Divisional Coal Boards (Salaries)

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

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

I think the hon. Member has interrupted already and I have replied to him. As this is a Debate on the Adjournment I think hon. Members should content themselves with the speech that has been made and had better listen to the reply. As I say, there has been quite a good deal of misunderstanding about the question of who is responsible for these appointments. I want to make it clear that we are not responsible for the appointments but we leave them to the National Coal Board. We must trust the Board.

Finally, I should like to say that throughout the Debates of the Standing Committee we were advised by hon. Members opposite not to interfere unduly in the administration of the National Coal Board. We were advised to give them a free hand, and indeed it was suggested that the Minister might be too dictatorial, might be inclined to interfere every day in the administration and in the details of administration. I was adjured not to do anything of the sort by hon. Members opposite, and now, when I inform hon. Members that I am carrying out their instructions almost to the letter, refusing to interfere in the detailed administration for which the Board is responsible and for which the Board was appointed, I am told that hon. Members are entitled to the details of remuneration and all the rest of it.

There is another point to which the hon. Member referred. He seemed to indicate—and I hope I do not misinterpret what he said—that we are entitled to know all about the wages of miners. Does the hon. Member really suggest that this should be a platform for discussing wages and salaries? Has the House of Commons come to this? That was never accepted as regards private enterprise undertakings, and as far as I am aware, but speaking subject to correction, it does not apply to the British Broadcasting Corporation, to the Post Office, to the London Passenger Transport Board, or to any other statutory board. There is a further reason before I sit down that I advance in support of my contention that this is not a matter for me to interfere with, and that is that in the selection of personnel for these Divisional Coal Boards there is great variety. In the very nature of the case it must be so for we are not dealing with the same districts. Kent is different from Scotland, Durham from South Wales, and there must be differentiation in the kind of technical and admin- istrative ability required for the respective districts.

Obviously, in those circumstances any kind of information provided about salaries of the chairman or other persons would be misleading. It might be admitted that some people are receiving higher salaries than others, questions would be put as to the reasons why, and there would be great difficulty all round. Moreover, I am going to confess to the House that, as I have said before—I said it during the Second Reading Debate and during the Standing Committee I repeated it over and over again—we are conducting an experiment, and in those circumstances we have to feel our way and cannot have the Coal Board "mucked about" with, interfered with, and placed in a position which indicates some lack of confidence at the very beginning of this great experiment. I want to give the Coal Board a chance, and I hope hon. Members are in a like situation. We have to give the Coal Board that chance not so much in the interests of the Board itself but in the interests of the nation because the coal problem, as the hon. Member stated is bound up with the life of the whole nation. Any time hon. Members want another Debate on the coal problem all they have to do is to approach their leader, and he can make representations to the Lord President of the Council in that sense. If hon. Members want another Debate I am ready for it.