Mr. J. J. Davidson (Glasgow, Maryhill):
I desire first of all to thank you, Mr. Speaker, for this opportunity to make a statement to the House. At Question Time yesterday, when I was unavoidably absent from the House, a Member raised, by Private Notice, a question which implied that I had made a statement in a speech on Tuesday which was incorrect and false. I desire to say at the outset that I have no objection at all and no hard feelings toward the Member who raised this particular question, realising that he is a director of Sir Lindsay Parkinson and Company, Limited. I can quite realise his anxiety with regard to this particular subject. I desire, however, to substantiate my statement, and to lay before the House one or two facts so that hon. Members can consider the whole position.
The "Daily Sketch" on 21st February, 1941, stated:
281 Summonses say cars misused 145,600 gallons.
The defendants were Sir Lindsay Parkinson and Company, Limited, Hugh Beaver and Brian Colquhoun. I wish to point out that in my speech I asked for an assurance that personnel and organisations who are involved and convicted with regard to petrol offences should not participate in the future planning of this country. In the "East Anglian Daily Times" it was stated on 22nd February, 1941:
Mr. Brian Colquhoun was recently appointed Director-General of Aircraft Production factories.
On 19th March, 1941, the "East Anglian Daily Times" stated: "
£402 petrol case fines.
The fines imposed were:
H. E. C. Beaver £12, C. B. H. Colqunoun £10.
All defendants gave notice of appeal. On 22nd April, 1941, the, "Daily Telegraph" stated:
Mr. Hugh Beaver to be Director-General of Works and Buildings, Ministry of Works and Buildings.
On nth June, 1941, the "Daily Telegraph" stated:
Petrol appeals dismissed. Appeals by Hugh Beaver and Brian Colquhoun against convictions and" penalties imposed at Newton-le-Willows for a breach of the petrol regulations were dismissed at Liverpool Quarter Sessions.
The "Daily Telegraph" then refers to another case of a petrol officer, Mr. Arthur Fox, which has been dismissed. The Secretary for Petroleum (Mr. Geoffrey Lloyd) stated that the employment of the officer in question had now been terminated. The "Daily Telegraph" on 8th April, 1941, stated—
Another Petrol Prosecution; 170 Summonses.
The defendants were—
Sir Alexander Gibb and Partners, Hugh Beaver, at Liverpool.
On 9th April, the "Daily Telegraph" stated:
Firm's Misuse of Petrol. One of the largest firms of building contractors in the country, George Wimpey and Company, Limited, were fined £600 and £63 costs … for misusing petrol.
I want to remind the House that this misuse of petrol was taking place when the Government were putting out posters appealing on behalf of the many sailors who were losing their lives in carrying petrol to this country. After Wimpey's had been fined, the Ministry of Works and Buildings appointed their Chairman, Mr. G. W. Mitchell, to be Controller of Building Materials in succession to Mr. H. Beaver, now Director-General of Works and Buildings. Mr. Mitchell resigned his directorship of George Wimpey and Company, Limited, in order to take up his appointment.
I want to be very brief. Here is the case in a nutshell. I referred to the organisations which are participating in the work of the Ministry of Works and Buildings, and I mentioned Sir Lindsay Parkinson and Company, Limited, who have been acting in an official capacity to the Ministry of Works and Buildings in various contracts, and George Wimpey, and I mentioned personnel attached to those firms. It was stated on 8th April that the firm of Wimpey's were fined £600 and £63 costs, and, as I have already said," in July, 1941, the chairman of the company was appointed to the Ministry of Works and Buildings. Mr. Hugh Beaver was fined £12 and costs for the misuse of petrol when engaged on Government contracts. In July, 1941—this seems to be a lucky month for those who contravene the laws of this country—we find it announced that Mr. Hugh Beaver is to be Director-General of Works and Buildings and Mr. B. H. Colquhoun, fined for the same offences as Mr. Beaver in March, was later appointed to the Ministry of Works and Buildings. [Interruption.] He was appointed to the Ministry of Works and Buildings in July, 1941.
Those statements are statements that cannot be disputed. For the sake of brevity and out of respect for the time of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen, I have selected only some instances regarding this deplorable state of affairs, and I feel that I was fully justified in asking, during the proceedings on the Ministry of Works and Planning Bill, for assurances that such practices would not be continued with regard to the great task of rebuilding and planning for this nation. I do trust that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen will agree that the task of planning this nation should be in the hands of men and women of proved integrity who will give to this House and to the nation that high standard of administrative impartiality, without being associated with any organisations at all, that we have always expected and generally receive from the great Civil Service of this country.
I should first like to say that I am sorry that the hon. Member has not seen fit to withdraw his statements that the firm of Sir Lindsay Parkinson and Company have had representatives appointed to the Ministry of Works and Buildings. They never have had any there. There never were any there, and they have not done any work for the Ministry of Works and Buildings since 1936, when they built Chorley Ordnance factory for the Office of Works, so there is no connection there at all. As far as any petrol offences were concerned, they were convicted of a technical offence as agents for the Ministry of Supply, and there was no implication of any irregularity in any shape at all. I feel sure that the hon. Member, if he is fair, will take these facts into consideration and withdraw the allegation about private firms, who find it very difficult to defend themselves.