§ LORD WARING
My Lords, with your Lordships' permission I should like to be allowed to make a personal statement in regard to the attack made upon me by Mr. Ronald McNeill in another place. I desire to say that Mr. McNeill gave me no notice, direct or indirect, of his intention to make any charges against me. I do not think I need trouble your Lordships with reference to the first part of Mr. McNeill's statement, which dealt with the reconstruction of Messrs. Waring and Gillow, Ltd., as that contains no personal 578 charge against myself, beyond stating that the difficulties were chiefly due to prolonged litigation over rights of light with which it was declared the new building would interfere, and which stopped progress with the building for several years; and if I may be permitted to introduce a personal matter, I would like to state that my private losses and those of my family in connection with these difficulties were exceedingly large, and much greater than those of any other shareholder in the company.
The gravamen of Mr. McNeill's charge against me is as follows:—In the meantime, the war came along, and the head of this business, who is now Lord Waring, saw his opportunity and, I believe, made for himself a very considerable fortune at the White City in constructing and turning out equipment for aeroplanes on Government contracts. That was for himself. No part of that fortune went to paying the shareholders or making up the deficiency for the debenture holders in the concern of which he was the head and the managing director.With reference to this statement of Mr. McNeill, I give it art absolute and unequivocal denial. I hope your Lordships will accept my definite assurance, that all work carried out at the White City was under arrangements made between the Government and Messrs. Waring & Gillow, Ltd., in whose name the contracts were received. All money in respect of the work carried out under those contracts at the White City was paid by the Government into the coffers of the company, and apart from my interest in the company I had no pecuniary interest whatever in the work. I therefore feel bound to add that the statement made in another place was entirely incorrect, and had no foundation whatever, and if Mr. Ronald McNeill will repeat this statement outside the House, I shall at once take legal proceedings against him.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My Lords, I have nothing whatever to do with the introduction of the noble Lord's name in another place, and I do not desire to take any part in these matters, but it is in my power to correct what I believe to be a misapprehension in the mind of the noble Lord, which I think he will receive with some satisfaction. It is quite possible that my hon. friend Mr. McNeill expressed himself in words which were open to possible misconstruction, but he did not intend to say, and did not say, in fact, that the noble Lord did not pay whatever was due to the shareholders of the new company; and in 579 his remarks he made no reference to the new company. What he intended to say, and what I think, if the words are carefully looked at, it will be found he did say, was that the noble Lord did not pay any of the profits of the new company to make good the losses of the debenture holders and the preference shareholders of the old company. I do not want to make any comment on the matter at all, but only to correct what I believe to be a misapprehension in the mind of the noble Lord.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (VISCOUNT BIRKENHEAD)
My Lords, I have no doubt that the intervention of the noble Marquess was prompted by all good feeling and the desire that the matter should be fairly understood, but I think the general sense of the House will be that this is hardly the case for a substituted explanation.
My Lords, I had hoped that the noble Marquess would have made a statement which would have thoroughly explained Mr. Ronald McNeill's remarks in another place. I think it is right that I should direct the attention of your Lordships to one point, which is, perhaps, in danger of being obscured. In reading the statement which Mr. Ronald McNeill made in another place I gathered that his principal contention was that the shareholders in the original firm of Waring and Gillow, which went into liquidation in 1910, had not been recouped for the loss of capital they sustained during the time the noble Lord was chairman and managing director. Mr. McNeill's statement, according to the Official Report of the debate in another place, which I hold in my hand, was that no part of any profits made by the noble Lord during the warwent to paying the shareholders or making up the deficiency of the debenture holders in the concern of which he was the head and managing director.That is clearly a reference to the old company, because, since the reconstruction of Waring and Gillow, the noble Lord has not been chairman of the company; I understand he has been merely an ordinary director.
As to the fact itself, I do not understand that the noble Lord disputes it. At all events, having had the misfortune to be a holder both of debentures and of preference shares in the original firm of Waring & Gillow, I am able to state from personal knowledge that the debenture holders were 580 paid only 75 per cent, of their holding in the original company, and that in £1 preference shares in the new concern. The preference and ordinary shareholders got nothing at all; the shares were wiped out. I can state, further, that the former debenture and preference shareholders in the old company have received no part of any profits made during the war and, so far as I am aware, the old ordinary shareholders of Waring & Gillow are in exactly the same position. I think it is only due to Mr. Ronald McNeill that I should call your Lordships' attention to the facts which I have mentioned.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My Lords, in reference to what fell from the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack I think I am bound to say this. My hon. friend Mr. Ronald McNeill made a statement in another place; the noble Lord has made an explanation in your Lordships' House. Mr. McNeill has no audience in your Lordships' House. All I did was to rise to correct a misapprehension in the noble Lord's mind. I do not think I was open to the reproof of the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I can assure the noble Marquess that I certainly was not presuming to reprove him, but lest there be any misapprehension may I make perfectly plain what I meant. I meant this. A statement has been made in another place which has been generally accepted as conveying an imputation upon the integrity of the noble Lord, which everybody who heard it and everybody who read it knows did, in fact, convey an imputation upon the integrity of the noble Lord. My own view is that of all tribunals in the world which are not competent to investigate a matter of this kind a deliberative Assembly is most obviously not competent.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
And the best proof of the fact is that we find ourselves engaged in the most uncongenial and difficult task of listening to a statement from one noble Lord on one side, and another statement from another noble Lord on the other side. These matters can only be adequately enquired into by 581 the tribunals of the country which have been set up for that purpose. We need not inquire here as to what Mr. McNeill said, still less as to what Mr. McNeill meant; because ail that Mr. McNeill is invited to do by the noble Lord is to repeat outside the House of Commons exactly what he said in the House of Commons. If he did so, it would not be for a noble Lord here or there to advance arguments in regard to the matter. It would be for a Judge and jury to say, in the first place, whether that which was said reflected upon the integrity of the noble Lord, and in the next place, in obedience to the noble Lord's challenge, whether that which was said was fairly and truly said. If I conveyed any impression to the noble Marquess that I assumed the slightest right to criticise what he had done, let me in the most public and plain manner assure him that that was not my intention.