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British Dyestuffs Corporation

Volume 155: debated on Monday 19 June 1922

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asked the President of the Board of Trade whether one or more of the principal technical experts in the service of the British Dyestuffs Corporation have resigned their position; and whether, in view of the quarrels and disputes with the staff and the directors, he will consider the advisability of an independent inquiry by a Select Committee of this House into the circumstances of this corporation?

There have been certain changes in the technical staff of the British Dyestuffs Corporation at various times owing to a variety of causes; but as regards the remainder of the question I have nothing to add to the answer which I gave to the hon. Member for Stafford on the 29th May.

Does that mean that the Government are satisfied with the position of this company now?

It is a large industrial company in which the Government have a subordinate interest. In my opinion, political investigations into the affairs of commercial companies do not make for commercial success.

In view of the large interest that the public has in this concern, cannot the right hon. Gentleman say what is the reason for so many directors resigning in recent months?

The annual meeting of the company will be held in a few days, when a statement will undoubtedly be made by the chairman to the body of shareholders.

Have the Government come to no decision as to the use of the proxies on their behalf by their nominees on the Board?

Proxies have been sent out on behalf of the Board asking the shareholders to support them against the proposal for an investigation of the company. What action do the Government intend to take, and what instructions are to be given to their nominees for dealing with the matter?


asked the President of the Board of Trade if the Government director on the board of the British Dyestuffs Corporation has received any instructions as to the principles that must govern any arrangement made between that corporation and the dyemakers in Germany; and, if so, what instructions have been given?

As I have already informed the House, the conversations which have taken place between the interests mentioned by the hon. and gallant Member have so far been only of a preliminary and non-committal character. Consequently, it has not been thought necessary to give any instructions to the Government directors of the British Dyestuffs Corporation, especially as they are fully acquainted with the general policy of the Government in respect to this particular industry.


asked the President of the Board of Trade whether the Committee appointed by him under Clause 2 (6) of the Dyestuffs (Import Regulation) Act, 1920, for the purpose of advising him with respect to the efficient and econo- mical development of the dye-making industry, has yet tendered to him any advice; if so, on what occasions the advice was given and what was its nature; and, if not, whether it is in consequence of the failure of the Committee to give such advice that the British Dyestuffs Corporation has sought the assistance and advice of the German dye-makers?

The Committee has made representations to me in respect of the supply of benzol for the dye-making industry and the maintenance and development of research therein. But it has been chiefly engaged on important. work in connection with the co-ordination of manufacture, with a view to preventing unnecessary duplication of effort. The answer to the last part of the question is in the negative, though I do not accept the hon. and gallant Member's statement as a correct description of the action of the British Dyestuffs Corporation.

Will not this Committee make a report? Is it not intended that it shall make at least an annual report to the Board of Trade as to what it is doing?

It is constantly in close touch with the Board of Trade. We know quite well what it is doing.

I am not quite sure what their statutory position is, but I will look into the point.

If an agreement be arrived at, will it be laid before this House before it is ratified?

I should like notice of that question. Certainly I have no objection to communicating the terms, but I doubt whether the assent of the House will be necessary for ratification.


asked the President of the Board of Trade what fees or salaries are drawn by the directors who represent the Government on the board of directors of the British Dyestuffs Corporation; and whether, in view of the friction existing on the board, what action, if any, does he intend to take to effect a change in its personnel?

The two Government directors of the British Dyestuffs Corpora- tion receive the remuneration of ordinary directors, namely, £750 per annum. As regards the second part of the question, the desirability at any time of changes in the personnel of the directorate is a matter for the whole body of shareholders in the Corporation in which His Majesty's Government have not a controlling interest.

Does not His Majesty's Government have some voice by virtue of holding these shares, and is it not time that the Government used that voice to try to bring about some order in the company?

Yes, I am responsible, of course, for keeping in touch with what is going on, and if I were seriously dissatisfied with any action that was being taken it would be my business to communicate with the Government directly. The Government holding in the company is about one-fifth of the total shares.

Does the figure of £750 include expenses or not? Is it £750, plus expenses?


asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware that on two occasions Mr. Vernon Clay has resigned positions he has occupied in connection with the British Dyestuffs Corporation; if so, whether he can say what were the reasons given for his action by Mr. Clay; and why these resignations have not been accepted?

I understand that the gentleman named has resigned from one post held by him in the British Dyestuffs Corporation, but I am not aware of any second resignation. As regards the remainder of the question, I do not think it would be proper for me to anticipate the statement which will be made by the chairman at the approaching general meeting of the corporation.

Is the Government satisfied with the present state of affairs on the board of this company?

I think the House is aware—at least those who have any knowledge of the subject are aware—of the great difficulties facing those who are endeavouring to establish the dye industry in this country. I believe the board, as at present constituted, is making the most strenuous endeavours to effect that desirable consummation and, I believe, in time, they will be successful.


asked the President of the Board of Trade whether, in view of the statements made by him and on his behalf as to the satisfactory progress and results achieved by the British Dyestuffs Corporation, he will state what is the object of the negotiations between the Corporation and the dye makers in Germany as to arrangements regarding the production and price of dyes?

I do not think it advisable to make at the present time any statement such as the hon. Member desires. I may remark, however, that I am not aware of any statements made by me or on my behalf to the effect that the dye-making industry in this country has achieved all its objects, and though in all circumstances the progress which has been made is most encouraging, anything which will help to expedite that progress is, of course, very desirable.

Does the Government approve of the negotiations which are going on between the British Dyestuffs Corporation and the German dye makers?

I always approve of negotiations. Whether I approve of the result or not, is another matter.

Is it a fact that the French Government have made arrangements with the German dyestuffs makers, and, if so, can the right hon. Gentleman give us a copy of that agreement?