Anglo-Persian Oil Company (Payment of Calls) Bill.

– in the House of Commons on 5th July 1922.

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Order for Third Heading read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the Third time."

Photo of Mr William Adamson Mr William Adamson , Fife Western

There are several things in connection with the Bill that I should like to bring to the notice of the Minister in charge. I do not raise any serious objection to the objects of the Bill. In connection with the Anglo-Persian Company, the investment the Government has made is very good. It is one of the very few investments which the Government have made that has turned out successfully; but there are several considerations that I would like to discuss with the Minister. We had some of them discussed in Committee upstairs, but the Minister on that occasion did not see fit to give any of the safeguards that were asked. With regard to the Anglo-Persian Oil Company, the House should realise that we hold the controlling interest and consequently we ought to be able to control the policy and the operations of the company. It is perfectly true that we have two directors who sit on the directorate, but there are certain features of the company's work with which these directors of ours do not interfere. I understand from explanations that have been made previously in connection with our interest in this company that, so far as the commercial side is concerned, that is left severely alone by our two representatives on the directorate. It is left almost entirely to the other directors appointed by the other interests in this company. To my mind that is not business. It simply leads to this position: that while the people of this country are finding the bulk of the money invested in this Anglo-Persian Oil Company, the concern is run by others who dictate the policy and the operations of the company. Having the controlling interest of the company, the House ought to see that the money is used under proper conditions.

The second consideration I want to put to the Minister in charge is that we ought to use the controlling interest we hold in the concern to prevent the Anglo-Persian Oil Company from entering into agreement with any company for the purpose of keeping up the price of oil. British industry, in the past two years particularly, has had a terrific struggle to live. We have had, again and again, statements made by business men in this House of the difficulties under which British industry is being run. No one will deny that the use of oil enters more and more into industry every day that we live, and there is no doubt but that the high price of oil adds to the burden of industry, and the price of oil undoubtedly has been kept up by these big combines.

Photo of Mr John Whitley Mr John Whitley , Halifax

I really do not see how this arises on the Rill under consideration. This is purely for the payment of certain calls on the shares. It would have been very proper under the original Bill, but I do not think it now arises.

Photo of Mr William Adamson Mr William Adamson , Fife Western

With all deference, I am only commenting on what is in the Bill. One other point I should like to put is this: We hold the controlling interest in this company, and in connection with the call that is being made we shall pay the preponderating proportion of it. Surely, when a call of that kind is being made upon us, we are entitled to review the conditions under which the money is to be used.

Photo of Mr John Whitley Mr John Whitley , Halifax

I fear the right hon. Gentleman has not exactly appreciated the position. We entered into the obligation when the original Bill was passed, and this Bill is merely to fulfil that obligation.

Photo of Mr William Adamson Mr William Adamson , Fife Western

I had almost finished, as far as the second consideration goes. I now want to put my third consideration, and I hope I may be more fortunate than I was with regard to the second. The third consideration is also put with the object of helping British industry. We on this side of the House are sometimes blamed for having no interest in industry. We are blamed sometimes for doing all sorts of things to cripple industry. We claim, however, to be quite as much interested in seeing British industry conducted under fair and proper conditions as any other section of the House, and in the point I am now putting we are showing our keen interest in having as few burdens as possible laid on it. Under present conditions industry needs to have every possible burden removed: it requires to be stimulated and nursed as much as possible. What I am going to suggest to the Minister, in the third consideration I wish to lay before him, is that none of the money we are voting to-night ought to be used by this company or by subsidiary companies for building vessels in yards that are not British yards and for ships that are not registered as British ships.

Photo of Mr John Whitley Mr John Whitley , Halifax

I think this raises just the same point as the other considerations. Clearly this is an obligation into which we entered on the original Bill, and it is not open to review on this Bill.

Photo of Mr William Adamson Mr William Adamson , Fife Western

I bow to your ruling, but I would have liked to be able to amplify the last consideration, because I think the House will agree with me when I say that many Members still present are very much interested in work being kept for our own men and our own yards. That is the point I was putting, but I do not want to come into conflict with your ruling, Sir. I have now only to thank the House for the courtesy which they have extended to me and you, Mr. Speaker, for your kindness in letting me get in the points I have put. All I want to say, in conclusion, is that I hope the Minister will take note of the three considerations. [Laughter.] I mean that seriously. I have not been able to amplify them as I would have liked to do, but I think the hon. Gentleman appreciates the three points, and I hope this is a matter which will be discussed by his representative on the directorate of the Anglo-Persian Oil Company. The nation's money ought not to be used in the way in which it is being used in connection with that company without the nation, through its directors, taking proper control, and seeing that the company is run in a way that will not conflict with the general interests of British industry.

Sir J. BAIRD rose

Photo of Mr John Whitley Mr John Whitley , Halifax

I do not think the hon. Gentleman can be allowed to reply. If the subjects raised in the speech were out of order, it is out of order to reply.

Photo of Mr Donald Maclean Mr Donald Maclean , Peebles and Southern

I am sure that several of the remarks of my right hon. Friend were in order and the Minister evidently deems that an answer is required to the speech, and I do suggest that that portion of my right hon. Friend's speech which was in order might be replied to.

Photo of Mr John Whitley Mr John Whitley , Halifax

I will listen to the Minister if he has anything to say.

Photo of Mr John Baird Mr John Baird , Rugby

I think in fairness to the Company it should be said that they have under consideration proposals to spend over £1,000,000 on the purchase of plant and other materials.

Photo of Mr Austin Hopkinson Mr Austin Hopkinson , Mossley

Is the right hon. Gentleman in order in discussing a matter of this sort on the Bill?

Photo of Mr John Whitley Mr John Whitley , Halifax

I am giving the hon. Baronet the same chance as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Fife (Mr. Adamson) had.

Photo of Mr John Baird Mr John Baird , Rugby

They are also spending over £2,000,000 on the purchase of ships. When people complain in this way of a concern in which a large amount of money is invested, I think it only right that this should be known. More than that: recently my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade was at the opening of their factory at Swansea, where 1,000,000 tons of oil is dealt with per annum, and 1,500 people are employed. It is only fair to refer to these points in connection with what was raised by the right hon. Gentleman and what, I think, you agree was in order.