HC Deb 13 April 1948 vol 449 cc797-9
The Minister of Fuel and Power (Mr. Gaitskell)

I will, with permission, make a statement on the appointment of the Chairman and Deputy-Chairman of the Gas Council.

The House will recall that during the passage of the Coal Industry Nationalisation Act and the Electricity Act certain members of the Central Boards were selected and appointed as organising committees to make the necessary plans and preparations so as to avoid an unduly long interim period between the passing of the Bills and the vesting dates.

The circumstances of gas are rather different, but I consider it desirable to secure the advice and assistance of the prospective Chairman and Deputy-Chairman of the proposed Gas Council in making necessary preparatory arrangements, and Mr. A. E. Sylvester and Colonel H. C. Smith have accepted my invitation to become Chairman and Deputy-Chairman respectively when the Gas Bill becomes an Act of Parliament. With the approval of the Treasury I propose to fix a salary of £6,000 a year for the Chairman and £5,000 for the Deputy-Chairman.

Mr. Churchill

Has the Minister obtained the concurrence of the Secretary of State for War for these large new salaries?

Mr. Gaitskell

It will not have escaped the right hon. Gentleman's notice that these salaries are, in fact, rather lower than the salaries paid to the Chairmen of the Coal Board and the Electricity Board.

Mrs. Manning

In view of the fact that women are the greatest users of domestic gas, would it not have been advisable to have given one of these highly-paid posts to a woman?

Mr. Churchill

Before the right hon. Gentleman answers that question, will he take into consideration the fact that though women may be the greatest consumers of gas, men are in many cases the greater producers of gas?

Mr. Gaitskell

I think that it would be more appropriate to consider the point raised by my hon. Friend when we come to the appointment of the Consultative Councils.

Mr. Erroll

Can the Minister outline the qualifications of these two gentlemen?

Mr. Gaitskell

Yes. Mr. Sylvester was employed as the governor of the Gas Light and Coke Company until fairly recently when owing to illness, which has happily now passed away, he had to resign. [Interruption.] I think what I said was quite clear. I said that owing to the fact that he had an illness, he had to resign that post, but he is now much better. Colonel Smith is the managing director of the Tottenham and District Gas Company and succeeded Mr. Sylvester as chairman of the British Gas Council.

Mr. Gallacher

Would not the Minister consider employing ordinary workers on these jobs, so that thereby he would be able to apply the point raised in the first supplementary question and pare down these quite unnecessary salaries?