House Of Commons
Tuesday, 27th June, 1922.
The House met at a quarter before Three of the Clock, Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair.
Stretford and District Gas Board Bill [ Lords],
As amended, to be considered To-morrow.
Ayr Burgh (Electricity) Bill [ Lords] (by Order),
Second Reading deferred till Tomorrow, at a quarter-past Eight of the Clock.
Girvan Water Order Confirmation Bill,
Read the Third time, and passed.
Taw and Torridge Fisheries Provisional Order Bill,
Towy Fisheries Provisional Order Bill,
Read the Third time, and passed.
Buckhaven and Leven Gas Commission Order Confirmation Bill (by Order).
New Clause—(For Protection Of County Authorities)
The following provisions for the protection of the County Council of the County of Fife and the Kirkcaldy District Committee of that County Council (who for their respective rights, jurisdictions, and interests are hereinafter referred to as "the county authorities") shall have effect (that is to say):—
Brought up, and read the First and Second time, and added to the Bill.
Bill to be read the Third time To-morrow.
Oral Answers To Questions
Civil Service Pension Fund
asked the Under-Secretary of State for India whether his attention has been called to the widespread apprehension among European members of the Indian Civil Service with reference to the Indian Civil Service Family Pensions Fund, having regard to the fact of the large number of Indian civil servants who are now coming upon the fund, whose conditions of family life are widely different from those of Europeans; whether, under these circumstances, the Government of India will be prepared to rescind the decision arrived at some years ago to extend the benefits of the fund to non-Europeans; and whether the fund will be forthwith divided into two sections, one European and one Indian, with separate accounts and separate actuarial calculations.
I have already had under consideration the effect on the Indian Civil Service Family Pension Scheme of the increase in the numbers of Indians in the Civil Service. It is not possible, however, at this stage to make any statement on the matter.
Has the Noble Lord fully before him the fact that this fund was constituted almost entirely by the contributions of the British civil servants, and that no Indian contributions at all were made to it before 1913, and then very few? Is there any reason why it should not be divided into two parts?
The whole question is under consideration, and the facts mentioned by the hon. Gentleman will, of course, be taken into consideration.
European Government Servants
asked the Under-Secretary of State for India what steps he proposes to take to ensure that equality of treatment is given to all services and to all European Government servants in India?
Perhaps the hon. Member would be so good as to indicate in what respects he considers that inequality of treatment exists and should be remedied.
Is there not a difference between the ordinary Civil Service and the Indian Medical Service?
There are and always have been differences, but I am not sure what is the specific difference to which the hon. Gentleman alludes.
Will my Noble Friend consider putting the Indian Medical Service on the same terms of equality with regard to pensions and commutation as members of the ordinary Indian Civil Service?
My hon. Friend is aware that members of the Indian Medical Service are not the only ones affected in that respect. I will consider the whole matter.
Will the Noble Lord consider this matter from the point of view of the absolute difference between white and black in attending on white patients?
That is a very big question and one very difficult to answer at Question Time. I referred to it in my speech the other day. The whole matter, however, is receiving the earnest consideration of my Noble Friend.
Commitment Warrants, Punjab
asked the Under-Secretary of State for India whether he will state the terms of the Instructions recently issued by the Lahore High Court to its subordinate magistracy, laying it down that on warrants of commitment the trying magistrate has to note whether the convict is of a superior status by reason of his educational attainments or social position?
I will ask the Government of India for a copy of the Instructions in question, which have not reached the Secretary of State. Their issue would be in accordance with a rule framed by the Punjab Government as to the classification of Special Class Prisoners as such, by reason of the nature of the offence and the antecedents of the offender including his social position, education, and standard of living.
Is there anything in the law in India that warrants men being treated according to their social position?
As I have endeavoured to explain in my answer the Punjab Government under the administrative powers it possesses has issued a circular on this subject, and if, as my hon. Friend suggests, there have been these differences made, they have been carried out under the rules.
Will the Noble Lord ask the Secretary of State to alter the rules?
Most emphatically certainly not. This matter is within the competence of the Legislative Assembly, and it would be impossible for my Noble Friend to suggest to the Legislative Assembly that it should go back upon what is within its competence.
Military Forces, Germany
asked the Secretary of State for War whether he has any information that the German officers' corps of the old army still exists; and whether it is officially recognised by the German military authorities?
The number of officers with the present army is restricted by the Treaty of Versailles to 4,000. All other regular officers have been retired on pension, or with a gratuity. The German authorities have recognised a society known as the Deutscher Offiziers-bund as the channel of communication for regulating questions affecting the pensions or other economic interests of ex-officers. This society has been formed since the War for the protection of those interests. There are other associations of officers which are not recognised, and which are in the nature of political associations.
asked the Secretary of State for War whether he has any information that the so-called peace army in Germany of 100,000 effectives consists almost entirely of noncommissioned officer instructors?
I am aware that about half the rank and file of the present German army were noncommissioned officers in the old army. This is due to the fact that the majority of the volunteers for long service were of this class.
asked the Secretary of State for War whether the German mobilisation laws have yet been repealed?
The Inter-Allied Military Commission of Control have reported that the German Government have repealed all laws relating to mobilisation, with the exception of the law of 13th June, 1873, relating to requisitions in time of mobilisation. The Commission have demanded the repeal of this law also.
asked the Secretary of State for War whether, having regard to the limitation of the German Army to 100,000, the Estimates put forward by the German Government compare favourably in the matter of expense with the Estimates of the other European Powers?
The whole question of the German Budget, including the Army Estimates, is at present being examined by the Guarantee Committee of the Reparation Commission, and I regret am unable to anticipate their opinion.
asked the Secretary of State for War what is the mobilisation organisation of the German Army; whether the arrangements for mobilisation in pre-War days are still in existence; whether he has any information as to the operation of the 12 years' term of enlistment in the German Army; whether this has now been put into force; and whether large numbers of men of military age have been passed through the ranks of the Reichwehr for short periods of training?
Article 178 of the Peace Treaty unconditionally forbids "all measures of mobilisation or appertaining to mobilisation,' and I am unable to confirm that any such measure exist. The 12 years' term of service is in force, and its operation is being supervised by the Inter-Allied Military Commission of Control. I have no confirmation of the suggestion contained in the last part of the question.
Navy And Army Canteen Board
asked the Secretary of State for War how long Messrs. Deloitte, Plender, Griffiths and Company have been engaged in the preparation of the trading accounts of the Navy and Army Canteen Board for 1919 and 1920; and when their Report will be available for the information of the House?
The firm in question has been employed as auditors of the accounts of the Navy and Army Canteen Board since the inception of the organisation in 1917. I am unable to give a date as to when the accounts for the years in question will be available for the information of the House, but I can assure my hon. Friend that they are being pushed forward as rapidly as possible.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that that answer has been returned for months past and that at the end of last Session we were told we could hope for the accounts in eight days?
Are we to understand that the accounts for 1919 are not yet completed?
Can the right hon. Gentleman definitely state what is the trouble, and why these accounts are being withheld?
I am sorry if anyone thinks they are being withheld. I am not suggesting there is not some justification for the thought, but I can assure the House I am getting the accounts pushed forward as quickly as possible. They are extremely complicated and complicated also by the fact that there were three organisations, each of which went into liquidation and each one passed some part of its assets and stocks to the next organisation. I hope the accounts will be available for the House in a short time. It is no use my saying eight days or a month, because I really cannot give a guarantee.
May I ask whether, in view of the great public interest in this matter, the right hon. Gentleman will give the House an assurance that these accounts will be presented in ample time for a discussion, if necessary, to take place on the Floor of this House with regard to them?
Is not the delay due mainly to the difficulties of realisation?
I do not want to take refuge in that. There has been great delay in apportioning the current stocks between each one of these organisations, and it has been due also partly to difficulties of realisation. But I may say this: I shall have to come to the House presently either for a Vote on Account or for a Bill to implement the undertaking to the Ex-Service Men's Associations to hand over the profits of the canteens, and at that time there will be an opportunity for the fullest discussion of this question. I do not want to deprecate questions, but I have half-a-dozen every week, and to them I can only give the same answer.
Will the Report be available on that occasion?
It is obvious the House must have the information which will enable it to come to a decision on that occasion, and before then the accounts must be available in some form or other for the House.
Expeditionary Force Canteens
asked the Secretary of State for War if he will give the date on which the War Office sent a letter of indemnity to the late Controller, Expeditionary Force Canteens; the date on which the latter handed cash and War stock to the War Office representative; the amount in sterling thus represented; what was the amount allocated from this source to the United Services Fund; the amount retained by the War Office; and for what purposes that money was utilised by the War Office?
As regards the first part of the question, the letter was dated 4th February, 1921, but was given to the joint liquidators, who did not hand it to the authorities of the Expeditionary Force Canteens until the transfer of their assets had taken place. In regard to the remainder of the question, the transfer, which was made to the joint liquidators and not to the War Office, took place on the 14th February, 1921. The value of the assets thus transferred, taking the securities handed over at their nominal value, was about 3,306,000, out of which £2,500,000 consisted of Funding Loan. Of this total, Funding Loan to the nominal value of £1,000,000 was allocated to the United Services Fund, and the balance remains in the hands of the joint liquidators.
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether his attention has been drawn to the fact that three Irish soldiers home on leave, at Listowel, County Kerry, were surprised by armed men, deprived of their uniforms, and one wounded; and whether he will consider the advisability of disbanding Irish soldiers at the present moment, in view of the danger attendant on their return to their homes in Ireland at present?
I have been asked to answer this question. With regard to the first part, the military authorities in Ireland are at present unable to confirm the facts alleged, but further inquiry is being made. With regard to the last part, I would refer my Noble Friend to the answer which I gave on the 25th ultimo to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the Shettleston Division of Glasgow (Rear-Admiral Adair).
Will the right hon. Gentleman take steps, as he was good enough to promise some weeks ago, to bring these disbanded soldiers within the terms of reference of the Committee presided over by the hon. Baronet the Member for Chelsea (Sir S. Hoare)?
At, this moment I cannot say "Yes" or "No." I have taken steps in that direction, and I hope they will be carried out.
Are soldiers proceeding on leave to Ireland always allowed to proceed in mufti?
I am afraid I must have notice of that question.
asked the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies, if the number of refugees to this country from Ireland is increasing; and whether he can give any estimate of the number of destitute or semi-destitute persons who have come to England for protection?
The answer to the first part of the question is in the negative. With regard to the last part, I regret that the information at my disposal is not sufficient to enable me to form an estimate of the total numbers. Assistance has been given by the Irish Distress Committee to approximately 150 persons. Applications received total 300.
Will the right hon. Gentleman give consideration to the representations made last night by the hon. Baronet the Member for Chelsea with regard to setting up a Royal Commission to deal with these cases, in view of the fact that the hon. Baronet, as Chairman of the Committee, understands the position?
I do not think a Royal Commission is necessary, but I am considering whether my hon. Friend's Committee might not be somewhat enlarged, in order to enable it to undertake the other work which public Departments are pressing upon it, and I am discussing that with the Treasury. The Treasury have given carte blanche, within certain limits, to the present Committee, and they must necessarily be consulted if an addition is made.
Does the first part of the right hon. Gentleman s answer mean that refugees are not coming over in increasing numbers, or does it mean that no more are coming over?
I do not think that there has been any great egress in the last fortnight. On the contrary, I think it is slackening. At any rate, the fact that only 300 persons have applied in three weeks certainly shows that the number of persons with whom we are dealing is confined within fairly definite limits.
Is it that they have ceased to come over, or that they are still coming, but not in increasing numbers?
We cannot tell whether there are a few refugees coming day by day, but I do not think there is any formidable exodus.
Will the right hon. Gentleman inquire into the position in Glasgow, where I understand that a very large number are coming over, and where it is probable that the Committee does not deal with them?
The allegation as to the refugees in Glasgow is that they come from Belfast, and are almost all Catholics. It is strenuously denied by the Northern Government, who say that no great exodus is taking place from Belfast to Glasgow.
Does it matter whether they are Catholics or Protestants, and ought they not to be looked after?
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he is now prepared to make his promised statement in regard to the fate of the four Loyalists kidnapped from the Pettigo district by the Free State forces nearly three weeks ago?
There are many more persons kidnapped, and I am addressing the Provisional Government on the whole matter. Meanwhile, we are holding the persons taken at Pettigo by the British forces.
Are we to understand that something like 20 persons were kidnapped by the Free State forces during the recent events at Pettigo?
My hon. Friend would be quite wrong in understanding that. Some were taken in the raid at Belcoo and others were taken in different forays on the frontier. We have proof that some of them are being held at present at Athlone, and that only four were actually removed from Pettigo.
My question related to the four loyalists who were kidnapped in Pettigo by the Free State forces nearly three weeks ago.
My answer related not only to those four but to others also, who were just as important.
Does the right hon. Gentleman know that they are held at Athlone, and, if so, what steps exactly are the British Government taking in order to recover them?
I have said that I am addressing the Provisional Government on the whole matter, and meanwhile we are holding the 15 other persons who are in our possession.
Does not the right hon. Gentleman think that, as nearly three weeks have elapsed since he first addressed inquiries to the Provisional Government, the Provisional Government are treating his inquiries with such scant respect that it almost amounts to contempt?
No, I do not think so at all. I think they are very anxious to get back their own fifteen men of the Free State forces whom we are at present holding, and whom we have been holding for exactly the same period.
I think we have now had enough supplementary questions on this matter.
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he is aware that neither by British process of law or the law as administered by the Irish Republican Courts can British subjects domiciled in the Irish Free State collect rents or similar debts due to them, and are consequently in many cases being made bankrupt by their creditors for moneys owing in Great Britain; will he press that a moratorium should be established to meet such cases; and, if not, what means will he adopt to prevent the ruin of British subjects who are in reality perfectly solvent?
His Majesty's Government recognise the difficulty in which many persons are placed owing to inability in present circumstances to collect rents and other debts due to them in Ireland. This difficulty is not a new one; it has been a symptom of all periods of disturbance in Ireland, and can only be made to disappear by the removal of the cause from which it arises, namely, by the restoration of orderly and resolute Government. As I informed the House yesterday, His Majesty's Government think it right to give a further opportunity to the Provisional Government to effect such a restoration, and, in the meanwhile, they do not feel that the time has come to take any exceptional measures to deal with this as distinct from other evils arising out of the present state of disorder in Ireland.
Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that in former times, no matter how bad they were, we could always get British decrees in Ireland, and we could carry them out if we could get a force which had pluck enough to do it? Now we cannot get decrees.
I have nothing to add to the answer I have given.
Could the right hon. Gentleman say, for the information of the House, what is the exact position of these so-called Republican Courts under the present arrangement? Are they legal courts or not?
They have no legal status at all, and they are not recognised in any official sense by the Provisional Government.
Do I understand that there are now no courts of any sort functioning in the Free State where a law-abiding citizen can go to recover his debts or damages for injury?
Yes, there are two complete sets of courts functioning in the Free State which interfere with each other, have their decisions reversed by each other, repudiate each other's authority, and generally bring the whole process of common, civic justice, in the smallest matters as in the greatest, into utter confusion and contempt.
Will the right hon. Gentleman write an opera on the lines of Gilbert and Sullivan?
Land Purchase And Housing
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer the total sum lent or guaranteed by the British Government to date for the purposes of purchasing land, farms, or for building houses in Ireland; and the average terms as regards interest, repayment charges, and length of loans?
The hon. Member will find some particulars on these subjects in the Eighty-ninth Report of the Commissioners of Public Works, Ireland (Command Paper 1481 of 1921) and the last Report of the Irish Land Commissioners (Command Paper 572 of 1920), to which I would refer him.
Will the Government make similar grants to English and Scottish authorities for housing purposes?
It is not in my province to deal with that.
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he has information to the effect that in the early summer of 1920 Suleiman Rabbub and other well-known Bethlehem Arabs applied for a concession for electric light and power, agricultural development, and motor transport in the Jerusalem district and Jordan valley; that they stated that they were already in possession of a capital of half-a-million and would have no difficulty in raising £2,000,000 or more if necessary; and that Suleiman Rabbub was informed by the administration that no concessions were being made at the time, but that the application would be considered later; whether he will inform the House whether a Report has been received on this application; and, if so, what was its nature?
No information on this subject is on record either in the Colonial Office or in the Departments which dealt with the administration of Palestine during the period referred to. The officer administering the Govern- ment of Palestine has been instructed to ascertain the facts and report them to, me.
Will the right hon. Gentleman be able to give particulars next Tuesday in the Debate?
I hope I shall have the information by then.
Does not the right hon. Gentleman think that the introduction of electric light into Bethlehem is a glaring piece of vandalism?
I think that if my hon. Friend visited the Holy Land he would, see a great many glaring pieces of vandalism, which are not half so scientific or beneficial as the introduction of electric light.
asked the Secretary for Scotland whether he is yet in a position to say that legislation will be introduced at an early date to carry out the suggestions for immediate action contained in the Deer Forest Report, namely, the extension of deer forests to be forbidden by Statute except with special sanction from the Secretary for Scotland; an annual return of the stock of sheep and cattle in each deer forest to be made to the Board of Agriculture; and local committees; with independent chairmen, to classify the deer forests and determine the stock that each should carry?
On my instructions a Bill has been drafted on the lines of the recommendations of the Deer Forest Committee and the Committee on Game and Heather Burning. I am not, however, in a position to give an undertaking as to the date of the introduction of the measure.
Will it be introduced next month before the Recess?
I cannot give an under, taking. My hon. and gallant Friend must remember first of all the limited resources of the Scottish Office in the matter of drafting, and, secondly, the pressure of business at this stage of the Session.
Straying Cattle, Ancrum
asked the Secretary for Scotland whether his attention has been called to the fining of two Ancrum residenters for allowing their cows to stray on the public road; whether these residenters had already applied to the Ancrum House estate for a field; whether they were unable to secure the same as they had all been let to a neighbouring farmer who already farms a large farm; and whether he is prepared to introduce legislation to prevent the possibility of such fines being imposed on respectable citizens while land is available?
I understand that two residents of Ancrum were fined recently for permitting their cattle to stray on the public road. I have no information on the points raised in the second and third parts of the question. In view of the risks arising from the straying of cattle on the public road, I am not disposed to take action on the lines suggested in the last part of the question.
Will the right hon. Gentleman make inquiries and find out if those applications were made?
Murder Of British Officers, South Kurdistan
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he can state the cause of the murders of Captain Bond and Captain Makant in South Kurdistan on 18th June; whether these murders are associated with that of Lieutenant Mott, killed at Halabja in South Kurdistan on 1st June, the death of Flight-Lieutenant Hudson in Iraq on 6th June, and the death in action of Captain Fitzgibbon in January last; and whether there is any change in the general attitude of the South Kurds since they showed their loyalty to the British Government during the Iraq rebellion in 1920?
The hon. and gallant Member has no doubt seen the Report which, after being communicated to the relatives of Captain Bond and Captain Makant, was published in the Press this morning. The murder of these two gallant officers was due to an act of individual treachery on the part of a local frontier chief. I greatly deplore their loss; but I am assured by Sir Percy Cox that no political significance need be attached to the incident; that it is not connected in any way with the other occurrences mentioned by the hon. and gallant Member. There has been no change in the general attitude of the Southern Kurds.
What steps are being taken to arrest the said chief who is reputed to have done this act, and is it possible to arrest him?
Troops are moving; both cavalry and infantry are operating in the district, the Air Force is recon-noitring in the air, and we hope to bring the authors of this disgustingly treacherous breach of a parley to which these officers had been bidden to summary punishment and execution in the shortest possible time.
Does the right hon. Gentleman say that there is no connection between that and the quite similar murder of an officer only a fortnight before?
I am advised that there is no serious political significance to be attached to this incident. Of course, there is a considerable amount of uncertainty and unrest in regard to these very turbulent Kurdish frontier troops. Everyone who has to come in touch with them runs considerable risk.
Is it not a fact that during the Arab rebellion of 1920 there was no difficulty, no disturbance, and no turbulence in the whole of South Kurdistan?
I suppose the hon. and gallant Gentleman is anxious to demonstrate that there is some much better political policy to pursue. He will have an opportunity in the Debate on the Colonial Office Vote.
Are not our officers exposed to these constant dangers in Kurdistan simply through the alteration in our policy by the landing of the Greeks in Asia Minor?
That cannot be argued now.
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department, if it has been decided to curtail the period of summer time for the future; and if he is aware of the dissatisfaction that this would cause among the very large urban populations in the country?
As I stated in the course of the Debate on the Second Reading of the Summer Time Bill, the Government are prepared to recommend some reduction of the period proposed in the Bill. That period was originally proposed in order to secure uniformity with France and Belgium, and was longer than the period recommended by the Home Office Committee in 1917. The extent of the reduction will be a matter for discussion in Committee and in the House. I am well aware of the strong feeling in favour of Summer Time which exists in the towns, as I am also aware of the feeling against it which exists in many rural areas.
Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that the overwhelming bulk of the population of this country lives in the large towns?
This Bill has gone to a Committee. The matter cannot now be argued.
Factories (Chief Inspector's Report)
asked the Home Secretary whether he is now in a position to state the date when the Report of His Majesty's Chief Inspector of Factories will be laid before Parliament?
The Report will be presented to-day.
Shall we be able to discuss the Factory Department of the Home Office Vote? Will the right hon. Gentleman put it down?
I am not sure when the Stationery Office will be able to publish the Report. It is presented to-day.
Is it not most unusual to have the Debate on the Home Office Vote before the Report, is in hon. Members' hands?
It was asked to he put, down in the usual way.
Boy Labour (Ships' Boilers)
asked the Home Secretary whether, in view of the Ministry of Labour's Report, the Government has caused an inquiry to be made into the conditions of employment of boys in scaling ships' boilers?
Yes, an inquiry was made, and I would refer the Noble Lord to the answer which I gave to him on this subject on 3rd August last. I regret that no opportunity has been found this Session for dealing with the matter by legislation, but it will not be lost sight of.
Cannot the right hon. Gentleman introduce such a very non-contentious Measure during the present Session so as to redeem it from absolute sterility?
If the Noble Lord had as much correspondence about it as I have he would not say it was non-contentious.
Police Discharges (Right Of Appeal)
asked the Home Secretary whether any steps have been taken by police authorities to remind members of police forces of their right to appeal to an independent person nominated, by the Secretary of State against the opinion of a police surgeon who may recommend their discharge from the force on medical grounds; and, if not, whether he will instruct police authorities to inform any constable whom it is proposed to retire on a medical certificate of his right of appeal under paragraph 2 of Statutory Rules and Orders No. 1450 made under Section 12 (8) of the Police Pensions Act, 1921?
In the Metropolitan Police the Rules have been published in Police Orders, and I have no doubt that police authorities generally have taken adequate steps to make the Rules known to members of their forces. If my hon. and gallant Friend has any information to the contrary I shall be glad to consider it.
Is it not a fact that complaints are received by men who have been discharged that they did not know of their right of appeal; and, if that be so, will the right hon. Gentleman see that instructions are given to the various police authorities that the men when they are discharged are notified that they have a right of appeal if they should so wish?
No, I have not heard of those cases. If I may be told of them, I will go into them.
asked the Postmaster-General whether he is aware of the inconvenience and loss suffered by that section of the community who have business relations with France, owing to the present postal arrangements, under which letters posted in Paris in the afternoon are not delivered in London until between noon and three in the afternoon of the next day, according to the district; whether he has been in communication with the French Government with the object of remedying this situation; and whether, if it is not possible to re-institute the pre-War mail train, leaving the Gare du Nord at nine o'clock in the evening, it could be arranged that the mails be forwarded via Dieppe and Newhaven by the train leaving St. Lazare at 9.5 p.m. each evening and that, as before the War, a postal box should be attached enabling letters bearing a late fee stamp to be posted up to the actual departure of the train?
asked the Postmaster-General whether he will endeavour to make an arrangement with the French Government with a view to providing a more rapid postal service between Paris and London?
asked the Postmaster-General whether he has been in communication with the French postal authorities regarding the acceleration of the postal service by night from Paris to London; and, if so, with what result?
asked the Postmaster-General whether it would be possible for him, in consultation with the postal authorities in France, to arrange for the pre-War service of letters between France and England to be resumed, and, particularly, for letters posted in Paris in the afternoon or evening of one day to leave Paris the same night, so that they might be delivered in London the next morning; whether this could be brought about either by reinstating the mail train, which used to leave the Gare du Nord at 9 p.m., or by utilising the train which now leaves the Gare St. Lazare for Dieppe at 9.15 p.m.; and whether he realises the serious loss and inconvenience which the present system inflicts upon the business communities in both France and England?
My attention has been drawn to this matter. I have more than once brought the question to the notice of the French Post Office, which is responsible for the arrangements for conveying mails from Paris to this country, and I am assured that that Office is fully alive to the desirability of improving the present service. I am not sanguine of an early return to pre-War arrangements, but I am in hopes that it may be found possible to introduce improvements in the present service which will give an earlier delivery in London generally. The transfer of the mails to the Dieppe-Newhaven route is a question for the consideration of the French Post Office.
asked the Postmaster-General how long the mails take to reach India from this country; if he is aware of the great importance to merchants in Great Britain and India of a quick mail service; what steps are being taken to expedite the Indian mail service; and whether the possibilities of quick overland or aerial transport have been considered, and with what result?
The Indian mail is due at Bombay in 14½ days after leaving London. Occasionally it arrives rather later, as the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company have not yet been able to replace fully their war losses and to provide a fleet of uniform speed for the service. I am aware of the great importance to commercial interests of a quick mail service to India, and advantage is taken of every opportunity of improving the service. I do not see any prospect of any material acceleration in overland transit. The possibilities of air transport in connection with the Imperial mail services generally are being explored by the Civil Aviation Advisory Board.
Is the right hon. Gentleman's Department in constant consultation with the Middle East Department with a view to utilising aircraft, which now fly continuously in that area, with a view to quickening up the mails?
This question is being considered by the Civil Aviation Advisory Board at present.
Is the Post Office represented on that?
asked the Postmaster-General whether it is proposed that private business concerns shall be permitted to advertise through the medium of Post Office obliterating stamps, or whether the Post Office intends to reserve the obliterating stamp for its own purposes?
For the present it is proposed to restrict advertisements on Post Office date stamps to objects in which the Post Office or other Departments of State are interested.
Can the right hon. Gentleman give the House an assurance that these stamps will not be used by the Government for the purpose of propaganda?
I think I must have notice of that question.
Royal Air Force
asked the Secretary of State for Air whether he can make any statement or give any figures to show the work actually carried out by the Naval Wing of the Royal Air Force during the past 12 months?
Beyond stating that I an satisfied with the progress which has been made in the development of aircraft co-operation with the Navy during the past 12 months, I do not consider that it would be in the public interest to make any detailed statement of the work performed, or to give any figures of the flights carried out.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that during the discussion on the Air Force Estimates he failed to give any item of information relating to the work of the Naval Air Service, and a wide impression exists that the power provided by the Air Ministry is not adequate for the work which that service has to do?
The "wide impression" is largely created by my Noble Friend. Next year I will do my best to make up for it.
asked the Prime Minister whether, in view of the fact that it is increasingly possible to substitute air forces for naval or military forces and thereby effect considerable economies, he will reconsider his decision and place the Air Minister on a footing in the Cabinet where air propositions will not be overruled by naval and military arguments put forward without a proper consideration of the air side of the question?
I have nothing to add to my answer of the 22nd June. I do not accept the allegation in the last part of the hon. Member's question.
Argentine Beef (Prices)
asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware that the rise in the price of Argentine beef since the end of 1921 has been greater than the normal seasonal rise; and, seeing that there is reason to suppose that this rise is due to the operation of the American meat trust does he propose to take any action to safeguard British consumers?
Up to the middle of June the rise in prices of Argentine beef was not much greater than the ordinary seasonal increase. In the third week of June, however, there was a sharp rise in wholesale prices both of Argentine chilled beef and of Scotch beef. My right hon. Friend has no knowledge that meat prices have been manipulated by any particular interest, but he will be grateful if the hon. Member will furnish him with any precise information of such manœuvres.
Alcoholic Beverages (Exports)
asked the President of the Board of Trade the sum total values of the exports of alcoholic beverages to the United States of America, Canada, Mexico, and the West Indies, from what was the United Kingdom in 1913 and in 1920?
The President of the Board of Trade has asked me to give the reply. The answer involves a statement of figures which, with the approval of the House, my right hon.
|Country to which consigned.||United Kingdom produce of manufactures.||Foreign and Colonial merchandise.|
|United States of America||897,073||135,308||83,035||23,245|
|West Indies (British and Foreign)||165,909||622,777||20,031||61,107|
International Labour Conventions, Geneva
44 and 58.
asked the Minister of Labour (1) when he will introduce the conventions and recommendations arising out of the last Labour Conference at Geneva for the consideration of the House;(2) if he is yet in a position to say when he will submit to the House the recommendations and conventions arising out of the last International Labour Conference?
The conventions and recommendations of the last International Labour Conference at Geneva in October and November last are at present under the consideration of His Majesty's Government. I am not in a position to make any definite statement at present.
Can I be told whether it will be introduced this Session, having regard to the fact that if it be not, it will be out of date?
Friend will have circulated in the OFFICIAL REPORT.
Following is the answer:
The following statement shows the declared value of alcoholic liquors exported from the United Kingdom, consigned to the undermentioned countries, during the years 1913 and 1920:
(NOTE.—Of the total value of alcoholic liquors of United Kingdom manufacture exported to these countries 71 per cent. in 1913 and 92 per cent. in 1920 are accounted for by British and Irish spirits. The average declared value of those spirits was about 9s. 6d. per gallon in 1913 and 29s. 6d. per gallon in 1920.)
That question, which involves Parliamentary time, ought to be addressed to the Leader of the House.
Would it not be disgraceful if we did not fulfil our obligations under this Convention?
There is no intention not to fulfil our obligations.
Trusts And Combines
asked the Prime Minister whether the Standing Committee on Rings, Trusts and Combines, which was officially stated to be investigating for the purpose of promised Government legislation, had a final meeting on 18th May, 1921, and unanimously passed a resolution that this inquiry should not be allowed to lapse; whether he is aware that the Committee served without remuneration, so that it could have continued investigations in spite of the lapse of Section 3 of the Profiteering Act; and whether the whole of the work of the Committee has been made available to the public?
This question has been referred to the President of the Board of Trade. The answer to the first part is in the affirmative. No remuneration was paid to the members of the Committee, but after the expiration of the Profiteering Acts no powers remained under which the production of evidence could be compelled. All the results of the Standing Committee's work have been made available to the public so far as was compatible with the provisions of the Acts regarding confidential evidence.
asked the Prime Minister whether he is aware that it was officially stated on 20th June, 1920, that the reason for the delay in introducing legislation dealing with trusts and combines was that the Committee was still investigating and, on 22nd November, 1920, that the Government proposals would be based upon the recommendations of the Committee appointed in 1918 and which reported in 1919; whether the Government have now come to the end of the period of consideration; and, if so, when the promised Bill will be introduced?
This question also has been referred to the President of the Board of Trade. My right hon. Friend is aware of the statement made on the 22nd November, 1920, but he is unable to identify the first answer referred to. With regard to the last two parts of the question I would refer my hon. and gallant Friend to the answer given to him by the Leader of the House on the 15th February last.
Ministry Of Defence
asked the Prime Minister whether the question of the creation of a Ministry of Defence has yet been considered by the Committee of Imperial Defence; whether a Sub-committee has been appointed to investigate this matter; if so, what is the composition of this Committee; and when is it anticipated that a decision will be arrived at?
The question of the creation of a Ministry of Defence has been referred to the Standing Defence Sub-committee of the Committee of Imperial Defence, which will consider it at an early date.
Can the Prime Minister say when that Committee is likely to report?
I cannot say at the moment, but I will make inquiries, and let my right hon. Friend know.
I will put down another question.
Safeguarding Of Industries Act
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he is now in a position to say what is the amount of duty His Majesty's Board of Customs have decided to impose on imported gas mantles; and will he state whether delivery of gas mantles was being allowed on a deposit of 25 per cent. of the value of the complete mantles?
The amount of duty payable in respect of imported gas mantles will vary according to the value of the dutiable ingredients. But as regards 90 per cent. of the importations, it is estimated that the duty involved will not exceed 5 per cent. of the value of the complete article. With regard to the last part of the question, I would point out that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer informed the hon. Member on the 15th instant that delivery has hitherto been allowed on deposit of a sum equivalent to the duty on a value of 25 per cent. of the value of the complete mantle, not on a deposit of 25 per cent. of the value of the mantle.
Is the hon. Baronet aware that two answers were given, one stating that there was a duty of 25 per cent. on the value of the complete mantle, and the other stating that there was a duty of 25 per cent. on the dutiable part of the mantle? Which is right?
I think there is some misunderstanding.
If I send the hon. Member copies of the two answers I have received, and he sees that there is a contradiction, will he have it put right?
Provided the hon. Member does not keep on repeating the same question. This has been answered for the third time.
Can the hon. Member tell me whether this duty is imposed under Part I or Part II of the Act?
I should like notice of that question.
asked the Chan cellor of the Exchequer whether he is aware that a consignment of toy view-scopes costing 2½d. each has been detained by His Majesty's officers of Customs on the ground that the glass magnifier was a scientifically-worked lens and therefore liable to a duty of 33⅓ per cent. under the Safeguarding of Industries Act; and whether his officers have a standard to work by and instructions to exempt articles of trifling value?
I have no information in regard to the particular consignment in question, but I would refer the hon. and gallant Member to the reply given by my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade to the hon. Member for the Western Isles on the 8th ultimo as to the position of view-scopes under the Safeguarding of Industries Act. As regards the last part of the question, Key Industry Duty is now waived on toys and fancy goods where the value of the dutiable parts is shown not to exceed 10 per cent. of the total value of the whole article.
Venereal Disease Clinic (Dewsbury)
asked the Minister of Health if he is aware that following an inspection by his Department of the venereal diseases clinic at Dewsbury, a recommendation has been made by the inspector that an irrigation but should be provided to ensure the service being efficiently carried out; whether, upon receipt of that Report, the, local authority has prepared plans and estimates for the erection of the building, and that his Department decline to admit any part of the cost to be made available for purposes of Government, grant; that the infirmary hoard, upon whose premises the clinic has been established, have inti- mated that, unless the irrigation but is provided, the treatment of veneral disease upon their institution must terminate; and whether, having regard to the fact that the existing machinery of administration has received the approval of his Department from its inception, he will make the necessary extension available for the grant and allow the work to proceed?
The recommendation made by my Department was that the present facilities for irrigation at this clinic should be improved, but not that a separate but should necessarily be provided. My Department have not refused to admit part of the expenditure for grant. Plans and particulars of the proposed but have been submitted, and are under consideration. Grant will be available in aid of the approved expenditure.
Irish Regiments (Disbandment)
asked the Secretary of State for War how many men of the disbanded Irish regiments are entitled to pensions, and what will be the aggregate value of such pensions to officers and men; whether efforts have been made to secure work for them or positions of trust, and if as a condition of granting such pensions they have been asked to take the oath of allegiance, whether steps have been taken to prevent any of them from joining the Irish Republican Army; and if any of them have been invited to join units of the British Army?
I might explain to my hon. and gallant Friend that the disbandment of these units does not involve the compulsory retirement or discharge of all the individuals composing them. The only officers who will be compulsorily retired prematurely are the officers who are retrenched as surplus to the general requirements of the Army, and the only soldiers who will be compulsorily discharged prematurely are the special short service men who are discharged under the terms of Army Order 181 of last month. Officers and soldiers of these categories will be compulsorily retired and discharged respectively throughout the Service as a whole, whether the units to which they belong are disbanded or not, and will receive the special compensation authorised by Army Orders 179 and 180. The remaining officers, non-commissioned officers, and men of the disbanded units will be offered the option of continuing in the Service by transfer to other corps, and the non-commissioned officers and men who do not accept such transfer will receive the special compensation authorised by Army Order 180. I cannot at present give the figures asked for in the first and second parts of the question. As regards the third part of the question, steps to assist the retrenched officers to find work are under consideration. The answer to the fourth and fifth parts is in the negative and to the last part in the affirmative.
asked the Prime Minister if he will state how many Departmental lists of names to be recommended for honours are prepared on each of the bi-yearly occasions?
As has already been explained, all Departments are asked by me to submit their recommendations for my consideration.
Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether, in addition to the Departmental lists, there are any other lists submitted to him?
Can the right hon. Gentleman say who are the people who present the other lists?
There are recommendations that come from every quarter. Every Prime Minister gets suggestions of names from every quarter.
Who suggested Mr. J. B. Robinson's name? Was it a Departmental suggestion?
Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether, in the lists submitted by him, a description of the services performed by these gentlemen is appended to the list?
As this question is being discussed in the House of Lords, will the right hon. Gentleman say why we cannot discuss it here?
Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether, in addition to a description of the services of the gentleman, the amount he has paid is also added?
Does the right hon. Gentleman receive lists of recommendations by the Patronage Secretary to the Treasury or from any of the Party Whips?
Certainly. In that respect I follow the precedent established by other Prime Ministers. I have never departed from precedents in this respect. Recommendations certainly come from the Patronage Secretary.
Will the right hon. Gentleman consider the request made by the right hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury) for a discussion, so that the points that are now being raised in the House of Lords on this and other matters may be discussed in the House of Commons?
A question is to be put to me at the end of Questions on that point.
At the end of Questions—
Mr. Speaker, I desire to submit a point of order for your consideration. The following question has been refused at the Table, as I think you are aware:
Might I explain, Sir, before you answer on the point of Order as to the reason why this question has not been allowed to be put, that it has been carefully drafted so as not in any way to infringe or even suggest the infringement of the undoubted and unchallenged Royal prerogative in the bestowal of honours. I should be the last to do so. May I point out also for your consideration that it is not suggested in the question that any improper inducement has been offered to the Crown in any shape or form in the bestowal of honours. That again is unthinkable and would not on any account be suggested. I would also mention for your consideration that there have been Debates more than once in this House on this very question when a Motion has been put down and there has been a free discussion of recommendations made by the Prime Minister for the time being as to the bestowal of honours, and complaint has been made within the public knowledge that money has been subscribed to party funds in connection with recommendations made for the bestowal of honours. The intention of the question is to ensure that the advice offered to the Crown shall not be in any way influenced by money considerations offered to the Ministers, or for party funds."To ask the Prime Minister if he can give a definite assurance that no money or other consideration of money value has been paid, or passed either directly or indirectly, in connection with any of the honours recommended by the Prime Minister in announcing the list of honours on the 3rd of June this year."
I think I can best answer the hon. and gallant Member by quoting some of the rulings of my predecessor on this matter. I have gone into them carefully. On 21st February, 1907, a question similar to that of the hon. and gallant Member was tendered. Mr. Speaker Lowther declined to allow it to be put on the Notice Paper, on the ground that the Prime Minister had no responsibility to the House for any advice which he might tender to His Majesty respecting the distribution of honours.Further, on 11th July, 1907, with regard to another question as to a Peerage then recently announced, Mr. Speaker Lowther said:
Further, on 22nd January, 1908, the same ruling was referred to at Question Time in the House, when an hon. Member asked the Prime Minister, then the right hon Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith), whether he would give an opportunity for discussing a Motion in the name of a certain hon. Member. The Prime Minister having answered in the negative, a question was put to Mr. Speaker Lowther to the following effect:"A question cannot be asked of the Prime Minister as to his responsibility for any advice he might give to the Sovereign in the recommendation of honours."
Mr. Speaker Lowther then replied:"Whether it is not the fact that it is the undoubted right of an hon. Member of this House to question the Prime Minister upon the advice given by him to the Sovereign in his capacity as Prime Minister upon any subject whatever."
Further, on 17th March, 1920, Mr. Speaker Lowther refused to allow the matter to be discussed on the Report of Supply. I cannot see my way to depart in any respect from these rulings of my predecessor. The hon. and gallant Member will see, I think, that the result of these rulings is that the matter may be raised on a Motion, but cannot be properly raised at Question Time, or in a Debate in Supply."It rather depends upon what meaning the hon. Member attaches to the word 'question.' If the hon. Member limits it to asking questions at Question time I say 'No.' If he means to extend it to criticism at the proper time, and raised in the proper way, I say 'Yes.' "
May I ask the Prime Minister whether he will give facilities at an early date for discussion of the subject, which is of great public interest.
May I put it to you, Mr. Speaker, that the House can raise the question on the Prime Minister's salary? If this House vote a salary to the Prime Minister, surely it should have some control over his actions?
That is a question which has often been dealt with by my predecessor, and I think it is covered by two parts of the rulings which I have quoted.
I gather that the rulings of your predecessor are confined to questions of Supply, but they do not indicate that a Motion may not be made and a day given for discussion of this matter. In the circumstances, I hope that the Prime Minister will fix a day for debate.
Is the Prime Minister aware that there is already a Motion on the Paper, supported by a hundred Members of his own party?
I am quite aware of what is on the Paper. With regard to time, I naturally consult those who have been making a forecast of the time at our disposal, and I am afraid that I have to give the same answer as I gave in reply to a previous request for more time, and that is that the time at our disposal is not merely very limited, but that we have already exceeded our anticipations as to the programme of the Session, and if there is any addition of business at all we shall have to sit very much later into August than we had hoped when we originally sketched our business for the Session. In addition to that, there is the anticipation that an Autumn Session may be necessary in order to deal with the Irish Constitution. All this is on the assumption that nothing new arises to demand the attention of the House. After the Debate yesterday, that is more than anyone would care to predict. It is not impossible—I hope it is not probable, and I sincerely trust it will not be the case—that the House may be called upon to take up some time in discussing the affairs of Ireland in connection with events in that country, perhaps, in the course of the next week or fortnight. In these circumstances it would be quite impossible for the Government to find time for any other Motions that have been demanded in respect to a great many matters and signed by a great many Members.
In view of the difficulty the right hon. Gentleman has pointed out—no doubt, it is serious—cannot the Government see their way to set up a Committee of Inquiry of the kind, without any discussion? That will save the time of Parliament and will greatly pacify the public mind, which is much excited on this subject.
Considering that "Hansard" shows that this subject was debated under a Conservative administration, and that similar charges were made in 1886, and again against the Campbell-Bannerman administration and the Asquith administration, and once more is made now, does the right hon. Gentleman not think, as evidently the same principles prevail in all the parties when they are in power, that it is time the House of Commons had another chance of discussing this question?
I agree. I have heard at least one or two discussions on the subject in the time of previous administrations, but they were almost invariably under a Motion for which private Members had balloted. It was open to Members of the House to ballot for an opportunity to discuss this subject. I am by no means ruling out the possibility of discussion of that kind. As far as the Government are concerned, we have no objection in the least to a discussion. All I care for is that the same principles should apply to all administrations. You should not have one set of principles to apply to one administration and another set of principles in order to criticise another administration. Before F came to any decision with regard to an inquiry, I should like to know what the character of the inquiry is and how far it is to extend. It was thought that I had given a flippant answer when I said it was entirely a question of how far back you went. I did not mean in the least the origin of the peerage. What I meant to say was that we have simply followed the precedent of, at any rate, the last 30 or 40 years. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, oh!"] Well, if there is a discussion I shall be glad to say so and to prove it. What I want to know is how far back this inquiry is to extend? That is why I gave that answer to the question the other day.
Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that what the House is concerned with is not what happened in the past but to know whether we cannot in the future get rid of this detestable system?
Have any new circumstances arisen which call for an inquiry of this kind and the appointment of a Committee? According to the impression left by Members who have asked these questions, it has been the custom almost from time immemorial, for the Prime Minister to recommend certain people to His Majesty for honours. In my experience and recollection it has always been left to the unfettered judgment of the Prime Minister whom he recommends. If any hon. Member has a fault to find with any appointment which has been made it might be quite legitimate to raise that particular question, as it has been raised in another place. It seems to me however that the questions addressed to the right hon. Gentleman in this House were of a most general and undefined character. I think we ought to have something more definite before saying that there should be an inquiry.
Does not the Prime Minister think that all he has said—assuming it to be absolutely correct, as, of course, I assume it to be—shows the importance of having this subject inquired into, so that the public may really know what are the fixed principles which the right hon. Gentleman says exist in reference to this matter. Does not he think it is really doing a great deal of harm, not only to his Government, but to the whole belief of the country in the purity of public life, when these charges are constantly being made, that no efficient and proper reply should be made?
The Noble Lord knows perfectly well that it is not merely recently that this has been said. As my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Stoke (Lieut.-Colonel J. Ward) pointed out, these charges have been brought against Administrations for the last 40 years, and have been discussed in this House. The principles have been discussed in this House, and the House has repeatedly reaffirmed the present method. If the House wishes to depart from that method, then I agree it is within the competence of the House to make recommendations upon a proper Motion. It was open to the Members of the House to ballot for an opportunity for that purpose earlier in the year, and had there been a universal desire—had there been a desire on the part of the majority of Members—for a discussion upon the subject, it would have been easy for the Government, earlier in the Session, to find time for that purpose; but to ask that we should find time late in the Session, when we are overpressed with work, and when there are possibilities that we may be pressed even further with work—that, I do not think, is fair to those in charge of the business of the House.
Does the right hon. Gentleman mean there will be no opportunity until the ballot next year?
May I ask, Mr. Speaker, whether, if it is the intention of the House to have a discussion on this matter, it will be possible for you to rule that any hon. Member who has already taken an honour, will not take part in the discussion except to explain how he or his predecessor came to have the honour conferred on him?
I am afraid that would be a rather severe tax upon the Chair.
Is the Prime Minister aware that certain Resolutions passed in another place towards the end of 1917 and accepted by him, have lately been ignored by certain of his advisers, and what steps does he propose to take with these advisers to ensure that these Resolutions are carried out in future?
If a desire so widely spread as to cover all quarters of the House and a majority of Members of the House is shown to investigate the system, will the Government find time?
The House, of course, is the master of its own time and of the Government, and if there be a demand from the House of Commons representing the general sense of the House, of course the Government will find time We want the House of Commons to realise that at this time a certain amount of business has to be gone through, and that they will be adding, not only to the difficulties of the Government, but to their own.
Will the Prime Minister consent, supposing 200 Members put down their names? May I have an answer to that question?
May I also have an answer to my question? Is the Prime Minister aware that one of the resolutions which he himself accepted from the House of Lords in 1917 was to the effect that the reasons for the award and a detailed statement of the public services of the individual should be published in the "Gazette" in connection with these honours? Is not it a fact that that resolution as to these details being published has been ignored by the Prime Minister's advisers?
No, I do not think that is so. I think the reasons have been published.
Is it not a fact that the First Commissioner of Works, speaking for the Government in another place, said that particulars Given had to be withdrawn?
A great scandal! They are afraid of an inquiry.
Business Of The House
I would ask the Prime Minister a question with regard to the business of to-day. He will notice on the Order Paper not only the large number, but also the importance of the new Clauses to the Finance Bill. No doubt the Patronage Secretary to the Treasury will have informed him of the very late hours which the House has sat on this Bill in Committee. In these circumstances, will he not recognise that it would not be fair to press the Committee to finish the whole of the Clauses to-night, and that another day should be given for their consideration?
My right hon. Friend the Leader of the House is unfortunately confined to his room owing to a chill. I understand that there was, I will not say an arrangement, but some understanding that the Amendments would be disposed of in three and a half or four days. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] The Government are very pressed for time, and, having regard to the programme in front of us, I am afraid that we shall be forced to sit later into August than we had hoped, and there is always the prospect of having an Autumn Session to deal with Ireland, and we are anxious, naturally, to save every day. At the same time, if it is found impossible to get through these Amendments without unduly taxing the time and the energies of the Committee, then I am afraid that another day must be found, in which case I understand that the Bill will be put on the Order Paper for to-morrow. But I earnestly trust that we may get through to-night, because it is for the convenience of Members that we should save time as far as possible.
I regret very much to hear of the indisposition of the Leader of the House, and I hope that he will soon be quite well again. I would press the request that the House should not sit after 12 o'clock to-night. The Chancellor of the Exchequer will agree with me that the discussions, except on one occasion for an hour or two, were directed to serious points, and he is aware that he need not anticipate anything other than the discussion of really serious points to-day.
Before the Chancellor of the Exchequer answers, might I suggest that there is a desire on the part of everybody not to obstruct, but merely to conduct the business in the ordinary way. It is to the advantage of the country that these Clauses should be discussed more or less in the night and not at 3 or 4 o'clock in the morning when Members are asleep and the reporters are asleep also.
I agree with what the right hon. Member for Peebles has said as to the way in which the discussion has been conducted up to now. I cannot complain at all of the way in which the Clauses have been discussed, and I hope that to-day there will be at least equal expedition. At the same time, I think it possible that we may get through a very large amount, if not all, that is on the Order Paper to-day, and I should not myself at this stage be willing to say that we should conclude at 12 o'clock. It is possible that, with a little extension of time, we may be able to conclude all the business to-night.
National Health Insurance Bill
Reported, with Amendments, from Standing Committee C.
Report to lie upon the Table, and to be printed.
Minutes of the Proceedings of the Standing Committee to be printed.
Bill, as amended ( in the Standing Committee), to be taken into consideration upon Thursday, and to be printed. [Bill 163.]
Harbours, Docks, And Piers (Temporary Increase Of Charges) Bill
Reported, with Amendments, from Standing Committee B.
Report to lie upon the Table, and to be printed.
Minutes of the Proceedings of the Standing Committee to be printed.
Bill, as amended ( in, the Standing Committee), to be taken into consideration To-morrow, and to be printed, [Bill 162.]
Consolidation Bills (Salmon And Freshwater Fisheries Bill Lords)
Report and Special Report from the Joint Committee, in respect of the Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries Bill [ Lords] (pending in the Lords), brought up, and read, with Minutes of Evidence.
Report and Special Report to lie upon the Table, and to be printed. [No. 117.]
Protection Of Animals, &C, Bill
"to consolidate and amend enactments relating to animals, knackers, and knackers' yards, and to make further provision with respect thereto, and with respect to slaughter-houses, and to reenact with Amendments the Captive Birds Shooting (Prohibition) Act, 1921, and to restrict and regulate the training and exhibition and performances of certain animals, and to provide for the registration of certain persons, premises, and places, and to repeal certain enactments, and for purposes connected with the matters aforesaid," presented by Mr. ALFRED DAVIES; supported by Mr. Rhys Davies, Mr. Myers, Mr. Kennedy, and Mr. Wignall; to be read a Second time upon Wednesday, 12th July, and to be printed. [Bill 164.]
Message From The Lords
That they have agreed to,—
Child Murder (Trial) Bill (changed to "Infanticide Bill").
Staffordshire Potteries Water Bill, with Amendments.
Land Drainage Provisional Order (No. 1) Bill, with an Amendment.
Rugby School Bill [ Lords], without Amendment.
That they have passed a Bill, intituled, "An Act to make better provision for the prevention of fire in premises where raw celluloid or cinematograph film is stored or used." [Celluloid and Cinematograph Film Bill [ Lords.]
Land Drainage Provisional Order (No 1) Bill
Lords Amendment to be considered To-morrow.
Selection (Standing Committees)
Standing Committee B
Sir SAMUEL ROBERTS reported from the Committee of Selection; That they had discharged the following Member from Standing Committee B: Mr. Townley; and had appointed in substitution: Lieut.-Colonel Arthur Murray.
Sir SAMUEL ROBERTS further reported from the Committee; That they had discharged the following Member from Standing Committee B (added in respect of the Summer Time Bill [ Lords]) Mr. William Thorne; and had appointed in substitution: Mr. Charles Edwards.
Standing Committee C
Sir SAMUEL ROBERTS further reported from the Committee; That they had discharged the following Member from Standing Committee C: Major Breese; and had appointed in substitution: Mr. Townley.
Sir SAMUEL ROBERTS further reported from the Committee; That they had added the following Member to Standing Committee C (during the consideration of the Electricity Supply Bill [Lords]): Sir Leslie Scott.
Sir SAMUEL ROBERTS further reported from the Committee; That they had discharged the following Members from Standing Committee C: Mr. Trevelyan Thomson and Major Mackenzie Wood; and had appointed in substitution (during the consideration of the Electricity Supply Bill [ Lords]): Mr. Holmes and Mr. MacVeagh.
Sir SAMUEL ROBERTS further reported from the Committee; That they had discharged the following Member from Standing Committee C (added in respect of the Allotments Bill [ Lords]): Mr. Evan Davies; and had appointed in substitution: Mr. Walter Halls.
Sir SAMUEL ROBERTS further reported from the Committee; That they had discharged the following Member from Standing Committee C (added in respect of the Naval Discipline Bill [ Lords] and the Wireless Telegraphy and Signalling Bill): Rear-Admiral Adair; and had appointed in substitution; Vice-Admiral Sir Reginald Hall.
Scottish Standing Committee
Sir SAMUEL ROBERTS further reported from the Committee; That they had added the following Member to the Standing Committee on Scottish Bills: Mr. Guthrie.
Reports to lie upon the Table.
Orders Of The Day
Considered in Committee. [Fourth Day.]
[Mr. JAMES HOPE in the Chair.]
New Clause—(Super-Tax On Undistributed Income Of Certain Companies)
(1) Where it appears to the Special Commissioners that any company to which this Section applies has not, within a reasonable time after the end of any year or other period ending on any date subsequent to the fifth day of April, nineteen hundred and twenty-one, for which accounts have been made up, distributed to its members in such manner as to render the amount distributed liable to be included in the statements to be made by the members of the company of their total income for the purposes of Super-tax, a reasonable part of its actual income from all sources for the said year or other period, the Commissioners may, by notice in writing to the company, direct that for purposes of assessment to Super-tax, the said income of the company shall, for the year or other period specified in the notice, be deemed to be the income of the members, and the amount thereof shall be apportioned among the members:
Provided that, in determining whether any company has or has not distributed a reasonable part of its income as aforesaid, the Commissioners shall have regard not only to the current requirements of the company's business but also to such other requirements as may be necessary for the maintenance and development of that business.
(2) Any Super-tax chargeable under this Section in respect of the amount of the income of the company apportioned to any member of the company shall be assessed upon that member in the name of the company, and, subject as hereinafter provided, shall he payable by the Company, and all the provisions of the Income Tax Acts and any Regulations made thereunder relating to Super-tax assessments and the collection and recovery of Super-tax shall, with any necessary modification, apply to Super-tax assessments and to the collection and recovery of Super-tax charged under this Section.
(3) A notice of charge to Super-tax under this Section shall in the first instance be served on the member of the company on whom the tax is assessed, and if that member does not within twenty-eight days from the date of the notice elect to pay the tax a notice of charge shall be served on the company and the tax shall thereupon become payable by the company:
Provided that nothing in this Sub-section shall prejudice the right to recover from the company the Super-tax charged in respect of any member who has elected as aforesaid but who fails to pay the tax by the first day of January in the year of assessment or within twenty-eight days of the date on which he so elected, whichever is later.
(4) Any undistributed income which has been assessed and charged to Super-tax under this Section shall when subsequently distributed be deemed not to form part of the total income from all sources for the purposes of Super-tax of any individual entitled thereto.
Where a member of a company has been assessed to and has paid Super-tax otherwise than under this Section in respect of any income which has also been assessed and upon which Super-tax has been paid under this Section, he shall, on proof to the satisfaction of the Special Commissioners of the double assessment, be entitled to repayment of so much of the Super-tax so paid by him as was attributable to the inclusion in his total income from all sources of the first-mentioned income.
(5) This Section shall apply to any company—
For the purposes of this Sub-section—
In computing the number of shareholders of a company there shall be excluded any shareholder who is not a beneficial owner of shares or who is an employé of the company, or is the wife or the unmarried infant child of a beneficial owner of shares in the company;
A company shall be deemed to he under the control of any persons where the majority of the voting power or shares is in the hands of those persons or relatives or nominees of those persons, or where the control is by any other means whatever in the hands of those persons;
The expression "relative" means a husband or wife, ancestor, or lineal descendant, brother, or sister;
The expression "nominee" means a person who exercises his voting power or holds shares directly or indirectly on behalf of another person;
Persons in partnership and persons interested in the estate of a deceased person or in property held on a trust shall, respectively, be deemed to be a single person.
(6) In this Section the expression "member" shall include any person having a share or interest in the capital or profits or income of a company, and the expression "employé" shall not include any governing director, managing director, or director.
(7) The provisions contained in the First Schedule to this Act shall have effect as to the computation of the actual income from all sources of the company, the apportionment thereof amongst members of the company, and otherwise for the purpose of carrying into effect, and in connection with, this Section.
(8) The provisions of this Section shall apply for the purposes of assessment to Super-tax for the year 1922–23 and any succeeding year of assessment.—[ Sir R. Horne.]
Brought up, and read the First time.
I beg to Move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."4.0 P.M. During previous discussion I promised the Committee to put down an amended form of the proposals which were put forward in Clause 14. The Committee will remember that that Clause dealt with the case of what I may describe, not very accurately but sufficiently accurately to indicate to the Committee the idea which lies behind it, as the case of the one-man company. It was perfectly obvious that every Member of the Committee was in agreement with the general principle which I was seeking to establish. It is a fact that there have been started and are increasingly promulgated, companies whose chief result is to evade the payment of Super-tax by enabling small numbers of people to put to reserve, sums which should be Super-taxed, but which by reason of our present Company Law can thus evade the ambit of the Super-tax net. That was the foundation of the Clause. Many objections were taken in the course of the discussion, and I recognised the cogency and force of some of the apprehensions which undoubtedly were agitating the mind of Members of the Committee. Accordingly, I asked leave of the Committee to put down a new form of the Clause which might have the effect of meeting some of the difficulties. This new Clause is now on the Paper, and I should like to tell the Committee very briefly the results of the modification. In the first place, the phraseology of the first Clause was objected to on the ground that what we there described as "normal requirements of the business" might lead a company not to apply to reserve sums which might quite properly be used for that purpose. I recognised, of course, the force of that criticism, and I have struck out the words "normal requirements" altogether, and I now provide that a company shall only become subject to the provisions of this Clause if it fails to distribute a reason able part of its actual income from all sources for the year or period, after having regard to all the requirements of the business from whatever point of view you look at it. The Committee will find the words:
I have put in no adjectives at all describing the requirements, and I think probably that will alleviate the difficulty felt by some hon. Members. Accordingly, it would be open to those who have to come to a judgment upon the matter to look at all the requirements which the business may have—not merely to current requirements, but everything that is necessary for the maintenance and development of the business. These words are wide enough to cover everything that a business may require. I notice that in some of the Amendments which have been put down to this Clause an attempt has been made to enumerate the kind of things for which companies might ordinarily require to set aside reserves. In the interests of the companies themselves. I would venture to deprecate any such enumeration. As a lawyer, I am very well aware that as soon as you begin to enumerate things, you exclude everything else that you do not enumerate. It is very much better to leave your provisions in wide terms if you wish to aid the companies rather than to set forth a schedule of things to which you are having special regard. If you make your enumeration, the maxim of the law immediately applies that the statement of one thing excludes the other. Therefore, I have put this Clause in as wide terms as I possibly can in order to allay apprehensions which anyone may feel that they will not be allowed consideration in the widest form of all the circumstances against which a company may have to provide in its discretion. It was said in the course of the Debate that there are something like 66,000 private companies in this country operating under our Company Law, and apprehension was felt that there would be an attempt at scrutiny of all these companies. I may say, quite candidly, that no such intention ever occurred to our minds. Of course, the only intention was to get at the companies which were operating so as to defeat our Super-tax Law, and the kind of idea in our heads was that the number of companies, which at the moment one would desire to investigate, was confined to a very few hundreds out of the 66,000 companies which are registered under the Company Law. The Super-tax only began in this country in 1909, and though there may have been some inducement, at any rate, there was no such great inducement prior to 1909, as was created by the Super-tax Law of that year. Accordingly, I propose that this Clause shall apply to any company which has been registered since 5th April, 1909, under the Companies Acts, 1908 to 1917. I am told that takes out of the provisions of the Clause at least 25,000 companies, which were registered prior to that day. My information is that, of the remainder, at least 30 per cent. are small companies, with a total income of not more than £1,000 per year and which, accordingly, do not come within the ambit of these provisions. Therefore, the number of companies which could become by any possibility the subject of investigation would be very greatly restricted and limited by the proposal which I now make. There is a further restriction, which is designed to meet one of the Amendments, which was proposed, I think, by two hon. Members from Glasgow. It is that the Clause can only apply to companies which are under the control of not more than five persons. The proposal made by the hon. Members for Glasgow was, I think, four persons. I suggest the number of five as being more suitable. I hope the Committee will see that I have been endeavouring to the utmost of my ability to meet the points which have been put and to design a Clause which will at least show that we are desirous of excluding from any troublesome investigations the great mass of the companies in this country and to strike at only those which are engaged in devices to escape the operation of the Super-tax. I have only one more remark to make, and it is in connection with an Amendment suggested by the hon. Member for North-East Derbyshire (Mr. Holmes). His Amendment was designed to put upon the auditor of the company the duty of saving investigation in cases where he could give a certificate that in his opinion the company's method of distribution of its proceeds was entirely justified and provided an appeal on the part of the Inland Revenue to the Board of Referees. The Committee will remember that I indicated some willingness to introduce some such principle into the Clause. There was, however, quite evident opposition on the part of various Members sitting on both sides, and I have since discussed the matter with several people very intimately acquainted with company business and also with the auditing of company accounts. For the moment' I have arrived at the conclusion that it may be quite possible to work this matter satisfactorily without any such provision, but, of course, in the event of the Committee holding the opinion that some such precaution would be an added advantage, I am perfectly willing to reconsider the matter."That, in determining whether any company has or has not distributed a reasonable part of its income as aforesaid, the Commissioners shall have regard not only to the current requirements of the company's business but also to such other requirements as may be necessary for the maintenance and development of that business."
I should like, first of all, to thank the Chancellor of the Exchequer for the very kind and courteous attention which he has given to the representations made to him with regard to the original Clause. The original Clause met with rather devastating cross fire from two totally different points of view. It was objected to because it was calculated to be unfair to a number of trading companies which it was not the right hon. Gentleman's intention to hamper or to unduly interfere with. He has met those criticisms to a considerable extent. Then the Clause was met on the other side with the objection that it was not likely to effect its purpose to any considerable extent because there were two perfectly easy ways in which the particular person sought to be caught by the Clause could evade it. He could either reconstruct his company abroad, or he could make such arrangements as would make it a company not of a private character, and by either of those means he could entirely escape from the Clause. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has not met that objection in the least. Indeed, he has been unable to do so because he is bound by his Ways and Means Resolution, which confines the Clause entirely to com- panies registered in England and companies which being registered in England are of a private character. The right hon. Gentleman no doubt will say that, if he goes on with what I should describe as this ineffective Clause, he will capture a certain number of these people who, either through ignorance or carelessness, will not take the trouble or go to the expense necessary in order to get out of this Clause. That may be perfectly true, and that might be a good argument for going on with the Clause provided that it was not calculated to do harm otherwise. But, much as the right hon. Gentleman has tried to meet the other points raised against this Clause, he has not met some which will undoubtedly hamper a great many concerns which ought not to be hampered and which ought not to have this tax imposed upon them.In all legislation of this kind there may be hard cases, and, if the Chancellor of the Exchequer were going to catch a large number of those people whom we want to catch, then there would be justification for his Clause, notwithstanding the fact that it might create two or three hard cases, but if you are going to do very little indeed to stop the hole in the net, I seriously suggest that it is not right to proceed with the Clause when there is the danger of doing harm. I go further than that, and I say that it is my very carefully considered opinion that this Clause, if passed, will do more harm to the Chancellor as tax collector than if he lets it alone, and my chief reason for saying that is that a very large number of people at any rate will take advantage of the opportunity which is open to them of getting out of this Clause by reconstructing their companies abroad. The effect of that would not merely be to get out of the Super-tax which this Clause is intended to fix upon them, but by doing so they will also, in nine cases out of ten, get out of paying Income Tax on their profits, which they do pay at the present time. I ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer to pay very serious attention to that indeed. He knows that a foreign company naturally does not pay British Income Tax. It is true that the shareholder in the foreign company, if he is a British subject and liable to tax, pays Income Tax on the dividends which he receives, but the whole essence of these companies is that they are not paying dividends, but keeping their profits and accumulating them in order to avoid Super-tax, and to the extent to which they do that and refrain from distributing among their members the profits which they earn, those profits which they refrain from distributing will not bear Income Tax. That is such a very big question indeed that, in my opinion, the Income Tax which the Chancellor will lose from the companies which are reconstructed abroad will probably be far more than the Super-tax which he will recover from those comparatively few people who will not take the advantage of evading this Clause by registering their companies abroad. I do not want at this stage to go into criticisms of the Chancellor's new Clause in so far as he has endeavoured to meet the cases of the companies whom he does not want to hit; I shall have something to say about that on later Amendments to this Clause, if the right hon. Gentleman persists with it, but it seems to me that all I have got to prove for the purposes of my case now is that there is some chance of some companies being ill-treated under this Clause. If that be so, that takes away the justification for this Clause, unless the Clause is going to be thoroughly effective. When you add to the fact that the Clause is not going to be very effective the fact that it is probably going to lose a very large amount of Income Tax, I suggest that there is a very strong case indeed for asking the Chancellor to abandon this Clause altogether. In conclusion, I would like to say that I have every sympathy with the right hon. Gentleman's attempts to tax those people who are improperly trying to avoid Super-tax. I do not want anyone to attach too much importance to my use of the word "improperly," because it is admitted by everybody, I think, that a man is entitled to get out of paying tax if he can do so without fraud or dishonesty, and it is the Chancellor's duty to try and stop his getting out of it, but I want to say that where you are going to try to stop those people from improperly getting out of Super-tax, we feel that an attempt which is likely to do more harm than good by loss of Income Tax should be abandoned until such time as legislation can be introduced which will be effective. In my opinion, for what it is worth, it is possible to legislate in such a way as to recover this Super-tax from these men, notwithstanding the fact that they register their companies abroad. That is a subject for discussion at the proper time. I know there are certain difficulties in the way, but I believe, myself, that it can be done, and I put down a roughly drafted Amendment originally to this Clause in order to indicate very shortly the way in which I thought it could be done. The objection to that, as I have already stated, is that the right hon. Gentleman and the Committee are precluded by the Ways and Means Resolution from moving a Clause which will hit foreign companies. I am not very well up in the Rules of this Committee or this House, but I believe I am right in saying that the right hon. Gentleman can recommit this Bill for this particular Clause and get a new Ways and Means Resolution, which would not confine him to dealing only with English companies, and only with companies of a private character. If he would do that, I can assure him that I, for one, and a great many who think with me, would do our best to support him in a Clause which would be effective against those whom he does want to reach, and which would be calculated to do as little damage as possible to the honest trading concerns. I should like to move that this Clause be read a Second time on this day six months.
That is not the custom with new Clauses.
I do not think there is much chance of people registering their companies abroad, and, if they do, they will be taxed by foreign countries very seriously; besides, their doing so will be perfectly good evidence that they wish to avoid paying their proper share of the taxation of the country, and I should support the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he brought in legislation to withdraw the protection of the British flag from companies trying to do that sort of thing. I am able to say that I and those who think with me agree to accept this Clause, as we could not get the Chancellor to agree to the words put down in my Amendment last week. We think it is a great advance upon the other Clause. The other Clause was unworkable, but we support this Clause in detail, subject to such verbiage as we shall put forward to make it clearer.
The hon. Member says, "I and those who agree with me." Does he mean the Chambers of Commerce?