HC Deb 28 January 1959 vol 598 cc1052-3
23. Mr. Shinwell

asked the Secretary of State for Air whether he has now reconsidered Government policy in connection with Malcolm Clubs; and whether he will make a further statement.

25. Mr. Ross

asked the Secretary of State for Air if he will make a further statement about the future of the Malcolm Clubs.

Mr. Ward

In the course of the Adjournment Debate on 18th December, I said that if, in the near future, Malcolm Clubs paid their debt to the Air Ministry and showed that they had acquired adequate working capital, I would gladly consider the situation afresh.

We now understand that, given more time, Malcolm Clubs would hope to be able to raise funds to improve their financial position.

As stated in another place, the Government have therefore decided to take no steps towards the closing down of any of the clubs before the end of this year, in the hope that by then Malcolm Clubs will be able materially to improve their financial position.

Mr. Shinwell

Does not the right hon. Gentleman regard it as invidious that last Wednesday, in reply to a Question on this topic, he said that he could not alter his decision about the closing of the clubs—that is contained in the OFFICIAL REPORT—and yet, only a few hours afterwards, a Government spokesman in another place agreed to retain the clubs for another 12 months? Does that indicate any difference of opinion in the Government, and how does the right hon.

Gentleman feel about the action of his colleague in another place, in view of what he said last week?

Mr. Ward

It was during the course of the debate in another place that Lord Tedder said that if he had more time he would launch an appeal, and that he was hopeful of raising these funds. I had never been told that before. It was, therefore, only just that we should give them extra time.

Mr. Ross

When we consider the debate which we had in this House and what took place in another place, will not the Minister agree that all that information could have been gained in five minutes' conversation between the Air Minister and Lord Tedder himself? Does not he feel that he made the Air Ministry appear rather petty, heavy-handed, and obstinate in the way it has handled this matter, grateful as we are for the final decision?

Mr. Ward

Not in the least. It only goes to show that I am always open-minded and ready to change my mind if necessary. As regards the early part of the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question, as I pointed out in the Adjournment debate, we did wait for six months between taking a decision and announcing that we were going to do anything about it, because we wanted to allow as much time as possible.

Mr. Shinwell

Will the right hon. Gentleman say when he was informed that his colleague in another place was about to make a statement contrary to the one he had made some hours before? Would not it have been more courteous and reasonable on the part of the right hon. Gentleman to admit that he was mistaken about this matter?

Mr. Ward

I heard Lord Tedder's speech from the Steps of the Throne. It was I who asked my noble friend Lord Dundee to make that statement.