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Nationalised Industries (Select Committee)

Volume 530: debated on Tuesday 13 July 1954

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45.

asked the Prime Minister whether he will now make a statement upon the intentions of Her Majesty's Government in regard to the recommendations of the Select Committee upon Nationalised Industries, the final report of the committee having been published nearly 12 months ago.

46.

asked the Prime Minister what action is now contemplated arising from the recommendation of the Select Committee on Nationalised Industries which finally reported in July, 1953.

I have been asked to reply.

The House will recall my statement on 8th February that the Government accepted in principle the idea of a standing committee on nationalised industries, as recommended by the Select Committee, subject to any necessary detailed modifications and to consideration of the views expressed in debate, and on the understanding that the way was left open for a Joint Select Committee for this purpose, if that should eventually be decided upon.

The Government have carefully considered the views expressed on this matter from both sides of the House and are satisfied that there is a substantial body of support for the establishment of a Select Committee. They are further satisfied that there is no desire in another place that this committee should be a Joint Select Committee of the two Houses.

In these circumstances, the Government intend to table next Session a Motion for the appointment of a Select Committee of this House on the general basis recommended in the Select Committee's Report. I am circulating in the OFFICIAL REPORT a note commenting, in detail on certain points.

Following is the note:

The Select Committee on Nationalised Industries recommended in their Second Report (House of Commons Paper No. 235) that a committee should be set up under a Standing Order in the following terms:
"There shall be a select Committee, to be designated the Committee on Nationalised Industries, for examining the Reports and Accounts of, and for obtaining further information as to the general policy and practices of the Nationalised Industries established by Statute whose controlling Boards are wholly appointed by Ministers of the Crown and whose annual receipts are not wholly or mainly derived from moneys provided by Parliament or advanced from the Exchequer. The Committee shall consist of not more than 21 members, who shall be nominated at the commencement of every Session and of whom seven shall be a quorum. The Committee shall have power to appoint subcommittees from its own members. The Committee and any such sub-committee shall have power to send for persons, papers, and records, and to report from time to time."
The Government think it premature to create a Committee under Standing Order but propose in the first place to move next Session for a Committee under an ad hoc Motion. Subject to this, the Government propose to adopt this recommendation subject to the following modifications and qualifications:

Terms of Reference

The Select Committee's terms of reference should be as in the suggested Standing Order, subject to the substitution of the word "current" for "general" in the phrase "general policy and practice of the nationalised industries."
The Government consider that it would be inappropriate that the proposed committee should investigate matters which have been decided by the Minister concerned or clearly engage his responsibility and for which he should, therefore, be answerable on the Floor of the House, or all matters (including questions of wages and conditions of employment) which are normally decided by collective bargaining arrangements. They also consider that the proposed committee should not concern themselves with matters which fall to be considered through formal machinery established by the relevant Statutes or with matters of day-to-day administration.

Composition

The Committee should consist of not more than 14 members of whom five should be a quorum.

Sub-Committees

The Committee should not have power to appoint sub-committees.

Power to send for persons, papers and records

The Committee should normally take evidence about the affairs of a nationalised industry from the Chairman of the Board of the industry concerned or a representative nominated by him. The witness might he accompanied by other representatives of the Board where appropriate. Ministers should not normally be invited to appear before the Committee.

Power to report

The Committee should report from time to time and publish its evidence except where such publication might be held to be contrary to the public interest.

Staff of the Committee

The staff of the Committee should not include an officer of the status of the Comptroller and Auditor General. It should have the assistance of liaison officers from the Treasury and from each of the Departments whose Ministers are responsible for the affairs of nationalised industries.