Divisional Coal Boards (Salaries)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 15th November 1946.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mr Emanuel Shinwell Mr Emanuel Shinwell , Seaham 12:00 am, 15th November 1946

That may be the hon. Member's line of argument, and it can be responded to any time he likes, but I want to deal with the facts of the situation, as apparently they are not fully known by hon. Members. The hon. Member, I understand, wants information about the remuneration of members of the Divisional Coal Boards, and he went so far as to say that he thought hon. Members were entitled to information, not only about remuneration of members of the Divisional Coal Boards, but on the salaries of all members of the staff. That is most surprising, because, in making that demand, we are "elevating," if I may use that expression, the administration of the National Coal Board to that of the Civil Service. That is precisely what hon. Members on the other side were anxious to prevent. If any evidence is required on that head, I shall be happy to furnish it.

I observed that just before this Debate began the right hon. and gallant Member for Gainsborough (Captain Crookshank), who knows a great deal about this matter, because he led the Opposition in Standing Committee, departed from the scene. I do not know whether that was deliberate. I wonder if it was? At any rate, in his absence, I must quote him. On the fifth day of the Standing Committee this is what the right hon. Gentleman said. On this very point of whether there should be Treasury control of the salaries of members of the Divisional Boards, which, it was pointed out, were likely to be appointed, and also on the question of the salaries of the staff. He said: The Treasury has at the back of its mind the general level in the Civil Service, and there may be some who still hanker with the idea that this industry is going to be a semi-Civil Service affair. I hope that when the Bill emerges from this Committee it will be as far removed as possible from that. We want Parliament to have the final say, but we do not want the Civil Service atmosphere to be running all through it. If you start with approval for salaries being required from the Treasury you will be giving a pointer in that direction."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee C; 26th February, 1946, col. 211.] To what did that relate? It related, in the first instance, to the question of salaries for the National Coal Board itself. There was some doubt whether it was desirable, in all the circumstances, as this was to be a semi-independent and autonomous body operating on behalf of the State, for the Treasury to fix the salaries or, at any rate, to give their approval to the salaries to be paid, and whether the matter should be one of public comment. I pointed out that it was very desirable, in all the circumstances, as this was a very important and influential body operating as an instrument of the State, that the Treasury should have some say in the fixing of salaries, and the House and the public should be duly informed. I was not prepared to go beyond that. I made the position perfectly clear to hon. Members on the Standing Committee. Let us see exactly where we stand in this matter. Why is it that the hon. Member wants this information? Is it because he is concerned about the nature of the appointments, about the personnel on the Divisional Coal Board? He mentioned Sir Ben Smith.