HC Deb 21 May 1953 vol 515 cc2268-72
The Minister of Supply (Mr. Duncan Sandys)

I wish to inform the House that I have appointed the Iron and Steel Board in accordance with the provisions of the Iron and Steel Act, 1953.

The Act prescribes that the Board shall be composed of not less than 10 and not more than 15 members. I have appointed 11 members, leaving four places which can be filled if this should be found desirable in the light of the Board's experience.

The following have agreed to serve as whole-time members of the Board: Sir Archibald Forbes, Independent Chairman; Sir Lincoln Evans, Vice Chairman; and Mr. Robert Shone.

Since it would not be appropriate for a whole-time member of the Board to hold any other appointment connected with the iron and steel industry, Sir Lincoln Evans has arranged to resign his appointment as General Secretary of the Iron and Steel Trades Confederation. Likewise, Mr. Robert Shone's appointment as director of the British Iron and Steel Federation has been terminated.

In addition, the following have agreed to serve as part-time members of the Board:

Sir Andrew McCance—managing director of Colvilles, Ltd., iron and steel makers and Fellow of the Royal Society;

Mr. Neville Rollason, managing director of John Summers and Sons, iron and steel makers;

Mr. James Owen, general secretary of the National Union of Blastfurnacemen and member of the General Council of the Trades Union Congress;

Mr. Wilfred Beard, general secretary of the United Patternmakers' Association and member of the General Council of the Trades Union Congress;

Mr. James Shaw, chairman of Allied Ironfounders, Ltd;

Mr. Charles Connell, president of the Shipbuilding Conference;

Sir Percy Lister, chairman of R. A. Lister and Co., Electrical, Marine and Agricultural Engineers;

Mr. George Beharrell, managing director of the Dunlop Rubber Co. and past President of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders.

Mr. G. R. Strauss

I should like to ask the Minister three questions. First, can he tell us now, either exactly or approximately, when the appointed day will be, and when the Holding and Realisation Agency are likely to be appointed or their names announced? Second, can the right hon. Gentleman tell us whether the full-time members will really be full-time or whether, in view of the last Amendment made to the Bill before it became an Act, these full-time members will be free to take highly paid jobs in private industry as well as carry out their jobs on the Iron and Steel Board? Third, did the right hon. Gentleman inform these gentlemen before appointing them as members of this Board that they will carry very grave responsibility for the welfare of the iron and steel industry but they will not possess any effective powers with which to carry out those responsibilities?

Mr. Sandys

On the last point, of course, the gentlemen whom I have appointed are well aware of the terms of the Act and they will know very well what their responsibilities and their powers are. I have naturally gone out of my way to impress upon them the importance which Parliament attaches to the responsibilities entrusted to them.

The right hon. Gentleman asked me two other questions, one relating to the appointed day and the other concerning the announcement of the names of the members of the Holding and Realisation Agency. The latter is a matter for the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I understand that the announcement will be made very shortly, but I am not in a position to give the right hon. Gentleman an answer on that point. The appointed day has not been decided. Before fixing it I think it right that I should consult the Chairmen of the Board and of the Agency.

As I indicated the other day in the debate on the Lords Amendments, whole-time members have been appointed on precisely the same terms as the whole-time members of the Iron and Steel Corporation were appointed by the right hon. Gentleman himself, namely, that they will be required to render whole-time service to the Board except in so far as the Board, with the approval of the Minister, may otherwise permit.

Mr. Strauss

On that later point, does the right hon. Gentleman mean that he has in mind, as Minister, that he will permit these full-time people to take some nominal job outside the membership of the Board, which will not take up any significant time and for which they will not receive any appreciable payment; or does he mean, as we suspected he did mean the other day—and we should like it cleared up—that they are able to take responsible jobs? For example, would Sir Archibald Forbes be allowed to con- tinue his directorship of Spillers, and would the other gentlemen be able to continue directorships of companies outside the steel industry while serving on the Board?

Mr. Sandys

Let us all be quite clear that I would not consider appointing anybody a whole-time member of this important body unless I was quite sure that they would make their duties on the Board a first call on their time and that in no circumstances whatsoever would any outside appointment interfere with or in any way encroach upon the time that was necessary for them to discharge adequately their duties on the Board. In deciding what, if any, additional appointments it would be appropriate for a whole-time member to retain, I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that I shall, as far as possible, be closely guided by the precedents provided by himself and his predecessor Lord Wilmot in appointing the Iron and Steel Corporation.

Mr. Strauss

There is a difference here. The Iron and Steel Corporation, as the right hon. Gentleman has often pointed out, is nothing like this Iron and Steel Board. If he will follow the precedents that were set by my colleagues and myself in appointing other nationalisation bodies, we shall have no complaint whatsoever. If he means he is going to do that, I am satisfied. But if he is going wider and intends to allow these people to take responsible directorships of private companies outside, we say that he is wrong. May we be satisfied on that point?

Mr. Sandys

The important thing is that they should take on nothing whatsoever which is going to encroach upon the time they need to carry out their duties as whole-time members of the Board. On that I can give the right hon. Gentleman an absolute, complete and unqualified assurance.

Mr. Robson Brown

The Minister is to be congratulated on his success in recruiting such a comprehensive group of distinguished and informed industrialists, and particularly two trade unionists, to this Board. We believe that this will be a strong and well informed Board, and we wish it well.

Mr. Holt

May I also congratulate the Minister on getting this extremely strong Board together? While observing that a number of these gentlemen represent worker and employer interests, may I ask whether the right hon. Gentleman has impressed upon them the over-riding necessity, if this is to be a success, of safeguarding the interests of the consumer?

Mr. Sandys

If the hon. Gentleman will look at the list he will see that there are quite a number of members who have been selected precisely because they do represent consumer interests. In fact, I have appointed to the Board a larger proportion of consumer representatives than was asked for by the Consumers' Council set up by the right hon. Member for Vaux-hall (Mr. G. R. Strauss) under the 1949 Act.

Mr. Beswick

Will the right hon. Gentleman give the salaries of the full-time members? In addition, can he say whether there is any question of a retiring age applying to these gentlemen?

Mr. Sandys

Under Section 2 of the Act I am required to lay before each House of Parliament a statement of the remuneration and allowances of each member of the Board. This I shall do without delay. If hon. Members wish me to inform them now, the salaries are as follows: Chairman £7,500, whole-time members £5,000, part-time members £1,000.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. We really must pass on to the business.