HC Deb 05 February 1985 vol 72 cc828-40 `This Act shall not come into force until an order made by the Secretary of State has been approved by a Resolution of the Commons House of Parliament.'.—[Mr. Geoffrey Robinson.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

9.17 pm
Mr. Geoffrey Robinson (Coventry, North-West)

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

What we at first thought was an innocuous Bill has during the course of Second Reading and Committee emerged quite clearly as a Bill that needs our close attention. Therefore we have put down for consideration this evening a new clause upon which we intend to vote. Far be it from me to delay the proceedings of the House at this hour, but the purpose of the new clause is to bring home to the Government the need for a new clause to establish both the new British Shipbuilders redundancy payment scheme and a scheme for those yards that are to be privatised before December 1986 when the existing shipbuilding redundancy payment scheme comes to an end once and for all.

We have made it clear that we shall not vote against the Bill on Third Reading. We have equally made it clear that we do not agree with the truncating of the scheme to an extension of only 18 months. But we do not agree that this should be done before the successor scheme has been established by British Shipbuilders. We do not agree that the Government should, with such commercial irresponsibility, write off all the financial liabilities of those yards that are to be privatised while at the same time not requiring them to meet conditions relating to maintenance of employment and conditions for its termination at least equal to those prevailing under the present scheme. Least of all do we agree, because of the uncertainties still surrounding the industry, that this is the right time to terminate this legislation which by the Government's own reckoning has worked so well. As the Minister of State said on Second Reading: No one would dispute that the scheme has contributed significantly over the years both to the alleviation of the problems of redundancy in a contracting industry and to progress in relation to the problems of contraction itself. It has provided a valuable tool in the management of change within shipbuilding and has helped in an extremely difficult period".—[Official Report, 9 January 1985; Vol. 70, c. 790.] The time remains extremely difficult, and this is no time to end the scheme with the final and unchangeable deadline announced by the Government, a scheme that has helped to mitigate the hardship of thousands of shipworkers whose livelihood has been wrecked by the Government.

The truncated period might also lead to a haemorrhage of skills, leading to an unbalanced labour force. When the scheme was introduced by my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) in 1978, the Minister of State, then a junior Opposition spokesman, said: The result of many redundancy schemes has been that some firms have been left with a labour force which is unbalanced". If the Bill goes through tonight with the deadline of December 1986, we shall, in all probability, see precisely that adverse effect achieved.

The House will realise that the tightness of the money resolution has prevented us from putting the many amendments that we would have liked to modify the Bill. Nor have we attempted, for the reasons that I gave, to wreck it. But in moving and voting on the new clause tonight we wish to expose the irresponsibility and hypocrisy of the Government, and the Minister of State in particular.

Again in Opposition in 1978, the Minister of State said that he wished to extend the scheme that we were introducing for the nationalised sector of the industry to what was then going to be a small sector of ship repair yards only. He said that the same scheme should apply to them because it was Government financed. He said: I make this point because there is some concern in the small private sector … that the terms of the Bill will have an adverse effect on them … If that is the case, is it not worth considering whether the scheme proposed in the Bill should not have been an industry-wide scheme rather than confined to British Shipbuilders?"—[Official Report, 16 January 1978; Vol. 942, c. 181–85.] Indeed, so firmly did the Minister become convinced of that concept of parity between public and private sectors that he took the point to another place. He succeeded there in having amendments agreed to, the effect of which would have been that the private sector repair yards would have been included within the state scheme. That would have been impossible, as he then well knew, because our deliberations in the House are governed by a money resolution, as they are not in another place. That tactic, Mr. Speaker, pursued with a speciousness and irresponsibility that did not become him, was correctly ruled out of order by your illustrious predecessor, Mr. Speaker Thomas, on 27 April 1978.

For that reason and others, we have not seen fit to try to take the matter to another place, although it is worth noting in passing that the Government have been defeated there no fewer than 79 times. However, that would be a futile exercise and a waste of the time of this House since on return to the House you, no doubt, Mr. Speaker, as did your predecessor, would have ruled any such amendents out of order.

But we must still put to the Minister and the Government those arguments that strongly make the case that the Government should first see that a new and equally good scheme, as promised by the Minister of State, is established before the Act comes into force. On Second Reading he said: However, at this stage there is no need to worry that the work forces may end up worse off."—[Official Report, 9 January 1985; Vol. 70, c. 793.] I take that to be the work forces in what will remain the public sector and in the private sector.

That, for us, is a commitment, and we would have wished that commitment to have been clearly evidenced to the House by way of a new scheme presented to it, or even presented outside the House, but nevertheless for such a scheme to have been negotiated between BS and its employees, and, indeed, between those yards that are privatised or that are being privatised and their work forces.

True to his word, the Minister should have seen to it that such a scheme was forthcoming. It was just as important that that should have been negotiated for the private sector as for the public sector, which, we have his commitment, will be no worse off.

Regarding safeguards for the private sector, which the Minister of State was so anxious to obtain back in 1978, there is no question of these being given by the Government now. Although the scale of the problem in the private sector if and when these yards are denationalised is going to be much greater, it was already pre-empted on Second Reading, by the Minister of State who had done a U-turn in the most classic fashion, when he said, contrary to what he was urging us to do in 1978: I am quite clear that an extension to the private sector would be the wrong solution." [Official Report, 9 January 1985; Vol. 70, c. 793.] That would be an extension to the private sector of whatever scheme British Shipbuilders are able to agree with their work force.

We are now without any undertaking of a specific and clear nature with regard either to British Shipbuilders or to the yards that are so irresponsibly to be flogged off. We are talking of the great names in the industry, such as Barrow, with some 12,000 unemployed, Yarrow, Swan Hunter and Vosper, totalling perhaps as many as 30,000 employees of whom the Government have washed their hands.

In refusing, then, to accept new clause 1 tonight, if that is the case — and we shall listen with great interest to the Minister's reply, although I fear that it will almost certainly be no — the Government will make it unmistakably clear to the employees of British Shipbuilders and those in the military yards to be privatised that they have abandoned a vitally important aspect of their commitment to them. The result could well be a haemorrhage of redundancies while the present scheme still lasts in those very skills we need to sustain a shipbuilding capability at all in this country. It will also mean, of course, a further acceleration in the economic decline of those regions of our country that have historically suffered so tragically from economic decline and social impoverishment.

We believe that that could be avoided. We urge the Government to agree to this new clause, which would entail the need to bring an order before this House making the position quite clear. That is all we are asking of the Government and I ask them to consider it very carefully. The purpose of the new clause is to enable the Government, before the Act comes into operation, before December 1986, to put before the House precisely what, with their guidance and under their instructions — for they have already written to the chairman of British Shipbuilders — has been negotiated by way of a new redundancy scheme between British Shipbuilders and its employees.

We should also like to know, and the House is entitled to know, what has been negotiated, if the privatisation measures go through, between the new owners and their employees. We believe that the uncertainty and despair that this legislation is likely to cause could be avoided. For these reasons, we urge the Government to accept new clause 1 to reassure the industry, public and prospectively private, that it has a future. If they do not, we and the shipbuilders can only fear the worst — fake assurances from a fake Department that cares nothing for the welfare of the working people and a nationally and regionally important industry.

Mr. Don Dixon (Jarrow)

I support what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, North-West (Mr. Robinson). The Minister, the Parliamentary Secretary and the Minister of State have said on a number of occasions that the shipyard workers have nothing to fear, that the new scheme will be as good as if not better than the present one. If that is so, they should accept the new clause.

I, too, would like to quote the Minister of State, who was then the Opposition spokesman on shipbuilding. When we were discussing the original Shipbuilding (Redundancy Payments) Bill he said: The other point that I, would make, particularly following what the Minister said when he talked about a once-and-for-all situation, is that achieving competitive levels of manning is something that we have to go on doing all the time. We tend to look at Japanese steelworks or German shipbuilding firms and think about making an adjustment to get down to their level of manning, but this is a process that ought to go on all the time. That is precisely why we say that the shipbuilding redundancy scheme should continue.

9.30 pm

The Minister says that by December 1986 the shipbuilding industry will have negotiated a scheme that is as good as, if not better than, the present scheme. The Minister of State, then Opposition spokesman, said in the debate on 16 January 1978: One reason for this, and this brings me back to an earlier point about what happens in one industry affecting what happens in another, is that workers in British Shipbuilders and the unions there must have read the newspaper stories about the sorts of sums being paid to buy out redundant jobs in the British Steel Corporation".—[Official Report 16 January 1978; Vol. 942, c. 179–182.] In Committee we spoke of concern about the fact that shipbuilding workers receive less by way of redundancy payments than the steelworkers or the sums paid by the British National Dock Labour Board, and they get less redundancy than the mineworkers.

It is clear that what happens in one industry affects what happens in another, and that should be heeded by the workers in other nationalised industries. They should realise that the way in which the Government are ending the shipbuilding redundancy scheme could happen to the schemes applying to the steelworkers, dockers and mineworkers in the not too distant future, when the Government feel that the time is right.

In Committee the Minister said that there was no need to fear that after 1986 workers in the private or public sectors would be any worse off. If he believes that, he should accept the new clause. On Second Reading, the Minister said that compensation was a subject for negotiation, and, as my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, North-West pointed out, shipbuilding workers should not lose out.

Somebody once remarked that there was no need to look in the crystal ball if one could read the book. It is clear that shipbuilding workers who have negotiated outside the shipbuilding scheme have not achieved the equivalent of shipbuilding redundancy scheme payments, and one needs only to look at Tyne Shiprepairers for proof of that. That company was privatised and the men were bought out under the scheme applicable then for half their entitlement under the shipbuilding redundancy scheme. Scott Lithgow workers will not get their full entitlement. In other words, the remarks that Ministers are making are, to say the least, slightly misleading because workers who have already negotiated redundancy payments have not been able to achieve the same terms as were negotiated by the Labour Government in 1978. That is why the new clause is necessary.

If the Minister is so certain of what will happen when the scheme comes to an end in 1986 and renegotiations take place, there is no reason why he should not accept the new clause. It will ensure that when the new scheme is negotiated it will be brought before the House for debate. Then, if hon. Members are satisfied, the Government will have the full backing of the House for their actions.

At present, workers in the shipbuilding industry know what is likely to happen. Come December 1986, they are sure that they will be finished with the shipbuilding redundancy scheme and that the negotiations which they will have with the companies will not produce terms as fair to them as the terms that were introduced by the Labour Government.

In Tyne and Wear there are 72,000 men out of work, more than 35,000 of them having been unemployed for over 12 months. When 2,100 voluntary redundancies were asked for, more than 2,400 volunteered. They volunteered only because they were convinced that the Government would be bringing the shipbuilding redundancy scheme to an end in 1986.

If the Minister is genuinely concerned for the shipbuilding industry, he will accept what we propose. After all, the management does not want the scheme to end. They are aware of the problems that will arise, and it is nonsense for the Minister to say that all will be well under a voluntary redundancy scheme. It is not a voluntary redundancy scheme, because management determines who is made redundant. If all the platers in a yard asked for redundancy, the management would not give it to them. The same would apply if all the joiners opted for redundancy. The management picks out individuals, so it is nonsensical for the Minister to say that it is a voluntary redundancy scheme.

If the cut-off date for the redundancy scheme is December 1986, the platers could finish the steel work on a ship and be given redundancy payments under the scheme, while joiners, electricians and other finishing trades working on the ship at a later stage could lose the advantages to be gained under the scheme because the work continued beyond December 1986. The new clause is designed to restore some confidence, but perhaps "confidence" is the wrong word, because shipyard workers do not want a redundancy scheme, let alone to have confidence in it. Instead, they want confidence in the industry.

On Second Reading the Minister talked about 35,000 workers in British Shipbuilders having benefited from the redundancy scheme. That means that 35,000 men have benefited by being thrown on the human scrapheap. That is an example of the nonsense that is spoken by Ministers. These men have been made redundant in areas where there is no chance of getting a job if they are over 35 or 40 years of age. As I said in Committee, to say that men have benefited by being made redundant is rather like Pierrepoint saying that everyone he hanged benefited because the trap door always opened.

Dr. Norman A. Godman (Greenock and Port Glasgow)

Does my hon. Friend agree that one of the major implications of the Bill is that those in the shipbuilding industry will be taken back to the bad old days and will face the sack when a ship is finished? Does he agree that it is likely that once a worker's part of the contract is finished he will be out? Is that not one of the implications of the Bill?

Mr. Dixon

That is perfectly true. Shipyard workers will work themselves out of a job. In the bad old days, as my hon. Friend has said, they used to lay the keel of a ship, get the ship launched and completed by the finishing date. The ship would leave the yard and the workers would be paid off. They would find themselves on the street. That is what happened in the industry before it was nationalised. There was a 50 per cent. turnover of workers in the shipbuilding industry.

When I worked in the industry I used to receive my Christmas box a week before Christmas. I would then be paid off — this happened to everyone — so that the employer did not have to pay two days of holiday pay. That was the sort of thing that happened before the industry ceased to be in private hands. We shall have one or two things to say about life in the industry in the days of private ownership when we come to Third Reading.

On Second Reading the Minister said: By the end of 1986 the state will own less than one third of the United Kingdom industry."—[An hon. Member: "Hear, hear".] —I do not know who said "Hear, hear" It was probably the hon. Member for Hampstead and Highgate (Sir G. Finsberg), who appears to be asleep.

Sir Geoffrey Finsberg (Hampstead and Highgate)

I only wish that I were asleep.

Mr. Dixon

The hon. Gentleman will have ample opportunity to sleep when the Minister replies to the debate. The Minister did not tell us what the size of the industry would be by the end of 1986. That is rather like the advertisements that we see on television. For example, we are told during one advertisement that a certain light bulb has 30 per cent. more life, but we are not told the life of the product with which it is being compared. In another advertisement we are told that a tyre has 50 per cent. more grip, and the obvious question is, "More grip than what?"

The Minister tells us that By the end of 1986 the state will own less than one third of the United Kingdom industry."—[Official Report, 9 January 1985; Vol. 70, c. 793.] We do not know whether the industry will be building ships by the end of the century because of the way in which the Government are treating it.

I hope that the Minister will accept the new clause. It will give the men in the industry some satisfaction to know that their redundancy scheme — in fact, the scheme is inferior to the scheme enjoyed by the mineworkers, which the Prime Minister boasts about every week, or the schemes for the steelworkers or dockers—will continue to have effect until a new scheme is negotiated.

Dr. David Clark (South Shields)

I ask the Under-Secretary of State to accept this modest new clause, because it gives the Secretary of State and the House the flexibility to manage the British shipbuilding industry much more effectively. As my hon. Friends the Members for Coventry, North-West (Mr. Robinson) and for Jarrow (Mr. Dixon) have said, the Bill brings a guillotine into the management of British Shipbuilders. Because redundancy payments have almost become a way of life in shipbuilding areas, they very much affect industrial relations in the industry.

We are trying to give the Government flexibility. How can we tell what the position will be in 18 months time? It could be transformed in one way or another. There could, for example, be another Falklands crisis and the Government could cry out for ships. If the Bill is passed in its present form, the Government will have to go through the paraphernalia of introducing a new Bill.

I emphasise that we are not talking about over-generous payments. The payments to shipyard workers, compared with workers in the other heavy industries of coal and steel, are less. We cannot emphasise that fact enough. Those hon. Members from the north-east of England, where there are appalling unemployment levels and the four travel-to-work areas which are highest on a list of travel-to-work areas along the coastal belt of Tyne and Wear from Newcastle to Middlesbrough, are aware of the problem. It may be difficult for the Government to appreciate the fact that when British Shipbuilders asks for volunteers for redundancy the lists are over-subscribed. That over-subscription is based on fear and a lack of morale. The workers are afraid of losing the pittance of £2,000 or £3,000. That genuine fear can be seen in the pubs and clubs—everywhere in the shipbuilding area.

The replacement scheme to which the Minister referred on Second Reading will not be anywhere as good as this inadequate scheme. If the Under-Secretary of State accepts new clause 1, he will get himself off the hook and will make the management of British Shipbuilders much easier. I suggest that the Under-Secretary of State should join the Opposition, because we want British Shipbuilders, and the rest of British industry, to operate in management terms as effectively as possible.

The Government are imposing a deadline of December 1986. We all know that the redundancy schemes will be cut off because we have seen what happened with Tyne Shiprepairers in my constituency and other shiprepair yards that have been privatised. By placing in the legislation this albatross of the deadline of 31 December 1986, the Minister is making life much more difficult for himself and for British Shipbuilders. He will force men out of an industry when we cannot afford to do so. I urge the Under-Secretary of State to accept the new clause.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (Mr. John Butcher)

I suspect that some hon. Members are anxious for us to make progress but that other hon. Members, some of whom have spoken on the new clause, are anxious that we should continue to treat seriously the issues raised in the new clause.

I fully appreciate the reasons why the Opposition have persisted with the line of argument which, in effect, asks for reassurances that those who work in the shipbuilding industry and who will remain employees of British Shipbuilders after the privatisation programme has taken place do not feel dragooned, enticed or pushed into redundancy programmes through a fear that any successor redundancy scheme will be less generous than the existing statutory scheme. I hope to deal with that point as clearly as I can.

9.45 pm

On a quasi-administrative point, the hon. Member for Coventry, North-West (Mr. Robinson) said that the new clause merely requires a statutory order before the Act comes into force in December 1986, but he will appreciate that the Act needs to be in force in June 1985 because we wish the further eighteen months from that date to cover British Shipbuilders employees while the new schemes are being negotiated and put into place.

Since we last discussed this subject on the Floor of the House, a number of things have happened. I remember vividly two or three hon. Members expressing their fears about the order position in British Shipbuilders' merchant yards. I remember the hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Field) speaking out for his constituents and voicing his fears about the warship building programme and the need for orders at Cammell Laird.

Let us acknowledge for once that since then there has been a significant improvement in the order position, some of which is already known to the House. There are two or three items that I should like to lay before the House as giving grounds for optimism. The size of the order book will determine whether the provisions that we are discussing will be needed.

The House knows that Cammell Laird has an order for a type 22 frigate and that Swan Hunter also has a type 22 on order and that, subject to some detailed contractual obligations, has an option on a type 23. The position has improved dramatically at Austin and Pickersgill with two SD 14s. That order was obtained after great effort, and I pay tribute to the trade unions and to the management of Austin and Pickersgill for putting together a package which shows that they are determined to come out fighting, to make the best of their current order book and to see themselves through what has been a nasty few weeks to a position where I hope that they can compete and obtain more orders in the future.

I am delighted to report to the House that next week an order for a fisheries research vessel from the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food will be going to Ferguson-Ailsa. Without wishing to steal any of the thunder that I hope Graham Day will receive when he returns to the country in the near future, I can predict with some certainty that he will announce a major order for a merchant yard.

Dr. Godman

I also have some knowledge of the announcement that Mr. Day or his representatives are likely to make when he returns. The Minister gave good news about Ferguson-Ailsa. Can he expand on it?

Mr. Butcher

Only to say that the final details will be known next week, but having checked with my officials I am confident in having gone as far as I have tonight. I thought that while we were discussing the SRPS would be an appropriate occasion for those observations to be made.

Mr. Christopher Chope (Southampton, Itchen)

My hon. Friend has not mentioned Vosper Thornycroft. When the House last considered this matter, there were high hopes in Southampton that Vosper Thornycroft would receive extra orders. Can my hon. Friend tell us anything about the prospects for Vosper Thornycroft and for Vosper Shiprepairers which is a Southampton yard which is short of orders? Those yards face the spectre of privatisation, and people are enthusiastic—[Interruption.] Perhaps I should express that slightly differently. There is anxiety in Southampton that it is losing orders because of the indecision about privatisation. I should be grateful to hear what my hon. Friend has to say.

Mr. Butcher

First, I am sure that a spectre could also be defined as a grand vision.

Secondly, it is certainly not my intention to be less helpful to my hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Itchen (Mr. Chope) than I have been to some Opposition Members. I advise my hon. Friend to fall into conversation in the Lobby with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence. I have had such a conversation myself. My right hon. Friend is fighting very hard for a major order that he hopes may go some way towards assuaging my hon. Friend's fears. My right hon. Friend's efforts in that direction are deadly serious.

The main purpose of the Bill is to extend the shipbuilding redundancy payments scheme from June this year to December 1986. On Second Reading, my hon. Friend the Minister of State clearly explained the need for such an extension. He noted that British Shipbuilders still has a long way to go to achieve real stability and a firm future. It would be foolish to ignore the risk that the market might force further rationalisation on the corporation. In such circumstances, the scheme could be of real value to both management and workforce. However, it is likely that by the end of 1986 British Shipbuilders and Harland and Wolff together are likely to employ less than a third of those working in the industry. The need for an inflexible statutory scheme, Acts of Parliament and statutory orders will have passed. The industry will then be better served by a non-statutory scheme agreed between unions and management.

Opposition Members have pressed the Government to describe or table the successor scheme. However, it is far too soon to predict the sort of scheme that will suit the industry in 1987. Opposition Members would be the first to complain if the Government were to prescribe the terms of a non-statutory scheme and to declare that those terms were non-negotiable. They would rightly say that the. Government should allow industry to determine such details of the scheme as the balance between lump sums and weekly support payments, and that the industry itself should determine how those payments should be related to pay, age, length of service and so on. I am not prepared to predict the shape of the successor scheme. It is not for me or the Government to give an assurance that the scheme would be as generous as, or more generous than, the present arrangement.

Mr. Geoffrey Robinson

If that is so, why did the Minister of State specifically undertake on Second Reading that there was no reason to suppose that those employees still with British Shipbuilders would be any worse off under the successor scheme than under the present one?

Mr. Butcher

If the hon. Gentleman had contained himself for 30 seconds, he would have heard me emphasise the fact that it is no part of the Government's intention to require British Shipbuilders to implement a scheme that is, overall, less generous than the present one.

We have stated the Government's position clearly on three occasions, but we are not going to lay down a successor scheme in statute form.

Mr. Robinson

We hear, in the Minister's tortuous terminology, that the Government are not going to require British Shipbuilders to implement a scheme that is less generous than the present one. We want to hear again the commitment given by the Minister of State on Second Reading that people will be as well off as they are under the present scheme. Cannot the Minister give that commitment?

Mr. Butcher

The hon. Gentleman will have to re-read what I have just said and what my hon. Friend the Minister of State said. My hon. Friend was as clear as he could possibly be. There are times when the House indulges in tortuous terminology, but neither my hon. Friend nor I could have been clearer about what we hope for from the successor scheme in comparison with current arrangements. That is why my hon. Friend said, and why I repeat, that there is no need to fear that the work force may be worse off.

Mr. Frank Field (Birkenhead)

I find the Minister's comment helpful. He has made it clear that workers will not be at a disadvantage under the new scheme as compared with the present scheme. If that is so, why does the Minister not simply extend the present scheme?

Mr. Butcher

We are extending the scheme for 18 months to give employees of British Shipbuilders, until December 1986, the reassurance that they will not be affected deleteriously. We are saying that, after 1986, there should be parity between the private sector and the public sector in regard to not having to put a statutory scheme on either of them. We also said in Committee—I hope that this will go some considerable way to reassure the hon. Gentleman—that when British Shipbuilders has negotiated its scheme with representatives of the work force the provisions of that scheme will be covered, as they are now, by Government funding. The Government have been asked whether the scheme will be financially neutral. There will be no cost to British Shipbuilders.

We have made our intention clear. We have signalled that we will supply the wherewithal, but we are not saying that the scheme will be statutory. Nor are we saying that we are prepared to impose such a scheme on British Shipbuilders when neither the private sector nor the warship building yards that are to be privatised will be subject to the same requirement.

Mr. Field

I am now puzzled by the Minister's use of the word "impose". If I heard him correctly, he is saying that he expects that, after 1986, British Shipbuilders will run a scheme as generous as, if not more generous than, the present one and that on no account will the scheme be worse than the present one for those who remain in the state sector.

Mr. Butcher

The hon. Gentleman is right to home in on the word "impose". We are not prepared to legislate for the continuation of the scheme as it is. We want the scheme to end in December 1986 and have given commitments to that effect. We want parity in the requirements put on employers between the private and public sector through this methodology.

New clause 1 would require the Government to introduce a statutory order before the Act came into force, and the order would be subject to affirmative resolution. That procedure would cause delay and uncertainty for those who work in the shipbuilding industry — those whom Opposition Members claim to represent. The procedure would also waste the time of the House — there has been plenty of that tonight—by permitting yet another debate on the need for the Bill. We could not even proceed with the writing-off of the Upper Clyde Shipbuilders Limited debt until the order had been approved. I see no merit in that.

Dr. David Clark

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is it in order for the Minister to accuse hon. Members of wasting the time of the House?

Mr. Speaker

The Minister is responsible for what he says, but I do not think that he really meant that.

Mr. Butcher

I certainly did not mean that the hon. Member for South Shields (Dr. Clark) had wasted the time of the House. This is an important Bill and I suspect that some Opposition Members, like me, wonder why we did not start this debate until about half an hour ago. I hope that that clarifies what I meant to say.

The procedure provided by new clause 1 would be similar to that which was undergone when the scheme was previously extended in 1981 and 1982. On both occasions there was primary legislation, followed by an order which extended the life of the scheme. That procedure was perhaps cumbersome, but statutory orders had to he tabled anyway to improve benefits, increase the upper-earnings limit, consolidate the regulations or to make other changes. However, we are making no changes this time. The upper-earnings limit increases automatically every year, so there is no need for an order.

Almost all those who have spoken have said that they welcome the main purpose of the Bill and the further extension of the shipbuilding schemes. There is, therefore, no sense in delaying its implementation, which is all that new clause 1 would do. I therefore urge the House to reject the new clause.

Mr. Geoffrey Robinson

The Minister's answer is extremely evasive. He has tried to sidetrack us with some judiciously placed orders and by telling us that 11,000 ship workers, who will remain in the public sector, are of little concern to him. Moreover, he has said that we are trying to waste the time of the House.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary has refused to give what my hon. Friend the Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Field) sought, that is, a requirement on British Shipbuilders that the scheme should be equal to the present one. If that were the case we would not need the present legislation. The Minister failed to give that undertaking, we must fear the worst and, therefore, we must push the new clause to a vote.

Question put, That the clause be read a Second time:

The House divided: Ayes 104, Noes 193.

Division No. 91] [10 pm
Alton, David Clay, Robert
Ashdown, Paddy Cocks, Rt Hon M. (Bristol S.)
Ashton, Joe Cohen, Harry
Bagier, Gordon A. T. Cook, Frank (Stockton North)
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Corbyn, Jeremy
Barron, Kevin Cowans, Harry
Beith, A. J. Craigen, J. M.
Bennett, A. (Dent'n & Red'sh) Cunliffe, Lawrence
Brown, Gordon (D'f'mline E) Dalyell, Tam
Brown, Hugh D. (Proven) Davies, Ronald (Caerphilly)
Brown, N. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne E) Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'ge H'I)
Buchan, Norman Deakins, Eric
Caborn, Richard Dewar, Donald
Callaghan, Jim (Heyw'd & M) Dixon, Donald
Campbell-Savours, Dale Dobson, Frank
Canavan, Dennis Dormand, Jack
Clark, Dr David (S Shields) Douglas, Dick
Clarke, Thomas Dubs, Alfred
Duffy, A. E. P. Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Dunwoody, Hon Mrs G. Mason, Rt Hon Roy
Eadie, Alex Maxton, John
Eastham, Ken Michie, William
Evans, John (St. Helens N) Millan, Rt Hon Bruce
Ewing, Harry Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)
Field, Frank (Birkenhead) Nellist, David
Fields, T. (L'pool Broad Gn) O'Brien, William
Fisher, Mark O'Neill, Martin
Flannery, Martin Parry, Robert
Garrett, W. E. Patchett, Terry
Godman, Dr Norman Penhaligon, David
Golding, John Pike, Peter
Gould, Bryan Prescott, John
Harrison, Rt Hon Walter Radice, Giles
Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth) Redmond, M.
Home Robertson, John Richardson, Ms Jo
Howells, Geraint Robinson, G. (Coventry NW)
Hoyle, Douglas Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N) Skinner, Dennis
Hughes, Simon (Southwark) Snape, Peter
John, Brynmor Soley, Clive
Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside) Steel, Rt Hon David
Kennedy, Charles Stott, Roger
Leadbitter, Ted Strang, Gavin
Lewis, Ron (Carlisle) Straw, Jack
Lewis, Terence (Worsley) Thompson, J. (Wansbeck)
Litherland, Robert Wardell, Gareth (Gower)
Lloyd, Tony (Stretford) Welsh, Michael
Loyden, Edward Wigley, Dafydd
McDonald, Dr Oonagh Winnick, David
McGuire, Michael Young, David (Bolton SE)
McKay, Allen (Penistone)
McNamara, Kevin Tellers for the Ayes:
Madden, Max Mr. James Hamilton and
Marek, Dr John Mr. Frank Haynes.
Alexander, Richard Clark, Hon A. (Plym'th S'n)
Amess, David Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)
Ancram, Michael Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe)
Arnold, Tom Cockeram, Eric
Ashby, David Colvin, Michael
Atkins, Robert (South Ribble) Coombs, Simon
Atkinson, David (B'm'th E) Cope, John
Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Vall'y) Couchman, James
Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset) Dicks, Terry
Baldry, Tony Dorrell, Stephen
Batiste, Spencer Dover, Den
Beaumont-Dark, Anthony Dunn, Robert
Bellingham, Henry Durant, Tony
Benyon, William Dykes, Hugh
Bevan, David Gilroy Edwards, Rt Hon N. (P'broke)
Blackburn, John Emery, Sir Peter
Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter Evennett, David
Boscawen, Hon Robert Eyre, Sir Reginald
Bottomley, Peter Fallon, Michael
Bottomley, Mrs Virginia Finsberg, Sir Geoffrey
Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich) Fletcher, Alexander
Braine, Rt Hon Sir Bernard Fookes, Miss Janet
Brandon-Bravo, Martin Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)
Bright, Graham Fox, Marcus
Brinton, Tim Gale, Roger
Brooke, Hon Peter Garel-Jones, Tristan
Bruinvels, Peter Gorst, John
Buck, Sir Antony Gower, Sir Raymond
Budgen, Nick Greenway, Harry
Burt, Alistair Gregory, Conal
Butcher, John Griffiths, E. (B'y St Edm'ds)
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Ground, Patrick
Carttiss, Michael Grylls, Michael
Cash, William Gummer, John Selwyn
Chapman, Sydney Hamilton, Hon A. (Epsom)
Chope, Christopher Harris, David
Hawkins, C. (High Peak) Roe, Mrs Marion
Hayes, J. Rowe, Andrew
Hayward, Robert Ryder, Richard
Heddle, John Sackville, Hon Thomas
Henderson, Barry Sainsbury, Hon Timothy
Hind, Kenneth Sayeed, Jonathan
Holland, Sir Philip (Gedling) Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')
Holt, Richard Shelton, William (Streatham)
Howarth, Gerald (Cannock) Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey Silvester, Fred
Key, Robert Sims, Roger
King, Roger (B'ham N'field) Skeet, T. H. H.
Lamont, Norman Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Lang, Ian Soames, Hon Nicholas
Lawler, Geoffrey Speed, Keith
Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh) Speller, Tony
Lightbown, David Spence, John
Li Hey, Peter Spencer, Derek
Lloyd, Peter, (Fareham) Spicer, Jim (W Dorset)
Lord, Michael Squire, Robin
Lyell, Nicholas Stanbrook, Ivor
McCurley, Mrs Anna Stern, Michael
Macfarlane, Neil Stevens, Lewis (Nuneaton)
MacGregor, John Stevens, Martin (Fulham)
Maclean, David John Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)
Major, John Stewart, Andrew (Sherwood)
Malins, Humfrey Sumberg, David
Malone, Gerald Taylor, John (Solihull)
Maples, John Temple-Morris, Peter
Marlow, Antony Terlezki, Stefan
Marshall, Michael (Arundel) Thomas, Rt Hon Peter
Mather, Carol Thompson, Donald (Calder V)
Mawhinney, Dr Brian Thompson, Patrick (N'ich N)
Mayhew, Sir Patrick Thorne, Neil (Ilford S)
Mellor, David Thornton, Malcolm
Merchant, Piers Thurnham, Peter
Meyer, Sir Anthony Townend, John (Bridlington)
Miller, Hal (B'grove) Tracey, Richard
Mills, Iain (Meriden) Trippier, David
Mills, Sir Peter (West Devon) Trotter, Neville
Moate, Roger Twinn, Dr Ian
Monro, Sir Hector van Straubenzee, Sir W.
Montgomery, Sir Fergus Waddington, David
Moore, John Walker, Bill (T'side N)
Morris, M. (N'hampton, S) Ward, John
Moynihan, Hon C. Wardle, C. (Bexhill)
Murphy, Christopher Watson, John
Nelson, Anthony Watts, John
Newton, Tony Wells, Bowen (Hertford)
Nicholls, Patrick Wheeler, John
Norris, Steven Whitfield, John
Onslow, Cranley Whitney, Raymond
Ottaway, Richard Wilkinson, John
Page, Sir John (Harrow W) Wolfson, Mark
Page, Richard (Herts SW) Wood, Timothy
Patten, Christopher (Bath) Yeo, Tim
Pawsey, James Young, Sir George (Acton)
Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth Younger, Rt Hon George
Pollock, Alexander
Portillo, Michael Tellers for the Noes:
Powell, William (Corby) Mr. Michael Neubert and
Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon Mr. Mark Lennox-Boyd.
Roberts, Wyn (Conwy)

Question accordingly negatived.