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British Overseas Airways Corporation (Appointments)

Volume 389: debated on Thursday 20 May 1943

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As the House will be aware, it has been my intention, since the resignation of the late members of the British Overseas Airways Corporation, to appoint a Chairman who could devote his whole time to that important office.

I am now able to tell the House that I have invited Viscount Knollys, K.C.M.G., M.B.E., D.F.C., the present Governor of Bermuda, to be Chairman of the Corporation, and that he has accepted. In order to take up this appointment, he has tendered his resignation as Governor, which resignation His Majesty has been graciously pleased to accept. Lord Knollys, who has agreed to sever his business connections, will start his new duties at an early date. His appointment will be for a period of four years.

I am also appointing as members of the Corporation Miss Pauline Gower, M.B.E., Commandant of the Women's Air Transport Auxiliary, and Air-Commodore Critchley, C.M.G., D.S.O. After consulting Lord Knollys, the Corporation have selected Air-Commodore Critchley for the post of Chief Executive. Air-Commodore Critchley, who will now cease to be employed on the active list, will take up his new duties immediately. He will, of course, devote his full time to the service of the Corporation, to the exclusion of other business activities.

Sir Harold Howitt, who has discharged the duties of temporary Chairman with conspicuous zeal and ability, has accepted my invitation to become Deputy Chairman, in which capacity his knowledge of public and business affairs will, I am glad to say, continue to be available.

Has the new Director-General any qualifications whatsoever for that post; and has the right hon. Gentleman made inquiries from the Army and other bodies in which that gentleman has been active in past times as to the reputation he bears and as to his suitability for a post of this sort?

I have known Air-Commodore Critchley since he was adjutant of that famous regiment, Strathcona's Horse, in the Canadian Cavalry Brigade in the last war. I have the utmost confidence in his loyalty, energy, and zeal in the discharge of his duties.

He will sever all his business connections and devote himself to this task.

He has great qualifications, as being very experienced in the conduct of large business affairs and in important administration.

Was it the necessity for this announcement that made the Government so anxious to put off as long as possible any Debate on civil aviation?

No, Sir. I have explained to the House why it was not possible to have an early Debate on civil aviation. It has nothing whatever to do with the announcement of the new members of the Board.

Is it not true that Air-Commodore Critchley's plan for initial training and his carrying-out of it have been most brilliantly done, and have been of the greatest possible assistance in maintaining the flow of trained personnel for the Air Force?

Yes, Sir. Air-Commodore Critchley has done quite magnificent work in command of initial training for the Royal Air Force.

On a point of Order. May I ask your guidance, Sir, on one point? Without expressing any opinion on the merits of the gentlemen and lady referred to, have we the right to exercise our discretion as to the decision by the Executive in the appointment of these persons? Have we any power in the matter?

Certainly. There is that right, but it can hardly be done by question and answer. There are other methods.

In view of the fact that the Dominions must play a great part in post-war civil aviation in the British Empire, is it not the intention to invite representatives with air experience in the Dominions to sit on that Board, to plan the whole post-war future of civil aviation?

No, Sir. I dealt with that fully in a Debate on the Adjournment, which was raised by the hon. Gentleman himself.

As a large number of Members obviously do not know anything about Lord Knollys, will the right hon. Gentleman give the House some information about his record?

Information will be published about all the people whose names I have mentioned.

And will it say how many times Air-Commodore Critchley attended this House when he was a Member of it?