HC Deb 22 March 1976 vol 908 cc15-6
11. Mr. Viggers

asked the Secretary of State for Energy if he is yet in a position to make a statement on the salary structure for BNOC executives.

Mr. John Smith

The salary structure for BNOC executives is a matter for the Corporation.

Mr. Viggers

Why is the Minister so coy on this subject? It is surely a matter of increasing public concern that the heads of nationalised industries do not appear to want to remain in their positions for very long. Does not the difficulty in recruiting people to BNOC make it necessary for a statement to be made on this subject?

Mr. Smith

The question of salary levels is important, but whether or not I were to make a statment in the House I do not think that it would assist in or detract from the process of obtaining appropriate executives for BNOC. What I have said is in line with what my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Industry said on the subject of the National Enterprise Board. This matter was examined by the Lord President on a previous occasion, and all parliamentary precedents are in favour of the statement I have made.

Mr. Dykes

Will the Minister confirm that the Government plan is for Lord Kearton to receive more than is paid to the Chairman of British Leyland? What is the Government's view on the BNOC's recent acquisition of a London branch office—not even a headquarters—at a rent per annum of £180,000, including a 2,000 sq ft luxury penthouse flat on the third floor?

Mr. Smith

I cannot confirm the hon. Gentleman's last remarks. The salary of Lord Kearton has not yet been decided. It is a Government decision. The hon. Gentleman's last remark is typical of the sniping by Conservatives whenever the topic of a publicly-owned asset comes up. I wish those same hon. Members were as vigilant in applying their strictures to the private sector.

Mr. Cryer

Will the Minister explain why the salaries of the executives of BNOC are a matter for the Corporation, whereas the wages of ordinary trade unionists are a matter for the Government in consultation with the trade unions? Should not the Government consider bringing into this post somebody who has a Socialist commitment, rather than somebody who is bought in via market forces at a huge and lavish salary, quite out of tune with the ordinary people who create our wealth?

Mr. Smith

My hon. Friend obviously misunderstands the nature of our incomes policy. The Government do not fix the wages of anybody. The system operates by agreement between the trade union movement and the Government. As for BNOC employees, I have every confidence that Lord Kearton will carry out the responsibilities placed upon him by Parliament and the Government. I know that he is dedicated to the success of BNOC, as are the Government.

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