HC Deb 30 November 1922 vol 159 cc1055-6
Captain W. BENN

I am very much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman the Postmaster-General for being present when I said that I wished to ask a question of him. It is with reference to the announcement which appears in the newspaper to-day that Mr. Kellaway has become a director of the Marconi Company. I do not propose to raise the general question which is here involved. It is a very important question of public policy, as I think, that Ministers or others connected with Government Departments—


Am I not entitled to take precedence over the hon. and gallant Gentleman, seeing that I gave notice?


If it were a question involving debate, I should give the hon. Member precedence; but I took this to be a question asked merely for information, and I do not think it will take more than a minute or so.

Captain BENN

I shall not detain the House for more than a few moments. The general question of public officials resigning their appointments and taking up appointments with business firms with whom they had official connection is, I think, a very important one, and I think the practice is objectionable. I observe in to-night's "Star" newspaper that at the last meeting of the Marconi Wireless Telegraph Co. Mr. Marconi stated that there were claims outstanding, and that conversations of a very encouraging nature had taken place at an interview with Mr. Kellaway, and he had no doubt this was a man of action and progress— that is quite obvious—and he therefore thought "a little more patience on our part may be well rewarded." What I wish to ask the Postmaster-General, who has, of course, no personal knowledge of the intentions of his predecessor, is this. In reference to the broadcasting arrangement, in which Mr. Marconi is very much interested, supposing there are decisions of Mr. Kellaway's which have yet to be implemented by the Post Office, will he undertake to say those decisions will be most carefully revised by himself in a way which will re-assure the public mind as to their being in the public interest?

The POSTMASTER-GENERAL (Mr. Neville Chamberlain)

I am much obliged to the hon. and gallant Gentleman for giving me notice, which only reached me a quarter of an hour ago, that he intended to raise this question. I have not had the advantage of seeing the "Star" newspaper, and I was unaware until I had his communication that Mr. Kellaway had become a director of the Marconi Company. As to the engagements which Mr. Kellaway may have made with the Marconi Company in his capacity of Postmaster-General, I really do not know what they are. I have only been a comparatively short time in my present position, and am not acquainted with the details of all the negotiations which have taken place in the past. I think my hon. and gallant Friend is probably unduly disturbed. The reputation of my predecessor is such that I think the House may fairly be satisfied that nothing he would do would be dishonourable or prejudicial to the interests of the country. As to examining the contracts or promises which may have been made, that I shall have to do in any case. I think my hon. and gallant Friend may rest assured that in examining those contracts I shall endeavour to see that the interests of the country are put above everything else.

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