§ Lords Amendment: In page 3, line 24, leave out "of other persons,".
§ 4.3 p.m.
§ The Paymaster-General (Mr. Reginald Maudling)
I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment.
I suggest that with this Amendment we should also consider the Amendment in line 25.
It has been urged by the Opposition, both in this House and in another place, that special provision should be made in the composition of the Electricity Council for a representative of the trade unions. That is a claim to which the Government have felt unable to agree, because we think that it is necessary to have the maximum flexibility in the appointment of people to the Council and that if we appoint a person to represent one interest we shall find ourselves committed to agreeing to the appointment of persons to represent other interests as well.
The Amendment from another place proposes that in appointing a maximum of three independent members of the Electricity Council, the qualifications to which the Minister should have regard shall be the qualifications set out in Clause 2 (3) for the Generating Board, which refers to people who have experience of, and have shown capacity inthe generation or supply of electricity, industrial, commercial or financial matters, applied science, administration, or the organisation of workers.Therefore, it is made quite clear that in considering these three independent appointments, or as many of them as he decides to make, the Minister shall have regard to candidates having experience of many things, including the organisation of workers. I suggest that the record of this and of the previous Government has shown, and continues to show, that we have a proper appreciation of the service that trade union leaders can render to the country in these matters.
§ Sir Frank Soskice (Newport)
We on this side of the House certainly welcome the change which the Minister proposes, so far as it goes. In giving the reasons for not going the whole length that the Opposition wish to go, the right hon. Gentleman said that if he went that length the Measure would not have sufficient flexibility. The term "flexibility" is flexible in itself and does not mean very much. Whilst we would not oppose the change now suggested, I should be grateful if the right hon. Gentleman would elaborate what he means by flexibility.
Putting the question bluntly and squarely, why cannot we have a person who is a trade union member, experienced in trade union affairs and in Labour relationships? Why, if there were to be provision for such a member, is the measure of flexibility required not sufficient? It seems to me that the Minister has taken refuge in a somewhat woolly term not infrequently employed on both sides of the House and by Ministers of both political persuasions. I should be grateful if he would elaborate the matter a little more, if he now has the necessary information.
§ Mr. Maudling
If I may speak again by leave of the House, I quite agree that the word "flexible" is grossly over-used in this House. I once referred to the Bank Rate as a flexible weapon, and I was reprimanded by the hon. Member for Reading (Mr. Mikardo), who said that it was like knocking in a nail with a rubber hammer, which probably was quite true. If we specify that one member of the Electricity Council should represent a particular interest, there are a number of other particular interests, possibly not, in the view of hon. Members opposite, as important as the trade union movement but also important in themselves, which would be able to claim that they should be represented.
We feel it right that in setting up this very important body for the future of the industry, the Minister should not be inhibited in having to allocate seats on the Council to represent particular interests. By "flexibility" I meant that if we allocated a position on the Council to one particular interest we should almost certainly find ourselves compelled to allocate other seats for other particular 561 interests, organisations representing industry or the consumers and a number of others. That would inhibit the Minister in appointing the best Council, and that is why we do not feel able to go further than the Amendment.
§ Question put and agreed to.
Further Lords Amendment made: In page 3, line 25, after "three" insert:
of other persons (being persons appearing to the Minister to be qualified as mentioned in subsection (3) of the last preceding section)."—[Mr. Maudling.]