HC Deb 17 May 1976 vol 911 cc940-2
9. Mr. Ron Thomas

asked the Secretary of State for Industry what qualities he looked for in deciding the appointments made to the Organising Committee for British Aerospace.

22. Mr. Terry Walker

asked the Secretary of State for Industry when will he be making further appointments to the Organising Committee for the nationalised aerospace industry.

Mr. Kaufman

The members my right hon. Friend has appointed have among them a wide range of relevant experience in the aircraft industry, the trade unions and other industries. My right hon. Friend is considering further appointments to the committee.

Mr. Thomas

I thank my hon. Friend for his reply, but is he aware that there is a report in one of the Bristol newspapers—one which can be relied on for accuracy—of a statement by the BAC chairman, Mr. Allen Greenwood, who, it is said, is destined to be the deputy chairman of British Aerospace—in which he said in no uncertain terms—

Mr. Speaker

Order. Is the hon. Gentleman quoting from a newspaper? Quoting from documents is out of order at Question Time.

Mr. Thomas

—that he was categorically still opposed to nationalisation? My hon. Friend the Member for Kings-wood (Mr. Walker) and I have been asking many Questions. Is it a condition for appointment to a nationalised board that a person must be opposed to the principle of public ownership?

Mr. Kaufman

I have had the opportunity of discussing this matter with Mr. Allen Greenwood, who assures me of his total dedication to the success of British Aerospace under public ownership.

Mr. Adley

Will the Minister confirm that the people he appoints to the board are there to act as business men in the best commercial interests of the company and are not civil servants or arms of Government? Even though the Government may not welcome everything they say, will the Government preserve their right to say whatever they think? Will the Minister reject the doctrinaire and spiteful view put forward by his home-owning friend, the hon. Member for Bristol, North-West (Mr. Thomas)?

Mr. Kaufman

My hon. Friend is nothing like as doctrinaire and spiteful as is someone who makes disgraceful personal references and indulges in personal smears. Although my hon. Friend and I do not always necessarily agree upon all aspects of how the British aircraft industry should be publicly owned, we agree upon the basic methods. What is more, my hon. Friend has played a very important part in bringing about public ownership of the aircraft industry.

Mr. Walker

Will my hon. Friend consider appointing people from the shop floor and the trade unions so that there is a good mix on the board?

Mr. Kaufman

In my discussions with the Confederation of Shipbuilding and Engineering Unions I have made clear my great concern that shop stewards and lay members shall be associated with the preparation for nationalisation in cooperation with the Organising Committee. What happens after nationalisation will depend on the way in which the industrial democracy proposals which I hope to bring before the House on Report are implemented.

Mr. Donald Stewart

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that there is resentment in the Scottish aviation industry that there is no representative from Scotland on the board? Will he put that right in the next round of appointments?

Mr. Kaufman

It would be helpful to us in dealing with the Scottish aspect if the Scottish National Party reversed its attitude of opposition to nationalisation and supported the Government. We should then greatly welcome the SNP's co-operation in bringing the industry into public ownership.

Mr. Thorne

Will the Minister confirm that the dedication to which he referred will be best promoted by much earlier consultation with the rank and file of the trade unions? Therefore, will he carry out consultation prior to Report so that we can ensure that when it becomes law the Bill will reflect rank and file opinion in the aerospace industry?

Mr. Kaufman

As my hon. Friend knows, I have taken part in many consultations in the industry with the shop stewards of 12 different factories and companies, including one in the area represented by my hon. Friend the Member for Preston, South (Mr. Thorne). I have emphasised to everybody concerned the importance of the views of lay representatives of workers being fully associated with bringing the industry into public ownership.

Mr. Heseltine

Will the Minister under. stand that in making appointments to the Organising Committee for British Aerospace the Secretary of State for Industry has given considerable hope to a number of people who would like jobs in publicly-owned nationalised industries, but that the tragedy for the industry and the country is that those people are sitting on the Government Back Benches?

Mr. Kaufman

I suppose those remarks were meant to be funny, but I cannot understand how at the moment. What interests me is that the Tory Party went on and on saying that we could not get suitable people to serve on the Organising Committee, but we now have an outstanding nucleus of people on that committee so that many shop stewards will be able to play an important part in the industry. However, all the Conservatives can now do is to knock that achievement.