§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Mr. Speaker
I must tell the House that I have selected the reasoned amendment in the name of the Leader of the Opposition.
§ The Secretary of State for Energy (Mr. Peter Walker)
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second Time.
I should like to give the House a brief explanation of the main clauses. Clause 1 changes the name of the National Coal Board to the British Coal Corporation, and clauses 2, 3 and 4 deal with financial provisions.
Clause 2 provides for the continuation of deficit grant powers. These are powers which the Government have had since the Coal Industry Act 1980, and the clause extends the power for two years, by which time the chairman, Sir Robert Haslam, has forecast that British Coal will achieve breakeven.
Clause 3 means that the present redundant mineworkers payments scheme will not be renewed after March 1987, and responsibility for future redundancies will be directly with British Coal. The clause establishes a flexible regime under which, by the introduction of annual orders, grants can be paid towards a broad range of expenditure associated with restructuring, maintenance of concessionary coal and social welfare provisions. The power to make these orders applies to the financial years 1987–88 and 1988–89, but may be extended for a further three years. The forms of expenditure eligible for grant are listed in schedule 2, which includes specific references to such matters as retraining and the promotion of new employment. It is under these provisions that the Government will be able to continue to support the important activities of the British Coal Enterprise company.
Clause 4 deals with support for redundancies. The suggestion made in the strangely worded amendment of the Opposition, that future costs resulting from recent redundancies will not continue to be met by the Government is wrong. The Bill does not affect past RMPS commitments which continue in force. The costs of past non-industrial workers' redundancies are safeguarded by clause 4, which gives power to pay grants for expenditure incurred before 1987 and which would previously have attracted pit closure grants.
The next four clauses are needed to ensure that all those employed in the industry will have fair rights of representation. Indeed, they give basic rights for employees in the coal industry. Since the strike those rights have been denied to a very large number of miners throughout the country; miners represented by a democratic trade union, albeit a trade union refused affiliation by the Labour party and by the TUC. These provisions of the Bill, therefore, help thousands of miners to have fair representation on the institutions of their industry.
The High Court confirmed in June that the coal industry's previous conciliation machinery had to be changed. British Coal is discussing the new machinery with the unions and there is no need to deal with this in the 152 legislation. The Bill deals with three specific areas in which powers are to be taken. They are: miners' welfare trusts, coal industry social welfare organisations and superannuation schemes.
Clause 5 empowers the Charity Commissioners, after receiving an application from an employee organisation, to amend charitable trusts related to the coal industry if the members of that organisation constitute a substantial proportion of those who may benefit under the trust. The NUM has denied the UDM and such unions as APEX a proper role in the management of social welfare organisations in the industry, and in particular the Coal Industry Social Welfare Organisation.
Clause 6 empowers me to amend the constitution of a coal industry social welfare body if it appears to me, after receiving representations from British Coal, that any organisation which represents a substantial proportion of British Coal's employees does not enjoy full participation in that body. Clause 7 gives me similar powers in relation to the coal industry superannuation schemes. Clause 8 makes provision for a six-week limit to the time in which legal challenge can be made to orders under clauses 6 and 7.
The basis of the Bill is to try to encourage the industry and to see that it is successful over the next few years in improving its viability and in improving performance in production and marketing. The provision to change the name follows a request from the management of the National Coal Board because it felt that in terms of its marketing activities in presenting the attractiveness of its fuel, and in terms of its various other schemes for coal promotion, the title British Coal was more appropriate.
§ Mr. Richard Ottaway (Nottingham, North)
Could it also be that the name National Coal Board would be unacceptable to the Registrar of Companies if the board were to be put on a corporate status with a view to privatisation or something like that?
§ Mr. Walker
I have no idea what the Registrar of Companies would do. I presume that if one wanted to float off the National Coal Board, which is a proper company, one would be able to do so. The request about the title came from the management and very few people would consider that a title such as the National Coal Board is anywhere near as attractive in marketing the product as British Coal.
§ Mr. Walker
It seems from the voices of the Opposition that they would prefer to adhere to the title of National Coal Board, irrespective of the marketing attractiveness to the management of British Coal. We intend, through the Bill, to go ahead and give the management the title that it wants. The financial provisions envisaged by the Government and set out in the Bill allow the corporation to embark upon a continuing and massive investment programme. It is envisaged that over the next three to four years more than £2 billion of new capital investment will go into the industry.
I hope that the country and the House will realise that very few industries in Britain are ensured of a capital investment programme of that dimension. Certainly no coal industry in western Europe will enjoy a capital investment programme of that dimension, and under no 153 Labour Government has the industry enjoyed a capital investment of that size. It is important to recognise that the financial provisions in the Bill are positive ones for the industry. In contrast to the Opposition's amendment, which I shall deal with shortly, the Bill accepts the continuing costs of the restructuring that has taken place in the industry over the last few years.
The Government have embarked upon the most generous programme ever for any industry to ensure that reorganisation can take place and that there are no compulsory redundancies. There have been incredibly generous early retirement provisions and incredibly generous payments for those who have decided to go voluntarily. The costs of those schemes will continue for many years. The Bill ensures that those costs remain with the Government and are not put on the corporation. That will represent a considerable cost to the taxpayer.
Such provision is in sharp contrast to the reduction of 168,000 in manpower under Labour, when there were no such generous schemes and no enterprise companies endeavouring to provide alternative employment in mining areas. Future redundancy programmes will represent a cost to the corporation. The scheme that has been announced is generous compared with that of any other industry and continues the policy of only voluntary redundancies. Those financial provisions are a positive approach to the industry.
The Opposition's amendment says that the Bill pavesthe way for a further contraction and de-regulation of the industry".It is a remarkable contraction in which the Government provide for £2 billion of capital investment. It is a remarkable contraction in which the industry has more investment in plant and machinery than any comparable coal industry in western Europe. The amendment is blatant propaganda and has no foundation in truth.
I am puzzled by the mention of deregulation. No doubt the right hon. Member for Salford, East (Mr. Orme) will describe the deregulation to be found in the Bill. I do not know of any. It is extraordinary that the Leader of the Opposition and the shadow Cabinet should have the audacity to speak of a further contraction of the industry when, under the past two Labour Governments, the industry contracted by 182,000 men. Did they table motions deploring the contraction of the industry then? That contraction was far greater than anything that has happened under the present Government, and there were no generous voluntary redundancy programmes, no early retirement schemes and no enterprise companies then. Labour's contraction does not compare with the Government's civilised approach.
The Opposition's remarkable amendment refers to thefuture for the coal industry within a viable energy policy".A Government who put in £2 billion of capital investment are making it perfectly clear that coal is extremely important in the country's future energy policy. We are then told that the Billjeopardises the financial needs arising from past redundancies".That is utterly wrong. the Opposition could not have read the Bill, or perhaps they simply did not understand it. Perhaps the right hon. Member for Salford, East will remove that part of the Opposition's amendment by moving a manuscript amendment now that I have explained that it is a fiction.
The amendment speaks oflow morale in the industry".154 For an industry in which morale is low, it is performing remarkably well. I am sure that morale is not low, because miners have earned 16 per cent. more in bonus payments this year, because average earnings so far this year have increased at three times the rate of inflation, or because there have been very few days lost his year as a result of industrial disputes. Nor do I think that miners are depressed by the fact that the industry has substantially improved its productivity. I hope that Opposition Members will explain the staggering improvement in productivity.
It was the Labour party which launched "Plan for Coal", involving the agreement of the National Coal Board, the National Union of Mineworkers and the Government. It concerned investment in the industry and how productivity would rise as a result. Opposition Members know that during the first few years of "Plan of Coal" there were productivity decreases. Indeed, in the first 10 years of "Plan for Coal"—fortunately the Tory Government boosted investment, but even then productivity increased only slowly and little—a planned increase of 4 per cent. a year in productivity turned out to be an increase of 4 per cent. over the whole 10 years.
Productivity in every coalfield in the country is now 50 per cent. higher than it was in the last year of the Labour Government. It was 2.24 tonnes per man shift then, whereas in the past seven or eight weeks we have reached 3.5 tonnes. How was it that Labour made so much investment but never got the productivity?
Every coalfield producing a profit is hardly the sign of an industry that is suffering from low morale. We have seen the results of capital investment programmes. As a result of our financial provisions, improvements in management and productivity, and men taking advantage of the bonus payments, the industry is now better able to compete with other forms of energy and therefore better able to get a greater share of the market.
§ Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)
If there is all this productivity and the right hon. Gentleman is complimenting people who work in the industry, why, instead of British Coal's recent miserly offer of about £3 a week, does the right hon. Gentleman not intervene and say, "Because of the amazing productivity that I spoke about in the House of Commons, everybody will get £15 a week extra."?
§ Mr. Walker
The hon. Gentleman is a good supporter of the NUM. British Coal is anxious to offer considerable incentives to improve productivity, and already does that, but Mr. Scargill hates such incentives and wants flat-rate increases which are not related to productivity. I am delighted to say that earnings have increased by three times the rate of inflation this year as a result of improved productivity.
The most amazing thing about the Opposition's amendment is that it does not mention anything about one half of the Bill—the four clauses concerning the Union of Democratic Mineworkers. I assume that that is the half of the Bill that the Opposition want. I assume that they have received complaints only about the other half. The right hon. Member for Salford, East will soon tell the House, no doubt, that he recognises the absurdity of the NUM refusing to allow a recognised trade union with a substantial membership to have any rights over the institutions and pension funds to which its members 155 contribute. I hope that we will hear confirmation that the Labour party has decided not to mention the four other clauses because it agrees with them.
§ Mr. Spencer Batiste (Elmet)
Despite my right hon. Friend's rather optimistic expectation, does he agree that the aim of the amendment is to divert attention from the fact that the Labour party has no intention of endorsing democracy in the trade union movement?
§ Mr. Walker
I happen slightly to share my hon. Friend's suspicions. The manner in which the Opposition have worded their amendment may be referred to as the "Scargill silence". The Labour party has been silenced on this issue by Arthur Scargill. I had no desire to introduce such legislation. However, the National Coal Board contacted the NUM and said that the UDM has that number of persons and represents thousands of miners who are honourable men and who have decided to form the union. These men contribute to the pension funds and the welfare services. The Coal Board claimed that these men should be recognised, but the NUM refused to do that.
The Government are therefore faced with a dilemma. Either we endorse the position whereby Mr. Scargill can veto the right of thousands of miners to have democratic representation on the institutions to which they contribute, or we can decide to act in the interests of those men. I am convinced that the Government are acting in their interests.
In the debate on the Loyal Address, some Opposition Members referred to the UDM as simply consisting of scabs, and there was much abuse of those miners. The Labour party refused to let the union affliliate, and the TUC took a similar course. Indeed, many Labour councillors have not been reselected or re-adopted. The Labour party's attitude to the UDM is that it consists of a group of people who deserve to be treated with total contempt. I remind the House that those men kept to the normal tradition of the NUM by having a democratic ballot before taking industrial action. There was a ballot in Nottinghamshire and the midlands, and 73 per cent. of the miners voted against industrial action.
If the Labour party refuses to support these clauses, it is virtually suggesting that those who continued the honourable tradition of the NUM by holding a ballot before an industrial dispute should be treated with contempt—yet Mr. Scargill refused miners the right to a ballot before the industrial dispute. In effect, the Labour party will say that miners' rights can be vetoed. In my judgment, that would be appalling.
I ask the right hon. Member for Salford, East to give us direct replies to those points. Does he agree that about a quarter of the miners who are members of one union which is legal and recognised and who contribute to pension funds, charitable funds and social funds must be given the right of representation? We want a clear answer, yes or no, on that point. Does he agree that half the clerical workers who are members of APEX should be granted similar rights? If he does, can he guarantee that a future Labour Government will not repeal the provisions of the Bill? The members of APEX and the UDM want a clear statement from the Labour party on whether a Labour Government would repeal or retain this legislation.
§ Mr. Kevin Barron (Rother Valley)
Before the Minister finishes his speech, will he tell us whether he agrees that APEX should be represented in the organisations to which he referred? Does he agree that all recognised trade unions throughout the British coalfields should be represented on those organisations if and when the Bill is passed?
§ Mr. Walker
The important phraseology that applies to any union, including APEX, is that a substantial proportion of its members should be involved. If that is the case, under the provisions of the Bill the union can go to the Charity Commissioners and put its case. If a substantial proportion of men employed in an industry contribute to organisations, they have a democratic right to representation. I hope that we will have a clear statement on that point from the Opposition.
I want to raise a matter relating to the attitude of the Labour party in that context. Is it true that at a meeting of the parliamentary Labour party last week the sensitivity of the electoral position in north Nottinghamshire was appreciated and that the importance of not alienating the local party members in the UDM was recognised? It would be interesting to know the answer to that. If that is what happened, it reveals the Labour party's bogus attitude on these points.
The Bill provides good financial provisions for the industry. It encourages the continuation of improved productivity, and it encourages the fine action of British Coal Enterprise Ltd. in new job creation to continue over the coming years. It gives the industry good scope to improve performance and prosperity for the future. It also gives a genuine democratic right to a group of men who acted democratically in the best tradition of miners unions.
§ Mr. Stanley Orme (Salford, East)
I beg to move, to leave out from "That" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof:this House declines to give a Second Reading to a Bill which, whilst paving the way for a further contraction and de-regulation of the industry, fails to provide for a secure and planned future for the coal industry within a viable energy policy, jeopardises the financial needs arising from past redundancies, ignores the effect of low morale in the industry caused by the loss of 55,000 jobs since the end of March 1985, accelerated by the termination of the Redundant Mineworkers Payments Scheme, omits provisions for the reinstatement of sacked miners, and sets the scene for privatisation of the industry, based on a best-seams-first policy.This debate is about the future of the mining industry, and we move the amendment because we are deeply concerned about the current state of the coal industry and the failure of the Government and the Bill to deal with it. The mining industry is at a crossroads. The Government have no coherent energy policy; they have merely used the energy industries as a political tool, motivated only by the ballot sheet and short-term gain. That approach is inappropriate for dealing with our natural resources. The Bill is inappropriate to the future of the coal industry and the nation's energy supplies.
Miners and the unions believe that the Bill is a pit closure Bill. It is not a Bill for recovery. It will deepen the crisis in the coal industry and weaken Britain's ability to be self-sufficient in energy.
Since 1979 there has been a loss of 100,000 miners from the industry. Second Reading of the Coal Industry Act 1985 I predicted that within the provisions of that Act, the 157 Government were planning for 50,000 or more redundancies. I predicted then that they were planning for at least another 69 closures over five years, I take no satisfaction from having been proved correct so far. Since April 1985, 55,000 workers in the industry have been made redundant or are under notice and 59 pits have been closed, merged or are under notice of closure or merger. The Bill continues that process. It sets preconditions for further pit closures and redundancies. Little wonder that morale in the industry is at an all-time low—[HON. MEMBERS: "No, it is not."] I urge Conservative Members to go out into the coal industry to see for themselves.
It is little wonder that in the past few months miners have been queuing to take redundancy. How can they believe in the future of their industry under this Government?
The carrot of payments under the redundant mineworkers payment scheme has become a stick with which to beat the industry. Its much heralded termination date at the end of March 1987 has set the scene. Most men over the age of 50 have now left the industry. The average age of the mining work force is now down to the early 30s. As those men leave the industry, their skills, which are badly needed, go with them. There will be a problem of retaining a work force of a sufficient scale to dig the coal that the country will need.
I recently visited Cadley Hill in south Derbyshire, where the deputy manager told me that miners under the age of 30 were applying for redundancy. They are considering reducing the work force from about 950 to 600. At that pit there were more than 600 applications for redundancy. That shows the faith that people have in the industry. That is the answer to the Secretary of State's question about productivity. Yes, productivity has risen. Yes, men are working hard to make up the money that they have lost, but they are also trying to get out of the industry rather than regarding it as their future.
§ Mr. Martin Flannery (Sheffield, Hillsborough)
Is it a fact that many members of the Union of Democratic Mineworkers in Nottinghamshire are asking for redundancy, rather more than of the National Union of Mineworkers?
§ Mr. Orme
I shall say something about Nottinghamshire in a minute.
The Bill is an attempt to predetermine the country's energy choice. It is a deeply political Bill because it is an integral part of the Government's strategy. It sets out the Government's political objectives for the energy industries. Implicit in its financial provisions and its market philosophy is a reduction in deep mine capacity. Inherent within its clauses is the privatisation of the coal industry. Written into the small print is a disastrous expansion of nuclear power which the country neither wants nor needs. Government policy has already decimated the coalfields—[HON. MEMBERS: "Which clause?"] Let me deal with this point. Last week, The Economist pointed out:Unemployment in mining areas hits hard.Of the 22 travel-to-work areas that saw the highest increase in unemployment between January 1985 and April 1986, 14 are coalfield communities. That is the size of the problem in the industry.
The Bill spells doom for coalfield communities throughout Britain, not just for the so-called peripheral areas but for the central coalfields. Even in the prosperous 158 Nottinghamshire area, the Coal Board plans to cut jobs by at least 10,000, reducing the work force from 25,000 to 15,000. On the eve of the 40th anniversary of the nationalisation of the industry, the Government have won the backing of the British Coal chairman, Sir Robert Haslam. In this Bill, they are pressing ahead with setting up the industry to sell it off. That means more pit closures. Already the Government have prepared the way through the sale of National Coal Board housing and ancillaries such as Associated Heat Services plc.
The Bill's financial provisions need close examination. The recent agreement between British Coal and the Central Electricity Generating Board transfers to the electricity industry profits which should have been credited to the coal industry. They are then clawed back by the Government.
§ Mr. Orme
No, I shall not give way. The Chancellor's autumn statement increased the amount to be paid through the electricity supply industry's negative external financial limit by another £237 million in 1987–88. I see that the Minister acknowledges that. All that extra revenue will come in 1987.
Clause 3 allocates £300 million with the possibility—that is the point made by the Secretary of State—of the amount being increased to £750 million for the two financial years 1987–88 and 1988–89. That expenditure must be related to the items listed in schedule 2. Those are redundancy and early retirement, transferred workers allowance, existing social welfare activities, concessionary fuel allowance, retraining for those leaving on redundancy or incapacity grounds, and promotion of new employment. Redundancy payments will be made from the new British Coal scheme, but there remain the continuing payments for weekly make-up benefit. During 1985–86, they totalled £169 million.
It is reasonable to assume that those costs—about £3.3 million a week—will increase in the short term as payments for the older age group within the 20,000 redundancies this year are included. With expenditure of that size, it is unlikely that £300 million will cover the payments alone. Indeed, we must ask whether the upper limit of £750 million is adequate or whether the industry must once again pick up the pieces of Government policy?
It has been said that the restructuring of the industry is over. The Secretary of State said that——
§ Mr. Orme
Let me develop this point and I shall give way to the hon. Gentleman.
The Secretary of State made that point to the Select Committee on Energy. We are now told that we are in a period of "healthy restructuring". What is healthy about the contraction of the industry down to 70 million tonnes of coal, as advocated by the Wheeler report, or 65 million tonnes as proposed by The Economist? What is healthy about plans that envisage a reduction in manpower from 115,000 to 70,000? That was also advocated by the Wheeler report and supported by others in the Coal Board and by Conservative Members.
§ Mr. Andy Stewart
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for giving way. My right hon. Friend asked him four straightforward questions. When will the right hon. Gentleman give us the answers?
§ Mr. Orme
No, I shall not give way.
Safety is very important. We have heard much about increased productivity, but at what cost? The National Association of Colliery Overmen, Deputies and Shotfirers has expressed real fears about the deregulation of the industry. That is not the deregulation of small mines and opencast mines that many Conservative Members would like to see, but the deregulation of health and safety.
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Energy (Mr. David Hunt)
What does this have to do with the Bill?
§ Mr. Peter Walker
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I moved the Second Reading of the Bill. I presume that we are debating the Bill. It contains nothing about deregulation, although the right hon. Member for Salford, East refers to it. It is a piece of propaganda that has nothing to do with the Bill.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. Two debates cannot continue simultaneously. There are too many sedentary interventions.
§ Mr. Orme
Conservative Members do not wish to listen to the argument. Recently, conditions have deteriorated in the industry which to date has been the safest mining industry in the world. NACODS especially has shown great anxiety about that deterioration. Part of the legacy left to the coal industry by Mr. MacGregor is the present attempt to introduce American-style working practices and health and safety standards. I remind the House that the fatal accident rate in American deep mines is three times that of the National Coal Board.
§ Mr. Orme
No, I shall not give way.
New regulations and codes of practice are being drafted, much to the consternation of NACODS. Instead of worsening health and safety being allowed in the industry, instead of more intensive working practices being introduced, safety standards should be tightened and maintained.
§ Mr. Orme
No, I shall not give way.
The Government have linked the increase in productivity with their investment in the coal industry. We must ask where that investment has been concentrated. The answer is that the overwhelming part of it has been put into high technology mining in the central coalfields. The investment is going into automated technology and heavy-duty face equipment. We are in favour, of course, of investment in new technology because we see it as vital for the revival of manufacturing industry, but we want it to be used to create wealth, not to destroy it.
§ Mr. Orme
It would serve the hon. Member better to listen to this central point.
Miners from all the coalfields are telling us that the National Coal Board is tearing the guts out of the best seams in the pits and sacrificing those which do not have superb geological conditions. This "best seams first" approach is destroying vast reserves of the nation's energy resources. By sterilising seams and closing pits, these reserves are being thrown away for ever.
§ Mr. Orme
The hon. Gentleman must wait.
The closure of Bates, Cadeby and Kinsley drift over recent years has thrown literally millions of tonnes of coal reserves into isolation. It is worth remembering the wisdom of Dr. Ernst Schumacher, the economic adviser to the National Coal Board from 1950 to 1970. He reminded us that coal, as an extractive industry, is unlike any other—its economics are different. He said that coal is a non-renewable source of finite size. To close down mines with recoverable reserves creates waste, it does not eliminate it.
The Bill gives the Secretary of State the power to amend the coal industry's welfare organisation and superannuation schemes following representations from British Coal. The Coal Industry Nationalisation Act 1946 states in section 46:It shall be the duty of the Board to enter into consultation with organisations appearing to them to represent substantial proportions of the persons in the employment of the Board".I understand what the Secretary of State has done in this Bill by giving recognition to what is overall a minority group but which represents a majority within a particular area. If he is giving those rights, why are not the same rights given to the members of the National Union of Mineworkers who are a majority in the industry but a minority in certain areas.
§ Mr. Peter Walker
Does not the NUM have representation on the charities, the superannuation fund and anything else relating to its members? Will the right hon. Gentleman answer my question?
§ Mr. Orme
In the pits in south Derbyshire and Nottingham, some minorities are given no rights and are not recognised for negotiation. If the Bill provides rights for one minority group, surely the same rights should be given to minorities elsewhere in the industry. I thought that the Government were in favour of minorities.
§ Mr. Peter Walker
Do the NUM members in Nottinghamshire have representation on the superannuation fund and charity schemes? Those members have that representation, but the majority of miners in that area do not. Will the right hon. Gentleman support them having some representation?
§ Mr. Orme
I will support the terms—[HON. MEMBERS: "Answer."] I will support the terms within the Bill if the Secretary of State will support the view that the National Union of Mineworkers has negotiating rights. That is my position—I will support it if the Secretary of State will also support it.
161 We shall obviously further discuss this matter in Committee. One of the issues that has contributed to low morale within the industry has been the reinstatement of miners dismissed during the 1984–85 dispute. The unevenness of the re-engagement of miners in different areas is still a matter of grave concern. I ask the Government to urge the chairman of British Coal to speed up the reassessment that he has promised.
Why has the coal conversion scheme been omitted from the Bill? Why is the Secretary of State winding up that scheme at a time when it needs to be extended to create markets for coal? Many firms in this country are now converting to coal and finding it economical.
The Bill does not deal with the central points that we believe face the industry. By eliminating deep-mine capacity, by destroying the skills of generations of miners and losing them forever, along with millions of tonnes of coal reserves that are being sterilised the Bill runs contrary to a sensible energy policy for Britain. We need a coal industry that will take us into the next century. We want unity in the coal industry. That is why we shall vote against the Bill and that is why the Labour party and a Labour Government will work for the coal industry—something that the Government are not doing.
§ Sir John Osborn (Sheffield, Hallam)
British industries, especially the steel and engineering industries of Sheffield, and also the heavy energy users such as the chemicals, cement and paper industries, are concerned that their energy costs when using indigenous fuels—British coal, North sea oil or gas—are higher than those charged to their competitors elsewhere in the world and especially within the EEC.
Two years ago, before the drop in oil prices, the electricity generated in this country was 84 per cent. coal-fired. Electric steel and iron-making industries in Britain paid higher electricity charges than their competition had to pay. That was the case not only for the larger users but for the smaller users with a high energy component in the cost of manufacture. This was the subject of a recent National Economic Development Office investigation and report. I have also raised this matter with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry as well as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Energy.
I have raised the problems of the city of Sheffield in the House before and for several years the local engineering employers association, the chamber of commerce and individual steel companies, including British Steel, and especially those dependent on electric steel making have been concerned that their cost of electricity per unit has been higher than that charged to their competitors elsewhere in the world. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Energy is aware that I have raised this with the OECD and through Eurofer with the Commission in the EEC.
Those who use electricity, much of which is dependent on coal-fired power stations—I do not wish to go into the nuclear debate—hope that Sir Robert Haslam, the new chairman, following Sir Ian MacGregor, will give Sheffield and industries elsewhere electricity at a competitive price.
§ Sir John Osborn
I shall not give way now, but if the hon. Gentleman asks me a question later I will do so.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is aware of the challenge. My impression is that the shadow Minister, the right hon. Member for Salford, East (Mr. Orme), and his hon. Friends are oblivious to the consequences of uneconomic energy prices, including the cost of extracting coal, on job opportunities in other industries. It is mainly due to the arrogance of the National Union of Mineworkers and its president, Arthur Scargill—my right hon. Friend has already referred to this—who chose to emulate the achievement of 1974, when Gormley, now Lord Gormley, McGahey and others precipitated a general election, thereby deposing a Conservative Government, under the then Prime Minister, my right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath). It was Arthur Scargill who precipitated the recent strike in 1984–85.
It is not my intention to elaborate on what has happened. In south Yorkshire, Nottingham and Derbyshire—close to my constituency—I found region divided against region and pit against pit. Only too often, within a pit the majority were brought out, in fear, by a militant minority with the aid of rent-a-mob. In the early days of the strike, pits were brought out on strike by the Scargill-inspired flying pickets. It was easy. Whereas the miners of a pit may have elected, through their pit committees, to continue to work—many approached me on this matter—one by one they were attacked by the Scargill flying pickets in the pithead changing rooms before going down to the pit face.
This is the background to the creation of the UDM. Fear made miners, some of whose children were working in the factories with which I am familiar in Sheffield, some of whom were purchasing their cars on credit, and many more of whom were purchasing household equipment on hire purchase and had outstanding mortgages, wish to opt out of the strike. Privately, many of those people who approached Conservative trade unions resented this pressure, a pressure supported by many Labour Members of Parliament, in particular those who represent south Yorkshire constituencies. Scargill, like the Socialists in Sheffield, set out to undermine the stability of the new coal mining villages, particularly those in south Yorkshire. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State has been to Yorkshire. In the summer, he spoke boldly about these issues. In Buxton, he stated that he would not stand by and watch a democratic trade union fight for fair representation, and fail in its fight.
The Bill will ensure that members of the UDM have equal rights with the NUM on charities and similar institutions that have been set up for the benefit of all miners. I had hoped that Opposition Members would have said to their Whips, "Certainly, I back those hon. Members who support this issue," but there is no sign of that today.
The second aspect of the Bill is coal industry finance. I welcome the fact that the industry has made a quick recovery from the NUM strike and that the Government have covered the deficit arising from it. I welcome also the fact that rising productivity has been matched by improved profitability and also the fact that—as stated in the latest annual report, which is valuable to hon. Members—the external financing requirement met by the Government was £550 million less than expected. Looking to the future, the coal industry, using new fields 163 such as Belvoir, Warwick and, particularly, Selby, must face the challenge of providing coal at world competitive prices.
§ Mr. Barron
I welcome what the hon. Gentleman has said about new coalfields in Warwickshire. Will the hon. Gentleman denounce two of his hon. Friends who are publicly campaigning against the expansion into the south Warwickshire coalfield?
§ Sir John Osborn
Anyone facing something that disturbs their countryside will resent it. Even the citizens of Kent are a little alarmed by the Channel tunnel. Even those in the Belvoir area are alarmed by this measure. The environmental considerations—I shall visit the Kenilworth area in the near future—must be faced. I respect the fact that people in the countryside near these areas obviously resent this change, as people in Fulbeck or anywhere else do when faced with the possibility of nuclear waste disposal in their area. The normal attitude is, "Anyone else can face that problem, but not I."
§ Sir John Osborn
I shall not give way again. I wish to make my own speech and not take too long in doing so.
The announcement in June of a five-year agreement on cheaper coal for power stations will be of great benefit to both industrial and domestic users. Bulk industrial consumers will have been very pleased, for the result of this agreement, in some cases, gave a 7 to 8 per cent. reduction, although the average is less. Some users have said that the agreement is not enough. This applies to the cement industry. The annual report underlines the fact that productivity has increased from 2.24 tonnes per man shift to 3.12 tonnes. I gather—perhaps my right hon. Friend will endorse this—that this has gone up to 3.55 tonnes per man shift. This increase in productivity must be welcomed. It is a sign that the British coal industry is becoming competitive.
§ Mr. Hardy
I support the hon. Gentleman's point about the strides made in the record productivity achievement. Will he go back to Sheffield and tell the business men there that they should join him in making representations to the Government to try to ensure that we make the most vigorous and robust national protest about the fact that our achievements are being deliberately marred by partner states in the EEC busily subsidising their high steel and energy users' energy costs, and thereby presenting Yorkshire with an enormous disadvantage? It is time that he and his hon. Friends protested.
Sir John Osborne
The hon. Gentleman is trying to make my speech for me. He may make that speech himself. This has been a matter for concern, and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Energy are aware of this. I claim to have done much—as has my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has certainly done—to condemn such hidden subsidies. The EEC Commissioner, Lord Cockfield, has been outspoken in condemning such subsidies. It is up to our representatives in the European Parliament to take up this matter in another place—the European Parliament. I commend the fact that face workers now have an increase of 5.9 per 164 cent. a year. There is a problem of reconciliation between the NUM and the UDM, but I do not wish to prolong my speech.
Is there any significance in the change of name from National Coal Board to British Coal? I have read a number of press articles, and I have discussed this matter with a number of my right hon. and hon. Friends. The writer of a recent article in The Guardian referred to the parallel with British Leyland. He also mentioned British Airways, British Airports and British Telecom as moves in the direction of privatisation.
Some Conservative Members hope to see positive steps mentioned in the Conservative manifesto before the next election. I have cited previously—I do so again—the fact that in the early 1970s, when my right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup was Prime Minister, I visited Hobart house, the headquarters of the NCB. Sir Derek Ezra, now Lord Ezra, wanted from the Government about £500 million to invest in North sea oil and gas. I had had a series of meetings with international oil companies keen on taking up the role of utilities, which had already acquired power stations and were mining coal elsewhere in the world and which thought of the possibility of taking over some of our coalfields. The solution that I gave to Hobart house was to sell a few of our coalfields, with adequate regulation by Government, to those companies, raise the money, and then compete against them in the North sea. I did not return to Hobart house for some 10 years, when I was welcomed by Sir Ian MacGregor, but this view was not then accepted.
In considering the market for British coal, one must understand the level of international prices. The export market for British coal is the least acceptable from a commercial point of view for the foreseeable future. I remember the European Parliament's plan 10 years ago when consumption was about 300 million tonnes and 100 million tonnes were to be imported from outside the EEC. About 200 million tonnes were to be produced in this country, of which 100 million tonnes would have gone to EEC countries. If there had been a common energy policy, it might have gone some way down that road, but exports to the EEC have been negligible. Community Energy Ministers have wanted the right to obtain their coal from cheaper sources elsewhere in the world, and this is the position today.
This morning, some hon. Members went to the British nuclear forum. I was interested to hear that the Central Electricity Generating Board had a programme for coal-fired power stations and nuclear-fired power stations—possibly all pressurised water reactors but perhaps including one or two AGRs—in the foreseeable future. I asked whether coal-fired power stations would use imported coal like power stations elsewhere in Europe. The answer was no, provided British coal was competitive. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Labour Members defend the coal mines. I would, too. But our coal industry must be made competitive. I think that that is possible and that the measures in the Bill will bring it about.
Of course, there are difficulties—for example, in burning more coal, there would be an increased threat from acid rain. That risk cannot be eliminated. If desulphurisation equipment is installed, such as that promised by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister in Norway, it would add to the cost of electricity produced by coal-fired power stations. Ultimately the impact of the greenhouse effect must be considered and the doubling of 165 CO2, in the middle of the next century compared with the level at the beginning of the industrial revolution is another hazard, both of which, but for time, I would have spoken about in more detail.
The Government should go ahead on all fronts, including coal. This is but one step in making our coal industry competitive and more efficient. I hope that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State will give the assurance that some of our coal will be exported just across the Channel using the Channel tunnel to our competitors in the EEC, especially when there is a railway service to that area. I support the Bill.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. More than 20 right hon. and hon. Members are seeking to catch my eye. Unless speeches are brief, I am afraid that there will be some disappointments.
§ Mr. J. D. Concannon (Mansfield)
May I point out, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that your list includes, I think the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Ashton). He has informed me that he will not be here this afternoon because, unfortunately, his father has passed away. I do not think that there is anyone in the parliamentary Labour party who understands my hon. Friend's view on parts of the Bill. I shall certainly not speak for him, nor shall I speak for my hon. Friend the Member for Ashfield (Mr. Haynes), who is ill.
It is with sorrow and regret that I make my first contribution in the House for 16 months after my motor accident, when I was left with some difficulties. It looks as though this will be my last contribution—that is, if I get through it. It saddens me that this contribution will, in part, be against my own Front Bench and my right hon. Friend the Member for Salford, East (Mr. Orme). My right hon. Friend knows full well that he is one of the dwindling number of hon. Members with whom I would willingly go into the jungle. In fact, when we were Ministers we shared many a day and night in the political jungle.
It saddens me that my party has a three-line Whip on this eight-clause Bill. Three clauses affect the largest group of organised and bona fide trade unionists in my area. One need only look at the Conservative Benches to note the number of Nottinghamshire Members of Parliament who sit on the Government side of the House. When I first became a Nottinghamshire Member, there was only one Conservative Nottinghamshire Member of Parliament. People should take cognisance of that fact. I shall certainly not bandy figures about, but no one can dispute which union represents the vast majority of mineworkers in the Nottinghamshire area. The mineworkers have been asking only for their legitimate right of fair representation on the bodies that affect them.
The Bill provides for fair representation on the Coal Industry Social Welfare Organisation, the mineworkers pension fund and the miners welfare trust. I understand that the intention is to give rights, in proportion to membership, in the management of those bodies. This has all been tried by negotiation. Unfortunately, the National Union of Mineworkers has consistently refused to recognise the reality of the situation in Nottinghamshire, so the Government have had to act.
166 For one who lives in and spends his social hours in and around Mansfield, these problems are a continuing running sore, especially in the running and management of local welfare groups and other bodies. These difficulties only continue the strike, bitterness and intimidation that still takes place between the two groups. If the three clauses to which I referred cut that out, the Bill be worth supporting.
I can well understand the reasoned amendment and the arguments for it. In normal circumstances I would have no difficulty in supporting my right hon. Friend the Member for Salford, East in the Lobby, but he must understand that, in my area, nothing is normal at the moment. The reasoned amendment statesThat this House declines to give a Second Readingto the Bill. That is rather strange. With a heavy heart, I shall have to abstain from voting on the amendment.
I note that in my "Weekly Whip" the sensitivity of the electoral position in north Nottinghamshire is appreciated, and that the importance of not alienating local Labour party members who are not in the UDM is recognised. I must add that that recognition does not spread from the parliamentary Labour party down into local Labour parties in Nottinghamshire. In fact, the opposite applies. There is political apartheid in Nottinghamshire. Not only UDM members, but in certain places, even their families, are not allowed to join the Labour party.
We all know what is happening in the reselection process. People are not being reselected, not because they have not done a good job for the past 20 years, but just because they belong to a certain organisation. I wish that someone would pass this information on to Walworth road, because, for two years, some of us have been trying to get that fact recognised and acted upon, but to no avail. In fact, the view in Nottinghamshire is that, because local and national elections are pending, someone at last is taking notice, but, unfortunately, coming to the wrong conclusions.
I was told only three weeks ago by a leading Labour party official that he thought that the Labour party need not do anything because the UDM would go away. The UDM will certainly not go away. As one who lives very close to the miners offices, the pensions office and the CISWO office, may I say to those who seem to think that threatening Nottinghamshire miners—I heard this again today—will bring the result that they desire that they should learn the lessons of the past two years. The Nottinghamshire miners are not to be threatened and bullied and the intimidation that still takes place only make them more determined to succeed.
It is a sad time for me, after a lifetime's work, to find the greatest trade union so fatally split. I wish that it were not so, but I know that neither I nor anyone else can rewrite history. It is sad for me also to find that the battle on this issue is being fought, not industrially, but in the local Labour party in my area, by people who joined the Labour party, not for the good of the party or so that it would win elections, but to wreak vengeance on people who took certain actions a few years ago. I fear that that can only harm the Labour party in that area in future elections.
It is like the good old Army term. Someone, somewhere has decided that we in north Nottinghamshire are expendable. One has only to look at the Conservative Benches. The hon. Member for Sherwood (Mr. Stewart) 167 probably does not know how he got here. Some of us do not understand how he got here. I know that some hon. Members in the Conservative party and others are having a ball over our discomfiture in Nottinghamshire.
During my time in the House I have tackled some dirty, hazardous and onerous jobs for the Labour party. I was hoping that I could retire with my record intact. I have never considered myself to be anything other than a Nottinghamshire miner, and I have done my best to look after the interests of Nottinghamshire miners along with those of my constituents for nearly 21 years. My duties to my constituents are manifestly clear. Clauses 5, 6 and 7 are necessary if we are to start to bring some sort of sense and harmony as well as a sense of fairness, to my area. I wish that we could turn the clock back, but we cannot. The bitterness is still there between families and members of families. It is time somebody started the process of healing those wounds. If the Bill is one way of starting that process, I am all for it.
It saddens me that on this, my last occasion in the House, I have had to speak against my party for the first and only time in 21 years. After a long spell in the Whips Office, as you will know, Mr. Deputy Speaker, this will be the first time in 21 years that I have had to vote against a three-line Whip. It fills me with a great deal of sorrow and sadness to have to vote against my party on Second Reading tonight.
§ Mr. Andy Stewart (Sherwood)
It is not often that I say that I am honoured to follow in debate an Opposition Member. However, it gives me pleasure today to follow the right hon. Member for Mansfield (Mr. Concannon). We all know and recognise that he has been a friend of the coal industry and of the Nottinghamshire miners.
I welcome the opportunity to speak in this important debate about the coal industry. The Bill is clearly drafted to protect the rights of the individual, and to give fair representation to the 30,000 miners who belong to the Union of Democratic Mineworkers.
First, I wish to tell the Labour party that my constituents and the majority of people in Nottinghamshire object fiercely to Opposition Members calling them scabs, and I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, South (Mr. Brandon-Bravo) for repudiating the bloody-minded insults of the hon. Member for Newport, East (Mr. Hughes), which he made during the debate on the Loyal Address about my honest, hard-working, democratic constituents.
My miners were not taking time out during the coal dispute to drop slabs of concrete, murdering their fellow workers. They were not throwing bricks through the windows of their neighbours' homes.
§ Mr. Allan Rogers (Rhondda)
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I can understand the views of the hon. Member for Sherwood (Mr. Stewart) on this matter and on the Bill. However, the two boys involved in that matter were charged and convicted of manslaughter and it ill-becomes an hon. Member to say such things about two youngsters who are now undergoing the proper punishment for the crime they committed.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
That is not a point of order. Traditionally, debates on Second Reading range widely. However, I think the hon. Gentleman recognises that perhaps he is going a little too wide.
§ Mr. Stewart
I shall substitute the word "manslaughter" for "murder", and I apologise if I have caused any distress to the people I have mentioned.
My miners were not terrorising the wives and children of working miners. They were keeping the pensioners' fires burning and the factories running. They were keeping the country afloat. They are the courageous men the hon. Member for Newport, East dares to call scabs. He mouthed it but, with the exception of the right hon. Member for Mansfield, the rest of his colleagues think it.
Now let me give the Labour party a simple truth. We will remember where it stood when our friends were being counted. It stood right behind Scargill and his rent-a-mob. We will remember that the leader of the Labour party never once came to the Dispatch Box to condemn the violence in Nottinghamshire or to support the Nottinghamshire miners.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. We are not having a debate about historical events. Hon. Members should address their remarks to the Bill.
§ Mr. Stewart
The Bill contains three important elements. The first clause will legalise the coal industry's change of name to the British Coal Corporation. The NCB in the past has regarded itself as an institution, part industry, part social services never quite knowing which was its principal function. Because of that, it failed to recognise the importance of providing the nation with its primary source of energy at a price which would have made our industrial goods more internationally competitive, and our electricity at a price which would not be considered a luxury.
In the past, the National Coal Board and its work force were prisoners of the dictatorial National Union of Mineworkers, which continuously sabotaged its members' prosperity, and failed to grasp the opportunities available to its members in a modern high-tech coal industry.
When trade union democracy was reborn in Nottinghamshire in 1985, it was a signal to the then chairman, Sir Ian Macgregor to give his industry a new enlightened name—British Coal. Nobody could have predicted that the change from the NUM and the NCB to the UDM and British Coal would have such a profound influence on the industry's fortunes. Productivity is up 50 per cent. and wages are up as a result. Our miners, now in a higher wage bracket, must be looking very closely at Labour's plans to increase income tax to 55p in the pound.
With the lower unit cost of coal produced, British Coal was able to meet the demands of its largest buyer, the Central Electricity Generating Board, for a lower price. It, in turn, is giving the benefits to the nation in lower electricity tariffs, with all the advantageous spin-offs for the country.
In my view, British Coal can now proudly stand alongside the other giants—British Petroleum, British Telecom, British Gas, British Airways, British Aerospace and the British people.
The good fortunes of British Coal could well be the misfortunes of the House, as it is widely rumoured that the defeated Arthur Scargill is about to become one of Labour's new moderate parliamentary candidates for the 169 constituency of Barnsley, Central. I presume that he will be following the path of those other moderate men, Ken Livingstone and Bernie Grant.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. I am beginning to wonder whether the hon. Gentleman is taking part in the same debate as the rest of us. I hope that he will return to the Bill and not discuss the parliamentary candidates of any party anywhere.
§ Mr. Stewart
This must remind the Leader of the Opposition of the fate of Julius Ceasar. I suppose it is anyone's guess, looking at the Opposition Benches, who will be Brutus.
Restructuring any major industry after years of misdirection cannot be painless, but, to the credit of the Government, substantial public funds have been available for a voluntary redundancy scheme, allowing those who wished to leave the industry to do so, with a commensurate lump sum, and for those over 50 years of age, additional weekly payments. However, it was always recognised that eventually the major restructuring of the industry would be completed, and as a result the present excellent redundant payment scheme would end.
On 31 March 1987, British Coal will introduce its own alternative. Although I realise that British Coal desires to be independent of Government, its new scheme is unattractive and undesirable to my miners. Sir Robert Haslam, the chairman of British Coal, has already indicated that the industry's scheme cannot be as generous as the Government's. Why not, since the chairman of British Coal has said that restructuring is almost complete and so there will only be a few more redundancies, leaving more than sufficient money to go round when the need arises?
Originally, the redundancy scheme was for those aged over 50 to be given the advantage of leaving the industry because of their lifelong commitment to it. As a direct result of the coal dispute, restructuring in Nottinghamshire was postponed until normality resumed. Since then, British Coal has tried to retrieve lost ground. But as 31 March 1987 fast approaches, it is estimated that 1,000 men plus in Nottinghamshire will not be released. Is it fair that men who put their industry and their country's needs first at a time of crisis should have to see those who were on strike, on the pretext of protecting their jobs, being given priority over those who worked?
I urge my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to reconsider my constituents' position, and I invite British Coal to make the same payments as the Government's scheme offers to those men whom it had intended to release but could not release in time as a result of the coal dispute.
The proposed legislation to allow democratically elected representatives to sit on the Coal Industry Social Welfare Organisation and on the coal industry's trusts is also welcomed in Nottinghamshire. It has been necessary as a result of the NUM representatives believing, like all good Marxists, that, once elected, people are there for life. The refusal of those men to quit has caused untold difficulties. Now the trusts and charities cannot be used for the benefit of those whom they were set up to help.
Nevertheless, even without access to those funds, the UDM has honoured all financial claims submitted by its own members as well as those of the NUM against the benevolent scheme. Miners' welfare clubs are renowned 170 for their leisure and recreational facilities, but in Ollerton the NUM has hijacked the club for its headquarters. It is denying ordinary members the right of free and safe access. Those people have ignored all requests to leave and vacate their places on the management trust to democratically elected members. That clearly shows the hypocrisy of the so-called people's democracy.
During a person's lifetime, he treasures three things dearly: his family, his home, and his pension provision. Over the years, our miners watched their superannuation fund of more than £8,000 million being misdirected, mismanaged and looked upon as a political levy by the NUM trustees until the court ruled otherwise. All pension fund trustees have a legal duty to maximise the financial returns for their members, and no one's political beliefs should obstruct that aim.
The NUM trustees have abused their position. They have denied their members, after 50 years of hard work, the maximum benefit from their superannuation contributions.
§ Mr. Stewart
Incompetence by the NUM trustees may be acceptable to its own members, but it is totally unacceptable to allow them to act on behalf of the 30,000 members of the UDM.
§ Mr. Stewart
It is for that reason that the Bill makes provision for other employee organisations of British Coal to be represented on the superannuation fund. When the proposals are implemented, I urge the new trustees to look at the present policies of their superannuation fund, particularly with a view to making realistic provision for early retirement.
This democratic country has always recognised the banner cry of fair representation. The UDM's demand to British Coal is still the same: fair representation for the men who have brought British Coal to the high level of success that it enjoys today. Hon. Members should remember that when times are good people reward their friends, because when times are bad—and, if we ever have another Labour Government, they will be—they will need their friends, and our miners have very long memories.
I commend the Bill and reject the amendment.
§ Mr. Malcolm Bruce (Gordon)
The context in which the Bill has been introduced demonstrates the consequences of the Government's failure to have an energy policy. One reason for the increase in the requirement to allocate funds to the coal industry is the fall in the price of oil. If anything could have been done to stablise energy prices, it would not have left the coal industry, in its struggle towards viability, requiring this amount of increase in funds.
Having been on the touchline for the past three years, I can testify to the fact that in this House the coal industry has been fought over by the two main political parties as though it were a carcase, to the great detriment of the industry and of the wider economy. I and my party, and no doubt the people of this country, look forward to the day when we shall not need to have frequent debates in the House on the coal industry, because there will be an 171 agreement about how it is run and how the workers should be treated. Regrettably, the flavour of today's debate shows that that day is still far away.
I realise, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that my next remarks will touch on the past, but the Bill is set in the context of the recent past. The coal strike was provoked and prolonged by the activities of both sides. There can be no doubt that its cost was horrendous. The cost to the industry was well over £2 billion, and the cost to the economy as a whole was substantially more than that. We have come a long way since then, but I should make it clear that I believe that Scargillism and the sort of industrial action that went with it had to be resisted and defeated. The country is the better because that sort of evil has now been defeated.
The second half of the Bill deals with one result of that dispute—the division in union representation inside the industry. I for one regard that division as regrettable and hope that it will eventually be ended, but I realise that at present that division is inevitable, and there is no clear sign of it being healed. As a result, legislation is required.
The UDM is concentrated within one main geographical area, and is strong within it, but relatively weak outside it, yet even in its areas of strength the union does not have rights that are comparable to the support that it clearly has among the work force. There are some less publicised difficulties facing the union within the area in which it operates, and I hope that the Government will bear them in mind. First, the UDM has no ability to negotiate grade rates. Its role has not been recognised within the colliery salaried supervisory staff organisation. Indeed, although the NUM, when it is in the minority, can obtain the benefit of UDM negotiated salaries, the reverse is not true.
Both unions should be treated equally and should be recognised to be representative of their members. I hope that the Minister will bear that in mind. All that can freely and honestly be asked is that they should both be recognised, and treated equally and fairly. It follows from that that the right to be represented on charitable trusts, social welfare bodies and, of course, the superannuation scheme must be recognised. It is a regrettable symptom of the division within trade union representation that legislation is required. It should have been possible to achieve that right without legislation, but regrettably it was not.
This debate is taking place with the long shadow of Scargill and Scargillism still falling not only across Mansfield—the right hon. Member for Mansfield (Mr. Concannon) has left the Chamber—but across democratic trade unionism, which had to be defended and the tactics of Scargillism defeated. However, in a sense, from beyond the grave the extremists are still trying to claw back and prevent the democratic right of people to join and belong to the union of their choice, and to prevent that union being given equal rights.
The Labour party will live to regret this day, because Labour Members are showing many working people that they are not fair minded, honest or democratic and that they do not really believe in the full and democratic right of individual people to belong to the union of their choice. The country will take note of that.
In the interests of brevity, I conclude by saying that for two fairly simple, straightforward and obvious reasons, I 172 find it extraordinary that Labour Members will vote not only for their amendment, but, more fundamentally, against the Bill.
Although the coal industry is no longer sustaining the massive losses that it did during the strike, it is still not free from public funding. If Labour Members defeat the Bill tonight, one wonders how the National Coal Board, or rather British Coal will continue to operate and to function as an economic organisation. Labour Members will have perpetuated retrospective divisions within the industry which will look back, when the industry and the people in it clearly want to look forward.
As I said in my opening remarks, I wish that the Government had a more coherent approach to the planning of their energy policy and recognise that they are not even consistent. While claiming to operate within a free market, they have been found to be manipulating and interfering with that market on more than one occasion. That is why, earlier in this Parliament, there was a Bill to abolish the British National Oil Corporation after the Government had been found trying to settle the price and lost public money.
The Government found massive amounts of money to sustain the strike, and although I believe that the elements that promoted it had to be defeated, it could have been settled much more cheaply in the national interest. One would have hoped that a Government who had the saving of public money as their main priority would do that, rather than conclude as one Minister said, "Whatever the cost, it was worth it."
In that context my hon. Friends and I will vote against the Labour amendment and in favour of the Second Reading of the Bill.
§ Mr. Jim Lester (Broxtowe)
First, I should like to pay tribute to the right hon. Member for Mansfield (Mr. Concannon) as did my hon. Friend the Member for Sherwood (Mr. Stewart), and recognise the brave speech that he made. Those of us on both sides of the House who have known him ever since he came here recognise his sincerity and the value of his contribution to the national effort in the many jobs that he has held in government. he is a brave, honourable and sincere man and, if his speech was the last that he will make in the House, I should like my comments to be put on the record on behalf of Opposition Members as well.
The right hon. Member for Mansfield expressed sincerely the fundamental truth that nobody can deny men's participation, either in whatever body they choose to form, or as individuals, attack their probity and loyalty to their industry and party—in many cases, that is not my party—and imagine that they will accept it. The truth that the right hon. Member put forward is very real in this place, and it will stand long after the Bill, and many others, have gone through the House.
I listened carefully to the speech of the right hon. Member for Salford, East (Mr. Orme) and agree with him on one point—we are debating the future of the coal industry. However, there was not much else with which I could agree. If one considers the importance of coal, the ability to sell it and the markets that it can command, one finds that in the electricity industry in 1985–86 the market for coal was the highest since 1979, when the actual purchase was 87.4 million tonnes.
173 We should be concerned about the alternative markets. My hon. Friends and I debated those alternative markets with Opposition Members when we were the Opposition party and they were Ministers. We are discussing where the future of the coal industry lies in terms of alternative markets, industrial conversion and especially export markets. Those markets require the industry not only to be competitive but to be stable and consistent. Those are the markets which we have lost in the past two years and which are declining. Those who consider the future of the industry and of the men enployed in it should turn their attention to those markets.
I welcome the Bill, and especially the change of name. Forty-nine Acts will need to be amended, which graphically illustrates the importance of the coal industry to this country. It also shows that the coal industry is part of many aspects of our national life, well beyond those Acts which are directly connected to it. After the traumas of recent years, we should look forward rather than backwards and the new name will, I hope, reflect an industry which is now starting to look forwards, without the rigidities of over-subsidy and excessive state involvement.
The change of name reflects also the current position within the industry, which has already been commented on by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and others of my hon. Friends who have said how well the industry has responded. There has been an increase from 2.24 tonnes per man shift in 1978–79 to an average of 3.12 tonnes this year. Indeed, in the past week a record output of 3.55 tonnes per man shift has been achieved, and that speaks volumes for what is happening in the industry. People are working extremely hard and are producing coal at ever more competitive prices.
At this point I should like to express a caveat, especially in relation to the suggestion of the right hon. Member for Salford, East. None of us who represent mining areas and who were born and have spent lives in mining counties—this applies to many hon. Members present—would contemplate that that increase in output has been achieved by any relaxation of the stringent and necessary safety regulations. The idea that the men down the pit would accept such a proposal, even if any pit management was foolish enough to try it, reveals how little people know about the interdependence of the mining community, and of the fact that men and management work together day by day in the pits.
It is wrong to suggest—we have heard this expressed in the past—that somehow it is possible to produce more coal by short-cutting on safety. Safety is paramount in the mining industry and the men would not dream of accepting any change in the regulations governing it. I should certainly not support that if it were suggested in any way.
We know only too well that mining is a difficult and dangerous job. Even with the safety regulations and with a lifetime of training in safety techniques it is significantly more dangerous than, for instance, working in the nuclear industry. I am surprised how many people complain about the nuclear industry, although it does not have a bad safety record when compared with the natural dangers of the mining industry and the number of people who have been killed or injured over the centuries by working in it.
The increase in production is more the result of better equipment, higher investment and unbroken shift patterns 174 in terms of continuous production. That should be welcomed by anybody who has the real interests of the industry at heart.
For that reason, I also welcome that part of the Bill that deals with grants. It is a recognition that the process of change, though significant, still requires grants if we are to maintain a strategically important source of energy for many years ahead. The dramatic fall in oil prices that has been referred to had a sudden effect on what is an unrealistic market. Few would accept that it is a genuine market in which one needs to make an immediate response.
I remember, Mr. Deputy Speaker, as you do, the 1960s, the 1970s and the 1980s. We have seen oil prices so low that the Labour Government decided that they did not want a coal industry and closed about 300 pits. We have seen oil prices so high that they have damaged Britain's economy and the world economy and we have been glad of every tonne of coal that we could mine. Therefore, I have always believed—I think that the Government still believe, and I am sure that when my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary replies to the debate he will reiterate—that the strategic energy policy that has to be pursued in Britain, because of our good fortune, can be likened to the four legs of a stool. We want a coal industry, an electricity industry and an oil industry and we want to encourage investment in saving energy and in new sources of energy at the same time. We need them all. None of them is mutually exclusive. One should make no apologies for the subvention. It is money well spent and before many years are out we shall be debating energy issues in the House again and recognising that situation.
It is important that the grants should be on a tight rein, because one should, as near as possible, aim for commercial viability. As I have already suggested, there is nothing commercial about oil prices. As Sheik Yamani has been given the sack we shall have to wait to see what the new man does to manage oil prices before we know how to respond in the coal industry. It should be no policy of the Government to encourage short-term commercial decisions which reduce our ability to mine coal beyond a safe level, whatever winds may blow in the future.
The time scale of the retraining and redundancy grant, with an overall limit to 1992, is a realistic time in which to try to get things right within the strategy for coal, which has been mentioned at energy Question Time, with an overall production of 90 million tonnes.
§ Mr. Lester
One might talk about privatisation but the industry is not remotely ready for privatisation. It may be in the future, but certainly not in my lifetime in the House.
In the interests of brevity, my last point concerns the most important people of all—the men in the industry and their relationship in the future. High investment and productivity still require and depend on skilled men, properly rewarded. They require skilled men who do not see the inevitable closure of worked-out pits as a threat. We now see that on the western side of Nottinghamshire pits are closing legitimately and with the support of the men. They do not see that as a threat and they see longer term pay deals and freedom from disputes as a sensible position from 1987 onwards and the pattern for many years to come.
The coal industry has had that pattern in the past. Disputes are a relatively new occurrence in the mining 175 industry. It has had a long period of industrial stability. We want to return to that position and to encourage all men of good will, whether in the UDM or the NUM, to approach the industry in that way.
In view of what I said earlier, I shall not labour the point, but it is right to encourage the UDM to have fair and equal rights of representation. We from Nottinghamshire know that the union was born in our area from a commitment to democratic values, which have been sincerely upheld by the right hon. Member for Mansfield. It is strange that the Labour party now accepts the principle of balloting. Balloting is now part of its trade union policy, which it will not withdraw. However, it is in the great difficulty of being hoist by its own petard in not carrying that principle through in relation to the UDM. It is utterly unacceptable that it should seek to discriminate against what is now a legitimate trade union with a membership in Nottinghamshire of some 21,700 out of a total of 24,700 working in the industry.
The right hon. Member for Salford, East asked about the minority rights of the NUM in Nottinghamshire. I hope that the minority rights of the NUM in Nottinghamshire are every bit as good as the minority rights of the UDM in Durham. With that parity there should be no argument. However, the Bill deals with rights in terms of funds, to which miners have already contributed, and organisations of which they are a natural part. I say with great respect to the hon. Member for Midlothian (Mr. Eadie) that a great cloud still hangs over the superannuation funds of the NUM, of which he is a trustee and which I am sure he is dealing with in an honourable way. It is perfectly fair that the UDM should have representation on any body which is dealing with superannuation funds, particularly in view of that position. We in Nottinghamshire know the historical link between the Labour party and the NUM.
§ Mr. Lester
I regard him as a courageous man as well.
I recognise that that is history, but, as the right hon. Member for Mansfield said, we are now moving into a new era and we cannot turn back and we cannot rewrite history.
The right hon. Gentleman pointed to Conservative Members who ably represent Nottinghamshire today, saying that in the short term it might be in my interests to stir things up so that we shall win Mansfield and Sherwood and continue to make progress. However, as I said at the beginning, the principle for which the right hon. Gentleman spoke is far more important than our short-term party gains. We should give, and are giving, fair representation and proper safeguards to the united democratic miners. I shall watch with great interest and some concern as the arguments wax and wane between the vested interests already in the industry and the real interests of the men and their contribution to our national welfare as well as to their own good.
§ Mr. Martin Redmond (Don Valley)
I am pleased that the Labour party will reject the Bill, just as the Tory party rejected the Secretary of State as the heir apparent of the 176 Prime Minister. Every miner in the land will want to reject the Bill, and I feel sure that the nation will also want the House to reject it.
The Bill is a continuation of the Tory policies and dogma that one has come to expect. The Government seek to run down, to divide and to exploit the industry. That is not in the national interest. One has come to expect more sanity from Rampton than from the Secretary of State and the Under-Secretary. I wonder whether the Secretary of State is a fit and proper person to hold office. Everything that he has done since he has been Secretary of State has been contrary to the interests of the nation.
The need for an energy policy is paramount and the Tory philosophy that leads the Government to seek to reduce the coal industry to nothing is one that I cannot understand. Will they be content to import coal to make up the deficit that will surely result if they get their way and run down the industry? Do they seek to continue to import coal from South Africa and thereby support the South African Government's exploitation of black mineworkers?
§ Mr. Redmond
If the Tories get their way, the long-term effect on the balance of payments will be dramatic. If the Secretary of State spent more time trying to resolve the problems in the industry instead of counting the money that he receives from the common agricultural policy, he being a gentleman farmer, perhaps we would make more progress.
There is no doubt that a further loss of jobs in the coal industry will be attributable to Tory party politics. During the miners' strike—I am sorry that it is necessary to refer to it—the Secretary of State categorically denied the existence of any hit list, as did the Prime Minister. The right hon. Gentleman and the right hon. Lady said on many occasions that there was no hit list and that Mr. Scargill and Opposition Members were not telling the truth. Events since the strike have proved beyond a shadow of doubt that there was a hit list of the sort that was discussed during the strike. That suggests that Ministers and others were not telling the House the whole truth.
There is talk about conciliation and consultation within the coal industry and the need to get away from the past and to march forward together. Unfortunately, we have heard from Ministers and Conservative Back Benchers that they seek to continue the exploitation of the industry and the divisions within it. Industrial relations within the industry used to be the shining example of what could be achieved within the rest of British industry, but the National Coal Board has sought since the strike to turn industrial relations inside out. I assume that this has been done with the compliance of the Minister. When the Secretary of State talks about the high productivity that now prevails, he should understand that it will be an Indian summer unless some lessons are learnt. Unfortunately, if the Government continue with their policy the industry is due for another rapid rundown.
§ Mr. Redmond
We were told that the Yorkshire Main pit at Edlington had a 10-year life, but with a change of director the pit closed. That brought great deprivation to the area. Cadeby pit was closed by the board in spite of 177 a recommendation by the independent review body and Mr. Diamond. The Secretary of State gave assurances that the independent review body would be everything that everyone wanted, but, unfortunately, it has not been. It is the same old system, but on many occasions the Minister has misled the House about the teeth of the review body. It is disgusting that the Minister saw fit not to reply directly to a letter that I sent him about Cadeby. I asked him to give the review body some teeth and to ensure that a directive was issued to the board, but he did not reply to that. Instead, he said that the review body's recommendations would not be binding on the board but that it would take them into consideration.
When the Minister replies, I hope that he will tell me in what circumstances the board will take note of what the independent arbitrator is saying. If the financial and social aspects are not to be accepted, there is nothing left. It is kidding the public to say that the review body exists to see fair play. The Government are daft if they are asking people to believe that, and our people would be daft if they believed the Government.
§ Mr. David Hunt
The hon. Gentleman has referred to Cadeby and has said that the financial aspects of Mr. Diamond's recommendation were not observed by the National Coal Board. He should know that Mr. Diamond agreed that substantial continuing losses would be inevitable if the colliery remained open. Mr. Diamond's conclusions on all the mining, marketing and financial matters accorded entirely with the evidence given by the board. It was the agreement of the trade unions and of the board at the time that the recommendations of the review body would not be binding.
§ Mr. Redmond
The Minister must listen to what I am saying. When the Minister replies, I ask him to tell me in what circumstances the board will take account of the arbitrator's recommendations. The review body accepts the board's financial arguments, but it draws attention to the social consequences and says that the board should accept the recommendation to keep the pit open pending Government action on employment. Unfortunately, Conservatives seem to want to starve our people of employment. I ask the Minister not to try to mislead the House.
§ Mr. David Hunt
I am sure that the hon. Gentleman did not intend to suggest that I misled the House. I think that we are in agreement, basically, but we are not in agreement on whether the review body's report should be binding on the board. It was the original decision that the report would be given detailed and careful consideration by the board, and that has happened. The hon. Gentleman does not have a case for saying that due weight was not given to the report, because it was.
§ Mr. Redmond
Will the Minister tell us in what circumstances the board will accept the independent review body's recommendations? If it is not prepared to accept the financial and social aspects of the report, will it be prepared to accept the recommendations generally?
§ Mr. David Hunt
I do not want to enter into a dialogue with the hon. Gentleman, but I would say to him that the board has always made it clear that it would give due weight to the conclusions of the review body. There has not been a review body yet that has decided and established that on financial grounds a pit should be kept open. The day may come, but it has not yet arrived.
§ Mr. Redmond
I suggest that the Minister reflects on what I am asking. I suggest that he is trying to mislead our people.
Clause 3 refers to welfare schemes. The welfare club at the Yorkshire Main pit used to be a source of revenue for the social facilities that were provided in the area. The men employed at the Yorkshire Main pit used to contribute to the colliery band, changing room facilities, and improvements generally. Yorkshire Main no longer exists, and the National Coal Board and the Government have a duty to provide money that will enable the welfare schemes to become self-sufficient. They should take that into consideration when they splash the money around. No doubt the Minister will tell us when he replies how many millions they will give to the various colliery closures.
Clause 3 relates to concessionary coal. Does that include smokeless fuel? If the Minister will nod, I can carry on with my point. [Interruption.] The clause talks about providing money for concessionary coal. Can we take it that smokeless fuel is the same thing? If that is the case, perhaps the Minister could instruct the National Coal Board that it must not penalise those whose contracts included concessionary fuel prior to nationalisation. It is seeking to renege on its obligations. About six pits—my hon. Friend the Member for Rother Valley (Mr. Barron) may mention them in his speech—had agreements that when miners retired they would receive nine tonnes of coal. Now that the village of Maltby has gone smokeless, the smokeless fuel agreement is being used and, obviously, that involves a big reduction in quantity. The board and the Government have an obligation to those old age pensioners to ensure that they have adequate fuel with which to keep warm this winter. I feel sure that the Minister would not want to wage war on them.
Clauses 5 and 8 mention the word "substantial". What does that mean? I hope that the Minister does not intend to hide behind the Charities Commission when he defines "substantial" when the Bill is enacted. He must insert a figure of 1 per cent., 10 per cent., 20 per cent., 30 per cent. or 40 per cent. Otherwise, he will leave a grey area which will give rise to arguments about the meaning of those clauses.
§ Mr. Spencer Batiste (Elmet)
I, like many of my colleagues, would first like to pay tribute to the right hon. Member for Mansfield (Mr. Concannon) who today made a typically courageous speech, which he said was his final speech in the House. When we were both members of the Energy Select Committee I had the pleasure of accompanying him on a trip to Northern Ireland, where his courage had been tested in a different dimension. I can say without fear of contradiction that through his activities he has enjoyed wide respect in the House. It is a tragedy for him, when he makes a speech that is a model of common sense and reconciliation, and when he speaks for a community in which he has lived and worked all his life, that in the modern Labour party his is a voice in the wilderness.
I have the privilege of representing a diverse constituency in which the energy industry plays an 179 important role. In Allerton Bywater is the North Yorkshire area headquarters of the NCB, shortly to be renamed the British Coal Corporation. Surrounding it is a long-life pit which has won a recent order to supply the new ICI coal-fired plant in Huddersfield—the largest in Europe—with 44,000 tonnes of coal a year and many mining communities. Just to the east in the Selby constituency is the new coalfield in which increasing numbers of my constituents will work as this impressive and massive development proceeds.
Immediately to the south and east of my constituency are the great coal-fired power stations of Ferrybridge, Drax and Eggborough which will consume 4 to 5 million tonnes of coal a year to generate 2,000 MW of electricity. Others of my constituents are employed there. In the heart of my constituency at Scarcroft is the headquarters of the Yorkshire electricity board which employs more than 7,500 people to service nearly 2 million customers in diverse industries and communities, and in hospitals and old people's homes, each of which in its own way and in varying degrees depends on energy.
While many of my constituents work in the energy industry, be it in the production of coal, its conversion to electricity or the supply of electricity, all of them have in common with all other hon. Members' constituents that they are also consumers of energy and, as such, are entitled to expect an adequate supply of energy in a suitable form at a price that does not disadvantage them. It is a prime responsibility of government to develop policies that will do just that. We must protect our people against the vagaries of middle eastern wars, the rapacity of OPEC and the still unextinguished militancy of the NUM leadership. In doing so we must use our natural resources wisely, while facing up to the challenges that new energy sources pose for us, for the nation that gets its energy policy wrong will be unable to get many other policies right.
We are fortunate in the United Kingdom in having diverse options. Any sensible policy will build on that diversity and must have the development of our coal industry as a major component, but not at any price. The cost of energy must be internationally competitive or all who depend on it will go to the wall. An excessive price for coal may in the short term save some jobs in the coal industry, but it will cost jobs in steel, refractories and engineering.
For those reasons I welcome the Government's determined efforts to put the coal industry on a healthy and profitable footing. I applaud our massive £4.8 billion of capital investment in the industry. Since 1983 alone we have invested over £1.5 million per day in the industry and under this Bill, which the Opposition will oppose, that figure will rise to £2 million a day. Selby with its current productivity of over 12.3 tonnes per man shift is a good example of how that investment translates into a modern industry, offering excellent prospects to those who work in it and realistic prices to those who depend on it. The 23 per cent. increase in productivity announced today by the NCB for the past 12 months is another hopeful signpost for the future for those who work in the industry, for those who depend on it for their earnings and for the future well-being of our energy policy, provided all concerned in the coal industry play their part.
Since 1983, an additional £5 billion has been spent on subsidising the industry. While the bulk of that has gone 180 on financing the major restructuring which has taken place and which was necessary, a significant part has been inflicted on the nation unnecessarily by Scargill's strike. The industry could not survive another strike like that, nor could it survive serious disruption in future which would destroy the confidence of customers, such as ICI and the CEGB, which have other options.
We must move on now to the industrial relations of the 21st century and not remain locked into past battles, as the Labour Front Bench has demonstrated that it is this afternoon through its inability to rise above the instructions issued to it by the NUM leadership. It is with sadness that I note those parts of the Bill which make provision for fair representation for all miners on the institutions of the industry. I am sad that that should be necessary, but I recognise that it is.
The UDM split from the NUM because the NUM leadership would not follow its own constitution. That split was widened when the NUM adopted what for many miners was an unacceptable alternative constitution which concentrates even more power in the hands of its leadership. Surely that leadership should by now realise that the UDM will not be intimidated in the future any more than it has been in the past, and that the Government will not allow it to be excluded by NUM intransigence from the representation to which its 30,000 members are entitled.
It is also sad to observe the craven performance of the Opposition in this matter. The right hon. Member for Mansfield spoke of the political apartheid in north Nottinghamshire. The Labour Front Bench is rightly vociferous in condemning apartheid in South Africa, yet, when it comes to coal's traditional homelands, how they cringe before the forces of militancy. This phoney and contrived Opposition amendment is an unworthy and blatant manoeuvre to avoid facing up to the important issues of democracy that are raised in the Bill. That unworthy manoeuvre is exposed all the more, because by voting against the Bill Labour Members will be voting against the funds that are needed for the future of the coal industry, against the new jobs that will be created in the years to come by British Coal Enterprise Ltd. and against democracy. One thing that I can promise is that—be it in this debate, in Committee or on Report—Labour Members may think that they can duck the issue of democracy, but we shall bring them back to it time and time again.
It is sad, but not surprising, that a party whose leader lacked the guts to stand up to Arthur Scargill until others had defeated him now lacks the guts to support basic human rights in the trade union movement. That is why so many rank and file trade unionists throughout the country—not just in Nottinghamshire—recognise ever more clearly that when the chips are down it is only to the Conservative party that they can turn to protect their interests. Labour is the party that will deny them the protection of our laws from the militant trade union bosses who have abused them in the past.
This Bill gives us an opportunity to look forward to the coal industry as it can be and as it should be. The major restructuring is now over. Notwithstanding the collapse of oil prices, the board plans to break even in 1988–89 and to reach full commercial viability in the following year. We have all heard that story before, but the rapid increase in productivity of 23 per cent. in the last year alone gives us at last realistic cause for optimism. We must give the 181 industry the funds that it needs to see it through, just as we must reinforce the basic democratic rights of those miners who reject Scargillism in all its unpleasant manifestations. I commend the Bill to the House.
§ Mr. Geoffrey Lofthouse (Pontefract and Castleford)
As has already been said, this is a Bill about the future of the mining industry, although from some of the speeches that have been made one would think that the debate was an inquest into what has taken place during the last few years.
Clause 1 proposes that the National Coal Board should instead be known as the British Coal Corporation. However, that new name has been in use for quite a few months and I am not sure what would happen if the Bill failed to get a Second Reading tonight. I do know that the change of name has fuelled the suspicion of many in the industry about the future and privatisation. For the life of me, I do not understand why the NCB should be so arrogant as to change its name—which it has no statutory authority to do—before this House has taken the decision. Of course, that is typical of the arrogance displayed by the leadership of the NCB over the past few years.
Clause 2 relates to the deficit grant, and, as I understand it, puts back the break-even point by a year, to 1988–89. The NCB is projecting a loss of £300 million in 1986–87, and the loss this year is entirely due to the new agreement between the NCB and the electricity industry, which decreases the price of coal to that industry. As a result, the NCB will suffer a revenue loss of £4 million in 1986–87. I understand that that is equivalent to £3.80 per tonne. Given the amount that the electricity supply industry must pay the Government via the external financing, limit for 1986–87—at present set at £1,416 million, over and above interest payments—it represents a straightforward revenue-raising operation.
Indeed, the Chancellor's autumn statement on 6 November increased the amount to be paid via the negative EFL for 1987–88 by £237 million more than the amount established in the CEGB's medium-term development plan. It will now have to pay £1,305 million instead of £1,068 million. That is extra revenue for the Government in an election year, and will account for 79 per cent. of the £300 million transferred to the electricity supply industry from the NCB. In other words, 79 per cent. of the revenue reduction experienced by the NCB is being ploughed back through the Treasury's coffers.
We have recently heard much about British Coal's new strategy. It was first mentioned in October 1985. The objective is to move to a point at which the industry can operate profitably, and it is argued that competition means that that cannot be done by price increases. One understands that—we must compete in the markets, and it would be foolish to say otherwise. It is also said that there should be a significant reduction in production costs, and that is where one of the major problems arises.
It is argued that the new strategy means that maximum output should come from low-cost collieries. At present, it is said that such collieries whose operating capacity is more than £1.65 per gigajoule are likely to be uneconomic. We are told that the aim for long-life collieries is £1.50 per gigajoule and that the aim in respect of new investment will be as low as £1 per gigajoule. Any colliery that does not reach that target is under threat of closure.
182 According to the board's figures for July this year, 49 mines are making a profit and 77 are making a loss. Incidentally, the figures do not include social costs. Of the 49 pits in profit, some have limited reserves, and that fact is recognised. One must therefore ask what the size of the industry will be if it is to operate purely and simply under the financial guidelines laid down by the NCB's new strategy.
How will the NCB achieve the targets that it believes are necessary to put the industry on a profitable footing by the target date of 1988? Recently, the director of the Nottinghamshire area, Albert Wheeler, in a paper that he gave to the mining engineers annual conference, put forward a plan which, if my memory serves me right, the new chairman of British Coal, in his evidence to the Select Committee on Energy, recently said that he would support. If Mr. Wheeler's plan is fully accepted by British Coal and the Government, the work force will be down to 70,000 men for 90 million tonnes of coal. If the Wheeler plan does not envisage this, I would welcome a correction from the Minister.
The Wheeler plan would also mean the continuation of the policy that is beginning to operate in the mining industry of raping the best seams and taking out everything that is easy to get at, leaving behind what in years gone by we would never have dreamt of leaving. This means that the projected 300 years of coal reserves about which we have been talking for many years would go, and our natural fossil reserves would last for only 50 years.
§ Mr. Lofthouse
I take my right hon. Friend's point, and that would be the effect of the Wheeler plan. The new chairman of British Coal, in his evidence to the Select Committee, made it clear that he supported the Wheeler plan. It seems likely that the Wheeler plan is tied up with the time scale of the Bill, because it coincides with the new strategy.
The Bill encourages the further deregulation of the industry. I am not talking just about the desire of many Conservative Members to deregulate the small mines in opencast production, but about a matter of life or death importance to all who work in the industry. I am talking about the deregulation of health and safety in the industry. These may be strong words, but this is the position facing the mining industry if coal is produced by raping the mines along the Wheeler plan.
For decades, miners fought to improve conditions in the pits and to establish low accident rates. As a result, we came to have the safest mining industry in the world, but since the start of MacGregorism, conditions have deteriorated and the serious injury and accident rates in particular have climbed steeply. Nobody can refute that. Part of the MacGregor legacy is the attempt to introduce American-style work practices and health and safety standards. I remind the House that the fatal accident rate in American deep mines is three times that in British coal mines.
Recently, I went to America and visited some mines. After 39 years down the coal mines here, I can categorically state that I have never been down mines as 183 unsafe as those I saw there. They are not fit for men to work in. Now, as a result of MacGregor, similar workings may be adopted in our mines.
If the Government accept the Wheeler plan on behalf of the industry, they will be accepting several new practices. There will be coal production six days a week, with longer shifts underground. Winding shafts will be made available 23 hours a day at full capacity. The role of craftsmen will be changed and some crucial maintenance tasks will be given to machine operators. The role of deputies and other officials will be changed. A variety of new incentive schemes will be introduced. The use of roof bolts, trackless vehicles and highly flexible production techniques used in American mines will be increased.
§ Mr. McLoughlin
Does the hon. Gentleman accept that to introduce a number of the practices that he has set out would require changes in both the Mines and Quarries Act 1954 and the Health and Safety at Work, etc. Act 1974? Where in the Bill are those changes made?
§ Mr. Lofthouse
The hon. Gentleman is a little premature, because I am coming to that point.
The Wheeler plan would also mean increasing the use of private contractors and revising the health and safety regulations applying to mines to permit these new working practices. When I went to America, I saw the system of controlling road ways by roof bolts, as Wheeler is suggesting. This system cannot work in the geology of our coal mines. There will be rapid increases in the injury rate, and I am talking now not as a Bevin boy—if the hon. Gentleman knows what that means—but as someone with 40 years' experience down a hole in the ground. The American system cannot work safely. A system of taking control of the statutory obligations of deputies and overmen and passing them down the line is another suggestion in the Wheeler plan.
When questioned by the Select Committee on Energy two weeks ago, Sir Robert Haslam said that he agreed with the broad thrust of the strategy, and denied that that required the relaxation of safety standards. Mr. Ken Moses, the British Coal technical director, told the Select Committee that the only legislative change would be to the Coal Mines Regulation Act 1908, which limits hours of work underground. However, at a meeting of the mines qualification board only a week later, Mr. Moses said that if the meeting did not agree to amend the rules covering the qualifications for shotfirers and deputies British Coal would get the regulations changed another way. In one week, he had told two different stories. There is no way that the Wheeler plan can go through without altering the regulations. British Coal fully expects to be able to alter those regulations, and it is not beyond the bounds of possibility that they will cease to operate.
New regulations and codes of practice are being drafted. The first one to be prepared—on access and egress—raises the limit on the number of men working in a heading from nine to 18. To those who are not familiar with the mining industry, that means that where there is a heading with only one way in no more than nine men can work there. That is a wise precaution. However, the suggestion is that the code of practice should be altered to increase that number to 18. The deputies union, The National Association of Colliery Overmen, Deputies and Shotfirers, whose representative is my hon. Friend the 184 Member for Wentworth (Mr. Hardy) has real fears regarding the use of this redrafted regulation, especially in single entry faces. Anyone with mining knowledge will readily understand those fears. NACODS is concerned that the increased use of roof bolts in these and other situations would also put lives at risk.
Safety regulations in the mining industry are interconnected, yet the regulations are being changed one by one. How can changes to one be agreed before seeing the changes that are being proposed for the others? It is perfectly obvious to the mining unions that the new working practices presuppose drastic changes to safety regulations across the board. I hope that the Minister will assure us that this talk of changes is moonshine and that the regulations will not be altered, for that would permit British Coal to rape the coal industry, as is happening in America.
The hon. Member for Elmet (Mr. Batiste) said that if we do not get the price of energy right the whole exercise will be futile. Constantly we hear about the price of generating electricity by coal compared with the price of generating it by nuclear power. The Minister informed me today that the cost of decommissioning nuclear power stations is included in the cost of generating elctricity by nuclear power. It was a clever answer. I asked for the true costs, but in his answer the Minister referred just to the costs. The true costs have not been included because they are unknown. The colossal cost of producing electricity by nuclear power has not, therefore, been included in the overall production costs.
If we fail to include the true cost of producing electricity by nuclear power, we shall deceive the House and the public. If its overall production cost is not greater than the cost of generating electricity by coal, the Government will be committing a criminal act. The hon. Member for Elmet referred to the Selby coalfield. That coalfield has been welcomed in Yorkshire. However, only 49 m of coal will be extracted from each unit; 50 m will be left there. We shall be leaving more coal in each unit than we shall be taking out. That is rape of the industry. Such a policy for the future energy needs of this country would not be wise. Further sums ought to be done regarding the decommissioning of nuclear power stations.
§ Mr. William O'Brien (Normanton)
Has my hon. Friend taken note of the fact that research and development costs for nuclear energy amount to £150 million a year and that that figure has to be compared with about £45 million for research and development into non-nuclear energy? Does my hon. Friend think that that is relevant to his point about the decommissioning of nuclear power stations?
§ Mr. Lofthouse
Yes. The amount of money that is spent on nuclear power research and development is far in excess of the amount that is spent on coal research and development, or research into any other form of energy. The Department and the Minister should look carefully at that point.
I am not knocking the enterprise scheme. An honest endeavour is being made to find jobs for people. However, five or six pits have been closed in my area since the strike, and 42 per cent. of all those aged 24 are unemployed. So far, I have been able to identify only two jobs for them. The Bill will create massive job losses. The Government are therefore obliged to provide jobs in the mining 185 communities to replace the jobs into which those kids would normally have gone. The redundancy payments scheme has been attractive. That is why men have left the industry. However, it is not attractive to kids leaving school who would normally have gone into those jobs. There is nothing for them to do. We cannot even get intermediate area status from the Government.
§ Mr. Lofthouse
No, not for the moment. Intermediate area status would help us to attract industry to the area. The Government ought to take note of the further rapid rundown of the mining industry.
§ Mr. Lofthouse
I do not intend to give way to the hon. Gentleman. The Government might just as well wipe out the review body if they do not intend to give it any teeth and allow it to take note of the social consequences of the Bill.
§ Mr. Patrick McLoughlin (Derbyshire, West)
No hon. Member could have heard the speech of the right hon. Member for Mansfield (Mr. Concannon) without realising his great sincerity, because of his experiences in his constituency.
A number of hon. Members have referred to the safety aspects of the present policies. The Bill deals in no way with the drastic changes that will be needed to certain parts of the Mines and Quarries Act 1954 to take care of the deputies and the overmen who have to work underground. Those changes would have to be considered by the House before they were put into effect.
Nobody can deny that the British coal industry has gone through a very rough time in the last few years, particularly between November 1983 and the end of the coal dispute. The industrial action that was taken in 1984 by some members of the National Union of Mineworkers resulted in great damage to the industry. I hope that the Bill will be the start of a new era and of a fresh attitude in the industry, in which I will always have an interest. I worked in the industry for seven years, for six of which I was a member of the NUM. My father before me was for about 30 years a member of the NUM. I never really got to know him because he died when I was so young.
The amendment that stands in the name of the Leader of the Opposition is yet another example of the backward-looking attitude of the Labour party today. It is still living in the past and does not acknowledge what has happened in the industry in the past few years. That is not necessarily what everybody would have wanted to happen in the industry.
No doubt everybody shares the regret at the way in which the industry and the union have been torn apart. Nevertheless, that has happened and there is no point in trying to say that everything is all right and that we will forget and blot out those two years. We cannot blot out those years or the fact of bricks being thrown through people's windows. We cannot blot out abusive phone calls in the early hours of the morning.
I can assure hon. Members who have been lucky enough never to receive abusive phone calls that there is nothing more horrifying or more frightening to a person or to a family than that at 2 or 3 o'clock in the morning. Unfortunately, those things cannot be blotted out and 186 reconciliation between the mining unions will not come easily. Such reconciliation will be made all the harder by the attitude of the Opposition who continue, it would seem, to take the Scargill line. They have not told us their justification for opposing this Bill.
The Opposition amendment talks about low morale in the industry. If one were to look for evidence of such low morale one could not find it in the current production figures. To have a future, the industry must provide coal at an economic cost, and at a saleable price. Some hon. Members have said that the coal grant conversion scheme is about to end. I have not heard that, but if it were to end, I should regret it. I should regret to see that scheme corning to an end, because coal is an efficient fuel for industry and it is a shame that British industry burns premium fuels to the extent that it occasionally does. There is great capital cost involved in installing coal-fired plant in industry.
§ Mr. O'Brien
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that we ought to make representations that the conversion scheme should be extended to local government and to area and district health authorities?
§ Mr. McLoughlin
A strong case could be made for such extension. The Opposition talk about low morale in the industry. Low morale is more apparent in the Opposition than in the coal industry. High productivity will benefit the industry. The right hon. Member for Salford, East (Mr. Orme) talked about men over the age of 50 who have now left the industry and accepted redundancy. Some of the people over 50 that I knew when I worked for the National Coal Board, as it then was, deserved redundancy. Miners who work under ground from an early age up to the age of 50 deserve redundancy. I say good luck to them. I am glad that such people have been able to leave the industry with a relatively good settlement. I do not share the anxiety of the hon. Member for Salford, East about people over the age of 50 using the generous redundancy scheme.
The Opposition amendment does not refer to pit closures. How could it? If it did, it would be double talk by the Opposition, because between 1964 and 1970, when they were in Government, they were good at pit closures and closed far more pits than the present Government have been able to close. In the area in which I lived on the Cannock Chase coalfield there were about 27 pits. Now there is just one, Littleton colliery. All the others have been closed.
The amendment refers to the reinstatement of sacked miners. This is a matter for British Coal and must be looked at on the basis of some of the crimes committed by the people who were dismissed. One cannot look at the Bill without considering what happened during the miners' industrial action when some members of the NUM, following the quite appalling leadership of that union, brought about the horrifying events of 1985. It was a tragic 12 months for the whole industry, and the only people who gained from it were those who were trying to make an industrial dispute a political dispute. Certainly, the miners did not gain from it.
There is no doubt where the blame lay for the miner's dispute. It lay with the leaders of the NUM who failed to hold a ballot. No matter how one talks around that, one cannot get away from it. In places where ballots were held, a majority of people wished to continue working. In the ballot in which I took part, 72 per cent. voted to continue 187 working and 28 per cent. voted to go on strike. My line of action was obvious, and I continued to go to work during some difficult periods.
The failure of the NUM to hold a ballot and the subsequent changes in its rules led to the formation of the Union of Democratic Miners. I am pleased that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State has on several occasions supported the right of the UDM to exist in the coal industry. The intransigence of the NUM in refusing to face the situation that exists means it is trying to override the right of the UDM to exist. I regret that the Opposition do not support this Bill, because it will give proper rights to people who work in our coal industry.
I should like to see the return of total normality in the industry and I hope that that feeling is shared by every hon. Member. The Opposition refuse to acknowledge the true situation in the industry and continue to look back to what it was. They should accept the situation that exists and if they do not do that, the progress that we all want will not occur. The change of name to British Coal will make coal easier to sell. In the past, the marketing department has had problems and the way in which a product can be marketed makes a great deal of difference.
Undoubtedly, great opportunities lie ahead for the coal industry and they exist in spite of the National Union of Mineworkers, not because of it, because that union has damaged the opportunities for British Coal. It caused damage to the philosophy of marketing the product. It is important that coal is sold to the big customer, the CEGB, but it must be sold also to other industries, because by doing that sales of coal can be increased.
It is vital that a supplier should be able to promise continuity of supplies. It was a great tribute to British Coal that throughout the dispute it managed to ensure that all its industrial customers were serviced. That is the greatest marketing point that the marketing department can put over. It was important that those industries which used coal were able to get supplies. If supplies had failed, those customers which we all accept are so important, would have gone elsewhere. They would have done that if coal had proved an unreliable energy source. Continuity is important to industry.
I hope that, although it is late in the day, the Opposition will reconsider their opposition to the Bill and see the error of their ways. If they truly want a coal industry with some continuity, they will support the Bill.
§ Mr. Michael McGuire (Makerfield)
The hon. Member for Elmet (Mr. Batiste), among others, has spoken of the militancy of the miners. He also made out a good case for a co-ordinated energy policy, which we would welcome.
Many years ago, when, like me, my hon. Friend the Member for Midlothian (Mr. Eadie) was on the Back Benches, the militancy of the miners was always raised. In 1919, we had what was known as the Sankey commission because the whole industry was in one hell of a mess. Sankey recommended that, if we wanted a prosperous coal industry in the longer term, there would have to be public ownership. He offered miners a charter.
The charge about miners' militancy is answered by the fact that even when they had total power in their hands, they did not achieve the miners' charter which was suggested in 1919. Many of the pioneers of public 188 ownership were miners. We are a declining body in the House and will decline further. It can be seen in the annals of the Labour party, a party that the miners did as much as anybody else to found, that whereas we once had 56 Members of Parliament, we are now down to 15. They had complete power in their hands, but when the militants said, "Eh, lads, why are we not trying to get what was laid down by an independent commission in 1919?", they replied, "To achieve that will probably be at the nation's expense and we should put the welfare of the people first. We can pull down the temples of nationalisation but we have more to gain from them than anyone else."
The weakness of the Bill is that it does not address the nation's energy requirements as part of a well thought out policy. I thought that the hon. Member for Elmet said that, too. If we consider the Government's tactics, it is clear that what they are really saying through the Bill is that coal is expendable. One could be forgiven for thinking that coal is regarded as the cornerstone of Government energy policy, to judge from their words, but I do not believe that the Government are planning that way. The Bill is a knee-jerk reaction. Events have overtaken the Government and they have had to introduce legislation to match the situation.
As my right hon. Friend the Member for Salford, East (Mr. Orme) said, if the Government really had the welfare of the coal industry at heart, as they pretend, there would have been more attention to the coal conversion scheme. The hon. Member for Derbyshire, West (Mr. McLoughlin) said that he hopes that the scheme will continue because it has been successful. Every other press release issued by the Under-Secretary of State tells us about all of the successes and that huge industrial concerns are finding it cheaper to convert to coal. I hope that the Minister will tell us that that scheme will continue and that its absence from the Bill should not be taken as an indication that the Government will abandon it.
I am sorry that I missed the speech by my hon. Friend the Member for Pontefract and Castleford (Mr. Lofthouse). We feel that the attempt to achieve a leaner, fitter and smaller industry is really an attempt to make it more attractive to potential private owners. The industry has not been in public ownership for long. Vesting day was 1 January 1947, so we are about to celebrate its 40th birthday. Before nationalisation, it was, in every sense of the word, a bloody industry. Like clockwork, 1,000 men were killed each year because it was run privately and profit was the king. Safety came a poor second.
Conservative Members will have a job persuading the country. We have heard a lot of election speeches today. Those lads are a bit quick out of the traps chasing that hare. The lady who is referred to as Maggie might have Conservative Members hanging on, and I am not certain that they will all come back. They have all been polishing their election speeches today and having a bit of fun.
§ Mr. McGuire
No. I am one of the casualties of life. Politics is full of ups and downs and mine is down at present. I am an optimist by nature, though.
Conservative Members have sharpened many of their election speeches on the Union of Democratic Mineworkers/National Union of Mineworkers conflict. It seems silly that Conservative Members cannot wait to 189 offer the industry to the public. One of the most enduring Conservative principles is that any big industry should be privately rather than publicly owned. I hope that they translate that enthusiasm to an industry which tends to undermine the case for the coal industry—the nuclear power industry.
I prophesy that there is no way in which the nuclear power industry could be sold to private capital. Although it is an important source of electricity in America, not one nuclear power station has been ordered since the Three Mile Island affair. It did not take Chernobyl to bring about that attitude. They would not touch nuclear power with a barge pole because of the costs and dangers.
Research by the coal industry and the Central Electricity Generating Board on fluidised beds is jointly funded. I do not know whether we would argue for total Government funding, but we definitely want at least parity with the nuclear power industry on hidden costs. The idea of removing from the public the threat of miners' militancy, and the desirability of having an energy source which cannot be prejudiced by such action, comes through in Ministers' speeches. I want people to say why we should privatise the CEGB and its nuclear power element. There would be not one taker.
We all want a profitable coal industry. Nobody has said so far how well our mining machine manufacturers do out of a steady base, but if that base is eroded, their chances of competing successfully, as they do now, will be severely weakened. Mining machinery is one of the jewels in our export crown. I am bound to have a last fling at nuclear power. I should love to know how many nuclear power stations we have exported. When we debated that matter many years ago, one of the prizes offered was the prospect of exporting nuclear power stations all over the world. In fact, we had to give away one of those nuclear power stations and no one would touch the other one that we offered. If the hush telegraph is correct, it appears that we are going for the American system and the go-ahead will be given for Sizewell.
§ Mr. McGuire
I did not intervene earlier, although I was tempted. I would like to press on. I do not refuse to give way out of any discourtesy to the hon. Gentleman; he knows that I have a high opinion of him as one of the more rational of the Nottinghamshire Members. I would not say that he is the only rational Nottingham Member, but he is one of the few.
We must remember that a profitable and bigger coal industry will be the necessary base for the mining machinery manufacturers. I declare an interest as I am associated with a plant on the fringes of my constituency. That plant is doing wonders. We should pay more attention to the mining machinery manufacturers and realise that it is a necessary ancillary of a profitable coal industry.
I wish now to discuss the burning issue of the Union of Democratic Mineworkers and the National Union of Mineworkers. I differ from a number of my colleagues in that I believe that the strike should have been confirmed by a ballot. The bedrock of the NUM was its steadfast allegiance to the ultimate test in democracy. That allegiance commanded the attention, almost the admiration, of the country, even though the public sometimes suffered from that will as expressed at the ballot box.
190 There have been only two strikes in the coal industry in all the years that I have been a Member of this House. I was born on the day that the general strike began—3 May 1926. From then on the union was shackled with too high a proportion required for a successful ballot. The figure was 66⅔ per cent.—an absurd requirement. I believe that 55 per cent. is more in keeping because a bare majority creates difficult arguments on the margins. A proportion of 55 per cent. leaves a gap of 10 per cent. to 45 per cent. However, there have been only two strikes—in 1972 and 1974 respectively. I regret very much that we did not heed the common sense that was emerging then.
When Conservative Members rile and ridicule the connection between the mining industry and the Labour party, they do a disservice to their own intelligence. There is an umbilical cord in that connection. Conservative Members will know from other debates that sometimes parties are tied in a way that makes them less free than they would like to express themselves on a specific issue because of historical or other connections. There is no doubt that we were inhibited in the British Labour and trade union movement.
There was an essence of solidarity in the Labour and trade union movement, and the unflinching solidarity of the striking miners caused people to suffer dreadfully for 12 months. There were doubts among Labour Members as to whether the exercise had been entered into in the best possible way.
After the next general election I will take from this House the memory of the generosity of my colleagues in the mining group, the trade union movement and the parliamentary Labour party. There was no ostracism, although they disagreed with me when I stated my views clearly in the PLP. I expressed my views in my constituency PLP, which was a more difficult task as striking miners were present who thought that my speech was the most dreadful that they had ever heard—especially from a Member of Parliament sponsored by mineworkers.
Th consequences of the conflict between the NUM and the UDM are with us today. I told Sir Robert Haslam—and if I meet him again I will repeat this point—that the conflict is not one that he can solve. He has to react to the events as they are now. Miners such as I, who came from the coalface, and my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) and my other hon. Friends, who became branch secretaries, did not have to read about these matters in books, to solve the conflict. We enjoyed the confidence of our fellow men and became pit secretaries and standard bearers—not for the miners, but for the Labour party representing that particular section of the trade union movement. It is our duty to hold out the hand of friendship.
There is one swift way in which the UDM will almost wither on the vine, and that will be a good withering. The NUM must say that there will never again be a strike without the test of a ballot. That was the raison d'etre for the emergence of the UDM. It is not in the interests of the NUM or the UDM that the conflict should continue to worsen like a festering sore.
There are those who argue that the conflict is diminishing. There must be severe tugging at people's heartstrings: many miners are members of mining communities and their fathers' fathers and their relatives were members of the NUM and often occupied high positions. Anyone who has a mining connection—even 191 if that can be traced back to a grandfather or beyond—must realise that there is a great pull of loyalty. There is a comradeship in the communities that extends beyond the ordinary boundaries of most other associations.
This is a deep conflict for the UDM because, in a sense, its members are betraying something that they once held dear. They have done that for a good reason and I would not castigate them for that. I was attacked by many people in my constituency when I refused to join the condemnation of the UDM and claim that its members were scabs or blacklegs. There are technical meanings for both those words and they did not apply to the Nottinghamshire miners or to any other group of miners who, following a ballot, followed the direction of that vote.
I do not believe that there is any profit to the Labour party or to the mining unions in the conflict, which is a festering sore. Together we should hold out the hand of friendship. We should say that we have more in common than divides us. The conflict is in the interests of those who do not have our welfare at heart and who want to see us divided. The sooner we can bring about the reconciliation the better.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Mansfield (Mr. Concannon) made a wonderful speech—and wonderful speeches are not always those with which people agree. I like to see the man who goes into a hostile audience, says what he really believes and commands attention and admiration. My right hon. Friend's record speaks for itself. He was in a difficult position. My position was less difficult, but we must battle on.
This will probably be my last speech in a coal debate and it may even be my last speech in this place. Although I anticipate that the Prime Minister will say that she will hang on for some time, for obvious reasons I feel that political considerations will dictate the date of the election. I think that the election will be sometime between June and October 1987, so this will probably be my last chance to address my colleagues on both sides of the House.
I want a reconciliation and my aim is not to say or do anything that will make that less likely. I ask my friends in the NUM to consider how to achieve that reconciliation. Although I have no influence, those with influence with the leadership of the UDM must explain that the best interest lies in reconciliation because the UDM will have proved its point. If that influence is exerted, the united opposition of the NUM, the UDM and the Labour party will prove that this is a flawed and short-term Bill. The Bill is not in the long-term interests of the coal industry.
We may argue for tactical reasons whether to vote only for the reasoned amendment, but whatever happens I believe that the Bill will be put to a searching test.
§ Mr. Phillip Oppenheim (Amber Valley)
I support the Bill as the only realistic way forward for the coal industry in Britain today. Fundamental changes are taking place in the industry which are making coal less of a burden to other industries and less of a burden to the domestic consumer. The changes are long overdue, and many of them are reflected in the Bill. In the past, fear of the unions has prevented such changes. To explain the current opposition to the changes that are enshrined in the Bill I 192 shall delve briefly into the history of the industry. I make no apologies for doing that because the coal industry, more than almost any other, is a prisoner of its history.
Conservative Members must recognise that we are seeing—in many ways represented by the opposition to the Bill from Opposition Members—the legacy of the many years of severe exploitation which occurred in the coal industry in the 18th and 19th centuries. In the 20th century, that exploitation created in Britain mining communities which were almost self-contained, self-centered tribes which were alienated and apart from the rest of society. Miners were opposed to the management because of the suffering and the tribulations of their forefathers. Those mining communities were proud of their achievements. Despite fighting underground against the elements, and on the surface against appalling conditions, they banded together and built their communities into something to live for. That was the basis of the wagon circle mentality of many mining communities—a mentality that was so cynically and tragically exploited by Scargill and the NUM and represented by Labour's refusal to support the Bill.
Those backward-looking attitudes were mirrored and fostered by many generations of appalling management in the industry. In the 1920s there was still no formal training for British rank-and-file miners compared with the position in Germany, where miners had two years compulsory part-time training. By 1941 only 63 per cent. of coal in Britain was cut mechanically, compared with 97 per cent. in the Ruhr in Germany. In 1938 Polish mines were 59 per cent. more efficient than British mines.
That appalling degeneration in the coal mining industry was reflected in an abhorrent strike record. Between 1929 and 1938, 2 million days a year were lost as a result of strikes. Of the insured working population, the 6 per cent. in the coal mining industry accounted for a massive 64 per cent. of the strikes. Even during the last war, in 1944, 1.64 million man days and 22 million tonnes of coal were lost while we were battling against Hitler on the continent.
Such is the appalling legacy that we have inherited that, in 1945, a politician was moved to write:What statistics cannot record, however, is the persistent guerilla warfare which continues in the majority of pits between management and men…Taking the country as a whole, probably half the pits are kept in existence by the other half…In fact, by 1944, economic laws had ceased to apply in the industry.That politician was Harold Wilson, writing in "New Deal for Coal". That appalling legacy explains why, since the Coal Mines Act 1931, social and political considerations have outweighed economic ones, to the long-term disservice not only of other British industries or the country as a whole but of the coal industry.
Such has been the failure since the war that of 750,000 jobs which existed in the mining industry at the end of the war, fewer than 200,000 were still in existence by 1979. It is perhaps ironic that a majority of the closures took place in the years of the Wilson Government. Indeed, in my constituency, 12 mines were closed and 15,000 jobs were lost during the period of the Wilson Government. Those jobs were lost with appalling redundancy terms being offered. My constituents did not forget that recently. The Labour party's twistings and turnings, and its contortions in refusing to condemn violent picketing and refusing to support the democratic aspirations of the UDM, may have 193 lost any last vestige of moral authority and political respect that the Labour party of old retained in many parts of the midlands.
The 1984–85 strike was, in many ways, the last atavistic thrashings of the old way of doing things. It is sad that such energies as were expended during that strike were turned in upon ourselves and against our countrymen rather than against our overseas competitors. Most people now realise that the old attitudes which may have been justified in the past only lead us backwards and that only high productivity and a high efficiency industry can guarantee jobs.
It is unfair to burden other industries with high energy costs. Recently I visited a dye works and a hosiery manufacturer in my constituency. I was surprised when the trade union leader in that works told me that, during the previous 20 years, he had been appalled at the high energy costs which his company had to pay and which had definitely resulted in a loss of competitiveness and a loss of jobs in his industry. Jobs were being lost in one industry to pay for the jobs in the coal industry.
The NUM has no right to expect the rest of industry to bail it out indefinitely. Labour Members sitting comfortably here have no right to expect men to dig holes in the ground in difficult conditions at the taxpayers' expense just to satisfy their 1930s ideals of industrial machismo. Most people realise that. UDM members realise that. Only Scargill and the Labour party still refuse to accept those facts and the right of the UDM to exist and to be represented.
That is why the Labour party's views are becoming increasingly marginalised, not just ideologically, but by the facts. The facts are that, in the past, the industry slipped inexorably downhill, achieving the not inconsiderable double of losing jobs and costing taxpayers' money at the same time. In contrast, the industry is now investing record amounts, paying record wages, achieving record productivity and, above all, producing energy for consumers and industry at a lower cost than before.
Those inescapable facts explain the backward-looking views of the Labour party and the NUM and their contortions and blind refusal to accept the logic of progress. Nothing demonstrates the Labour party's head-in-the-sand mentality and its undemocratic, authoritarian views more than its refusal to accept the UDM and its refusal to admit the tremendous progress which has been achieved in the industry since the end of the strike.
§ Mr. Peter Hardy (Wentworth)
The hon. Member for Amber Valley (Mr. Oppenheim) will forgive me if I do not follow his argument. I wish to refer to the speeches of my hon. Friend the Member for Makerfield (Mr. McGuire) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Mansfield (Mr. Concannon).
We all wish to see the back of this appalling and disreputable Administration, but if the Prime Minister stays in office a little longer, we may at least be allowed to hear my hon. Friend and my right hon. Friend make further speeches. They seemed to think that their speeches this evening were their valedictory ones. At least after the next election my hon. Friend the Member for Pontefract and Castleford (Mr. Lofthouse) will be with us, unlike some of the Conservative Members who are here tonight. 194 I shall be grateful to see him and others who hold the same views, because the argument that he advanced this evening is important.
I do not propose to make a long speech and repeat some of the points that have already been raised. They require a serious response from Ministers, not least those referring to the financial position of the National Coal Board. None of us object to the financial provision. The reason for the Opposition's criticism of the Bill is clearly stated—it will pave the way for further contraction. I shall say a word or two about that in a moment.
There is little serious argument about the provision of funds to maintain the National Coal Board's viability. Indeed, when the last measure was before the House, I suggested that it was a trifle optimistic. It was more designed to reflect Sir Ian MacGregor's stewardship as being successful than to provide for the long term. We expressed serious concern about that at the time. Perhaps Ministers did not pay close enough attention. Perhaps Ministers are a trifle schizophrenic in their approach to the coal industry. The Minister will understand why I say that. We heard today from the Secretary of State and some Conservative Members about how well the coal industry is doing. They are seeking to bask in the industry's achievements. The fact remains that, at the same time as basking in the record achievement, the Government are remarkably inactive, inert, in ensuring that commercial success is achieved.
How much energy have the Government put into going to Europe and demanding a fair share of the European coal market? How much energy have the Government put into their arguments that Europe should not develop a dependency on dumped coal from eastern Europe, which is sent to Europe at any price? Eastern Europe will always undercut our price, so desperate is its search for foreign currency. How much energy have Ministers put into resisting the importation of South African coal? That coal is mined in conditions that would not be regarded as tolerable in this country, not even by some Conservative Members who might like to be coal owners again.
On the question of South Africa, I ask the Minister to pay particular attention to information that I have received during the past two days. Indeed, I mentioned this point yesterday during questions. That information shows that South African coal is being brought into Britain in a rather furtive manner, taken to a private coal mine in the north of England, and then, again furtively, taken to the National Coal Board's establishments in the midlands where it is mixed with opencast and deep mine production—again furtively—so that, at the end of the day, no one knows that the NCB has imported South African coal.
If greengrocers have to label their oranges as coming from South Africa, if Barclays bank—not an institution which has always been admired on this side of the House—has pulled out of South Africa, we are entitled to be rather firm in our requirement that the Minister examines South African involvement with the NCB. The Minister has heard me on this subject before, because the board's structural involvement appeared to be rather doubtful, dubious and suspect a couple of years ago.
No doubt the Minister will talk about British Coal Enterprise. I, like my hon. Friends, will not criticise it. I am pleased that in Bolton road in Wath-on-Dearne in my constituency workshops have been established by British Coal Enterprise. It is a highly desirable development and the people involved in it have done an excellent job. 195 Nevertheless, the Minister must understand that the scale of job slaughter in my constituency and in those of my hon. Friends means that, welcome though the development is, it can be dwarfed by a single decision of the National Coal Board.
I was grateful for the fact that the Labour Government established a similar scheme for the steel industry in the late 1970s. Such bodies can make a contribution, but they cannot be used as an excuse for further slaughter of our economic prospects. The Minister and Conservative Members should understand that this is only a small country, and if we inflict desperate and severe wounds on some of our communities, it means that the whole body politic is not sound. The damage could have lasting consequences, and it sometimes is not especially economic.
The Government must recognise the logic of the achievement of which they boast. They must ensure that British Coal is able to secure markets. We believe that the industry has moved dramatically towards competitiveness, but the Government need to demonstrate that they cannot and will not require British Coal's competitiveness to be set against coal produced by abused or slave labour, or coal available from countries in need of currency. I trust that the Minister will make it clear that British Coal will not be expected to be competitive with both hands tied behind its back.
On 22 October 1979—almost eight years ago—I tabled a parliamentary question on the future of coal technology. In reply, the then Under-Secretary of State said:Advanced coal technology developments are taking place in the fields of fluidised bed combustion, gasification to yield substitute natural gas and fuel gas, and in the production of oil from coal. In fluidised bed combustion, the NCB and private industry are pressing forward with the development of industrial boilers and furnaces."—[Official Report, 29 October 1979; Vol. 972, c. 381.]The Minister nods, but the fact remains that reference has already been made to the proposal that there should be two coal-fired power stations. Yet the development of fluidised bed combustion, which has taken place in Yorkshire under the auspices of the IEA, is being developed commercially in other countries, not here. That is once again a sad demonstration of Britain's inventiveness, with the failure of British political institutions to capitalise on that intellectual achievement.
It is not good enough for the Minister to allow the Central Electricity Generating Board, which was involved in the research, not to be prepared to embody that research in new coal-fired stations. I trust that the Minister will have the backing of his hon. Friends.
We also need to demonstrate that British Coal will remain a compassionate organisation. Unlike many industries, it has to recognise community responsibilities. I am sure that the hon. Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Lester) appreciates that. Unfortunately, in the last year or two some very hard decisions have been taken. I know of one man—a workmate of my father—who, at the age of 78, had to give up his bungalow and move into an old people's home. There, at Winterwell house in my constituency, he was properly cared for. After a little time, at the age of 79, he became robust and healthy again, returned to normality and married.
On that man's marriage, the local authority said that he could not stay in the old people's home and gave him 196 a flat. Before he entered Winterwell house he had received a concessionary coal allowance, and when he went into the flat he hoped to receive it again, but the NCB said no. I said to the NCB, "But surely you rejoice at the reactivation of this once long and faithful servant?" The NCB still said.
It appears that if the man had moved to a house that burned coal he could have been provided with coal, but as the council could only offer him a flat with gas heating he could not have an allowance. What the NCB was basically saying was that had he had a couple of tonnes of coal dumped on his doorstep first, he could have converted to a cash allowance. For the NCB to take that attitude to a faithful and long-serving employee—a man of 79, who was returned to the land of living; who, one might say, cocked a snook at the concept of mortality—was very insensitive.
That sort of inflexibility developed with Mr. MacGregor—this might offend one or two Conservative Members—when the principle of deception became almost acceptable. It developed with the strike—the result of a contrived connivance. Conservative Members cannot deny that, when Cortonwood was proposed for closure five weeks after a promise that it would have five years' more life. It was at that point that some of us became convinced that when the strike was over the NCB's first task would have to be to try to restore morale and establish co-operation. There are still grounds for deep suspicion. I do not criticise the present chairman, but some of the gentlemen with whom Mr. MacGregor surrounded himself have to learn that the MacGregor fashion will not persist.
I am deeply worried about safety. My hon. Friend the Member for Pontefract and Castleford referred to the anxieties concerning my association. Although the Minister may claim that it is not a direct part of the Bill, it is a relevant aspect of the matter. I trust that the Minister, in his reply, will offer comments that satisfy those serious anxieties. I hope also that he will not be as partisan as the Secretary of State was, but will recognise that we should seek to take real steps to re-establish a happier atmosphere within the mining industry.
We must have reconciliation. The petty, partisan approach adopted by hon. Gentlemen opposite is not at all helpful. I know that they cannot resist the temptation to try to cling to their seats, but the wiser, more mature approach adopted by the hon. Member for Broxtowe will serve as a better model than that adopted by the hon. Member for Sherwood (Mr. Stewart). It is a model that should transcend narrow, short-term party political considerations. The Opposition do not criticise the Bill because of such considerations. The Opposition adopt this attitude because our areas have suffered quite enough. We cannot afford to support a Bill which would make matters even worse.
§ Mr. Den Dover (Chorley)
I support the Bill. I welcome the giving of rights to the second largest mineworkers, union. It is wrong that the National Union of Mineworkers has had a monopoly in democratic rights.
I wish to speak particularly about opencast mining. Over the last few years, whereas opencast mining produced about 14 million tonnes or so per year, as a percentage of the total output it rose from 12 per cent. in 1978–79, to 13 per cent. in 1982–83, to 15 per cent. in 1983–84, and in 197 1984–85, the year of the strike, to 36 per cent. During 1985–86, opencast output has been 16 per cent. of total output.
We have heard a lot of talk about the activities of deep mining, yet we are in danger of forgetting opencast mining production. I should like to complain about the omission from the Bill of any movement towards privatisation and deregulation. The Opposition's amendment states that the Billsets the scene for privatisation of the industry".I only wish that it did. We should go further.
I am the parliamentary consultant for two opencast mining contractors. We should allow them more scope to make their expertise and techniques available to the overall interests of the consumer in the country. For example, mainly a civil engineering operation takes place. Coal is extracted from seams as thin as a few inches—perhaps up to a few feet. This procedure is carried out in strong competition with deep mining methods. These firms have expertise in exploration and in bidding for areas of mining deposits around the country that could make the operation more efficient.
I do not condemn or criticise the activities of the opencast mining executive within British Coal. It has some first-class officers, particularly George Lindley, who is in charge of the operation. We should allow private firms to have more scope to extract coal. We tend to treat private mines—drift mines—as the poor relation, as a small production unit, yet coal is to be gained, particularly where old deep mining activities have ceased. Through privatisation and profit motivation, which have been criticised by Labour Members, a lot more coal would be won in the interests of the consumer and at cheap prices.
Therefore, the Bill is deficient. I hope that, in the next few years, we shall see more steps taken by the Conservative Government—perhaps in their next phase of office—towards privatisation and deregulation. At the moment, the monopolies held by British Coal and the largely unionised work force are too great. Opencast mines and private mines, which have a large union membership, have something to show.
I hope that the Minister will remember the interests of opencast mining and will recognise that we could do something in future to make it more effective and more cost efficient in terms of production and the interests of consumers. It will also stop the increasing importation of coal. That will be in the interests of the country.
§ Mr. Michael Welsh (Doncaster, North)
I do not support the Bill. The financial aspects of it have not been thought out properly. The Bill does not contain the detail that one should have thought the Government would desire. We do not dispute the fact that there is no substitute for efficiency. I accept that. There is a danger that, if we cut the industry too much, we will be in financial difficulty. The Bill may aim to do that. The result would be a contradiction, as has been said by Conservative Members. It is a possibility.
Clause 2 of the Bill provides £200 million for deficit grants. That sounds like a lot of money. In 1984–85, the amount was £2.25 billion. When we examine the figures in that light, we will see that the amount provided is low.
§ Mr. Welsh
I accept that. It was a mistake to drop it to £50 million. The money was needed to make the industry efficient and enable it to stand on its own two feet, as the Minister desires.
Clause 3 mentions an amount of £750 million. Basically, that money is provided to close pits and to cause miners to be unemployed. The aim is not only to close pits but to reduce production. That will be one of the difficulties for the Government.
One or two of my hon. Friends have said that, if the result of the Bill were to reduce production to about 90 million tonnes, the price of coal would increase. The Government will not reduce the price of coal unless they write off all the debts of the pits that they close. That is the only way in which it can be done. If the Government do not do that, unit costs will increase, and that will mean an increase in the cost of coal. An increase in productivity and a decrease in production will lead to a loss. Fewer units will have to carry a larger industrial debt. This is now a capital intensive industry. The wage bill does not represent a great deal, but the level of capital investment represents a terrific amount.
Demand for coal might be for 90 million tonnes. If supply is brought down to that level and the authorities say that they will supply only that amount, the coal industry and the country will be in a difficult position. If there is no surplus capacity, supply cannot be increased. There is really only one shaft—all the shafts in the country put together. If that shaft is closed, the capacity to produce is lost, and the supplies needed will not be available. That is the great difficulty into which we will run.
One cannot just open a pit. It is not like opening a factory. It takes between 10 and 15 years to get a pit into production. Even in the 1930s, when rotten coal owners were running the industry and the industry was much rougher than it is now, the mine owners always kept excess capacity. In my village of Bullcroft the people once worked only three days a week. There was surplus capacity then. I started work in 1939. We were glad, when the war came, that we had the surplus capacity to use to win the war. It was important that we should satisfy the demand.
If supply is reduced to the level at which it just satisfies present demand, we shall not be able to increase supply later. It is important always to ensure that we can increase demand at a given time, and that means carrying surplus capacity. In the meantime, we must fight for overseas trade and get more people to buy our coal. It is better to do that than to be caught short.
Clause 3 will close pits, destroy communities and increase unemployment in mining areas. My pit, Bullcroft, has closed. The workshop at which my brother was secretary has closed also—perhaps because he was involved! Four hundred jobs have been lost. We have nothing to work on. We now have British Coal Enterprise. To be fair, about nine people work in its office.
This legislation will force job losses on other businesses. It is doing something else that is frightening. If the demand for coal increases and we cannot meet that demand, we shall have to import coal, thereby exporting miners' jobs. That is terribly depressing. The Government have thought about the industry in the short term rather than the long term.
I think that enough has been said about the review procedure, so I shall be brief. The Secretary of State said that the National Coal Board would give full weight to the 199 findings of the review bodies. When the review bodies decided that pits should be closed, the NCB gave "full weight" to that decision, but when they decided that pits should be kept open, the NCB closed them. The NCB has treated with contempt the chairmen of the review bodies. The NCB set up the review bodies, asked them to make recommendations and then completely ignored them. The Bill will make matters worse. Not only will "full weight" not be given, but the findings will be weightless.
Under this legislation, the Government are saying, "Here is £750 million, but you must close pits and sack men." In effect, the Bill instructs the National Coal Board to sack men. The Government are saying that the board can have the money only if it cuts down on the number of workers. In other words, it can have the money only if unemployment is created in mining areas.
There are some omissions from the Bill. The Government might say, "This is the National Coal Board's doing. It is not to do with us." But they say nothing about the miners who were sacked. I should have thought that a compassionate Government would include a provision whereby the board would consider individual cases and, if the board found that everything was all right, miners would get their jobs.
It is embarrassing that the Bill is carrying on the strike. We are trying to smooth everything to make the industry efficient and have forgotten about the strike, yet the Government are carrying it on.
If the hon. Gentleman wants to extend this hand of harmony across the divide between the two unions, is he saying that he supports the proposal in the Bill to allow the Union of Democratic Mineworkers participation rights?
§ Mr. Welsh
I am not saying that. I am being fair. I am talking about other clauses. I do not think that Acts of Parliament help. If I fell out with my wife and an Act of Parliament said that she had to come back to me, she would just throw it away. People must become involved and talk about the issues. That is not done with Acts of Parliament. The only good thing is that, within the next 12 months, we shall be in government. We shall introduce a coal Bill which is good for the industry, the miners and the nation. The nation deserves a better coal Bill.
§ Mr. Martin M. Brandon-Bravo (Nottingham, South)
I associate myself with the tributes paid to the right hon. Member for Mansfield (Mr. Concannon). His brand of integrity will be sorely missed in this place.
I believe that the public at large will be surprised that the present law does not give all employee organisations fair participation in the management of trusts, welfare organisations and superannuation schemes. Therefore, the Government are right to correct an omission that is unacceptable in a democratic society.
It must have come as a surprise to the present leadership of the main union to find that democracy is not the overbearing power of a majority to do just as it wishes; nor does it allow a minority to exercise unreasoned restraint on the legitimate aims of a majority. Democracy is a difficult and delicate balance. It must provide for the rights of minority views and, in this case, a substantial minority. Clearly, the present NUM leadership does not 200 subscribe to the sense of balance or democracy as we understand it. Therefore, I believe that the Government are morally bound to ensure the protection of a reasoned and reasonable minority in the provisions of this Bill. Of course, it is convenient if an employer does not have to negotiate with a multiplicity of unions. The problems of leapfrogging in wage negotiations or blocking tactics in the area of welfare and pensions are well documented. If the circumstances do not exist for a single union—they no longer exist in the mining industry—there must be a provision to deal fairly and justly with the new situation.
In the debate on the Gracious Speech, the hon. Member for Newport, East (Mr. Hughes) expressed pride in his family heritage in the coal industry. I do not believe that he did any service to the industry now or for the future to describe decent, law-abiding citizens as scabs. A total of 30,000 decent families in Nottinghamshire who exercised their democratic right to vote and who were denied the proper fruits of that vote were not acting as scabs. That label is an affront to the basic dignity of all those families. Nothing could underline more the Labour party's rejection of the rule of law and the rights of people within a democracy. Its values are those of a totalitarian, state unionised society which would be rejected by the overwhelming majority of our people.
I welcome most warmly clauses 5 to 8 dealing with representative participation. That the Charity Commissioners can respond to the just submission from employee groups otherwise excluded is patently fair. Equally, the power granted to the Secretary of State to enable full participation in a relevant social welfare body surprises only by its absence from the industry now. Perhaps most important is the right under clause 7 to allow the provision for participation in the superannuation scheme.
The Labour party's general attitude to pension funds needs a higher profile than hitherto. One would expect that funds should be managed with the prime objective of providing the pension and other benefits to which the contributing employee rightly feels entitled. That entitlement may not be carved in the proverbial tablets of stone, but it should not be hostage to the amateur chicanery of the exponents of social engineering and so-called good works.
Those may well be right and proper subjects for political debate and decision in the House. However, they are not matters that should deter fund managers from acting in the best and absolute interest of the beneficiaries, be they employees or their surviving spouses.
It is appropriate to comment on the years ahead. It seems plain and simple common sense to have attainable targets for this industry, just as for any other. To aim to break even and reach commercial viability by 1990 is neither pie in the sky nor an objective that should be viewed in fear. The absence of targets that are hard to achieve, but genuinely achievable none the less, is a recipe for sloppy management and sloppy working practices that ultimately draw on national resources that are better used and in great demand elsewhere in our economy. There surely must be greater pride in working for a corporation that makes a margin of profit, that can invest without a begging bowl and avoids the constant conflict of interest when in this place we have to decide between competing claims on the national purse.
Yesterday, I asked a question of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Energy. I was content with his 201 answer and accept that money is not a brake on the work of the enterprise company. However, I want to underline a public concern. During the terrible strike there was little sympathy for the anti-democratic and totally alien behaviour of the bully boys directed and encouraged by the NUM leadership. I believe that there was considerable sympathy for the communities which were clearly threatened by the changes which most, in their heart of hearts, knew were inevitable and necessary.
The question what the Government would do for those people was a commonly expressed concern by those outside the mining areas and was a nagging pull on those who were in good long-life areas facing charges, in my view unfairly made, of "You're all right, Jack." I hope that British Coal Enterprise maintains a high and positive profile. I believe that the Secretary of State was absolutely right to pour scorn on a Labour party that did very little in that area when it had charge of the process of change. That process of change will always exist in an extractive industry.
My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State in June of this year made it clear that we would not let down a democratic trade union in a fight for fair representation. The treatment of Nottinghamshire miners and others of like views has been nothing short of shameful—by the NUM, the TUC and especially the Labour party. The Labour party is in no way deserving of the support many of those lifelong members still wish to give. The party affiliations of those Nottinghamshire men is not our concern. Our concern is that they receive the justice from this place to which they are rightly entitled. I use the words of my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary in June that it would be outrageous and an affront to natural justice if we did not deliver this legislation on their behalf.
§ 8.7 pm
§ Mr. Allen McKay (Barnsley, West and Penistone)
We are coming to the end of a long debate. As usual in mining debates, it has been interesting and many important points have been raised. Coal legislation is normally given a three-hour debate late at night. When we have a full day in prime time it shows the importance attached to this Bill by the Government and the Opposition.
The hon. Member for Amber Valley (Mr. Oppenheim) gave us a text book talk on the mining industry and the problems it has faced. In three quarters of his speech he justified why we should vote against the Bill. Whether he knew it or not, he clearly showed what goes through the minds of the people in the mining communities when they see this Bill.
I am a member of the British Association of Colliery Management. I can tell the Minister that most members of that organisation will be voting Labour next time. They realise that this Bill puts their jobs and their industry on the block along with everything for which they have worked. That is not hearsay but something that has been fed to me and I have no reason to disbelieve it.
The hon. Member for Amber Valley also criticised the situation as he finds it. He, above any hon. Member, should realise what happens to an industry when one encourages foreign imports.
The hon. Member for Chorley (Mr. Dover) spoke about the privatisation of opencast mining. There is no doubt that if privatisaton comes about, opencasting will be the first on the scene. I can say to the Minister and the hon. Member for Chorley that if they want opencasting, 202 by all means let them go ahead. However, let it be on their patch. We do not want it on ours and we shall certainly not have it. Opencasting by its very nature is found in mining areas. We have had the problem of colliery closures for many years. In order to attract industry to those areas—believe me, we welcome British Coal Enterprise and wish more would happen—we shall have to create a fresh environment. We certainly do not want to see the opencast mining industry coming to an area in which we are trying to build a new environment that will attract industry.
The Secretary of State spoke about productivity. We agree that productivity has increased, but the right hon. Gentleman spoke not about bulk productivity but about output per man shift. There are two ways in which that increase in productivity can be achieved: by increasing the rate of output or by reducing manpower while maintaining the same level of output. Of course, there has been a decrease in manpower as well as in the number of collieries, so there has been an increase in output per man shift.
Investment did not just start in 1979, when the Conservative party came to power. Before I became a Member of Parliament I worked with the NCB, planning investment. Thus, in the Barnsley and south Yorkshire area, we were planning the investment that can now be seen. All credit to the Government for carrying on with the plans laid then, but hon. Members should not go away with the idea that only the Conservative Government invest in industry. The Labour Government invested heavily in the coal industry. After the next election, a Labour Government will continue the investment that this Government have made. However, a Labour Government will not run the industry down but will build it up.
It is true that the Labour Government had a closure policy, but after nationalisation we had a legacy of small, unproductive collieries that should have been closed years earlier. On nationalisation, the mineworkers immediately accepted that collieries should close, because they wanted to get rid of the problem. The industry has always had to face the problem of colliery closures, being an extractive industry. I can remember, however, when coal was at a premium, and could not be got at any price. It was wanted worldwide. Consequently, it annoys me when Conservative Members say that industry does not owe the NCB anything. In those days, industry owed the NCB and the miners everything, because it lived on the backs of miners.
During the era of Sir Alf Robens, people came round and patted us on the head, saying "Be good lads. I know you could earn a lot more, but we've got to look after this country's industry, so you can only have sixpence." That sixpence was accepted because the interests of the country and of industry lay at the heart of the miners' policy.
I entered the industry in 1945, and in my very first week I had a run in with the under-manager. At the time, I did not know that he was the under-manager, and I only found out when I went home for my dinner. My father and sat down for dinner, and he said, "I understand you've had a run in with Mr. Naylor." I said, "Sorry, Dad, I don't know him." He said, "Well, you remember a man with one eye, a limp and a flat cap?" I said, "Yes. He hit me." My father said, "That's the under-manager. You'll eat your dinner and walk down to the pit and apologise."
My father told me to do that for two reasons: first, he thought it right and proper that I should apologise; 203 secondly and more importantly, he was frightened of losing his job if I did not do so. The Bill will take us back to those policies. I first went down the pit in 1945. I admit that it was a good pit. It belonged to Earl Fitz William, and he looked after it. He looked after the men who worked in it, but he looked after his pit ponies much better. Do the Government want to return to that era?
It was a proud day for all who worked in the colliery in 1947 when the blue flag was unfurled at the top of the winding tower and a plaque was unveiled that read, "For the people by the people." We got the oldest man in the pit, who was 78 years old, to go up the tower and unfurl the flag, and he then rode down the yard on a pit pony. That is what the industry was like then. He had to work until that age, because there was nothing for him once he stopped working. Provision for retired miners, and so on, has come only since nationalisation.
The Secretary of State now wants the NCB to change the proud name that it has born since 1947 to the British Coal Corporation, but that will not alter the product. For the right hon. Gentleman to say at the Despatch Box that that is how to sell coal is ridiculous. If coal does not sell, the marketing manager has to be sacked. That is how coal is sold, and not by altering the name. Consequently, we have good reason to be suspicious. The only conclusion to be drawn is that we are seeing the beginning of the privatisation of the NCB and the coal industry.
The Secretary of State and the Government want to haul down the blue flag and to cover up the plaque. They want to prepare for the Tory dream—the privatisation of the coal industry and the demise of the NUM. That is what they are really after. But the NCB came about because the private owners were incapable of running the industry on a national basis that could provide the material and fuel needed. They were unable to provide the necessary investment that would put the industry into its present condition. It is only because of nationalisation that we have a coal industry today.
Do the Secretary of State and the Government want to take us back to the pre-nationalisation era, to give the industry back to the private sector on a plate after all that investment and work? It would seem so. The huge capital investment needed to modernise a clapped out industry into one that can take on any coal industry in the world is apparently to be passed over to the private sector, but the NCB is a producer not only of coal but of mining machinery and ideas. It has passed over to industry all its information on research and development. For example, the NCB's research and development on hydraulic supports has been used by the aircraft industry. Mining machinery, along with the expertise of our mining engineers has been exported. Is all that to be thrown away? Apparently so.
The industry has lost 100,000 men since 1979 as it has been run down. We estimate that the Bill will involve closing about 20 collieries, which will lead to the loss of 20,000 or 30,000 men, or more. I accept that the redundancy scheme is one of the most generous devised, and that many of my constituents will live 20 years longer than if they had worked until they were 65. My father died very largely as a result of pneumoconiosis. If that redundancy scheme had existed then, he might have lived for many more years. However that was not to be. Now, however, the carrot is finished. It was dangled only to get 204 the industry back on its feet and to draw volunteers. As a result, we are looking at compulsory redundancies, with the NCB offering the very minimum.
The alternative to coal is nuclear power. Today I went to the nuclear symposium, which was very good. A map showed the power stations that the electricity generating industry wishes to introduce as the new generation of power stations. That is quite right, because if we do not start soon, the position will be serious. However, they want to site all the coal-fired power stations on the coast. They are there not for the sake of the environment, or so that people can look over the railings to watch the sea coming in, but to make the importation of coal more efficient.
Let us consider what has happened over the several years during which coal has been imported. I shall use the Minister's figures. In 1979, we imported 4 million tonnes of coal. In 1986, that figure is 12.3 million tonnes. Coal is coming to this country from every coal-producing country in the world, including South Africa. That is what is happening to the coal industry and those are the contingency measures that the Government are considering.
I have asked the Minister to consider the problem of concessionary coal and I hope that he has not forgotton it. It involves not only his Department, but the Department of the Environment. I refer to the pensioners, widows and retired miners who, because they are disabled and unable to deal with solid fuel, receive cash in lieu. However, somebody has decided that because they receive cash in lieu, their housing benefit rebate must be reduced by between £3 and £4 a week. We had a debate the other day about keeping people warm in the winter. What sort of person can take £4 a week from those people because they receive cash in lieu? I should like the Minister to look into that.
In conclusion, it is time that we had an energy policy, and it is time that we looked at the power station problem, because it is serious. It is time that we put down plans or gave permission to build two coal-fired power stations immediately, not next year. Let us look forward to the next 100 years, not the next 20 or 30. We should look forward so that industry knows exactly what is planned and so that we know exactly what we shall generate, what we are likely to need and where it will come from. In that way, we can satisy all requirements of an energy policy.
§ Mr. David Ashby (Leicestershire, North-West)
I have listened to the debate and wonder why the Opposition oppose the Bill to the extent that they do.
The first clause changes the name of the National Coal Board to British Coal. The industry has been through a natural evolution and is now successful and paying its way. It has received massive investment and now has high productivity. I believe that it is the highest ever. High productivity is not achieved with low morale. High productivity shows the high morale of the industry. When one considers all those aspects it is clear that change is needed.
There will be pride in the new name of British Coal because it presents a new public face for a modern industry. I have not heard any substantial speech from Opposition Members that opposes that change of name. Therefore, it cannot be the change of name to which the Opposition object.
205 The next three clauses deal with the financial aspects of the Coal Board. We had hoped that the Coal Board would be financially independent, but that is not the case. Further deficit grants of about £300 million will be required. When I entered the House three years ago we had a debate on the deficit grants—we have had such debates subsequently—and I remember that £900 million was required to make up the deficit. I supported that grant then—as I support it now—because I could see that the Government believed in the future of the coal industry and wanted to put money into it to secure its future. We wanted the investment. I proudly support the Bill, parts of which require and provide for further grants, because I still support the coal industry.
I should like to know whether the Labour party opposes the Bill because it does not support the coal industry. Does it not want grants to provide for the deficit? That cannot be the case. What is the Labour party's real reason for its opposition? The reason is, of course, to be found in clauses 5 to 8 about which there has been a deafening silence.
The hon. Member for Makerfield (Mr. McGuire) mentioned the umbilical cord that connects the Labour party with the NUM—about which we dare not speak. That provides a great hint as to the parliamentary Labour party's attitude and opposition to the Bill.
I come from an area where many pits have run out of reserves. The Labour party's amendment makes no mention of British Coal Enterprise, from which body north-west Leicestershire has received valuable help with injections of finance and the advice. Many former miners now have their own businesses and many miners who were made redundant, or who took redundancy, have jobs in businesses in north-west Leicestershire which owe their foundation to British Coal Enterprise. Those jobs that were created with the help of British Coal Enterprise are still founded on coal board funding.
When it came to doing something about areas where the mines were closing, my party did something substantial. We never whinged or wrung our hands over it; we went in positively with proposals of financial support. The Opposition's amendment does not even mention that.
The real basis of their opposition is, as I have said, to be found in clauses 5 to 8. I attempted to ask the right hon. Member for Salford, East (Mr. Orme) when he opened the debate for the Opposition, whether he was "frit" to deal with clauses 5 to 8. The right hon. Gentleman said that he dealt with them. He devoted 30 seconds out of a 20-minute speech to those four clauses. What an outstanding slap in the face for the miners of Leicestershire and south Derbyshire who are members of the UDM.
It is clear that the Labour party does not care about the many miners who are members of the UDM. It is clear from the amount of time that the right hon. Gentleman gave to that in his speech that the Labour party is ignoring those miners and does not care about their democratic rights. The Labour party does not want members of the UDM to be represented on bodies to which they have subscribed.
The hon. Member for Makerfield (Mr. McGuire) spoke briefly about the support that he had from the parliamentary Labour party, but he was speaking alone. The parliamentary Labour party might have been giving him support in the House, but the Labour party outside is giving no support to anyone who supports the UDM. 206 The Labour party in the constituencies is determined that any Member who supports the UDM should be dealt with in the same way as the hon. Gentleman and should lose his seat. The real reason why the parliamentary Labour party is opposing the Bill is that it is afraid. Its members are frightened for their jobs. [Laughter.] There can be no other substantial reason why they should do so.
Hon. Members may laugh, but when the miners of north-west Leicestershire realise that this vital Bill, which deals with their well-being and their future, with the money that they have invested and with their welfare, was dealt with in 30 seconds of pure opposition by the right hon. Member for Salford, East, they will not like the Labour party. I shall have the right hon. Gentleman's speech printed and delivered to every working miner in my constituency. I want them to read the way in which they are being treated by the Labour party. I want them to understand that they have no future with the Labour party which is determined that the UDM should not succeed.
Why should not the UDM succeed? After all, surely the Labour party believes that people should be free to form and participate in unions. Members of the UDM have done nothing more than that. They have freely come together to form their own union. Why should they be so opposed? It is because of the close relationship between the Labour party and the NUM—the umbilical cord, as it has been referred to. That is why the Labour party hates the UDM. Come election time, I want its members to know that.
There is no reference in the amendment to clauses 5 to 8 or to the representation on the various bodies by the NUM. For the Labour party, the UDM is officially dead. All that we have heard from Labour Members are speeches which look backwards to the days of inefficiency. They can ask only for a reinstatement of the miners who lost their jobs because they abused and intimidated the working miners who defied Mr. Scargill's illegal strike.
I am sure that Labour Members cannot disagree that the strike was illegal. It had no official backing. There was no ballot. Those people who refused to participate in its illegality were abused and intimidated and now the Labour party can only table an amendment asking for the reinstatement of those people. In the face of the Bill, that is a hollow and superficial approach.
The right hon. Member for Salford, East has acted as Mr. Scargill's lapdog. The hon. Member for Midlothian (Mr. Eadie) is to reply to the debate and will no doubt lick Mr. Scargill's boots. The Leader of the Opposition lets Mr. Arthur Scargill sleep on his lap. Only the right hon. Member for Mansfield had the courage to refuse to allow Mr. Scargill to piddle on him. Every Opposition Member is letting Mr. Scargill water upon them. They have allowed themselves to be Mr. Scargill's lapdogs and that is the reason for the opposition to the Bill.
I support the Bill. Anyone who opposes it is opposing the mining industry—nothing less than that. I shall make sure that the miners of the north-west Leicestershire know that the Labour party opposes the mining industry.
§ Mr. Lawrence Cunliffe (Leigh)
I oppose the Bill this evening. First, I must declare an interest in that that I am president of the miners' parliamentary group and a member of the national executive of the NUM, and from time to time I am the Labour party's Whip on energy matters. I can say, without fear of contradiction, that 207 many of those who have participated in the debate this evening have done so because they have an expert knowledge of the organisations that are represented within Britain's mining industry. Many of them have good, loyal, efficient, long years of service based on sincerity and a determination for that great industry to succeed.
First, I am opposed to the financial provisions of the Bill even though the Labour party will not vote againt the money resolution. As an old Lancastrian would say, "If they offer you a bob or two instead of a quid, take it and come back again."
Today the Secretary of State boasted that the provisions of the Bill were so generous that in return miners would want to show their loyalty and commitment to the industry. But there is a conflict in that. Let me remind the House of some of the things that he said. As a Whip on energy matters, I have known six Secretaries of State for Energy and seven shadow spokesmen and I have never known such political opportunism or such a despicable or disreputable speech by a Secretary of State as we heard today.
The Bill allegedly contains new financial provisions for the industry. The Secretary of State said that those financial provisions are the most positive to have been put before the House for many years. I remind him that in July 1968 a Labour Government introduced the redundancy payments scheme for miners. That Administration was the architect of the Bill. That Labour Government understood that the industry was contracting and that market demand was diminishing rapidly. At that stage Belgian, German and French pits were closing and there was contraction generally in western Europe.
We then heard that there should be unity in the industry, but the Secretary of State demeaned the standard of debate despicably by making every comment that he could to re-open the wounds which were inflicted in the trauma of the strike that many of us endured or witnessed not so long ago. The right hon. Gentleman boasts that the coal industry is now more viable than previously and that there is higher morale within it. In any event, those were the sort of words used by the hon. Member for Leicestershire, North-West (Mr. Ashby). But at the same time the Secretary of State is asking miners to accept a 30 per cent. reduction in redundancy payments from March, which will be 12 weeks from Christmas, when the notices will be given. Another 28,000 miners will be wondering about their future in the industry.
The chairman of the National Coal Board is now saying, basically, that he is trimming off the fat for the privatisation of the mining industry within four years. We have witnessed the exodus of 50,000 miners from the industry, and they will probably be followed by another 30,000. They have left the industry basically because of depression, dejection and demoralisation. They see not a degree of security in their future within it.
This is happening under a Government who rule by confrontation. The Government have never intended at any stage to intervene in their role as a conciliator. That was not their intention during the strike and it has not been their intention since. They see fit, however, to accuse the Trades Union Congress and the Labour party of non-intervention, the very policy that the Government advocated throughout the strike. There has been no mention today of the boasting and bragging of 208 MacGregor, who claimed that he and the Prime Minister, in collusion, set up the strike against Scargill. No evidence has been forthcoming about that.
Can a miner see security in an industry which is contracting and in which financial incentives are being reduced? As I have said, redundancy payments are to be reduced by one third. Miners are being told that in future only higher investment pits will have a stake in the industry. The Government say that there is no planned energy policy and that market forces will rule the roost. That is their philosophy and that is well known. It is well known also that the Bill paves the way for a further 40,000 miners to leave the industry. We see Kent, Scotland, Lancashire, Durham and Northumberland going to the wall. Only two thirds of the Yorkshire pits remain open, with two thirds in Nottinghamshire and some in the east midlands. What is the planning for our great mining industry?
Against that background, the Government talk about morale in the industry, ask why the men have left and speak about the productivity targets that are being achieved. I accept that there is a need for reconciliation. Indeed, there must be reconciliation for the sake of the future of every British miner. The leadership of one union or another is irrelevant now, and my colleagues and I are interested in the future of the British miner and the British mining industry.
I know many members of the national executive of the National Union of Mineworkers and I know that there is no demand for capitulation prior to reconciliation. That is not the way forwards. If there are two wrongs, the result will not be a right; there must be a meeting of the parties. There are those who say that the NUM's national executive is not prepared to take any initiative, and that that attitude is shared by the TUC and the Labour party, but I propose to read a resolution calling for unity that was moved by the Scottish area of the NUM.
Mick McGahey is not of my political disposition and I do not look towards the regime or system that he would support, but I pay tribute to him. He is the vice-president of the NUM and he has displayed great statesmanship since the strike in seeking reconciliation. There has been no intimidation and no threats. Let us further the initiative that he has taken, which is demonstrated by the Scottish area's resolution.
The resolution instructed the national executiveto ensure that national unity is achieved with the highest priority at the earliest possible moment by calling on the TUC and the Labour Party to make themselves available in assisting"—this does not mean intervention—in the re-unification of British Mining Unionism".That flies in the face of the accusations and allegations that have been made this evening. I reiterate that leadership of the miners is irrelevant now.
Many miners are still suffering from the problems and trauma that accumulated during a period of strife. Debts piled up and mortgages and homes became at risk. The tragic scene that ensued is now a period in our history and it would be well to forget it and place it behind us. That is a view that is taken by many of my colleagues. If the people and the organisations can get together, I am sure that we can bring unity back into the coalfields and offer stability to the industry.
That leads me to political objectives. Every miner needs a job, and to have a job he needs a mining area. If a miner 209 is to have a mining area as we knew it, he needs a planned energy policy. If he is to have a planned energy policy, he needs a Labour Government. No miner, regardless of where he stands, has a right to betray his forefathers, who pledged themselves to oppose everything that this reactionary Tory Government have done over the past seven years. Regardless of inter-union disputes, no miner has any right to turn his back on the Labour party, the only party that can deliver for him security for the future, a viable industry with democracy within it and consultation before decision. It can do that by ensuring that a Labour Government are returned at the next general election who will bring that about and help the poor, the dejected, the disabled and the sick. That will be the task of the next Labour Government, and I ask every miner to ensure, regardless of the circumstances, that a Labour Government have the opportunity to do that which I have outlined.
§ Mr. Neil Hamilton (Tatton)
I did not agree with the conclusion of the hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Cunliffe), but I appreciated the spirit of reconciliation to which the rest of his speech was directed and the spirited way in which he spoke. As someone whose family has been involved in mining for many years and who grew up in coal mining communities in south Wales, I appreciate the strength of feeling of Labour Members when they speak about an industry in which they and their families have also spent lifetimes. I am pleased to hear expressed the spirit of reconciliation which seems to pervade the Labour party, but I wish that Labour Members would not be so reactionary and backward-looking in their speeches.
As always in debates of this sort, we have heard a great deal of what is ancient history about the coal industry. Since being a Member of this place I have spoken in virtually every coal debate, and on each occasion I have heard about the Sankey Commission in 1919, the circumstances that prevailed in the 1930s and the position before nationalisation. All that is getting on for 50 years ago, or more.
Whatever the faults that characterised the industry in the past, we cannot base our prophecies on events which took place before the lifetime of many hon. Members. I prefer to look forward to the future of the coal industry because I believe that it is secure. It can expand again, if we build on the Government's efforts of recent years to make it a profitable, commercial industry which can sustain itself, instead of having to depend on the generosity of taxpayers and the annual proffering of the begging bowl.
The productivity figures announced yesterday by my hon. Friend the Minister show that man-shift output has increased to 3.5 tonnes. That is a 50 per cent. increase on the figures before the strike and gives us great confidence in the future of the coal industry. We can reverse the decline that has affected the industry during the past 40 years.
In terms of world coal consumption, in 1964 40 per cent. of energy was produced through coal; in 1974 the figure had fallen to 28 per cent.; but in 1984 it had risen to 30 per cent. That has not been the history of energy consumption in the United Kingdom. In 1973, 38 per cent. of our energy was produced by coal, but by 1983 that had fallen to 35 per cent. Therefore, we are running against the trends in world energy consumption.
210 The reason is that, despite the most favourable competitive climate for coal seen for generations as a result of the Arab oil shocks in the early 1970s, we have completely failed to capitalise on the opportunities which were there to be grasped. Despite governmental diktats to the CEGB that it had to buy a larger proportion of fuel from the National Coal Board than it would have liked; despite the limits on imports, a tax on fuel oil and all the money that we rightly spend on conversion grants; and despite the investment coupled with deficit grants which are now over £10,000 million for each decade, the coal industry is still in decline. That is a shame, but it can be reversed.
We have arrived at the most extraordinary position whereby not only are consumers and taxpayers not satisfied because they have to buy coal at too high a price, which in turn means that the costs of production of other industries are artificially high, but producers, whom we all represent, are not satisfied. Like the common agricultural policy, the ills of the coal industry arise from political interference with the market, restrictions on competition, and the inherent failures of monopoly.
I wish that I could accept the pessimism of Opposition Members, which would be transmuted into optimism for me, and think that the Bill presaged the privatisation or liberalisation of the coal industry. Regrettably, that is not the Government's intention. I wish it were. [Interruption.] Privatisation would secure the future of the coal industry. The private sector of the coal industry is well constructed. I declare an interest as a consultant to the National Association of Licensed Opencast Operators. [Interruption.] Opposition Members have made great play of the situation that existed in the coal industry before nationalisation. I would be the first to admit that at that date the coal industry was a shambles and that many companies and coal owners were a disgrace to the human race. No one wants to return to that.
Although the private sector is only small, the illusions about it that Opposition Members always peddle will be destroyed. There is plenty of scope to extend it, even without touching the assets of the NCB, soon to be transmuted into British Coal. I am surprised that there is no mention of what the Monopolies and Mergers Commission proposed in its report on the NCB in 1983. Paragraph 11.95 states that the private sector of the coal industryprovides a small but valuable element of competition to and comparison with the operations of the Opencast Executive and should be encouraged as a means of increasing the efficiency of the NCB operation. Moreover, the techniques used in opencast operations have developed considerably since the present statutory limit on the operations of the licensed operators was fixed in 1958. We recommend therefore that this should be increased"—from the 25,000 tonnes at which it was statutorily fixed in 1958—to a new limit of 100,000 tonnes, and that there should be provision for appeal by the operator to the Secretary of State if the Executive refused to grant a licence for a site containing a quantity of coal within the statutory limit.There is a desire within the private sector to expand production and employment opportunities and to provide the coal, which would replace imports, for the CEGB. That would prove a net benefit for all the coalfield communities in which small opencast sites are situated. Therefore, I am disappointed that there is no move in that direction in the Bill. It could only be to the benefit of the industry, and certainly to the benefit of the NCB, to have 211 that competition and comparison and to expand over the years. That would make but a small inroad into the monopoly of the National Coal Board, to the benefit of consumers and taxpayers.
One further point concerns the agreement recently reached on the supply of coal from the board to the CEGB. As my hon. Friend the Minister will be aware, the new supply agreement is split into three tranches. The first 50 million tonnes of coal will be sold at £47 a tonne, the next 10 million tonnes will be sold at £34 a tonne and the next 12 million tonnes will be sold at £30 a tonne. Nobody can object to the price of the marginal units being sold at a lower price than the earlier ones, because that is a sensible commercial arrangement. However, it is not sensible for the private sector to have to sell all its coal, not at an average cost as the coal board does, but on the basis of the third tranche of £30 a tonne.
The average price per gigajoule of NCB coal is 171p, whereas the average price of private sector coal will be 133p. That will ruin the private sector and runs contrary to the direction in which the Government should be moving and contrary to the interests of more than merely the private sector. The private sector is not being given any monopoly privilege. It makes its profits after it has paid a £16 a tonne royalty to the NCB. That is much higher than the average profit that the opencast executive makes on its contracted-out mining. Therefore, we are not giving anything other than opportunity to the private sector. We are certainly not giving it monopoly profits and rights as we do to the board, if we expand that sector. That is in the interests of the whole country, and I wish that the Bill went some way towards it.
I trust that the Minister, who I am sure has been listening carefully to what I have said, will be able to give me some hope that either in Committee or on the next occasion when a similar Bill is introduced the Government will introduce the necessary amendments. I look forward to the future of the coal industry with a confidence that I wish Opposition Members could share, because I believe that the Government are committed to an expanding coal industry that produces cheap energy for the country and cheap energy for British industry so that it can provide the jobs that we sorely need.
§ Mr. Kevin Barron (Rother Valley)
The hon. Member for Tatton (Mr. Hamilton) accused Oppostion Members of indulging in ancient history. For the first time since I have been a Member of Parliament, most Opposition Members will be voting against a Bill such as this, not because of ancient history, but because of the history of the last three years, during which time all this money has been poured into the coalfields by the Government.
In the last three years deficit grants have been written off and money has been poured into redundancy payments, yet from listening to Conservative Members one would think that in the coalfield areas of Britain the Government had lined the streets with gold. In effect, they have made unemployment worse than perhaps at any other time in our history. More important, they have caused youth unemployment to become critical. They have stopped recruitment into coal mining, as a result of which young people are no longer taken on for training. In my 212 opinion, this has sounded the death knell for the British coal mining industry as we have known it over the past few decades.
I do not want to live in the past, and neither does any other Opposition Member, but we must recognise the realities of what the Government have persistently done over the last three years by the introduction of coal Bills that have given all this money to the industry. Until tonight we have never voted against the Second Reading of such a Bill because of the implications of it.
Clause 3 is one of the main provisions for financing the industry. One of its main proposals is for the redeployment and reduction of the work force in the industry, but if skilled and experienced people continue to leave the industry, especially at the same rate as over the last four years, the industry will be unable to respond to any upswing in the event of an urgent demand for coal, and that is the direct result of the way in which the Government have financed the industry.
If the nation needs more coal and it cannot be obtained by improved profitability at existing collieries, the only alternatives will be to employ more miners—which clause 3 does not propose—or to buy more imports. I have a feeling that clause 3 will prevent British Coal from taking up the opportunity to expand, certainly in the short term.
I nearly took my handkerchief from my pocket when I heard Conservative Members saying how they were concerned about the welfare of the coal mining industry, although I notice that not many of them have stayed for the conclusion of the debate. The hon. Member for Elmet (Mr. Batiste) nearly had me crying when he referred to the social welfare provisions of clause 3, and I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman is not now present to hear my remarks. I would have believed the hon. Gentleman more had he talked about the urgent need for a social welfare organisation in the new Selby coalfield. The Yorkshire NUM has been asking for such an organisation for years, and it is still waiting to obtain it, even though it is vital for our coalfield communities. I do not oppose the provisions of clause 3 relating to British Coal Enterprise, but I only wish that those provisions could create the jobs that some hon. Members have led people to believe.
The clause provides for grants towards the retraining of redundant mine workers. I understand that at present the retraining scheme has received a funding from the Government of £10 million. That scheme lasts for eight weeks, and anyone who attends loses his unemployment benefit. It cannot be compared with similar in-house training that has been undertaken by the British Steel Corporation in south Yorkshire, which does not impose any disincentive on people, and at least trains them in a proper manner. I am not talking about the one funded by the European Steel and Coal Community, which is an even better retraining scheme.
British Coal Enterprise and the retraining schemes have been abysmal, knee-jerk reactions introduced by the Government because of the problems of which they did not take account when they introduced Bills on the coal industry in the past four years. If the Minister could prove me wrong, I would be prepared to listen to him.
The Bill does two things. First, the Government and British Coal have failed in the promises made in previous Bills. March 1987 was supposed to see the end of further financial provisions for British Coal. The Government have failed because the money and the capital resources 213 going into the coal industry have financed massive redundancies and not restructured the coal industry to increase its efficiency and enhance its chances of profitability and maintaining employment in coalfield areas.
I am fed up with junior Ministers coming to the Rother Valley and talking about the terrible situation in the coalfields, or making tours of the south Yorkshire coalfield, or the Derbyshire coalfield, and saying how awful the regional economy is because of the rundown of basic industry. I would not mind their visits or their comments if they would do something about the problem, either by arresting the decline in the industries or by putting something into the local economy that will replace them.
Secondly, the Bill is a device to clear the decks for privatisation. Conservative Members have said that that is not true, but it is. The Bill looks to potential buyers in the way that it delivers short-term profits in the next three or four years. I am pleased to say that the Government will be thwarted because they will lose the next general election. The industry will be saved and made efficient, but not for short-term profits by those who tell Sid about the lucrative deals that can be made by buying the remaining British coalfields. It will be saved so that the nation will not have a gun at its head to force it to import energy. It will be saved by a Labour Government.
There has been much talk about the absence of speeches on the three clauses that deal with the social and welfare organisation and the mineworkers pension scheme. Nobody would wish to deny that right. Some of the speeches from Conservative Members have been far wide of the mark about what the NUM and the vast majority of miners want and for which they are pressing. No matter what happens in the short term when the Bill is passed, in the long term there is the need for the mining unions to get back together. There is a need for people to set up again the organisation that was born in 1946 and which saved and bought sanity not only into the coalfields but into the energy needs of the country. I hope that that will be brought about again by the vast majority of hon. Members on both sides of the House. Today, the coal mining industry has been used for short-term gains and to save necks at the next general election. I hope that all miners will realise why people are making those speeches.
§ 9.8 pm
§ Mr. Richard Ottaway (Nottingham, North)
There are two reasons for the Bill. The first is the fall in oil prices, and the second the aftermath of the coal strike in 1984–85. The first part of the Bill deals with the change in the name to British Coal Corporation. I hope that this is not the first inkling of privatisation of British Coal. The industry is not yet ready for privatisation, and will not be for a long time. To embark on that road will be political, economic and financial folly.
The second part of the Bill deals with financial support for what will be the British Coal Corporation. It is worth noting that the primary reason for the introduction of deficit grants is that if it were not for the fall in the price of oil the National Coal Board would have made a profit this year of about £100 million. However, forces outside the Government's control have led to the introduction of deficit grants.
The most important part of the Bill for my constituents in Nottingham, North will be the participation of the 214 UDM in the various coal industry organisations and trusts—in particular, participation in the welfare funds, the social welfare bodies and the superannuation funds.
One does not need to guess why it has been necessary to introduce the Bill. It is because the NUM would not concede rights on the various bodies concerned with those trusts. That is unbelievable, and it will come as a great surprise to the average man in Nottingham high street or Bulwell market that that is not already the case. Even more unbelievable, however, is the Labour party's opposition to the proposals, but it will probably come as no surprise to those who have followed the relationship of the Labour party with the UDM during the last two years.
There was mob rule in my constituency during the coal strike. The flying pickets of the NUM tried to prevent my constituents from getting into Babbington colliery. Civil liberties were denied to the people of Nottingham. Despite that, they made it to work.
One would think that the Opposition would have supported the efforts of the people of Nottingham to go to work, bearing in mind that their only crime was compliance with the NUM rule book. Since then, the Labour party's policy has been to show hostility towards the UDM. Members of the UDM have been called "scabs" in this House, and Opposition Front Bench spokesmen have said that the right not to strike is not a fundamental right. The Opposition have now decided to oppose the Bill. That tops it all. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Lester) that parity of rights between NUM and UDM members is desirable and necessary if we are to achieve the reconciliation to which so many Opposition Members have referred. Members of the UDM do not enjoy the rights for which the Opposition are calling. For Opposition Front Bench spokesmen to offer to trade rights and liberties with the Secretary of State—[Interruption.] The Opposition said that they would support these proposals if certain rights were given. That shows a lack of integrity. I have yet to hear any Opposition Member give a good reason for opposing the Bill.
Not to support the Bill is an attack on democracy. Since 1985 the NUM has embarked upon a war of attrition with the UDM. The NUM wants to kid the world that it represents the UDM on the various coal industry trusts. That is cloud cuckoo land. As my hon. Friend the Member for Wirral, West (Mr. Hunt) said in a speech to the NUM, it is a breach of natural justice which will not be forgotten in Nottingham.
The Labour party can do something to remedy the position and ingratiate itself with the people of Nottingham. There is a rumour that Mr. Arthur Scargill is being considered as the parliamentary candidate for Barnsley. The Labour party would be barmy to take him on, but just in case it decides to do so, it would have two particular advantages. First, he would have to stand down as president of the NUM. That would allow at last proper dialogue between the UDM and the NUM. Secondly, the Labour party would never again form a Government. For both reasons, I urge the Opposition Front Bench to take on Mr. Arthur Scargill as the parliamentary candidate for Barnsley. I urge the House to support the Bill.
§ Mr. Alexander Eadie (Midlothian)
Having listened to the debate, one might be led to believe that the coal industry had never been discussed since the miners' strike. We have to ask ourselves the reason. If ever a Bill had the 215 stamp on it of preparing for a general election, the Coal Industry Bill has it. It was rushed before Parliament with almost indecent haste. No sooner had the Sovereign uttered the words of the Gracious Speech than it was top of the agenda of legislative measures. Why is that? It can only be because of a cynical calculation that it will assist in returning Tory candidates in Nottingham and the surrounding area at a general election. That tells us what some hon. Members already suspect—that the general election will be sooner rather than later. I hope that it is soon because, if it is not, some of the general election speeches will have been made too early.
This debate has shown that very few of our fellow miners in Nottinghamshire—I deliberately say fellow miners—will be deceived. Giving bargaining rights to a weak, breakaway union in the mining industry begins to look more and more like a velvet hand in an iron fist because Government policy will reduce the membership of that union by half. That is because it is the policy of the Government to contract the mining industry in Nottinghamshire
My right hon. Friend the Member for Salford, East (Mr. Orme) has given the figures about contraction and I shall give some figures later in my speech. He made an interesting point about bargaining rights, which perhaps I should clear up right away. We are told that there is something wrong with equal rights. We said that we would not oppose the Bill if the Government were prepared to give equal negotiating rights to people in the mining industry. The Government can think about that in Committee.
§ Mr. Eadie
We will, and the right hon. Gentleman will probably never be there.
I want to deal with something which shows that this is a pit closure Bill and an election Bill. The Government's policy on the coal industry is to be condemned. I should like first to speak about the best-seams-first policy mentioned in our amendment. Since the Government were elected in 1979 they have conspired with British Coal to pursue what I would describe as a black site policy. There is nothing wrong with that if it is in tandem with a green fields site policy of planning and developing new pits.
The coal industry is extractive and the Government are planning the eventual contraction and demise of the industry. It is to the Government's shame that not a single new pit has been sunk during their term of office. The existing pits are worked under a black site policy. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Salford, East said, the Government are even accelerating the demise of most of them. The best seams are being developed and planning the reserves of coal in the totality of a pit is being ignored. The policy being pursued was described in yesteryear as grabbing the berries and to hell with the rest. That policy will inevitably lead to pit closures because when the berries in the pits have gone millions of tonnes of coal will be lost for ever.
H. G. Wells described coal as bottled sunshine. The Government are closing pits and shedding manpower. I got from the Department of Trade and Industry the figures for the nine months to September. In that time we imported nearly 5.5 million tonnes of coal. One could add 216 the equivalent of the coal consumed by a large power station because we are importing subsidised electricity from France. To judge from the way in which the French react to imported agricultural produce from Britain, the entire nation would be up in arms if Britain exported such quantities of cheap subsidised electricity.
It cannot be emphasised strongly enough that the Bill is deeply political. It is an integral part of the Government's electoral strategy. It is full of blandishments to the breakaway union, the name of which is not even mentioned in the Bill, in that it provides for its representation on the coal industry's trusts, the welfare organisation and the superannuation fund. The Government are thus hoping to curry favour with the electorate in Tory marginal seats. All of this is transparent. Mining communities have already been alerted about the Bill, which means nothing short of devastation for mining communities and the slaughter of pits and jobs.
In the Nottingham coalfield, for example, British Coal is planning to cut jobs by at least 10,000 from 25,000 during the next few years. I raised that matter with the Minister at Question Time yesterday, but he was so busy running away on his pushbike that he forgot to answer my question about investment in Nottingham and elsewhere.
§ Mr. David Hunt
As he was the Minister responsible, the hon. Gentleman should know that the change was made in 1976–77.
§ Mr. Eadie
I am afraid that the hon. Gentleman could easily make a mistake. I have a letter saying what happened to capital expenditure in 1983–84. There was an £86 million capital expenditure increase in 1983–84, whereas there was a £63 million capital expenditure increase in 1982–83. The second change concerns leased assets being included for the first time in 1985–86. I got this information from the Library. If I am wrong, I apologise, but I hope that the Minister will apologise as I am sure that my letter is much more current than his.
§ Mr. Eadie
When we speak of investment in the coal industry, we do not take account of investment in 1979. There was investment in the industry before 1979. We have had three Ministers with responsibility for coal since 1979, but the present Minister is the only one who has disowned "Plan for Coal". He has been scathing about it, but previous Ministers have defended it. Let us hear what he will say now.
§ Mr. David Hunt
I have now found that section in the board's accounts in 1976–77 which acknowledges that the policy of deferred interest was adopted under the stewardship of the hon. Member for Midlothian (Mr. Eadie). I must defend him. It was entirely appropriate for an industry with assets with a high capital cost and a long construction period to move in that direction. The hon. Gentleman also got the investment figures wrong. Perhaps he is coming to them.
§ Mr. Eadie
I was about to consider the investment figures. I will give the Minister copies of my correspondence.
I was trying to explain that the investment did not start then. For example, I have the figures for investment in Nottinghamshire. The investment in north Nottinghamshire in 1979–80 was £87 million, and in south Nottinghamshire £62 million. That makes a total investment in 1979–80 for Nottinghamshire of £149 million. However, the current investment as projected for this year is £97 million.
Part of the argument that we have advanced is that the Government are pursuing a policy of contraction in the mining industry.
§ Mr. Eadie
If they are wrong, I can only say that they are authenticated by the House of Commons Library figures. I should like to make my speech in my own way.
The figure for Scottish investment in 1979 was £55 million. It will be £23 million in 1985–86. The figure for investment in Yorkshire and Barnsley in 1983 was £259 million and in 1985–86 it is £195 million. The figure for South Wales was £57 million and it will be £45 million in 1985–86. The corresponding figures for the south midlands are £86 million and £53 million.
These figures illustrate the Opposition's point. The Government are pursuing a policy of contraction in the mining industry. No new pits are being opened. As a consequence, and when the black site policy is exhausted, the industry must inevitably contract.
§ Mr. Eadie
The Labour Government sunk the pit at Selby.
We know the answer that the Minister gives about privatisation in the industry. He says that there are no plans for that and the Secretary of State referred to that again. That is like what we hear in the United States of America. An American points to the highest skyscraper but always adds that it is the highest skyscraper this year.
Yesterday, at Question Time, the Secretary of State went further in reply to a question from one of my hon. Friends. He said that he could not give any guarantee that privatisation would never take place. The Government's policy on privatisation is well known. They will sell any public asset if they think that the price is right to prop up their financial bankrupt policies.
It is interesting to consider the last City study on the feasibility of the privatisation of British Coal which was carried out two years ago by the stockbrokers Laurie Millbank. The report concluded that to offer prospective shareholders a commercially viable business about 60 of the 180 pits operating would have to close. The report said that they would need to be closed. The figure has now been cut to 119 pits.
The chairman of British Coal has said that the number will be further reduced to 110 by the end of the current financial year, with four more closures and four more mergers on the cards. On those figures it is evident that the 218 industry is being prepared as a fatted calf to attract the Government's friends in the City. The chairman of British Coal will offer no resistance to that process. The reasoned amendment mentions the 55,000 jobs that have been lost to the industry since the end of March 1985. That can be put in starker terms: 20,000 jobs have gone since April.
It is appropriate to comment on an aspect of the high-risk strategy being pursued by British Coal in relation to the one-face pit. Very few qualified mining engineers would consider that that made sense. It is established that mother nature does not give up her treasures lightly. Areas differ geologically—some are more uncertain than others. The policy of the one-face pit is regarded in some areas as a pit closures policy. If something happened at that one face, the pit would be an immediate candidate for closure. There is praise one week for the miners' higher productivity and prospects of pit closures the next week. No wonder that there is a crisis of morale in the mining industry.
During this general election debate, some Conservative Members have been staking their credentials. I shall state my credentials. I shall talk about the present position of the victimised miners in the industry in relation to industrial relations as contained in the Bill and in relation to the crisis of morale.
For more than 50 years I have been a member of the NUM. Before I came to the House I worked in the mining industry for more than 30 years. I am the grandson and the son of miners. In 1956, my father was killed in a pit. I am the son of a victimised miner. In 1926, my father became a victim and did not return to the pit until 1935. Therefore, I am not unprejudiced. Indeed, I am very prejudiced. It is rather rich of the Government to amend the 1946 Act when to date they have only paid lip service to it. Put bluntly, they ignored its provisions on conciliation and consultation.
Had those provisions been implemented, victimised miners would not have been dragged through industrial courts, whose findings in so many cases have been ignored. Their cases would have been dealt with within the industry. Justice would not only have been done but would have been seen to be done. That would have prevented edicts coming from Hobart house saying:The price of insubordination must be paid.I say bluntly that all who had a part to play, whether in the Government or in British Coal, in meting out the scandalous treatment to the victimised miners will carry it to their everlasting shame. There is a condemnatory line in Dante's "Inferno" which states:Heaven will have none of them. Even hell itself spews them forth.The total number of men dismissed by the National Coal Board for offences or alleged offences arising from the 1984–85 strike was 962. Only a few of that number were dismissed for offences against persons or for damage to property. If the board's criteria for re-employment, as explained to the Select Committee on Employment, had been instituted, almost 90 per cent. of miners sacked for activities connected with the strike would have been re-employed. Therefore, I think that the Government have a cheek when they talk about amending the 1946 Act.
One aspect of our amendment concerns our industries being deprived of new technology. I believe that a central policy of the Government in this pit closure Bill is to contract the coal industry. In our reasoned amendment we say that the Government will cut off from our industries 219 the new technologies that will become available by the use of coal. Coal use will not be confined to burning it in power stations; two other uses may become available. It is little known that we have already developed synthetic North sea gas from coal. I took an all-party delegation to Westfield in Fife where the process is already well developed.
When I was a Minister, that process of development had been running for only a matter of weeks and the consumer never noticed any difference. Today at Westfield that process of manufacturing synthetic North sea gas is so advanced that there is a wish to run it as a pilot plant for two years continuously to prove its commercial value. Those at Westfield—the scientists and technologists—are worried that the privatisation of British Gas could scupper that plant. What should worry us is that, if we contract the coal industry still further, we will not have our own coal to aid technological development.
The other advance is that of deriving oil from coal, but the history of this process is depressing. In 1978, as a result of British brains and inventiveness, we had developed two technologies which could do that. It was decided by the then Government to operate two pilot schemes on a three-year run and the Government earmarked £20 million for the project. Indeed, an agreement was signed with the National Coal Board to implement that process.
Today one of those technologies has been scrapped—perhaps it is being developed in Japan. After seven years we have not got the pilot plant to process coal to oil off the ground. The best we have got is a plant in north Wales which uses 2.5 tonnes of coal a day. I would describe it as a laboratory effort. We are still not sure when it will be working. Oil from coal is not a Walter Mitty idea. For years it has been developed in South Africa by the Sasol project. Our process was superior in this use of coal. The Government seem to be an anti-manufacturing and anti-industry Government.
The Government state that the service industries will provide the jobs in the mining communities. Apparently, tourism, hotels, visits to our stately homes will provide increased jobs in the future. If only we all wore kilts and showed our bare knees, that would attract more jobs.
This nation was a great industrial nation and it can be one again. I have little patience with people who denigrate the inventiveness and genius of our scientists and engineers. We have some of the best mining engineers in the world. The case for developing the coal industry is overwhelming. We should not be pursuing a policy of contraction. Coal is wealth that we have at our disposal—far greater than that derived from North sea oil. We will go into the Lobby to vote against this Bill because we believe in expanding the coal industry, not in contracting it.
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Energy (Mr. David Hunt)
I have listened with great interest to the debate. This is a vital Bill for the future of the coal industry. The surprise throughout the debate has been the Opposition's attempt to avoid debating the Bill.
The hon. Member for Midlothian (Mr. Eadie) described the Bill as an election measure. Indeed, at one stage he referred to this as a general election debate. The hon. Gentleman should ask himself why he terms it so. It 220 is undoubtedly a Bill that is good for the industry and good for the work force, yet the Opposition are opposing it, and we have a right to ask why.
Hon. Members have asked a number of pertinent questions. I shall do my best to respond in the time available to me, and I shall write to hon. Members on the points with which I do not have time to deal. I shall make a few general remarks which I believe are important in understanding the Government's intentions in introducing the Bill.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Energy, in opening the debate, said that the Bill heralded a new period in the life of the British coal industry. I join him in paying tribute to the industry's management and work force. At all levels and in all areas they have worked increasingly hard over the past 18 months to bring the British coal industry back from the brink to which it had been brought by that tragic and unnecessary strike.
§ Mr. Woodall
A colliery not three miles from my front door, which was opened only in 1979 and has 12 million tonnes of reserves, was closed in August this year as an economic measure because the NCB saddled it with capital charges. As the Minister is talking about the Government's great attempt to bring the coal industry up to date, will he explain why that happened?
§ Mr. Hunt
I gave way to the hon. Gentleman because it is likely that he has sat through this debate and listened to every word. He knows that decisions on individual collieries are a matter for British Coal. The Labour Government brought in the Coal Industry Act 1977, section 6(1) of which concludes by stating that the objective of the Act and the grants isthe elimination of uneconomic colliery capacity.That Act was passed by the last Labour Government.
In paying tribute to the men and management in the industry, I must say that I am proud to be associated with a Bill that strengthens the industry's ability to withstand the competitive pressures of energy markets and enables this great industry to look forward to the future with more confidence and in a much healthier state. As my hon. Friend the Member for Amber Valley (Mr. Oppenheim) rightly said in an outstanding speech, only high productivity can secure the future of the industry.
I shall nail one point immediately. The right hon. Member for Salford, East (Mr. Orme) and others mentioned safety. The right hon. Member mentioned this in the context of increasing productivity jeopardising safety standards. It was pointed out to him by my hon. Friend the Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Lester) that that is not the case. I plead with the right hon. Gentleman and the hon. Member for Cynon Valley (Mrs. Clwyd), who raised the same point yesterday, not to let safety become a party political issue. I would be sorry if anyone tried to score party political points by referring to fatalities in the coal industry. For me, and I believe for almost all hon. Members, even one fatality is one too many. Everyone in the industry is striving to reduce the number of fatalities and injuries.
I am pleased to be able to tell the House that the rate of fatalities is steadily declining. Over the past 10 years, the worst year in the coal industry was 1978–79, when 72 men died. That was an appalling year. In 1985–86 that figure fell to 27, and I am pleased to say that so far this year only 10 deaths have occurred, but that is still 10 too many.
221 British Coal's first priority is the health and safety of employees. The industry's accident and fatality record is improving steadily in line with the introduction of better equipment, increased training and improved work practices. The hon. Member for Cynon Valley said that, in south Wales, there had been four fatalities this financial year. That is not the case. Altogether, in south Wales, there have been two fatalities this financial year, but that is two too many. I hope everybody will accept that men and management alike will not countenance any effort to improve productivity which does not treat safety as paramount.
§ Mr. Allan Rogers
I should like to make a point about the industry's remarkable safety record and the way in which fatalities have been reduced over the years. This has involved an enormous joint effort by the men employed in the industry, by the management and by successive Governments. Does the hon. Gentleman accept that most mining accidents have occurred because of the great rush for profit and short cuts taken in fulfilling the strict requirements which have been laid down? That has happened, not just in the accidents in this country, but in the great tragedies in South Africa.
§ Mr. Hardy
The House will have noted the hon. Gentleman's commitment, which he offered the House yesterday and repeated today, that safety is of paramount importance. Does he accept the anxieties expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Pontefract and Castleford (Mr. Lofthouse), which I sought to echo, about the uncertainty in my association, which has a remarkably important involvement in safety in mines? That uncertainty must be cleared up as a matter of urgency.
§ Mr. Hunt
The hon. Gentleman knows full well that a review of regulations is taking place. It was initiated not by the Government but by the mines and quarries inspectorate. I understand that it is proceeding with full consultation with all the unions concerned.
The first part of the Bill deals with the change of name to British Coal Corporation. That is an important recognition of the fact that there has been a significant change to a modern, self-supporting and fully viable member of the energy industry. My hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Hallam (Sir J. Osborn) stressed the importance of exports. Shortly before that tragic and unnecessary Scargill strike, this country was a net exporter of coal. The strike swept us from that position, and the subsequent fall in world coal prices has meant that it is now much more difficult to gain a foothold in world markets.
Nothing would please me and my right hon. and hon. Friends more than to see British coal filling this country's needs and being exported all over the world. I stress that I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Hallam in that laudable objective. It is no use urging companies to use British coal if they can buy a similar grade from abroad at a lower price. That is now the key issue.
Great strides have been made in the industry since the strike towards making British coal competitive. The 222 chairman of British Coal, Sir Robert Haslam, has made clear his confidence that the industry is heading for calmer waters. The Government share that view and very much welcome the prospect of a more stable period for the industry. I would prefer Labour Members not to continue the attacks on British Coal Enterprise. It is a vital part of any social strategy that this Government operate that there should be an enterprise company breathing new life into coal mining areas. It could do with a little more assistance from the Labour party.
I am at a loss to understand the comments of the right hon. Member for Salford, East on the Bill's financial provisions. Some Labour Members fail to realise how much British Coal's future depends on these financial provisions. It took the hon. Member for Wentworth (Mr. Hardy) to say to the House and to his right hon. Friend the member for Salford, East, "I do not think that any of us object to the financial provisions." He said that after his right hon. Friend had spent some time attacking the financial provisions. I agree with the hon. Member for Wentworth.
§ Mr. Hunt
I should like to explain why I agree with the hon. Gentleman. British Coal is technically bankrupt. It has no financial reserves to offset its losses, and the current power to pay deficit grant ends at the end of next March. The Bill does not, as hon. Members have claimed, take away British Coal's future. On the contrary, if it were not for the Bill, British Coal would have no future at all.
§ Mr. Hardy
Will the Minister accept that what I was doing was endorsing the principle of providing financial support to British Coal? I said that on the previous Bill some of us argued that the optimistic assumption taken then was one which we questioned. The Government then were far more concerned to try to make Mr. MacGregor's tenure of the chairmanship of the NCB look a great deal more successful than it really was.
§ Mr. Hunt
I rely on the record, which everybody will read tomorrow, as to exactly what the hon. Gentleman said.
The third part of the Bill concerns the UDM. The debate has been astonishing. It is almost as if the Opposition are unaware that half the Bill exists—I refer to clauses 5, 6, 7 and 8. I must pay tribute to my hon. Friends the Members for Hallam, for Sherwood (Mr. Stewart), for Broxtowe, for Elmet (Mr. Batiste), for Amber Valley, for Chorley (Mr. Dover), for Nottingham, South (Mr. Brandon-Bravo), for Leicestershire, North-West (Mr. Ashby), for Tatton (Mr. Hamilton) and for Nottingham, North (Mr. Ottaway) all of whom stressed important issues, but none more so than an hon. Member whom we are delighted to have in the House, my hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, West (Mr. McLoughlin). Only last year he was working underground at Littleton colliery. He rightly pointed out that the Bill strives to restore the democratic tradition of the industry. It is a tradition of which the Opposition and the NUM have in the past been justly proud.
We were privileged to listen to what I thought was an extremely brave speech from the right hon. Member for Mansfield (Mr. Concannon). He has never lacked courage in what he has done. Speaking as a former Whip myself, I know that it took courage to stand up and say that, after 223 21 years of never voting against a three-line Whip, tonight he would have to do so. He gave his reasons loud and clear, and they were echoed to some extent by the hon. Member for Makerfield (Mr. McGuire). He was talking about the need to recognise a democratic trade union. A democratic union is a strong union, and a democratic industry is a strong industry. As the right hon. Gentleman, my hon. Friend the Member for Sherwood and others have pointed out, there were men throughout the country, chiefly in the midlands, who endured violence, threats and ridicule in order to protect their democratic rights under the law. They were the real victimised miners. Let us hear no more nonsense about that. Since the strike finished, they have seen those democratic rights usurped by a union to which they do not belong.
I can appreciate that back in 1946 and in the early 1950s there was no reason to believe that other unions would need to be introduced into the industry's various organisations. There was only one proud union. Today, that is no longer the case. Today we have the remnants of that union, and we have tens of thousands of mineworkers who no longer feel that it represents their interests. The Bill is designed to ensure that those men who stood by this country during the strike do not suffer as a result.
Opposition Members talk about democracy. There has been a shadow over this debate. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State identified it as the shadow of Scargill. For fear of upsetting one man, the Opposition continue to deny basic democratic rights and, indeed, human rights, to tens of thousands of workers in an industry dear to their hearts.
In the debate on the Loyal Address it was regrettable that the hon. Member for Newport, East (Mr. Hughes), who has been mentioned several times, criticised the Bill and said:The encouragement of a breakaway scab union is highly provocative."—[Official Report, 12 November 1986; Vol. 105, c. 32.]"Scab union" indeed. I hope that the hon. Gentleman regrets those remarks.
Why has the language changed? We heard none of that in this debate. I think that we have a right to ask why. We read in the Sunday newspapers that the Leader of the Opposition is sendinga high-powered envoy to the Nottinghamshire coalfield this week to head off a potential electoral disaster for the party.His mission will be to persuade the breakaway Union of Democratic Mineworkers not to put up a rival to Labour's…candidate.Could that be why there has been such a lack of strong language tonight? The answer has been discovered, as so often happens in the House, on a photocopying machine. I have with me a document that is headed:Proceedings of the Party Meeting on Thursday 20 November 1986 at 6 pm in Committee Room 10.It says:The party would be voting against the Coal Bill on a three line whip and a reasoned amendment was being tabled… The sensitivity of the electoral position in North Nottinghamshire was appreciated and the importance of not alienating local party members who were in the UDM recognised.Now we have the truth. It is the sensitivity of the electoral position that is paramount. The Opposition are crumbling. They have tabled a reasoned amendment that may enable them not to damage their electoral position. 224 We have heard high and mighty language about the importance of our great coal industry, but now we know the truth—it is the electoral position in Nottinghamshire that has so silenced Opposition Members tonight.
The reasoned amendment claims several things, but misunderstands and misrepresents the purpose of the Bill. It claims that there is a contraction in the industry. The hon. Member for Midlothian should not start quoting statistics for investment. After all, under this Government, £5 billion has been spent on investment in the coal industry. Moreover, we are now in the first year of a three-year programme involving another £2 billion. That is more money than in the whole of the Labour Government's period of office.
The amendment also seeks to establish that there has been a lack of investment in the industry. The average real rate of investment under the Labour Government was 35 per cent. lower than under this Administration. I am proud of our achievements. It is incredible that the Labour party should speak of low morale in the coal industry. We continually hear of productivity records being broken at pit, area and national levels. Indeed, I am delighted to have received information tonight—I know that people in the NCB worked hard so that the House could hear these figures tonight—showing that last week productivity in the British coalfield reached a new United Kingdom record of 3.59 tonnes per man shift. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear hear."] Let Hansard record that the cheer from the benches behind me, which was led by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, was not accompanied by anything other than silence on the part of Labour Members.
It is extraordinary that Labour Members do not recognise the industry's great achievements. The House by now sees, I hope, the amendment's abysmal failure to recognise any of the realities of the coal industry today. What saddens me most is that, by tabling it, Labour Members have shown their desire to go against what we used to think of as their democratic principles and have omitted all mention of the provisions on fair representation. It makes no difference to us if they wish to deny rights to such a fine body of men affiliated to the Labour party, but it shocks me to see that the Leader of the Opposition has signed his name to a denial of the rights for which working men have fought so long. Labour Members are indeed parliamentary puppets on a Scargill string. Surely the men have a right to expect that we will not fail them. Conservative members certainly will not do so.
§ Question put, That the amendment be made:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 177, Noes 268.227
|Division No. 7]||[10 pm|
|Abse, Leo||Boyes, Roland|
|Adams, Allen (Paisley N)||Bray, Dr Jeremy|
|Anderson, Donald||Brown, Gordon (D'f'mline E)|
|Archer, Rt Hon Peter||Brown, Hugh D. (Provan)|
|Ashley, Rt Hon Jack||Brown, N. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne E)|
|Atkinson, N. (Tottenham)||Brown, Ron (E'burgh, Leith)|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Callaghan, Rt Hon J.|
|Banks, Tony (Newham NW)||Callaghan, Jim (Heyw'd & M)|
|Barnett, Guy||Campbell, Ian|
|Barron, Kevin||Campbell-Savours, Dale|
|Beckett, Mrs Margaret||Canavan, Dennis|
|Benn, Rt Hon Tony||Carter-Jones, Lewis|
|Bennett, A. (Dent's & Red'sh)||Clark, Dr David (S Shields)|
|Bermingham, Gerald||Clarke, Thomas|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Clay, Robert|
|Blair, Anthony||Clelland, David Gordon|
|Boothroyd, Miss Betty||Clwyd, Mrs Ann|
|Cocks, Rt Hon M. (Bristol S)||McKelvey, William|
|Cohen, Harry||MacKenzie, Rt Hon Gregor|
|Coleman, Donald||McTaggart, Robert|
|Conlan, Bernard||McWilliam, John|
|Cook, Frank (Stockton North)||Madden, Max|
|Cook, Robin F. (Livingston)||Marek, Dr John|
|Corbett, Robin||Marshall, David (Shettleston)|
|Corbyn, Jeremy||Martin, Michael|
|Craigen, J. M.||Mason, Rt Hon Roy|
|Cunliffe, Lawrence||Maxton, John|
|Cunningham, Dr John||Maynard, Miss Joan|
|Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (L'lli)||Meacher, Michael|
|Davies, Ronald (Caerphilly)||Michie, William|
|Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'ge H'l)||Mikardo, Ian|
|Deakins, Eric||Millan, Rt Hon Bruce|
|Dewar, Donald||Miller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride)|
|Dixon, Donald||Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)|
|Dobson, Frank||Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)|
|Dormand, Jack||Nellist, David|
|Dubs, Alfred||Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon|
|Duffy, A. E. P.||O'Brien, William|
|Dunwoody, Hon Mrs G.||O'Neill, Martin|
|Eadie, Alex||Orme, Rt Hon Stanley|
|Eastham, Ken||Park, George|
|Edwards, Bob (W'h'mpt'n SE)||Parry, Robert|
|Evans, John (St. Helens N)||Patchett, Terry|
|Faulds, Andrew||Pavitt, Laurie|
|Field, Frank (Birkenhead)||Pendry, Tom|
|Fields, T. (L pool Broad Gn)||Pike, Peter|
|Fisher, Mark||Powell, Raymond (Ogmore)|
|Flannery, Martin||Prescott, John|
|Foot, Rt Hon Michael||Radice, Giles|
|Forrester, John||Randall, Stuart|
|Foster, Derek||Raynsford, Nick|
|Foulkes, George||Redmond, Martin|
|Fraser, J. (Norwood)||Richardson, Ms Jo|
|Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald||Roberts, Allan (Bootle)|
|Garrett, W. E.||Roberts, Ernest (Hackney N)|
|Godman, Dr Norman||Robertson, George|
|Golding, Mrs Llin||Robinson, G. (Coventry NW)|
|Gould, Bryan||Rogers, Allan|
|Gourlay, Harry||Rooker, J. W.|
|Hamilton, James (M'well N)||Ross, Ernest (Dundee W)|
|Hamilton, W. W. (Fife Central)||Rowlands, Ted|
|Hardy, Peter||Sedgemore, Brian|
|Harrison, Rt Hon Walter||Sheldon, Rt Hon R.|
|Hart, Rt Hon Dame Judith||Short, Ms Clare (Ladywood)|
|Heffer, Eric S.||Short, Mrs R.(W'hampt'n NE)|
|Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)||Silkin, Rt Hon J.|
|Home Robertson, John||Skinner, Dennis|
|Howarth, George (Knowsley, N)||Smith, Rt Hon J. (M'ds E)|
|Howell, Rt Hon D. (S'heath)||Soley, Clive|
|Hughes, Dr Mark (Durham)||Spearing, Nigel|
|Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)||Stott, Roger|
|Hughes, Roy (Newport East)||Straw, Jack|
|Hughes, Sean (Knowsley S)||Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)|
|Janner, Hon Greville||Thomas, Dr R. (Carmarthen)|
|John, Brynmor||Thorne, Stan (Preston)|
|Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)||Tinn, James|
|Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald||Torney, Tom|
|Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil||Wardell, Gareth (Gower)|
|Lamond, James||Weetch, Ken|
|Leadbitter, Ted||Welsh, Michael|
|Leighton, Ronald||White, James|
|Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||Wigley, Dafydd|
|Lewis, Terence (Worsley)||Wilson, Gordon|
|Litherland, Robert||Winnick, David|
|Livsey, Richard||Woodall, Alec|
|Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)||Young, David (Bolton SE)|
|Loyden, Edward||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|McCartney, Hugh||Mr. Chris Smith and|
|McGuire, Michael||Mr. Derek Fatchett.|
|McKay, Allen (Penistone)|
|Adley, Robert||Alton, David|
|Aitken, Jonathan||Arnold, Tom|
|Alexander, Richard||Ashby, David|
|Alison, Rt Hon Michael||Ashdown, Paddy|
|Atkins, Robert (South Ribble)||Henderson, Barry|
|Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N)||Hickmet, Richard|
|Baldry, Tony||Hicks, Robert|
|Batiste, Spencer||Hill, James|
|Beaumont-Dark, Anthony||Hind, Kenneth|
|Benyon, William||Hirst, Michael|
|Best, Keith||Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)|
|Bevan, David Gilroy||Holland, Sir Philip (Gedling)|
|Biffen, Rt Hon John||Holt, Richard|
|Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter||Hordern, Sir Peter|
|Boscawen, Hon Robert||Howell, Ralph (Norfolk, N)|
|Brandon-Bravo, Martin||Howells, Geraint|
|Bright, Graham||Hubbard-Miles, Peter|
|Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thpes)||Hunt, David (Wirral W)|
|Bruce, Malcolm||Hunter, Andrew|
|Bryan, Sir Paul||Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas|
|Buck, Sir Antony||Irving, Charles|
|Bulmer, Esmond||Jackson, Robert|
|Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)||Jenkin, Rt Hon Patrick|
|Carttiss, Michael||Jessel, Toby|
|Chapman, Sydney||Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey|
|Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S)||Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)|
|Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe)||Jopling, Rt Hon Michael|
|Cockeram, Eric||Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith|
|Coombs, Simon||Kellett-Bowman, Mrs Elaine|
|Cope, John||Kennedy, Charles|
|Dicks, Terry||Key, Robert|
|Derrell, Stephen||King, Roger (B'ham N'fieid)|
|Douglas-Hamilton, Lord J.||King, Rt Hon Tom|
|Dover, Den||Kirkwood, Archy|
|du Cann, Rt Hon Sir Edward||Knight, Greg (Derby N)|
|Dykes, Hugh||Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston)|
|Eggar, Tim||Knowles, Michael|
|Farr, Sir John||Knox, David|
|Favell, Anthony||Lamont, Rt Hon Norman|
|Fenner, Dame Peggy||Lang, Ian|
|Finsberg, Sir Geoffrey||Latham, Michael|
|Fletcher, Alexander||Lawler, Geoffrey|
|Fookes, Miss Janet||Lawrence, Ivan|
|Forman, Nigel||Lee, John (Pendle)|
|Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)||Lester, Jim|
|Fowler, Rt Hon Norman||Lewis, Sir Kenneth (Stamf'd)|
|Fox, Sir Marcus||Lightbown, David|
|Franks, Cecil||Lilley, Peter|
|Fraser, Peter (Angus East)||Lloyd, Sir Ian (Havant)|
|Freeman, Roger||Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)|
|Fry, Peter||Lord, Michael|
|Gale, Roger||McCrindle, Robert|
|Galley, Roy||McCurley, Mrs Anna|
|Gardiner, George (Reigate)||Macfarlane, Neil|
|Garel-Jones, Tristan||MacKay, Andrew (Berkshire)|
|Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian||MacKay, John (Argyll & Bute)|
|Glyn, Dr Alan||Maclean, David John|
|Goodhart, Sir Philip||Maclennan, Robert|
|Goodlad, Alastair||McLoughlin, Patrick|
|Gow, Ian||McNair-Wilson, M. (N'bury)|
|Gower, Sir Raymond||McQuarrie, Albert|
|Grant, Sir Anthony||Major, John|
|Greenway, Harry||Malins, Humfrey|
|Gregory, Conal||Malone, Gerald|
|Griffiths, Sir Eldon||Maples, John|
|Griffiths, Peter (Portsm'th N)||Marland, Paul|
|Grist, Ian||Marlow, Antony|
|Ground, Patrick||Mather, Carol|
|Grylls, Michael||Maude, Hon Francis|
|Gummer, Rt Hon John S||Mayhew, Sir Patrick|
|Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)||Meadowcroft, Michael|
|Hancock, Michael||Meyer, Sir Anthony|
|Hanley, Jeremy||Miller, Hal (B'grove)|
|Hannam, John||Mills, Iain (Meriden)|
|Hargreaves, Kenneth||Mills, Sir Peter (West Devon)|
|Harris, David||Miscampbell, Norman|
|Haselhurst, Alan||Mitchell, David (Hants NW)|
|Havers, Rt Hon Sir Michael||Moate, Roger|
|Hawkins, Sir Paul (N'folk SW)||Monro, Sir Hector|
|Hawksley, Warren||Morris, M. (N'hampton S)|
|Hayes, J.||Morrison, Hon C. (Devizes)|
|Hayhoe, Rt Hon Barney||Morrison, Hon P. (Chester)|
|Hayward, Robert||Mudd, David|
|Heddle, John||Neale, Gerrard|
|Needham, Richard||Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)|
|Nelson, Anthony||Stanbrook, Ivor|
|Nicholls, Patrick||Stanley, Rt Hon John|
|Norris, Steven||Steel, Rt Hon David|
|Onslow, Cranley||Steen, Anthony|
|Oppenheim, Phillip||Stern, Michael|
|Osborn, Sir John||Stevens, Lewis (Nuneaton)|
|Ottaway, Richard||Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)|
|Owen, Rt Hon Dr David||Stewart, Andrew (Sherwood)|
|Parkinson, Rt Hon Cecil||Sumberg, David|
|Patten, J. (Oxf W & Abgdn)||Tapsell, Sir Peter|
|Pattie, Geoffrey||Taylor, Rt Hon John David|
|Pawsey, James||Taylor, John (Solihull)|
|Penhaligon, David||Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)|
|Percival, Rt Hon Sir Ian||Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman|
|Pollock, Alexander||Temple-Morris, Peter|
|Portillo, Michael||Terlezki, Stefan|
|Powell, William (Corby)||Thomas, Rt Hon Peter|
|Powley, John||Thompson, Patrick (N'ich N)|
|Prentice, Rt Hon Reg||Thurnham, Peter|
|Price, Sir David||Townend, John (Bridlington)|
|Proctor, K. Harvey||Tracey, Richard|
|Raffan, Keith||Trotter, Neville|
|Raison, Rt Hon Timothy||Twinn, Dr Ian|
|Rathbone, Tim||van Straubenzee, Sir W.|
|Rees, Rt Hon Peter (Dover)||Vaughan, Sir Gerard|
|Renton, Tim||Viggers, Peter|
|Rhodes James, Robert||Waddington, David|
|Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon||Wakeham, Rt Hon John|
|Ridsdale, Sir Julian||Walker, Rt Hon P. (W'cester)|
|Roberts, Wyn (Conwy)||Wall, Sir Patrick|
|Robinson, Mark (N'port W)||Wallace, James|
|Roe, Mrs Marion||Waller, Gary|
|Rossi, Sir Hugh||Ward, John|
|Rowe, Andrew||Wardle, C. (Bexhill)|
|Sackville, Hon Thomas||Watts, John|
|Sainsbury, Hon Timothy||Wells, Sir John (Maidstone)|
|Sayeed, Jonathan||Wheeler, John|
|Scott, Nicholas||Whitfield, John|
|Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')||Wiggin, Jerry|
|Shelton, William (Streatham)||Wilkinson, John|
|Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)||Winterton, Mrs Ann|
|Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)||Winterton, Nicholas|
|Shersby, Michael||Wolfson, Mark|
|Shields, Mrs Elizabeth||Wood, Timothy|
|Silvester, Fred||Wrigglesworth, Ian|
|Sims, Roger||Yeo, Tim|
|Skeet, Sir Trevor||Young, Sir George (Acton)|
|Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)|
|Soames, Hon Nicholas||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Speller, Tony||Mr. Michael Neubert and|
|Spencer, Derek||Mr. Mark Lennox-Boyd.|
|Spicer, Jim (Dorset W)|
§ Question accordingly negatived.
§ Main Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 60 (Amendment on Second or Third Reading):—
§ The House divided: Ayes 263, Noes 173.229
|Division No. 8]||[10.14 pm|
|Adley, Robert||Bright, Graham|
|Aitken, Jonathan||Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thpes)|
|Alexander, Richard||Bruce, Malcolm|
|Alison, Rt Hon Michael||Bryan, Sir Paul|
|Alton, David||Buck, Sir Antony|
|Arnold, Tom||Bulmer, Esmond|
|Ashby, David||Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)|
|Ashdown, Paddy||Carttiss, Michael|
|Atkins, Robert (South Ribble)||Chapman, Sydney|
|Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N)||Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S)|
|Baldry, Tony||Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe)|
|Batiste, Spencer||Cockeram, Eric|
|Beaumont-Dark, Anthony||Concannon, Rt Hon J. D.|
|Best, Keith||Coombs, Simon|
|Biffen, Rt Hon John||Cope, John|
|Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter||Dorrell, Stephen|
|Boscawen, Hon Robert||Douglas-Hamilton, Lord J.|
|Brandon-Bravo, Martin||Dover, Den|
|du Cann, Rt Hon Sir Edward||Knowles, Michael|
|Dykes, Hugh||Knox, David|
|Eggar, Tim||Lamont, Rt Hon Norman|
|Farr, Sir John||Lang, Ian|
|Favell, Anthony||Latham, Michael|
|Fenner, Dame Peggy||Lawler, Geoffrey|
|Finsberg, Sir Geoffrey||Lawrence, Ivan|
|Fletcher, Alexander||Lee, John (Pendle)|
|Fookes, Miss Janet||Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark|
|Forman, Nigel||Lester, Jim|
|Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)||Lewis, Sir Kenneth (Stamf'd)|
|Fowler, Rt Hon Norman||Lightbown, David|
|Fox, Sir Marcus||Lilley, Peter|
|Franks, Cecil||Lloyd, Sir Ian (Havant)|
|Fraser, Peter (Angus East)||Lord, Michael|
|Freeman, Roger||McCrindle, Robert|
|Fry, Peter||McCurley, Mrs Anna|
|Gale, Roger||Macfarlane, Neil|
|Galley, Roy||MacKay, Andrew (Berkshire)|
|Gardiner, George (Reigate)||MacKay, John (Argyll & Bute)|
|Garel-Jones, Tristan||Maclean, David John|
|Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian||Maclennan, Robert|
|Glyn, Dr Alan||McLoughlin, Patrick|
|Goodhart, Sir Philip||McNair-Wilson, M. (N'bury)|
|Goodlad, Alastair||McQuarrie, Albert|
|Gower, Sir Raymond||Major, John|
|Grant, Sir Anthony||Malins, Humfrey|
|Greenway, Harry||Malone, Gerald|
|Gregory, Conal||Maples, John|
|Griffiths, Sir Eldon||Marland, Paul|
|Griffiths, Peter (Portsm'th N)||Marlow, Antony|
|Grist, Ian||Mather, Carol|
|Ground, Patrick||Maude, Hon Francis|
|Grylls, Michael||Mayhew, Sir Patrick|
|Gummer, Rt Hon John S||Meadowcroft, Michael|
|Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)||Meyer, Sir Anthony|
|Hancock, Michael||Miller, Hal (B'grove)|
|Hanley, Jeremy||Mills, Iain (Meriden)|
|Hannam, John||Mills, Sir Peter (West Devon)|
|Hargreaves, Kenneth||Miscampbell, Norman|
|Harris, David||Mitchell, David (Hants NW)|
|Haselhurst, Alan||Moate, Roger|
|Havers, Rt Hon Sir Michael||Monro, Sir Hector|
|Hawkins, Sir Paul (N'folk SW)||Morris, M. (N'hampton S)|
|Hawksley, Warren||Morrison, Hon C. (Devizes)|
|Hayes, J.||Morrison, Hon P. (Chester)|
|Hayward, Robert||Mudd, David|
|Heathcoat-Amory, David||Neale, Gerrard|
|Heddle, John||Needham, Richard|
|Henderson, Barry||Nelson, Anthony|
|Hickmet, Richard||Neubert, Michael|
|Hicks, Robert||Nicholls, Patrick|
|Hill, James||Norris, Steven|
|Hind, Kenneth||Oppenheim, Phillip|
|Hirst, Michael||Osborn, Sir John|
|Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)||Ottaway, Richard|
|Holland, Sir Philip (Gedling)||Owen, Rt Hon Dr David|
|Holt, Richard||Parkinson, Rt Hon Cecil|
|Howell, Ralph (Norfolk, N)||Patten, J. (Oxf W & Abgdn)|
|Howells, Geraint||Pattie, Geoffrey|
|Hubbard-Miles, Peter||Pawsey, James|
|Hunt, David (Wirral W)||Penhaligon, David|
|Hunter, Andrew||Percival, Rt Hon Sir Ian|
|Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas||Pollock, Alexander|
|Irving, Charles||Powell, William (Corby)|
|Jackson, Robert||Powley, John|
|Jenkin, Rt Hon Patrick||Prentice, Rt Hon Reg|
|Jessel, Toby||Price, Sir David|
|Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey||Proctor, K. Harvey|
|Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)||Raffan, Keith|
|Jopling, Rt Hon Michael||Raison, Rt Hon Timothy|
|Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith||Rathbone, Tim|
|Kellett-Bowman, Mrs Elaine||Rees, Rt Hon Peter (Dover)|
|Kennedy, Charles||Renton, Tim|
|Key, Robert||Rhodes James, Robert|
|King, Roger (B'ham N'field)||Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon|
|King, Rt Hon Tom||Ridsdale, Sir Julian|
|Kirkwood, Archy||Roberts, Wyn (Conwy)|
|Knight, Greg (Derby N)||Robinson, Mark (N'port W)|
|Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston)||Roe, Mrs Marion|
|Rossi, Sir Hugh||Thomas, Rt Hon Peter|
|Rowe, Andrew||Thompson, Donald (Calder V)|
|Sackville, Hon Thomas||Thompson, Patrick (N'ich N)|
|Sainsbury, Hon Timothy||Thurnham, Peter|
|Sayeed, Jonathan||Townend, John (Bridlington)|
|Scott, Nicholas||Tracey, Richard|
|Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')||Trotter, Neville|
|Shelton, William (Streatham)||Twinn, Dr Ian|
|Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)||van Straubenzee, Sir W.|
|Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)||Vaughan, Sir Gerard|
|Shersby, Michael||Viggers, Peter|
|Shields, Mrs Elizabeth||Waddington, David|
|Silvester, Fred||Wakeham, Rt Hon John|
|Sims, Roger||Walker, Rt Hon P. (W'cester)|
|Skeet, Sir Trevor||Wall, Sir Patrick|
|Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)||Wallace, James|
|Soames, Hon Nicholas||Waller, Gary|
|Speller, Tony||Ward, John|
|Spencer, Derek||Wardle, C. (Bexhill)|
|Spicer, Jim (Dorset W)||Watts, John|
|Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)||Wells, Sir John (Maidstone)|
|Stanbrook, Ivor||Wheeler, John|
|Stanley, Rt Hon John||Whitfield, John|
|Steel, Rt Hon David||Wilkinson, John|
|Steen, Anthony||Winterton, Mrs Ann|
|Stern, Michael||Winterton, Nicholas|
|Stevens, Lewis (Nuneaton)||Wolfson, Mark|
|Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)||Wood, Timothy|
|Stewart, Andrew (Sherwood)||Wrigglesworth, Ian|
|Sumberg, David||Yeo, Tim|
|Tapsell, Sir Peter||Young, Sir George (Acton)|
|Taylor, John (Solihull)|
|Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman||Mr. Peter Lloyd and|
|Temple-Morris, Peter||Mr. Michael Portillo.|
|Abse, Leo||Craigen, J. M.|
|Adams, Allen (Paisley N)||Cunliffe, Lawrence|
|Anderson, Donald||Cunningham, Dr John|
|Archer, Rt Hon Peter||Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (L'lli)|
|Ashley, Rt Hon Jack||Davies, Ronald (Caerphilly)|
|Atkinson, N. (Tottenham)||Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'ge H'l)|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Deakins, Eric|
|Banks, Tony (Newham NW)||Dewar, Donald|
|Barnett, Guy||Dixon, Donald|
|Barron, Kevin||Dobson, Frank|
|Beckett, Mrs Margaret||Dormand, Jack|
|Benn, Rt Hon Tony||Dubs, Alfred|
|Bennett, A. (Dent'n & Red'sh)||Duffy, A. E. P.|
|Bermingham, Gerald||Dunwoody, Hon Mrs G.|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Eadie, Alex|
|Blair, Anthony||Eastham, Ken|
|Boothroyd, Miss Betty||Evans, John (St. Helens N)|
|Boyes, Roland||Faulds, Andrew|
|Bray, Dr Jeremy||Field, Frank (Birkenhead)|
|Brown, Gordon (D'f'mline E)||Fields, T. (L'pool Broad Gn)|
|Brown, Hugh D. (Provan)||Fisher, Mark|
|Brown, N. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne E)||Flannery, Martin|
|Brown, Ron (E'burgh, Leith)||Foot, Rt Hon Michael|
|Callaghan, Rt Hon J.||Foster, Derek|
|Callaghan, Jim (Heyw'd & M)||Foulkes, George|
|Campbell, Ian||Fraser, J. (Norwood)|
|Campbell-Savours, Dale||Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald|
|Canavan, Dennis||Garrett, W. E.|
|Carter-Jones, Lewis||Godman, Dr Norman|
|Clark, Dr David (S Shields)||Golding, Mrs Llin|
|Clarke, Thomas||Gould, Bryan|
|Clay, Robert||Gourlay, Harry|
|Clelland, David Gordon||Hamilton, James (M'well N)|
|Clwyd, Mrs Ann||Hamilton, W. W. (Fife Central)|
|Cocks, Rt Hon M. (Bristol S)||Hardy, Peter|
|Cohen, Harry||Harrison, Rt Hon Walter|
|Coleman, Donald||Hart, Rt Hon Dame Judith|
|Conlan, Bernard||Heffer, Eric S.|
|Cook, Frank (Stockton North)||Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)|
|Cook, Robin F. (Livingston)||Home Robertson, John|
|Corbett, Robin||Howarth, George (Knowsley, N)|
|Corbyn, Jeremy||Howell, Rt Hon D. (S'heath)|
|Hughes, Dr Mark (Durham)||Pendry, Tom|
|Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)||Pike, Peter|
|Hughes, Roy (Newport East)||Powell, Raymond (Ogmore)|
|Hughes, Sean (Knowsley S)||Prescott, John|
|Janner, Hon Greville||Radice, Giles|
|John, Brynmor||Randall, Stuart|
|Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)||Raynsford, Nick|
|Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald||Redmond, Martin|
|Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil||Richardson, Ms Jo|
|Lamond, James||Roberts, Allan (Bootle)|
|Leadbitter, Ted||Roberts, Ernest (Hackney N)|
|Leighton, Ronald||Robertson, George|
|Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||Robinson, G. (Coventry NW)|
|Lewis, Terence (Worsley)||Rogers, Allan|
|Litherland, Robert||Rooker, J. W.|
|Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)||Ross, Ernest (Dundee W)|
|Lofthouse, Geoffrey||Rowlands, Ted|
|Loyden, Edward||Sedgemore, Brian|
|McCartney, Hugh||Sheldon, Rt Hon R.|
|McGuire, Michael||Short, Ms Clare (Ladywood)|
|McKay, Allen (Penistone)||Short, Mrs R.(W'hampt'n NE)|
|McKelvey, William||Silkin, Rt Hon J.|
|MacKenzie, Rt Hon Gregor||Skinner, Dennis|
|McTaggart, Robert||Smith, Rt Hon J. (M'ds E)|
|McWilliam, John||Soley, Clive|
|Madden, Max||Spearing, Nigel|
|Marek, Dr John||Stott, Roger|
|Marshall, David (Shettleston)||Straw, Jack|
|Martin, Michael||Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)|
|Maxton, John||Thomas, Dr R. (Carmarthen)|
|Maynard, Miss Joan||Thorne, Stan (Preston)|
|Meacher, Michael||Tinn, James|
|Michie, William||Torney, Tom|
|Mikardo, Ian||Wardell, Gareth (Gower)|
|Millan, Rt Hon Bruce||Weetch, Ken|
|Miller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride)||Welsh, Michael|
|Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)||White, James|
|Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)||Wigley, Dafydd|
|Nellist, David||Wilson, Gordon|
|Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon||Winnick, David|
|O'Brien, William||Woodall, Alec|
|O'Neill, Martin||Young, David (Bolton SE)|
|Orme, Rt Hon Stanley|
|Park, George||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Parry, Robert||Mr. Chris Smith and|
|Patchett, Terry||Mr. Derek Fatchett.|
§ Question accordingly agreed to.
§ Bill read a Second time and committed to a Standing Committee, pursuant to Standing Order No. 61 (Committal of Bills).