HC Deb 14 May 1948 vol 450 cc2417-9
Mr. Henderson Stewart

(by Private Notice) asked the Minister of Fuel and Power whether he has any statement to make on the resignation of Sir Charles Reid from the National Coal Board.

The Minister of Fuel and Power (Mr. Gaitskell)

No, Sir.

Mr. Stewart

In view of the shock to public opinion which this resignation has caused, and the fact that the whole scheme of reorganisation of the industry is now openly condemned by the author of the Reid Report, on which the scheme was based, does the Minister really think it adequate to make no statement to Parliament now that we are about to rise for 10 days? In view of the general situation will he reconsider his decision?

Mr. Gaitskell

I certainly would not agree that Sir Charles Reid's statement to the Press implied a condemnation of the proposals in the Reid Report. Sir Charles Reid has stated his position fully. I understand that the National Coal Board may be making a statement on the position and I do not consider any further statement from the Government is necessary.

Mr. Oliver Stanley

Would the right hon. Gentleman say what are the technical qualifications of the gentleman who has been selected to succeed Sir Charles Reid?

Mr. Gaitskell

He has no technical mining qualifications but has first-class administrative experience.

Mr. Stanley

While admitting that he is an eminent solicitor, is it not strange that the Board will now be left without anybody with technical mining knowledge?

Mr. Gaitskell

The right hon. Gentleman is quite wrong. Mr. Eric Young is also a member of the Board and has technical mining qualifications.

Sir John Mellor

is it not a fact that Sir Charles Reid has been in disagreement with the Coal Board for some time? In the circumstances, will not the Minister make a statement upon the reasons for that disagreement?

Mr. Gaitskell

Sir Charles Reid has explained his position fully.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

Is the Minister aware that the miners of Scotland will be very glad to hear that Sir Charles Reid who was well known as a reactionary coat owner, has left the Coal Board; and that they will welcome new people with new ideas and a new spirit to reorganise this vital industry?

Mr. Stewart

Does the Minister really think he is performing a satisfactory duty by setting up what is in effect a mere departmental committee to report to the Coal Board? What is wanted is a powerful and independent inquiry to report to Parliament on the working of the Coal Board and the nationalisation scheme.

Mr. Gaitskell

I have set up no inquiry myself but the National Coal Board, as the House will have seen from the Press, have themselves appointed a committee under the chairmanship of Sir Robert Burrows to take stock of their organisation. That seems to me a perfectly sensible procedure and I do not intend to take any further steps myself.

Mr. Stanley

Is not the right hon. Gentleman going to protect his predecessor against the grave allegation from his own Benches that he appointed a reactionary coalowner to this Board?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

Will the report by Sir Robert Burrows be made available to the House?

Mr. Gaitskell

That is entirely a matter for the National Coal Board.

Mr. Ivor Thomas

Is my right hon. Friend aware that, whatever may be thought of Sir Charles Reid's resignation, he himself has the best wishes of the House on having survived successfully one of the most strenuous weeks to which any Minister has ever been subjected?

Mr. Stewart

In view of the quite unsatisfactory reply which the Minister has made and the serious situation that has been created, I beg to give notice that I will take the first opportunity to raise this matter.