HC Deb 17 March 1965 vol 708 cc1284-6
The First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Economic Affairs (Mr. George Brown)

I am authorised by the Prime Minister to inform the House that Her Majesty the Queen has been pleased to indicate her approval of the appointment of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham, Hall Green (Mr. Aubrey Jones) as Chairman of the National Board for Prices and Incomes.

The names of the members of the Board will be announced in the near future.

The House will also be pleased to know that good progress is being made in the discussions with the other parties concerned about the considerations which should govern the behaviour of prices and incomes and by which the Board will be largely guided.

I hope to make an announcement about the outcome of these discussions soon.

Mr. Heath

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that he is to be congratulated on having secured for this important appointment the services of one, perhaps the only one, who is acceptable to both sides of industry? Is he further aware that the whole House will agree with him that it was right to look at the whole field to secure such a person and that my right hon. Friend, if it is still correct to use that designation of him as being a Member of the House, was right to respond to this approach in the way he has done in the national interest?

Could the right hon. Gentleman give us a dearer statement as to when he hopes to tell the House the remainder of the information mentioned in his statement? Does he, for example, expect to be able to tell us before the Budget?

Mr. Brown

I am obliged for what the right hon. Gentleman said about his right hon. Friend. It contrasts clearly with what was said about the appointment of a Labour man the other day to a different post.

As to the rest of the statement, I cannot at this moment, for reasons which the right hon. Gentleman will understand, go further than what I said in my original remarks. I will announce it, I hope, very soon; and by "very soon" I mean as soon as I possibly can.

Mr. Grimond

I, too, congratulate the First Secretary on having obtained the services of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham, Hall Green (Mr. Aubrey Jones). I personally regret his departure from the House and feel that in many ways he might have done a greater service as a Member of Parliament, even as a member of the Conservative Party.

Would the First Secretary say with whom he is having the discussions to which he referred and, among the parties with whom he is discussing this, which specifically represent the consumers' interests?

Mr. Brown

The discussions are proceeding at the moment with the Trades Union Congress, the manufacturers, the employers and the various other bodies of which one broadly speaks as being on that side of industry. I think that, on the whole, the consumer is fairly well represented in me. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]

Mr. Shinwell

Could my right hon. Friend say how far this process of the erosion of the Tory Front Bench is to continue? Is he aware that the prospect of thinning out the Tory Front Bench fills me with alarm and despondency?

Mr. Brown

My main aim, although it has nothing to do with the exercise here, would be to see the Tory Front Bench filled up and improved.

Mr. William Clark

Could the right hon. Gentleman say when he expects to be able to be a little more explicit about the terms of reference of the Board?


I said in my main remarks that as soon as we are through the consultations which are now taking place I will come to the House and announce the conclusions.


Could my right hon. Friend say what salary the Chairman of this Board will be paid and whether he will have independent staff resources to fulfil his very important duties in the national interest?

Mr. Brown

Yes. We will discuss the staff requirements with the Chairman of the Board. My intention is that he should have his own secretariat. How far it needs other staff than that which already exists, for example, within the N.E.D.C. office, or in my Department, we can discuss with him.

The Chairman's salary is £15,000 a year, which represents, I understand, a substantial financial sacrifice on his part.

Mr. Heath

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that if he will appoint as chairmen of his regional councils gentlemen, and ladies, who are likewise acceptable to both sides, he will not find himself subject to the criticism that he has had so far?

Mr. Brown

The right hon. Gentleman must get it out of his head that only a Conservative is acceptable to both sides. Sometimes a Labour man is.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

There are all the indications that we should now go on to farm prices. Mr. Peart.