HC Deb 13 March 1946 vol 420 cc1167-9

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."

6.8 p.m.

The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Glenvil Hall)

I understand that right hon. Gentlemen and hon. Gentlemen opposite, although they did not put down an Amendment to this Clause, would like some further explanation as to why we propose to change the manner in which the Commissioners are appointed, but I do not know if there is really much I can add to what I said when we took the Second Reading of this Bill. Perhaps those who read that Debate will remember that these Commissioners are appointed under Section 12 of an Act which was passed in 1875, and regularly every five years from that time until 1941 the Commissioners names actually appeared in a Bill which passed through this House. Fairly recently we had a Bank of England Bill where another method of appointing directors was laid down, namely, appointment by the King. We suggest that that is a much better method than what I described on Second Reading as the rather archaic method laid down for the appointment of these Commissioners under the Public Works Loans Act of 1875. We not only seek to change the method of appointment; we also suggest that they should serve for a stated time of four years, and that there should be 12 of them. In the past, the number has, I gather, varied from 16 downwards, and the number at the present time, I think, about 11. We propose that the number should be limited to 12, and that they should serve for four years, except during the initial period when they will retire four at a time during each of the first three years, and thereafter, according to their appointment, at the end of every fourth year.

They receive no emoluments In the past, they have been public-spirited men who have given their time quite freely to this work. It is more than likely that in the immediate years ahead they will have much more work to do and certainly far more than they had to do during the war years. It may well be that some of these Commissioners will not be able to serve for the whole of the period for which they are appointed. It is, therefore, necessary that we should have a much more flexible method of appointing them. For these reasons, we ask the House to accept our proposal as the proper one for the future. We have no intention of making changes in the Commissioners simply for the sake of making changes, but we feel that, as and when Commissioners go, for one reason or another, we should be able to change them by a much easier method than in the past. We have no intention of altering the powers conferred on them. Those powers will continue as hitherto. All we suggest is that the method of appointing them should be similar to that laid down in the Bank of England Act, which is much more up to date and, in our opinion, a much better method all round.

6.15 p.m.

Mr. Assheton

I am obliged to the Financial Secretary for his explanation. I am not sure that I feel this new method of appointment has so very much to commend it. There seem to me to have been advantages in the original procedure. We do not intend to press the matter, although we did feel that it was our duty to draw attention to the change that was being made. I would like to join with the Financial Secretary in expressing sincere admiration which hon. Members on this side feel for the work of the Public Works Loans Commissioners. They are gentlemen who do a great deal of unpaid public service, and the whole Committee ought to feel indebted to them.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 2 to 5 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedules 1 and 2 agreed to.

Bill reported, without Amendment; read the Third time, and passed.