HC Deb 14 June 1938 vol 337 cc39-41
Mr. Attlee (by Private Notice)

asked the Secretary of State for Air whether he has any statement to make with regard to the appointment of a whole-time chairman of Imperial Airways?

The Secretary of State for Air (Sir Kingsley Wood)

I am glad to be able to inform the House that the board of Imperial Airways have, with the full concurrence of His Majesty's Government, invited Sir John Reith to become whole-time chairman of the company and that Sir John Reith has accepted this invitation. At the same time the board of the company have nominated Sir James Price to be a director. Sir James Price was, until recently, Deputy-Secretary of the Ministry of Labour and his appointment to the board will enable the company to draw on his wide experience of labour and staff questions. The directors have also expressed to me their strong refutation of the personal charges which were made against them in the House during the Debate on 31st May. The board are asking the new chairman to investigate the charges made against the management of the company, and when these inquiries have been completed, they propose to make a public statement on the matter.

In view of the fact that the appointment of a whole-time chairman must obviously carry with it the position of chief executive of the company, the present managing director, Mr. Woods Humphery, has placed his resignation in the hands of the board. His resignation has been accepted by the board who have placed on record their high appreciation of his services. In order to facilitate the task of the new chairman during the early months of his chairmanship, Mr. Woods Humphery has offered to make available his knowledge and experience to the new chairman, which he has readily accepted.

Mr. Attlee

Do I understand from that answer that the Board propose to refute the statements made by the committee of inquiry, on which the statements made in this House were founded?

Sir K. Wood

No, Sir. The Board have expressed to me their own refutation, so far as the personal charges that were made against them are concerned, and they have requested their new chairman to make a personal investigation into the matter, and when his investigation has been made it will be made public.

Mr. Attlee

Will that report be made public to the House?

Sir K. Wood

The report will be made public generally.

Mr. Benjamin Smith

Will the right hon. Gentleman now reconsider his refusal to appoint a committee of inquiry, so that we could have an impartial body to make that investigation and to report to this House?

Mr. H. Morrison

Can the Minister state what salary the new chairman of the company is to be paid?

Sir K. Wood

I do not know.

Mr. Mander

Is Sir James Price to be a full-time director, and is it proposed to appoint any additional full-time director?

Sir K. Wood

I think that Sir James Price will, at any rate in the first instance, be an ordinary director, and the question of the appointment of other directors will be considered in view of the change of circumstances.

Rear-Admiral Sir Murray Sueter

May I congratulate the Secretary of State on the making of this excellent appointment of Sir John Reith—

Hon. Members


Mr. Bevan

Is the reason for the appointment of Sir John Reith his well-known opposition to trade unionism at Broadcasting House?

Mr. De la Bère

May we have an assurance that Sir John Reith is to leave the British Broadcasting Corporation?