HC Deb 29 June 1948 vol 452 cc2025-9

4.2 p.m.

The President of the Board of Trade (Mr. Harold Wilson)

I beg to move, in page 1, line 9, to leave out "three," and to insert "four."

In our previous discussion on the constitution of the Monopoly Commission some doubts were expressed by Members on both sides about the size of the Commission. I think we are all agreed that the Commission must be large enough to do their job, and I gave an undertaking in Standing Committee that I would reconsider the question of its constitution, to see whether we could put a higher figure into the Bill. The previous proposal was that the Commission should consist of not fewer than three nor more than eight members, and this Amendment and the following Amendment would have the effect of amending this to "not less than four nor more than 10." At the beginning, in view of the load which we think the Commission will have to carry in their early stages, I propose to appoint six members to the Commission, including the chairman.

Major Sir David Maxwell Fyfe (Liverpool, West Derby)

We on this side appreciate that the right hon. Gentleman has sought to meet our point of view, and we shall not divide the Committee on this Amendment.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendment made: In page 1, line 10, leave out "eight," and insert "ten."—[Mr. Wilson.]

Mr. Wilson

I beg to move, in page 2, line 14, to leave out from the first "The," to the end of line 16, and to insert: Commission shall appoint a secretary to the Commission and may appoint such other officers and such servants of the Commission as the Commission may, with the consent of the Board of Trade and the Treasury, determine: Provided that the appointment of any person to be the secretary to the Commission shall be subject to the approval of the Board. This, again, is an Amendment to give effect to an assurance I gave in Standing Committee, following a very powerful speech by the right hon. and learned Member for West Derby (Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe). When the Bill was presented I thought it would be appropriate that the Board of Trade should appoint the secretariat of the Commission, but the right hon. and learned Gentleman and some of his colleagues, and some of my hon. Friends on this side, convinced me that it was right that the Commission's staff should be appointed by the Commission themselves.

Mr. Pickthorn (Cambridge University)

I think the draft is a little difficult here. I apologise if I am wrong but I hope the right hon. Gentleman will listen to me for a minute. As it is drafted, it says the Commission shall appoint a secretary to the Commission and may appoint such other officers and such servants of the Commission as the Commission may, with the consent of the Board of Trade and the Treasury, determine provided that the appointment of any person to be the secretary to the Commission shall be subject to the approval of the Board. That is in the case of a secretary consent to the nomination is necessary, but not in the other cases. I want to be quite sure about that. If that is so, I would tentatively suggest that the drafting would be better—I do not propose to endeavour to redraft it now—if there were something of this sort, "May appoint such other number and class of officers and servants," or, "such other numbers and classes of officers or servants," or something of that sort. As the words stand there is a real contradiction between the main part and the proviso. I do not know if I make myself clear, but I think that that is so. If I am told that the draftsman has thought twice about this and is quite sure the words mean what it is intended, I am prepared not to press the matter, but I hope the right hon. Gentleman will give us some enlightment on the subject.

Mr. Scollan (Renfrew, Western)

May I also say that in reading over this Amendment I have got a wrong impression. It could be that the word "Board" would be some other board than the Commission. I cannot make out what it is.

Mr. Wilson

The hon. Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn) was quite right in his interpretation of what this Amendment means. The establishment of the Commission and the number of posts to be created, are, of course, subject to the consent of the Board of Trade and the Treasury. The Committee will agree that that is right. We do not want to multiply further than is necessary the expense of staff. The second part of the Amendment means that the actual choice of person is to be approved by the Board of Trade and where the word "Board" is used it means the Board of Trade. The word "Board" is quite a common form which goes back over some 200 years or more. I am assured that this drafting is right, and this was the best form to cover the point which the hon. Member the senior Burgess for Cambridge has correctly interpreted. I hope he will be content to leave it there, but I can give him the assurance that I will have another look at it to see if the difficulties that he has raised might possibly be removed by some improved drafting. If there were to be improved drafting then it could be introduced at some later stage.

Mr. William Shepherd (Bucklow)

The right hon. Gentleman will remember that there was a considerable discussion in Standing Committee on the extent to which the members would be whole-time or part-time. There was a good deal of unanimity that the chairman ought to be a full-time member. At that time the President of the Board of Trade had no information to offer us, and I should like to ask him today whether he can say to what extent the members of this Commission are to be full-time or part-time.

Mr. Wilson

I do not know how far this arises on the Amendment dealing with the appointment of the secretary to the Commission. I do not see how a full-time or part-time chairman affects the appointment of a secretary, but I can say that I have considered carefully the question of the appointments to the Commission in the hope of being able to make some announcement as soon as it is clear that the House approves the Bill. I do not think I have anything to add to what I said in. Standing Committee. It would be very difficult at this time to indicate whether a part-time or a whole-time person was necessary, nor do I wish to tie down any future Minister in any appointment that he may be making. I hope the Committee are prepared to leave it at that.

Amendment agreed to.

4.15 p.m.

Mr. Wilson

I beg to move, in page 2, line 20, to leave out "all or any of their members," and to insert: and such contributions under pensions schemes paid in respect of any of their members, officers or servants. This is consequential in some sense on the Amendment which has just been accepted by the Committee. In the original draft of the Bill it was not necessary to make any provision for pension contributions because it was there provided that the Board of Trade would appoint the secretariat. It was naturally thought that the secretariat would be wholly or mainly drawn from Government Departments, and, of course, superannuation rights of such a staff would be fully safeguarded. Now that it is for the Commission to appoint their own staff, it would be quite wrong for us to assume that they will appoint Government servants to the majority of the posts in question. Certainly some of them would be, and, therefore, it seems right, in order to protect the pension rights of persons appointed, that we must provide for the Commission to be able to subscribe to the superannuation contributions of this staff.

Amendment agreed to.

Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.