HC Deb 07 March 1988 vol 129 cc1-12
Mr. Speaker

Before we start on questions to the Secretary of State for Energy, may I say to the House that further court proceedings are still pending in Scotland on the issue of whether the South of Scotland Electricity Board is bound by contracts to purchase coal exclusively from British Coal for certain power stations. This means that that issue cannot be raised in supplementary questions or, indeed, in the debate later today.

I am, however, prepared to allow questions and speeches to cover the future policy of the electricity boards in Scotland on the use of domestic and imported coal.

Mr. Douglas

On that point, Mr. Speaker, would you be gracious enough to reflect a little further on how that statement constrains hon. Members with very important constituency interests, and on the debate last week in which this very matter was raised specifically by my hon. Friend the Member for Midlothian (Mr. Eadie) and by me? Will you reflect on how we might be constrained in advocating a position in defence of our constituents' interests, particularly in view of the threat that hangs over 3,000 to 4,000 miners in Scotland?

Mr. Speaker

When I gave my original ruling, the issue was not sub judice. This week it is. As I have already explained to the hon. Gentleman, discussion of the general proposition on whether domestic or imported coal should be used is perfectly permissible.

Mr. Salmond

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Can you give us further clarification on whether what is sub judice pertains to the point at issue in the court case, namely, whether contracts have been established? Or are you saying that we cannot discuss the entire issue of the buying in of coal by the privatisation?

Mr. Speaker

That is exactly what my statement said. What is sub-judice is the issue immediately before the court. I am prepared to allow questions and speeches to cover the future policy of the boards.

Mr. Dalyell

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Question 6, which refers to this issue, stands in my name. The difference between policy and what is actually about to happen to jobs throughout Scotland is a very grey area indeed. Does this not raise the whole question of the relationship between what Parliament has already accepted on the Order Paper and the courts? On what basis are matters that appear in the courts subsequently allowed to preclude legitimate parliamentary questions?

Mr. Speaker

Order. The questions were put down before the matter was sub judice. I have nothing to add to the statement that I have already made.

  1. Electricity Industry 784 words
  2. cc4-5
  3. British Coal 674 words
  4. cc5-6
  5. Nuclear Safety 531 words
  6. cc6-7
  7. Electricity Industry 706 words
  8. cc7-9
  9. British Coal—SSEB 964 words
  10. cc9-10
  11. Pressurised Water Reactors 519 words
  12. cc10-2
  13. Energy Efficiency 683 words
  14. c12
  15. Alternative Energy Sources 156 words
  16. c12
  17. Electricity Exports 157 words