HC Deb 23 July 1975 vol 896 cc536-8
9. Mr. Biffen

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment when he expects to conclude the statutory consultations with the relevant local authorities concerning the filling of vacancies on the board of Telford Development Corporation.

20. Mr Jasper More

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what progress has been made with the statutory consultations with local authorities concerning vacancies on the Telford Development Corporation board.

The Minister for Planning and Local Government (Mr. John Silkin)

The confidential statutory consultations with the relevant local authorities were concluded on 16th July, when I met the Chairman and Chief Executive of the Salop County Council. Following that meeting, my right hon. Friend decided to make the appointments which were announced on 18th July and which became effective on 21st July.

Mr. Biffen

Is the Minister aware that that statement made it evident that the county of Shropshire was being prepared for the emergence of a former Member of this House—Mr. Donald Chapman—as the Chairman of the Telford Development Corporation? Is he further aware that Telford is of great significance to the entire county, and that there is no tradition of absentee landlords in that part of the United Kingdom? Therefore, we hope that he will use his good offices to persuade Mr. Donald Chapman to live in or near the county and be a full-time member in the execution of his duties.

Mr. Silkin

The appointment of Mr. Donald Chapman—which is as deputy chairman, not as an ordinary member of the board—was made because he represented a Birmingham constituency for many years. Telford is the receiving new town for the West Midlands conurbation. He had a distinguished career, starting with a great academic record in agriculture and economics. He is the present dynamic and energetic Chairman of the Development Commission.

The hon. Gentleman referred to the chairmanship of the corporation. It is still held by Mr. Dugdale, although his first period of appointment ended in September last year.

The general implications of the hon. Gentleman's remarks were that there was an element of political bias in this matter.

Mr. Biffen

indicated dissent.

Mr. Silkin

I am delighted that the hon. Member did not mean that. I shall convey his good wishes to Mr. Chapman for a long and successful occupancy of the deputy chairmanship.

Mr. More

Mr. Donald Chapman was highly regarded as a Member of Parliament. He represented a Birmingham constituency. Nevertheless, does not the Minister regard it as wholly unsuitable and, indeed, insulting, to the people of Shropshire that responsibility for a large and complicated venture such as Telford New Town should be given to someone who, I understand, lives in Brighton and who, so far as is known, has all his interests in Brighton?

Mr. Silkin

If I went through the lists of chairmen, deputy chairmen and ordinary members of development corporations, and ascertained their places of residence, I should end up with some surprising results—not only in respect of appointments made under this administration. The test of a development corporation is that we should obtain the best people—in our judgment—to run the new town. I believe that Mr. Chapman's contribution will be fine, energetic and dynamic. I am looking to the good of Telford.

Mr. Skinner

Why must my right hon. Friend give these long answers to explain why this gentleman obtained this job? Is not the real answer that this is part of the disturbing patronage which most Government supporters were elected to do away with as soon as possible?

Mr. Silkin

The answer is "No, it is not." The interesting point about the new towns is that in the three and a half years of Conservative administration preceeding that of the present Government, there were seven new appointments of chairmen, five of whom were known, active Conservatives. I do not regard that as an immutable law of nature.