HC Deb 14 March 1973 vol 852 cc1280-2
19. Mr. Galbraith

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether, following the recent appointment of a new chairman of the North of Scotland Hydro Electricity Board, he has plans for merging the Hydro Board into the South of Scotland Electricity Board.

Mr. Gordon Campbell

No, Sir.

Mr. Galbraith

I am delighted to hear that. Will my right hon. Friend tell us what other reasons he had for appointing as chairman of the hydro board someone who was well known to be not exactly sympathetic to the independence of the board? Does he realise the kind of fears which are bound to arise and be created when such a person is appointed as the head of a board? Was there no one else in the whole of Scotland who did not have these disadvantages capable of undertaking the job?

Mr. Campbell

I do not accept what my hon. Friend has said. I am glad, therefore, to tell him definitely that there is no question of the new chairman changing the status of the board. The reason for the choice was that, as in other appointments, he was the best available person for the post.

Mr. McElhone

If the Secretary of State has any future plans to merge these boards, may I ask him to give the House an assurance that he will first dismiss this retired civil servant whose appointment was a shocking blow to Scotland? Will lie also assure the House that there will be no more appointments of rear admirals, diplomats and retired civil servants to these important organisations?

Mr. Campbell

The hon. Gentleman has chosen just a small sector of the appointments. Many other persons have been appointed, of all kinds, including an eminent gynaecologist to be chairman of the Scottish Tourist Board. He was appointed by my predecessor. But this particular appointment is a part-time appointment. Others naturally considered would be people in business and industry. The question was whether they had enough time from all their other jobs to be able to do this. Some of those for consideration were older than the person who has been appointed, because in industry and business people retire about 10 years later than people retire in the Civil Service.

Mr. William Hamilton

Read the article in the Glasgow Herald.

Mr. Campbell

The Glasgow Herald article, which has just been mentioned, contains favourable comments on some of the appointments I have made—for example, to the Countryside Commission and the White Fish Authority.

Mr. David Steel

Is the Secretary of State aware that those of us who have some affection for Sir Douglas Haddow believe that he had earned a quiet and decent retirement after his term at the Scottish Office? Is not the right hon. Gentleman in danger of devaluing the enterprise of the Scottish people by the series of appointments of retired people from elsewhere when there must be vigorous people in their middle life able to take on these top jobs?

Mr. Campbell

First, there are plenty of precedents, including the chairman and deputy chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, of persons of exactly the same kind, senior civil servants. People may be retired but that does not mean that they are necessarily elderly. The deputy chairman of the Highland and Islands Development Board is the youngest member of the board of seven. He is 14 years younger than the person he was replacing, who was a retired civil servant at the age of 60 when appointed by my predecessor. The real test of these appointments is surely how those appointed are doing about two years later, and on that they have so far been successful.

Mr. Ross

Does not the right hon. Gentleman feel that it would have been far better to have left Tom Fraser where he was? One of the reasons for the dismay in this matter is the activities of the Scottish Office in the past with regard to this board. Will the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance that if any suggestion comes from the board, under its new chairman, about a merger, he will resist it?

Mr. Campbell

I have already dealt with the question of mergers. There is no proposal of that kind before the Government or being considered by the Government. This is a matter for the Government and not for the chairman of the hydro board. As regards Mr. Tom Fraser, that was a previous appointment and it was a political appointment. But he is now moving to another job, which he has welcomed and in which he can continue useful activity. He is older than Sir Douglas Haddow.

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