HC Deb 01 December 1937 vol 329 cc2067-9
48 and 49. Mr. A. Edwards

asked the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence (I) when the report of the Falmouth Committee will be completed, and when it will be available to Members;

(2) the number of processes for extracting oil from coal which have been investigated by the Falmouth Committee to date, and how many of these are British; how many people have offered to give evidence before the Falmouth Committee and how many have been refused; and how many people have been invited to give evidence and the names of those who have accepted?

51. Mr. W. Joseph Stewart

asked the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence when the report of the Falmouth Committee will be completed; and whether it will he issued as a Command Paper?

The Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence (Sir Thomas Inskip)

I am informed that the Falmouth Committee have now completed their report, and that it will be submitted to me during the next few days. Until I have seen the report, I cannot say whether it will be published. In any case there can be no question of disclosing confidential information contained in the report. I recognise, however, the great interest which the House has taken in this matter, and I shall bear that in mind in considering the question of any publication. As regards the questions concerning the evidence which has been placed before the committee, I am not in a position to answer these except in connection with the question of publication.

50. Mr. Edwards

asked the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence whether he will replace Professor Egerton, a member of the Falmouth Committee, who has accepted a post with an oil company, by someone who has no interest in the production or distribution of oil, in view of the importance of having an impartial investigation into the matters referred to this committee?

Sir T. Inskip

I am informed that Professor Egerton, who is Professor of Chemical Technology at the Imperial College of Science, has been acting as adviser, together with other scientists, to the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company on scientific questions since November, 1936. It is not the fact that he has accepted any post with an oil company which gives him an interest in the production or distribution of oil. No question, therefore, arises as to his replacement.

Mr. Edwards

Is it not a fact that a promise was given to this House that the committee would be composed entirely of people without any direct or indirect interest in the production or distribution of oil?

Sir T. Inskip

As I 'have said, Professor Egerton has no direct or indirect interest in the production or distribution of oil.

Mr. Noel-Baker

Do we understand that Professor Egerton is a paid employe of this oil company?

Sir T. Inskip

No, he is not a paid employé. I have stated the position quite accurately in the answer I have given, that he has acted for a year as an adviser, together with other scientists, to advise the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company on scientific subjects.

Mr. Attlee

Is he a paid adviser or an unpaid adviser?

Sir T. Inskip

He is remunerated, I am informed, by the Principal in Science of the Imperial College of Science by a sum, of which I have no information, which is in the nature of a retaining fee to enable him to give his services as required for scientific questions.

Mr. Attlee

What is the right hon. Gentleman's interpretation of direct interest in an oil company? Surely employment on a retaining fee is direct interest in that company?

Sir T. Inskip

It is a matter of opinion, but I should not agree with the right hon. Gentleman that it is the case, any more than it could be said that a member of the legal profession is interested in any companies which from time to time he is called upon to advise.

Mr. Attlee

Would the right hon. Gentleman consider it correct procedure for a barrister who is in possession of a permanent retaining fee from a company acting an an arbitrator in an independent capacity?

Sir T. Inskip

I do not accept that as an accurate description of Professor Egerton's position. He was only called upon to investigate a question that his peculiar scientific knowledge concerning the production of oil from coal fitted him to investigate, and I suggest to the House that there is nothing in the position he has occupied which conflicts with his duties in that respect.

Mr. Attlee

I understand he Las been paid on behalf of the company to investigate certain processes of obtaining oil from coal. Surely, that puts him in a position of being interested in those processes?

Sir T. Inskip

I cannot accept the statement which the right hon. Gentleman has last made. I think I accurately stated the position. The Professor is called upon from time to time to advise the company on scientific questions.

Mr. Lawson

May I ask if this gentleman was engaged by the company after he was appointed to the committee?

Sir T. Inskip

No; I speak subject to correction, but I think he accepted the position with the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company before he was appointed to the committee.

Mr. A. Henderson

Does he receive an annual payment, or, on the analogy of the barrister, does he receive a fee for each opinion?

Sir T. Inskip

He has only held the position for one year, and I understand he receives a retaining fee. It is paid, so far, annually.

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