HC Deb 01 May 1950 vol 474 cc1393-6
27. Mr. I. J. Pitman

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power how many of his appointments to the Gas Consultative Councils have been coal and coke merchants; and, in view of the inescapable clash of interest, whether he will undertake to make no further such appointments

The Minister of Fuel and Power (Mr. Philip Noel-Baker)

There are 12 Area Gas Consultative Councils, with a total membership of 288. Of the 288, two members are known to be associated with the coal and coke trade. They were both chosen from the panels nominated by the associations of local authorities. I have every confidence in the judgment and integrity of the associations; and I am sure that in all their work in the Consultative Councils these two members will put their public duty first.

Mr. Pitman

Is the Minister not aware that this Question is directed to future appointments, that the responsibility is his, and that all nominating local authorities or other bodies may not be aware of this clash and the extent to which coke deliveries for coke contracts are matters of the pleasure of the area boards? Will he consider it for the future?

Mr. Noel-Baker

No, Sir, I am sure that the nominating authorities—the associations—have, in fact, considered all such things and have all such information, and I am not prepared to give the pledge which the hon. Member desires.

28. Mr. Pitman

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power whether he is aware that his appointments to the Gas Consultative Councils include nominations by the Standing Joint Committee on Working Women's Organisations; whether he is also aware that this organisation is related to the Executive Committee of the Labour Party, as an advisory committee; and whether, in view of the fact that such politically-nominated appointments when confined to one party are open to objection, he will undertake to make no such further appointments

Mr. P. Noel-Baker

In making his appointments to the Gas Consultative Councils, my predecessor sought to ensure the adequate representation of the special interests of women. He therefore invited the National Council of Women, the National Federation of Women's Institutes, the Women's Gas Council, the Women's Voluntary Services and the Standing Joint Committee of Working Women's Organisations to nominate candidates from among whom he could choose. He included the Standing Joint Committee in his list not because of any political affiliations but because it represented a large body of working class women. The Standing Joint Committee has been consulted by Governments of all parties on a variety of women's questions since its foundation in 1916, and it has acted in an advisory capacity to a number of official bodies and Government committees. This being so, I cannot accept the suggestion which the hon. Member has made.

Mr. Pitman

Is not the Minister aware that this is the only one representing a political body among those bodies, and that the purport of this Question is that he is receiving nominations from a body which is an advisory body to a political party, and whose membership is confined to members of that political party?

Mr. Noel-Baker

Yes, Sir, but it was asked to make nominations because it represents a very large number of working class women. People of all political parties belong to the other organisations which I have mentioned. [HON. MEMBERS: " No."] They nominate to the Councils, and I am convinced that all of them, understanding that this has nothing to do with politics, will do their duty, whatever party they belong to.

Mr. Mikardo

Is it not a fact that this organisation is not the only one of these women's bodies which has political affiliations, but the only one which is honest enough to make its political affiliations apparent?

Miss Horsbrugh

Will the right hon. Gentleman also ask for nominations from Conservative women's organisations and Liberal women's organisations?

Mr. Noel-Baker

I will certainly consider it, if I can be sure that they represent many women not represented by these other bodies.

Mrs. Middleton

Is it not a fact that this organisation contains not only women who are affiliated to a political party but representatives of trade unions and representatives of Co-operative organisations?

Is it not desirable that those bodies should be represented on these Councils?

Mr. Godfrey Nicholson

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that many millions of working class women voted Conservative and Liberal at the last Election, and that they would scorn representation by a Socialist organisation?

Mr. Noel-Baker

I am sure they are quite adequately represented in the Gas Consultative Councils.

Mr. Pitman

In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply I beg to give notice that I shall raise the matter again on the Adjournment.

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