Still, to a much more limited extent. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] No doubt the Assistant-Postmaster-General will tell the House why. In my view, however, the Government should have made provision for the staff before this proposal was placed before the House of Commons. The Government should have made the necessary arrangements for the contracts before this Measure was introduced, and it is altogether unsatisfactory that the House of Commons is compelled to commit, itself in the dark, while the interested private persons are holding their hands 1835 until they know exactly in what position they will find themselves. The cable companies, admittedly, found themselves in a difficult position because of the great success of the Government beam stations. It is admitted that the cable companies, having built up enormous cash reserves out of a business which was made possible by large Government subsidies, told the Government that they were unable to continue in business against the Government's beam service, and it is alleged, I know not with what truth, that those fortunate private companies, which had received such large sums of money in subsidies, threatened to sell their undertakings to our most formidable foreign competitor. I regard that sort of conduct as worthy of the most severe and definite condemnation.
This is what mystifies me. Instead of the Government regarding the action of the cable companies as reprehensible, they have showered every advantage upon those companies in return for the action which was taken. The Postmaster-General told us to-day that the interests in the new concern will be divided in the proportion of 17 wireless to 36 cable. That means that these dying concerns, which threatened to pay off their shareholders and transfer or scrap their plant, are being given the dominant position in this new Communications Company, and that, despite the announcement which I read to-night, and of which the Financial Secretary said he had no knowledge, that the wireless interests have secured 50 per cent. of the control on the directorate, these cable companies will still have a position to which they are not entitled in any possible circumstances.
Let us look for a moment at the finance of the matter. Going into this fusion are Government cable assets, the Government's wireless assets, the private cable companies' assets, and the private wireless assets. The Government's assets come in at cost less depreciation, which means an extremely low figure. The cable companies' assets come in on the basis of shareholders, and I regard that anomaly as worthy of notice in passing. But, whether the cables be owned by the Government or by the private companies, it is quite certain that that was not the rising side of the business. When, however, we come to the wireless side, while 1836 the undertakings again are taken in on the basis of shareholders—in this case a basis which has been greatly inflated by persistent manipulation for some period—those wireless interests, which have a very great and promising future before them, are being placed in a position of parity with the cable companies.
I consider that it is impossible for any man to foretell the wonderful future that is before the wireless industry. I believe that the quotation which I gave to-day from the "Daily Mail," and the forecasts of the hon. Member for the Abbey Division of Westminster (Mr. Otto Nicholson) with regard to the future of wireless, are no exaggeration. My greatest regret in regard to this Measure is that, so far as one can tell, it gives no eye to the future, it makes no provision for new developments, for new inventions, and for new undertakings; and, if the developments are up to our expectations, the Government are not willing to take the necessary precaution to govern the issue of new capital. The Government have sheltered themselves a great deal, during the course of these Debates, behind the Dominions. I have heard many references to the great Dominions during these discussions; but a very important and influential writer, to whom I will refer again in a moment, writing in the current issue of the "Round Table," says—It remains true that the scheme "—that is to say, this scheme—in its essential features, will stand or fall by the decision of the British Parliament.That I believe to be the position. I am inclined to think that there has been a great deal of mystery about the origin of this Imperial Conference. It is amazing that the private interests were able to get off the mark so quickly, and to call an Imperial Conference to deal with this problem before, I think it is true to say, any of the four Government beam stations had been in operation for a complete year. The Postmaster-General was able to announce in the House of Commons, on the 19th December, 1927, that the Government proposed to call this Imperial Conference, and on the 21st February the Prime Minister made an announcement in the House with regard to it. It is amazing that it was possible to take such a prompt decision with regard to this matter and to call an Imperial Conference in such haste, having regard to the 1837 very short experience that everyone had had with regard to beam stations. The fact is, however, that, before the beam wireless services had had anything like an opportunity of proving to the cable companies how dangerous they were to their business, the interests behind the cable companies—and this, after all, is the burden of my story—were so powerful that they were able to persuade the Government to resort to this method of an Imperial Conference. I believe, as I said in my original speech, that to find the explanation of the present situation we have to look at the linked directorships and the linked companies, banking, financial, electrical, insurance, newspaper; and, when you have examined the way in which the companies concerned shared directors with the most influentia houses in the City of London, and with the most influential newspapers in many places, I think you will begin to get a clue to the problem which confronts us.
That brings me to one of the influences that it is necessary to mention, because it is not particularly obvious. The report of the Imperial Conference definitely recommended that external telephony should be excluded from the operations of this merger. I sincerely hope it is the policy of the Postmaster-General to resist the demands that are being and will be made to secure that international telephony is transferred to the Communications Company on the ground that the Communications Company are the only people who can do it satisfactorily. It is already being stated that the Postmaster-General cannot undertake this service and cannot conduct it so efficiently as it would be conducted if it were transferred to the other interests and telephony were passed over the beam from the beam stations. I hope that position is going to be resisted, but I am not very hopeful about it, because I believe all these influences, which are so powerful because of the linked relationship between the financial, newspaper and other interests, are operating in such a powerful way that it is almost impossible to keep touch with them. I have here a book called "The Round Table," which professes to be an impartial non-party publication of the highest possible standard, a publication in which men do not sign their names, 1838 because of the very high position they hold and because of their impartial attitude towards social problems. I may be mistaken, but I am inclined to think I am correct in my conclusion when I tell the House that the December issue contains a most important article entitled "Imperial Communications," which not only reviews the whole of this problem from the point of view of the Communications Company, but goes on to demand that this problem of external telephony shall be transferred from the Past Office. It says:The last recommendation of the Conference is that the Post Office should be allowed to reserve the right to conduct the external telephone service of Great Britain. This concession to official obstruction may be of political but has no practical justification.When I read the "Round Table" I think of certain very nice studious gentlemen, and I am prepared to accept the utterances of the Round Table as coming from such sources, but when I remember that important gentleman who has been referred to in other Debates, who is a director of the company that arranged this merger and is said to have been connected with this movement from its inception, I begin to wonder exactly how far we can rely upon publications of that character even when their general reputation is good. In the "New Statesman" of 31st March, 1921, there was a statement that a writer in the London Press who persistently attacked the English State telephones was working from the office of the American Telegraph and Telephone Company in New York. This is a matter in my view of first-class importance. We are in the position to-day of being not only defeated but very heavily defeated. We may have been wrong in certain unimportant details, but I claim that on the broad principles underlying our opposition we have been right. In bringing my remarks to a, close and ending my opposition to the Measure, because no further opposition is possible, I assure the House that our opposition has been based entirely upon a desire for the public good, and we believe that hon. Members will live m discover that our opposition was justified and that it would have been in the best interests of everyone concerned had a different decision been taken.
I wish to express the deep resentment, silent though it may have been, that many of us on these benches have felt at the way the Opposition has conducted itself during this Debate. From the innuendoes and accusations which have been flung about one would have supposed that the Bill, instead of being based, as it is, on the very concrete foundation of the unanimous agreement of an Imperial Conference, was founded on a manure heap. It is incredible to hear the statements that have been made by hon. Members opposite. I am certain that, if in two or three months' time they should read again the speeches they have made, they will regret that they have taken the opportunity to insult all sorts of people who could not possibly defend themselves, whereas if they had had any conceivable grounds for making the remarks they did make against His Majesty's Ministers they had a perfectly proper Parliamentary method of doing it. This Measure is one which, to anyone who has read the report of the Conference, is quite clearly a great advance from the Imperial point of view, because we have had representatives of all the Dominions here agreeing, as anyone may see in the final words of the Report, after an exhaustive test of all the factors which, obviously this House has not been able to go into, that the scheme outlined provides the best solution for the problem which we all admit is one of the first importance to this Empire.
There are only two real points, apart from abuse, in the Opposition case. They are, first of all, the objections with regard to the fact that no contract has been produced for examination by the House, but they would have been the first to complain, quite properly, on constitutional grounds if a contract had been offered by the Government disposing of property before the matter had been before the House. Secondly, there has been a great deal of talk with regard to the price—and certainly some of the speeches that have been made have given us most extraordinary views as to the price at which property should be sold—and complaint because the Postmaster-General himself has not been in a position to tell us what transpired within the Conference. That kind of criticism is quite worthless, because everyone knows that, whether it is a Cabinet Committee 1840 or an Imperial Conference Committee, it is impossible for the members to disclose publicly the information that is given in confidence. For that kind of talk to come from the present Opposition is even more fantastic when one remembers that, in the time of their Government, they not only did not disclose to us what occurred within their Cabinet, quite properly, but they omitted, in the case of the Russian Treaty, to keep their own Cabinet informed from hour to hour of what was transpiring within its own counsels. I think all on these benches who have listened and hon. Members below the Gangway who have supported the Measure, have felt deep resentment at the kind of accusation made during the Debate, and we all feel, as the report of the Imperial Wireless and Cable Conference says, that: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 benefit which naturally flow from a rapid, cheap and efficient system of communications.It is because we feel that, that we have supported the Measure through all its stages, and we wish it well in future.
§ Mr. WELLOCK
In spite of what the hon. and gallant Member for Gains-borough (Captain Crookshank) has said, I must say that what has transpired during these Debates, and the facts which have been produced have certainly done much to create a certain amount of disquiet in my own mind. I say that sincerely, because I am extremely uneasy in regard to the situation as I see it. I have watched events in America and have witnessed the growing power of finance in politics, in education and even in religion, and the more I follow events in my own country, the more I see we are going in the same direction, although I hope we shall never go to the lengths that financial power has gone in America.
When we come to examine the figures, it may be that we are yet in ignorance—perhaps unavoidably—though I thank the Postmaster-General for having ultimately given us more figures than we had. I believe if he could have given us the figures sooner, he would have done so. Nevertheless, I think it is lamentable that we should have three or four days' Debate on the Second 1841 Reading and in the Committee stage of the Bill without being given important figures. We have learned only within the last hour or two that the amount of money allocated to the Cables Company is £20,000,000. The simple facts are that the Government assets in cables, which are extremely valuable, are to be sold for £2,500,000 all told. On the other hand the cables of the private companies are, like our own cables, in a position that is threatened with bankruptcy, and we have also to remember that the cables are coming into the merger on the understanding that the Government beam wireless shall come into their possession. In these circumstances, faced with bankruptcy, as are also the Government assets in cables, the Cables Company are being credited with £20,000,000 of assets, and they are to have the power to draw 6 per cent. on that £20,000,000. I cannot see the justice of that position. As far as I can see, the country is being robbed in regard to this transaction, and I fail to see how we can guarantee to the public a gradual cheapening of the rates of communication under the terms that have been made.
Furthermore, I deprecate the fact that if we have been asked not to cavil at the agreement that has been made, we have been asked to accept the decision of the Conference simply because that Conference was an Imperial Conference and we had not complete charge of its deliberations. We have our responsibility to the people of this country just as the members of the different Dominion Governments are responsible to their people. I can imagine that when a similar Bill comes before their Parliaments, they will be spoken to as we have been spoken to here. I hope that the Labour Members of those various Parliaments will be as critical in regard to this matter as we have been in this Parliament. I can quite understand that if the position has been brought before those Parliaments by the Minister responsible, he will probably have said that they were helpless, as the decision was an Imperial decision, and probably he will have gone on to say that Great Britain was the "big noise" in the transaction.
I want to say a word in regard to the directorate and to remind the House of what takes place in the coal industry. 1842 The miners are very disquieted in regard to the sale of coal from a parent company to a subsidiary company, which is really the same company acting in another capacity. For example, you have a coal company that sells coal to itself as a by-products company, and it is impossible for the miners to ascertain just what price is being paid for that coal. Are we going to be in a similar position in regard to this directorate which is the same directorate for dual companies? It is the same directorate which will act for the merger as for the Communications Company, and is it not possible under this arrangement; for there to he some lack of control, and for the Communications Company to be in a position to pay much larger sums for its various commodities and requirements than ought to be the case?
In looking up the report of the Royal Commission which sat in 1917, I find this statement:At no distance date the nationalisation of the private cable companies will become one of the most urgent problems before statesmanship.A writer in the Encyclopedia Britannica, dealing with this subject, makes the following statement:It appears difficult, if not impossible, to attain the desired cheapening of cable communications without interfering with the rights of the private companies.I think, especially after the Debates of the last, few days, that sooner or later we shall all he brought to the same conclusion to which this writer has come. I, personally, look forward to the time when the country will awaken to the unjust bargain that has been made, as I believe, by the Government. I do not accuse the Government of having acted in any way dishonestly in this matter. That is a suggestion that has never teen in my mind, but what I do feel is that finance in this country is gaining an increasing hold and is gaining more power than many of us like to realise, and is, perhaps, unconsciously exercising much greater influence in various aspects of our national life than many of us desire to see. I feel we have here an example of what capitalism may do. We are faced with this simple fact, that whereas in the future the greater part of the earning power of this Communications Company is to be vested in an amount of capital that can only he represented 1843 by about £3,000,000, it will have to produce dividends for inflated capital already in the Marconi Company, and also to provide dividends for the money that belongs to the cable company, in circumstances which ought to be set on one side. In these circumstances, I fail to see how the bargain that is being made can be a success, or can achieve the aims which are desired, namely, a gradual cheapening of the service. Therefore, I oppose the Third Reading of the Bill.
§ Mr. SHINWELL
The hon. and gallant Member for Gainsborough (Captain Crookshank) professed to be disturbed by the manner in which the Opposition had stated its case. Of course, he would have stated it much better, and no doubt when he is on these benches after the next General Election, speaking on behalf of the Opposition, he will he able to put up a case in a much more kindly fashion than he appears to think the case has been put up against this proposal. The hon. and gallant Gentleman spoke about innuendos, insults and harsh treatment accorded to the right hon. Gentleman on the Government bench, but there is nothing so harsh, insulting or injurious as the disposal of State property in the circumstances in which this property is to be disposed of. It is much more injurious and insulting to rob the community of future benefits than it is to say alleged unkind things to right hon. Gentlemen and their associates. We are faced in this proposal with a quite simple issue. It is a matter of the disposal of State property. We on this side oppose any proposal of that character on principle. We are opposed to State property of a useful character being sold to private interests. Of course, we recognise at the same time that right hon. Gentlemen and hon. Gentlemen on the other side are prepared to dispose of State property of whatever character. They would sell the Post Office, lock, stock and barrel to-morrow if they could get the price they wanted, and if the opportunities were provided. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] We have had approving cheers from the other side in response to that suggestion. Nothing can suit us better than those cheers. It is just as well for the community to know that the Tory party are prepared 1844 to dispose of communal property to their own friends when it suits their particular purpose. Perhaps hon. Members on the other side had better have restrained themselves, and not have applauded so hastily in view of what the community may have to say about kindred matters at the next political time of asking. At all events, we on this side oppose this proposal, as I say, on broad grounds of principle.
What is the essential principle that guides us in this matter? As I see it, it is the question of whether important, essential communications of a world-wide character, fundamental and of vital importance to the whole British Empire—and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Dominions will take notice—are to be retained in the hands of the various Governments, or to be left unfettered and unrestricted in the hands of private interests who have only one primary concern—it is not a principle, but just a concern—and that is to amass private profit. That is the long and short of the question. There has been some talk of the need for restraint, the need for subdued language in this connection. I do not propose to be in the least mealy-mouthed about this matter. There is no occasion for it. In my judgment, it is a mere ramp, nothing more or less. It is a very great scandal. I am not suggesting that right hon. Gentlemen on the Government Bench are implicated in a conspiracy, directly, knowingly, consciously implicated in a conspiracy. I would never think of such a thing, and no one on these benches has made any such suggestion as far as I can gather. What we say is that they have lent themselves to a conspiracy, a financial conspiracy—perhaps not consciously, and perhaps with an element of ignorance—which has not Empire or national needs in view, but merely private ends.
The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Gainsborough, who came to the assistance of the Government in a somewhat belated fashion, and who broke the silence—a most amazing thing to happen—has based his case against the Opposition on the ground that the Imperial Conference had made recommendations. That is an amazing argument to present at this time in this House. Are we to understand that the 1845 Government are always prepared to accept recommendations of an important and representative Conference? Clearly, that question must be replied to in the negative. For the Government in the past four years, since their inception, have unhesitatingly and without reserve, without any qualification whatever, turned down the recommendations of very important Conferences in respect of vital matters concerning the well-being of the whole nation. It is not inappropriate to put on record the fact that a very important Commission known as the Samuel Commission made recommendations in respect of a vital national industry. D[...], hon. and gallant Gentlemen on the other side or right hon. Gentlemen speaking from the Front Bench say: "An important Conference has made recommendations; therefore we must accept them"? Far from that being the case, they turned up their autocratic and plutocratic noses at these recommendations. It is not for hon. Gentlemen opposite, least of all to come forward at this time and argue, because an important Conference has presented these recommendations, that with out protest, without, opposition we must, forsooth, accept them. The hon. and gallant Gentleman had better take a few weeks' leisure and study the question somewhat more closely, and then he may emerge with a much more reasoned argument in support of this amazing proposal.
My last point is this. I have not paid the close attention to this Debate that other hon. Gentlemen have done, but I have attended during the discussion occasionally, and I have noted one very peculiar fact—that the right hon. Gentleman the Postmaster-General—I hope he will forgive me for saying it—has been rather subdued. He has not been open. He has not shown the candour which was characteristic of him when he was merely an hon. Member in this House and not sitting on the Front Bench. He has spoken of himself as the unhappy Postmaster-General. We have not sought unhappiness for him. So far as we can gather, it is not of his own making but rather of the making of those who sit beside him on the Front Bench. I am amazed that so courteous a right hon. Gentleman as the Secretary of State for Scotland should do anything to bring displeasure and unhappiness to the heart 1846 and mind of the Postmaster-General. That is a fact that must be put on record and emphasised. It is a very strange thing that the right hon. Gentleman could not reveal all that he felt about this proposal. He has not done so, and, therefore, there is an element of mystery attaching to the whole suggestion. That being my view, I desire, in company with other hon. and right hon. Members on the Opposition Benches, to register my strong protest, first, against the disposal, as I believe and as we believe, the unnecessary disposal, of State property to private interests, and the abandonment of our claim to the possession, as we believe the full and necessary possession, of important world communications which are in the interests of every person living within the Empire.
§ Mr. HARDIE
In dealing with the Third Reading of the Bill, it is not necessary to go back over the ground which we have covered, and the reasons for the Bill. To-night we have had a demonstration emanating from the other side by the hon. Member for the City of London (Mr. E. C. Grenfell), who moved a new Clause, showing that, at least, one Tory Member thought there was something wrong in what was being done. When I heard the speech of the hon. Member and I recalled his interest in financial affairs, I began to wonder why he had moved the new Clause, because I recalled the speech which he made in 1926 when we were dealing with the Electricity Bill and the Financial Clause which was brought into this House from Committee upstairs. Since the hon. Member's speech I have sought information from outside, and I have discovered that he is a partner in Morgan, Grenfell and Co., which is the London house of J. P. Morgan, of New York. That firm's business seems to be chiefly to finance the General Motor Corporation of America. I have been watching this matter for some time, and I have noticed that there has been keen competition between the General Motor Corporation of America and Henry Ford's motor-car industry. A good many hon. Members will have read from time to time of the great fight that took place in regard to finance between the General Motor Corporation of America and Henry Ford, and the results. Probably, when the hon. Member for the City of London put his New 1847 Clause down, he had hopes that it would have been discussed last week, but the persistent opposition to the Bill by the Labour party prevented his New Clause coming on as soon as was anticipated. It was evident to-night that the whole object of his attack was upon Sir John Davis, of the Suez Canal Commission, who was used as the horrible example.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I would remind the hon. Member that we are now on the Third Reading of the Bill, and he must not refer to what happened on an Amendment in the Committee stage.
§ Mr. HARDIE
Surely we are entitled on the Third Reading to take a conspectus of the Bill, and I am now dealing with the question of the chairmanship.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
On the Third Reading the hon. Member is entitled to refer to what is contained in the Bill and what it is intended to do.
§ Mr. HARDIE
What is contained in the Bill, broadly. I am dealing with one point contained in the Bill, that of the directorship. I am now dealing entirely with the point which refers to directorships. The example which was given tonight was used to show the great danger that can come from leaving a man free, when he holds the position of Chairman, to do other things than the work which he was appointed to do. It is in that connection that I am speaking of Sir John Davis, who was used as a horrible example to show why the Government should accept the hon. Member's New Clause. We have discovered that Sir John Davis has been lending his name to the Ford Motor Company's business. Was the New Clause put on the Paper in order that the General Motor Corporation Trust might have a slap at the other concern in this country If it was wrong, as the hon. Member for the City of London said, that a chairman should have other connections; if it was wrong that after being appointed chairman by the Government he should use his influence to do other things, I maintain that it is wrong for an hon. Member of this House to do what the hon. Member for the City of London sought to do to-night. When the hon. Member began his speech I thought that there must be some reason for it, because he has not spoken in this House in a democratic way until tonight.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I must remind the hon. Member that this has nothing what ever to do with the Third Reading of the Bill.
§ Mr. HARDIE
I was dealing with the point in relation to the chairmanship, which is the most important thing in the Bill. The Government will carry the Bill with a big majority. It is a combined theft, laying the foundation for a greater continuous robbery by the use of that which belongs to the nation now. We are selling to a company which is not in existence. That shows how far unscrupulous manipulation can go. For these reasons, I oppose the Third Reading of the Bill.
§ Mr. GILLETT
I understand that the hon. Member for Gainsborough (Captain Crookshank), complained of the way in which the Opposition have conducted the Debate. His complaint ought to be directed to his own Ministers. For three days, with great ingenuity, right hon. and hon. Members on the Government Front Bench have created in our minds the impression that they were desirous of giving us as little information as possible on any subject. The Secretary of State for Scotland has made one or two speeches during the course of our discussions, but he gave no information. The Postmaster-General has given very little, and the only Member of the Government who has offered information to any extent has been the Assistant Postmaster-General, and he usually gave more than he intended. As an illustration of the way Ministers have answered questions, let me point out that I put a number of questions to the Financial Secretary and all that the hon. Member did in reply was to read a page of the Report of the Royal Commission: a page which I had been reading and upon which I wanted some information. If the Government choose to keep hack information it is not surprising we should think that there is something they want to keep back. With all clue respect, if I had been in charge of a Measure of this kind I should have thrown every possible piece of information on the Table and said "These are the terms upon which we suggest the sale of Government property, these are the reasons, and you can see any of the documents which have brought us to this conclusion." That is the only way in which this House could fairly come to a definite 1849 conclusion on the matter. The Government have refused to give this information, and the hon. and gallant Member opposite has only his own leaders to thank for anything that is said on this side of the House.
We are fully convinced that something is being hidden which we ought to know. I do not suggest that the right hon. Gentleman is trying to swindle, but there is an impression that there is something which we ought to know. When you look into the way the sale has been completed two great facts must be remembered. The first is the price given for Government undertakings and, secondly, the price which the private companies have got. I ask hon. Members opposite to go quietly and carefully into these figures and see what the State has got for the State concerns and then compare it with what the directors have got for their concerns. A million or two million pounds covers all that the Government have obtained. When you look into the terms of which the private company is going to get, a veil is drawn over the proceedings; the deal is shrouded in mystery in order that we may not know what goes to Marconi, where we can understand a high price would be paid for what is a really valuable asset. But this is hidden from us and the impression is left that a large sum of money has gone to the cables. Everything the Financial Secretary said in opening the Debate was to indicate that the cables were played out, they had had their day, that the beam had superseded the cables. If that is so, that is a reason why you should not give a high price for private cables. I can understand that the amalgamation of these concerns brings an added value to everything that goes in, and I agree that you must have an amalgamation, but I do not agree with the reason given by the Secretary of State for the Dominions for not having a public concern.
It is impossible to argue what might have happened at the Imperial Conference if there had been a Government representing those who sit on these benches, who would have insisted on control by the State. It is impossible to say what the Dominions would have said, but I feel sure that Australia, where by one share a majority of the shares are owned by the State, would not have 1850 offered any strong opposition. I do not attach much importance to the opinion of the Government on that question, because I think His Majesty's Government must be the deciding factor. When you pass from that it comes to this, that the question is decided by His Majesty's Government. It is not our view; that ends that question. Now the Government asks us to agree to the sale of Government property and I say that we are left with an unsatisfied feeling of not knowing what has been paid and feeling convinced that those interested in private concerns have done very well. We are under the impression that the Government has not looked after British interests in cables. I confess that I know little more about the matter even after three or four days' debate than I knew at the beginning. If right hon. Gentlemen opposite are pleased with that then they can congratulate themselves upon it, but as far as the country is concerned, the great mass of working men will think that as that information is refused something is being hidden. That is why the Government have been so foolish in the policy they have pursued.
§ Mr. TOWNEND
I only rise to reiterate what has been previously stated by hon. Members on this side of the House, that the most significant factor of the Debate has been the deliberate omission of the Government to reply to questions submitted to them. I have endeavoured to get definite information, which certainly is in the possession of the Government, on two questions, one respecting the control which is vested in the new board, and how it may operate to the detriment of the consumer. The capital over which the merger will be responsible is divided under two heads—£30,000,000 for the Communications Company and £23,000,000 for the manufacturing side. I want to know what control the Government is exercising; and I have become more apprehensive after the new Clause moved by the hon. Member for the City of London (Mr. E. C. Grenfell). Despite all that has been said with regard to the appointment of two directors I think they will have very little weight in the operations of this company once these interests are handed over. The point I am concerned with 1851 is how effective the conditions laid down in the White Paper are going to be when the same directors are controlling not only the communications side, but also the manufacturing side; how the division of the profits over and above the 6 per cent. is going to eventuate to the benefit of the consumer in a reduction of rates. By a process of manipulation those who handle capital may be able to divert everything above 6 per cent., which might go to the consumer, to the manufacturing side. What control are the two representatives of the Government on the Board going to exercise to prevent such manipulation? We have had no answer to that, and unless the Government give us some reply we are bound to suspect, despite all assertions to the contrary, that in handing over this tremendously potential wealthy beam wireless we are playing into the hands of the capitalist interests and are being parties to what has been described as a ramp.
Another point upon which we have had no reply is this. I submitted to the Postmaster-General, and to the Assistant Postmaster-General, a question with regard to the compensation for those who will be disturbed. We had a reply from the Postmaster-General that, as far as the established civil servants were concerned, he was ready to guarantee their security of tenure. He went further and said that, as far as un-established members of the Civil Service were concerned, they would be retained within the Service. But following this merger there is another section of those who may be disturbed, and as to these there was put to the Postmaster-General a question that I repeat to-night. I refer to the staffs connected with the other units in the merger. There are the staffs of the cable companies whose future is likely to be endangered as a result of this combination. What are the Government prepared to do in respect of those sections of the staff who are attached to the various telegraph and cable companies who may be disturbed or dismissed?
The Postmaster-General is quite entitled to speak on behalf of his staff and to give us an assurance regarding them. It may be that the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs, when he replies, will say that, while that 1852 can apply to the staff of the Postmaster-General, the Government have no part or parcel in what any private enterprise may do as a result of this merger. I suggest, however, that the question of the Government's responsibility to members of private staffs has already been determined. As was said on Friday last, when other mergers have been considered by this House, the Government have imposed upon the parties to the merger the responsibility for compensating anyone who otherwise would have been guaranteed security of tenure. Will the Government give a definite reply on that subject to-night? If contracts are entered into in future they must be entered into with the permission of the Government, and when they are entered into, they should contain a Clause which will offer the same securities or compensation as was offered in the case of the railway servants when the Railways Act was passed, and to other workers when the Electricity Supply Act was passed.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I wish to reinforce what the last speaker has said about the staffs. This is the most extraordinary state of affairs I have seen in this House on a Bill of this kind. I have been here a good many years, and I have seen a great many similar Bills passed. In all cases provision was made for the staffs. The Railways Act, the Electricity Supply Act, and other Acts have each and all contained something relating to the staffs. The Secretary for Scotland and the Postmaster-General are like a man who is trying to persuade a lady to elope. He will promise anything she likes, but he will put nothing in writing. I have always been told that if a case goes to law, the Judge will not allow evidence to be put in of what Ministers have said in this House; they base their judgment only on what is in an Act. Nothing has been put into this Bill on this subject. Does the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs, who is to reply, think that the promises already given are worth anything at all?
This is the first Bill on which I have had the pleasurable duty of paying attention to the Secretary of State for Scotland—I not being a Scottish Member—and I understand why some of my Scottish friends are A little wild, politically. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary 1853 for Scotland told us that no effort would be spared to secure a just settlement for the staff. Then the Financial Secretary to the Treasury told us that the Government were determined to do their utmost to adjust an acceptable proposition, and that they intended to do all that lay in their power to see That the transfer was not accompanied by a worsening of the position of the employés. Next we had the Assistant Postmaster-General, who declared that no unestablished man would be displaced and that every established man would preserve his rights. I raised the matter of the cable ships and their crews. I find in the Revenue Department Estimates that there are two cable ships, the "Monarch" and the "Alert," with a large number of men on board-148 altogether—and there is a footnote which says:As many of these crews as possible will be replaced by unestablished staff, at trade rates, as vacancies occur.We have had an assurance that these men are to be looked after. Then, I ask, why was nothing put into the Bill about it? I am afraid the reason is—
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The hon. and gallant Member says there is nothing in the Bill about it. He cannot now ask for anything to be put into the Bill.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I know that, but I ask the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs what will be the position of these men when the Bill is passed, and especially what will be the position of the 300 Marconi Company employés If he says that, while the Government can look after civil servants they cannot look after the employés of private companies, I wish to inform him that in 1912 an amalgamation took place between the Western Union Telegraph Company, the Anglo-American Telegraph Company, and the direct United States Cable, and there was a special provision that the staff should not suffer. I think I can show exactly what has happened in the present case. This Conference met, and before, during, and after it, negotiations took place with the representatives of the private cable companies. It was necessary to make a bargain. If you Mr. Speaker, or I, have property to sell, we do not go to the dealer and begin by saying that we are forced to sell this property. That is the worst way of 1854 proceeding; but, in this matter, the Government made up their minds and expressed their intention, at all costs, not to adopt the only sensible solution.
That solution was for the Government, having the beam—financially the most valuable part of the communications of the Empire—and having, I believe, a majority, of the miles of cable, to have taken over the Eastern Telegraph Company and the associated companies at a fair price and to have combined the whole thing into one public corporation managed and controlled by the Post Office. But they allowed it to become known that, at all costs, they intended to hand over the whole thing to private enterprise. That tied their hands from the beginning and they were forced to take the terms which the cable companies dictated. That is my reconstruction of the crime. At the beginning they ought to have had an inquiry into the whole position of the communications, by cable and wireless, instead of this secret Conference at which only picked witnesess—witnesses for the prosecution were called—and no witnesses for the defence were heard. Professor Eccles and other experts who could have been called upon were not called upon, and only directors, managing directors, advising engineers and so forth of the private companies were called. That is why we say that this business is inequitable, unjust and unfair to the community.
I do not accuse Members of the Government of making anything out of this. I am not so crude as to do that. I do not believe they are, but, if they had been on this side of the House, and we had been on the other side, what would they have said about such a transaction? What did they say before the War over the Marconi business? Do hon. and right hon. Gentlemen forget all about that affair? They were not quite so mealy-mouthed. But there is no question of personal corruption, and there never was any such question. But they looked after their friends. At all costs private enterprise was bolstered up, and the only private interests concerned, the cable companies and the Marconi Company, were allowed to make their own terms. They know how to govern, and how to govern in the interests of their friends—not their personal friends, but the directors and shareholders of the private companies.
1855 I hope the Colonial Secretary is not going to follow the example of the Secretary of State for Scotland and fall back on the Dominions saying, "Oh, we must not say anything about this, because the Dominions were a party to it." I wonder if the Secretary of State for Scotland has ever heard Dr. Johnson's definition of patriotism. He always falls back on the Dominions. There is one consolation that I have in this affair, and that is that the way it has been arranged and what went before it have made it far easier for the mischief done to be undone by some future Government. We have a very good precedent for what we will pay for property in the future. The fact that watered capital has been allowed as I think will be acknowledged by all who have heard the discussions—[HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] If £20,000,000 for cables which were losing money is not watered capital, I should like to have some other definition. The fact that watered capital was allowed of will be allowed into this Communications Company cannot blind future Parliaments to what this company actually paid for Government cables, and it is on that basis that we will buy hack the whole thing.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for DOMINION AFFAIRS (Mr. Amery)
One of the real difficulties throughout the series of Debates on this Bill has been that the speeches from the benches opposite have been based throughout on misapprehension, and have not had the slightest relation to the facts of the situation. They were delivered, many of them, in an atmosphere of sheer delusion as to the origin of this business, as to the methods of the Government, and as to the actual effect of the Measure before us. One of these misapprehensions, which I should like to remove at the outset, is as to the character of the Bill itself. This is not a Bill to embody all the recommendations of the Imperial Conference. It is an enabling Bill, giving the Government power to sell the Pacific, the West Indian and the Imperial cables when and if all the other conditions recommended by the Report are adequately fulfilled.
§ Mr. AMERY
Because it is obviously unnecessary to put in a Bill things that are done, not by legislation, but as matters of ordinary administration. Questions of staff and of other matters concerning the transfer will be dealt with in detailed contracts which will, all of them, in so far as they affect this Government, be presented to the House.
§ Mr. RENNIE SMITH
When does the right hon. Gentleman propose that the details shall be laid, before the concessions are made or after?
§ Mr. AMERY
As soon as the contracts are made. The general policy has been very fully discussed before the House, and it is not a rule that contracts are made in detail by legislation before they are earned out in the ordinary way as administrative acts. Matters such as the constitution of the Advisory Committee which can only be settled after discussion between the Governments concerned obviously could not be put into this Bill. But let me come to the main delusion that has been underlying this Debate. The whole of the arguments addressed to the House have been this, that the Government, hating public ownership, loving private enterprise, bitterly disappointed at the fact that the publicly-owned beam service was competing successfully with the privately-owned cables, were determined before they left office to wreck a successful experiment in public ownership and to hand over, at a wholly inadequate figure, great public assets to their private friends.
All this talk of ramp, of robbery of the public, all these phrases that we have heard to-night—and what the right hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. Ramsay MacDonald) said the other day was on the same basis; he said that the cable companies fell upon evil days, that the beam service, owned by the Government, gave the Government possession of the key of the whole situation—the suggestion is throughout these speeches, that in view of that fact, private interests in the cable services, feeling themselves hit, squealed to the Government, and, in the words of the hon. Member for North Camberwell (Mr. Ammon) at last influenced the Government, and of the hon. Member for East Bristol (Mr. W. Baker) actually called the Conference into being. That 1857 is a picture which bears not the slightest relation to the facts of the case. In the first instance, the beam services are not Government-owned. Every beam service has two ends, and its success depends on the working of the whole beam service, including both ends, and in every case, while one end of the beam service may have been Government-owned, the other end was privately-owned.
§ Mr. W. BAKER
I have heard the Secretary of State for the Dominions make that statement before. Will he explain to the House what took place to prevent Government ownership occurring at both ends of the beam? Will he tell us how the Australian service was controlled, what happened in South Africa, in Canada, in India, and what control existed over the rates?
§ Mr. AMERY
I intend to deal briefly with the matters under discussion; I had not intended dealing with any criticism of the action of other Governments in their own sphere of administration. At any rate, the beam service, as a service, is not a Government-owned service. Its success was attributable, not to Government ownership, nor to private ownership, but to the fact that it was a new and efficient development of science. The cable services were not private either. The Eastern Telegraph system was private, but the Pacific cables, the Imperial cables and the West Indian cable were Government-owned, and the cry for help arose, not from the privately-owned cable companies, but from the Government-owned cables. It was because of the competition of the beam with the Pacific cable, in the first instance, that the Government of Canada suggested in November of last year that the Conference should be called together to consider this whole problem. What was the problem which the Conference had to consider? It had to consider the fact that, left to unregulated competition, the beam service by its much greater cheapness might put the cables out of action altogether. On the other hand, the beam service is not to-day in a position, from the point of view either of Imperial defence or of Empire commerce, wholly to replace cables, because of the element of certainty and secrecy in cables which cannot be replaced, and it would have been a disaster to the Empire if the cable 1858 services of the Empire had been put out of action, or sold for a song to foreign competitors.
§ Mr. AMERY
I hope that I may be allowed to go on. That line was not recommended by the Conference. They looked at other solutions, and they found that none of them would secure either economy, efficiency, or development, and, therefore, they came to the conclusion that the essential thing was to have a single, unified administration, which would get the fullest use out of the beam, and yet should not have any financial interest in putting the cables out of action, but would still carry on the cables and make the best possible use of the two services working together as one system from the point of view, not of financial competition, but of technical efficiency. The hon. Member for East Bristol (Mr. W. Baker) asked why that system could not have been made a State system—that is, I suppose, a system owned by the various States in the Empire, for nobody would suggest that the British Government here should own all the services in the Dominions. The other Governments in the Empire have for some years definitely made no their minds not to run wireless services as Government institutions.
It is true, as the hon. Member for North Camberwell (Mr. Ammon) said, that the Imperial Conference in 1911 did recommend State-owned wireless stations, and it is true that after the War in 1921 a general resolution to the same effect was passed, with the qualification by Australia that the Commonwealth must decide as to the methods by which she would co-operate. In the following year Australia decided to co-operate through the medium, not of Government ownership and administration, but of a private company, in which the Government held a majority interest, and on the board of which they were represented. The example of Australia was followed by South Africa, by Canada, by India; in each case, and on their own authority, acting within their perfect rights to decide their own manner of dealing with these things, they preferred the method of giving a licence to a private company.
1859 By the time the Imperial Conference of 1923 met, the system suggested in 1911 of a chain of State-owned wireless stations had gone by the board; and there was no question at the last Imperial Wireless Conference either of inducing the Governments concerned to go back on their policy and establish a system of State-owned wireless, or of going yet further and buying up for the different States the privately-owned cable companies, many of which, indeed, over a considerable extent of their operations, touch foreign soil and also serve to transmit messages to foreign countries. Therefore, what the Conference recommended was a scheme which, if I may use their own words was(a) to secure as far as possible all the advantages to be derived from unification of direction and operation; (b) at the same time to preserve for the Governments concerned control over any unified undertaking which may be created, so as to safeguard the interests of the public in general and of the cable and wireless users in particular; and (c) to secure these desiderata, at the minimum of cost to the Governments concerned.I submit that the scheme which the Conference agreed upon, and which everyone of the Governments represented at the Conference has now accepted does carry out these desiderata. It is not a scheme for the transfer of Government-owned property into private hands—very far from it. While direct Government working is for the time being suspended in the case of the British beam, and while certain cables jointly held by the Governments are being transferred to the new undertaking, on the other hand, a much larger cable system and an equally large beam system are brought under a measure of control to which they have never before been subjected. Therefore, we have got, or shall have when this is carried through, over the whole Empire a system which, while it enjoys the advantages of unity of administration, flexibility and, I believe, the efficiency of private administration, is also going to be under effective Government control and under effective safeguards.
Hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite ignoring the fact that this is purely an enabling Bill, have complained all through that the recommendations of the Report with regard to the Advisory Committee are not put into the Bill. The 1860 Bill is not the place, but the Government's intention is undoubtedly to carry out in the very fullest sense those recommendations with regard to the Advisory Committee—that it is to have absolute powers, as the Report recommends, in regard to any proposed increase of existing rates, and also with regard to the allocation of the funds which become available for rate reduction. Those are very large powers indeed. In addition to that, the Report sets forth in great detail, which I need not read at this late hour, a number of things which should be provided for, that is to say, provided for in the contract with the company and provided for in the constitution of the Advisory Committee when the Governments concerned set it up, on which the Advisory Committee have got to be consulted. Hon. Members pressed several times for information on the point as to whether certain cables might be discontinued for purely financial reasons when for reasons of Imperial safety it might be better to retain them. That is expressly referred to in the Report in connection with the Atlantic cables.
§ Mr. AMERY
The Postmaster-General gave some reasons why it was not improbable or impossible that it might happen, but it is also perfectly clear that that is one of the questions on which the opinion of the Advisory Committee will have to be taken, and in connection with which they will carefully weigh how far, under the new system with the cable and the beam in the same hands, it is or is not desirable in the public interest that an old second cable should or should not be discontinued.
§ Mr. RENNIE SMITH rose—
§ Mr. AMERY
I really must be allowed to explain the situation as I see it. Those powers having been given definitely to the Advisory Committee, they will be embodied in any contracts with the company before anything is handed over. The Committee will always have behind it the power of the Governments concerned to continue the licences issued to the Communications Company upon which the power of that company to earn any money 1861 absolutely depends. I say that the scheme to which the Government are committed, and to which all the other Governments of the Empire are committed, is one which secures effective public control in the matters of interest which concern the public, and it also secures that control over a far wider area than any control that has been exercised before; while, on the other hand, it concedes to private business administration the actual detailed conduct of the scheme. That is the direction in which I thought modern Socialism is tending. That is Government control leaving the actual working in the hands of business corporations.
There is another misapprehension, and it is the idea that we are conscious or unconscious instruments of a ramp, and that we have made the other Governments of the Empire partners in that ramp. This is accompanied by the idea that we are disposing of Government assets to certain people below their real value, and that we are leasing those assets cheaply to our friends with the result that there has been a vast increase in the value of their shares. Let me give the terms on which the beam wireless has been leased. For the use of the beam service for 25 years without the telephone service the Communications Company have to pay £60,000 down, a royalty of £250,000 a year, and 12 per cent. of all profits made on the whole undertaking above the standard rate laid down by our expert advisers.
What did the beam system cost? The sum of £240,000 is all that it cost us. Supposing it had been the case that the Government were leasing the beam service from a private company on these terms, what would have been the criticism of hon. Members opposite? They would have said: "Here is something which cost the private capitalist £240,000, And you are proposing to pay £250,000 a year without even getting the telephone rights. You are putting down £60,000 for compensation for the staff, and you are promising 12 per cent, of all profits made above the standard rate." Nothing that has been said would have equalled the language which would have been used by hon. Members opposite. We have been criticised for not securing for the cables which we are disposing of the price actually paid for them when they were new. I hope hon. Members will 1862 realise the inconsistency between the two arguments. The whole ease of the Opposition to this Measure has been based upon the value which has been placed upon the beam system. How can you use that argument in regard to the beam system, and in the very next breath say that the cables are still worth what they were worth when they were actually laid down? We believe that we have got very good value indeed—[Interruption]— for the assets that we are either handing over or leasing, and, as far as regards the Pacific Cable, so have the other Governments concerned.
Now I come to another misapprehension on the score of finance, of which we have heard a good deal at other stages of the discussion. That is that a purely fancy, arbitrary capital value was set down for the Communications Company, and that our advisers said that an interest of 6 per cent ought to be earned on that fancy value, and, therefore, they put down the figure of £1,865,000. That is entirely inverting the order of procedure. Our advisers, Sir Otto Niemeyer and Sir William McLintock, based their figure for standard revenue, in the first instance, entirely on the practical consideration of what the new service could be expected to earn, taking into account the competition of the beam wireless, and putting down not a high figure but a low figure, and for a very good reason, namely, that 50 per cent. of any increase above that figure. After the first 12 per cent. is paid for the beam wireless, is to go to the public, in order to reduce rates or extend services. The standard figure based on that calculation is the whole foundation of the finance, as far as the Government is concerned, and the actual capitalisation, whether of the Communications Company or of the merger company, is only of minor concern, though our advisers did come independently to the conclusion, after examining all the assets of the companies concerned in the merger, that the total value of the Communications Company should be placed at a figure not higher than £30,000,000. That was the only recommendation that they made, and, as the Postmaster-General has explained, if it were put at a lower figure the standard rate of revenue would mean a higher rate of interest than 6 per 1863 cent., and that might govern the future raising of money. There is a further misapprehension, as to the relationship of this matter to the speculation that may or may not have been going on outside. That is no concern whatever of the Government, and certainly it is not based upon the undervaluing of the Government assets that are being transferred. If it is based on anything, it is based on the belief that a rationalised, unified system is likely to earn larger profits and to be more efficient than a number of competing systems. But those guesses of uninformed people outside may just as well be wrong as right, [Interruption.] Stocks which are of a high value on one day are very apt to fall on another day.
Having dealt with these elementary misapprehensions on the situation, I should like to bring the House back to what has in fact been achieved. Here we are dealing with a question of immense complication and immense difficulty, in which every one of the Governments of the Empire has a general interest from the point of view of the development and improvement of imperial communications, and also, in many cases, a special interest as owner or part owner of some part of the services, as well as large and important private interests outside. It was by no means an easy matter, and never could have been an easy matter, to arrive at any sort of agreement between the different Governments. The whole problem was discussed without any conclusion having been previously formed in the mind certainly of this Government or, I think, of any of the Governments concerned, hammering out the whole thing together, working together for months trying to meet each other's difficulties, trying to find some solution which would serve the interests of the great communities represented and the more particular interests of the Governments represented and to secure, above all, efficiency in the conduct of the services, and these Governments have managed to arrive at a unanimous conclusion on a most difficult and complex subject.
If this had been, not an Imperial Conference meeting in London hut an international conference meeting at Geneva, if a number of Governments not 1864 bound by the link of Empire, had been able on some difficult subject to come to an agreement to overcome the difficulties in the way, to meet each other and arrive at a control of a vast system of services in the interest of all the Governments together, while at the same time giving reasonable liberty of action to effective business administration, hon. Members opposite would have welcomed that as the greatest achievement in international co-operation in modern times. I will not put it as high as that, but I do say it is one of the greatest achievements in inter-Imperial co-operation that has ever been arrived at. More than that, it is not only an achievement and an example in Imperial co-operation—and the whole unity of the Empire depends not on any central control but on free co-operation—it is also going to be the finest instrument of future cooperation that we could have found. The whole unity of the Empire and the free constitution upon which it depends rests on efficiency of communication. Not only does the relationship between the Governments depend for defence and policy on efficiency and speed of communication but the mutual understanding of peoples depend on cheap Press services and freedom and cheapness of mutual intercourse, the whole conduct of business depends upon cheap and effective intercourse, and we believe this system we have framed is going to lead to an immense extension and improvement in our cable and wireless services throughout the Empire and to cheapness to the consumer, efficiency and security, and therefore in this Measure we are not dealing with the mere question of selling a Government asset to private interests: we are concerned in a great piece of constructive work strengthening the fabric of the British Empire.
§ Mr. J. JONES
It is very remarkable that on some occasions when the Government find themselves in difficulties they call upon ex-members of the Socialist movement. I remember more than 30 years ago hearing the hon. Member who has just spoken—[HON. MEMBERS: "Right Honourable!"]—I hope he is more honourable than right on this occasion—delivering a lecture in favour of public ownership of the essential means of communication.
§ Mr. JONES
I will swear by all my gods that the hon. Member's memory does not serve him aright. I hope that with the rest of his opportunities he will not neglect the possibilities. What are we doing with this Bill? During the War we pooled all our resources, and we said that private interests must be sacrificed to the public need, and that no profit must be made. What have we got in this Bill? The excuse is made by the right hon. Gentleman who has just addressed the House that all the nations composing the British Empire had their little bit to say. We have nothing to say in the matter, but only to deliver the goods. To whom? About the beam wireless service I know nothing whatever. I am not the only Member in this House in this position. We have sat here amazed.and still the wonder grew,That one small head could carry all he knew.Wireless and that kind of service! What does it all amount to? Private companies have got together. You talk of the Australian Government, the New Zealand Government, the Indian Government and all the other Governments. Who are they? Drop the patriotic idea and what do you find? Private companies ramping at the expense of the various communities. It is going to be made into a private company at 6 per cent. As far as we are concerned it is a 6 per cent. ramp up to now. What will happen when this Bill passes, Heaven only knows. It will be a 20 per cent. ramp, and who will be in it? Will it be confined to Englishmen who are out for profit? Will you prevent international financiers getting control? Is there anything in the Bill which will prevent all the gentlemen who sing "Rule Britannia" in broken English getting control of your new services? Absolutely nothing! [Interruption.] I am an internationalist, and my nose turns up the 1866 right way. I want to say quite frankly that this Bill bears the imprint of its authors.
For he that hath, to him shall be given, and he that hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he hath.Here we have a national service. Who is going to control it? Not the people of Great Britain who began it. It was the nation who started this service for the beam service was started as a national institution. Now what is going to happen to it? Because it has been successful, it has got to be handed over to the tender mercies of private enterprise. Private enterprise means public robbery every time, and all the time. Therefore, we are opposing this Bill on principle. The right hon. Gentleman who has just tried to defend the Government, far from his better self, is now sticking to a brief. Those of us who remember his previous history and some of his colleagues on that bench, know very well that he does not believe what he says. Therefore, believing every word that I say, and feeling everything that I know, since I first heard the right hon. Gentleman speak, I stand against him in this case. The thing is impossible—national assets being sold! Why not sell the Navy? Why not sell all our national assets? This is on the same line of projection.
§ Sir CLEMENT KINLOCH-COOKE
Sell the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenwortl'y).
§ Mr. JONES
We will keep the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy) as an asset. We will sell the hon. Member as a monstrosity. I, therefore, say that, as far as we are concerned, this Bill bears the imprint of its parents. It bears the imprint of the people who are out to give away the nation. In War-time we were all supposed to make sacrifices on behalf of the, nation. In peace-time they say: "Give away all the assets of the nation to private enterprise. Cent. per cent. has to be our motto." Therefore, in so far as some of us are concerned, we say: "A plague on all your propositions," because they really mean this. In war time the nation is 1867 one. All of us are together in one great confraternity. In peace time sell out, give away to the profit-monger. That is what you are doing to-night by passing this Bill. You are handing over one of the greatest possibilities of the future to a private corporation, and there is no justification for the policy. We believe, as far as all of us on these benches are concerned, that this is a scandalous ramp. It is no wonder that you will not give us details as to what this Bill eventually may mean. Companies will be formed immediately this Bill is passed. The Stock Exchange will start to operate. The international financiers will start their operations. Members of this House will find, quite innocently, with tears trickling down their shirt fronts, that they will begin to take part in the scheme of fleecing
§ the public, of bleeding the people. If this Bill passes, it will be one of the biggest examples of private capitalism ever supported by a Government pretending to act on behalf of the nation. Therefore, we protest against this robbery of public property on behalf of private companies whom we do not know. We are not told anything about them. We do not know where they come from, and where they go to. We only hope that they will go to one place. We are protesting against this Bill, and wish the authors of it not all that I would like them to have, but just as much punishment as they deserve.
§ Question put: "That the Bill be now read the Third time."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 235; Noes, 97.1869
|Division No. 46.]||AYES.||[11.1 p.m.|
|Albery, Irving James||Conway, Sir W. Martin||Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)|
|Alexander, E. E. (Leyton)||Cooper, A. Duff||Headlam, Lieut.-Colonel C. M.|
|Allen, Sir J. Sandeman||Cope, Major Sir William||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P.|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S.||Couper. J. B.||Hilton, Cecil|
|Applin, Colonel R. V. K.||Courtauld, Major J. S.||Holbrook, Sir Arthur Richard|
|Aptley, Lord||Courthope, Colonel Sir G. L.||Hopkins, J. W. W.|
|Ashley Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Wilfrid W.||Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities)||Howard-Bury, Colonel C. K.|
|Astor, Maj. Hn. John J. (Kent, Dover)||Craig, Sir Ernest (Chester, Crewe)||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.||Hume, Sir G. H.|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Crooke, J. Smedley (Derltend)||Hunter-Weston, Lt.-Gen. Sir Aylmer|
|Balniel, Lord||Crookshank, Col. C. de W. (Berwick)||Hurd, Percy A.|
|Banks, Sir Reginald Mitchell||Crookshank, Cpt. H. (Lindsey, Gainsbro)||Illffe, Sir Edward M.|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Culverwell, C. T. (Bristol, West)||Inskip, Sir Thomas Walker H.|
|Barnett, Major Sir Richard||Curzon, Captain Viscount||Jackson, Sir H. (Wandsworth, Cen't)|
|Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H.||Dalkeith, Earl of||Jones, Sir G. W. H. (Stoke New'gton)|
|Bellairs, Commander Carlyon||Davidson, Rt. Hon. J. (Hertford)||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)|
|Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake)||Davies, Dr. Vernon||Kennedy, A. R. (Preston)|
|Bentinck, Lord Henry Cavendish-||Dawson, Sir Philip||Kindersley, Major G. M.|
|Berry, Sir George||Dean, Arthur Wellosley||King, Commodore Henry Douglas|
|Bethel, A.||Dixey, A. C.||Kinioch-Cooke, Sir Clement|
|Betterton, Henry B.||Edmondson, Major A. J.||Lamb, J. Q.|
|Bevan, S. J.||Elliot, Major Walter E.||Lister, Cunliffe-, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip|
|Birchall, Major J. Dearman||Ellis, R. G.||Locker-Lampson, Rt. Hon. Godfrey|
|Bourne, Captain Robert Croft||England, Colonel A.||Looker, Herbert William|
|Bowyer, Capt. G. E. W.||Erskine, James Malcolm Monteith||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Vere|
|Briggs, J. Harold||Everard, W. Lindsay||Luce, Major-Gen. Sir Richard Harman|
|Briscoe, Richard George||Fairfax, Captain J. G.||Lumley, L. R.|
|Brittain, Sir Harry||Falle, Sir Bertram G.||MacAndrew, Major Charles Glen|
|Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Fanshawe, Captain G. D.||McDonnell. Colonel Hon. Angus|
|Brooke, Brigadier-General C. R. I.||Fenby, T. D.||Macintyre, Ian|
|Brown, Col D. C. (N'th'l'd., Hexham)||Fermoy, Lord||McLean, Major A.|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H.C.(Berks, Newb'y)||Fleiden, E. B.||Macmillan, Captain H.|
|Brown, Ernest (Leith)||Ford, Sir P. J.||Macnaghten, Hon. Sir Malcolm|
|Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James||Forestier-Walker, Sir L.||Maitland, A. (Kent, Faversham)|
|Bullock, Captain M.||Forrest, W.||Makins, Brigadier-General E.|
|Caine, Gordon Hall||Foxcroft, Captain C. T.||Manningham-Buller, Sir Mervyn|
|Carver, Major W. H.||Fraser, Captain Ian||Margesson, Captain D.|
|Cassels, J. D.||Fremantle, Lieut-Colonel Francis E.||Merriman, Sir F. Boyd|
|Cayzer, Sir C. (Chester, City)||Ganzoni, Sir John||Mitchell, S. (Lanark, Lanark)|
|Cazalet, Captain Victor A.||Gates, Percy||Mitchell, W. Foot (Saffron Walden)|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Sir Evelyn (Aston)||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||Moore. Lieut.-Colonel T. C. R. (Ayr)|
|Chadwick, Sir Robert Burton||Gower, Sir Robert||Moore, Sir Newton J.|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Ladywood)||Grant, Sir J. A.||Moreing, Captain A. H.|
|Charteris, Brigadier-General J.||Greaves-Lord, Sir Walter||Mall, Colonel Sir Joseph|
|Christie, J. A.||Grotrian, H. Brent||Nelson, Sir Frank|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston Spencer||Gunston, Captain D.||Neville, Sir Reginald J.|
|Clarry, Reginald George||Hacking, Douglas H.||Newton, Sir D, G. C. (Cambridge)|
|Clayton, G. C.||Hall, Lieut.-Colonel Sir F. (Dulwich)||O'Connor, T. J. (Bedford, Luton)|
|Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||Hammersley, S. S.||O'Neill, Major Rt. Hon. Hugh|
|Cockerill, Brig.-General Sir George||Hanbury, C.||Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William|
|Collins, Sir Godfrey (Greenock)||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Pennefather, Sir John|
|Colman, N. C. D.||Harvey, G. (Lambeth, Kennington)||Penny, Frederick George|
|Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)||Snaw, Lt.-Col. A.D. McI. (Renfrew, W.)||Wallace, Captain D. E.|
|Perkins, Colonel E. K.||Sheffield, Sir Berkeley||Ward, Lt.-Col. A.L.(Kingston-on-Hull)|
|Perring, Sir William George||Shepperson, E. W.||Warner, Brigadier-General W. W.|
|Peto, G. (Somerset, Frame)||Skelton, A. N.||Warrender, Sir Victor|
|Plicher, G.||Smith, Louis W. (Sheffield, Hallam)||Waterhouse, Captain Charles|
|Power, Sir John Cecil||Smith, R. W.(Aberd'n A Kinc'dine, C.)||Watson, Rt. Hon. W. (Carlisle)|
|Pownall, Sir Assheton||Smithers, Waldron||Watts, Sir Thomas|
|Preston, William||Southby, Commander A. R. J.||Wayland, Sir William A.|
|Price, Major C. W. M.||Spender-Clay, Colonel H.||Wells, S. R.|
|Raine, Sir Walter||Stanley, Lieut.-Colonel Rt. Hon. G.F.||White, Lieut.-Col. Sir G. Dairymple|
|Ramsden, E.||Stanley, Lord (Fylde)||Williams, Com. C. (Devon, Torquay)|
|Rawson, Sir Cooper||Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westm'eland)||Williams, C. P. (Denbigh, Wrexham)|
|Rentoul, G. S.||Steel, Major Samuel Strang||Williams, Herbert G. (Reading)|
|Rhys, Hon. C. A. U.||Storry-Deans, R.||Wilson, Sir C. H. (Leeds, Central)|
|Richardson, Sir P. W. (Sur'y, Ch'ts'y)||Stott, Lieut.-Colonel W. H.||Wilson, R. R. (Stafford, Lichfield)|
|Rodd, Rt. Hon. Sir James Rennell||Streatfeild, Captain S. R.||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Ropner, Major L.||Stuart, Crichton-, Lord C.||Withers, John James|
|Ruggles-Brise, Lieut.-Colonel E. A.||Stuart, Hon. J, (Moray and Nairn)||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser||Womersley, W. J.|
|Rye, F. G.||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid||Wood, E. (Chest'r, Stalyb'dge & Hyde)|
|Salmon, Major I.||Tasker, R. Inigo.||Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir Kingsley|
|Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)||Templeton, W. P.||Woodcock, Colonel H. C.|
|Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)||Thorn, Lt.-Col. J. G. (Dumbarton)||Wright, Brig.-General W. D.|
|Sandeman, N. Stewart||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)|
|Sanders, Sir Robert A.||Thornton, Rt. Hon. Sir W. Mitchell-||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Sandon, Lord||Tinne, J. A.||Commander B. Eyres Monsell and Major Sir George Hennessy.|
|Sassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustave D.||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Savery, S. S.||Vaughan-Morgan, Col. K. P.|
|Ammon, Charles George||Hirst, W. (Bradlord, South)||Shepherd, Arthur Lewis|
|Baker, J. (Wolverhampton, Bilston)||Hudson, J. H. (Huddersfield)||Shiels, Dr. Drummond|
|Baker, Walter||John, William (Rhondda, West)||Shinwell, E.|
|Barr, J.||Johnston, Thomas (Dundoe)||Slesser, Sir Henry H.|
|Batey, Joseph||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)||Smillie, Robert|
|Bellamy, A.||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)|
|Benn, Wedgwood||Jones, W. N. (Carmarthen)||Smith, Rennie (Penistone)|
|Bondfield, Margaret||Kelly, W. T||Snell, Harry|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Kennedy, T.||Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip|
|Broad, F. A.||Kenworthy, Lt.-Com. Hon. Joseph M.||Sutton, J. E.|
|Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)||Lansbury, George||Taylor, R. A.|
|Buxton, Rt. Hon. Noel||Lawrence, Susan||Thurtle, Ernest|
|Cape, Thomas||Lawson, John James||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Charleton, H. C.||Lee, F.||Tomlinson, R. P.|
|Cluse, W. S.||Lindley, F. W.||Townend, A. E.|
|Connolly, M.||Lowth, T.||Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles|
|Dalton, Hugh||Lunn, William||Viant, S. P.|
|Davies, Evan (Ebbw Vale)||Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)||Walsh, Rt. Hon. Stephen|
|Day, Harry||MacNeill-Weir, L.||Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)|
|Duncan, C.||Malone, C. L'Estrange (N'thampton)||Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)|
|Garro-Jones, Captain G. M.||March, S.||Wellock, Wilfred|
|Gillett, George M.||Montague, Frederick||Westwood, J|
|Gosling, Harry||Morris, R. H.||Whiteley, W.|
|Graham, Rt. Hon. Wm. (Edin., Cent.)||Paling, W.||Wilkinson, Ellen C.|
|Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.||Williams, Dr. J. H. (Lianelly)|
|Griffith, F. Kingsley||Ponsonby, Arthur||Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)|
|Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Potts, John S.||Wilton, R. J. (Jarrow)|
|Grundy, T. W.||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)||Windsor, Walter|
|Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton)||Riley, Ben||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Ritson, J.|
|Hardie, George D.||Salter, Dr. Alfred||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Harney, E. A.||Scrymgeour, E.||Mr. Allen Parkinson and Mr. Charles Edwards.|
|Henderson, T. (Glasgow)||Scurr, John|
|Hirst, G. H.||Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)|
Question, "That the Debate be now adjourned," put, and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read the Third time, and passed.