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Clause 20—(Payments By Commission In Respect Of Profits For Period Preceding Date Of Transfer)

Volume 440: debated on Wednesday 23 July 1947

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Lords Amendment: In page 26, line 27, at end, insert:

"(7) In addition to any sums payable under the preceding provisions of this Section, the Commission shall pay—
  • (a) to the bodies specified in the next succeeding Subsection the sums therein specified; and
  • (b) to any other body, being such a body as is specified in Subsection (1) of this Section, such sums, if any, as the Minister may direct, being sums which—
  • (i) could properly have been brought into account as net revenue (or as an appropriation in aid thereof) by the body in question in the final period if they had followed the same accounting practice as in the base period, or, where the base period is more than one year, in the last year of the base period, applicable to the body in question for the purposes of the relevant agreement mentioned in the said Subsection (1), not being amounts appropriated from reserve; and
  • (ii) do not arise in respect of any ownership of, or interest in, any part of the body's undertaking which is an excluded undertaking within the meaning of the said agreement; and
  • (iii) are not required to be brought into account in the net revenue account of the body under and for the purposes of the said agreement
  • (8) The payments which the Commission are by paragraph (a) of the last preceding Subsection required to make are—
  • (a) to the Great Western Railway Company, the sum of five hundred and seventy four thousand pounds;
  • (b) to the London and North Eastern Railway Company, the sum of one hundred and fifty thousand pounds;
  • (c) to the London Midland and Scottish Railway Company, the sum of seven hundred and ninety-nine thousand pounds;
  • (d) to the Southern Railway Company, the sum of two hundred and twenty-seven thousand pounds;
  • (e) to the London Passenger Transport Board, the sum of sixty-three thousand pounds.
  • Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment." —[ Mr. G. R Strauss.]

    Here, again, a question of finance is involved in this Amendment, and I wonder whether we might be told by the Government what sums are likely to be incurred. I can imagine some Members opposite being suspicious at being asked to incur expenditure by another place, and I do not see why we should not have some idea as to what may be involved in this Amendment.

    I am always willing to learn from anyone, and I rejoice in the fact that sometimes there can be found people who can give information instead of asking for it. Can we know from the Government how this money is apportioned, and what the total cost is likely to be?

    This Amendment was agreed to in another place. It is the result of discussions which took place with the interested parties following on discussions which we had in Committee when we were considering this matter. It was there alleged that the Bill provided an inadequate amount for the railway companies to distribute to their shareholders, and the wording was drawn so tightly that they would only be able to distribute certain net revenues and would have to exclude certain amounts which they would, in the ordinary way, have been enabled to distribute to their shareholders. We undertook in Committee to consider the case which was put up, and to see whether any injustice was in fact being clone, and whether the shareholders were properly entitled to a greater distribution than the Bill as drafted allowed.

    We considered this matter very carefully with the interests concerned, and it seemed to us that they put up an unanswerable case in respect of some parts of their claim. We met that case. Each railway company concerned was considered on the merits of their claim and the principal circumstances affecting them. Finally, we agreed that they would be allowed to distribute the extra amount shown in Subsection (8) on the Amendment Paper. The sums differ because each railway company is in a different situation, and one company is able to substantiate a greater claim than another. The total sum is quite substantial—£1,800,000—but we are satisfied that this amount could justifiably be paid out to the shareholders. We invite the House to accept the Lords Amendment because we have gone into the matter exceedingly closely, and we can assure the House that no one is receiving more than they are properly entitled to get.

    May I thank the hon. Gentleman for his very clear explanation? It is so seldom that I find myself in agreement with the hon. Gentleman that I feel additionally surprised tonight. It is customary to declare one's interest, and I declare my interest in the London, Midland and Scottish Railway Company, the largest beneficiary under the proposed Lords Amendment which the Parliamentary Secretary invites the House to accept. I only hope that his belated conversion is a happy augury, and that when we come to discuss the more detailed matters of compensation, the hon. Gentleman will show himself just as reasonable as he has been on this matter. I am sure that these five crumbs of comfort will be gratefully accepted by those who are concerned, and who, up to the present, have thought that they have not been treated very generously by the compensation proposed.

    How will the payments authorised by this Amendment be made by the Commission: Are they covered in a Financial Resolution, or not?

    These payments are not to be paid by the Commission, but are moneys which the railway companies will be authorised to distribute to their shareholders.

    Question put, and agreed to.