HC Deb 10 June 1953 vol 516 cc209-11
40. Mr. Dugdale

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies the reasons which led him to permit Lord Reith to undertake business activities in addition to his work as Chairman of the Colonial Development Corporation.

43. Mr. Rankin

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what consultations he had with the Chairman of the Colonial Development Corporation before he accepted an appointment with a private firm.

Mr. Lyttelton

Now that Lord Reith has nearly completed his re-organisation of the Corporation both at headquarters and in the regions I saw value in a suggestion which he made some time ago that the Chairman, as in many large commercial organisations, should concentrate upon major questions of policy leaving the day-to-day administration to be carried out by the strengthened executive.

I therefore felt able to agree that the post of Chairman need no longer exclude the acceptance of two or three private directorships. I welcome this move, since it will keep the Chairman in closer touch with the business world outside the Corporation. The re-organisation of the executive will be completed in the autumn, and thereafter Lord Reith's salary as Chairman will be £3,500 p.a. instead of £5,000. He has assured me that he will still regard the Corporation as having the first claim upon his time and energy.

Mr. Dugdale

Before coming to this decision, did the right hon. Gentleman discuss the matter with the Prime Minister, and did both of them consider the effect this would have on the chairmen of the boards of other corporations? May we now assume that the chairmen of the National Coal Board and of the Electricity Authority and any other board may take directorships as and when they like?

Mr. Lyttelton

Of course not. The right hon. Gentleman is not justified in assuming anything other than what I have said. If he will look at the record of the Colonial Development Corporation under the auspices of the previous Government he will see that it is highly desirable that the Chairman should have closer touch with the outside world.

Mr. J. Griffiths

I gather, from the right hon. Gentleman's reply, that he has consented to Lord Reith's taking two or three directorships outside the Corporation. Is he able to tell us how much time each day and each week he will now be able to give to the Colonial Development Corporation?

Mr. Lyttelton

Lord Reith will continue giving the whole of his time to the affairs of the Colonial Development Corporation, subject to attending, I suppose, one board meeting or two a month of those companies.

Mr. Shinwell

Would it not be very useful if members of the Government, including the right hon. Gentleman, had closer contact with the outside world so that they could know what public opinion thinks about this decision?

Mr. Lyttelton

It is very easy to arouse prejudice on this matter, and I am not surprised that the right hon. Gentleman is trying to do it. However, there are roughly two systems under which joint stock companies are managed in this country. One is by having a whole-time chairman, who is the chief executive, and the other is by having somebody who is in touch with the outside world, and the day-to-day business, in the majority of cases, is carried on by the executive.

Mr. Dudley Williams

Is it the fact that during the administration of the late Government the Chairman of the Colonial Development Corporation, at the same time as he was the Chairman, held several directorships in private business?

Mr. Lyttelton

Yes, that is so, I believe.

Mr. Rankin

Is the Colonial Secretary aware that he has now decided to reverse a decision of Parliament without previously consulting this House, which decided that this was a full-time job? He has now decided it is a part-time job. Does he really think that that is in the best interests of the Colonial Development Corporation?

Mr. Lyttelton

If it is not in the best interests of the Corporation, why did the last Government permit Lord Trefgarne to hold outside directorships? [Interruption.] If everybody got a knighthood who contradicted the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) we should have a very full House of them indeed.