HC Deb 05 April 1976 vol 909 cc3-5
2. Mr. Peter Morrison

asked the Secretary of State for Industry whether he has any plans to meet the Chairman of BSC.

14. Mr. Anthony Grant

asked the Secretary of State for Industry when he next proposes to meet Sir Charles Villiers, Chairman-designate of the British Steel Corporation.

15. Mr. Michael Marshall

asked the Secretary of State for Industry what discussions he has had with the new Chairman of British Steel, both before and after his appointment to that office.

21. Mr. Crawford

asked the Secretary of State for Industry when he next intends to meet the Chairman of the British Steel Corporation.

Mr. Varley

I met the Chairman and the Chairman-designate on 15th and 12th March respectively. No dates have so far been arranged for further meetings, but as and when needed I meet the Chairman on a wide range of matters affecting the Corporation.

Mr. Morrison

When the Secretary of State met the Chairman, did he tell him the real reasons behind his decision not to reappoint him, namely, that he was running the BSC very well, and well for Britain as a whole, but just happened not to be fitting in with Socialist ideology at present?

Mr. Varley

I do not know whether even Sir Monty Finniston would agree with that. I assume that the hon. Gentleman is trying to help in the situation. Sir Monty will have completed nearly 10 years as either Chief Executive of BSC or Deputy Chairman of the Organising Committee when his term comes to an end in September. I should like to place on record my admiration of the work, energy and devotion that he has put into the Corporation over those years, and I know that he is fully committed to making the nationalised industry a success.

Mr. Grant

When the Secretary of State meets the Chairman-designate, will he encourage him to stand firm on the agreement made by Sir Monty with the unions in February to reduce overmanning in the industry?

Mr. Varley

I have had one preliminary discussion with Sir Charles Villiers about the prospects of the Corporation. It is the most important manufacturing industry in the country. It will take some time before everything comes right within that industry, but Sir Charles is very keen on improving industrial relations and he is well aware of some of the problems of the Corporation.

Mr. Skinner

Why was it found necessary to appoint Sir Charles Villiers to this post? Are there no Socialists capable of carrying out these important jobs as chairmen of nationalised industries? Does not my right hon. Friend agree that these are the most likely representatives to do the job correctly on our behalf?

Mr. Varley

I want to see those who head the nationalised industries committed to making those industries a success. There is no reason to doubt that Sir Charles Villiers is competent and able to deal with the problems of the industry. My hon. Friend will know that Sir Charles did magnificent work as the Chairman of the Industrial Reorganisation Corporation between 1968 and 1971.

Mr. Marshall

When he met Sir Charles Villiers, did the Secretary of State discuss the need for terms of reference under which the Chairman-designate can see the British Steel Corporation operating in a vigorous and profitable manner? When legislation comes forward to increase the BSC's borrowing requirement, may we have a total rethink about the way in which the Government are crippling the activities of senior management of the BSC?

Mr. Varley

I am not prepared to take lessons from Conservative Party spokesmen on the relationship between the Government and nationalised industries, The hon. Gentleman will recall the unwarranted interference that took place between 1970 and 1972 in the activities of the Joint Steering Group. I assure the hon. Gentleman that we shall never meddle in the way that the Conservative Party meddled at that time.

Mr. Gwilym Roberts

Further to my right hon. Friend's answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner), does he agree that acceptance of Socialist doctrine by the chairman of any major public sector operation is an essential key to the success of that operation?

Mr. Varley

Of course, it is essential that the industries become well managed and efficiently run. There is nothing in the appointment of Sir Charles Villiers that contradicts that view.

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