HC Deb 19 December 1967 vol 756 cc1059-60
1. Mr. Chichester-Clark

asked the Minister of Technology if he will make a statement about the Government-appointed directors of Short Brothers and Harland of Belfast.

23. Mr. Stratton Mills

asked the Minister of Technology if he will make a statement as to the chairmanship of Short Brothers and Harland.

39. Sir Knox Cunningham

asked the Minister of Technology what progress has been made in appointing a chairman of Short Brothers and Harland; and if he will make a statement.

The Minister of Technology (Mr. Anthony Wedgwood Benn)

Mr. Wrangham. the present Chairman, and Sir Cyril Musgrave have tendered their resignations to take effect from the end of this month. I hope to announce the names of their successors shortly.

Mr. Chichester-Clark

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the effect on morale in this firm through the sacking of the Chairman, the long interval and the resignation of another Government-appointed director, saying, as he did, that he was truthfully fed up with the Minister's interference? Will he not underestimate the effect of this and ensure that it never happens again?

Mr. Benn

I hope that nothing the hon. Gentleman says will make the position more difficult. He knows the circumstances of what occurred in the summer. I shall announce a successor as soon as I can.

Mr. Stratton Mills

But is the Minister aware of the resentment caused among the directors and staff by his treatment of Mr. Wrangham? Why has it taken over six months from the time that Mr. Wrangham's departure was announced to get another director? Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware of the grave harm done to morale?

Mr. Benn

The prospects for Shorts in terms of its own work load and future are brighter than they have been for some time. I am conscious of the need to make the appointment.

Sir Knox Cunningham

Does not the Minister realise that the Government are a 70 per cent, majority shareholder in Shorts and that it is shocking that they should behave in this way? When will they get on with making this vital appointment and stop all the delay?

Mr. Benn

The hon. and learned Gentleman cannot have it both ways. If we are responsible for the firm, we cannot be described as interfering in making the appointments.

Mr. McMaster

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that Mr. Wrangham has been supported by all the other directors of the company, that he has rendered great service to the company and that the uncertainty created by his action is most damaging to the prospects of the company?

Mr. Benn

I have paid tribute to Mr. Wrangham's work for Shorts ewer the years, but I do not think it desirable to discuss personal appointments in the House in this way.

Mr. Corfield

Is it not clear that, if the more favourable situation in Shorts is due to Mr. Wrangham, the people of Northern Ireland cannot possibly have any confidence in the Governments regional development policy while this sort of action goes on?

Mr. Benn

I think that the confidence of the people of Northern Ireland in the regional development policy is built on the fact that Shorts' work load on Skyvan and podding, and other contracts are going ahead.