HC Deb 24 January 1984 vol 52 cc828-70 7.27 pm
Mr. John Prescott (Kingston Upon Hull, East)

I beg to move, That this House, being opposed to the large scale redundancies recently announced by British Rail Engineering Ltd. which mean closures at the Shildon and Horwich works and directly threaten the future of railway workshop activity in Swindon, Derby and elsewhere, is concerned at the further reduction of British Rail Engineering Ltd. capacity and of maintenance and safety standards on British Rail; recognises that these, passenger service cut-backs, privatisation and accelerated job loss programme are the first consequences of the Secretary of State's decision to accelerate the reduction of financial support for the railways; and urges Her Majesty's Government to reject this Serpell strategy for British Rail and British Rail Engineering Ltd. and to develop a comprehensive programme for the modernisation and expansion of freight and passenger services.

This debate, like the previous one, is about redundancies, as embodied in the motion before the House in the names of myself and my right hon. and hon. Friends. We wish to bring to the attention of the House the consequences of British Rail's proposals regarding British Rail Engineering and their effect on redundancies throughout the country. The motion is concerned with redundancies not just in one area of the country. Many engineering areas in the north. east, south and west of the United Kingdom are to suffer further redundancies as a result of recent announcements of accelerated redundancy programmes and closures of British Rail Engineering Ltd.

This is the second debate in the House to be held on BREL in 10 months. The last debate led to accusations that the Opposition held it at the time of the Shildon by-election. I know of no engineering works in Chesterfield, so I assume that it is acceptable for the House now to debate the serious issues involved in the redundancies and closures in British Rail Engineering Ltd.

Since the debate last March there has been increased uncertainty for British Rail employees, and of British Rail Engineering in particular. That uncertainty has been greatly exacerbated by the statement that was rushed out a few days after the appointment of the Secretary of State for Transport in October, in which new objectives were set for British Rail. The motion therefore reflects the concern that is felt about the redundancies and this policy.

We note that the Government's amendment is less abrasive than it was in March. That may well be due to the fact that Tory Members of Parliament were returned for constituences covering Shildon and Swindon.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)

Where are they now?

Mr. Prescott

In Darlington. I do not see them in attendance at this debate.

We wish to bring to the attention of the House the fact that these redundancies are the legitimate concern of the Opposition. In making these inquiries the Opposition are not, as they were accused by the hon. Member for Swindon (Mr. Coombs) in questions on rail shop closures, scaremongering. No doubt the hon. Gentleman is having severe thoughts about his position on these new proposals.

The last debate was concerned largely with over-capacity in the wagon works, and we were treated to an example by the then Secretary of State, the right hon. Member for Guildford (Mr. Howell), of what he called "statistics" in alleging that the investment programme of the Tories was considerably better than that of the previous Labour Administration. As investment is an extremely important part of the argument, I shall spend some time on that so as to correct that aspect of Tory policies as given by the right hon. Gentleman at that time.

A common concern running through all the debates on this subject has been the increasing use of the Serpell report's conclusions. It is deplorable that the House has never debated the Serpell report. It is equally deplorable that we should not have had a separate debate in Government time on British Rail policy since the Tories came to power in 1979. Clearly that is completely inadequate, especially as we have seen such major changes in British Rail policy being brought about by further Government interference. We have seen the development of a new policy towards the industry. At least Serpell provided a number of options for the future of the services of British Rail—and for British Rail Engineering—but those options have not been put forward for discussion in our debates.

It is not my case tonight to deploy the alternative high investment argument—the alternative railway policy—which we on the Labour Benches favour—lower fares, the maximum utilisation of assets and a high investment policy. Perhaps the Government, if they will provide a day, will allow us the opportunity not only to criticise their policy towards British Rail but to consider that alternative. If the Government do not do that, we shall attempt to use our own time to deploy that point. However, the Government have a responsibility to provide time for the discussion of British Rail because it so much affects the United Kingdom as a whole, including those who use British Rail services and those employed by BR.

For that reason, I do not intend to address my remarks to the different arguments about each engineering workshop affected by the redundancies. I am sure that my hon. Friends will address themselves to the different aspects of the problems faced by the engineering works in their areas. However, the one point that engineering workshops have in common is that they have all suffered from an inadequate and unsustained investment programme, and that has led to their having an unfair share of misery and uncertainty. That is one factor which predominates in the whole argument relating to British Rail Engineering.

I wish to concentrate on the Government's responsibility in the matter. Their influence on British Rail policy has been considerable, though it has been more by the back door than by the open front door. They have used their influence powerfully, first, through the powers available to them in the sanctioning of the investment programme and the terms and conditions relating to the returns on such investment; secondly, by determining the level of public service obligation grants and the financial limits to such public support; and, thirdly, through their ideological demand for further privatisation of the public sector.

It is necessary, first, to look briefly at the sort of sea-change which took place in policy towards British Rail, which was eventually to affect the level of investment and the whole attitude towards British Rail Engineering. If one reads the various rail plans which have been issued since 1980 and compares the different attitudes adopted in those plans, one finds it an interesting and stimulating experience, although the conclusions in the later stages are depressing.

In the rail plan covering 1981 to 1985, we find that the railway industry was full of optimism. Here were a Government representing business interests who would get the British economy moving and British Rail, it was felt, would benefit from that. It predicted higher investment and the return to a profitable railway system rather than one on deficit. For British Rail Engineering, those reports stated that it had the problem of undercapacity. Indeed, it was predicted in 1980 that for British Rail Engineering the future represented an increased demand for labour of 1,000 employees a year.

It was said that the problem would not be a shortage of work, but an adjustment of the workload, bearing in mind the decline in the wagon work and the increasing new investment that was being envisaged. However, a warning was given, an extremely important warning bearing in mind what followed. That plan stated about British Rail Engineering: The principal risk area covers the stability of the forecast workload, which assumes the ability of rail business to come forward at the agreed time with the necessary orders. Failure to do this would have serious implications in the under-utilisation of capacity and hence the non-recovery of overheads which have to be passed on. That was precisely what happened.

However, at that time, in the optimism of the early 1980s, another report—"Rail policy for the eighties"—made it clear that 1983 was to be the watershed year, when decisions on investment levels had to be taken. Investments had been delayed for more than the present Government's term of office—I am prepared to admit that. The areas where that investment had to take place were identified on that occasion. It meant, for British Rail Engineering, a considerable future as a result of new investment. However, it also asked for a new financial regime to determine and finance the new investment programme.

The Government heard what was said and set up the Serpell committee, and it came to exactly the opposite conclusions. It came to low investment conclusions, with a reduction in maintenance, redundancies and delay in investment. It is ironic that the man who sat on both committees, Sir David Serpell, apparently agreed with both sets of conclusions in those different reports, all within 12 to 18 months. Nevertheless, an important point was identified. Serpell identified the saving of £170 million—a vital point, as I shall show later. It also pointed out that savings of £40 million could be made on the engineering side — again, by the formula of redundancies, cuts in maintenance, closures and delayed investment.

When that report came out, British Rail was rather embarrassed. It thought that it would be compared with the European system, a comparison that it had made and, in so doing, had found that BR had compared quite well. Serpell was not interested in that, but only in its terms of reference, and they were how to cut down financial support for the British Rail system. That, basically, was what Serpell was set up to do, and at the same time to give a few options for the future. Serpell achieved that. As a result, British Rail—although making some criticisms of Serpell—had to reconsider its position, and the pending appointment of a new chairman along the way obviously concentrated the mind marvellously.

When it came to British Rail Engineering Ltd., the judgment was arrived at that its future was not so rosy as was at first thought. BR made some criticisms of the Serpell report, including the fact that the financial savings to which Serprell had pointed were not proper savings, and BR took the view that Serpell had not paid proper attention to the circumstances of BR. Nevertheless, while it had criticisms of Serpell, the 1983 to 1988 plan showed that the British Railways Board had clearly got the Government's message. That message was that it must no longer expand in investment or services. It was now "A plan out of recession." An end to the recession could not be seen, so it could hardly be a plan based on the expansion of railway services. Accordingly, it was designed to be a plan out of recession.

What, then, were the criteria and priorities for British Rail? They involved a culling of the public service obligation by 25 per cent., delayed investment and increasing redundancies — exactly the Serpell formula embodied into the plans for BR. The result was that more redundacies were to be built upon an already accelerated redundancy plan forming the background to British Rail.

For example, between 1970 and 1979 there were 3,000 redundancies a year on British Rail. That was increased between 1979 and 1983 to 7,500 a year. In the 1983 –88 plan that was increased to 10,500 a year. We now await the 1984 plan, which is being drafted based on objectives set by the Secretary of State. My money is on its being an acceleration of the process, with more unemployment and redundancy and more cutbacks in services.

We note that British Rail Engineering Ltd. will have to suffer 4,000 redundancies, and it is estimated that as a result of those redundancies £30 million could be saved. Yet the cost of those redundancies must be about £25 million. As Serpell points out, it was not his obligation to look at the cost of the community of redundancies. It is clearly the responsibility of the Secretary of State to balance these important costs to the community, but that does not have high priority with this Government. This would be only a further drop in the millions who have been made unemployed by the Government's policies.

What is also tragic is that 700 apprenticeships are to be done away with. The opportunity to train our youngsters in skilled work will be denied. Presumably they will now be offered one year on the youth training scheme, and employers will be paid to take them on for one year, instead of their being trained in a nationalised industry as the skilled manpower which is essential and necessary for when the economy begins to turn round. We hope that manufacturing will play an essential part in that.

We are changing from the workshops to the supermarket, and that is no future for a developed manufacturing country. In the 1983–85 plan there is no longer any investment expansion for British Rail Engineering Ltd. The plan makes it clear why the expansion cannot take place, despite the earlier plans. It refers to a progressive reduction in BR's fleets of locomotives, wagons and carriages in recent years, together with unfulfilled forecasts of increased new build of traction and rolling stock in successive Rail Plans. This has led to a situation of a substantial overcapacity and associated underutilisation costs. That is what was predicted would happen if the investment programme and support for British Rail did not come through. The plan went on to make it clear that even the proposals in the 1983 plan on the future of BREL depend on matching capacity and perceived workload. It is, however. heavily dependent on the authorisation by the Government of the traction and rolling stock projects included within the Rail Plan. Investment and agreement to investment are crucial to the future of BREL.

I wish to comment particularly on that in view of the fatuous remark by the previous Secretary of State for Transport, the right hon. Member for Guildford, who compared the investment programmes of the past three or four years of the Tory Government with those of the last three or four years of the Labour Government. He did not compare them at constant prices, but did so at current prices, and did not weight them down. I have since done that and I shall put the figures on record.

The right hon. Gentleman said that when the figures are added together it meant that the Tories had invested more, but the reality of the figures is different. The figures that I have are based on British Rail figures, and I have had them checked. In the three years to 1979, £1,660 million was invested in British Rail. Up to 1983, £1,375 million was invested. Although it was not adequate ever, then, under three years of Labour Government investment was £285 million more, comparing like with like. What is more worrying is that in the new plan of British Rail, the next three years to 1986 will involve an investment programme of £1,593 million, which is £69 million less than the investment to 1979 under a Labour Government.

Those figures have been exacerbated by ministerial delays in sanctioning investment and the programmes that they have had before them, by the delay in the electrification programme and by the target set by the Government, which was previously set for the 125s, that there has to be a commercial return on the investment by 1988. That has made British Rail more concerned about revenue, in order to prove itself so that it can get the Government's agreement for an electrification programme. That will hinder further investment development and British Rail has already withdrawn some inter-city stock investment because of the Government's emphasis on revenue and not on investment. Those are the difficulties surrounding investment in British Rail.

Against that background, I shall look at the statement made by the Secretary of State in October. He further tightened the screw on British Rail and the investment consequences. As he comes from the Treasury, perhaps we should expect that. He is a Treasury boot boy put in to do the job to show that he can be tougher than anybody else and that what really matters is how the Government reduce public support. We should look at the consequences of that, because it is important to BREL.

In his statement in October the Secretary of State said that the cut in the public service obligation — which British Rail had proposed in a hara-kiri way to reduce by 25 per cent. by 1988—must now be achieved by 1986. BR's figures, which I have checked, show that the difference between BR's corporate plan and the new target set by the Secretary of State will mean a loss of income of £145 million from the public service obligation. If we add to that the £40 million that was lopped off the 1983 public service obligation by the Government in another lit of saying, "We will give you less", we see that they have robbed British Rail of £185 million. The Secretary of State had difficulty about figures in our last debate, and if he is in doubt I shall throw the figures over to him again. I know that he has employed a higher transport economist since our last debate, so perhaps we can take into account some expert opinion.

Mr. Skinner

The Prime Minister is against economists.

Mr. Prescott

I think that my hon. Friend is referring to her play acting.

Mr. Skinner

Oh no.

Mr. Prescott

Let us hope that the economist that the Department of Transport has taken on will improve the information flow.

By 1986 the public service obligation target of £635 million will mean an inevitable reduction in some investment play, because there is investment money in the public service obligation. That has had an effect on investment and that is £76 million less than the figure set in 1975 when the public sector obligation was introduced by the Labour Government. We are giving British Rail less in real terms than in 1975, against a background of reduced revenue earnings.

Moreover, pressures by the Government have led to cuts in the mileage routes in every part of the United Kingdom and a reduction in services. It is interesting to note that Serpell, when he looked at how much public money would be needed for the BR system — as he acknowledged it was — felt that £635 million would sustain a route size of 8,000 miles. As the present route size is 10,000 miles, this may be another demonstration of the Secretary of State's move towards a reduction in the route miles of BR's services because of the necessity to reduce costs.

The effect has been reduced services, the packing of people into trains in the south-east, as we have heard, single trackways, closing of routes and reduction of maintenance. The effect on BREL has been to increase its uncertainty and the loss of further investments orders. That uncertainty is further compounded by the Serpell options put to BREL. The report suggested that the Government should consider either taking the share capital of BREL, privatising or giving British Rail its own work to do in engineering, without a capacity to do new building work.

The Secretary of State's statement in October made it clear that the rationalisation of BREL was an objective for the Government and that they would complete their review of the consequences of that, including the future of BREL and its privatisation. Perhaps we can hear from the Secretary of State this evening what the Government's policy is on privatisation and what options he has.

The consequences of this uncertainty confirm what a director of personnel in BR said in February when talking about the redundancies: I think I must also caution that unless BREL succeeds in increasing its share of the world market for traction and rolling stock requirements, the probability of another medium-sized Works closing in 1986–87 time scale cannot be ruled out.

These redundancies will probably lead to the closure of a medium-sized works. Will that medium-sized firm be at Swindon, Doncaster, York or Derby? That is what the Labour party is being asked. Let there be no doubt that the architects of this policy are the Government and their obsession with public expenditure cuts. This policy denies sufficient financial support to a railway system already under-financed compared with Europe, affecting investment, causing further deterioration of services for passengers, accelerating redundancies and uncertainties for the remainder, while once again preparing to pull under public assets with the privatisation of BREL.

This country has paid dearly for its monetarism-obsessed Government, of which the Secretary of State is a keen lieutenant. He will bear the direct responsibility for the future likely closures and redundancies that will follow in British Rail Engineering Ltd., yet to be announced. That is why tonight the Opposition will press the motion standing in the name of myself and my right hon. and hon. Friends.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harold Walker)

Mr. Speaker has selected the amendment in the name of the Prime Minister.

7.50 pm
The Secretary of State for Transport (Mr. Nicholas Ridley)

I beg to move, to leave out from "House" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof: while deeply sympathising with the people affected by necessary industrial change, wishes to see an efficient railway engineering industry in the United Kingdom that can supply British Rail and the rest of the domestic market competitively and win orders from overseas; and strongly supports the British Railways Board's efforts to achieve this.

I agree with the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott) on one thing at least, and that is that there are no railway works at Chesterfield. If there were, I am sure that he would wish to close them. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would do anything he could to embarrass the situation there.

I start by summarising the facts of the current situation at British Rail Engineering Ltd. A year ago British Rail announced that, as a result of the over-capacity which had arisen in its engineering subsidiary, it would be necessary to close the workshops at Shildon, Horwich and Temple Mills. That is common knowledge to the House, which debated the matter last March. In that debate, my right hon. Friend the Member for Guildford (Mr. Howell), the then Secretary of State, made it clear that these were decisions for the BR management to take, but that they arose from the changing needs of the railway.

The recent announcement is that just under 4,000 jobs will have to go during 1984 — including some 500 salaried staff—and that number includes about 1,500 from those earlier closure decisions. Unfortunately, BREL has found it necessary now to make further reductions, for reasons which I shall explain later. Those reductions will cause some job losses at most BREL works, but they are particularly associated with Swindon, Derby—Litchurch Lane—and Doncaster, because of the particular nature of the work that is involved.

I repeat that those decisions are the responsibility of the BR management. I shall deal with the matters that the hon. Gentleman raised in his speech in this regard. They are not — as the hon. Gentleman and the motion allege — a consequence of any of my decisions. I say that to make the position clear, and not to wash my hands of the matter. I deeply sympathise with the people at BREL and their families who are affected by these changes. However, we cannot pretend that the changes are not necessary, and we would not be helping either the people concerned or those who remain in BREL if we did not face that fact. So I believe that the Government and the House should give the board of British Rail and the management of BREL full support in tackling these difficult problems honestly and humanely.

I re-emphasise that I realise that this news is a personal tragedy for many people. The pace of industrial change has been constantly quickening in recent years. I shall explain in due course the changes that have brought about these redundancies — better equipment leading to less maintenance, more intensive usage of equipment, and the decision to end asbestos stripping.

Industrial change of this sort has hit many of our industries, as the Opposition know. On every occasion they suggest that the Government should seek to arrest change, because of the hardship that it causes. If we had listened to them, as they know in their hearts, we would have many inefficient, uncompetitive industries, which would have impeded labour mobility to the new industries, and prevented us from securing export orders.

Mr. Prescott

What new industries?

Mr. Ridley

The real question for them to answer is whether they really want to slow down the pace of industrial change, with all its attendant consequences of uncompetitiveness, or just to try to make political capital out of other people's misfortunes.

Before I turn to the specific issues, I want to say a word about the Opposition motion. It alleges that safety standards on British Rail might be reduced. Safety is the statutory responsibility of the railway, and neither the board nor I would countenance a lowering of standards. In fact, 1982 had a better safety record than any previous year in the history of the railways, and I understand that 1983 maintained that excellent standard. British Railways' 1983 plan envisages a substantial increase in investment in rolling stock and infrastructure, but in any case BR maintains and operates its equipment at all times with safety as a paramount aim. I hope that the hon. Gentleman, who fortunately did not repeat what is in the motion in his speech, will not repeat accusations of that nature which are totally unjustified.

Mr. Stephen Ross (Isle of Wight)

May I point out that on certain lines—for example, the railway line from Shrewsbury to Aberystwyth—the speeds have had to be substantially reduced to make sure that there are no accidents?

Mr. Ridley

That is an example of putting safety first. It is exactly the point that I was making. If a railway track is not capable of taking a high-speed train, it is clearly right to limit the speed.

What are the reasons for these redundancies and for the past redundancies that my right hon. Friend debated in March? The needs of the railway are changing. Just as the switch from steam to diesel in the 1950s led to massive rationalisation and restructuring of railway engineering workshops, so steady investment and modernisation over the past decade has led to the present round of adjustments in the workshops.

There have been big changes in British Rail's requirement for maintenance and refurbishment, and that has large consequences for BREL, because four men in five are engaged in maintenance work. When BREL is so heavily involved in maintenance work, it is inevitable that investment and modernisation will significantly affect its workload. The changes taking place should not, therefore be seen as a mark of decline or decay or a lack of orders but as a mark of efficiency and modernisation. As in so many other industries, more modern equipment means that the work can be done more quickly, with less effort, and with less need for routine maintenance. We have been constantly pressed for more investment in British Rail.

The hon. Gentleman's speech was not about BREL but about the pressure for more investment, to which I shall come in a moment. One of the consequences of investment is that less repair and maintenance are needed. Let me give some examples to the hon. Gentleman, who does not appear to have gone into the matter very deeply.

The fleet size of loco-hauled passenger coaches was over 7,000 10 years ago in 1974, the year on which the public service obligation is based. This year the service is now provided with just over 4,000 coaches. The new diesel multiple units, recently ordered, will result in three units doing the same work that four units used to do. They will require servicing only half as often as the old units. It means that for the same capacity there will be only three eighths of the maintenance work that there was before. It all proves to the hon. Gentleman that the more he shouts for investment, the more he will impinge on the amount of work that goes to BREL.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Guildford explained to the House in the debate last March the reasons underlying the dramatic decline in BR's orders in the particular case of wagons—both in the number of new wagons needed and the number of wagons needing repair. British Rail envisages no requirement for new wagon building in 1984, compared with 1,000 or more a year in past years. Those are the circumstances in which the board is now regretfully having to carry through the closure decision for Shildon.

Mr. Harry Cowans (Tyne Bridge)

The Minister cannot have his cake and eat it. In arguing his case, he talks about brand new modern rolling stock. The converse must be true: that if they are old, clapped-out wagons and rolling stock, they must need more maintenance, and they are not getting it. The right hon. Gentleman cannot have it both ways.

Mr. Ridley

I have given the hon. Gentleman precise examples of modern railway stock on the railways requiring less maintenance. Every time new investment is made this effect has to work through on the maintenance side.

Mr. Peter Snape (West Bromwich, East)

Does this apply to aeroplanes?

Mr. Ridley

The hon. Gentleman must not relate this debate to aeroplanes. It has nothing to do with aeroplanes; it is about BREL.

Finally, there are job losses resulting from the board's recent decision to stop stripping asbestos from diesel multiple units. It is these which will affect particularly the workshops at Swindon, Derby Litchurch lane and Doncaster. The board has given an undertaking to its unions that it will complete the removal of asbestos from its rolling stock by the end of 1987. Although asbestos does not represent an immediate danger, where it is sealed, the board agreed to eliminate it over a 10-year time scale ending in 1987. Removal of asbestos is a costly and unpleasant process requiring very careful safety precautions.

The board has now decided that, at any rate for its DMU fleet, the best way of honouring the commitment to eliminate asbestos-bearing vehicles is to provide new rolling stock. It will be cheaper, and will give rail passengers new vehicles rather than retread ones.

Those are the reasons for the redundancies. The reasons which the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East dreamt up are laid at the door of the Government. I will go through them one by one to show how wrong he was. First, at Question Time last week the hon. Member for West Bromwich, East (Mr. Snape) criticised British Rail for putting its orders for new rolling stock out to competitive tender.

Mr. Snape

No, I did not. I criticised the Government for insisting that it did.

Mr. Ridley

Let me follow that through. The hon. Gentleman says that he criticised the Government for insisting that it did. He implied that that was all my doing since it was mentioned in the chairman's objectives, but the move towards competitive tendering was board policy long before I was Secretary of State or I set the chairman his objectives.

Competitive tendering was proposed by BREL itself as long ago as 1981. Both the board and the Government are absolutly agreed that the railway must secure the best value for money. We cannot expect the railway to operate in a businesslike fashion and at the same time require it to place its orders with just one, its own in-house, supplier. The decision by British Rail to seek competitive tenders for the 150 lightweight DMUs, for which we announced approval last week, is the first new order for a major programme replacing the DMU fleet. It is in no way an anti-BREL decision and it will compete, I am sure, with vigour to get the order. But hon. Members, some of whom may be present, who represent constituencies in Birmingham, Cambridge, Falkirk and Workington, have an equal interest that firms in those towns—

Mrs. Gwyneth Dunwoody (Crewe and Nantwich)

And Brazil.

Mr. Ridley

No; tenders have been invited from firms in those towns and from BREL itself. It is extraordinary that the hon. Member for West Bromwich, East wants to ensure that the orders go to BREL by not giving workers in the other towns the opportunity to quote and to get the work. I wonder whether it is right for the Labour party to show its partiality towards one concern in the public sector —[Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman just said that he did. He criticised me for having asked British Rail to do so. The truth is that it did it on its own account.

The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East claimed that the trouble was the denial of investment to British Rail. As I have explained, the job losses are the direct result of past investment. For instance, Shildon is closing because British Rail has invested in a fleet of modern wagons over the past 10 years which, in the age of computerised control, can now be used up to eight times more productively than old-fashioned wagons. He must be aware that higher investment will lead to less maintenance work and less work for BREL. At some point, sooner or later, the Opposition will have to realise that there has not been an enormous lack of investment in the railway. They are victims of their own propaganda.

British Rail has invested no less than £1,500 million since 1979 at current prices and plans to invest a further £2,000 million by 1988. In the past few months alone, we have authorised investment in 60 mark III coaches, 149 electrical multiple units, 150 diesel multiple units, the Tonbridge-Hastings electrification and the electrification of part of the line to Cambridge. Lack of investment is not the problem. Last year British Rail did not invest as much as its external financing limit would have allowed and it has not been restrained for investment since I have been Secretary of State. Since I have occupied this job no major investment proposal which could have benefited BREL has been turned down. We have done everything possible to reach decisions as quickly as possible. I think that hon. Members will acknowledge that we have succeeded.

The only scheme which is still awaiting a decision, apart from one for further DMUs—medium weight this time—which arrived in my office only yesterday is the scheme for electrification of the east coast main line, and for that we need to see a satisfactory plan for a commercial inter-city business. The board is working on that major review and we hope to see the result in two or three months. Then I shall move as quickly as possible to a decision.

However, even if we were to approve east coast main line electrification tomorrow, it would do nothing to solve the immediate problem of overcapacity in BREL. Electric services to Leeds would not begin until 1989. The board would not need to build new rolling stock until a year or two earlier. It is still developing the electric traction vehicles that would be needed for the service, and a prototype 125 mph locomotive will not be available until next year. So hon. Members should not see electrification as an immediate solution to the problems facing BREL.

There seems to be a fallacy in the mind of the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East, although I know that he and the hon. Member for West Bromwich, East have been to British Rail, that the reduction in the public service obligation grant is in some way connected with reductions in the engineering work load because of its effect on investment. The fact is, as the chairman, Bob Reid, is reported as telling his unions only last Thursday: investment is growing. In 1983 we spent some £270 million. We are planning a 40 per cent. increase in investment to £380 million in 1986". I think that it belies what has been said about the investment strategy because it is clear that the railways are not in any sense constrained. I welcome the increased investment. I want to see worthwhile investment going ahead, and the four approvals I have given since October are proof of that.

What the Opposition seem not to understand is the difference between the PSO grant and the external financing limit. The PSO grant is the limit of the Government's contribution towards the running costs in cash. The EFL is larger and makes the extra room for external borrowing. In fact, investment money comes from four sources. First, there is the PSO grant. Secondly, there are earnings; the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East rather belittled the importance of the revenue that BR earns. Thirdly, there are sales of assets, a justification for privatising parts of railway land and establishments. Finally, there is external borrowing. The more operating costs can be reduced by increased efficiency, the more grant and earnings are available for investment. The PSO grant may be on a reducing scale, but that is compatible with a high EFL and ample room for investment. Those are the facts. As hon. Members may know, BR's bid for an external financing limit of £936 million for 1984–85 is precisely the figure we settled on. Therefore, it has been given the full amount of investment room it asked for.

The motion refers also to "passenger service cutbacks". As I have said to the House previously, in the new timetable starting this year there will be only 2 per cent. less loaded train mileage in London and the south-east and less than a 1 per cent. reduction nationally. That is designed merely to follow the pattern of the traffic.

The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East sought to blame the Government for the lost jobs in the review of the future of BREL. I have asked the chairman to complete the review by the middle of this year. British Rail had already conducted the review before I set the objectives. I merely set a clear timetable. The motion refers to "privatising", which I assume means the privatising of BREL.

British Rail's review of BREL encompasses a complete range of options of which privatisation is but one. As the review will not be completed until the middle of the year —I have not seen anything of it and I will not see it until it is presented to me—there is no question of the future of BREL having been determined already as a result of the review. Therefore, the job losses, which we all deplore, at Shildon—they stem from the circumstances surrounding asbestos removal and the general decline in the maintenance work load—can have nothing to do with the review, or with privatisation. The job losses are the result of straightforward management action to match capacity to demand. They are the sort of losses which, unfortunately, occur from time to time as technology advances and businesses evolve to meet the needs of their customers. BREL is bound particularly to be affected as four out of five of its work force are employed on repair and maintenance work.

We must look to the future of BREL as a major element in a successful British railway engineering industry. We must not try to ossify the present structure. British Rail and the Government want to see a competitive railway engineering industry which can supply BR efficiently and also win more overseas orders. That is the way in which BREL and private sector firms such as Metro Cammell are moving to try to secure a major part of their work load from overseas. There was an article about that in yesterday's edition of The Guardian, which reported interest in a major order from Singapore. That is the way in which future employment in Britain will be secured. Employment will not be achieved by tying BREL to its major customer and requiring it to maintain capacity for which it no longer has productive use.

I invite the House to support the Government's amendment and to reject the Opposition's mischievous and misleading motion.

8.14 pm
Mrs. Gwyneth Dunwoody (Crewe and Nantwich)

There are many ways of killing a cat: one can hang it from a tree or starve it to death. On the whole, the Secretary of State believes in what might be termed benign neglect. I sometimes think that over his door he has the following words carved: "Thou shalt not kill, but thou shall not strive to keep alive".

Perhaps it will be helpful to put on record the Government's attitude towards the railway system, especially to the British Rail workshops. The Government came to office determined to privatise as rapidly as possible any major national asset that they were able to put into the private sector. Their attitude towards the railway system was shown by the fact that they were responsible for the initiation of the Serpell report. That report was based on the simple assumption that one could form a set of conclusions and then write the rest of the report to match the decision that had been made in the first place. There was even an advance on Serpell because the Government had two sets of conclusions. However, there was only one report, which was supposed to produce the necessary results.

Let us try to be as honest as possible. The British Rail engineering workshops are remarkable throughout this manufacturing land for the excellence of their work. They are a pool of highly skilled men and women, and if those people are allowed to lose their jobs — if they are dissipated as a work force—they will contribute to a loss of expertise that will never be replaced. If we forgo the jobs at Shildon and at the other railway workshops, we shall be depriving the nation of a precious asset, but it is obvious that that is what the Government have in mind. There has been a deliberate rundown in investment since they came to office. The constant chopping and changing of plans is unacceptable from a Government who say that they want the railway industry to be effective.

What has happened about asbestos stripping? About 60 per cent. of the work of railway workshops is directed to repairs. We are told by the Secretary of State in his insouciant manner that we should not worry because there will be a great deal of new build and that there will have to be no more asbestos stripping. Why was he careful not to set out a timetable? How soon does he expect the new build to replace all the DMUs, which only last August were part of a stripping programme? How will he justify to the public the abandonment of the stripping programme? We feel strongly about these matters in Crewe, but we are aware of the danger of asbestosis. There have been a number of deaths in the Crewe area as a result of that frightening disease. Is the right hon. Gentleman prepared to say that 650 jobs will go down the drain because of the abandonment of the entire programme, but that that does not matter because new DMUs will be produced? That is hypocritical nonsense and it makes it difficult for us to take him seriously.

It was suggested as recently as August 1983 that over 1,800 DMUs needed to be stripped of asbestos. However, we were told in a document that was published in January that the figure had magically become 1,090. It is obvious that the Government are determined to remove the work from British Rail workshops.

There are other frightening consequences apart from the loss of existing jobs as a result of the conscious policy of neglect. It is terrifying that the future of the railway towns is being thrown away. Until recently, 120 apprenticeships were offered in my constituency each year. Bright boys and girls contributed to the excellence of the railway workshops and they acquired high standards of skill. Many of them were the representatives of third and fourth generations of railway families. They had a strong commitment to the works in which they were to receive their training but at the same time they understood the need for change far better than does any Conservative Minister.

Over the past two years only 90 apprentices have been taken on. That reduction has taken place during a period in which there has been a constant rundown of jobs in other sectors of the engineering industry. Luckily, my constituency has been sheltered from the worst of the job losses, but this year no apprentices will be taken on in the Crewe works. Presumably they will be farmed out into the entirely insufficient YTS schemes, where they will not receive a craft training. They will not be able to produce the positive and highly efficient manufactured goods that it would have been open to them to produce in the railway workshop. They will be filling in time so that they can be removed from the unemployment register and not cause some unfortunate hazard to the Prime Minister when she talks about the number of young people on the dole.

The Government's intention in respect of employment in the railway workshops is now starkly clear. They say, "It is not we who are responsible for the job losses. Responsibility lies with BREL and the British Railways Board." But they know that the drive of Conservative party policy was enshrined in the attitude which the Serpell report made only too plain — if it is a nationalised industry, get rid of it. It seems that it does not matter whether a nationalised industry has demonstrated its efficiency or whether it is an industry in which investment could produce a positive national benefit. Job losses are acceptable to the Government as long as they are confined to nationalised industries. To that blind bigotry, they are prepared to add a policy that will lead us into a position where, in 10 years' time, we could find ourselves importing engines, wagons and other goods from any other country simply because of some 19th century economic hang-up displayed by the present Ministers.

The Conservative party's irresponsibility is breathtaking, as is its arrogance and the way Conservative Ministers come to the Dispatch Box and cheerfully say, "We understand. Of course, it means some difficulty for some work forces." They cannot justify their policy on the grounds of economics or protection of the public, or as a means of creating new employment or improving economic conditions. We shall go through the Lobby joyfully tonight because it will be a positive and real attempt to make someone on the Conservative Benches understand the damage that the Government are doing.

8.21 pm
Mr. Conal Gregory (York)

Contrary to rumour, and after hearing the Opposition, Conservative Members believe that the railways have a key role to play in public transport. That means placing the customer first, and I have not yet heard one word from the Opposition about the customer. It is the customer who pays for the railway industry. There is no question of embarking upon major route closures, as is implied in the motion. We can examine the services that are run in the public interest and cannot fully pay their way. We need to make a contrast between a social railway with branch lines that will perhaps never pay their way, and the inter-city business that is the rightful consideration of BR's management. About £1,500 million was committed by the first Thatcher Government to the railway industry, but I heard no recognition of that from the Opposition. It is high time that we gave credence to that action and reminded the railway unions that support for the industry of about £2,000 million has already been announced by the Under-Secretary during the next four and a half to five years before we plan for our third Thatcher Adminstration. BR is obliged to provide branch lines, and until both sides of the House reach that political decision we will be faced with a dilemma. We should consider the motion against that background.

The Government's task is not to intervene constantly in the management decisions of a nationalised industry but to set out objectives. It is prudent that I quote to the House the relevant clause of the Transport Act 1962: It shall be the duty of the Railways Board … to provide railway services in Great Britain … and to provide such other services and facilities as appear to the Board to be expedient, and to have due regard … to efficiency, economy and safety of operations. Those words should be enshrined in the hearts of those who think about the railway industry.

BREL, which forms the major substance of the motion, is streamlining itself in line with two strategies: first, the need to reduce capacity to match demand and, secondly, to embrace a new definition of its role. It is right to redefine BREL's relationship with British Rail in such central areas as design. I know that BREL is freeing itself from the BR-dominated design requirement in areas such as supply, contractual arrangements, personnel policies and the financial equity of the company — in other words, it is a part of BR that is moving towards a market-orientated business. That is instanced by the building of the prototype class-58 heavy freight locomotive and the first sale of a light-weight railbus to a customer outside BR. The managing director of BREL has said that the company has high hopes for that railbus in export markets in south-east Asia, the United States and selected European countries such as Denmark and Greece. He said that BREL is determined to increase its share of the world's railway equipment market.

I speak with some knowledge of the railway industry as I represent York where about 2,500 are employed in BREL and about 5,000— also a substantial number—on the administrative side at headquarters. I know that for price, quality and workmanship York has no competitor. I welcome the chance to take those Opposition Members who perhaps are not paying due attention to the York carriage works where they can see that that is true. Workers at York and elsewhere have been scared by false rumours that the Government are not prepared to approve BR's investment proposals. I have referred already to the past and planned expenditure. In 1981 BR underspent its limits by 23 per cent. and in 1982 by 37 per cent. so there are certainly no financial restrictions. If BR were spending up to its limit I believe that there would be some substance to the argument.

The specific investment in rolling stock has included almost £24 million in York for 149 electrical multiple units for London commuter services, which were announced early in December in the House, about £30 million refurbishment for the Fenchurch street-Southend line, which means 90 four-unit electrical trains, and about 150 light-weight railbuses.

BREL's management is faced with the full force of competition when BR's forecast requirements are substantially lower than in the 1970s. I ask my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to suggest to BR that where job losses are unavoidable — the Conservative party regrets that—they are mitigated to the extent of more generous severance payments such as are offered in the coal, steel and shipbuilding industries. BR's severance payments are about one and half weeks' pay for every year of service, and I should like to see the British Railways Board treating its staff with the sense of care shown by other industries.

Today, there is less need for heavy maintenance work because of the efficiency of modern equipment, especially the high speed trains. It is a matter of moving on, not constantly looking backwards. Our modern rolling stock will be improved. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State referred to replacing old wagons with the air-braked freight wagons.

At heart, BREL is an engineering company. Its competitiveness and enthusiasm will be illustrated by its response to tender for a prototype short-haul diesel. I am forced to divulge to the House that in 1982 BREL's turnover per employee was £13,000, which is less than half the turnover in a comparable engineering business. That must be a cause for concern for the work force and management. York carriage works is convinced that it has the ability to win the tender in competition with private industry — Metro Cammell— but at the same time we must bear those national figures in mind.

With the prospect of east coast main line electrification, BREL has the opportunity in the next decade to build new traction and to replace worn-out diesel fleets. It is a fallacy to say that BR has received instructions to swing the Serpell axe, as the Opposition suggest. There is no validity in that assertion. The instruction is to run present levels of passenger mileage — as distinct from train mileage, which may involve empty trains—while reducing real costs.

Export potential has been sadly neglected. Insufficient publicity is given to the carriage works' potential to achieve a greater share of the export market. Some union convenors seem to wish to be the funeral directors of BREL. The more they take that line, the more the business prospects that Conservative Members wish to encourage will be jeopardised. Convenors who adopt that scaremongering policy put the jobs of their own members at risk.

Mr. Snape

I do not know whether the union convenor at York carriage works has expressed any concern about the future. If he has, I hope that the hon. Gentleman did not accuse him of scaremongering. Does the hon. Gentleman realise how many redundancies are forecast for that works by the end of the year?

Does the hon. Gentleman also regard it as scaremongering to issue a document in which all the options forecast a widespread rundown of the railway industry and two involve the complete rundown of the freight industry from which the bulk of the revenue comes? What does he consider to be the likely effect of such a document on any potential customer of BR, at home or overseas?

Mr. Gregory

I am surprised that the hon. Gentleman does not do his homework before coming to the House, as Conservative Members do. The figure to which he refers is 82 for the York works. As for the options, in relation to such an important nationalised industry and given the substantial contribution by the taxpayer, it is appropriate in a democracy that the options should be set before people.

Mr. Snape

In other words, the Government are intervening.

Mr. Gregory

References to a great Serpell axe draw attention away from the productive side of the industry. If the hon. Gentleman is interested in jobs he will certainly support the export potential and the work being undertaken this very day by the chairman of BREL, who I believe is currently in Africa drumming up business. The export potential is very great as BREL, regrettably, currently enjoys only 5 per cent. of the world trade. In the past two years, with a certain amount of marketing push, it has doubled the number of tenders. The opportunities are there and the prizes are great. The fact that we seem not to have secured the £23 million order for the Congo should in no way deflate the energies of BREL management and work force in seeking more orders. I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State was as delighted as I was earlier this week to hear of the order from Singapore.

One might consider a wide variety of export orders, but that is clearly a matter for the management. Conservative Members can only give full support, as I am sure will our embassies abroad, to BREL's efforts to obtain a greater share of the international market. In that way we shall not only help our balance of payments, but sow a strong seed for the future of BREL in the next quarter century.

8.34 pm
Mr. Derek Foster (Bishop Auckland)

I warn the hon. Member for York (Mr. Gregory) not to adopt such a naive and trusting attitude towards promises given by BREL. We were told that the Shildon works was safe. Only 12 months before the axe fell we were told that no possible reorganisation of BREL could fail to guarantee the long-term future of Shildon. That undertaking was given by the chairman of BREL and the then Minister of State. They said that Shildon was the jewel in the crown of BREL and the most efficient wagon-producing works in Europe. The works made a profit. It had a most co-operative work force who had adopted every flexible working practice that any management could desire. Just 12 months later, the axe fell on the 2,600 jobs at Shildon. The hon. Gentleman should be very careful about listening to the promises of his right hon. Friends or the chairman of BREL.

The reason given for the demise of Shildon was that its market had disappeared. We do not deny that there has been far more efficient use of rolling stock, but BR's own marketing strategy favoured the private sector to the disadvantage of its own rail works. I shall not rehearse those arguments again as we have been into them many times. The management of BREL then assumed that its work force was incapable of adapting to small batch production and specialist production. What a slap in the face that was for the people who a few months earlier had been described as the most co-operative work force imaginable.

I wish to put a specific question to the Secretary of State about the trumpeted prospect for an order for 700 wagons granted under section 8 of the Transport Act for the transport of scrap iron and steel as a result of an alliance between BR and British Steel. Originally all those wagons were to be produced in the private sector, but when we made a big fuss in the House we were told that Shildon could participate in the order. That never materialised. Will the Minister now tell us exactly what happened to that?

The real reason for the demise of Shildon was the lack of investment in BREL as a whole. We have been dilly-dallying over electrification for at least four years, although joint reports by the Department of the Environment and BR said that it was a highly commercial investment. We have been dilly-dallying about the replacement of clapped-out rolling stock for just as long. As we have heard already, lack of investment in BREL has jeopardised safety standards on the railways, and I do not accept the Secretary of State's explanation of that for one moment.

Lack of investment in the 12 BREL workshops forced the rationalisation which caught Shildon in its wake. That rationalisation provides a perfect excuse for the eventual privatisation of BREL as a whole. The fate of Shildon was privatisation by the back door. Having starved a plant of orders, it is easy to point to overmanning and make people redundant. The equipment and facilities at the works can then be written down and sold at a knockdown price to any private sector employer who wishes to use them. That is privatisation by the back door. I warn many other British Rail Engineering works that there will be privatisation by the front door as well, and many more redundancies following in its wake.

What will happen now that the Government are determined to close what was described by British Rail Engineering as its most efficient wagon works? How long will it be before we import wagons from South Korea or, indeed, before we import all our rolling stock? That would add to our mounting deficit on manufactures. It would be a most eloquent comment on the Government's economic failure.

Why do the Government not learn from their European partners, who have sensible transport policies? Other European countries give much higher subsidies to the railways, and make no excuses for it. They believe in an integrated transport system in which rail plays a full part. They understand the environmental arguments. We do not wish to see the destruction of our towns and villages by excessive road transport. Other European countries understand the fuel economy arguments. The free market dismisses those arguments and leaves the community to pay the environmental and social costs.

In the case of Shildon we shall see the destruction of a community which was proud of its railway history, of its product and of its rationalised industry. The people there were hewn out of the rock like the coal that they used to mine. They were tempered in the forge—the forge which still remains at Shildon works. They were shaped by struggle. Shildon is a vibrant community throbbing with life and energy, a caring community. It represents the best in the working class values of thrift, independence, self-reliance and family life. Those are the values which the Prime Minister purports to admire, but in Shildon, and throughout the north of England, the Prime Minister's policies are destroying those values. Families in Shildon are facing long-term poverty, and the community will disintegrate and decay.

The Labour movement was raised to make sure that such things should not happen and that working people would no longer be crushed by impersonal market forces. It was raised to ensure that working people would no longer be swept on to the scrap heap like useless garbage. It was raised to give them pride and dignity and enable them to hold their heads high as men and women able to shape their destinies and control their lives. The Prime Minister has told a whole generation of northerners that they are worthless and useless.

Cannot the right hon. Lady see that the Government have a responsibility to conserve what is valuable? A Conservative Government should be able to see that. Cannot the Government see that they have a responsibility to help a community to adapt to change? Shildon does not believe that anyone owes it a living. It does not seek to hold back the tide of history or economic advance. It wants a chance to adapt to change and not to be submerged by it.

I appeal to the Minister and the Government to help the community of Shildon. They should invest in British Rail in a proper way, and let the orders flow to all the British Rail Engineering works, including Shildon. However, if they are set against that sensible policy, will they give Shildon a job-hunting agency to attract some jobs to the community and give it some chance for the future? Failing that, will they instruct British Rail to set up a holding company to manage those valuable assets, and the skills of those totally dedicated people, and enable them to produce products which can be sold — as the hon. Member for York has said—throughout this country and the world? It is not too late for the Government to intervene in the name of compassion to help the community of Shildon.

8.45 pm
Mr. Simon Coombs (Swindon)

I speak as one who is directly affected by the threat to jobs in British Rail Engineering. I am not alone in that respect in this debate. Many of my hon. Friends have the same problem in their constituencies. We have heard from my hon. Friend the Member for York (Mr. Gregory), and we may hear from others. The electors in our constituencies trust their Conservative Members to speak up on their behalf. That may not be to the liking of some Opposition Members, but it is true I speak for my constituents. I speak as one who is deeply committed to the principle of public transport. Viable rail and bus services should be provided for those who cannot afford cars and to maximise the use of the road network by removing cars from it. However, that does not mean unlimited subsidy or inefficiency.

Mr. Ron Lewis (Carlisle)

Will the right hon. Member give way?

Mr. Coombs

No, I will not. I am grateful to the Under-Secretary of State for visiting my constituency yesterday to see the rail works in Swindon. On that visit, he saw the anger of many members of the work force. He saw the bitterness that many of them feel, and the frustration and resignation which were clear for all to see. He also saw the efficiency and the excellent work practices that are demonstrated there, and the skill in mechanical engineering of which the works is justly proud.

Mr. Lewis

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Coombs

The Under-Secretary talked to union representatives who expressed willingness to co-operate in a future which was efficient and flexible and who understood the needs of modern industry. He saw the pride in a tradition which at Swindon goes back to 1849.

However, the Under-Secretary also heard about the kick in the teeth administered to that work force in the past few days, because 1,217 jobs will go by the end of the year if the present proposals are carried out. He heard that, after the contract for asbestos stripping originally given to the Swindon works had been taken away, partially given back and then taken away again, the men wonder whether they are coming or going. I do not blame them.

I saw, on the wheel of one of the carriages being refurbished at the works, the slogan "When one door closes, another one shuts." That is illustrative of the bitterness in the works. Many, including the Under-Secretary, must have wondered whether the indecision over the asbestos contract is typical of the indecision and muddle demonstrated by the management of British Rail Engineering and whether it could and should have been avoided.

Mr. Lewis

The hon. Gentleman is commenting on the fact that the Minister went to Swindon. Does he condone the decision to make 1,600 people in Swindon redundant?

Mr. Coombs

The hon. Gentleman is wrong. The figure is not 1,600. I referred, had he been listening to what I said, to 1,217.

Mr. Lewis

Does he condone that?

Mr. Coombs

If the hon. Gentleman will allow me, I will come to that point.

The reality of these sorry circumstances does not lie in the wild accusations from the Labour party that we have heard in the House tonight and on other occasions outside the House. Opposition Members frequently mention Serpell. The Serpell report is enough; it acts as a trigger to make Opposition Members foam with excitement because they believe that it represents the Government's intentions. It does not. It is a substitute for thought for Opposition Members.

Mr. Prescott

Read it.

Mr. Coombs

When the motion talks about the Serpell report, the hon. Gentleman and I part company. I do not consider supporting his motion.

The new investment announced last week in the House for diesel multiple units and electrification of new routes is good news for Great Britain and British Rail, but, at the same time, bad news for Swindon. I know that, and do not need to be told by Opposition Members.

For a works such as Swindon which can only undertake repair, rebuild and refurbishment work, the problem is clear. The Labour party cannot have it both ways. It calls for more investment, and I support that. The simple proposition is that if we have that investment the work needed to repair the old rolling stock will be diminished. It is one that Opposition Members are too simple to follow and understand. If new investment comes to British Rail, as it is coming and will come, the old rolling stock will be scrapped and works such as Swindon will lose.

At the moment, the future appears bleak. I wish to say to the Government and BREL that much can still be done. First, I should like to see redundancies at the works avoided in the short term until such time as the options that are still open for BREL can be considered with the report that will go before the Secretary of State in the summer.

Secondly, I should like to see the immediate appointment of a sales enginer to the staff at Swindon to help in the job of seeking extra work for that rail works. The last sales engineer died two years ago and was not replaced. Why? I should like an answer to that question.

Thirdly, I hope that the BREL management will press on with the rationalisation programme to cut the overheads at the Swindon works to make them more efficient and cost competitive, and to provide new jobs on the surplus land which Swindon will need if these redundancies occur.

Fourthly, I hope that there will be a deliberate attempt to diversify the activities of the Swindon works; to look at the prospects for new work; to look outside the rail works; to look at the needs of other transport undertakings for repair and maintenance; and to look at road vehicles. It was said to me yesterday that if the country decided that Her Majesty the Queen required a new state landau the place to have it made was the Swindon works. Fine—let us consider such prospects and opportunities. Let us be flexible in our approach and not adopt the narrow-minded approach of some Opposition Members.

Fifthly, as my hon. Friend the Member for York (Mr. Gregory) said, we must insist that BREL mounts an intensive export drive to sell its skills and does not sell them short by playing down its abilities.

Sixthly, I ask—I support what was said by the hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody)— that the figures should be checked again to ensure that the programme of asbestos stripping can be dispensed with against the proposal for new build to meet the deadline of 1987, because I am not entirely convinced that that can be done within the next three years. Let us ask for that to be done again to ensure that there is not still the need for asbestos stripping on existing vehicles before 1987.

Seventhly, I ask that there should be a check on the cost effectiveness and productivity of each of the works with a rigour not hitherto seen.

Eighthly, I ask the Government to ensure that BREL management is capable of the highest standards of industrial enterprise and industrial relations practice.

Ninthly, I look for help from all sources to ensure that if there are to be redundancies there should be assistance with the retraining and rehabilitation of those affected for whom this decision, if it is implemented, will be a tragedy. I look particularly to the European social fund from which I believe money may be available to help for such purposes.

Finally, I appeal to the Government and BREL on behalf of a railway town and its workers, the apprentices who have been taken on only recently, and those who are near retirement for whom there is little prospect of further work, not to throw away valuable assets of skill and dedication. I believe that the Government have a duty to ensure that this nationalised industry is run as well and efficiently as possible. I look to the Government to demonstrate that commitment tonight.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Ernest Armstrong)

I remind the House that this is a very short debate. I ask for extreme brevity or not all hon. Members who wish to will be able to catch my eye.

8.57 pm
Mr. Stephen Ross (Isle of Wight)

Mr. Deputy Speaker, I shall try to conform to your request. I feel slightly embarrassed, because I do not represent a railway town. I recognise the pleas made by the hon. Member for York (Mr. Gregory) for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Foster) and for Swindon (Mr. Coombs). The hon. Member for Swindon made a plea for his constituents, and I wish him success. I do not believe that he will obtain any money from the European social fund. I have tried for years to obtain some for the Isle of Wight.

I hope that the Minister will listen to the hon. Member for Swindon, because he made some sensible suggestions. I hope that they have gone home.

I feel desperately sorry for Swindon. The Great Western Railway was one of my favourite railways. It is sad that that once proud line and its engineering centre are in such distress. My concern is not only about present redundancies in the British Rail workshops, which are obviously depressing to the towns that I mentioned, but about the broader issue of the re-equipment of our railway system with modern locomotives and rolling stock. It is a matter of concern not just to those employed by British Rail, its passengers and freight customers, but to the thousands of manufacturers in the private sector who supply parts for the rolling stock. I declare an interest, as one of those companies is in my constituency.

I am glad that a start is to be made on replacing the diesel multiple unit fleet of British Rail. Most of the vehicles are 25 years old. I agree that British Rail should introduce new vehicles which use fuel more efficiently and are cheaper to maintain, rather than spend large sums of money stripping asbestos out of old rolling stock. I ask for an assurance that investment funds will be made available to British Rail to complete the process of replacing all vehicles containing asbestos by the end of 1987, a point made by the hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody). That would also help the hon. Member for Swindon in his plea.

Vital decisions have to be made concerning locomotives and rolling stock and the modernisation of primary inter-city routes from Euston to Birmingham, the north-west and Scotland. Modern high-speed trains serve the east coast main line, the midland main line and routes out of Paddington, but most of the locomotives and rolling stock on the Euston route are old and capable of running at only 100 miles per hour. The Secretary of State may think that a safer speed is 20 miles an hour. However, when he realises that competition on the motorways goes at anything up to 90 miles an hour, he will understand that speed is of the essence. Will the Minister assure the House that manufacturing capacity will still be in existence to undertake that overdue modernisation if BREL is allowed to run down? That is the vital question. Has British Rail proposed any plans for the re-equipment of the Euston route?

Another major concern is the electrification of the east coast main line. I understand from many replies from the Secretary of State and his predecessors, and what he said today, that he is waiting for the British Railways Board to submit a prospectus for the inter-city sector showing that the whole business is profitable. This is about the third attempt by British Rail—possibly the fourth or fifth—to prove that it makes sense to electrify the east coast main line. The crucial question is not whether the inter-city sector is profitable, but whether the east coast main line is. I believe that it is. Anyone who travels on it on a Friday will agree. When will a decision be made? It is no use saying that the high-speed trains on the route are comparatively new. The Minister must know that electrification will take many years to complete, by which time new trains will be needed. Presumably they will be a follow-on to the renewal of the fleet on the west coast main line.

We must avoid a repeat of 1955, when a crash programme of re-equipment was embarked on, which the industry could not meet. Most of us in Britain want to travel on a modern, comfortable railway system, both north and south of London. Much of the rolling stock in the southern region is decrepit, to say the least. We have heard little about that. Much money could be spent on improving rolling stock on the southern region. There are four reconditioned carriages on the Portsmouth line, and I gather that that is all that we shall get for the next few years.

It is therefore necessary, for the future of the railway supply industry as well as the BREL workshops, for the Secretary of State to tell us about electrification plans and the re-equipment of the west coast main line, so that we know what orders for locomotives and rolling stock might be forthcoming, and so that we may be assured that sufficient manufacturing capacity exists to meet those demands. Otherwise, I suspect that we shall have to import from places such as Korea and even Brazil in the 1990s. It would be a sad commentary on the management of affairs by the Government if we resolved to modernise our two busiest main line railways on a time scale which coincided with the demise of our capacity to carry out the work.

I am glad to hear of the improving financial results on the railways and that more revenue is being earned. My final questions concern the financial targets which the Secretary of State has set the freight and inter-city businesses of the railway. Those targets may have much bearing on the amount of new rolling stock that is ordered by British Rail. Is the Secretary of State satisfied that the competition facing British Rail in freight and passenger services is fair in terms of the financial contribution made by the heaviest lorries and express coaches to road costs, observance of safety and other legal standards and, as far as it it possible to measure, things such as road congestion and other environmental costs?

Does the right hon. Gentleman believe that it is right that inter-city coaches should pay less than £100 for their annual road fund licence? Did he read The Sunday Times this weekend, which stated that drivers of inter-city coaches regularly exceed schedules by 90 minutes, and, by inference, must exceed permitted driving hours? Did he read in the same newspaper about damage to property caused by heavy lorries, which was apparently brought to his attention by the hon. Member for Cornwall, North (Mr. Neale)? I should like assurances that, in demanding that parts of British Rail should be profitable, the framework of competition is completely fair.

It is possible to run two types of railway with the level of support which the Government are willing to make available. The first, which is beloved of some economists in Whitehall—I accept that that breed might be in some difficulty at the moment—is that the fewest trains are run over the fewest routes at the highest fares or charges obtainable. Peaks in business are priced off by raising fares. The alternative is for British Rail to be directed to maximise the amount of traffic that it carries with the support that the Government make available. The railways are therefore much busier and use more rolling stock. That is why I am raising this matter today. Which alternative does the Secretary of State favour? Has he discussed this issue with the chairman of British Rail? It is obvious that I support the second alternative.

Although I accept that there is over-capacity in BREL workshops, which I gather is likely to cost British Rail up to £20 million this year, I cannot support the continuing rundown of our railway system. A comprehensive programme of modernisation and expansion of passenger and freight services must be in the best interests of the country. That is why I and my colleagues will support the official Opposition in Lobby tonight.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. Before I call the next hon. Member, may I say that a considerable number of hon. Members wish to speak. I appeal for extremely brief speeches, as I understand that the Front Bench speakers wish to start replying to the debate at 9.30 pm.

9.6 pm

Mr. Peter Thurnham (Bolton, North-East)

Opposition Members say that they oppose privatisation, but was it not private enterprise which set these works up? Horwich railway works, which is in the travel-to-work area which forms part of my constituency, was set up by private enterprise in 1885. In its heyday under private enterprise it employed more than 4,000 people. When I visited it last summer 1,200 people worked there. Of that number 750 have been declared redundant, but it is hoped that 400 or 500 will continue to find work in the foundry. Secure job prospects must depend on profitable working. The hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody) does not seem to understand the Government's economic policy. I do not believe that she understands investment. An investment must yield a return. It is that return that provides the funds for more investment.

The nationalised British Rail Engineering Ltd. is highly centralised and all of the management decisions are made in Derby. As my hon. Friend the Member for Swindon (Mr. Coombs) said, the lack of a sales force can leave the works highly vulnerable to decisions which are made a long way away. BREL must work closely with its work force to ensure that 400 people—or 500 with two-shift working — are employed profitably. In the past two years the foundry lost £3 million, and this year it is hoped to break even. That is not good enough. Prices are set by competition with private firms which must make a profit and pay taxes to provide the subsidies for such losses. The reprieve which BREL hopes will last five years must be used to make the foundry truly profitable. In addition to being profitable I would like it to be privatised and to have its own sales force and independent management.

With regard to efforts to provide alternative employment, I see no reason why there should not be a profitable private carriage repair service on the Horwich site. I hope that British Rail management is big enough to go out in competition against its own BREL work force. It must be realised that new businesses cannot be set up with a wave of a wand, especially if people are not used to a commercial environment. I spoke yesterday to the director of the local enterprise agency, Bolton Business Ventures, about efforts to encourage redundant employees to consider starting in business. Of the 750 redundant people, about 180 expressed some interest. Only 63 came forward for interview, 18 attended a "skills into business" course and 12 looked like starting up in business. Out of 750, no more than 2 per cent. look like benefiting from efforts to encourage new businesses.

As a result of the Horwich closure, Bolton's unemployment rate rose to 15.4 per cent. last year. Bolton looks for central Government help to recover and for maximum assistance both from the regional aid and urban programmes. I am pleased that Norwich has been included in the inner urban programme. Bolton looks urgently for derelict land grants which last year amounted to only £60,000, but this year we have put in a bid for £1.5 million.

Next year is the centenary of the Horwich railway works, and I hope that we can celebrate that event by a return to profitable working under private enterprise. I wish all concerned success in the task of ensuring that future employment is profitable.

9.11 pm
Mr. Harry Cowans (Tyne Bridge)

I am a sponsored member of the National Union of Railwaymen and the only speaker who has worked in the industry. It is ironic to be told to speak briefly but as usual, Mr. Speaker. I shall try my hardest to comply with your request.

My complaint is against the Secretary of State. The reason that this problem arises is that the right hon. Gentleman suffers from the disease of infrequency that he inherited from his two predecessors. The previous two debates on this issue have been in Opposition time, and I understand why. Every time that we have debates on this subject we talk about dismantling services and cutbacks all over the place. It must be said that the right hon. Gentleman is largely to blame for that. We also hear that the present circumstances are the responsibility of the chairman of the British Railways Board and have nothing to do with the Secretary of State. Quite honestly, he cannot get away with that. He has talked about under-capacity, which is interesting. Do we have under-capacity because there is no remedy?

The British Railways Joint Consultative Council document states: The NUR representatives said that they were concerned that European wagons"— that is, the ferry wagons— were being used, instead of BREL being asked to build a modern Train Wagon Ferry fleet for BR. It was another example of BREL's potential not being used".

Has the Secretary of State examined that? If the right hon. Gentleman is the watchdog of the taxpayer, as he says he is, surely he is entitled to examine such matters. He cannot get away with saying that it is not his responsibility because he, in line with the Government, fixes the cash limits that created most of the problems. There is no doubt about that.

We have heard much about exports, and that that might be a way out of the problem. Unfortunately, we did not hear the full story. It is very nice for Conservative Members to discuss exports, while the Government are destroying the home base and our shop window for exports. Other Governments are more conscious of their industries than our Government. Why does BREL—I am referring to an NUR document—fail to get more exports? The reason is that overseas firms, who are our competitors, tender at a figure that BREL pays for its raw materials. Raw materials across the world are about the same price, so there must be a hidden subsidy. Other Governments care about their home industries. When they have employment debates they do not, as happens in this country, shed crocodile tears about unemployment. Our Government can do something about the problem as they have a semblance of control over nationalised industries. They have direct control as they set cash limits. When the reverse side of the coin arrives, and they can do something about the problem, they do not. With the greatest of respect, we have been hearing nonsense.

We hear talk about the Secretary of State being the watchdog of the taxpayer, the wastage of public money and other matters.

Although a submission was made to the Department of Transport on 19 April 1983—the Secretary of State is in a beautiful position to deal with this matter— a large proportion of the EMU replacement programme shown for 1985 has only just been authorised. The cost to BREL has been £4 million in under-utilisation. If that was the basis on which BR has argued the closure of Shildon and Horwich, is not the Secretary of State contributing to the closure of Horwich? Is he acting as the watchdog of the public purse when the Government delay so long that £4 million is wasted? Could not that sum have done something for Shildon, Swindon or Horwich? Of course it could. Is it any use having this debate? If the Secretary of State is not responsible for these matters, he should get out so that we can talk to someone who is responsible.

Section 8 grants do not apply to BREL, only to firms applying for wagons. BREL cannot take advantage of section 8 when building its fleet. The Government talk about fair and unbiased competition, but they do not know the meaning of that.

Dr. John Marek (Wrexham)

I know a perfect example of how money could be used to save the jobs of BREL workers. A survey of time-keeping of trains was carried out at Wrexham station over a 12 week period, covering 639 trains. One in three was more than 10 minutes late on the down line. There is an inter-city service once a day. Clwyd county coucil paid more than £50,000 introducing that service in an attempt to attract industrial development to the area. Yet one in three of those trains was more than 20 minutes late. Does my hon. Friend agree—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman is making a speech rather than an intervention.

Dr. Marek

Does my hon. Friend the Member for Tyne Bridge (Mr. Cowans) agree that I have given an excellent example? We have a rotting railway system because of lack of investment in new rolling stock and in permanent way. We have the facilities to remedy that position, but the Government are doing nothing about it.

Mr. Cowans

In the interests of brevity, I can only say that I agree with my hon. Friend. We could spend three or four hours on that subject, but I shall not do so.

It is strange that we hear the same impassioned plea for Swindon and Shildon from opposite sides of the House. The difference is that Labour Members support policies that would bring about the necessary change, while Conservative Members support policies that have brought about the redundancies. Perhaps the electors of Swindon should learn a lesson from that because they have put their trust in false promises. My goodness, the hidden Conservative manifesto is now coming out, and I hope that the Swindon electorate recognise that.

Of course, the blame is always put on BR management, yet the BR programme prior to the cuts actually called for an increase in the BREL workforce from 38,000 to 43,000. But once the Secretary of State, who says he has no responsibility for these matters, introduced the accelerated cuts, Shildon, Horwich and umpteen other places were hit.

The downgrading of the vital asbestos stripping programme will mean that a larger number of contaminated wagons —84 per cent. — will remain in service, despite the risk to the public. The Secretary of State cannot deny that there will be a gap between the arrival of the new coaches and the ending of asbestos stripping. It is a simple case of scrimping to make savings.

Safety standards are being reduced day after day, yet the Secretary of State does not appear to be aware of that. He should walk around southern region, which has clapped- out stock. Even Conservative Members who have constituencies in the southern region area know that the stock is clapped out.

The Secretary of State used the argument that modern stock needs less maintenance. A complete overhaul is needed on southern region stock every 100,000 miles, but that figure has now been raised to 150,000, which means reduced maintenance. Safety standards are being cut to meet the Government's cost limits. It is nonsense for the Secretary of State to say that he knows nothing about that.

If this debate had been taking place in Committee, when the Secretary of State could give more time for debate, I would make many more points. I hope that he and I will meet in Committee, when much more time will be available.

Great emphasis is laid by the Government and Conservative Members who have spoken in the debate on added efficiency—"Work harder, lads, and you'll be all right. It's inefficiency that is losing you jobs." In the last three years, Shildon increased its efficiency by 9 per cent., 6 per cent. and 5 per cent. The reward of the workers was the sack, so how can hon. Members tell the work force to increase its efficiency? Shildon was held as the jewel in the crown, and the Government's reward to that area was the sack.

A number of people work at Shildon and live in Durham. I should like here to send out a message from the House, because it is important that people know what takes place in the House. During the general election, in an area where cuts are common and redundancies are being made at Doncaster, the Tory candidate issued a public statement saying that he had had an assurance from the then Secretary of State that the future of the Doncaster workshop was guaranteed. There is undoubtedly a guarantee, but what is guaranteed is closure, without any shadow of doubt. The Government have that responsibility resting on their shoulders, and it does no good for the Government to say that it is the fault of the chairman of the British Rail board, because he is put in that position

9.20 pm
Mr. Tom Sackville (Bolton, West)

My hon. Friend the Member for Bolton, North-East (Mr. Thurnham) has already referred to the tragic end of a proud railway tradition in Horwich where 5,000 men were once employed in the workshops and where 50,000 steam locomotives were repaired between 1888 and 1957.

I should like briefly to remind the Secretary of State of the responsibilities that he and British Rail Engineering undertook when they sanctioned the closure of Horwich. I wish to refer in particular to a meeting on 6 July 1983 between a delegation from the Horwich action committee, the Under-Secretary of State for Transport and officials of other Departments. At that meeting, it was promised that, in the aftermath of closure at Horwich, special consideration would be given to requests for Government aid in the Horwich area, in particular special consideration to derelict land grant for parts of the 150-acre site that may become derelict in time, and consideration of urban development grant. It was promised that the part of Bolton metropolitan borough surrounding Horwich would be eligible for inner urban aid. So far very little of the fruit of this promise has been seen, and I should like to remind the right hon. Gentleman of this.

Secondly, I wish to remind the Secretary of State that directors of British Rail Engineering have at different times promised that large sums of investment will be available for new schemes aimed at employing some of the 1,000 workers recently made redundant at Horwich. As the House has heard, Bolton Business Ventures is ready to channel funds into suitable schemes that may come up. I wish to ask the Secretary of State to remember this, and to remind British Rail Engineering of its responsibilities in this matter.

9.23 pm
Mrs. M. Beckett (Derby, South)

In the brief time that remains, I shall attempt to outline the main points of the problem as it affects Derby, where two of the works under discussion are situated in my constituency.

Reference has been made in speeches by Conservative Members, and indeed in the Government amendment to efficiency. How can there be efficiency where there is uncertainty compounded by doubt and decisions that are changed day by day and almost minute by minute? Work that is promised is reduced, or disappears entirely. Work that remains is not secured to BREL, but will be open to competitive tender. Orders are mentioned, shimmering like a mirage in the distance, but before they appear they disappear. Dates are not applied, and no firm orders are placed. In this climate the Secretary of State talks about efficiency.

The decisions come out of the blue. I understand that the works management of the Derby works knew nothing about the redundancies until they heard of them on the news or read about them in the local newspapers. The decisions to stop stripping asbestos similarly came out of the blue before Christmas. The decision to stop any apprenticeships being taken on this year came out of the blue to the extent that some of the 80 youngsters scheduled for appointment in Derby had already been interviewed. They were at home waiting and wondering whether they had made a good enough impression, whether they were fit to be among those selected, only to discover that, however fit and good and well-trained they were, there was no future for them in British Rail or in Derby. There have been not only abrupt but negative decisions time after time. The cutbacks already announced mean more than 600 redundancies in Derby, and no future for the young people of the area in BR, whereas often in the past they have looked in that direction for proper and sensible training.

The Government claim that none of the criticisms that my hon. Friends and I make flow from Tory policies; that safety is not endangered by fewer maintenance checks; that previous decisions to strip asbestos from coaches now being treated at Litchurch lane and elsewhere are no longer necessary because apparently the threat from asbestos has somehow evaporated; and they claim, most of all, that the changes in approach that BR has made to investment have nothing to do with the Government—that they have no connection with the financial restrictions that the Government have placed on BR—and that the fact that the Secretary of State has asked BR to secure its targets two years earlier has nothing to do with the investment now called for by BR.

I quote some words that belie the Secretary of State's argument. The BR annual report and accounts for 1979 said: Without increasing investment, standards will continue to drop. Only 16 locomotives were built in 1979 out of a total fleet of 2,000 which need replacement. The annual report and accounts for 1980 said: The Board is concerned at its inability regularly to renew its assets, through the double constraints of investment ceilings and finance limits. The opportunity to replace assets in an economic and orderly way is slipping away. It went on: By 1983, beyond that watershed year—although we can make do and mend—there will be a rapid rundown of the system. In 1982, BR's annual report and accounts said: Electrification must be synchronised to take over from the worn-out diesel fleet in the next decade. To do that, it must start now and be continuous. Those are the phrases of a board that sees the need for investment in the rail system, that sees the system in continuing decline, that sees decrepit carriages and locomotives that are unfit for their job and sees the need for an investment plan of the kind that the Opposition have identified today. Yet the Secretary of State blandly tells us that the financial limits that the Government have set, and the way in which they have approached investment, have nothing to do with the complete change of heart on the part of British Rail.

Whoever travels by train is aware of the need for new stock. Whoever considers the overall interests of our transport system knows that we need the efficient British Rail for which we are calling and that that can be provided only by the policies that we have identified. Only this Tory Government, who seem to know the price of everything but the value of nothing, are too short-sighted to provide the investment that BR needs.

9.28 pm
Mr. Greg Knight (Derby, North)

We owe it to those who are employed by BREL and on the railways to have a debate that is free of false promises and blinkered vision. The hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody) made a speech which was excellent in its presentation but breathtaking in its inaccuracy.

I am concerned about the fact that in Derby it is likely that 600 people will lose their jobs. However, I am also concerned about the remaining 6,000 and what we can best do to secure their long-term future.

I am concerned, as are many of my hon. Friends. about the Labour party's argument that somehow the problems of BREL exist only because we have a Conservative Government. We should look at those assertions. Following the Transport Act 1962 the British Railway's workshops division was formed, with 32 works employing 66,000 staff. In the first five years that was cut to 16 works with 36,000 staff. I hope that it will not have escaped the attention of Labour Members that during most of that period we had a Labour Government. Were they to blame then, or was it the case that the introduction of diesel traction and diesel multiple units meant that far less maintenance was necessary?

The statistic that has shot through every argument used by Labour Members is one which they cannot escape. It is that four out of every five people employed by BREL are employed in maintenance.

Mrs. Beckett

They are not building anything.

Mr. Knight

It has nothing to do with not building anything. Mark III coaches need to be maintained only every three years and not—like mark II coaches—every 18 months. British Rail is using freight wagons that carry 36 tonnes and make three journeys a day, whereas a few years ago the wagons would carry only 16 tonnes.

Change is inevitable. The hon. Member for Derby, South (Mrs. Beckett) quoted from the report from BREL. I do likewise, from what the chairman said: The Company's future must be based on a correct match between future workload on the one hand and workshop capacity and manning levels on the other. Quite simply, we have twelve Works but at the productivity levels we seek, the forecast workloads can be accommodated in nine. The solution is painful, but essential. Where change involves people's livelihoods, it is a difficult and painful process. Those of us who care about the future of our railways know that the progress to greater efficiency is essential. That is something that must be grasped.

9.32 pm
Mr. Michael J. Martin (Glasgow, Springburn)

The Glasgow, Springburn railway workshops are the only workshops in Scotland. In Scotland, our steel, coal and shipbuilding industries have been threatened with closure. Close Springburn, and we have no railway engineering workshops as well. One of the only factories in the west of Scotland which employs apprentices is saying that there will not be any intake or training for the future in skills. The Government are always saying that there will be an upturn in the economy. I can remember past upturns in the economy, which meant that we needed skilled men and women to fill skilled jobs. How will we get skilled workers if we do not train them? If we cannot train them in the nationalised industries, we cannot train them anywhere.

It is madness that the only Scottish BR workshop is controlled by Derby. There should be a link-up with the Scottish region, because geographically it is one of the most difficult areas in the country to operate, and we know that from the terrible weather that we are having at the moment. If it were not for the skill and dedication of the railway workers, we should have lost more lives than we have done in the past few days.

It is nonsense that although the biggest customer that the railway workshop has in Scotland is the Scottish region, there is no direct control over the workshop. I ask the Minister to think seriously about the social consequences, and the consequences for the Scottish economy, if anything happened to the railway workshops. He should consider what I said about the link-up with the British Rail workshops.

9.34 pm
Mr. Peter Snape (West Bromwich, East)

In the comparatively short time that has been available to us, we have had an interesting debate. Hon. Members on both sides have expressed their opinions in fairly forthright terms. The burden of the Government's case, particularly in relation to British Rail Engineering Ltd, is that the industry is sadly rooted in the past, and that because of the pace of change in the industry the number of people needed to maintain railway behicles and to build new rolling stock and new locomotives is sadly but inevitably less. The Secretary of State said as much. He described the situation in BREL as part of the pace of industrial change.

If that is true, how is it that my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott) and others quote from a document produced by the British Railways Board three short years ago, in which it talked about the expansion that is necessary within BREL, and the need to recruit over 1,000 extra staff to cope with the ever-expanding work load and the projected new build and maintenance in the 1980s?

If what the Secretary of State said about the pace of industrial change is true, there appears to have been a fairly widespread misjudgment—to say the least— by someone, because within three years that all changed. We are now told that there is no work for these people, the industry has changed its practices, maintenance work takes place at less frequent intervals, and so these redundancies are sadly inevitable. We do not believe that, and in the short time that is available to me I shall attempt to show why we believe that.

The right hon. Gentleman mentioned safety in his speech. He as good as accused my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, East of dangerous scaremongering about railway safety. No one would ever accuse the right hon. Gentleman of great devotion to accuracy, and sure enough, in the sweeping statement that he made earlier, in the laconic way to which we have rapidly become accustomed every time he opens his mouth, he again got it wrong.

Shortly after the publication of the Serpell report, the board had quite a few things to say about safety in the railway industry. Its report on safety began with a long extract from the 1981 report of the chief inspecting officer for railways, which said that the railway is not unsafe". The board went on to say: This is as it should be. At no time have we said that the railway is becoming unsafe nor would the engineering profession knowingly allow this to happen whatever the financial pressures". However, the board said, in the same statement: despite detailed standards of safety, the disproportionate aging of equipment reduces the built in safety margin and places upon many thousands of engineers, supervisors and other staff an increased responsibility for fine judgment of margins. All of these are trained to take decisions and do so, but the chance of error increases as the safety margins decrease…Alternatively, the excessively cautious approach leads to operational disruption". Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman does not think that that is particularly relevant to railway safety. Certainly the British Railways Board does.

While I am on the subject of safety, I refer to something else that the right hon. Gentleman said when he talked about asbestos stripping from diesel multiple units. This matter was mentioned by the hon. Member for Swindon (Mr. Coombs), as well as by my hon. Friend the Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody) in a particularly able speech. Many of us have spent much of our lives—in my case, it is no great secret that I have spent all my working life—in the railway industry think that safety is of paramount importance.

It has been pointed out that no passenger has lost his life in a moving traffic accident on British Rail during the past two years, but that does not mean that accidents and collisions have not accurred. Indeed, in the last year for which statistics are available, 1982, there were more than 60 accidents, many minor, involving passenger trains. Many of those trains were obviously diesel multiple units incorporating blue asbestos because there are 1,800 DMUs operating on British Rail which have not been stripped of blue asbestos.

On safety and the correctness of BREL's decision to stop the stripping of blue asbestos, I do not wish to be accused by the right hon. Gentleman of scaremongering because I care too much about the railway industry. However, if a collision, like the one a few weeks ago outside Paddington station when only three people were slightly injured despite the high speed of the train, involving a diesel multiple unit with blue asbestos took place at speed I do not think any of us could guarantee the safety of passengers, crew or those attending the collision because of the danger from blue asbestos. That is one reason why we are concerned about the overnight decision taken by BREL in November to cancel the programme.

We are told by the Secretary of State that BR is more interested in putting new diesel units into service to replace the old. He let something slip during his speech. He said that an application from British Rail had arrived yesterday asking him to consider the introduction of some diesel multiple units — I do not know the exact number —presumably to replace those that have been in service from the 1950s. If that application takes as long to approve as some that have been kicking around the Department in recent years, there is not much hope of getting rid of diesel multiple units containing blue asbestos by the target date, which is either 1986 or 1987.

Yet more than 700 people are to lose their jobs because of the overnight cancellation of the project. Many jobs will be lost at Swindon. The policies being pursued by the Government, particularly by the Secretary of State, virtually doom Swindon works to closure within the next few years. I say that with no pleasure and to make no political point. If the hon. Member for Swindon believes as strongly as he seems to in the efficiency of his work force, he should be in the Division Lobby with my hon. Friends and myself tonight; I address those remarks equally to the hon. Member for York (Mr. Gregory). If the policies of the Government on the railway industry continue for the time that the Government sadly have to serve, the number of closures so far and the projected redundancies within BREL are but a fraction of those that will affect the industry by the end of this Parliament.

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Foster) on the plea he made on behalf of the work force who may lose their jobs at Shildon. The excuse for that closure is changing traffic patterns. The hon. Member for Derby, North (Mr. Knight) said that modern wagons made three journeys where previously wagons had made only one. That is true as far as it goes, but it does not go far. If we consider British Rail's attitude towards freight since the mid-1960s, we see that there has been a drastic alteration in the management's policy towards the acceptance of traffic to be carried by rail. That has meant inevitably that British Rail has the lowest number of freight vehicles in its history. The number of rail freight vehicles is at its lowest level for over a century That is because of the conscious decision of British Rail management in the past few years to move out of wagonload traffic and to concentrate exclusively on high-speed block trains. That means inevitably that our roads are evert more congested and that lorry weights become heavier and heavier. The Minister who talks about the need for profitability and for the railway industry to break even is the same Minister who authorises 38-tonne lorries, despite the damage that they do to roads and bridges. 'That is damage for which the taxpayer pays and not the road haulage industry. My hon. Friends who represent Welsh constituencies are demanding a second crossing of the Severn as a result of that policy.

The Government's transport policies are the policies of bedlam and madness and the Secretary of State gives us no encouragement to hope that the policies can be checked. There is little hope for those who work within BREL and for those who work in the main business. Their future is set out starkly in a short article that appeared in yesterday's edition of The Times, which was written by the hon. Member for Derbyshire. West (Mr. Parris) as a result of his expedition to the north-east to see what life, if not love, on the dole is like in the 1980s. The hon. Gentleman wrote: Is there any way you can tell a man that his industry his job and his family are necessary, even glorious, casualties in the battle to transform the British economy and to revolutionise social attitudes?

It is a strange transformation that condemns even more thousands of men to the dole queue and destroys a once great industry. Neither the British people generally nor those who work in the industry will forgive the Government for the direction in which they are travelling, and none of us in the House who has had the misfortune to listen to the Secretary of State will forgive him.

9.48 pm
The Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Mr. David Mitchell)

The debate has been a curious mixture of serious questions and concern about the future of jobs in BREL and unfortunate politicking by the Opposition Front Bench. The latter makes me angry, because a deliberate attempt is being made to persuade the members of the work force and their wives that some magic wand could remove the problem of redundancies. That cannot be done, as I shall seek to explain to the House. First, I shall deal with the serious questions that have been asked by a number of hon. Members.

If I have any creditials, it is that I am deeply concerned about the problems of BREL and of British Rail. I am very much a pro-rail Minister and I am deeply concerned about job losses. I have already visited the BREL works at Litchurch lane, Eastleigh, Doncaster, York, Crewe and, yesterday, Swindon. I do not believe that one can get an understanding of the problems that arise by sitting behind a desk in Whitehall, and that is why I have been getting out.

I have been impressed by the skills, the dedication and the anxieties of those who work in the industry. The Opposition spokesman who opened the debate, the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott), argued that the situation had come about principally because the Government had denied British Rail the investment that it needed. That is untrue. Only one investment request from British Rail is now being held by the Government. No others have been delayed or put back, except for the one which was received last night through the post. I do not think that the House would expect us to have turned that round already. The only other request that is now held is that of the east coast main line electrification scheme.

Mr. Prescott

That is the main one.

Mr. Mitchell

We are waiting for further information from British Rail. When that is forthcoming we shall decide what to do in the most businesslike manner possible. We shall act as quickly as we reasonably can. British Rail is not held back with respect to investment. The Government will welcome BR's proposals for investment in sound propositions, and I look forward to receiving them.

Mr. Snape


Mr. Mitchell

The hon. Member for West Bromwich, East (Mr. Snape) says, "Aha". Does he expect the Government not to protect the taxpayer? Does he expect the Government to chuck away money on measures which are not soundly appraised? Of course he does not.

Mr. Snape

Is the Under-Secretary aware that Mr. John Palmer, a deputy secretary at the Department of Transport, signed the report on electrification, published last year, which urged the go-ahead for such schemes?

Mr. Mitchell

The hon. Gentleman does not have the matter entirely right. If he looks at the report in its context he will see that it had much to do with the future of intercity, and I shall return to that if there is time.

The reverse of the Opposition's claim is true. They have said that there is a lack of investment, but investment in new rolling stock, which is faster—therefore less rolling stock is required—and needs less maintenance means less standby rolling stock and less work for BREL in terms of overhauling, maintenance and the like.

I sympathise with those at Shildon. The modern wagon fleet is more than eight times as efficient and productive as the old fleet, and therefore considerably fewer wagons are required. Do we want an efficient competitive BR, investing in modern rolling stock at competitive prices, or a BR weighed down and unable to compete because of the burden of carrying surplus capacity in the workshops?

The hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody) agreed on one point — that the BR workshops are a pool of precious skills. When going around the Crewe works, I was impressed by the standard of skill. The hon. Lady said that the Government had starved BR of investment, but the Government have invested £1,500 million in BR since 1979, and between now and 1988 will invest £2,000 million. I have announced at the Dispatch Box investments for Tonbridge-Hastings electrification, Cambridge electrification, 149 new electrical multiple units and, last week, 150 railbuses. Part of the problem which the hon. Lady and the Opposition have not faced is that investment in those projects deprives BREL of the work of rehabilitating the old rolling stock which will no longer be required.

Mrs. Dunwoody


Mr. Mitchell

The hon. Lady referred to asbestos stripping, as did the hon. Members for Isle of Wight (Mr. Ross) and for West Bromwich, East. I was asked whether there was a timetable for the replacement of the asbestos-carrying diesel multiple units, how soon they would be replaced and whether their replacement would mean that there was no need for an asbestos-stripping programme. The exact timing is a matter for BR's management, but there is an agreement with the trade unions that by 1987 all asbestos-carrying stock will be removed, and therefore there will be a programme of replacements starting with the 150 railbuses to which I referred last week, possibly carrying on with the further 100 for which BR applied yesterday.

Mr. Cowans

What about the appraisal?

Mr. Mitchell

I cannot answer a question about an investment appraisal received last night. It would mean about 250 in total. On that basis, there will be ample time for BR to replace the entire number from the fleet that has—

Mr. Cowans

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Mitchell

I cannot give way, because time is running hard against me.

The hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Foster) asked what happened to the order for 700 wagons to be purchased with grant available under section 8 of the Transport Act. It has gone out to competitive tender. That is a matter for those purchasing the wagons. He claimed that Shildon was starved of orders, but if my memory is correct the works had a capacity of 1,500 wagons per year whereas the demand was for about 150. Vast unused capacity cannot be carried indefinitely. The choice for BREL management was to transfer the remaining work to other works such as Doncaster or to leave all the other works also with surplus capacity for which BR had to pay, dragging down the competitiveness of the entire network by seeking to carry underused and unwanted capacity for which there were no prospects because of the greater productivity of modern rolling stock. With regard to job creation, I believe that the Shildon and Sedgefield development agency is actively seeking a buyer for the works and discussions are currently underway with BREL. I shall be happy to discuss the matter further with the hon. Gentleman if he thinks that more can be done.

My hon. Friend the Member for Swindon (Mr. Coombs) spoke movingly of the position of the work force in the works that I visited yesterday and of his own acute unhappiness, although he realistically recognised that new investment was good for BR even if it was bad for Swindon in the current circumstances. As I told the deputation of shop stewards there yesterday, BREL is in business to meet BR's requirements. It is BR's needs which decide the work load, not the possibility of jobs within BREL itself.

The hon. Member for Derby, South (Mrs. Beckett) complained of uncertainty about future BR orders due to its going to competitive tender. That makes BREL no different from the vast bulk of British industry which secures business for its workers by seeking competitively to win orders. The trade unionists in BREL whom I have met not only regard that as fair and proper but expect to win a large slab of the orders.

My hon. Friend the Member for Derby, North (Mr. Knight) rightly stressed that the rundown in BREL began years ago and had nothing to do with the change in Government.

My hon. Friend the Member for York (Mr. Gregory) spoke up for the York works in his usual robust way. As he rightly said, BREL is redefining its relationship with BR. It now has its own design team. It is increasing its exports and actively seeking further export orders and my hon. Friend expects the York work force to mount a formidable challenge both at home and abroad.

It is not in the long-term interests of BREL to remain dependent on and dominated by one customer. The management of BREL does not want that anyway. We need a competitive railway engineering industry in this country which can supply British Rail efficiently and win overseas orders. Why does our industry currently win so few overseas orders when we were the pioneers of the railway industry? There is a great new area of export opportunity for BREL, but it will be far more easily won when BREL is efficiently separated from BR and wins its orders competitively. The Opposition have based their attack on the wrong—

Mr. Snape

rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.

Question, That the Question be now put, put and agreed to.

Question put accordingly, That the original words stand part of the Question:—

The House divided: Ayes 198, Noes 296.

Division No. 135] [9.59 pm
Alton, David Coleman, Donald
Anderson, Donald Concannon, Rt Hon J. D.
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Conlan, Bernard
Ashley, Rt Hon Jack Cook, Frank (Stockton North)
Ashton, Joe Cook, Robin F. (Livingston)
Atkinson, N. (Tottenham) Corbett, Robin
Bagier, Gordon A. T. Corbyn, Jeremy
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Cowans, Harry
Barnett, Guy Cox, Thomas (Tooting)
Barron, Kevin Craigen, J. M.
Beckett, Mrs Margaret Crowther, Stan
Beith, A. J. Cunliffe, Lawrence
Bell, Stuart Cunningham, Dr John
Bennett, A. (Dent'n & Red'sh) Davies, Ronald (Caerphilly)
Bermingham, Gerald Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'ge H'l)
Bidwell, Sydney Deakins, Eric
Blair, Anthony Dewar, Donald
Boothroyd, Miss Betty Dobson, Frank
Boyes, Roland Dormand, Jack
Brown, Gordon (D'f'mline E) Douglas, Dick
Brown, Hugh D. (Provan) Dubs, Alfred
Brown, N. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne E) Dunwoody, Hon Mrs G.
Brown, R. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne N) Eadie, Alex
Brown, Ron (E'burgh, Leith) Eastham, Ken
Bruce, Malcolm Edwards, Bob (W'h'mpt'n SE)
Callaghan, Jim (Heyw'd & M) Ellis, Raymond
Campbell-Savours, Dale Evans, loan (Cynon Valley)
Canavan, Dennis Evans, John (St. Helens N)
Carlile, Alexander (Montg'y) Ewing, Harry
Carter-Jones, Lewis Fatchett, Derek
Clark, Dr David (S Shields) Faulds, Andrew
Clarke, Thomas Field, Frank (Birkenhead)
Clay, Robert Fields, T. (L'pool Broad Gn)
Cocks, Rt Hon M. (Bristol S.) Fisher, Mark
Cohen, Harry Flannery, Martin
Foot, Rt Hon Michael Millan, Rt Hon Bruce
Forrester, John Miller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride)
Foster, Derek Mitchell, Austin (G't Grimsby)
Foulkes, George Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)
Fraser, J. (Norwood) Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)
Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald Nellist, David
Freud, Clement Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon
George, Bruce O'Brien, William
Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John O'Neill, Martin
Godman, Dr Norman Park, George
Golding, John Parry, Robert
Gould, Bryan Patchett, Terry
Gourlay, Harry Pendry, Tom
Hamilton, James (M'well N) Penhaligon, David
Hardy, Peter Pike, Peter
Harman, Ms Harriet Powell, Raymond (Ogmore)
Hart, Rt Hon Dame Judith Prescott, John
Haynes, Frank Radice, Giles
Healey, Rt Hon Denis Randall, Stuart
Heffer, Eric S. Redmond, M.
Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth) Rees, Rt Hon M. (Leeds S)
Holland, Stuart (Vauxhall) Richardson, Ms Jo
Home Robertson, John Roberts, Allan (Bootle)
Howell, Rt Hon D. (S'heath) Roberts, Ernest (Hackney N)
Howells, Geraint Robertson, George
Hoyle, Douglas Rooker, J. W.
Hughes, Mark (Durham) Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N) Rowlands, Ted
Hughes, Roy (Newport East) Ryman, John
Hughes, Sean (Knowsley S) Sedgemore, Brian
Janner, Hon Greville Sheerman, Barry
Jenkins, Rt Hon Roy (Hillh'd) Sheldon, Rt Hon R.
John, Brynmor Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside) Short, Ms Clare (Ladywood)
Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald Short, Mrs H.(W'hampt'n NE)
Kennedy, Charles Silkin, Rt Hon J.
Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil Skinner, Dennis
Kirkwood, Archibald Smith, C.(Isl'ton S & F'bury)
Lambie, David Smith, Rt Hon J. (M'kl'ds E)
Leadbitter, Ted Snape, Peter
Leighton, Ronald Soley, Clive
Lewis, Ron (Carlisle) Spearing, Nigel
Lewis, Terence (Worsley) Stott, Roger
Litherland, Robert Strang, Gavin
Lloyd, Tony (Stretford) Straw, Jack
Lofthouse, Geoffrey Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)
Loyden, Edward Thomas, Dr R. (Carmarthen)
McCartney, Hugh Thompson, J. (Wansbeck)
McDonald, Dr Oonagh Thorne, Stan (Preston)
McGuire, Michael Tinn, James
McKay, Allen (Penistone) Torney, Tom
McKelvey, William Wallace, James
Mackenzie, Rt Hon Gregor Warden, Gareth (Gower)
Maclennan, Robert Wareing, Robert
McNamara, Kevin Weetch, Ken
McTaggart, Robert Welsh, Michael
Madden, Max White, James
Marek, Dr John Williams, Rt Hon A.
Marshall, David (Shettleston) Winnick, David
Martin, Michael Woodall, Alec
Mason, Rt Hon Roy Wrigglesworth, Ian
Maxton, John Young, David (Bolton SE)
Maynard, Miss Joan
Meadowcroft, Michael Tellers for the Ayes:
Michie, William Mr. Don Dixon and
Mikardo, Ian Mr. John McWilliam.
Adley, Robert Baker, Kenneth (Mole Valley)
Aitken, Jonathan Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset)
Alexander, Richard Baldry, Anthony
Amery, Rt Hon Julian Banks, Robert (Harrogate)
Amess, David Batiste, Spencer
Ancram, Michael Beaumont-Dark, Anthony
Arnold, Tom Bellingham, Henry
Ashby, David Bendall, Vivian
Aspinwall, Jack Benyon, William
Atkins, Rt Hon Sir H. Berry, Sir Anthony
Atkins, Robert (South Ribble) Bevan, David Gilroy
Atkinson, David (B'm'th E) Biffen, Rt Hon John
Biggs-Davison, Sir John Greenway, Harry
Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter Gregory, Conal
Body, Richard Griffiths, E. (B'y St Edm'ds)
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Griffiths, Peter (Portsm'th N)
Boscawen, Hon Robert Grist, Ian
Bottomley, Peter Ground, Patrick
Bowden, A. (Brighton K'to'n) Grylls, Michael
Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich) Gummer, John Selwyn
Boyson, Dr Rhodes Hamilton, Hon A. (Epsom)
Braine, Sir Bernard Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)
Brandon-Bravo, Martin Hampson, Dr Keith
Bright, Graham Hanley, Jeremy
Brinton, Tim Hannam, John
Brittan, Rt Hon Leon Hargreaves, Kenneth
Brooke, Hon Peter Harris, David
Bruinvels, Peter Harvey, Robert
Bryan, Sir Paul Haselhurst, Alan
Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon A. Havers, Rt Hon Sir Michael
Buck, Sir Antony Hawkins, C. (High Peak)
Bulmer, Esmond Hawksley, Warren
Burt, Alistair Hayes, J.
Butcher, John Hayhoe, Barney
Butterfill, John Hayward, Robert
Carlisle, John (N Luton) Heath, Rt Hon Edward
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Heathcoat-Amory, David
Carttiss, Michael Henderson, Barry
Chalker, Mrs Lynda Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael
Channon, Rt Hon Paul Hickmet, Richard
Chapman, Sydney Hicks, Robert
Churchill, W. S. Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.
Clark, Hon A. (Plym'th S'n) Hill, James
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford) Hind, Kenneth
Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S) Hirst, Michael
Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe) Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)
Clegg, Sir Walter Holland, Sir Philip (Gedling)
Cockeram, Eric Holt, Richard
Colvin, Michael Hooson, Tom
Coombs, Simon Hordern, Peter
Cope, John Howarth, Alan (Stratf'd-on-A)
Corrie, John Howarth, Gerald (Cannock)
Couchman, James Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Cranborne, Viscount Howell, Rt Hon D. (G'ldford)
Critchley, Julian Howell, Ralph (N Norfolk)
Crouch, David Hubbard-Miles, Peter
Currie, Mrs Edwina Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)
Dorrell, Stephen Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord J. Irving, Charles
Dover, Denshore Jackson, Robert
Dunn, Robert Jenkin, Rt Hon Patrick
Edwards, Rt Hon N. (P'broke) Jessel, Toby
Eggar, Tim Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)
Emery, Sir Peter Jones, Robert (W Herts)
Evennett, David Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith
Eyre, Sir Reginald Key, Robert
Fallon, Michael King, Rt Hon Tom
Farr, John Knight, Gregory (Derby N)
Favell, Anthony Knowles, Michael
Fenner, Mrs Peggy Knox, David
Finsberg, Sir Geoffrey Lamont, Norman
Fletcher, Alexander Lang, Ian
Fookes, Miss Janet Latham, Michael
Forman, Nigel Lawler, Geoffrey
Forsyth, Michael (Stirling) Lawson, Rt Hon Nigel
Forth, Eric Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)
Fowler, Rt Hon Norman Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark
Fox, Marcus Lester, Jim
Fraser, Peter (Angus East) Lewis, Sir Kenneth (Stamf'd)
Freeman, Roger Lightbown, David
Fry, Peter Lilley, Peter
Gale, Roger Lloyd, Ian (Havant)
Galley, Roy Lloyd, Peter, (Fareham)
Gardiner, George (Reigate) Lord, Michael
Gardner, Sir Edward (Fylde) Lyell, Nicholas
Garel-Jones, Tristan McCrindle, Robert
Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian McCurley, Mrs Anna
Glyn, Dr Alan Macfarlane, Neil
Goodlad, Alastair MacGregor, John
Gow, Ian MacKay, Andrew (Berkshire)
Gower, Sir Raymond MacKay, John (Argyll & Bute)
Grant, Sir Anthony Maclean, David John.
Macmillan, Rt Hon M. Prentice, Rt Hon Reg
McNair-Wilson, P. (New F'st) Proctor, K. Harvey
McQuarrie, Albert Raffan, Keith
Madel, David Raison, Rt Hon Timothy
Major, John Rathbone, Tim
Malins, Humfrey Rees, Rt Hon Peter (Dover)
Malone, Gerald Renton, Tim
Maples, John Rhodes James, Robert
Marland, Paul Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon
Marlow, Antony Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas
Marshall, Michael (Arundel) Ridsdale, Sir Julian
Mates, Michael Rifkind, Malcolm
Mather, Carol Roberts, Wyn (Conwy)
Maude, Francis Roe, Mrs Marion
Mawhinney, Dr Brian Rost, Peter
Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin Rowe, Andrew
Mayhew, Sir Patrick Rumbold, Mrs Angela
Merchant, Piers Ryder, Richard
Meyer, Sir Anthony Sackville, Hon Thomas
Miller, Hal (B'grove) Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)
Mills, lain (Meriden) Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')
Mills, Sir Peter (West Devon) Silvester, Fred
Miscampbell, Norman Sims, Roger
Mitchell, David (NW Hants) Skeet, T. H. H.
Moate, Roger Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)
Monro, Sir Hector Speed, Keith
Montgomery, Fergus Spence, John
Moore, John Squire, Robin
Morris, M. (N'hampton, S) Steen, Anthony
Morrison, Hon P. (Chester) Stevens, Lewis (Nuneaton)
Moynihan, Hon C. Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)
Mudd, David Stewart, Andrew (Sherwood)
Murphy, Christopher Stokes, John
Neale, Gerrard Thomas, Rt Hon Peter
Needham, Richard Thompson, Donald (Calder V)
Nelson, Anthony Thompson, Patrick (N'ich N)
Neubert, Michael Thornton, Malcolm
Newton, Tony Townend, John (Bridlington)
Nicholls, Patrick Tracey, Richard
Norris, Steven Trippier, David
Onslow, Cranley van Straubenzee, Sir W.
Oppenheim, Philip Wakeham, Rt Hon John
Oppenheim, Rt Hon Mrs S. Walden, George
Osborn, Sir John Walker, Bill (T'side N)
Ottaway, Richard Walker, Rt Hon P. (W'cester)
Page, John (Harrow W) Ward, John
Page, Richard (Herts SW) Warren, Kenneth
Parris, Matthew Watson, John
Patten, John (Oxford) Wells, John (Maidstone)
Pattie, Geoffrey Wheeler, John
Pawsey, James Wiggin, Jerry
Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth Winterton, Nicholas
Percival, Rt Hon Sir Ian Wood, Timothy
Pink, R. Bonner Younger, Rt Hon George
Pollock, Alexander
Porter, Barry Tellers for the Noes:
Powell, William (Corby) Mr. David Hunt and
Powley, John Mr. Timothy Sainsbury.

Question accordingly negatived.

Question, That the proposed words be there added, put forthwith pursuant to Standing Order No.33 (Questions on amendments):

The House divided: Ayes 290, Noes 194.

Division No. 136] [10.12 pm
Adley, Robert Atkinson, David (B'm'th E)
Aitken, Jonathan Baker, Kenneth (Mole Valley)
Alexander, Richard Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset)
Amery, Rt Hon Julian Baldry, Anthony
Amess, David Banks, Robert (Harrogate)
Ancram, Michael Batiste, Spencer
Arnold, Tom Beaumont-Dark, Anthony
Ashby, David Bellingham, Henry
Aspinwall, Jack Bendall, Vivian
Atkins, Rt Hon Sir H. Benyon, William
Atkins, Robert (South Ribble) Berry, Sir Anthony
Bevan, David Gilroy Gregory, Conal
Biffen, Rt Hon John Griffiths, E. (B'y St Edm'ds)
Biggs-Davison, Sir John Griffiths, Peter (Portsm'th N)
Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter Grist, Ian
Body, Richard Ground, Patrick
Boscawen, Hon Robert Grylls, Michael
Bottomley, Peter Gummer, John Selwyn
Bowden, A. (Brighton K'to'n) Hamilton, Hon A. (Epsom)
Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich) Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)
Boyson, Dr Rhodes Hampson, Dr Keith
Braine, Sir Bernard Hanley, Jeremy
Brandon-Bravo, Martin Hannam, John
Bright, Graham Hargreaves, Kenneth
Brinton, Tim Harris, David
Brittan, Rt Hon Leon Harvey, Robert
Brooke, Hon Peter Haselhurst, Alan
Bruinvels, Peter Havers, Rt Hon Sir Michael
Bryan, Sir Paul Hawkins, C. (High Peak)
Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon A. Hawksley, Warren
Buck, Sir Antony Hayes, J.
Bulmer, Esmond Hayhoe, Barney
Burt, Alistair Hayward, Robert
Butcher, John Heathcoat-Amory, David
Butterfill, John Henderson, Barry
Carlisle, John (N Luton) Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Hickmet, Richard
Carttiss, Michael Hicks, Robert
Chalker, Mrs Lynda Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.
Channon, Rt Hon Paul Hill, James
Chapman, Sydney Hind, Kenneth
Churchill, W. S. Hirst, Michael
Clark, Hon A. (Plym'th S'n) Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford) Holland, Sir Philip (Gedling)
Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S) Holt, Richard
Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe) Hooson, Tom
Clegg, Sir Walter Hordern, Peter
Cockeram, Eric Howarth, Alan (Stratf'd-on-A)
Colvin, Michael Howarth, Gerald (Cannock)
Coombs, Simon Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Cope, John Howell, Rt Hon D. (G'ldford)
Corrie, John Howell, Ralph (N Norfolk)
Couchman, James Hubbard-Miles, Peter
Cranborne, Viscount Hunt, David (Wirral)
Critchley, Julian Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)
Crouch, David Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas
Currie, Mrs Edwina Irving, Charles
Dorrell, Stephen Jackson, Robert
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord J. Jenkin, Rt Hon Patrick
Dover, Denshore Jessel, Toby
Dunn, Robert Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)
Edwards, Rt Hon N. (P'broke) Jones, Robert (W Herts)
Eggar, Tim Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith
Emery, Sir Peter Key, Robert
Evennett, David King, Rt Hon Tom
Eyre, Sir Reginald Knight, Gregory (Derby N)
Fallon, Michael Knowles, Michael
Farr, John Knox, David
Favell, Anthony Lamont, Norman
Fenner, Mrs Peggy Lang, Ian
Finsberg, Sir Geoffrey Latham, Michael
Fletcher, Alexander Lawler, Geoffrey
Forman, Nigel Lawson, Rt Hon Nigel
Forsyth, Michael (Stirling) Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)
Forth, Eric Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark
Fowler, Rt Hon Norman Lester, Jim
Fox, Marcus Lewis, Sir Kenneth (Stamf'd)
Fraser, Peter (Angus East) Lightbown, David
Freeman, Roger Lilley, Peter
Fry, Peter Lloyd, Ian (Havant)
Gale, Roger Lloyd, Peter, (Fareham)
Galley, Roy Lord, Michael
Gardiner, George (Reigate) Lyell, Nicholas
Gardner, Sir Edward (Fylde) McCrindle, Robert
Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian Macfarlane, Neil
Glyn, Dr Alan MacGregor, John
Goodlad, Alastair MacKay, Andrew (Berkshire)
Gow, Ian MacKay, John (Argyll & Bute)
Gower, Sir Raymond Maclean, David John.
Grant, Sir Anthony Macmillan, Rt Hon M.
Greenway, Harry McNair-Wilson, P. (New F'st)
McQuarrie, Albert Raffan, Keith
Madel, David Raison, Rt Hon Timothy
Major, John Rathbone, Tim
Malins, Humfrey Rees, Rt Hon Peter (Dover)
Malone, Gerald Renton, Tim
Maples, John Rhodes James, Robert
Marland, Paul Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon
Marlow, Antony Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas
Marshall, Michael (Arundel) Ridsdale, Sir Julian
Mates, Michael Rifkind, Malcolm
Mather, Carol Roberts, Wyn (Conwy)
Maude, Francis Roe, Mrs Marion
Mawhinney, Dr Brian Rost, Peter
Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin Rowe, Andrew
Mayhew, Sir Patrick Rumbold, Mrs Angela
Merchant, Piers Ryder, Richard
Meyer, Sir Anthony Sackville, Hon Thomas
Miller, Hal (B'grove) Sainsbury, Hon Timothy
Mills, lain (Meriden) Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)
Mills, Sir Peter (West Devon) Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')
Miscampbell, Norman Silvester, Fred
Mitchell, David (NW Hants) Sims, Roger
Moate, Roger Skeet, T. H. H.
Monro, Sir Hector Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)
Montgomery, Fergus Speed, Keith
Moore, John Spence, John
Morris, M. (N'hampton, S) Squire, Robin
Morrison, Hon P. (Chester) Steen, Anthony
Moynihan, Hon C. Stevens, Lewis (Nuneaton)
Mudd, David Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)
Murphy, Christopher Stewart, Andrew (Sherwood)
Neale, Gerrard Stokes, John
Needham, Richard Thomas, Rt Hon Peter
Nelson, Anthony Thompson, Donald (Calder V)
Newton, Tony Thompson, Patrick (N'ich N)
Nicholls, Patrick Thornton, Malcolm
Norris, Steven Townend, John (Bridlington)
Onslow, Cranley Tracey, Richard
Oppenheim, Philip Trippier, David
Oppenheim, Rt Hon Mrs S. van Straubenzee, Sir W.
Osborn, Sir John Wakeham, Rt Hon John
Ottaway, Richard Walden, George
Page, John (Harrow W) Walker, Bill (T'side N)
Page, Richard (Herts SW) Walker, Rt Hon P. (W'cester)
Parris, Matthew Ward, John
Patten, John (Oxford) Warren, Kenneth
Pawsey, James Wells, John (Maidstone)
Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth Wheeler, John
Percival, Rt Hon Sir Ian Wiggin, Jerry
Pink, R. Bonner Winterton, Nicholas
Pollock, Alexander Wood, Timothy
Porter, Barry Younger, Rt Hon George
Powell, William (Corby)
Powley, John Tellers for the Ayes:
Prentice, Rt Hon Reg Mr. Tristan Garel-Jones and
Proctor, K. Harvey Mr. Michael Neubert.
Alton, David Brown, R. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne N)
Anderson, Donald Brown, Ron (E'burgh, Leith)
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Bruce, Malcolm
Ashley, Rt Hon Jack Callaghan, Jim (Heyw'd & M)
Ashton, Joe Campbell-Savours, Dale
Atkinson, N. (Tottenham) Canavan, Dennis
Bagier, Gordon A. T. Carlile, Alexander (Montg'y)
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Carter-Jones, Lewis
Barnett, Guy Clark, Dr David (S Shields)
Barron, Kevin Clarke, Thomas
Beckett, Mrs Margaret Clay, Robert
Beith, A. J. Cocks, Rt Hon M. (Bristol S.)
Bell, Stuart Cohen, Harry
Bennett, A. (Dent'n & Red'sh) Coleman, Donald
Bermingham, Gerald Concannon, Rt Hon J. D.
Bidwell, Sydney Conlan, Bernard
Blair, Anthony Cook, Frank (Stockton North)
Boothroyd, Miss Betty Cook, Robin F. (Livingston)
Boyes, Roland Corbett, Robin
Brown, Gordon (D'f'mline E) Corbyn, Jeremy
Brown, Hugh D. (Provan) Cowans, Harry
Brown, N. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne E) Cox, Thomas (Tooting)
Craigen, J. M. Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)
Crowther, Stan Holland, Stuart (Vauxhall)
Cunliffe, Lawrence Home Robertson, John
Cunningham, Dr John Howell, Rt Hon D. (S'heath)
Davies, Ronald (Caerphilly) Howells, Geraint
Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'ge H'l) Hoyle, Douglas
Deakins, Eric Hughes, Mark (Durham)
Dobson, Frank Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Dormand, Jack Hughes, Roy (Newport East)
Douglas, Dick Hughes, Sean (Knowsley S)
Dubs, Alfred Janner, Hon Greville
Dunwoody, Hon Mrs G. John, Brynmor
Eadie, Alex Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)
Eastham, Ken Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Edwards, Bob (W'h'mpt'n SE) Kennedy, Charles
Ellis, Raymond Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil
Evans, loan (Cynon Valley) Kirkwood, Archibald
Evans, John (St. Helens N) Lambie, David
Ewing, Harry Leadbitter, Ted
Fatchett, Derek Leighton, Ronald
Faulds, Andrew Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)
Field, Frank (Birkenhead) Lewis, Terence (Worsley)
Fields, T. (L'pool Broad Gn) Litherland, Robert
Fisher, Mark Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)
Flannery, Martin Lofthouse, Geoffrey
Foot, Rt Hon Michael Loyden, Edward
Forrester, John McCartney, Hugh
Foster, Derek McDonald, Dr Oonagh
Foulkes, George McGuire, Michael
Fraser, J. (Norwood) McKay, Allen (Penistone)
Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald McKelvey, William
Freud, Clement Mackenzie, Rt Hon Gregor
George, Bruce McNamara, Kevin
Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John McTaggart, Robert
Godman, Dr Norman Madden, Max
Golding, John Marek, Dr John
Gould, Bryan Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Gourlay, Harry Martin, Michael
Hamilton, James (M'well N) Mason, Rt Hon Roy
Hardy, Peter Maxton, John
Harman, Ms Harriet Maynard, Miss Joan
Hart, Rt Hon Dame Judith Meadowcroft, Michael
Haynes, Frank Michie, William
Healey, Rt Hon Denis Mikardo, Ian
Heffer, Eric S. Millan, Rt Hon Bruce
Miller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride) Short, Mrs H.(W'hampt'n NE)
Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe) Silkin, Rt Hon J.
Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon) Skinner, Dennis
Nellist, David Smith, C.(Isl'ton S & F'bury)
Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon Smith, Rt Hon J. (M'kl'ds E)
O'Brien, William Snape, Peter
O'Neill, Martin Soley, Clive
Park, George Spearing, Nigel
Parry, Robert Stott, Roger
Patchett, Terry Strang, Gavin
Pendry, Tom Straw, Jack
Penhaligon, David Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)
Pike, Peter Thomas, Dr R. (Carmarthen)
Powell, Raymond (Ogmore) Thompson, J. (Wansbeck)
Prescott, John Thorne, Stan (Preston)
Radice, Giles Tinn, James
Randall, Stuart Torney, Tom
Redmond, M. Wallace, James
Rees, Rt Hon M. (Leeds S) Wardell, Gareth (Gower)
Richardson, Ms Jo Wareing, Robert
Roberts, Allan (Bootle) Weetch, Ken
Roberts, Ernest (Hackney N) Welsh, Michael
Robertson, George White, James
Rooker, J. W. Williams, Rt Hon A.
Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight) Winnick, David
Rowlands, Ted Woodall, Alec
Ryman, John Wrigglesworth, Ian
Sedgemore, Brian Young, David (Bolton SE)
Sheerman, Barry
Sheldon, Rt Hon R. Tellers for the Noes:
Shore, Rt Hon Peter Mr. Don Dixon and
Short, Ms Clare (Ladywood) Mr. John McWilliam.

Question accordingly agreed to.

MR. SPEAKER forthwith declared the main Question, as amended, to be agreed to.

Resolved, That this House, while deeply sympathising with the people affected by necessary industrial change, wishes to see an efficient railway engineering industry in the United Kingdom that can supply British and the rest of the domestic market competitively and win orders from overseas; and strongly supports the British Railways Board's efforts to achieve this.