HC Deb 07 July 1986 vol 101 cc72-118
Mr. Speaker

Before I call the Secretary of State to move the Prime Minister's motion, I must announce to the House that I have selected the amendment in the name of the Leader of the Opposition.

7 pm

The Secretary of State for Trade and Industry and President of the Board of Trade (Mr. Paul Channon)

I beg to move, That this House endorses the Government's response (HC 457) to the Second Report from the Trade and Industry Committee on the Tin Crisis (HC 305-1); regrets the difficulties brought upon the Cornish tin industry, the International Tin Council's creditors and others as a result of the failure of the International Tin Council to reach agreement with its creditors, despite the considerable efforts made by the Government, and welcomes the Government's package of measures to help employment in Cornwall. I invite the House to endorse the Government's reply to the Select Committee on Trade and Industry. I note that a surprisingly large number of hon. Members wish to speak in this important debate and, therefore, I shall try not to take up too much time and I shall come straight to the point.

It strikes me that there are three main issues on which I suspect that the House will wish to concentrate. As the House knows, under difficult circumstances, to which I shall refer later, the Committee has produced a report which raises a number of important questions. The three main issues are, first, the constraints under which the Government operated in giving evidence to the Committee, secondly, the conduct of the Government both before and after the collapse of the International Tin Council in October 1985 and thirdly, the effect on the Cornish tin industry. My hon. Friend the Minister of State will deal with the problems of Cornwall more fully when he replies to the debate.

I should like first to deal with the constraints which the Government faced in giving evidence to the Committee. I must, however, reject any suggestions that, in giving evidence. Ministers or officials withheld information except where required to do so by international obligations, legal considerations or established conventions relating to the disclosure of information to Select Committees. In fact, the Government made every effort to provide as much information as possible to the Committee. In the case of the papers and proceedings of the International Tin Council—to which confidentiality attaches under the international tin agreement and the ITC rules—our delegates twice requested the council to agree to disclosure. Both those approaches were emphatically rejected.

The Committee also criticised our refusal to depart from the principle that advice given to Ministers by officials may not be disclosed. I must make it clear that the instructions given by Ministers and followed by officials in the course of this inquiry were no different from the rules that are generally applicable when civil servants give evidence to Select Committees. These rules are set out in the memorandum of guidance for officials appearing before Select Committees. They make clear the categories of information which officials must not disclose to Committees including, in particular, advice to Ministers. The purpose of such a rule is clear and well understood. It is to preserve the basis of confidence between Ministers and their advisers. That is necessary for the effective functioning of Departments, and it underlies the basic principle that it is Ministers and not officials who are responsible to Parliament for the activities of their Department. Finally, we were constrained by the fact that the matters under investigation were the subject of legal actions in which the Crown may become involved.

Before I turn to the question of the conduct of the Government in the tin crisis, I shall tell the House the background to this debate.

In 1982, when the fifth international tin agreement expired, the Government had to decide whether to join the sixth agreement. There was considerable reluctance to do so, particularly as the two largest consumers, the United States of America and the Soviet Union, had announced that they would not join. So there was some question as to whether the consumer voice would be fully effective.

On balance, it was decided to continue as members of the ITC. I remind the right hon. Member for Swansea, West (Mr. Williams) that that was a decision the previous Government had equally come to in joining the fifth agreement. That decision was taken, first, because the Government at the time believed that it was in the interests of this country that there should be, as it was then seen, a stable international market in tin; secondly, because the majority of the Community member states wished to join; and, thirdly, it was thought that to refuse to join would have adversely affected our relations with the producing countries. There were also a number of subsidiary reasons in the Government's mind at that time, but it is fair to say that those were the three main reasons why, on balance, the difficult decision was taken to join rather than not to join.

Very early in the life of the sixth agreement the Government became concerned at the lack of information about the operations of the buffer stock manager. The Government made no secret of their concerns about the absence of proper control and accountability over the actions of the buffer stock manager. We tried hard, through the ITC, to establish proper accountability, but were not supported by other member countries. With between only 4 and 5 per cent. of the votes, our power to enforce proper accountability was limited. The nature of these efforts was explained to the Select Committee, and they are part of the published evidence.

The Select Committee was critical, in its report, of what it saw as the failure by the Government to insist on obtaining the necessary information from the ITC to enable everyone to understand what was going on. In my view the Committee was quite right to focus on the issue of accountability, which is one of the main lessons for the future to be learned from the tin crisis. However, with respect, it was wrong to lay the blame for the lack of accountability at the door of the Government. In this context I should like to refer to the Committee's assertion that either Ministers were informed about the crisis, in which case they should have acted, or were not informed, in which case they should have insisted on being so.

I believe that the view that it was within the power of Ministers to insist on having the information needed to foresee the impending collapse is based on a false assumption. It is perhaps not always fully appreciated that the ITC is governed by an international treaty between sovereign states. It therefore operates largely outside United Kingdom law. For example, the Companies Acts do not apply to the ITC. Therefore, it is not a body over which Her Majesty's Government could exercise control, nor even a supervisory function. International bodies of this nature are not subjected to such intervention by the Government of the host country.

The ITC made its own rules and within those rules our ability to obtain information was restricted. We tried hard to get the rules changed, but without success, and there was no way in which, unilaterally, as a member with between 4 and 5 per cent. of the votes, we could enforce our views on the council. Therefore, it was necessary to work on the basis of inadequate information. and the information which was available did not suggest impending collapse. Indeed the level of indebtedness declined between 1983 and mid-1985.

The members of the ITC did not, however, know that the buffer stock manager had been making substantial unpriced forward sales of tin. This meant that any reduction in the tin support price would have led to losses on these forward sales. It was not revealed until after the collapse of the ITC on 24 October 1985, that the buffer stock manager has contracted to sell forward 60,000 tonnes of tin on an unpriced basis.

Mr. Doug Hoyle (Warrington, North)

I find it difficult to follow the Secretary of State. Why did the Government not know about that when representatives were there and, apparently, the buffer stock manager was warning all the time of the impending crisis?

Mr. Channon

With respect to the hon. Gentleman, that is not exactly right. I have been trying to explain to the House the great difficulty that Government representatives had in obtaining adequate information from the ITC, although we made attempts to do so, in which we had little if any support from other member states.

ITC members were not informed about the buffer stock manager's unpriced forward sales contracts, nor were full details of the scale and nature of his operations revealed until alter the collapse on 24 October. Frankly, that is the crucial point. There was no way that we could discover what the exact position was. That would not have been possible unless the ITC had been prepared to release the information.

I should like to deal with some of the detailed criticisms of the Government's conduct in those affairs. I shall refer first to the warnings to the banks, brokers and United Kingdom tin producers. However, before doing so., I should like to refer to a wider issue that arose in this context.

I very much regret that the Committee thought it fit to criticise a named civil servant. However, I do not propose to discuss that issue today. It relates to questions of general principle, which are best considered in the context of the issues discussed in the seventh report from the Select Committee on Treasury and Civil Service, entitled "Civil Servants and Ministers: Duties and Responsibilities".

Mr. Robin Maxwell-Hyslop (Tiverton)

He was useless, and proved that.

Mr. Channon

With respect to my hon. Friend, it is a little unfair for him, in the House of Commons, to attack a named civil servant who does not have the chance to reply. With respect to my hon. Friend, I feel very strongly about the matter. I resent that——

Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop

If my right hon. Friend had had the courtesy to instruct his Ministers to give full information to the Committee, the Committee would have been in a position to attribute blame to Ministers. As it was, he hid behind his civil servant and denied the Committee information to which it was entitled.

Mr. Channon

With respect, I do not agree with my hon. Friend's interpretation of events. I understand how strongly he feels about the issue. I have to say that, rightly or wrongly. I accept responsibility for my Department, and I continue to do so.

No warnings were given by the Government to anyone that the ITC was about to collapse. It would have been most improper to do so as we had no information to suggest, until shortly before the events of 24 October, that such a collapse was imminent. Even in September 1985 the producer countries were reported to have recommended to their Ministers the injection of additional funds in the agreement. Indeed, had the Government issued formal warnings to the banks, brokers and others, we would, by doing so, almost certainly have precipitated the collapse of the ITC. We would have been accused by all other members of sabotaging the agreement while moves to inject new funds into it were under active discussion. In such circumstances, most people would have believed that the Government had acted irresponsibly, and had brought about the collapse of the ITC deliberately.

What both the Bank of England and the Government did was, in response to concerns expressed by the London Metal Exchange, to warn that, if the ITC ran out of money, the brokers could not count on the ITC member countries stepping in to finance any shortfall. We also told the LME that we did not have adequate information about the financial position or the market activities of the buffer stock manager. In addition, in response to a question from the chairman of the London Metal Exchange in June 1985, Department of Trade and Industry officials made it clear that the United Kingdom Government would not unilaterally guarantee the LME brokers against a default by the ITC.

As I tried to explain earlier in referring to the unpriced forward sales, neither Her Majesty's Government, nor, I believe, any of the other member Governments, were aware of the potential scale of the ITC's default. For the reasons that I have given, it would have been entirely inappropriate to give warning either to the banks who were lending to the ITC—most of which were foreign owned— or to the Cornish tin producers. Indeed, Rio Tinto-Zinc has told us that it would have made no difference to its actions even had it been warned at the time when officials met the LME brokers.

I refer now to the Committee's suggestion that the Government's conditional agreement to contribute £50 million to help meet the costs of a solution to the crisis was not sufficient. I hope that the Committee will not mind me saying that I cannot accept that criticism and I find it difficult to understand the basis on which the Committee should describe the United Kingdom's offer as insufficient.

I must emphasise that the Government accept no legal liability for the debts of the ITC. We were prepared to contribute £50 million in addition to an amount proportionate to our original contribution to the buffer stock, which was about 4 per cent., in order to secure a return to orderly trading in tin. That would have been in the interests of all concerned, including the Cornish tin industry and the LME. We believed that, given the attitude of other ITC member Governments, a negotiated resolution to the crisis would not have been possible without a significant additional contribution by the United Kingdom. However, it would have been quite wrong to expect the taxpayer to provide a greater sum when the United Kingdom's share of the funding of the agreement was only 4 per cent. I must reject any suggestions of complacency on the Government's part. We are determined to draw what lessons we can from the failure of the ITC for other agreements of that type.

Even before the Select Committee reported, the Government had begun a study of their responsibilities to other international trading organisations and similar bodies. As a result we are reasonably satisfied that none is likely to develop problems such as those that occurred in the ITC, but they will all he kept under close review. It is not always easy to identify potential liabilities with precision in advance or to quantify the extent of the risk. which may change over time if the role or operation of the organisation changes. But our object must be to minimise those risks and avoid incurring fresh ones wherever possible. We intend to ensure that the operations of such bodies are reviewed regularly, and in considering our approach to future agreements of this nature, that will be one of the factors which will be very much to the fore in the Government's considerations.

The Committee, in its report and in its response to the Government's reply, draws attention to the importance of the tin mining industry in Cornwall. I fully understand —as I think the whole House does—the importance of tin to the Cornish economy, but the problem has to be looked at in the context of a fall in price in tin in recent weeks to well below £4,000 per tonne—less than half the price at which it was being supported under the international tin agreement. Those low price levels are the result of over-capacity and of the large tin stocks left in the market by the default of the ITC, and it may well take several years for the stocks to clear and for the price to rise to a level at which tin production capacity necessary to meet future demands can operate profitably. When considering applications for assistance, we have to make judgments about future market conditions, and we have accepted that decisions need to be taken about the future of the Cornish tin industry before the long-term price of tin is known.

Regrettably, we were forced to conclude that the proposals put to us by the Geevor mine did not offer sufficiently robust prospects of commercial viability to justify the unavoidable risks associated with any such project, particularly in view of the very large sums of public money that would have been required.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)

Why do the Government seem to have adopted a different strategy to bailing out companies when they are in trouble from the strategy that they are adopting towards the tin mines? Why, for instance, in 1984 could the Government find £100 million of taxpayers' money to bail out Johnson Matthey Bankers without recourse to meetings other than the secret meeting in Threadneedle street? That was £100 million of taxpayers' money, with no guarantee of anything back in return. In the same year, the Government managed to find £250 million to bail out the bankrupt Common Market. On and on it goes. The Government seem to bail out the parts of the casino economy that suit them while they do not care tuppence about the few thousand miners who work in Cornwall. How do they manage to come to different conclusions? Is it because their friends in the City have to be looked after but they do not care about miners?

Mr. Channon

I hope that the House does not expect me to answer the detailed points regarding Johnson Matthey. They are wholly irrelevant to what we are trying to discuss in what is inevitably a short debate. I am trying to outline the considerations which we have had in our minds on the tin problem and the work that is going on. My Department has offered to fund a study aimed at seeing whether a commercially viable project could be identified.

The Government recognise that the further contraction or closure of the Geevor tin mine would increase the already high level of unemployment in the Penzance and St. Ives travel-to-work area. In addition to existing measures of assistance made available from 1 July in the Penzance and St. Ives TTWA, a slightly amended version of the business improvements service package of schemes of assistance to small businesses which is currently operated by my Department will be available. This will help the local economy to diversify into activities other than tin mining and tourism. As the House knows, £ 1 million will be made available for this purpose.

Mr. David Harris (St. Ives)

Before my right hon. Friend reaches the issue that is of prime consideration to me and my constituents, I must say that we accept that the initial application was for a large sum of money, and we are grateful for the £1 million that is being made available under the business improvement scheme. However, have the Government closed their minds completely to a contribution towards care and maintenance of Geevor mine for a period of two years? I am told that it would cost £150,000. That would be £150,000 well spent to keep Geevor mine going—to keep the pumps going—so that there is at least hope for Geevor and the people of west Cornwall who depend on it. Will my right hon. Friend address himself to that issue?

Mr. Channon

My hon. Friend raises an absolutely crucial point for Geevor. I pay tribute to him for his efforts on behalf of Geevor and those employed at Geevor.

Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop

We should like the answer now.

Mr. Channon

I shall give the answer now, if my hon. Friend will allow me to do so. The proposal put forward so far, which my hon. Friend the Minister of State will deal with in more detail when he replies to the debate, does not satisfy us as to being able to provide future viability for that mine. As I said a moment ago, I have offered to fund a study aimed at seeing whether a commercially viable project could be identified. I hope that that offer will be taken up.

Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop

Before my right hon. Friend progresses to that, is he aware of a telex sent by an official of his Department which said that the Government would pay to keep the mine dewatered to the end of August? I have seen the telex. Has the Minister not seen the telex, or is he reneging on his own Department's telex? If not, will that money still be paid to keep the mine dewatered to the end of August?

Mr. Channon

My hon. Friend has not described the terms of the telex accurately. The best that I can do, on the whole question of Geevor, its viability and the study that I suggest should be undertaken, is to say that any detailed points which my hon. Friend or other hon. Members wish to take up will be answered by my hon. Friend the Minister of State in the course of the debate. He has been involved in the discussions.

Mr. David Penhaligon (Truro)


Mr. Channon

No, I shall not give way again. All I can say is that the interpretation of the telex to which my hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton referred is not one that I can accept, but let us deal with that in some detail.

Mr. Alan Williams (Swansea, West)


Mr. Channon

I shall willingly continue to give way, but does the House wish me to finish or not?

Mr. Alan Williams

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that the information for which he has been asked is central to the debate? Many Conservative Members in particular will not know what to say and will not know how to assess what the Government's position is until they have the information that we are now told is to he given in the reply. The Secretary of State should give the information now. Is he saying that he is so little briefed on that subject that he does not know the answer?

Mr. Channon

With respect, the right hon. Gentleman is lowering the tone. I have already answered the question. The telex to which my hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton referred does not bear the interpretation that has been put on it. I have described in some detail the Government's policy regarding Geevor. I have said that we have offered to fund a study aimed at seeing whether a commercially viable project can be identified. Let us hope that that study can go ahead, and let us hope that a commercially viable project can be identified. I cannot go further than that at this stage.

Mr. Penhaligon

I use this rare opportunity to ask the Secretary of State, as opposed to his deputy the Minister of State, a fundamental question which worries many people. Within hours, and certainly weeks, of the original sad collapse, the Government machine made a decision to offer up to £50 million to put the agreement hack together. I make no complaint about that. However, eight and a half' months later we still have no clear declaration from the Government that they are willing to put money into rescuing some of the tin mines. It is true that they have not said no to all of them. But even now, there is no clear declaration of the sort of money that the Secretary of State is talking about. Will he confirm at the Dispatch Box tonight whether, if the criteria are right, he is willing to give the miners of Cornwall half of what he offered the dealers?

Mr. Channon

In consultation with Geevor, Rio Tinto-Zinc and others, we must try to identify whether there are projects that would be viable. So far, no project put forward for Geevor has been proved to be commercially viable. I have said that we have offered to fund a study aimed at seeing whether a commercially viable project could be identified. The Government are also discussing with Rio Tinto-Zinc the possibility of providing financial assistance to enable its tin operations at Wheal Jane arid South Crofty, where about 1,000 people are employed, to continue. There are continuing discussions with Rio Tinto-Zinc to see whether a viable project can be identified.

In addition, we are considering applications from smaller tin producers in Cornwall. We shall particularly take into account the employment implications and the level of financial assistance necessary in each case but, as in the case of Geevor, we shall need to be satisfied that tin operations in Cornwall would be viable.

I think that the House will agree that the events in the tin crisis have been traumatic for all those concerned—those in Cornwall, those outside Cornwall, those in the tin industry itself, and the communities concerned with tin production.

Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop

And for the Department of Trade and Industry?

Mr. Channon

I am sure that for my hon. Friend it has been. We believe it is essential that we should do everything to ensure that such a position cannot be allowed to develop again. I hope that the House will agree. This will govern our approach to all future potential commodity agreements.

I invite the House to support the Government's motion and to endorse their response to the Select Committee.

7.27 pm
Mr. Alan Williams (Swansea, West)

I beg to move, to leave out from "House" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof: rejects as utterly inadequate the Government's response (HC 457) to the Second Report from the Trade and Industry Committee on the Tin Crisis (HC 305–1); notes that the Select Committee highlights inherent faults of the International Tin Agreement which made it 'catastrophe prone'; considers that the Government failed to monitor these faults and so contributed to the failure of the International Tin Council and thereby to the consequential collapse of tin prices, to enormous losses by Tin Council creditors, to the closure of Geevor Mine and to the severe threat to the whole Cornish tin industry; and dismisses as derisory and pathetic the Government's so-called package of measures to combat unemployment in Cornwall. With respect to the Secretary of State, the Government's response to the damning report that has come from a Committee on which the Government have a clear majority is pathetic. I recognise that the Secretary of State is not the person largely responsible for the events that we are debating. I know that he must accept the role of head of a Department, and we shall deal with responsibilities a little later. I accept that many of the problems with which we are dealing mere inherited rather than caused by the right hon. Gentleman, but I submit that the Department has caused many of those problems.

It may be improper to make the observation, but, as I look at the number of supporting officials that the Secretary of State has had to bring along with him this evening, I realise just how worried the Department must be. If the Secretary of State carries on like that, we shall soon need a double decker Box for officials. However, that is not surprising, having read the evidence, as most hon. Members have done. There is a three-year catalogue of buck passing, incompetence, inaction, lack of perception and lack of any sense of urgency. Having studied this exercise in ineptitude, I understand how the Department of Trade and Industry blundered into the Westland fiasco and the Leyland debacle. This is in the same category.

What are the consequences of the Department's three years of bumbling and bungling? The brokers and bankers stand to lose sums which cannot be quantified. The minimum is £160 million, but the City claims it will be as much as £600 million. The tin price and the tin market have collapsed. Already there has been the loss of the Geevor mine and we face the possible loss of the remainder of the 2,000-year-old Cornish tin industry. There is the urgent prospect of an extra 2,000 unemployed in Cornwall. Crippling damage has been done to London's reputation as a trading centre. All those consequences arise, in part, from the actions of the Department of Trade and Industry.

Two clear features emerge from an objective reading of the report. First, there has been the refusal, on an unprecedented scale, by a Department to supply information to a Select Committee. The Secretary of State must understand that those of a less generous disposition might feel that that savours of a cover-up or of an attempt to save someone's neck at the expense of another's. Secondly, the collapse need never have taken place. Ministers bear an overriding responsibility for the fact that it happened, as I hope to prove.

The Secretary of State referred to the suppression of information. I supported the setting up of the Select Committee system. I have never seen such a barricade of excuses to justify the refusal to give information which was essential to the work of one of our Select Committees. I shall give just a few examples of the excuses. We were told that the International Tin Council was covered by diplomatic immunity and confidentiality. We were told, "We cannot reveal the advice of officials to Ministers. We cannot give any information on the legal advice given to Ministers because it is wrong to disclose the advice given to clients."

We were told that some matters could not be discussed because they were sub judice and that others could not be discussed because they might be sub judice. Junior officials told us that the questions should be put to senior officials. Senior officials told us that Ministers had told them not to answer. Ministers said they had no intention of giving answers. One is left with the impression that even the luncheon vouchers in the Department of Trade and Industry are listed as classified documents. One could only wish that the Department had shown a less cavalier attitude when dealing with the odd letter or two from the Solicitor-General's office.

The permanent secretary acknowledged the embarrassment, answering question No. 697 by saying: I do not believe I have ever been under quite so many constraints in giving evidence to a Select Committee. That is extremely serious when one considers the scale of the consequences.

Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop

They were self-imposed constraints.

Mr. Williams

Exactly. I shall come to that point. That led the unanimous report of the Select Committee, in paragraph 13.1, to observe: As a result, we have been effectively prevented from discovering all the facts about one of the principal facets of our inquiry: the role of the Government in the crisis. What is a Select Committee for? The Select Committee system was set up to enable the House to investigate the Executive. It was the check for the legislature on the Civil Service and on Departments. That is what the system is all about.

When a Select Committee Chairman, backed by hon. Members on both sides of the House, tells us that the Select Committee was not able to obtain the information to enable it to draw proper conclusions on the Government's conduct, surely the House has a right and a duty to be concerned and to probe further. The concept of Select Committees is put at risk and is open to doubt if we allow the Department of Trade and Industry to get away with the absolute contempt with which it treated the Select Committee on Trade and Industry. It was extremely modest of the Select Committee to state: it seems unnecessarily obstructive of Ministers". Even on the limited information revealed—we have been allowed only partial information, the worst hits having been swept under the carpet or kept in the cupboards—the Department and the Secretary of State have every reason to he cautious. In line after line of the evidence to the Select Committee they were pleading the fifth amendment. The evidence reveals without doubt that the Government are guilty of complicity by neglect.

The most damning evidence — that Ministers were aware of the risks before they entered into the agreement —has been endorsed by the Secretary of State. The right hon. Gentleman has given some of the reasons. In question No. 603 a civil servant gave this reply to the Chairman: I think the position is that Ministers in the very beginning were warned. The Chairman asked: What is 'the very beginning'? The civil servant replied: The agreement came into force in June 1982, so before we entered into the agreement officials made clear to Ministers the risks that might he involved in entering it. Then subsequently they told them about the problems they had been having with the operation of the agreement. That line was developed further by the permanent secretary, the Department's accounting officer, who, in answer to question No. 742, said: I think it was evident in 1982 before we even joined the Agreement: if was evident that if Brazil was not a member, and it was a low-cost producer which would be encouraged by the sort of tin prices at which the Agreement was aiming and it would be subject to no constraints in expanded production, it would place great strain on the Agreement. This was amongst the disadvantages of the Agreement which were known at that time. If those facts were known at the time and it was known that there were grave disadvantages, what would hon. Members' sense of survival dictate if they were Ministers about to encourage the signing of such a treaty? Any Minister worthy to hold the title "Minister" would want to ensure that, having been warned of the risks, he protected the country, our traders and the Government from them. Why did Ministers sign up without obtaining a proper monitoring agreement? Where were the checks? Why did Ministers not demand a system of checks before signing the agreement? They had the muscle before they signed. Where was the requirement to be given adequate information?

The Secretary of State has said that they had much trouble in obtaining the information. As one who on various occasions has had to enter into agreements, I have wanted to be sure about their terms. I doubt that the Secretary of State would have entered into the agreement on its terms. It was incredibly irresponsible to act in that way. It is beyond belief that Ministers could have signed that document with that knowledge without taking safeguards.

In answer to question No. 714, the permanent secretary described the agreement as a recipe for an ever-increasing buffer stock … it was necessary for … additional reserves to be made available He also stated: This agreement has suffered from its outset from an inadequacy of resources Surely it was suicidal for Ministers to enter into an agreement from which three major producers— Brazil, China and Bolivia—were absent, without ensuring that they built proper safeguards into the agreement. Yet Ministers of the day were not perturbed. Perhaps they should be here today at the Dispatch Box.

The ministerial guilt at the outset is further compounded when we consider the other warnings that came during the lifetime of the agreement. If ministerial alarm bells had not been ringing at the outset, it is bewildering that they were not alerted by what followed. Let us listen to the words of the buffer stock manager in a report which the Secretary of State refused to make available to the Committee but which it obtained from American sources. The buffer stock manager said: As we have reported over the last three years or so, the fact that hardly any cash was contributed to the Sixth Agreement was gambling on the good fortune of Buffer Stock operations, and so far the gambling by ITC members has fortunately paid off very well. It is mainly due indeed to our good fortune in the market, ie the increase in the US dollar. One may trust that the severe decline in the US dollar over the last two months will have clearly vindicated our message that the ITC should stop gambling on its good fortune in view of what is at stake, ie the fortunes of the entire tin-mining industry. The buffer stock manager is saying that he had warned of the same hazards as some of the civil servants had warned at the outset. In that context it is remarkable, in view of what I shall mention soon, to read the evidence by the other Minister of State in the Department, who unfortunately is not here this evening, no doubt for good reasons.

Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop

Before the right hon. Gentleman makes that point, I would much prefer him to inquire whether the United Kingdom delegate, Mr. Lunn, passed the warning from the buffer stock manager to Ministers. It is all very well for Ministers to say that they take responsibility and that civil servants should not be criticised, but if they will not tell the Committee or the House whether the civil servants gave them the necessary information on which they could have taken action, we must assume that the civil servants were even more incompetent than they appear to be.

Mr. Williams

That is an interesting point, because the absent Minister of State had no compunction about trying to pass the blame down the line to his officials, however unconventional that is in terms of normal practices between Ministers and their officials. In answer to question No. 600, the Minister of State said: Ministers were not informed. In answer to question No. 601, he said: I am not aware of particular occasions on which Ministers were informed. In question No. 602, he was asked: Do you not find it unbelievable when this sort of financial risk and financial problem was becoming evident that Ministers were not informed? Is that not nearly beyond credence? The Minister replied: It certainly has proved to be unfortunate. The Minister has a remarkable flair for understatement. He also seems to have a remarkable flair for inaccuracy or for inadequate memory.

It is important to remember that evidence was submitted by the permanent secretary which rebutted that claim by the Minister of State. One is bound to ask where Ministers were when that information was coming forward. Do they not read their briefs, or, if they do, can they not understand them? Rip Van Winkle is alive and well and sleeping in the Department of Trade and Industry.

Mr. Simon Hughes (Southwark and Bermondsey)

Perhaps he was in his castle.

Mr. Williams

He may have been in his castle. I suspect that that is where he is tonight and that the drawbridge is up.

The permanent secretary wrote a letter to the Chairman and, through the Chairman, to the Committee in which he rebutted, not once but 15 times, the evidence given by the Minister. On 15 occasions between 1 July 1982 and 24 October 1985, reports and briefs were provided for Ministers. It is interesting to consider how they break down. Eight were provided up to March 1984. That is an important date, and I shall return to it. The other seven reports were provided between June and October 1985. So what happened during the 15 months in between? Why did Ministers not receive any reports? If they say that officials did not send them, in view of what the Secretary of State has said about the alarm before they entered into the agreement and in view of the warnings they had already received in 1983 about the inability to provide information, why on earth did no Minister have the nous to ask? As a Minister, one has only to ask and it will be provided. That is the system, but it seems that it did not occur to anyone. Not one Minister, in one of the most overstocked Departments in Whitehall in terms of Ministers— in numbers not quality—bothered to ask. Someone else will pay up to £600 million as the bill for their failure.

Mr. Stan Crowther (Rotherham)

My right hon. Friend must not overlook the fact that, although 15 papers were sent to Ministers by civil servants, the permanent secretary would not tell the Committee whether there was anything in them. I asked him more than once.

Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop

Were they in invisible ink?

Mr. Crowther

They may have been. Whether they were in invisible ink or not probably made little difference to the content. I did not ask the permanent secretary to tell the Committee what information was in the reports because of the confidentiality rule. I did not say, "We want to know what is in them." I said, "Will you simply tell us whether there was any information in them at all?" He replied, "Oh, no. That is not a piece of information that I can give to the Committee. That is confidential."

Mr. Williams

My hon. Friend does not appreciate the fact that Ministers set the tone of a Department. As they were not reading the brief, no one else thought it was necessary. The permanent secretary was not being reticent he was just reflecting the amount of attention that was shown by his ministerial masters. In answer to question No. 627, it was categorically said that Ministers gave no instructions about reports. Yet they had been informed and warned time and again. What were the Ministers of the day doing? The present chairman of the Conservative party was the Secretary of State at that time. What were they doing when all that was happening, when the entire system was rotting and they should have been aware that it was rotting? The tenor of the evidence that came from Ministers was not to deal with the fundamental questions, but contemptibly and outrageously to attempt to pass the buck down the Department, in most cases to the officials. In breach of the normal practices of Ministers, they apparently have never heard of ministerial responsibility.

Mr. lain Mills (Meriden)

The right hon. Gentleman has spoken for 20 minutes about Select Committee procedures and ministerial responsibilities. Will he make it clear whether, had there been a Labour Government in 1982 they would have signed that agreement? If they had, how would they have monitored the subsequent events and at what price would they have supported the price of tin? In view of his strident and sarcastic remarks, does he feel that in such a commodity market the Opposition would have coped any better?

Mr. Williams

I am sorry if the hon. Gentleman thinks I am sarcastic; I thought it was just fair comment. If anything, I am being slightly kind to a Department that has been guilty of unprecedented bungling. It is easy for the Opposition to stand here and say that we would not have signed it, but there is no way in which I would have accepted it. I have served in four different Departments and had the responsibility of making and standing by my decisions. I saved Wheal Jane, which is more than the Government did. I am telling hon. Members that I would not have been party to this agreement without adequate safeguards being built in before it was signed.

Mr. Hoyle

Does my right hon. Friend agree with Sir Winston Churchill, that the person who answers a hypothetical question is a bigger fool than the person who asked it?

Mr. Williams

I am not sure, but I shall plead the fifth amendment to that question.

In his opening speech, the Minister went out of his way to say that we could do nothing because we had little support from other member states, yet everything went quiet for 15 months from March 1984. In March 1984 the eighth session of the ITC, took place. The Canadian representative, Mr. Kepper, said: The Council, through a series of non-decisions and unwillingness to address essential issues facing it, has in effect given up control of key provisions in the Agreement. Two of these provisions concern the size of the buffer stock and its financing. The Council has effectively allowed the Buffer Stock Manager to redefine the size of the buffer stock through the use of forward transactions. The Secretary of State implied that the Government became aware of the use of forward transactions much later. In March 1984, not only was this being pointed out, but the Government had what they said they did not have before — an ally. However, they went back to sleep again, deciding to keep a low profile. They not only had an ally, but they had been given a warning of the malpractice — the forward purchasing — of which they suggested in their evidence, they were unaware until much later.

What representations did Department of Trade and Industry Ministers make to other Departments? Did they alert other Departments at ministerial level, never mind at official level? Did anyone from the Department of Trade and Industry talk to anyone at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Treasury or the Bank of England?

Mr. Barry Porter (Wirral, South)

One wonders whether the Foreign and Commonwealth Office ever talks to the Department of Trade and Industry. Because of the danger of entering into this agreement, when the storm signals must have been hoisted and when no information was forthcoming, I suspect that there must have been other reasons for keeping the agreement going and for the lack of activity. One can only believe that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office was saying, "Do not rock the boat," for other, wider reasons in connection with our relationship with purchaser countries.

Mr. Williams

If the Foreign and Commonwealth Office was saying, "Do not rock the boat," that was more communication between the two Departments than was shown anywhere in the evidence given to the Select Committee. I do not think that the Department of Trade and Industry knows where the Foreign Office is or what it is about, or vice versa. Ministers did not attempt to mobilise other Departments. Did any papers go to Cabinet Committees? Was any attempt made to alert the Government as a whole to the dangers that were present? Did Ministers make any approaches at international level to their counterparts to try to mobilise support? Was it all left to one official, who is now having to carry the can, to have discussions with other officials at a very low level?

Ministers should be ashamed of their record. They are trying to hide, quivering, behind their officials when there is no doubt where the constitutional responsibility lies. Why were no warnings given to those whose money was at risk? The Government, so they thought, were in for only £8 million, in a low-budget operation, and they made it clear that they intended to keep it as low as they could. Others, if we accept the evidence from the City, were in for nearly 100 times as much, yet nothing was done to alert them.

The Department of Trade and Industry's silence and the threat of alerting the other members could have been a sanction used by Ministers against the ITC. If they had gone to the ITC and said, "Unless you come to heel and give us the correct information, we will alert those who are funding the operation" —after all, it was someone else's money — they would have had greater leverage against the ITC. Yet, again, no one asked anyone or discussed anything. Instead, the Government, far from recognising that they are responsible, have tried in their evidence to pretend that they had some form of limited liability under the agreement. Unlike other international agreements in which limited liability clauses exist, no such clause was provided in this agreement. Anyone who has read the evidence would say that there is little doubt that the Government have a moral responsibility, which they should honour.

There is even a question about whether the London Metal Exchange was warned. The Department has changed its position on this. What happened in June 1985? An official said that the Department warned the LME to advise its members. The Department would not have advised them itself, but it suggested that the LME should advise its members that the Government would not stand behind and back any financial losses that occurred.

The chairman of the LME said that that statement was imprecise and worthless. In answer to question No. 877, the Secretary of State said: I do not think it was an official warning from the DTI. Was it an aberration? It think it was the beginning of fear in the Department, the first step in trying to get out from underneath. The Department wanted to have it on record that it had said something. The warm and friendly hand on the shoulder had a blade up its sleeve. The Department was pretending to alert the LME and at the same time to protect itself if the LME later said that it had received no warnings. That is an unbelievable saga of failure and of evasion of responsibility by the Department.

The Department abandoned the bankers and brokers without any misgivings and without any show of conscience. Whether the sum was £160 million or £600 million, it was a devastating blow to the LME. It was also a devastating blow to the credibility of other commodity agreements. What is more, as the report points out, it is an astonishing example to set now, when the debtor nations could take advantage of Britain's precedent and plead that their obligations should be treated in the same way. The Government will say that there are no obligations, but Australia does not agree. The Australian Minister has said that his Government would expect to meet their obligations under the treaty.

Finally, let us come to poor Cornwall, which was ignored until the moment of catastrophe. It is the most innocent party of all in this tragic and avoidable debacle. Cornwall must consider today's debate as a non-event. On 3 June, the Minister of State said that he hoped a decision would he taken on the Rio Tinto-Zinc mine within five or six weeks. That is this week or next week. So why are we having the debate today? Why could we not have it next Monday when the Secretary of State could tell us what he is going to do? Why could we not have the debate on the Monday after that? I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will be able to tell us then what he intends to do. If I were in Cornwall, I should regard the timing of oar debate as ominous and disturbing.

We will not accept that the House should go into recess without a full statement about what the Government intend to do for the Cornish mines.

Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop

I may be able to help the right hon. Gentleman about the timing. The Minister of State said that he could not tell the House what future price he had assumed for tin while his decision on Rio Tinto-Zinc was outstanding. Clearly, knowing what price he has assumed is crucial to our judgment of the decisions for which the Government have called. By having the debate before the decision on RTZ is made, the Minister of State thinks that he can escape telling us what price he has assumed for tin. He would not be able to escape if the debate had been held after the RTZ decision. I hope that I am wrong, in which case my hon. Friend the Minister of State will tell us what price he has assumed.

Mr. Williams

I am reluctant to intervene in these internal doubts and questioning on the Government Benches. It is remarkable what the incident has done to the confidence of Conservative Back Benchers in their Front Bench. It is clear that the Back-Bench Conservative Members do not know what to trust or whether to trust; they do not know whether they are being conned or evaded. The timing of the debate leads me to think that a massive exercise in evasion is going on.

In the meantime, Geevor has gone, when it need never have been at risk if Ministers had been alert. The rest of Cornwall's 2,000-year-old industry is at risk, teetering on the edge of a precipice, but the Government are not even willing to tell us what they intend to do or allow us to have the debate when we could discuss their decisions.

The Government seem oblivious to the fact that another 2,500 people may be made unemployed in Cornwall, although the cost of keeping them unemployed will be lower than the cost of keeping them at work. [HON. MEMBERS: "Higher."] I am sorry. The cost of keeping them unemployed will be higher than the cost of keeping them at work.

It is a nonsensical situation. The Government do not seem to care about the import substitution or about the impact that decisions will have on a community as isolated as Cornwall if they go wrong. Instead, the Government passed a begging bowl around the Departments and it came back virtually empty. A feasibility study and £1 million is the Government's offer to Cornwall as a sop for abandoning the county's oldest and most traditional industry.

Let there be no doubt that if the Government abandon the tin industry, Cornwall's communities will be destroyed. The young will leave, the skilled will leave and the decision will be a death sentence to many of Cornwall's communities. That is why I do not understand why we are having our debate before the Government are able to announce their decision.

The Select Committee report reveals an unprecedented and unremitting succession of errors of judgment and failures to perceive the obvious. Ministers should come to the House not just in penitence, but immersed in shame for what the Department of Trade and Industry has done. In the words of the buffer stock manager, the Government gambled with the future of the entire industry. The Government lost the gamble but the industry has been left to pay the bill.

8.4 pm

Mr. David Mudd (Falmouth and Camborne)

As I shall be following the right hon. Member for Swansea, West (Mr. Williams) into the Lobby, I hope that he will forgive me for not following his remarks. I wholly concur with all of them.

About 300 years ago a former MP for Falmouth was fed up with Whitehall because of its cavalier attitude towards Cornwall and the Cornish people. He stormed out of the Chamber and announced his intention of going straight back to Cornwall, where, he said I doubt not I shall find a good cause". Tonight, a vital cause has come from Cornwall to the Chamber of the House of Commons.

Sixteen years ago, in my maiden speech in the House I accused successive British Governments of having created the best developed negative attitude of any nation towards its minerals industry. Tonight I use even stronger language. Despite the smug, camouflaged red-herring language of the motion, I suggest that there is abundant evidence that the Government were initially reluctant to acknowledge the local implications of the growing crisis in world tin, incapable of appreciating the magnitude of that crisis when it broke and unwilling to act as the economic and human holocaust moved onwards through Cornwall. The Government have been impudent, impotent and incompetent.

As applications from Carnon Consolidated, designed to keep 1,000 miners working at South Crofty, Wheal Pendarves and Wheal Jane, are still being considered, I shall say no more about those applications but that I hope that there will be a reversal of the refusal that has already cost 350 jobs and the death of Geevor.

I hope too, that the Department of Trade and Industry is now a little more geared up than it was on the unhappy afternoon of 14 May when I visited it. At that time Geevor was within three weeks of closure and protective notices had been served at the other three mines. When I asked at the meeting on 14 May what commitment the Government would give, I was told that it was hoped that the uncertainty could be talked through as quickly as possible. I was told that, although the Government would come to their own conclusions, aid would have to fall within EC criteria. Yet 48 hours earlier, a report from the Community had written off the Cornish tin industry. When I asked the Department for the figures against which the possibility of aid would be considered, I was told that at that time — seven months into the crisis — no projections existed on what bracketing of best and worst possible prices aid would be assessed against.

The tin crisis and the tin industry are unique. The crisis, although it costs jobs in Cornwall, is not locally or even nationally inspired. No blame whatsoever can be levelled against the companies or the unions, or against the management or the men. No other British industry can claim to be wholly dominated by external factors, and no other industry can claim a closer and more consistent collaboration between employers, unions and men in cutting costs and in a constant search to increase efficiency and productivity.

Carnon Consolidated has already cut its break-even cost to just under £6,500 per tonne and will reduce that by another £250 per tonne within the next three months—with the possibility of another £1,000 per tonne off that price if it can get the support that it is seeking from the Department of Trade and Industry. In simple terms, £5,250 per tonne from the Cornish mines would undercut a very significant percentage of worldwide producers. South Crofty and Wheal Jane are already listed in the top 20 world ratings for contained tin.

Is there a world need for tin? If there were not, and if it were not a strategic mineral, the United States and the Soviet Union would not be hell-bent on increasing their stockpiles at the present rate. If there were not a need for tin, a demand for tin and a future for tin, I cannot believe that the Government of Malaysia would be using its Primary Industry Ministry as the banker to provide 6 per cent. loans to cover the difference between production costs and the realisation price of tin.

However, encouraging though it may be to look to the world future of tin, let me paint the House a picture of the record in Cornwall which the Government's motion seeks to conceal. Let me remind the House that that is against a local record of unemployment that has already engulfed one person in four.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State talked about turning attention to "smaller producers". Let us look at the smaller producers. Cornish Tin and Engineering at Tuckingmill developed a tin flotation process that made it possible to extract tin oxide from low grade feed materials. At the turn of the year that enterprise and innovation meant 24 jobs. Now the plant is closed. There are no jobs.

Concord Mineral Processors at Tolgus was on the verge of creating 120 jobs, subject to winning a technical appeal on discharges well out to sea. We shall not now see those jobs.

Just before Christmas Medway Tin at Brea was worth £1 million as a company. It developed a new technology to slash processing costs to be profitable even against a low price of tin. In December 1985 it was worth £1 million and had a direct work force of 35, plus 20 subcontractors. Now there are three in that company, including the managing director. The machinery is useless. There is nothing to process. It cannot be sold because mining equipment cannot be given away these days. For two years, against a prospect of nil activity, the company will continue to have to pay rent on the ground that it operates. From December 1985 to June 1986 the value of the company has fallen from £1 million to zero. Now, day by day, it inexorably slides further into the red.

Even Camborne School of Mines, for generations one of the world's greatest centres of research, development and training in new technologies, could become a phantom centre of excellence and academic promise in a landscape of moribund mineral activity.

Against that reality, we suddenly find the incompetent Department of Trade and Industry coming forward, with a new-found boy scout enthusiasm, with its latest helpful idea—one based on ethos rather than experience. It has come up with the idea that not much would be lost if the pumps were turned off and the mines allowed to flood for possible resurrection at some future date.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)

What does the hon. Gentleman expect when three Ministers in the Department of Trade and Industry are millionaires?

Mr. Mudd

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman, but I shall not follow him that closely. I am sure that he will reserve his observations for later in the debate.

If it is the considered view of the Department of Trade and Industry that the water can be allowed to rise in the mines to he pumped out one day and that all will be well, I can only assume that Methuselah is alive and well and is now the Department's special consultant.

The fact is that no major Cornish tin mine has ever recovered after flooding. In the tiny minority where reopening was achieved, it was in the olden days when a Cornish pump stood over the shaft and could be reactivated with comparative ease from the surface. Modern electrics and technological equipment are so many fathoms underground that they would be lost for ever were the waters allowed to cover them.

We Cornish people do not cry out for charity. We are too proud, too realistic and too individualistic for that. To us, employment, often at low rates of pay, is a badge of dignity and responsibility. Tear away that badge and there will be grief, disillusionment and anger. There will be the social consequences of drink, violence and broken homes.

The words that I find most appropriate tonight come from the German protestant pastor, the late Martin Niemoller. He summed tip eloquently what I am trying to say. He said: First, they came for the Jews. I was not a Jew. I was silent. Then they came for the Communists. I was not a Communist. I was silent. Then they came for the trade unionists. I was silent. I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for me … There was no one left to speak for me. In the House there are no Cornish quarrymen, farmers or fishermen, no Cornish shipyard workers and no practising Cornish engineers. We have been silent as their jobs have been taken away. Now "they" are coming for what is left and we in Cornwall look to the House for help and protection before it is too late.

8.14 pm
Mr. David Penhaligon (Truro)

As a non-practising Cornish engineer, it is particularly appropriate that I should follow the hon. Member for Falmouth and Camborne (Mr. Mudd).

If those of us who live in Cornwall, and feel, breathe and are a part of the community, were a long way down the other end of the line listening to this debate On the radio or television, we would have found the first hour of it quite remarkable. We have discussed what has happened and the background to it and I make no complaint about that. The one spark of anger, outrage and anguish that the Secretary of State showed—he may have been justified, I do not know — was when he turned on the hon. Member for Tiverton (Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop), who attacked an innocent civil servant. I know not the background of the argument. It may well be that the hon. Member for Tiverton was outrageous, but one innocent civil servant was given that level of defence by the Secretary of State.

We are talking here about hundreds of innocent Cornish miners. They are innocent to the point of naivety. They are hundreds of miles away from the origin of the crisis. Yet they have to look to the House to resolve their dilemma because they have no one else to look to.

A great deal was made of whether there have been prophecies regarding the collapse of the international tin price. The irony is that the whole strategy of those running the mines in Cornwall over the past three years has been based on the assumption that the international tin agreement could not survive for a great deal longer. Whether it was Geevor, Crofty, Wheal Jane or Pendarves —all in their own way were spending the profits that they were at that time generating on improving their mines so that they could compete in a free market. I do not believe that any of them expected the collapse to take place as suddenly or as far as it did, but the idea that no one was aware, at least at my end of the industry — I speak positively for my end of the industry in this debate—-that a collapse was imminent is simply not so.

Well, we are where we are. Eight and a half months have rolled on and at least two Members of the House have made so many speeches here about tin that it is difficult to think of something else to say.

There is a future for hard rock mining in my county. I cannot help but remember that in 1984, in sheer tonnage, we had the largest output of tin that we have had this century. The international price at the moment, of less than £4,000 per tonne, cannot provide the world with the tin that it wants and requires. Therefore, one can with some confidence predict that the price of tin will increase.

It would be interesting to ask the Minister—clearly the Government must have studied this by now in great depth, since a number of us have been shouting at them for about eight and a half months—what percentage of the current world tin output the Department of Trade and Industry believes is being mined profitably at the current international price. [HON. MEMBERS: "None."] I am willing to give way to the Minister. We have some time. What percentage of the world's tin is being mined at a profit? My friends in Cornwall are more modest than those who say none. They admit that there may be one or two mines somewhere staggering on at those sort of prices, but certainly the figures that I have heard suggest that the figure is less than 5 per cent. of the world's output.

Five per cent. of the world's output is currently profitable. Therefore, the international price for tin must increase substantially. 1 cannot say to the Minister that I know how far or how quickly, but since the Department did not seem to guess that the collapse would be anything like as far or quick as it was, I cannot be blamed for that.

The present mines cannot sustain their position for that much longer and my county wants to know whether the Government are willing to give some money or to provide a building block to re-establish the industry and give it another chance. May I spell out the cost of saying no? It is 1,500 men. By Cornish standards they are well paid, and I make no secret of that. As the hon. Member for Falmouth and Camborne said, the unemployment rate in the area is about 25 per cent. That is the level all the way from the west of Truro to Land's End. That means there are no other jobs for those men. Perhaps one or two may find work, but they will do that only by dispossessing other people.

Some 1,500 men out of work will cost the Government about £6,000 each a year in loss of tax and supplementary benefits. That gives a total of £9 million a year. Next year they will want another £9 million, because the first year's £9 million will have produced absolutely nothing. I know that the arguments are being presented to the Department of Trade and Industry by the companies that keeping the mines open is considerably cheaper than the costs of the first two or three-year closure. I do not know why a little more encouragement could not be given to the local applicants. It will cost the Government £9 million a year to say no, and of course the nation will inherit nothing.

It is worth spelling out what is produced. The mines produced 5,000 tonnes of tin, 7,000 tonnes of zinc, 750 tonnes of copper and 2.5 tonnes of silver in 1984, the last real mining year. That will be lost for a long time. If a mine floods, there is no law of logic which says that it can never be dried out. One thing that I have learnt in my 12 years as a Member of Parliament is that if one wishes to survive one never says never, but we are getting as near to never as I can possibly imagine.

In an odd way, the difficulties of drying out a mine today are more complex than they were 50 years ago. Clearly we have the technology to make it easier, but when the mine floods one destroys much more valuable equipment than was destroyed some 50 years ago. It will cost Rio Tinto-Zinc, the company that owns these mines, a lot of money to shut them. The one redeeming feature for Cornwall is that we know Rio Tinto-Zinc will not go bankrupt and will not renege on the commitments that the Cornwall mines place upon it. It will cost the company a lot of money to close the Cornish mines. I have heard various figures, but £10 million or £12 million is the sort of money that it will cost. The company is saying to the Government, "Why cannot we use that £12 million as a contribution towards giving the mines another chance, as opposed to giving the mines no future whatever?" That is the argument put to the Minister.

It is quite probable that once again the miners in my county will be willing to make a contribution towards saving their mines. Perhaps "willing" is an adjective that slightly stretches reality, but when the crunch comes, I suspect that the miners in my county will be willing to make a contribution towards saving their mines and their future. There is a commitment from the company and the work force, against whom no criticism can possibly he levied. Are the Goverment willing to put the third leg in the stool? The stool cannot stay up unless it has three legs. Two have been provided, but the Government Neill need to supply the third.

The Cornish mining industry is not looking for charity. The biggest mining company in my constituency —English Clays, Lovering and Poching, or English China Clays, as it is called now—does not mine tin. To be candid, the English part of the title grates on me, but last year that company made a profit of £75 million. I admit that not all that profit came from the claypits in my constituency, but certainly two thirds of it came from there. Some £50 million must have been generated by mining clay in my county.

All we are asking — I suppose that one has to say that, after eight and a half months, we are begging—the Government to do is to use some of that great tax income that they have had from the mining of china clay in one part of Cornwall to make a contribution towards alleviating the difficulties of miners in another part of Cornwall. It is not inconceivable that in 20 years the argument may be the other way round, because in the long run mining is an up-and-down world.

In his 30-minute speech that opened the debate, the Minister said little that was encouraging. The Minister of State, the hon. Member for City of Chester (Mr. Morrison) will sum up the debate and I hope that he will give us a few more details upon which to make a judgment. When I look at the three Ministers on the Front Bench, I wonder which of them is the poorest and which is nearest to the real poverty that my constituents are about to experience if the final collapse takes place.

Can the Minister give us a couple of sums? What does the Department believe the tin price will he in two years? If the Minister does not have a figure for the price in two years, what about three years? I am an optimist, and if the figures do not fit, I will settle for an estimate of the price in four years' time. The Minister must have a figure in his mind. He must have had a figure before he rejected the application for the Geevor mine. Let us hope the Department did not reject it without at least having some figure in mind upon which to base the rejection of that application.

Let us have a figure of what the Government believe the international tin price will be and a clear assurance from the Minister that after eight and a half months someone will have the courage to tell the House that at least half the £50 million that they were willing to give the tin dealers will be used to save the great historic hard rock mining industry in my county. Without that sort of money, the industry will die and will never be replaced. The history of the community will be destroyed, and in the long run Britain will lose an extremely valuable part of its economy.

8.27 pm
Mr. David Harris (St. Ives)

The hon. Member for Truro (M r. Penhaligon) has repeated an inaccuracy and I believe that he knows that it is an inaccuracy. He said that the Government were willing to give £50 million to the tin dealers, but he knows perfectly well that that is not the case. In part at least, that money was to be used to ensure an orderly disposal of this wretched stock of tin that is overhanging the market and has cast such a shadow and brought such devastation to Cornwall. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will acknowledge that that is the position.

I should like to concentrate on the Geevor mine in my constituency, because throughout this crisis it has rightly been my preoccupation. I recognise the wider issues in the debate, but Geevor is my concern and, sadly, right from the outset, it was clear that that was the most vulnerable of all the Cornish mines. It was vulnerable on two grounds: first, because of the geological and mineral nature of the mine, and, secondly, because it was owned by a company that was standing by itself and with its shareholders. It did not have the mighty resources of Rio Tinto-Zinc behind it.

When the people from the media descended in their droves and the television cameras and the newspapers wanted folksy articles, they beat a track to Geevor. We welcomed that, because at least it focused attention on the plight of that mine and the community — that small isolated community of St. Just and Pendeen, just seven miles from Land's End. Apart from Geevor, there is very little else in that area. Now Geevor is to close.

My hon. Friend the Member for Falmouth and Camborne (Mr. Mudd) is wrong. Geevor is not dead. Geevor is closed. The pumps are still working in Geevor. My concern tonight is to try, with all the power that I can muster, to get it into the heads of my right hon. Friends on the Treasury Bench that those pumps must be kept going. That is what the argument is about. We have gone through the agony of the lay-offs. The day when the last shift came up was one fo the saddest days in Cornish history that any of us can remember. Subsequently Geevor's second application was rejected by the Government and the lay-offs were then converted into redundancies. The anguish and uncertainty of the last few months has caused untold pain.

I pay a willing and genuine tribute to the management and men of Geevor. First I pay tribute to the management, in particular to Mr. Ken Gilbert. At times he is not the easiest of characters, at least in his dealings with Ministers and civil servants. However, his only concern during the long months since 24 October when this crisis first burst upon us has been the future of the mine, the men and the community. The board has not done everything that I should have wished it to do, but it has acted from the very highest motives and from a desire to ensure that the mine survives, if it is at all possible for it to survive.

I felt that I could not criticise my hon. Friend the Minister of State when unfortunately he and the Government rejected Geevor's second application, and I should like to say why. The sum involved was very large. Although I wished that it could have been otherwise, I could not say, with hand on heart, that they were absolutely wrong in rejecting that application. However, what I desperately tried to do and what I shall continue to try to do is find a way through the crisis. I wish, as I have wished many times during the past few months, that the Department of Trade and Industry and Geevor could sit down around the table and that the DTI could say, "That is not on, but we might be able to try this, so let us try to do it this way." Throughout these long months that is what has been missing.

Geevor told me during the past week that if the Government will put up £150,000 — a piffling sum —Geevor, from its own resources — limited, goodness knows, as those are now—and from the activities that it will be able to generate, will keep the pumps going for two years. That is a bargain that the House and the Government should not reject. It is a very small sum, but it would keep hope alive for Geevor and for the community. Above all else, that is what the community of St. Just and Pendeen now want. Reluctantly and with a sense of resignation I believe that they have almost accepted that there will have to be redundancies, grievous though they are, as are the implications of those redundancies. I have already referred to the effect of redundancies on the community.

The vicar of St. Just has unfortunately had to carry a tremendous burden for his parishioners. That has played havoc—I hope temporarily—with his health. That is one example of the kind of stress that has been caused to the community and to the families of everybody who worked at Geevor. This House and the Government owe it to the community to ensure that every means is found to enable the pumps to be kept going for £150,000.

I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Minister of State for his patience and for his efforts on behalf of the industry. He has come in for a great deal of unfair criticism tonight. I pay tribute to him for the many occasions upon which he has willingly seen me and everybody from Cornwall and for all the efforts that he has made. However, I am expecting something else from him tonight —£150,000 to keep the pumps going for two years. I do not care much how he does it. If he has trouble with the rules, regulations and officials, let him find another way round the problem. I am sure that if Governments have a will there is a way. I shall listen with the utmost care to my hon. Friend when he winds up the debate. Unless he can show good intentions and offer some hope to Geevor by providing that amount of money, I am afraid that I shall be unable to support the Government tonight in the Lobby.

8.35 pm
Mr. Stan Crowther (Rotherham)

I listened with a great deal of sympathy to the speech of the hon. Member for St. Ives (Mr. Harris). I should feel the same sympathy for any hon. Member whose constituency had been so badly let down by a Government of his own party. In due course we shall see which way he votes. I feel that he may have to vote against the Government, because there is not much likelihood of any positive assurance coming out of tonight's debate. If such an assurance were to be given, I think that we should have heard about it at the beginning of this debate.

I am a sponsored member of the Transport and General Workers Union, which represents virtually the whole of the work force in the tin mining industry. I do not believe that Ministers, however much they may protest their innocence, can escape responsibility for the crisis that has now put all those jobs in jeopardy and, in the case of Geevor, has actually destroyed jobs.

What makes the social consequences for this industry particularly serious is its geographical location, a matter to which the hon. Member for Truro (Mr. Penhaligon) drew our attention. Geography is so much against the area in which these mines are located that there seems to be little possibility of new industry being attracted to it and creating jobs on the kind of scale that would compensate for those that are now being lost. In my area of south Yorkshire, which has the geographical advantage of being in the middle of the country and at the heart of the motorway network and of having full development area status, we cannot attract new industry. The unemployment rate in the Rotherham-Mexborough travel-to-work area is 23 per cent. If my area, with all those advantages, cannot attract jobs, the future for parts of Cornwall is very bleak.

What has happened is nothing short of tragic. One of the points which came out most clearly in the Select Committee inquiry was the amazing dedication of the work force to the industry. It is proud of the industry, it is very knowledgeable about it and it is devoted to it. When representatives of the TGWU gave evidence to the Select Committee, I felt a great sense of personal pride because of the quality of that evidence. I was proud to be a member of the same union. It is wrong that the people they represent, who have made a great contribution to the country and who will do so again, if given a chance, should be placed in such appalling difficulties by the machinations of an international cartel.

After we had produced our report, I was somewhat dismayed to find that, even then, the management of both Geevor and the RTZ mines had still not submitted their proposals for Government assistance to the Department. While members of the Committee, trade unions and local authorities were working hard to try to find a way to save the industry, the management did not produce its own proposals for the consideration of Ministers. I was rather upset by what appeared to me to be their dilatoriness.

Mr. Harris

That is a serious point, but it should be said in defence of the management that its difficulty in framing its applications was the same difficulty of the Government in considering the applications, which was the uncertainty about what was likely to be the future price of tin. I have seen the Geevor applications, and I assure the hon. Gentleman that an enormous amount of work went into them. It was not simply a matter of preparing those applications, as some people think.

Mr. Crowther

I am sure that it is not a simple matter and I would not suggest that it is. However, I still think that the management took rather longer than it should have done.

As has been said, it was an extremely difficult inquiry because of the virtual refusal of the Government —Ministers and civil servants—to give us any information. We could not even discover whether they had any information to give us. We have found out many things since then. This is the first time that I have been involved in an inquiry in a Select Committee where we have discovered a lot more things since we produced the report than we did while we were holding the inquiry. For some reason, the publication of our report and the Government's response to it have stirred up something of a hornet's nest and people are now pouring in information that we did not have before.

It is now crystal clear, as a result of information that has come to light, and that was held back from us before, that there has been a gigantic international fraud. I see no other word for it. It is a fraud in which the conspirators are not shady profiteers and speculators but representatives of supposedly responsible Governments. I find that astonishing. The tin mining industry, the brokers and the creditor banks have all been victims of a confidence trick, and one in which the British Government were either a knowing or unknowing participant. I do not know whether they knew. I find it difficult to believe that those who represented the British Government in the affairs of the International Tin Council were so ignorant that they did not know that a massive fraud was being prepared. I am saying that deliberately, and that is the inescapable conclusion from the information that has come to us.

In their observations on our report, Ministers have said things to us that they did not tell us when giving their evidence. Unfortunately, it appears that at least two of the new things that they have said are not true. For example, they say in paragraph 23 that the Bank of England advised the ME … that they"— that is, the brokers— should not count on the ITC member governments standing behind the ITC if the Buffer Stock Manager were ever unable to meet his commitments. The chairman of the London Metal Exchange has told us bluntly that that is not true. He has quoted information that we did not have before from confidential minutes taken at the time to prove that what Ministers have told us in their response is not true. That matter will have to be gone into again.

Supposing that it were true, and the Bank of England, on behalf of the Government, warned the brokers that they should not count on the ITC member governments"— which means Her Majesty's Government, along with the others, standing behind the ITC—the ITC consists of its own members because it cannot consist of anybody else— if the Buffer Stock Manager were ever unable to meet his commitments. In other words, if he went into contracts and finished up owing money that he could not pay or he was defrauding the people with whom he was doing business, they should not count on the member Governments to stand behind the ITC.

As I have said, the LME chairman says that that is not true, but if it were true why did the Government say that? The only possible conclusion is that they were already preparing for a fraudulent position to arise. What other implication can there be? They are saying that the Bank of England said to the brokers that if the buffer stock manager had signed contracts with the brokers that he could not honour, and finished up owing million of pounds, the ITC is not to be counted on to do anything about it, although it is his employer. Why should the Government say that, if such a position were not already being planned or at least forecast? We shall need to know about that.

Again, in their response to our report, Ministers claimed that the LME had access to all that was going on and had representatives with the DTI at the ITC meetings. Again, the chairman of the LME simply says that that is not true. I do not like Select Committees being told in Government statements things that are not true, and this will have to be exmined in some depth.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, West (Mr. Williams) has already mentioned the rather remarkable statement from the Minister in answer to question 600 when he said that Ministers were not informed about what was going on. However, the civil servant referred to, Mr. Lunn, later on in the same sitting of the Committee said something different. He said that Ministers were frequently informed, especially the Secretary of State. It was difficult for us to discover the true position. It is hard to believe that Ministers did not know what they now tell us the Bank of England knew. If the Bank of England knew it, why did not Ministers know it? These mysteries remain.

When I heard about the debate, I thought that the Government would announce some assistance for RTZ. I thought that they would not have given us a debate in Government time unless they had some goodies to hand out. I now share the fear that has already been expressed that the fact that they have not announced any advantage to RTZ may mean that it will not get any assistance and it will go the same way as Geevor.

Sooner or later, the country must have a Government who will stop this endless running down of British industries, which has gone on for far too long. Sooner or later, we must have a Government who are prepared to adopt policies to stop this pattern. I fear that it will not happen before the next general election but it must happen then because it will be our last chance to be once again a great industrial nation.

8.48 pm
Mr. Kenneth Warren (Hastings and Rye)

What magnificent speeches we have heard from the men of Cornwall tonight. I was proud to be in the House when they made those speeches, from both sides of the House. I hope that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and my hon. Friend the Minister heard them not for the party politics but for the representations of how people feel about not just the tin industry but all industry and our concern for it.

The report from the Trade and Industry Select Committee was unanimous, and I ask my hon. Friend the Minister to understand that. It came after some careful hearings. When one seeks to catch your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, it is to make an apt speech that one wants to make. Tonight I do not want to make this speech, but I have to make it.

The Committee made the decision to investigate this matter of its own choice. My hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton (Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop) was instrumental in making sure that we seized on the need to investigate the crisis, but it was my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister who said that the House recognises the competence of departmental Select Committees of the House of Commons to consider issues raised." — [Official Report, 15 January 1986; Vol. 89, c. 1090.] So the endorsement of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister is behind this inquiry, as it is behind every other Select Committee inquiry.

It is regrettable that we have seen the time bomb explode. The time bomb was built into the 1982 agreement which should never have been accepted by the Government. With Brazil, China, the United States outside the agreement, it was only a matter of time before it destroyed itself. Indeed, it is remarkable that in the Government's reply to the Select Committee report we were accused of obtaining documents from the United States Government under their freedom of information legislation. Unfortunately, that was not the reason why we got the information. It was because the United States' Government were still on the circulation list of the last tin agreement as nobody had bothered to cross them off. That which is marked confidential in the United Kingdom, is not confidential in the United States.

Difficult problems arise for me when I receive letters such as I have received today from an eminent City banker with a strong record of work and devotion to the Tory cause. He said: We are deeply shaken at the change in Her Majesty's Government's position from one of accepting obligations to help aggrieved parties to one of denying all issues, as has been made clear both in the Government's reply to the Select Committee and in private conversations this bank has had with the Government. I turn to the broad problems facing the Department of Trade and Industry on the eve of the 'big bang'. I am worried that at best the Government's position appears not to be relied on to favour enterprise and a free market. At worst they tell the country that market forces rule and that if one lives to regret it, that is one's loss, whether it be one's job or savings. If that is not the case my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State must demonstrate in this one vital industry that he can rise above the mere dogma which too often appears to be behind Government policy. I cannot believe that the Governments of France, West Germany, Japan and the United States would allow one of their key industries to go to the wall as we are doing.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State may say that this is unkind of me, one who has loyally supported the Government for many, many years. I could not believe that they would come to this style of government regarding industry. I have had a lifetime in industry and I now believe that we are sapping the will of business and industry to succeed. This is a test case and we could easily devote limited resources to a cause which is essential to us. We must get tin from somewhere. In 18 months the buffer stock will have been used up. Where will the tin come from? What about import substitution? Are we willing to pay £25 million a year for that? Is it not better to do the sums and look across the the Departments of Health and Social Security, of Employment and of Trade and Industry to analyse how much it will cost in value terms to keel) those men in their jobs now? In 18 months we shall need every one of them to help us.

We should not believe that we cannot do anything. The Department of Trade and Industry is supposed to be a Department of enterprise. It is not acceptable that Ministers should have instructed their most senior civil servants—men of considerable ability such as Sir Brian Hayes, the permanent secretary, and Mr. Murray, both of whom have demonstrated their effectiveness—to appear before a Select Committee and not to answer questions. Mr. Murray had to remain silent while flanked by two Ministers who did not rise to defend him, and Sir Brian Hayes said: Whether or not I gave advice is advice itself", and therefore would not answer the question. It was a parody of "Yes Minister" and a farce. Indeed, it was less funny than "Yes Minister".

It was not until we concluded our inquiry and people saw the standard of information that we had been given by the Government that information began to fall off the backs of lorries by the skipful. People said that they were fed up with confidentiality which was costing them their jobs and savings, and that they wanted to be heard. It is regrettable that the concept of the "word is my bond" of business and the City must be broken for the truth to emerge.

Indeed, warnings about the tin stock went back to 1982. The position was not new. It was not a case of the Government signing an agreement and telling everyone what the agreement was. One of the documents tells us — I am willing to place this before the Select Committee, if it chooses to reopen the inquiry, as it may do: We now learn from ITC documents that, because not all the countries invited to participate in the 6th ITA actually signed the treaty, the normal buffer stock was established at 19,666 tonnes … This important fact was never made public. If it was not made public and people were invited to invest in the agreement, what were the standards to which the Government were working within that agreement? The document continues: you might think that the omission to publish that fact was a fraud on those who were engaged in business with the ITC. I understand that that will be challenged in the courts.

The position was even worse than that. The statistics were manipulated and at best the member states did not understand and at worst, what they understood, they chose to ignore. Another confidential ITC document, the report dated 8 November 1985, which was prepared for the ITC by its auditors, Peat Marwick Mitchell, stated that the existing contracts of the manager were not for about 19,000 tonnes but for more than 63,000 tonnes. Unfortunately, the auditors did not know all the facts and the ITC's total risk position was 120,819 tonnes. That is ludicrous. There were 15 billet-doux or, as my hon. Friend the Member for Monmouth (Sir J. Stradling Thomas) said billet-don'ts. I am delighted that my hon. Friend is doing well after his recent accident and we look forward to welcoming him back. We shall never find out what they said.

One thing is certain—exposure of the Government is much greater than the Government appreciates. What was thought to be £100 million is probably £600 million. One wonders what happened to those billet-douxs and billet don'ts. Miss Edith Jones, an excellent lady who gave evidence to the Committee, was moved from her job. Why was she moved at a critical time when the Government were having trouble with Malaysia on international student fees? That strange country has featured in the newspapers during the past 24 hours most unfortunately. The previous Committee did a great deal to try to remedy the "Buy Britain Last" slogan of Malaysia by publishing a report on Trade in ASEAN. There has also been a battle over Concorde flying rights there. Were we listening to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and not to the Department of Trade and Industry about the international tin agreement? Now we have neither Concorde flights nor an international tin agreement.

On 1 July the Governor of the Bank of England kindly wrote me a letter. I had written to him saying that the Government had told me, properly, that the Bank of England knew all about the matter and that I should ask it. The Governor replied: we always work on the assumption that a Committee of the House of Commons will tell us if they want to see us or to receive evidence from us; indeed, we were not aware of any precedent for an organisation like us taking steps to initiate an appearance before a Committee. I could tell him that the Kerrier district council and the TGWU in Cornwall heard the shouts of tin miners as they marched through the City and that if the Governor had had his window open, he too would have heard the shouts of those miners appealing for help. It is not at all satisfactory that the Government should place the Bank of England—and the Bank of England should seek to place the London Metal Exchange—in a position where it is all their fault but nothing to do with us.

The tin mines of Corwall are a strategic industry for this country. While all recognise that, why did not the Government tell the London Metal Exchange exactly what was going on? The Government's answer is that the LME must have known because two of its members were trotting around with the DTI into all the meetings of the International Tin Council. However, in these documents that keep coming to us in skipfuls, we discover that these two members were required to be there as advisers to the DTI and were not allowed to tell the LME what they heard. Furthermore, when money was mentioned, they were thrown out of the meetings.

Given the Government's reply, my right hon. Friend will understand the scepticism of the Select Committee through the words of hon. Members who have already spoken as well as others who will no doubt do so.

We should listen more clearly to the words of the London Metal Exchange. Mr. Jacques Lion wrote to us on 24 June in a document circulated to the Select Committee and said: If the DTI had fully appreciated the situation in June 1985 (and it claims to have done so even earlier) why were there not high level discussions and consultations taking place between the Government, Bank of England, LME and Banks to try to avoid or mitigate this disaster? It is absolutely incredible that the UK Government. with great influence and large resources at its command, simply issued a few delphic warnings and then sat back and waited for the time bomb to explode". It may be argued, "Well, of course, there are no precedents." But a report on Concorde was published by the predecessor Committee of which I am now Chairman, in 1981–82. Paragraph 265 on page 68 showed that the Government accepted that it was far better to keep 3,000 Concorde workers in work than it was to put them on the dole. The sums were given, and all the arithmetic shows quite clearly that whatever the merits of Concorde, the Government of the day looked across the DHSS, the Department of Employment and the DTI and said that it was better to keep those men in work producing things that other people would need than to put them on the dole.

There were 3,000 of those workers— there are only 2,000 Cornish tin miners. The precedent exists. I hope that the Government will listen. As the hon. Member for Truro (Mr. Penhaligon) pointed out, it is cheaper to keep them at work than to throw them on the scrap heaps and slag heaps of Cornwall.

In a case such as this, one might ask what a commercially viable project is. In 18 months the world tin stock will have run out, and more will be required. I regret that tonight I doubt whether the Government will secure my support in the Lobby. But I appeal to my friends in the Government to look again and again at this sad and staggering situation. It goes far beyond the world of tin. I hope that they will see through the mists of silly secrecy in which this inquiry has been enveloped. They should understand that this House must have the truth from the Government at all times. Ministers must prove that civil servants are not hiding from the truth or from Ministers. The only and essential truth is that Ministers must go from the House and find for us all in Cornwall—in city and country—a method of bringing together the institutions and the people to make a success of the tin enterprise. This is a test case for the Government. They should hear those who are now crying to them, even if they do not support the Government in the Lobby.

9.3 pm

Mr. Doug Hoyle (Warrington, North)

It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Hastings and Rye (Mr. Warren), who is Chairman of the Select Committee of which I am a member. On both sides of the House so far there seems to be a clear understanding that the Government have not given us all the information that they should have given. Indeed, I go further and say that if the Secretary of State's opening remarks are anything to go by, they have been very shifty. The right hon. Gentleman was either ill-briefed, or he was no more prepared to tell the truth now than he was during the Select Committee inquiry.

An important principle is involved — the work of future Select Committees. It cannot be stressed often enough that we were not after the advice given to Ministers or what they did about it. We wanted the information given to Ministers. That was refused to us, and that is the charge that we make against the Government.

If the Government are not prepared to be influenced by Opposition Members, I hope that they will be influenced by the number of Conservative Members who have said that they cannot support them. Some of them have gone even further and said that they will vote against the Government.

The reality of what we are discussing is known to us all — the crisis that has been created in the tin mining industry—and that reality comes home to us all when we talk about Cornwall. People in Cornwall are being thrown out of their jobs. As we have heard from hon. Members who represent constituencies in Cornwall, these people are suffering.

Why did this crisis happen? We have not received an adequate reply to that question. To find the answer, we must consider the level of the buffer stock. The ITC buffer stock was 30,000 tonnes and that was financed by contributions from member states. Therefore, we start with a basis of 30,000 tonnes. To that must be added 20,000 tonnes financed by the borrowing on the security of tin warrants or on Government guarantees. The total stock should therefore have been 50,000 tonnes. It is evident that that was not the position. It is also clear that nothing was done to correct that position. The council was allowed to make other arrangements to supplement these resources.

We heard in the Select Committee from the Department of Trade and Industry that the Government's contribution amounted to the cost of 19,666 tonnes. I suggest that the arithmetic is wrong. The figures do not add up. When we consider the Government's contribution of 19,666 tonnes, it is evident that 27,700 tonnes were bought from the buffer stock of the fifth international tin agreement. After that, there were only 11,900 tonnes to be bought. This is where the arithmetic does not add up. The buffer stock manager told the economic and public review panel that he had bought on the strength of the contribution for 19,666 tonnes. He therefore exceeded the limitation.

That is only part of the story. We now also know that it is almost certain that the buffer stock manager was not content with that. He was buying far more tin—arid this is the important point — than the ITC had funds for. Indeed, 120,000 tonnes was at risk including 50,000 tonnes sold on "unpriced sales". Obviously these stocks were not sold. In the light of that, the buffer stock manager said that the idea of buying only as much tin as there were contributions was both impractical and untenable. However, we know where this folly has led. It has led to the crisis and to some of the good people of Cornwall being put on the scrap heap.

Someone must answer for this. Someone must be responsible. The Government have said tonight that they did not know—we had no means of determining in the Select Committee whether they did or did not know—what was happening, but doubtless they knew about the shortage of subscriptions to the sixth ITA. We have heard that the Ministers did not know about the borrowing and lending activities of the buffer stock manager which I have just described. I find that difficult to believe. The facts that are available show that the possibility that the buffer stock manager was borrowing tin other than on tin warrants without authority from the council was, as the hon. Member for Hastings and Rye has said, suspected as long ago as 1982. It does not add up for the Government to claim that they had no knowledge of what was happening when it was suspected as long ago as 1982. Either the Government did not know what was happening in the Department or they did know and chose to ignore what was happening.

We know that the United Kingdom delegates were told not to press for more information as that might prove counter-productive. The hon. Member for Hastings and Rye has speculated on some of the reasons for that advice. Nevertheless, the information existed, so how can Ministers tell us that they do not know? According to Sir Brian Hayes, the Permanent Secretary to the Department of Trade and Industry, there were 15 reports to Ministers between 1982 and 1985. We do not know what was in them, but we know that they were made. I should have thought that it would have been prudent for the Government to have taken some action on the basis of those reports.

I do not believe that it is any use putting the blame on the London Metal Exchange. The Bank of England's advice was that the LME should not expect the Government to stand behind the International Tin Council if the buffer stock manager was unable to meet his commitments. A Bank of England letter said that, in the event of the buffer stock manager's funds becoming exhausted, it should not be assumed that any Government would step in with additional finance. We now have skip loads of such letters. They are adding to the rubbish that is part of the other clean-up campaign which the Prime Minister has initiated. We heard from the LME that it did not take the Bank of England's advice to mean that the Government would not stand behind the buffer stock manager's current contract. There is something gravely wrong there, and it should have been gone into. We now learn that the LME representatives were not representatives or party to some of the most important decisions.

This is a sorry tale. It will not do for the Government to shelter behind their civil servants, saying that they were given the wrong advice, that they knew nothing or that they should not be blamed because it is just one of those things. That is not the behaviour of a responsible Government. Somebody must accept liability. The Secretary of State did not try to provide any answers. In spite of the Select Committee's difficulties, it is clear that action should have been taken far earlier.

We cannot escape the fact that responsibility must lie with the Government. I am pleased that the Minister for Trade, who should bear responsibility for the dealing with the ITC, is on the Bench. I should like to hear his explanation. We know about the problems in his Department and that there have recently been resignations. I quite understand why it does not want any more, but he is the Minister responsible, and he should give us some explanation about his conduct. Why did he not act? Why did Ministers prevent civil servants from giving the Select Committee the information that it needed?

The Government should take on board the fact that the Select Committee report was accepted by all members of that Committee, Conservative as well as Members of the Opposition. I will go a little further than that. All the Members of the Committee felt that the special report, which was issued after the reply we received from the Department of Trade and Industry, was an inadequate response, had not been thought out and did not answer the queries we put to them. That should be worrying the Government. They should not be taking flippant regard of what the House is expressing tonight — I am not suggesting that they are—because it is serious. We are now facing a House of Commons in which it is said that nobody bears responsibility for this kind of crisis. That is not good enough. Ministers who are responsible should accept that responsibility.

I am sorry that we will not be hearing tonight from the Minister responsible for the civil servants who attended the ITC. I am sure that this is not the end of the matter. It cannot be washed away in this fashion. Sooner or later I hope that we will get the truth about what occurred and the truth as to why no action was taken sooner, why no warnings were given and especially why the tin producers of Cornwall were not warned. I am sure that if such action had been taken something could have been salvaged from the mess we find ourselves in tonight. We are facing the possibility that tin mining might be coming to an end. We cannot allow that to happen. The Government should take some action to help protect Cornish tin mines. Also, some Minister should be prepared to accept responsibility for the mess we find ourselves in.

Several hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

If the four hon. Members who are now rising speak for about eight minutes each, I shall be able to call all of them and still leave adequate time for the Minister.

9.17 pm
Mr. Tim Smith (Beaconsfield)

Since the buffer stock manager ceased operations seven months ago I have followed developments in the tin industry with growing concern. Important issues of principle are at stake. Apart from the legality of it, which is a matter for the courts, it is totally unacceptable that 22 member states should simply have abandoned the international tin agreement. As the Select Committee said: if prosperous countries walk away from their collective debts because of a cloak of immunity, there can be no reason for us to expect poorer nations to pay their debts. The Government have said in reply that they would be concerned if the failure of the International Tin Council was to be taken as a precedent by any country. Of course it is a precedent. It is a precedent for every country and for every international trade agreement. It is also a thoroughly bad example to set the City of London.

Reading between the lines, I am clear enough about what happened. Before October 1985 all those concerned — the member states, the banks, the brokers and the producers — believed that the council had unlimited liability. If it ceased to trade, it would pay its debts. It was a gilt-edged agreement because sovereign Governments were parties to it. Its debts were sovereign debts.

I am sure that that was a widely held assumption. It was only after October that Governments backed away from it. If they had always taken the view that they had no liability, they should have said so earlier. In that case, the agreement would have been stillborn, for no one would have dealt with the manager. That is why it is so disingenuous of the Government to say that they warned the metal brokers via the Bank of England that they should not count on the member Governments standing behind the Council if the manager were ever unable to meet his commitments, but that they could not have given a similar warning to the banks or the Cornish tin industry because it would have precipitated a crisis and probably the collapse of the buffer stock operation. Had the brokers actually been warned—it is clear that they were not—they would have stopped dealing with the manager at once and the buffer stock operation would have collapsed.

The fact is that the operations of the manager had got completely out of control. He was in breach of the articles of agreement and he was gambling with other people's money. It was double or quits. For a remarkably long period he kept on doubling, even after his stock was exhausted. In the end he quit, leaving a trail of gambling debts behind him.

He was able to get away with it for so long because his operations were secret for good commercial reasons. There was no way in which those dealing with him could know that he was acting so recklessly. Had they known they would simply have stopped dealing with him and the crisis would have been precipitated that much earlier, but they would still have assumed that the council would pay its debts. They would have reached that conclusion after examining the public documents—the agreement itself, the headquarters agreement and the order of 1972. A study of those documents discloses that the council had legal personality, that the council enjoyed immunity from suit, and that the manager had authority to operate the buffer stock operation on behalf of the council.

The council existed under a United Nations treaty with the objective of carrying out the political, social and economic objectives of the member states, which declared their intent to support a minimum price for tin by a buffer stock operation. There was nothing in the agreement that limited the liability of the member states. It was a reasonable assumption that if member states, joined by international treaty, were determined to implement certain objectives, that were largely political, using a buffer stock operation, those member states would ensure that the resources and facilities of the manager were sufficient and adequate to carry out those objectives in a manner consistent with international commercial conduct and accepted international standards of sanctity of contracts.

Article 21 of the sixth agreement provided that the council was to maintain a normal buffer stock of 30,000 tonnes, funded at all times by Government contributions, and an additional buffer stock of 20,000 tonnes, maintained by borrowing. In other words, the paid-up share capital of the council was to be 30,000 tonnes of tin and the maximum borrowing permitted was to be limited to the amount required to purchase 20,000 tonnes. The gearing ratio was established at 3:2. Now we have heard from hon. Members on both sides of the House that, in fact, not only was the permitted buffer stock lower—it was 19,666 tonnes because not all the countries invited to participate in the agreement signed the treaty— but in any case the buffer stock manager easily exceeded the 50,000 tonnes of buffer stock on many occasions in the three years of the agreement.

The situation was made even worse because the member states did not proportionately reduce the borrowing power of the council to maintain the gearing of 3:2, but instead maintained the same borrowing level, which completely distorted the gearing ratios approved by the agreement. From the very outset, therefore, third parties dealing with the council had no idea that the gearing of the council was far worse that that authorised by the agreement. Notwithstanding the limitations imposed by the agreement on the total tonnage of the buffer stock, the buffer stock was allowed to exceed those limits on many occasions during the life of the agreement.

The overall picture of what actually happened discloses a lack of political will in the face of mounting evidence of financial collapse. The member states had to lower the floor price to a more realistic figure or provide the manager with additional resources, or proceed to an orderly closure. As they would do none of those things, in order to carry out the policy imposed upon him by the member states the manager had to resort to questionable trading practices and manipulation of statistics.

In a paper prepared for the European Community working group on commodities in December 1982 by the Department of Trade, there was an analysis of the obligations of the manager and the manner in which those obligations were being evaded or ignored. The paper requested the Community to instruct its spokesmen to put certain questions to the executive chairman of the council at the meeting to be held in December 1982. After describing certain operations conducted by the manager, the paper concluded: The manager has no powers to engage in it"— the transaction— since the tin in question will not be tin forming part of the buffer stock and the operations will not constitute a buffer stock operation of a kind authorised under the agreement and he has no authority to purchase tin except for the buffer stock". At the second meeting of the council, held in London in September 1983, the Australian delegate expressed concern about the continual reports being received from the buffer stock manager indicating that the situation of buffer stock operations was very delicate and there was even a risk of total collapse". At that same meeting the manager referred to previous reports in which he had requested the council either to give him new resources by new contributions or to provide resources in other ways. Also at that meeting, the delegate from Norway was reported as having said: The manager had time and again warned the council that unless … measures were taken, the very existence of the International Tin Council would be threatened. The report of that meeting also records the fact that by September 1983 eight countries had still not paid outstanding contributions of £12.4 million. It is no wonder that the council was short of capital. That was another fact that was not disclosed to those doing business with the council.

Other examples have been recited during the debate of how, at meetings of the International Tin Council, the position was made entirely clear that the buffer stock manager was continually operating in extremely difficult circumstances. The member states knew that the manager was acting in excess of the authority given in the agreement. There was no attempt to curtail his activities. The member states knew what was happening and they allowed it to continue.

In the interests of time, I shall conclude without reciting the other examples that I had intended to recite which show clearly that the Government knew throughout, from the meetings of the International Tin Council, exactly what the position was. The council documents speak for themselves. All member states knew what the position was. They knew that the manager was exceeding his authority and that he did not have the money to pay his debts. That can mean only one of two things: either the member states knew and accepted that they would have to put up additional financing to meet the obligations of the manager as they fell due, or, alternatively, they knew that they would not or could not put up those funds, in which case the manager and the delegates had participated in fraudulent trading. There is no other answer.

When the manager ceased operations, the Government did try hard to secure agreement on refinancing. Ministers responded with commendable speed to the crisis. On I November last year my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Brittan) issued a statement in which he declared the objective of the United Kingdom Government to be to enable all legal commitments outstanding at 29 October 1985 to be met. The implication was clear. The Government accepted a legal obligation to put up their share of the council's debts. I hope that they will now, once again, take the lead by accepting their responsibility in this regard and pressing other member states to do likewise. The EEC presidency offers an opportunity to take a lead. At a time when the Government are promoting higher standards in the City through the Financial Services Bill, nothing less will do. A precedent has been created and an example must now be set.

9.27 pm
Mr. Tim Brinton (Gravesham)

I support so much of what my hon. Friend the Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Smith) has said that I need not speak for long. My constituency is in Kent, not Cornwall. I have listened with admiration to the fluent advocacy of hon. Members from Cornwall making the case for the miners and the mines that are in such peril. A company in my constituency is very important to me. As an employer in my constituency, which has an unemployment rate of 18 per cent., Britannia Refined Metals Ltd., through a wholly owned subsidiary, burnt its fingers considerably. Some hon. Members may feel that those who chance their money are not in the same bracket as miners in Cornwall, but I remind hon. Members that without their money, my constituency will not have so many jobs if that firm fails.

I shall summarise what happened to the company Henry Bath and Son. On 24 October 1985 the company purchased, on behalf of the buffer stock manager, 2,000 tonnes of tin at an average price of £8,680 per tonne. At the LME "ring-out" price of £6,250 per tonne, the company is owed £4.85 million, plus loss of interest, plus costs. If the "ring-out" price is struck down in the course of next year, the debt owed by the ITC to the company will increase by a further £5.14 million, taking today's price for tin of £3,680.

If one were dealing commercially that could be accepted, but as a non-expert in such technical and highly skilled fields I have listened tonight to a story which I, as an amateur, can only describe as a story of carelessness and recklessness. Above all, it is a moral issue. The Government must bear moral responsibility, at least for their part in this disaster.

I am a free market man and I cannot for the life of me imagine why we thought of signing the sixth international tin agreement. It seemed to be outside the Government's perception, but we signed it. Information came and went. I have served on a Select Committee and know of the difficulties sometimes faced in obtaining information. It is clear from what I have heard tonight and what I have read that warnings were given and that the Government, the Department, Ministers, the Bank of England and almost everyone in the City concerned with this matter knew that something was rotten in the state of tin.

On 5 May The Times reported that the British representative at the United Nations, Sir John Thomson, said that it was not right for the United States or the Soviet Union to breach their international obligations by withdrawing part of their contribution to the United Nations budget. He said: It is not acceptable or right for the superpowers to set such a poor example. Those words are appropriate tonight.

9.30 pm
Mr. Robin Maxwell-Hyslop (Tiverton)

Three issues are before the House in only a three-hour debate—the fate of Cornish tin, the events leading up to the collapse of the international tin agreement and the Government's activity, or inactivity, and responsibility.

It is all very well for Ministers to say that critical references should not be made to civil servants but, beyond a shadow of doubt, Mr. de Koning, the buffer stock manager, was dealing fraudulently. It was evident to Government representatives that the buffer stock manager was trading outside any authority and beyond his resources. The Select Committee was entitled to know whether that was reported by the Government's representatives, Mrs. Jones and then Mr. Lunn, to Ministers. If Ministers want to exculpate their civil servants, instead of merely saying, "I accept responsibility" — a meaningless utterance — they must tell us whether they were aware that the buffer stock manager was trading fraudulently. Either they were or they were not —there is no third choice.

It is no good Ministers saying that they had 15 reports if those reports merely had the date at the top of the page and stated, "I attended a meeting on behalf of Her Majesty's Government," and were signed either my Mrs. Jones or Mr. Lunn. That is meaningless. The House needs to know whether the civil servants concerned reported to successive Ministers that the buffer stock manager was trading fraudulently and that he was entering into commitments which he had no resources to honour. If a company did that, its directors would go to goal. In doing that, the credit of tin producers was put at risk because they were selling metal at the London Metal Exchange price—the future price. They therefore borrowed money from their banks in the certainty, as they thought, that money for the tonnes of tin sold would be coming in at the LME price.

Mr. de Koning did not undertake his trading secretly. We received ample information, despite the Government's attempts to ensure that we did not, to show that the buffer stock manager was worried about what he was doing. He made sure that the representatives of the 22 signatory Governments, including the United Kingdom — Mrs. Jones and then Mr. Lunn — knew what he was doing. Either those civil servants reported the facts unambiguously to Ministers and ensured that they knew, so that they could take appropriate action or they did not do so. The Select Committee was entitled to be told whether they had done so. This is nothing to do with advice; this is about facts.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State referred to a memorandum. Hon. Members may care to look at the Procedure Committee report and compare that memorandum of guidance with civil servants to the memorandum given to the Select Committee by Sir Richard Barlas, whom many regard as an authority beyond question. Those of us who studied Sir Richard's performance right up to the time when he was Clerk of the House would have no hesitation in preferring his written evidence to that of an anonymous memorandum which does not constrain civil servants.

Moreover, Ministers have ample authority to release their civil servants from any constraints in the interests of a Select Committee, which is reporting to the House, ascertaining true facts, without which Select Committee reports can be misleading and unjust in their criticisms.

Only truth leads to justice. If truth is concealed by a Minister saying, "Only I will answer; I will not permit my civil servants to do so," and then refusing to answer, the House and the Select Committee will be frustrated in getting at the truth.

Many people know little of mineral mines. Some are apparently concentrated within the Department of Trade and Industry. They believe that mines flood with pure water. In fact, they flood with salt water—as in the case of Geevor—and they flood with highly acid water—as in the case of South Crofty, Wheal Jane and Pendarves —which will destroy the entire electrical systems of the mines and even destroy steel rails in next to no time.

There is no question of a mine filling up with water and being pumped out. Inundation renders the levels crumbling and unsafe. It cannot be pumped out so that men can be sent in. The men know that they have an excellent chance of being killed by collapses.

Anyone who goes to Geevor to see the model that shows the labyrinthine levels and the connections between them will appreciate that trying to block them off with concrete plugs, as the most senior placed idiot in the Department of Trade and Industry has recommended, is not a solution. To imagine that the levels can then be unplugged, having filled up with water and been rendered unstable, so that, yo ho ho, in five years' time mining operations can recommence is unrealistic. I wonder whether the people who give that advice would care to undertake such mining operations themselves.

Some mines have been reopened, but there have been hideous losses to human beings — hideous avoidable accidents, including drownings and cavings-in. We do not want that sort of future for Cornish mining.

It may be said that hon. Members on both sides of the House have agreed at various times to the closure of coal mines. Indeed we have, but we are talking now about the whole of Britain's remaining tin production, which is capable of meeting half Britain's needs for tin. We are not talking about closing peripheral areas; we are talking about heavy unemployment in areas of already heavy unemployment.

That is the position in a nut. The Government have a responsibility towards international integrity which they have not discharged. They have a responsibility towards the House which they have not discharged.

The collapse of the ITC was entirely predictable and it was a cartel where consequences were entirely predictable —that it would draw in new producers who were not members of the cartel and encourage tin users to use alternative metals such as aluminium. That is predictable of any cartel that sets out to raise and permanently support the price of whatever commodity is being dealt with above the cost of the marginal entrant or the marginal cost producer. That follows as night follows day. There is not news in that.

The ITC did not cause the collapse of Cornish tin. Cornish tin was due to be in difficulties when the world price of tin fell below the cost of mining it in Cornwall. But the Government could—as they have done with steel and British Leyland, where, incidentally, the Select Committee on Trade and Industry is due to go immediately after the Division tonight — as they are permitted to do under the EEC rules, supply refinancing to lower the cost of production so that which is not presently viable can become viable and sustain itself.

That is why we do not ask that Ministers should have a crystal ball which nobody in the world possesses. We do not ask that they should see the price of tin in three year's time when all the bankers have got rid of their tin warrants which secured the loans that they made to the London Metal Exchange while the ore which gathered at the pit heads and the other sources of production, while international trade was in disarray, is got rid of. That is the other rule of the equation.

What the price will be in three years' time we do not know and we do not expect Ministers to know either. What we do say is that the men will still be unemployed in three years' time. There is nothing else for them to do. It is a reasonable dedication of taxpayers' money to keeping the water out of the mines, including Geevor, and to putting them in a posture where they can move back into profitable production when the world price of tin has stabilised. That is what we ask of the Government.

The latest Geevor request is for only £175,000 to keep the water out for two years—part of the cost will come from the shareholders — and that is the absolute minimum that the Government should do. They should come to an agreement with Rio Tinto to refinance those mines which need reshafting and a considerable amount of other work so that their economic future, and the smelter at Capper pass, which depends on Cornish tin—it cannot use alluvial tin —is assured as well. That the Select Committee recommended after intensive hearings. That it still recommends to the House and it asks the House to assert that that is what the Government should adopt and execute as their policy.

9.43 pm
Mr. Iain Mills (Meriden)

I regret that so much of the time of the House tonight has been spent on sterile and caustic remarks about the Government's conduct during the tin crisis. Those are most unhelpful remarks, coming mainly from the Opposition. but, I regret, also from some of my hon. Friends.

What does society and the United Kingdom expect of the Government and Ministers in high-risk commodity agreements? Should the business of the House be talking about the minutiae of civil servants, minutes, Ministers and dates instead of about the valiant efforts to establish Newco and to find solutions? I hope that if Select Committees wish to be accepted as credible by hon. Members such as myself they will not get tied up in procedural matters on important occasions such as this on the eternal examination of the bones.

Let us get to the heart of the matter. Tin is a problem to my hon. Friends who represent constituencies in Cornwall, and they honourably put the case for their constituents. I back them in their efforts — [Interruption.] If Opposition Members do not wish to intervene, I wish that they would keep quiet. We are talking about an important matter that affects the life and livelihood of many people. Let us treat the subject seriously and talk not about procedures but about realities. Most people must have realised that after 1982 and the signing of the agreement this was a high-risk matter.

In an intervention I asked the right hon. Member for Swansea, West (Mr. Williams) what he would have done. He gave a slightly diffuse reply. According to my information, we signed the agreement along with Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, West Germany, Greece, Ireland, India, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Sweden, Switzerland, Australia, Indonesia and many other countries. Let us not say that signing the 1982 agreement was foolish. The world had to have an agreement to control tin and what happened is now a matter of history.

Having signed the agreement, the Government made great efforts to secure reform and to make sure in discussions that those who were party to the agreement were trying to make it clearer and more communicative. There is no point in some hon. Members shaking their heads, because if they had signed the agreement along with all those countries they would have found that it is not just a simple matter of going in and blasting one's way through and making the agreement simple and easy to understand. This is a highly complex matter affecting consumers and producers throughout the world, and there are no easy answers. It is a shame that after the problems ensued the highly innovative solution of Newco, about which many of us were briefed in the House by the LME and by Mr. Kestenbaum and others, was not successful.

Credit is due to the Government and to our Ministers for supporting the Newco solution. Nobody has given the Government credit for that and I suggest that it is because most right hon. and hon. Members want to be negative about it. The Government tried to support Newco and had committed themselves to funds for Newco. It was not the fault of the Government that Newco failed: it was the fault of others. As a result of that failure, Cornishmen may lose jobs. I have to tell the House, because no other hon. Member has done so, that people in the City may also lose jobs. I supported Newco and did my best to lobby Ministers, as did some of my hon. Friends.

I pay tribute to hon. Members in all parts of the House who signed the letter jointly with me that we sent to Germany. At one stage, West Germany was not in favour of proceeding with Newco. The ambassador's No. 2, the Baron von Stein, sent me a letter which said that his Government would support Newco. At the end of his letter he said: Like most other signatories to the International Tin Agreement, the Government of the Federal Republic of Germany takes the view that the member countries are legally not liable for the ITC's obligations. I wish to ask my hon. Friend the Minister of State a few questions. I do not expect him to answer them tonight, but I should be grateful for a memorandum that would help me to answer questions that are being put to me by those who have expressed an interest in these matters. The Federal Republic of Germany has said that it is not convinced that it has legal responsibilities. I ask my hon. Friend to let me know in writing what arc the legal obligations of members of the ITC, including her Majesty's Government, to meet in full the ITC's indebtedness.

What is Her Majesty's Government's view about the request for formal liquidation of the buffer stock, in accordance with article 26 so that the respective portions of the ITC's liabilities falling upon members may be calculated? Do her Majesty's Government distinguish between the failure of ITC members to meet the indebtedness of the ITC and its members and the failure of any other Government to meet their international loan obligations? [Interruption.] I was about to say that the crisis has led directly to the loss of 200 jobs. I am sorry that Opposition Members find that funny or amusing. Their hilarity and criticism is most suspect. I shall be grateful if my hon. Friend is able to say that the Government arc willing to consider an innovative approach in order to find a solution to this most difficult crisis.

9.51 pm
The Minister of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Mr. Peter Morrison)

First may I say to the right hon. Member for Swansea, West (Mr. Williams) that there is nothing sinister about the timing of today's debate. He will recall that his right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition asked for a debate on several occasions during questions on the business statements. He has rightly reminded me that by the time of the debate I had said that I hoped that I would be able to respond to all the applications relating to Cornish tin mines. I regret as much as he does that it has not been possible to make that response today.

I agree with the Chairman of the Select Committee, my hon. Friend the Member for Hastings and Rye (Mr. Warren) that there is nothing funny about the events of the past 12 or so months. As my hon. Friend the Member for Meriden (Mr. Mills) said, if we had not signed the 1982 agreement, many of the problems that we are discussing this evening would not have had to be discussed. However, as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry explained in his opening speech, for reasons that he gave to the House it was decided at that time that on balance it was best to be part of the agreement. However, that decision did not affect the situation in Cornwall. Indeed, it could be strongly argued that because we were a member of the agreement we had more room for manoeuvre because of the effect of the agreement on Cornwall.

My hon. Friend the Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Smith) said that no Government could have tried harder to resolve the crisis, once it broke. That is quite correct. My right hon. Friend the then Secretary of State for Trade and Industry sent personal messages to all other members of the agreement asking them to follow our lead. At that time we did everything that we possibly could to try to find a solution. We believed—and the House backed us—that an orderly return to trading in tin was the best way to proceed.

The hon. Member for Truro (Mr. Penhaligon) and my hon. Friends the Members for St. Ives (Mr. Harris) and for Falmouth and Camborne (Mr. Mudd) described the position in Cornwall. The hon. Member for Truro asked me why the Government did not do something immediately the tin agreement collapsed. The answer quite simply is that if we had done something, and subsequent negotiations had been successful, there would have been no need for us to do so. Therefore, we could not proceed until we had had an application and an application did not arrive in the Department until after the final collapse of the tin market.

The House knows that every effort was made to find a solution to the problem of the collapse in the price of tin and at that stage, in November and December of last year and the first two months of this, all our principal efforts were concentrated, although considerable thought was going into the likely impact on the tin mines in Cornwall, to see what we could do to ensure an orderly return to trading in tin.

I have said before that when those efforts failed, immediately our attention turned to see what can be done to help the Cornish tin mines. We have been told in vivid terms of the difficult unemployment situation in Cornwall. We are told that if the mines cannot re-open, what is a difficult situation becomes a very difficult situation, not least because of Cornwall's remoteness. I understand that alternative employment is not easy to find there, and that is why every effort was, and continues to be, made to see what can be done to assist the continuance of tin mining in Cornwall.

My hon. Friend the Member for St. Ives, in whose constituency Geevor is, will recall that it proved impossible to accept the first application. Against considerable difficulties and odds we were prepared to set aside what I agree is only a small amount of money, some £40,000, for care and maintenance so that the second application could be examined. As the House knows, I made a statement a few weeks ago that it was also not possible to accept that application. The reason is that a test of viability needs to be applied. One has to take into account the cost per job and the amount and proportion of taxpayers' money that is going in.

We also examined ways of giving an operating subsidy, but again it was not possible to give one. My hon. Friends the Members for Tiverton (Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop) and for St. Ives talked about care and maintenance, but this time round we were not able to give an offer for that. However, I am in close contact with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment to see whether something can be done through a Manpower Services Commission scheme, and not on a normal basis. As my hon. Friend also knows, we are prepared to offer a sum of money for a consultant to study the future viability of the mine.

I agree with the points made by my hon. Friend the Member for Falmouth and Camborne about Carnon Consolidated and RTZ. I should like to be able to make an announcement but, as negotiations are still going on and the sums are substantial, it is not possible to do so at the moment. The right hon. Member for Swansea, West has raised his hand at me. I point out to him that the company has not yet made any point to me about delays. This is the right way to proceed. We shall want to help it as far as we can. The right hon. Gentleman will hear about these things in the normal way, and I was happy to inform the House about Geevor.

This has been a sad and sorry saga. The Government do not accept that they have a legal obligation to pay the debts of the ITC. As there are threats of writs, the House will understand that I cannot elaborate on that point now.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 149, Noes 242

Division No. 244] [10 pm
Alexander, Richard Cohen, Harry
Alton, David Coleman, Donald
Ashton, Joe Cook, Frank (Stockton North)
Atkinson, N. (Tottenham) Cook, Robin F. (Livingston)
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Corbyn, Jeremy
Barnett, Guy Cox, Thomas (Tooting)
Beckett, Mrs Margaret Craigen, J. M.
Beith, A. J. Crowther, Stan
Bennett, A. (Dent'n & Red'sh) Dalyell, Tarn
Bermingham, Gerald Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (L'lli)
Bidwell, Sydney Davies, Ronald (Caerphilly)
Blair, Anthony Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'ge H'l)
Boyes, Roland Deakins, Eric
Bray, Dr Jeremy Dixon, Donald
Brown, Gordon (D'f'mline E) Dormand, Jack
Brown, Hugh D. (Provan) Dunwoody, Hon Mrs G.
Brown, N. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne E) Eadie, Alex
Brown, R. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne N) Eastham, Ken
Bruce, Malcolm Edwards, Bob (W'h'mpt'n SE)
Buchan, Norman Evans, John (St. Helens N)
Caborn, Richard Ewing, Harry
Callaghan, Jim (Heyw'd & M) Faulds, Andrew
Canavan, Dennis Field, Frank (Birkenhead)
Carlile, Alexander (Montg'y) Fields, T. (L'pool Broad Gn)
Carter-Jones, Lewis Fisher, Mark
Clark, Dr David (S Shields) Foot, Rt Hon Michael
Clarke, Thomas Forrester, John
Clay, Robert Foster, Derek
Clelland, David Gordon Foulkes, George
Clwyd, Mrs Ann Garrett, W. E.
Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John Nellist, David
Godman, Dr Norman Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon
Gould, Bryan O'Brien, William
Gourlay, Harry O'Neill, Martin
Hamilton, James (M'well N) Owen, Rt Hon Dr David
Hamilton, W. W. (Fife Central) Park, George
Hancock, Michael Patched, Terry
Hardy, Peter Pavitt, Laurie
Harrison, Rt Hon Walter Pendry, Tom
Hart, Rt Hon Dame Judith Penhaligon, David
Haynes, Frank Powell, Raymond (Ogmore)
Heffer, Eric S. Radice, Giles
Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth) Randall, Stuart
Home Robertson, John Raynsford, Nick
Hoyle, Douglas Redmond, Martin
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N) Richardson, Ms Jo
Hughes, Roy (Newport East) Robinson, G. (Coventry NW)
Hughes, Simon (Southwark) Rogers, Allan
John, Brynmor Rowlands, Ted
Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside) Sedgemore, Brian
Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald Sheerman, Barry
Lambie, David Sheldon, Rt Hon R.
Lamond, James Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Leadbitter, Ted Short, Ms Clare (Ladywood)
Leighton, Ronald Short, Mrs R.(W'hampt'n NE)
Lewis, Ron (Carlisle) Silkin, Rt Hon J.
Lewis, Terence (Worsley) Skinner, Dennis
Litherland, Robert Snape, Peter
Lloyd, Tony (Stretford) Soley, Clive
Lofthouse, Geoffrey Spearing, Nigel
McCartney, Hugh Steel, Rt Hon David
McDonald, Dr Oonagh Strang, Gavin
McGuire, Michael Thomas, Dr R. (Carmarthen)
McKelvey, William Thompson, J. (Wansbeck)
MacKenzie, Rt Hon Gregor Torney, Tom
McWilliam, John Wainwright, R.
Madden, Max Wardell, Gareth (Gower)
Marek, Dr John Wareing, Robert
Mason, Rt Hon Roy Welsh, Michael
Maxton, John Williams, Rt Hon A.
Michie, William Winnick, David
Mikardo, Ian Woodall, Alec
Millan, Rt Hon Bruce
Miller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride) Tellers for the Ayes:
Mitchell, Austin (G't Grimsby) Mr. Allen McKay and
Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon) Mr. Derek Fatchett.
Mudd, David
Adley, Robert Bruinvels, Peter
Aitken, Jonathan Bryan, Sir Paul
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon A.
Amess, David Budgen, Nick
Ancram, Michael Bulmer, Esmond
Arnold, Tom Burt, Alistair
Aspinwall, Jack Carlisle, John (Luton N)
Atkins, Rt Hon Sir H. Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)
Atkins, Robert (South Ribble) Carlisle, Rt Hon M. (W'ton S)
Atkinson, David (B'm'th E) Carttiss, Michael
Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Vall'y) Cash, William
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N) Chalker, Mrs Lynda
Baldry, Tony Channon, Rt Hon Paul
Beaumont-Dark, Anthony Chope, Christopher
Bendall, Vivian Clark, Hon A. (Plym'th S'n)
Benyon, William Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)
Best, Keith Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S)
Biffen, Rt Hon John Clegg, Sir Walter
Biggs-Davison, Sir John Cockeram, Eric
Blackburn, John Colvin, Michael
Boscawen, Hon Robert Conway, Derek
Bottomley, Mrs Virginia Coombs, Simon
Bowden, A. (Brighton K'to'n) Cope, John
Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich) Corrie, John
Boyson, Dr Rhodes Couchman, James
Braine, Rt Hon Sir Bernard Cranborne, Viscount
Brandon-Bravo, Martin Crouch, David
Bright, Graham Currie, Mrs Edwina
Brittan, Rt Hon Leon Dorrell, Stephen
Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thpes) Douglas-Hamilton, Lord J.
Browne, John Dover, Den
Durant, Tony Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)
Edwards, Rt Hon N. (P'broke) Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark
Eggar, Tim Lester, Jim
Emery, Sir Peter Lewis, Sir Kenneth (Stamf'd)
Evennett, David Lilley, Peter
Eyre, Sir Reginald Lloyd, Sir Ian (Havant)
Fallon, Michael Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)
Favell, Anthony Lord, Michael
Fenner, Mrs Peggy Luce, Rt Hon Richard
Finsberg, Sir Geoffrey Lyell, Nicholas
Fletcher, Alexander McCurley, Mrs Anna
Fookes, Miss Janet MacGregor, Rt Hon John
Forman, Nigel MacKay, Andrew (Berkshire)
Forsyth, Michael (Stirling) MacKay, John (Argyll & Bute)
Forth, Eric McLoughlin, Patrick
Fox, Sir Marcus McNair-Wilson, M. (N'bury)
Fraser, Peter (Angus East) Major, John
Freeman, Roger Malins, Humfrey
Gale, Roger Malone, Gerald
Galley, Roy Maples, John
Gardiner, George (Reigate) Marlow, Antony
Gardner, Sir Edward (Fylde) Mates, Michael
Garel-Jones, Tristan Mather, Carol
Glyn, Dr Alan Maude, Hon Francis
Goodhart, Sir Philip Mayhew, Sir Patrick
Gow, Ian Merchant, Piers
Gower, Sir Raymond Mills, Iain (Meriden)
Greenway, Harry Mitchell, David (Hants NW)
Gregory, Conal Moate, Roger
Griffiths, Peter (Portsm'th N) Montgomery, Sir Fergus
Ground, Patrick Moore, Rt Hon John
Grylls, Michael Morris, M. (N'hampton S)
Hamilton, Hon A. (Epsom) Morrison, Hon C. (Devizes)
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton) Morrison, Hon P. (Chester)
Hampson, Dr Keith Moynihan, Hon C.
Hanley, Jeremy Murphy, Christopher
Hannam, John Neale, Gerrard
Hargreaves, Kenneth Nelson, Anthony
Harvey, Robert Newton, Tony
Havers, Rt Hon Sir Michael Nicholls, Patrick
Hawkins, C. (High Peak) Norris, Steven
Hawkins, Sir Paul (N'folk SW) Onslow, Cranley
Hawksley, Warren Oppenheim, Phillip
Hayes, J. Osborn, Sir John
Hayward, Robert Ottaway, Richard
Heathcoat-Amory, David Page, Sir John (Harrow W)
Heddle, John Page, Richard (Herts SW)
Henderson, Barry Parkinson, Rt Hon Cecil
Hickmet, Richard Patten, Christopher (Bath)
Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L. Pattie, Geoffrey
Hill, James Pawsey, James
Hirst, Michael Percival, Rt Hon Sir Ian
Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm) Pollock, Alexander
Holland, Sir Philip (Gedling) Portillo, Michael
Hordern, Sir Peter Powley, John
Howard, Michael Prentice, Rt Hon Reg
Howarth, Alan (Stratf'd-on-A) Proctor, K. Harvey
Howell, Ralph (Norfolk, N) Raffan, Keith
Hunt, David (Wirral W) Rathbone, Tim
Hunt, John (Ravensbourne) Rees, Rt Hon Peter (Dover)
Hunter, Andrew Renton, Tim
Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas Rhodes James, Robert
Irving, Charles Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon
Jessel, Toby Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas
Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey Ridsdale, Sir Julian
Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N) Roe, Mrs Marion
Jones, Robert (Herts W) Rost, Peter
Jopling, Rt Hon Michael Rowe, Andrew
Kershaw, Sir Anthony Sackville, Hon Thomas
Key, Robert Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)
Knight, Greg (Derby N) Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')
Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston) Shersby, Michael
Knowles, Michael Silvester, Fred
Knox, David Skeet, Sir Trevor
Lamont, Rt Hon Norman Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)
Lang, Ian Soames, Hon Nicholas
Latham, Michael Speed, Keith
Lawler, Geoffrey Speller, Tony
Lawrence, Ivan Spencer, Derek
Lee, John (Pendle) Spicer, Jim (Dorset W)
Steen, Anthony Wakeham, Rt Hon John
Stevens, Lewis (Nuneaton) Walden, George
Stewart, Andrew (Sherwood) Ward, John
Sumberg, David Wells, Bowen (Hertford)
Temple-Morris, Peter Wells, Sir John (Maidstone)
Terlezki, Stefan Wheeler, John
Thomas, Rt Hon Peter Wiggin, Jerry
Thompson, Donald (Calder V) Winterton, Nicholas
Thorne, Neil (Ilford S)
Thurnham, Peter Tellers for the Noes:
Twinn, Dr Ian Mr. Tim Sainsbury and
Viggers, Peter Mr. Michael Neubert.

Question accordingly negatived.

Main Question put:

The House divided: Ayes 237, Noes 152.

Division No. 245] [10.15 pm
Aitken, Jonathan Dover, Den
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Durant, Tony
Amess, David Edwards, Rt Hon N. (P'broke)
Ancram, Michael Eggar, Tim
Arnold, Tom Evennett, David
Aspinwall, Jack Eyre, Sir Reginald
Atkins, Rt Hon Sir H. Fallon, Michael
Atkins, Robert (South Ribble) Favell, Anthony
Atkinson, David (B'm'th E) Fenner, Mrs Peggy
Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Vall'y) Finsberg, Sir Geoffrey
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N) Fletcher, Alexander
Baldry, Tony Fookes, Miss Janet
Beaumont-Dark, Anthony Forman, Nigel
Bendall, Vivian Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)
Benyon, William Forth, Eric
Best, Keith Fox, Sir Marcus
Biffen, Rt Hon John Fraser, Peter (Angus East)
Biggs-Davison, Sir John Freeman, Roger
Blackburn, John Gale, Roger
Boscawen, Hon Robert Galley, Roy
Bottomley, Mrs Virginia Gardiner, George (Reigate)
Bowden, A. (Brighton K'to'n) Gardner, Sir Edward (Fylde)
Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich) Garel-Jones, Tristan
Boyson, Dr Rhodes Glyn, Dr Alan
Braine, Rt Hon Sir Bernard Goodhart, Sir Philip
Brandon-Bravo, Martin Gow, Ian
Bright, Graham Gower, Sir Raymond
Brittan, Rt Hon Leon Greenway, Harry
Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thpes) Gregory, Conal
Browne, John Griffiths. Peter (Portsm'th N)
Bruinvels, Peter Ground, Patrick
Bryan, Sir Paul Grylls, Michael
Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon A. Hamilton, Hon A. (Epsom)
Budgen, Nick Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)
Bulmer, Esmond Hampson, Dr Keith
Burt, Alistair Hanley, Jeremy
Carlisle, John (Luton N) Hannam, John
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Hargreaves, Kenneth
Carlisle, Rt Hon M. (W'ton S) Harvey, Robert
Carttiss, Michael Havers, Rt Hon Sir Michael
Cash, William Hawkins, Sir Paul (N'folk SW)
Chalker, Mrs Lynda Hawksley, Warren
Channon, Rt Hon Paul Hayes, J.
Chope, Christopher Hayward, Robert
Clark, Hon A. (Plym'th S'n) Heathcoat-Amory, David
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford) Heddle, John
Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S) Henderson, Barry
Clegg, Sir Walter Hickmet, Richard
Cockeram, Eric Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.
Colvin, Michael Hill, James
Conway, Derek Hirst, Michael
Coombs, Simon Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)
Cope, John Holland, Sir Philip (Gedling)
Corrie, John Hordern, Sir Peter
Couchman, James Howard, Michael
Cranborne, Viscount Howarth, Alan (Stratf'd-on-A)
Crouch, David Howell, Ralph (Norfolk, N)
Currie, Mrs Edwina Hunt, David (Wirral W)
Dorrell, Stephen Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord J. Hunter, Andrew
Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas Ottaway, Richard
Irving, Charles Page, Sir John (Harrow W)
Jessel, Toby Page, Richard (Herts SW)
Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey Parkinson, Rt Hon Cecil
Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N) Patten, Christopher (Bath)
Jones, Robert (Herts W) Pattie, Geoffrey
Jopling, Rt Hon Michael Pawsey, James
Kershaw, Sir Anthony Percival, Rt Hon Sir Ian
Key, Robert Pollock, Alexander
Knight, Greg (Derby N) Portillo, Michael
Knowles, Michael Powley, John
Knox, David Prentice, Rt Hon Reg
Lamont, Rt Hon Norman Proctor, K. Harvey
Lang, Ian Raffan, Keith
Latham, Michael Rathbone, Tim
Lawler, Geoffrey Rees, Rt Hon Peter (Dover)
Lawrence, Ivan Renton, Tim
Lee, John (Pendle) Rhodes James, Robert
Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh) Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon
Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas
Lester, Jim Ridsdale, Sir Julian
Lewis, Sir Kenneth (Stamf'd) Roe, Mrs Marion
Lilley, Peter Rost, Peter
Lloyd, Sir Ian (Havant) Rowe, Andrew
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham) Sackville, Hon Thomas
Lord, Michael Sainsbury, Hon Timothy
Luce, Rt Hon Richard Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)
Lyell, Nicholas Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')
McCurley, Mrs Anna Shersby, Michael
MacGregor, Rt Hon John Silvester, Fred
MacKay, Andrew (Berkshire) Skeet, Sir Trevor
MacKay, John (Argyll & Bute) Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)
McLoughlin, Patrick Soames, Hon Nicholas
McNair-Wilson, M. (N'bury) Speed, Keith
Major, John Spicer, Jim (Dorset W)
Malins, Humfrey Steen, Anthony
Maples, John Stevens, Lewis (Nuneaton)
Marlow, Antony Stewart, Andrew (Sherwood)
Mates, Michael Sumberg, David
Mather, Carol Temple-Morris, Peter
Mayhew, Sir Patrick Terlezki, Stefan
Merchant, Piers Thomas, Rt Hon Peter
Mills, Iain (Meriden) Thompson, Donald (Calder V)
Mitchell, David (Hants NW) Thorne, Neil (Illord S)
Moate, Roger Thurnham, Peter
Montgomery, Sir Fergus Trippier, David
Moore, Rt Hon John Twinn, Dr Ian
Morris, M. (N'hampton S) Viggers, Peter
Morrison, Hon C. (Devizes) Wakeham, Rt Hon John
Morrison, Hon P. (Chester) Walden, George
Moynihan, Hon C. Ward, John
Murphy, Christopher Wells, Bowen (Hertford)
Neale, Gerrard Wells, Sir John (Maidstone)
Nelson, Anthony Wheeler, John
Neubert, Michael Wiggin, Jerry
Newton, Tony Winterton, Nicholas
Nicholls, Patrick
Norris, Steven Tellers for the Ayes:
Onslow, Cranley Mr. Francis Maude and
Oppenheim, Phillip Mr. Gerald Malone.
Osborn, Sir John
Alton, David Brown, R. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne N)
Anderson, Donald Bruce, Malcolm
Ashton, Joe Buchan, Norman
Atkinson, N. (Tottenham) Caborn, Richard
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Callaghan, Jim (Heyw'd & M)
Barnett, Guy Canavan, Dennis
Beckett, Mrs Margaret Carlile, Alexander (Montg'y)
Beith, A. J. Carter-Jones, Lewis
Bennett, A. (Dent'n & Red'sh) Clark, Dr David (S Shields)
Bermingham, Gerald Clarke, Thomas
Bidwell, Sydney Clay, Robert
Blair, Anthony Clelland, David Gordon
Boyes, Roland Clwyd, Mrs Ann
Bray, Dr Jeremy Cohen, Harry
Brown, Gordon (D'f'mline E) Coleman, Donald
Brown, Hugh D. (Provan) Cook, Frank (Stockton North)
Brown, N. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne E) Cook, Robin F. (Livingston)
Corbyn, Jeremy McKelvey, William
Cox, Thomas (Tooting) MacKenzie, Rt Hon Gregor
Craigen, J. M. McWilliam, John
Crowther, Stan Madden, Max
Dalyell, Tarn Marek, Dr John
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (L'lli) Mason, Rt Hon Roy
Davies, Ronald (Caerphilly) Maxton, John
Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'ge H'l) Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin
Deakins, Eric Michie, William
Dixon, Donald Mikardo, Ian
Dormand, Jack Millan, Rt Hon Bruce
Dunwoody, Hon Mrs G. Miller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride)
Eadie, Alex Mitchell, Austin (G't Grimsby)
Eastham, Ken Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)
Evans, John (St. Helens N) Mudd, David
Ewing, Harry Nellist, David
Faulds, Andrew Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon
Field, Frank (Birkenhead) O'Brien, William
Fields, T. (L'pool Broad Gn) O'Neill, Martin
Fisher, Mark Owen, Rt Hon Dr David
Foot, Rt Hon Michael Park, George
Forrester, John Patchett, Terry
Foster, Derek Pavitt, Laurie
Foulkes, George Pendry, Tom
Garrett, W. E. Penhaligon, David
Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John Powell, Raymond (Ogmore)
Godman, Dr Norman Radice, Giles
Gould, Bryan Randall, Stuart
Gourlay, Harry Raynsford, Nick
Hamilton, James (M'well N) Redmond, Martin
Hamilton, W. W. (Fife Central) Richardson, Ms Jo
Hancock, Michael Robinson, G. (Coventry NW)
Hardy, Peter Rogers, Allan
Harris, David Rowlands, Ted
Harrison, Rt Hon Walter Sedgemore, Brian
Hart, Rt Hon Dame Judith Sheerman, Barry
Haynes, Frank Sheldon, Rt Hon R.
Heffer, Eric S. Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Hicks, Robert Short, Ms Clare (Ladywood)
Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth) Short, Mrs R.(W'hampt'n NE)
Home Robertson, John Silkin, Rt Hon J.
Hoyle, Douglas Skinner, Dennis
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N) Snape, Peter
Hughes, Roy (Newport East) Soley, Clive
Hughes, Simon (Southwark) Spearing, Nigel
John, Brynmor Steel, Rt Hon David
Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside) Strang, Gavin
Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald Thomas, Dr R. (Carmarthen)
Lambie, David Thompson, J. (Wansbeck)
Lamond, James Torney, Tom
Leadbitter, Ted Wainwright, R.
Leighton, Ronald Wardell, Gareth (Gower)
Lewis, Ron (Carlisle) Wareing, Robert
Lewis, Terence (Worsley) Welsh, Michael
Litherland, Robert Williams, Rt Hon A.
Lloyd, Tony (Stretford) Winnick, David
Lofthouse, Geoffrey Woodall, Alec
McCartney, Hugh
McCrindle, Robert Tellers for the Noes:
McDonald, Dr Oonagh Mr. Allen McKay and
McGuire, Michael Mr. Derek Patchett.

Question accordingly agreed to.

Resolved, That this House endorses the Government's response (HC 457) to the Second Report from the Trade and Industry Committee on the Tin Crisis (HC 305-I); regrets the difficulties brought upon the Cornish tin industry, the International Tin Council's creditors and others as a result of the failure of the International Tin Council to reach agreement with its creditors, despite the considerable efforts made by the Government, and welcomes the Government's package of measures to help employment in Cornwall.