§ 8.39 p.m.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—[Mr. Snow.]
§ Mr. Michael Astor (Surrey, Eastern)
I wish to refer for a moment to a Question to the Prime Minister which was on the Order Paper for 7th February in which I asked the right hon. Gentleman whether he would consider setting up any extra-Parliamentary body to advise him on the appointment of directors of the Bank of England and similar public bodies. I was unavoidably detained from being in my place when the Question was called, as I explained to the Prime Minister, but I wish to say that any idea which I then put over in Question form was not an expression on my part of a policy which I would have advocated. In the first place, it was a plain straightforward inquiry to elicit information, and, secondly, I hoped in a supplementary question to express some of the great anxiety felt by the public on some of the appointments made in the original list of directors of the Bank of England.
This evening I am going to attempt two things. One is to give as fairly as I can an appreciation of a situation in which the Government have placed themselves in respect of patronage, largely as a result of nationalised Measures. Secondly, I am going to ask the Financial 920 Secretary to give the House certain reassurances as to the principles which govern these appointments. Everyone knows that patronage is nothing new. Patronage is a necessary appendage of Government. It always has been. In the 18th century it was very prevalent, and successive generations in the 19th century tried to reduce it. I do not think that any party can say that they have 100 per cent. clean record in being non-partisan if anyone wished to take a highly critical view of the appointments that have been made. I think that the criticism of "jobs for the boys" is sometimes overdone. The dilemma of the present Government is that they have not a sufficient number of boys for the jobs and by that I mean that they have not a sufficient number of potentially good Colonial Governors, or whatever it may be, and, therefore, I think that they would be wise in future to cast their net a bit wider.
What is new is the enormous amount and degree of patronage with which the Government find themselves vested. That is an entirely new departure. I should like to point out to the Financial Secretary one of the trends which is bound to operate as a result of this. In all nationalised industries, those people who attempt to catch the Government's eye, either by exhortation or acquiescence or through political affiliations, people who are successful in that respect—and there will be people who will try to do this thing—will rise up the ladder at a higher rate pro rata than they did before; and those people, technicians, artisans and industrial experts who are not able to play politics in this respect will tend to lag behind in the matter of promotion. This pressure will inevitably tend to operate, and I hope to hear from the Financial Secretary that he is very aware of the dangers of this and all that it means.
I have heard it argued in this House before now that there was, of course, patronage under a private enterprise system. That is perfectly true. There are, however, two distinct differences in this respect. First of all, every company that I have ever heard of in private enterprise industry has of necessity to make money. I am not so certain that that is the case with nationalised industries; more exactly not in an industry as a whole, but I can see in certain sections of 921 nationalised industries that for extra-financial reasons it is not always deemed necessary to make a profit, and the matter then, when it comes to the House of Commons, is largely one of bookkeeping.
The other point is that private enterprise is not dealing with the taxpayers' money; that is not what is being risked. Let us look at the first socialising Measure with which the Tory Party was in agreement when they had a large majority during the National Government of 1930–31. That was the London Passenger Transport Board. What did we do in that case? We divested the Government of this gift of patronage and set up appointing trustees. We said that there was one representative on the London Traffic Advisory Committee and to quote from the Debate the timethe other gentlemen are selected as persons divorced from political associations and possessing by the offices which they hold the acknowledged position, training and type of mind calculated to fit them for the task of selecting persons of proved business and financial experience.That is one way of dealing with the matter. I am not satisfied that we can apply that to nationalised public boards. I know the argument against that, and I do not think that the Prime Minister can divest himself of this large responsibility and, if he does, the pressure, such as it is—and it is a real pressure—will be immediately placed in another direction. I think that the Financial Secretary would agree that if the Government do not do something of this kind and divest themselves of this gift of patronage they have to be doubly careful in the appointments which they make. Have they always been so careful? It is invidious to mention names in Debates of this kind, particularly of people who by recent events are probably precluded from holding public office again, and I am not making this a personal matter, but am trying to keep it as a matter of principle.
So far as the Law Officers are concerned—the Lord Chancellor and the Attorney-General—I think that their appointments are absolutely beyond criticism. But let us look at the Bank of England because that gives the first shining example of what Socialism was, and all that it stood for. I should say, to start with, that we have no criticism at all of the new appointmens made recently in this respect; but on the 922 original list there were two or three directors appointed, the main reason for whose appointment, so far as I can judge, was the fact that primarily they were good, solid party men or had built up a reputation largely due to their affiliations with the present Government.
The fourth appointment—and here I am expressing the views of those whom I consider well-qualified to pass intelligent criticism on the matter—was due particularly to close personal association with the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. I think that Members on both sides are relieved to find that the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster no longer has the power and influence which he had at that time. If I am doing the director concerned a disservice in saying this, I would merely say that there is very often a sinister motive imputed to those who associate too closely with the late Chancellor of the Exchequer.
Last week there was what I consider a good case in point. In the Debate on the Air Estimates——
§ Mr. Mitchison (Kettering)
Can the hon. Gentleman explain exactly what he meant by "sinister motive?" What is he really talking about?
§ Mr. Astor
In the Debate on the Air Estimates, there was a certain amount of public concern about the appointment of the Chairman of B.E.A., Lord Douglas. I, personally, do not agree that this was a particularly suitable appointment at this moment. Lord Douglas—who, after all, made his reputation in Fighter Command—with no business experience at all, supplants Mr. d'Erlanger, who as I understand it, had an uphill struggle all the time in B.E.A., and incidentally had a considerable amount of banking experience behind him. Be that as it may, that is not the point I wish to bring out. I think this is a very good example of the way in which a public figure can get to a position of advantage not coincidental with being either a member of or joining the right party at the right moment. In saying 923 that I am not imputing any sinister motive to Lord Douglas; I believe he has been affiliated to the Labour Party for some time. That is not the point. But it is, I think, a very clear example of the way in which that is an additional and telling factor at a crucial moment.
Let me illustrate further what I mean by considering the case of the former Chief of the Air Staff, Lord Portal—a man of twice the ability of Lord Douglas, and of even greater repute. As far as I know, he has no political affiliations of any kind, and I am rather led to assume that because of that he would not be considered for that appointment. If I am wrong, I hope the Financial Secretary will tell me. I am trying to point out the sort of dangers and dilemmas which can be, with the very best intention in the world—and I do not think the Prime Minister set out with any Machiavellian purpose in mind——
§ Mr. John Wilmot (Deptford)
Since the hon. Member is bandying these damaging and offensive references about, I am sure he will allow me to remind him that since Lord Portal left the Royal Air Force, to which he gave distinguished service, he has rendered other distinguished service to the State, above praise and above price.
§ Mr. Astor
I have said nothing disparaging about Lord Portal. I said that he was twice as able as Lord Douglas. If that be disparaging, I did not mean it in that respect. I was merely saying that because Lord Portal had, as far as I knew, no political affiliation I was rather led to suppose that he was certainly less likely to get this sort of job. What I mean is that people in this category tend to fall behind.
On 23rd June, 1947, in a Debate in this House, the present Secretary of State for War, who was then Minister of Fuel and Power, said that he would not consider appointing to a nationalisation board—and in this respect he was talking about the British Electricity Authority—anyone opposed to nationalisation.
§ Mr. Astor
I shall come to "why not" in a moment. I believe that the Lord President of the Council also associated himself with that idea, and I should like the Financial Secretary to deal with this specific point in reply. To say that anybody opposed to nationalisation is to be precluded covers a very wide field indeed. The large majority of people in responsible executive positions in industry are, in the first instance, opposed to having that industry nationalised. That is the answer to the hon. Member for Central Portsmouth (Mr. Snow). I think that he is taking a very clumsy line in acquiescing in these remarks, precluding a great many men of considerable ability. I should have thought a far more reasonable view would have been to say, "We will take the ablest men who can be found, and assume that, if they are of the calibre who will, in our opinion, qualify for these jobs, they will be prepared to serve their country and the industry to the utmost of their ability." I should have thought that any initial opposition to nationalisation, or even lifelong political opposition to nationalisation, should not preclude the industry and the country from using their services.
In conclusion, I ask the Financial Secretary to clear up these three points. First: Is it a cardinal point of Government policy that no one who has opposed the nationalisation of any industry is eligible, in their opinion, to be appointed as one of their directors or public servants in a responsible position in this respect? Secondly: Are the Government sufficiently aware of the pressure which is bound to operate, and to be operated by those people wishing to avail themselves of these rich financial plums accruing from nationalised industries?
Thirdly, can we have a specific assurance that the Government consider that in principle these appointments should be above party and above politics—after all, there will be changes of Government in the years ahead? I have tried to moderate my remarks, although I do not know whether all Members will agree, 925 and to present the case as fairly as I can. In conclusion, I would add that there is considerable public anxiety due to the fact, not so much that this or that Minister is specifically abusing his powers, but to the fact that these enormous powers have accrued to the Government. That is the least I can say about the public anxiety that exists on the matter.
§ 8.57 p.m.
§ Major Bruce (Portsmouth, North)
The hon. Member for Eastern Surrey (Mr. Astor) has spoken to the House as though he wished to allay public anxiety on the question of appointments by the Government to certain public boards which have followed quite naturally from the nationalisation legislation which has been passed. In my view, the only public anxiety to which he is paying any attention at the moment is that which has been deliberately created as an act of policy by the Press that habitually supports the Opposition, with material for one of the most scurrilous and scandalous campaigns ever proceeded with by any Opposition that has had any history at all in the House of Commons. If the hon. Member had come to the House with an analysis of the personnel on the various boards and had shown how many were Conservative, how many were Labour and how many were Liberals, and had endeavoured to present the House with some factual analysis arising from the facts so presented, he would be entitled to say that he had come here because he wanted to allay public anxiety. But all he has done is to touch on particular people, sometimes by name and sometimes by inference, and the whole object of touching on the names and making the inferences was to smear everything he touched.
If he had been fair-minded about this, he would have produced data for which a responsible body of legislators are entitled to ask when anyone presents a serious case to them. The fact of the matter is that if this Government have erred in the political sense, they have probably erred in the opposite direction. It would not matter to me if that were so. It would not matter to me if there were, as I believe there are, more Conservatives, sometimes, of course, masqueradingunder the title of "Independent," than Socialists, openly 926 avowed or otherwise. It should be the concern of any responsible Government to put people in posts of public responsibility that are best entitled to them by their qualifications and experience, and by the things they represent in some cases. It is also the responsibility of heads of public corporations not only to direct policy but also to be responsible for morale.
§ Mr. Astor
The hon. and gallant Member has expressed very healthy sentiments about impartiality and says that I have besmirched certain people. I have cast no stigma upon anyone who has been appointed. I am merely getting at the persons who make the appointments, not at anyone, past or present, with the Bank of England.
§ Major Bruce
I accept the assurance. I am certain that when my right hon. Friend comes to reply he will not wish to shelter behind those who make the appointments but will accept Governmental responsibility. If it be true that the Opposition want us to be impartial about this and are making a terrific case about impartiality—and, of course, the cry in the country is "Jobs for the boys," which has a nice journalistic ring—they should take note of remarks made by the hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) at the 68th Annual Conference of the Conservative Party held, not so long ago, at Brighton. What was the burden of the hon. Gentleman's remarks on that occasion? It was to warn Conservatives that if they entered nationalised industries, if they accepted positions on the boards, they would be suspect at Conservative Party headquarters and would, therefore, be exposed to removal from their position unless they were careful. If I have given an inaccurate paraphrase of what the hon. Gentleman said I will read what he said. It bears, I think, only one inference:There is only one other thing I want to say, and I am putting it by way of warning. In the industries which are menaced by nationalisation at the moment there is a very small minority of people who do not resist the Government wholeheartedly in these nationalisation measures because they have at the back of their minds the hope that they are going to get a job on these boards. Let me make it quite clear, so that there is no misunderstanding in the backs of their minds of these industrial Quislings, that betrayal and appeasement never pay in the long run. and that they will find that they will not 927 serve their selfish interests by betraying the industries with whom their first duty lies. It is with that desire, and with the ultimate authority of this, the ruling body of the Party, that our views on that subject should be made abundantly clear to all concerned, that I beg to move the Motion.As is always customary in Conservative Party conference reports there then follows, in parentheses, the word "Applause." That speech was received with loud applause at a Conference at which a large number of Members opposite were present, and I suggest it was indicative of the mood. In this House Members opposite pretend to say something which is completely untrue, that is to say, that the Government are guilty of gross patronage in favour of their own supporters. The Conservative Party Conference warned all Conservatives in the country that they should not support nationalised boards—a form of political sabotage to which we are all accustomed.
§ Major Bruce
I accept the assurance of the hon. Member; I am pleased to note his repudiation of the poisonous doctrine of the hon, Member for Kingston-upon-Thames.
I should like to pass from that if I may. The question of patronage has been discussed in its wrong context. It is assumed that because the Government of the day bring in certain legislation which institutes certain national boards they will automatically give preference to their own supporters. But a large number of other public boards were established before this Government ever came into power. I cannot say that some of the boards that were set up before the war were noted entirely for the complete absence of Conservatives from them, and I do not think that any hon. Member opposite would dare to get up and postulate that situation.
We find that the Conservative Party, being a party representative in the main of large industrialists and of finance, which, of course, they will strenuously deny, have also profited from a source of 928 patronage. We observe, for example, that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington, when his party suffered a reverse at the polls and he was no longer a Cabinet Minister, went again into directorships in finance and industry. He is today a director of the Phoenix Assurance Company, Ltd., Rio Tinto Company, Ltd., and of the Westminster Bank, Ltd. I do not wish in any way to cast any aspersions, either directly or indirectly, upon the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington. I, personally, have a very great respect for him and he is very popular in this House, but I have not observed the right hon. Gentleman enlivening our proceedings when they are of a financial or a banking character with any profound observations on his part on these most important subjects.
§ Viscount Hinchingbrooke (Dorset, Southern)
So far as I know there is no Ministerial responsibility for the holding of private commercial offices by members of His Majesty's Opposition, and therefore are the remarks of the hon. and gallant Gentleman in Order?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Mr. Bowles)
The point raised here is the Government or Ministerial responsibility for appointments, and the hon. and gallant Gentleman is perfectly entitled to refer to hon. Members who hold other appointments outside Government appointments.
§ Major Bruce
I can understand the point being a little embarrassing to hon. Members opposite. We come next to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Aldershot (Mr. Lyttelton), who also, unfortunately for him, lost his Ministerial office because his party suffered an electoral defeat in the General Election. Finance and industry tend to look after their own, because we find today the right hon. Gentleman is a director of the Alliance Assurance Company Ltd., and the Associated Electrical Industries, Ltd., of which he is chairman. I could go through this list at some length, but I would not wish to bore the House by reading out the extremely long list of appointments which are handed out by way of private patronage by finance and industry to those who support them in this House. Indeed, I am entitled to make that inference, because of some of the completely undocumented assertions 929 made in this House tonight by the hon. Member for Eastern Surrey.
I find that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bournemouth (Mr. Bracken), who after some six weeks as First Lord of the Admiralty—and in some quarters he was described as the greatest First Lord of the Admiralty—joined or rejoined the boards of Messrs. Eyre and Spottiswoode, Ltd., the "Financial Times," Ltd., and the "Financial News," Ltd., and "The Economist." Indeed, I could give a recital of names of companies in which Members on the Opposition Front Bench are, in fact, interested. Whereas the Government of the day are responsible to this House for their appointments and matters can be raised in open Debate about them, these are appointments without responsibility, and no Minister need answer for any of the appointments offered by finance and private industry to the now extinct volcanoes opposite.
I submit that no evidence has been brought before this House tonight which gives the slightest shred of justification for the wild campaign that is being pursued not by the hon. Member for Eastern Surrey, but by his hon. Friend the Member for Kingston-upon-Thames with the calculated object of smearing and besmirching wherever it can touch. I have not the slightest doubt that my right hon. Friend the Financial Secretary to the Treasury will be able to answer some of the slanders which have been raised in the country, and which I agree, have only been suggested by the hon. Member for Eastern Surrey this evening. I am quite content that the House and the country will be satisfied in the matter of appointments of a public character, and that it will be seen that a very much higher standard of impartiality and integrity prevails now than ever prevailed before.
§ 9.10 p.m.
Colonel Gonune-Duncan (Perth and Kinross, Perth)
The rather pathetic speech to which we have just listened contained, I suppose, more red herrings than any other speech which we have had in this Parliament, and that is a pretty high average. Here was the hon. Member for North Portsmouth (Mr. Bruce) who did not take up what my hon. Friend the Member for Eastern Surrey (Mr. Astor) had said on a matter of principle, but preferred to read into what he said a smear campaign, of which, 930 after all, certain occupants of his own Front Bench are past masters. The point is not whether A or B is or is not the most suitable person for a job, but that whoever is appointed should be the best, selected upon his fitness and upon nothing else.
§ Colonel Gomme-Duncan
The hon. Member for North Edinburgh (Mr. Willis) says "as they were under the Tories." I am very glad that hon. Members agreed with that. I do not think that any Government has ever been entirely free from patronage on political grounds. I do not think it would be fair to say otherwise. The thing at the moment is that we have a vastly increased amount of patronage available. Every Bill which is brought forward increases the amount of patronage put into the hands of Ministers who, everyone in this House will agree, have a very heavy responsibility, to say the least of it. The hon. Member for North Portsmouth read out, I presume from the "Directory of Directors," a number of appointments which have been made by industry of certain people who were members of the late Government. Does he really imagine that industry, which depends for its bread and butter upon success, would invite people to join its boards if those people were not going to be of value to them? What is the use of having directors if they are not of value? These directors are not concerned with the taxpayers' money. That is the difference. They are concerned with shareholders' money and their own money.
§ Colonel Gomme-Duncan
I am talking about the financial effect. I will come to the workers or what the hon. Gentleman calls the workers. Directors are workers just as much as anybody else in industry. The ranks of hon. Gentlemen opposite contain many directors, and highly-paid directors. It is ridiculous to imagine that directors are not workers in industry, because they are. If a company has not efficient directors, then it does not matter how good the rest of the show is, the company will fail.
§ Colonel Gomme-Duncan
I quite agree, but the fact remains that a company which keeps a lot of "duds" on its board will soon become a "dud" itself, when its competitors will take over. That is not the case with a nationalised industry, because there is nobody to take over, and that is where the danger lies. It is most unfair that when we complain about these things, red herrings about the appointment of my right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) are introduced and those cases are compared with the appointment of somebody to a nationalised board. It is a different thing altogether. My hon. Friend put the matter very fairly. I do not think it is a matter of this or that name. I could mention one or two names if I wanted to, but I want to stick to the principle of the thing. In the hands of Ministers we see an immense amount of power, such as no previous Government have ever had. We must realise that in a Socialist State that kind of thing will go on increasing. The longer we have a Socialist State, which logically and inevitably, ends in a Communist State, we shall have greater and greater degrees of patronage and corruption. That is unmistakable. We can see it in any State which has gone Communist today.
One other point. Do not let us get into personalities one way or another on this matter. What this House wants, and, far more important, what the country wants, is to be crystal clear that if there are nationalised industries—after all, the majority of the country voted against the Socialists; we must remember that—the appointments to the boards which are to run those industries will be made with absolute impartiality. I believe that that has very largely been done, but there have been appointments—that is where we have to think of persons—in the last two years which have led to a grave suspicion in the public mind that all is not well in this matter of appointments.[HON. MEMBERS: "Who?"] I am not going to mention names. We all know the people we are thinking about. The real misfortune is that that disquiet should rest in the public mind. What we want to be absolutely certain of—I am certain that the right hon. Gentleman will take it up on these lines—is that the 932 people who are appointed are the best for the job.
§ Major Bruce rose——
§ Colonel Gomme-Duncan
if the hon. and gallant Gentleman will forgive me, I have nearly finished and then he can say what he likes. We want to be certain that the public feel that the boards are entirely impartial. They may be wrong in thinking they are not impartial, but we must get rid of that impression. That is the principle concern.
§ Mr. Mitchison (Kettering) rose—
§ Colonel Gomme-Duncan
I am concluding. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will reassure the House, as my right hon. Friend asked, in such a way that the whole country will realise the sincerity of what he is saying, that whatever has happened in the past, there will in future be no question of political partiality in any appointment. That should apply to any Government which comes into power when this one goes out very shortly.
§ Mr. Mitchison
Is there any hope of eliciting from the hon. and gallant Gentleman whether his views about impartiality are the same as those of his hon. Friend the Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) or not?
§ Colonel Gomme-Duncan
That red herring will not do its job because we are not going to be besmeared by it. I do not think that what my hon. Friend said several years ago——
§ Colonel Gomme-Duncan
—two years ago—really makes much difference, although he was honoured by being quoted by the Lord President of the Council so he must have got under somebody's skin. However, that is not apposite to the discussion we are having tonight.
§ 9.18 p.m.
§ Mr. A. Edward Davies (Burslem)
I am amazed at the impertinence of the Opposition in bringing this matter forward. I should have thought that if there was any complaint about appointments made by this Government, it might have come from these benches, because in their endeavour to be impartial, the Government seem to have deferred more to the other side of the House or to our 933 opponents in the country than, from my point of view at least, is altogether wholesome. We might instance several of the State undertakings. Take transport. There several superannuated gentlemen from the Army have been appointed to high executive positions. One, a distinguished gentleman in his sphere, has recently been liberated to go elsewhere in the Government's service. He has been succeeded by a gentleman, a distinguished general I believe, upon the Transport Board. Right through the hierarchy of the Transport Board, and particularly on the road side, there have been many appointments which many of us on these benches who have spent our whole life in industry cannot understand. We should have thought that if we had wanted to appoint our own people, there would have been no dearth of good able people who might very well have taken up positions.
The Ministry of Health has been inundated by complaints from our own people that people known to be critical and reactionary from our point of view of the National Health Service have—in an impartial way, as the Ministry will argue, and as the Government see the position—been given a place in the administration of the scheme. Similarly of the Coal Board—indeed, of the administration of the colliery industry of this country—we have had virulent and vigorous criticism from miners in South Wales and in the North Country about some of the appointments which pass their understanding. They may not have been speaking with the full knowledge of what the Government or the individual Minister had in mind, but they were certainly very dissatisfied. I suggest that all this was done because the Government were exceedingly careful and wanted to do the right thing along the lines which hon. Members opposite have sought to establish tonight, that is, to put in the best men in an objective way, because they could contribute something to these new undertakings.
The hon. Member for East Surrey (Mr. Astor) spoke about the Bank of England and some of the State corporations, and he mentioned in passing some of the Colonial appointments. He said that perhaps we had suffered because we had not enough people trained to fill these appointments. I saw an appointment 934 mentioned the other day which made me raise my eyebrows. Here is a Labour Government, with all the power in the world to make appointments, appointing a new Governor-General for Ceylon. Did they appoint a discarded Labour politician? Not a bit of it. I do not know anything about the gentleman who has been appointed except that he was the Chairman of the National Assistance Board, an ex-Tory Minister. When we sent Lord Mountbatten to India, as the Viceroy, was that a political appointment? He did an excellent job of work. When Lord Douglas had his high executive position in the Royal Air Force, did the Conservatives then indict him on political grounds? Not a bit of it. He did a great job of work.
While we accept the view that the best man for the job, with character and breadth of outlook, who is likely to fill the position to the best advantage on grounds of public interest should be chosen, the case adumbrated tonight was not on the ground of particular appointments. It was something more. It was an endeavour to denigrate the whole attempt at socialisation, an attempt to condemn this new approach to our economic problems which the Government have taken. To the submissions made tonight I do not think the country will listen with any favour, because no evidence has been adduced that the Government stand culpable in this matter.
If there is any criticism to be made, it is that instead of seeking to pay attention to the training of men who belong to and have some specialised knowledge of the industries, of whatever party or of no party, so that they can rise from the humblest ranks to the highest executive positions, the Government have perforce had to make appointments as best they could and with some inadequacy from several points of view. I hope the Government will take notice that not only from the Conservative benches is there some dissatisfaction over these appointments, but that, from our point of view, we want the men with day to day experience to have opportunities of filling such appointments at some later stage in their careers, without any reference to political implications. If they have not had sufficient training before, there should be some new educational system devised to give it to them.
§ 9.25 p.m.
§ Mr. Erroll (Altrincham and Sale)
The hon. Member for Burslem (Mr. Edward Davies) made a very sound point when he referred to the difficulties which are facing the future. I am anxious to join in this Debate because I feel the Government have been faced with a very difficult task in making the best possible selection of individuals to serve on the nationalised corporations with which the country is now faced. It could not have been by any means an easy matter to make the right selection in view of the inevitable pressures which must have been exerted in different directions. Whilst some mistakes have been made, in many cases the choice has been the right one. In view of all the circumstances, not a bad average bunch of men has been got together to run these nationalised undertakings.
The real problem, of course, is that the Government have relied so much upon experience accumulated from the past. In every nationalised Bill they have stressed the fact that men of wide business experience would be brought in to run these new undertakings. That was all right to begin with, but where is the next generation of businessmen to come from? They cannot be trained in the old methods, because the old methods are no longer to be permitted. A new generation must be created somehow, and I do not think that the present climate—the present atmosphere within the corporations—is likely to produce the type of superman which is undoubtedly required to run a large nationalised undertaking. That is why I appreciate the difficulties expressed so admirably by the hon. Member for Burslem.
It is not merely a matter of giving men within a nationalised undertaking the opportunity to rise from the bottom to the top. What we must do is to attract into a nationalised undertaking the right man, whom it is worth while getting to the top. At present we have at the top of some of the nationalised undertakings men who have proved themselves by great independent ability, who have acquired business experience but have done so in the very hard school of life, and who have learnt their lessons the hard way. The trouble about nationalised undertakings is that they are comparatively sheltered and are not the best 936 schools of hard experience for the next generation of industrial leaders. We cannot possibly expect to recruit from within the boards the tough fibre which is essential at the top.
Somehow we must look ahead and try to realise how we can recruit the next generation of leaders of nationalised industry. It will not be an easy task. I do not think it is fair to bleed private industry indefinitely to provide the best men for the nationalised boards; nor is it fair to take the best men away from the Civil Service, to tempt them away by means of much higher salaries than they can get if they remain in the careers to which they originally devoted themselves. I hope that the Financial Secretary to the Treasury will have something to say upon this very real problem, which is now arising, of the best men in the Civil Service being all too often tempted away from their life's career into a nationalised board because of the higher salary and superior perquisites which such an appointment can offer.
I want to refer now to one other nationalised undertaking, which may or may not come about and which will present particularly difficult problems in the recruitment of the members of its board; that is, the nationalised iron and steel industry. It is obvious that if the Bill which is being discussed upstairs——
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Mr. Bowles)
As that Bill is being discussed upstairs, the hon. Member would be out of Order in discussing it now before it is reported.
§ Mr. Erroll
It is not the Bill that I am discussing but the unfortunate plight of the individuals who might be invited to join the board of the Corporation, as indeed they must be, in the course of the next few months.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
The hon. Member will not be in Order if he goes on to discuss a Bill which is before a Standing Committee. That cannot be discussed now.
§ Mr. Erroll
I must, of course, bow to your Ruling, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I would mention in passing that the problem of recruitment is not merely one of the past but also one of the immediate future, particularly in connection with that industry.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I asked the hon. Member to refrain from discussing that industry at the moment. I think that he should do so.
§ Mr. Erroll
That is an industry which might be tried. Hon. Members will doubtless do so later.
The general question of salaries must be taken into account in this field because we are in great danger of attracting to nationalised industries men from other walks of life who should not properly leave their existing jobs in order to go into these corporations. As I was saying, there is the difficulty of the iron and steel industry in which, as I was saying, individuals already engaged in the industry will be under a severe difficulty. Those in the iron and steel industry will be invited to choose——
§ Mr. J. Lewis
On a point of Order. Is it in Order for the hon. Member to refer to an industry the nationalisation of which is now before a Standing Committee of the House?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Major Milner)
The hon. Member may refer to it, but not in relation to the Bill which is before the House.
§ Mr. Erroll
I was referring to the position of individuals who may be invited to joint the board of an industry which is likely to be nationalised. I am thinking particularly of the iron and steel industry, without of course referring to the Bill. These individuals will be placed in an invidious position because when they receive the invitation to join the board of the Corporation they will be under a twofold difficulty. First, if they refuse the invitation, and the industry is nationalised, they will be on record as being against nationalisation. If on the other hand they agree to join the board, and the industry is not nationalised, they might feel, although quite unnecessarily, that their position is somewhat prejudiced. It is unfortunate that a situation should be arising in which a number of sound and valuable steel executives should be placed in a position——
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
The hon. Member is certainly now anticipating matters which require legislation. He is not entitled to do that.
§ Mr. Erroll
I am sure that hon. Members opposite will appreciate the difficult situation which is created for any individual when he is asked to join the board of a corporation when that corporation may or may not be set up as a result of a General Election which is about to take place. That was the point which I was trying to make with special reference to the iron and steel industry.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
If the hon. Gentleman refers to the iron and steel industry again I shall have to request him to resume his seat.
§ Mr. Erroll
I have no intention of saying it again. I feel that the point has already been made clear. I wanted to illustrate the difficulties which do exist in this extremely awkward problem of selecting the best men to run the nationalised corporations, both those already formed and those which still lie in the future.
§ 9.35 p.m.
§ Mr. Tiffany (Peterborough)
The main purport of this Debate is similar to that of the discussion which has been taking place in the country. Any effort is good enough on the part of the Opposition to try and destroy or to denigrate the nationalised industries. Whether they do it by one means or by another does not matter to the Opposition, so long as they get a good stick wherewith to belabour the nationalised industries. This appears to be a good handle which they might take hold of and one that will appeal to the Tory Press and to people in the countryside as a means to discredit the steps that have been taken by the Government.
I suggest to hon. Members opposite, particularly the hon. Member for Eastern Surrey (Mr. Astor) who introduced this Debate, and the hon. Member for Altrincham and Sale (Mr. Erroll), that they might resolve their differences in relation to appointments to nationalised industries. The hon. Member for Eastern Surrey made reference to the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and appointments made to the Bank of England. He spoke about some sinister work or some sinister appointments that have been made. The hon. Member for Altrincham suggested that, after all, they were not a bad average as a whole.
I am sorry to be so stupid, but could the hon. Member explain in plain English, for those who are not so super-intelligent as himself, exactly what he means? Because he appeared to be making some kind of dirty insinuation about the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, who is not here, and he might at least be honest and say that that is what he means.
§ Mr. Astor
I apologise for taking up the time of the hon. Member for Peterborough (Mr. Tiffany) but I should make plain what I was saying in regard to one of these appointments. I was saying that it was felt in responsible quarters that one of the qualifications of the person appointed was a particularly close affiliation with the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. Whether we consider that or not, that is public opinion as I have had it from people who are in a position to make an intelligent criticism. It is merely a reflection, if one likes, of the measure of respect or disrespect in which the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster is held in responsible financial and commercial circles. I cannot say anything plainer than that. If the hon. and learned Member does not understand that, he will not understand anything.
§ Mr. Tiffany
I would suggest to the hon. Member that in making his speech he used the word "sinister," and that that word had a very different ring about it from the statement which he has now made. But even on the particular statement which he has made now, surely there is nothing wrong about the position. Because one happens to be aware of the capabilities of a person through a close affiliation with that person, is it to be the 940 case that even if that person is competent he must not be appointed simply because one knows him or has been in association with him?
§ Mr. Tiffany
That is the argument that has been adduced by the hon. Member opposite. It is an argument that is not acceptable to the people on his own side, as he knows full well.
If we look back through history we find that many appointments of that calibre have been made in the past, and I trust that similar appointments will be made in the future. Where it is well known to the people responsible for making the appointments that the men with whom they are in contact are the best people for the job, then, surely, they should not be debarred from being appointed.
§ Mr. Astor
I am not saying that one should not appoint one's best friend or closest relation if he happens to be the best person available. Intimacy does not preclude anybody. The hon. Gentleman either did not hear my speech, or he is, unintentionally no doubt, taking certain things out of their context.
§ Mr. Tiffany
We are getting more and more involved in this particular matter. First of all, we use the word "sinister," then we use the phrase "close affiliation," and now we seem to be wandering even further. My hon. Friend the Member for King's Norton (Mr. Blackburn) is asking me what the hon. Gentleman meant when he used the word "sinister." I am afraid that I cannot inform him, nor apparently, can the hon. Member for Eastern Surrey himself inform the House. I am afraid it is rather too difficult for him. He has used the word, and he knows the implication that is often hidden behind it. I do not think that he wanted that implication to be attached to it, but now he finds a difficulty in extricating himself from the position in which he has placed himself.
We on this side of the House agree that such an appointment should be on the basis of fitness for the job. While each one of us may have our particular fancy as to the type of people who should be appointed to these nationalised industries, I am convinced that, in the main, the people who have been appointed were obviously fitted for the job. Of course, 941 there may be an odd exception here and there, but nothing was ever done which was worth while without some mistakes being made. After all, the Members of this Government are only human, and are liable to make mistakes just like anyone else. While I would be one of the first to criticise them when they make mistakes, nevertheless I recognise that we have to show a certain amount of tolerance, and toleration should be granted even by the Opposition on this particular matter.
It has been stated that in the nationalised industries the appointments should be crystal clear. I think that they are more crystal clear in the nationalised industries than they ever were under private enterprise. No ordinary citizen in this country could ever raise the question of any appointment that was made in a colliery or a mine when it was in the hands of private enterprise. That was taboo as far as this House was concerned. But now we have that opportunity. That opportunity is in the hands of Members of this House, in the hands of the representatives of the people, and we can depend on it that when the appointments are made the people making them will bear that fact in mind. I am convinced of this when I look at the people who have already been appointed. I happen to know one or two of them, and I believe they are doing a good job in the offices which they hold. Instead of hon. Members attempting to denigrate the work they are doing, they should praise them for the sacrifices they are making in holding these positions, for the long hours they work and for the fact that many of them never see their homes from one week to another. They are making those sacrifices in order to assist us to make a success of these nationalised industries.
It has been said many times, particularly in the past few years, that the workers were not fit to rule, and that among the working class we had no people with the necessary capabilities. That is disproved by the type of people we have thrown up in the trade union movement, and in the Co-operative movement which is one of the biggest trading organisations in the country. It is proved again by the people who have been appointed on these nationalised Boards. I say to hon. Gentlemen opposite that if the only way that they can find to try to destroy these nationalised industries is by attacking 942 appointments they are on very weak ground indeed.
§ 9.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Ivor Owen Thomas (The Wrekin)
I will not detain the House long, but I was prompted to get up by the remarks of the hon. Member for Altrincham and Sale (Mr. Erroll). His remarks seem to be based on certain fundamental misconceptions of the whole position. The question which his words stimulated in my mind concerned the nature of the management appointments and administrative appointments in industries that have not yet been nationalised and in industries that have already been nationalised.
Is it the contention of hon. Gentlemen opposite that in all industries which are not yet nationalised appointments to boards of directors and to the highest flights of administrative responsibility are given out only to those with the widest experience and the most profound knowledge and skill in the administration of those industries or services? Is it a fact, for instance, that on the boards of the railways before they were nationalised every appointment was made on merit, on ability and on the standard of service that would be rendered to the particular industry or service? Certainly not. Reference has been made to certain instances of even right hon. Gentlemen on the Opposition Front Bench being on the boards of various concerns—private, capitalised financial trusts and all the rest of it.
I am convinced there is a great amount of sheer hypocrisy and insincerity in the whole approach to this question by hon. Gentlemen opposite because they seek to apply to nationalised industries an entirely different standard in regard to appointments on the boards of directors and the boards of management as compared with the standard which they apply in the case of private industries. I do not complain about that because quite frankly I think that the higher the standard we insist upon in the case of nationalised industries, the better it will be for those industries, and the better it will be for the country generally; but it is sheer hyprocrisy to seek to apply that high standard to publicly-owned industries and services and to be content with a much lower standard in those industries before they become publicly-owned. The only conclusion I can draw 943 from the remarks of hon. Members opposite tonight is that they seek to have a much higher standard insisted upon in the nationalised industries than was experienced in private industry in the years gone by.
§ Mr. Erroll
The essential difference is that the boards of nationalised undertakings are boards of monopolies, whereas the boards of private undertakings, as outlined by the hon. Member, were boards of competitive undertakings which stood or fell by competition.
§ Mr. Thomas
If that is the type of result to be expected from the study of economics by the Tory Party we shall not see much progress in their understanding of modern economic problems. The term "monopoly" has been applied to nationalised industries. Are there not monopolies in private industry? Are there not monopolies in almost every great field of industry and service in this country at the present time? Are there not interlocking directorships? Do we not find the same names repeated on the boards of management of two, three or even a dozen concerns, without any proof that the individuals appointed to a multiplicity of concerns have any special experience in the services those concerns are supposed to render or the business they carry on? In almost every case the only test is the size of the financial holding that those individuals have in the concerns.
The test applied by the present Government when appointing members to the boards of nationalised industries is not the financial holding of the men concerned in the nationalised undertaking, because the financial holding has already been transferred out of private hands into the hands of the State. The only test that remains to be applied is that of talent, experience, and ability to fill the post. I contend that is the test which is being applied, and which will continue to be applied, by the Government.
There is another phase of this problem which has apparently been entirely ignored by hon. Members opposite. The hon. Member for Altrincham and Sale referred to civil servants and public servants, and the danger of the best brains being left out. What has been the history of the training of that great fund of experience and ability in our public 944 services? Over the last 100 years or so men have been cradled and trained in those services until we have in them probably some of the finest administrative brains in the world. The same thing will happen in the great industries now being nationalised. It will not be necessary to go outside the ranks within those industries to find the men who can give the best service. Those men will be trained inside the industries and services themselves, and there will be opportunities which could never have been given had those industries and services remained in private hands, because hitherto the test for appointment to directorates has not been service in the ranks and working up from the bottom to the top, of the industry, but the bringing in of the man with the cash bags, the man of a particular social status to give a kind of romantic flavour to the board of directors, and the longer the title the more successful the director from that point of view
All this is now being shown up for the bunkum it is. It is now being realised that in a healthy and progressive industry brains and talent are necessary for its efficient running. Every opportunity will be given and must be given for men and women working in industry to reach the top flights of administration, and I hope that this Debate will clear up the cobwebs in the minds of Members opposite, as well as revealing the bankruptcy of their understanding of this modern development.
§ Mr. Austin (Stretford)
On a point of Order. With the greatest respect and without any animus towards the hon. Member for King's Norton (Mr. Blackburn), may I point out that the hon. Member has been in the House for only half an hour and that I have sat throughout this Debate?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
The hon. Member is not allowed to question the Chair in that fashion. In point of fact, he did not rise on the last occasion when there was an opportunity for him to do so.
§ 9.57 p.m.
§ Mr. Blackburn (Birmingham, King's Norton)
It seems to me that this is a subject of fundamental importance. The hon. Member for East Surrey (Mr. Astor) who initiated the Debate is entitled to be 945 admired, because he came out in the open with things that are being whispered in private; because he has been prepared to come to this House and say what we know perfectly well is being whispered all over the country. I think that he is only too willing to face the consequences of the case he has made out. I do not think anyone on this side has ever suggested that we should have what might be described as political appointments. We have always suggested that appointments to these boards should be on grounds of ability and fitness to serve in the capacity elected. But can it possibly be denied that it is of vital importance in every nationalised industry, or in the case of the Bank of England, to have at least one member of the trade union movement? Surely that is a fact which all should accept as axiomatic, because, after all, it is admitted everywhere one goes in the world, not least in the United States, that this country has the best trade union movement.
Let us go a stage further. The party opposite, in their Industrial Charter, accept or pay lip-service to equality of opportunity and to the participation of workers in management. Is it now being suggested that the Labour Government are to be censured for putting on the boards of nationalised industries people who would not otherwise be in control of those industries? Is it to be suggested that the only people who ought to be put on these boards are those who would be there anyway, under private enterprise? It is very difficult to understand exactly the claim we have heard tonight. For instance, the hon. Member for Altrincham and Sale (Mr. Erroll) put forward a case which he knows perfectly well to be quite wrong. He was suggesting that nationalised industries, because of the large salaries being paid, are going to attract people from private enterprise.
§ It being Ten o'Clock, the Motion for the Adjournment of the House lapsed, without Question put.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."— [Mr. Popplewell.]
§ Mr. Blackburn
The hon. and gallant Member knows perfectly well, through our co-operation of the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee, that the trouble is that salaries in nationalised industries are 946 not large enough to attract people who ought to come from private industry. The whole case, if it had to be put on an Opposition point of view, is exactly the opposite of what we have heard tonight. The fact is that people are staying in private industry, particularly in scientific grades, who really ought to come into nationalised industries.
§ Mr. Erroll
Is the hon. Member advocating larger salaries for members of the boards as distinct from the executive grades below scientific grades?
§ Mr. Blackburn
I am not advocating anything at all tonight; I understood the hon. Gentleman was trying to advocate something, but if he wishes to withdraw it I am prepared to accept his withdrawal. I am trying to make clear, first, that there ought to be no political appointments; second, that there ought to be on every board one trade union representative; third, that if we believe in equality of opportunity we ought to be on the look out for those people who have tremendous ability but who have never had the chance to show that ability in private industry.
I hope Members opposite will not think me facetious if I tell them of an experience of mine. I used to play for my House 2nd XV—though I always thought I was a lot better than that. When, finally, I was pushed forward into the 1st XV against the 2nd XV I was rather overwhelmed, but on the second, third and fourth occasions I managed just about as well as anybody else. I am being modest. What applies to games applies equally to industry.
We have seen many flowers blushing unseen in private industry. We ought to give them a chance in nationalised industry. In a large number of cases we are trying to do this, but I agree with what my predecessors on this side have said tonight, that we are not doing it in anything like a sufficiently large number of cases. The Government ought to appoint more people with a trade union background. If I give an illustration I hope it will not be taken amiss. I have a great admiration for Lord Hyndley, 947 who, I think, did a good job on the Coal Board, but I cannot help remembering that at a Blackpool Conference the present Minister of Health said that he was a man who specialised, between the two wars, in making one blade of grass grow where two grew before. It is most important that in these nationalised industries we should have a clean break with the past, though that does not mean that we should not use everyone with ability whom we can get from private industry. We ought to give scientists a fairer share of responsibility than they have had in the past. It means that we must bring in people in whom the workers will have confidence.
- "Full many a gem of purest ray serene
- The dark unfathom'd caves of ocean bear:
- Full many a flower is born to blush unseen,
- And waste its sweetness on the desert air."
I do not accept the view that there has been a black sheep of any kind. I will not accept the view that the appointments of the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster have been very bad appointments; I think they have been very good. Under private enterprise there is a large number of black sheep. I remember the case of Lord Kylsant. I was appointed, at the age of 21, to be the sole representative of the ordinary share capital of the Royal Mail Steam Packet Company, which amounted to £6 million. I am still that representative. It was proposed to prosecute Lord Kylsant in 1928, but he was saved by the then Conservative Prime Minister, Mr. Stanley Baldwin, who said he should not be prosecuted. Later Lord Kylsant suffered the penalty—I have nothing at all to say against him—of being declared by 12 good men and true to be a crook. Hon. Members opposite should remember the tremendous importance of the Royal Mail Steam Packet Company and the immense repercussions in the company through having somebody who was declared a crook. Nobody has ever suggested that about anyone in the nationalised industry.
Therefore, hon. Gentlemen opposite ought to recognise that they are dwelling in a certain kind of glass house, even if it is not the kind of glass house they thought we would introduce at the time of the General Election. They ought to be careful indeed when introducing a subject of this kind in the House of Commons, as the hon. Member for Eastern Surrey has had the courage, although I would not say the wisdom, to do.
§ 10.6 p.m.
§ The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Glenvil Hall)
This Debate arose out of a Question put by the hon. Member for Eastern Surrey (Mr. Astor) to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister about a month ago. The House will realise that it is impossible for my right hon. Friend to be in his place tonight to answer this Debate; it is equally impossible for my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer to be taking my place at this Box, because he is not in the country. Therefore, it has fallen to me to reply to what has been said tonight.
I have found the superior tone of the speeches of hon. Gentlemen opposite somewhat nauseating, because if there is any party in this House whose hands are dripping with the spoils of patronage, both public and private, it is the party opposite. In the past it has not been so much "jobs for the boys," though there have been plenty of those, as jobs for sons, for uncles, for cousins and for anybody they felt needed helping. The paucity of representation on the benches opposite is an indication that the hon. Gentleman's friends had more sense than to come here to take part in this Debate tonight. Because of things that have been said, because of taunts flung across the Floor of the House at Question time, and because of the country-wide whispering campaign referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for King's Norton (Mr. Blackburn), it is essential that this matter should be put into its proper perspective. I shall try to do this in the time at my disposal.
Before I go any further, I want to say that I deeply regret the references made by the hon. Member for Eastern Surrey to my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. I think that the hon. Member will himself regret them, on reflection. I do not know whether he informed my right hon. Friend that he intended to speak about him tonight; but, if he did not, it would have been a little fairer of him to indicate that he proposed to drag my right hon. Friend into this Debate, which has nothing whatever to do with him and is of an entirely different character. I know that there is a whispering campaign about my right hon. Friend; it is completely misplaced and entirely unfair. The 949 appointments that he made will stand up to the appointments made by any other Government, and the present Chancellor of the Exchequer has more than once indicated that the policy of my right hon. Friend the present Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster is the policy he is following now.
First let me deal with appointments to the Court of Directors of the Bank of England. Under Section 2 (2) of the Bank of England Act, the Governor and members of the court are appointed by the Crown. That means that His Majesty, with the advice of the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, makes the appointments to the Court. This method was debated when the Bill was passing through all its stages in this Chamber, and it was adopted with the approval of the Governor and other Directors of the Bank of England at that time. Let me quote one part of the speech made by the present Chancellor of the Duchy, when he was speaking on the Second Reading of that Bill. He was speaking about the appointment of members of the Court, and he said:I wish to make it clear that it is not intended that there should be representation of any sectional interest whatever on the Court. No one will be entitled to say: "I speak on behalf of this, that or the other section of the community.' We shall advise His Majesty to place upon the Court persons of suitable and varied—I emphasise ' varied'—ability and knowledge, and we shall seek in particular so to compose the court as adequately to reflect industrial as well as financial experience."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th October, 1945; Vol. 415. c. 51.]If hon. Members will look with unbiased minds down the list of appointments that have been made, they will see that the Chancellor of the Exchequer of that time, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer now, have followed that policy to the letter.
What about other public boards? The principle of Ministerial appointment, or appointment by the Crown on the advice of Ministers, was well established before the war. This policy, which is at present set out in a certain Bill now before a Committee upstairs, has been followed in the case of quite a number of nationalised or analogous Boards set up by previous Governments. There were: the Electricity Commission, set up in 1920; the Central Electricity Board, in 1927; the B.B.C., in 1927; the Coal Commission, in 1938; and the B.O.A.C., in 1939. Then there 950 was the North of Scotland Hydro-electric Board. All those bodies were set up before this Government came into office, and many of them before the war. The same principle is embodied in the nationalisation Measures which have been passed through this House as were embodied in those other Measures passed by Governments of a complexion which, as far as I know, was quite acceptable to the hon. Members opposite who have spoken in this Debate.
What is the justification for this method of appointing members to the various nationalised boards? It is that the Minister is responsible to this House and that, if any other body were responsible for appointing members of the boards, it would be open to any Minister to come to the House and say: "I know they have made a mess of it, but, please, 1 did not appoint them." Therefore, it seems to me, to the Government and to my hon. Friends on this side of the House, to be plain common sense that the appointments to these boards should be made by the Minister responsible.
In the case of the Coal Industry Nationalisation Act the following provision was made. I give it in full, because it indicates to the House how these appointments should be made and the kind of qualification which the Minister concerned has to bear in mind when he makes them. It was laid down that:Persons appearing to him"—to the Minister—to be qualified as having had experience of, and having shown capacity in, industrial, commercial, or financial matters, applied science, administration, or the organisation of the workersshould be appointed. That leaves it to the Minister, within certain broad limits, to choose his men, and the best men, for the appointment which has to be made. That formula was used in the Electricity Act, the Gas Act and the Transport Act, and in a certain Bill which is passing very comfortably through its Committee stage upstairs.
The hon. Gentleman asked me to say that no one would be appointed because he was in favour of nationalisation. Surely that is an absurd request to make? If a man is the best man for the job, the fact that he is in favour of nationalisation is an additional reason why he should be appointed.
§ Mr. Astor
The right hon. Gentleman has got it wrong. I was quoting what the Secretary of State for War said when he was Minister of Fuel and Power, that he could not be agreeable to appointing anybody to a nationalised board if he was opposed to nationalisation. That is different. Does the right hon. Gentleman agree or not?
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall
The position is as I have stated it. When the Minister comes to make an appointment, whether it is the Minister of Fuel and Power or whoever the Minister may be, he has to look at the provisions of the Act which lays down the kind of qualifications which he has to seek in any individual and, of course, he has to bear in mind the kind of post he wants to fill. It may be that he wants a scientist to fill a certain place on a given board, and he therefore looks for that type of man. If the man he thinks is best for the job is also sympathetic to the work he is going to do, I think it is an added qualification and one which the Minister should not ignore. If we accept the principle which the hon. Member for Eastern Surrey is now stating, it would mean that we should have to choose a pacifist to be chief of the Royal Air Force on the grounds that his being interested in the Royal Air Force and keen on it was one reason why he should not be appointed.
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall
Not a bit of it. I hope I can now get into the head of the hon. Gentleman that the Minister concerned has not got to run to the Secretary of State for War. The Secretary of State for War has expressed a view, and there is a good deal to be said for it, but what the Minister responsible has to do is to follow the Act on the Statute Book. If he finds those qualities, as no doubt he very often will, because people who believe in nationalisation are usually intelligent in other directions too, he will find that he is not only complying with what the Statute lays down, but is also complying with the expressed opinion of his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War.
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall
It has not up to now, although I should imagine that active opposition to nationalisation on the part of any individual would be sufficient to make him refuse the job if it were offered him.
§ Mr. Erroll
But nobody who opposed nationalisation would ever be offered a job however good he was.
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall
I do not want to bandy names about the House, but if the hon. Member examines the names of those on some of these boards, he will gather from their records that what he has just said is sheer nonsense. The method laid down and being followed is reasonable, not only because it means that the Minister who has made the appointment is responsible to this House, which we all desire, but also because he knows better where to look for individuals at any given moment to fill a chosen post.
The suggestion that some sort of advisory committee should be set up or that there should be appointing trustees, as laid down in the London Passenger Transport Board Bill has not worked out well in practice. It is true that, in the L.P.T.B. Measure, which began as a Socialist Measure and was taken over from my right hon. Friend the present Leader of the House by the National Government which followed, the appointment of members to the board through the agency of appointing trustees was provided for by an Amendment moved during the Committee stage of the Bill. So far as my recollection goes, and from what I have heard from the Lord President who followed its course closely, that Amendment was put in because the Conservative Party, in its innocence at that time, thought that by moving the Amendment and making the appointments to the board not through the Minister but once removed through trustees, they were taking all the Socialism out of the Measure.
Actually, although the Members of the Board were appointed in that way, even the Conservatives found that the method 953 did not work. For, when they came to appoint the Coal Commission, B.O.A.C. and the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board, they departed from the suggestion that trustees should appoint directors to the board and went back to the procedure which we have followed since we came into office in 1945. Therefore, in this case and for once in a way, we are following the practice of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite, because we find it is the best way. They departed from that practice only once, they found it was a mistake, and they dropped it like a hot brick when they wanted to make appointments to the next new board that was set up.
In any case it is essential that this House should keep control. Over and over again from the benches opposite since nationalisation Measures have been passed through this House, we have had complaints that hon. Members were not able to make all the criticisms they wanted to make of what was going on. The only alternative to the procedure laid down is to go back to something of that sort that occurred when the L.P.T.B. was set up. We think that wrong, and we are positive that, on reflection, hon. Members will not desire it.
With regard to the personal side of these appointments, I look forward to the 954 time when, as these nationalised industries gradually go forward, they will train their own men who rise from the bottom to the top. We are now passing through a period of transition. Whilst for a long time it may be necessary to bring in people from the outside who have special capability and aptitude for such jobs, I for one hope that, as the years go on, the nationalised boards will more and more be able to train up their own personnel to take the jobs at the top.
I think, therefore, that the hon. Gentleman will be sorry that he raised this question. But I am glad that he has done so, because it has given me an opportunity on behalf of the Government to try to allay some of the suspicions——
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall
—fostered by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite. There is nothing whatever in them. In our view the method adopted is the best method and one that does, and will, work well.
§ Adjourned accordingly at Twenty-six Minutes past Ten o'Clock.