HC Deb 18 December 1990 vol 183 cc183-215

Order for Second Reading read.

[Relevant documents: Ninth Report from the Defence Committee, of Session 1989–90, on the Progress of the Trident Programme (HC 237), and the Government's Reply thereto contained in the Committee's Seventh Special Report (HC 661).]

4.53 pm
The Minister of State for Defence Procurement (Mr. Alan Clark)

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

The House will recall that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence made a statement in the House on 5 December 1989 in which he outlined the Government's proposals for the future organisation of the atomic weapons establishment. Those proposals arise from a full review carried out in 1989, which took into account the points raised by the Select Committee in its fifth report on the Trident programme in 1988–89.

The report of the Select Committee on Defence made a number of points about contractorisation, which the Government have largely accepted. The Committee has not recommended against contractorisation, but said that it should not be rushed. We agree with that and do not plan to move from the present interim arrangements before late 1992.

My right hon. Friend announced that, as an interim step, a management contractor would be appointed. An invitation to tender for the contract was issued to eight major defence companies on 6 April and three bids were subsequently received from British Aerospace, led by Royal Ordnance; Hunting-BRAE; and a joint bid from Rolls-Royce and Babcock International. After examination of the tenders, the Hunting-BRAE bid was selected as the one that offered the best prospects of improved management and efficiency, together with value for money and safe operation of the establishment.

Hunting-BRAE has appointed a new chief executive and 19 other managers from the three companies that make up Hunting-BRAE. The staff of the establishment will retain their civil service status for the duration of the contract and the new managers are seconded as civil servants.

The groundwork is now being prepared for the reorganisation of the establishment's management structure. The contract provides for task forces to carry out studies in three spheres: to look at productivity, pay and conditions; cover management information systems; and deal with long-term manufacturing strategy.

A consultative document, setting out details for the contractorisation proposals was issued to the atomic weapons establishment trade unions on 5 December to coincide with my right hon. Friend's statement. The trade unions commented on that document and my Department issued a second consultative document on 27 July responding to their comments. The trade unions have proposed that, instead of being operated by a contractor, the establishment should become a "next steps" executive agency or a defence support agency.

"Next steps" agency arrangements or defence support agencies have considerable attractions for those establishments or organisations that should appropriately remain in the civil service. But where it is appropriate and feasible to introduce full contractorisation, that option is preferred.

Contractorisation will address the establishment's difficulties in two ways. First, the contractor will have the greatest possible freedom to offer the terms and conditions needed to attract and retain the work force he requires. Contractorisation will enable the establishment to gain the additional project and production management expertise on the scale required, together with access to the corporate support of a major industrial company or consortium. Those benefits cannot be obtained to the same extent from alternative arrangements.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)

Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Clark

I always give way, even to the hon. Gentleman, to whom I gave way five times last time I was at the Dispatch Box. In the end, we came to an understanding that I could no longer give way. As I judge the mood of the House, it is that we should debate the subject back and forth across the Floor in the short time remaining to us. Although I shall now, as I always do, give way to the hon. Gentleman, I do not propose to give way very generously.

Mr. Dalyell

Given the experience of the Committee stage of the Property Services Agency and Crown Suppliers Bill 1990, are we guaranteed that the views of the trade unions will be listened to more seriously than happened in respect of the Property Services Agency and the Crown Suppliers? On that occasion, relationships became unnecessarily difficult and even bitter. Is there good will in discussions with the trade unions? May we have that assurance from the Minister?

Mr. Clark

No, the hon. Gentleman may not. I do not doubt that the Committee stage of this Bill will be extremely constructive and fruitful, and that it will possibly be a prolonged experience. However, the only views to which I and my hon. Friend propose to listen are those of right hon. and hon. Members.

Mr. Frank Haynes (Ashfield)

That is shocking. We will deal with the Minister upstairs in Committee.

Mr. Clark

The hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well the arrangements, understandings and conventions of the House. It is for individual right hon. and hon. Members, who are elected to this place, to articulate the views of their constituents, and of their sponsors, in the case of Labour Members. I cannot give an undertaking that the Committee will specifically listen to the views of trade unionists. It will listen to members of the Committee and to other right hon. and hon. Members. The hon. Member for Ashfield (Mr. Haynes) knows that perfectly well.

Mr. Dalyell

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. My question was whether Ministers would listen to the views of trade unionists—although not necessarily only in Committee. I asked my question in good faith, and I am appalled by the Minister's answer.

Mr. Clark

In every other field, such a combination of functions in one entity would be undertaken in industry and not in government. The fact that the business is nuclear means that safeguards are required, but not that the personnel must be civil servants.

My Department remains committed to consultation with the trade unions on all detailed aspects of contractorisation. Further consultative documents will be produced in due course dealing with specific issues such as pensions. We are always ready to meet the trade unions to discuss any specific issues that may be of concern to their members. I repeat that for the benefit of any Labour Member who was not listening. That is a totally different matter from representations made in Committee upstairs, as the hon. Member for Ashfield well knows.

My Department will not compromise on safety. The establishment has an excellent safety record. The current safety organisation at the establishment will remain in existence after vesting day, and the highest standards will continue to apply. The Health and Safety Executive will continue to he heavily involved in safety issues at the establishment under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, as it does now.

As to the provisions of the Bill, clause 1 enables the Secretary of State to designate activities and premises at AWE. The provisions in the rest of the Bill will apply when arrangements are made for those designated activities to be carried out under contract by a company.

Clause 2 ensures that the transfer of AWE activities—and with them its staff—to the contractor will be governed by the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 1981—TUPE 81—which protect the interests of staff by preserving conditions of service at the time of transfer. TUPE 81 does not preserve pension arrangements, although it does make it clear that there should not be a detrimental change in working conditions, including pensions, as a result of the transfer. My Department will therefore introduce a new, private sector pension scheme at AWE, which will mirror the provisions of the principal civil service pension scheme and UKAEA principal non-industrial superannuation scheme as closely as possible. The new scheme will provide benefits that are at least as good as under existing schemes.

A new redundancy payments scheme will also be set up that will, when taken together with pension scheme benefits, provide redundancy payments of an equivalent value to those payable under the PCSPS. I must stress, however, that we do not expect redundancies among AWE's work force as a result of the introduction of contractor operation.

Clause 2 also ensures that the establishment's staff will not be treated as having been made redundant when they cease to be civil servants and become employees of the contractor, with the same jobs and the same conditions of service.

Mr. Jimmy Dunnachie (Glasgow, Pollok)

Including pensions?

Mr. Clark

I have just mentioned those.

In practice, AWE staff will be transferred not directly to the contractor but to a company formed by the Secretary of State to act as the employer of all establishment staff. That employing company will then be acquired by the company that wins the competition for the full contractor operation of AWE.

Clause 3, together with the schedule, preserves AWE's current position with respect to certain items of legislation. After vesting day, establishment land, facilities and other assets will remain the property of the Crown, but will be operated by the contractor. It will be necessary for certain privileges related to Crown status to remain in force., for security and, in some cases, for practical reasons.

Mr. Dick Douglas (Dunfermline, West)

Will the Minister say something about the interface between the AWE under contractorisation and the warhead operation at Coalport and Faslane? I understand that that operation is currently totally interfaced by the MOD, but that under contractorisation, there will be a cut-off. What will be the interface between private enterprise contractorisation and the AWE in relation to the MOD's warheads operation at Coalport and Faslane?

Mr. Clark

I recognise the importance of that aspect, but it is tangential to the measure now before the House, so it is not one on which I shall comment now. However, if the hon. Gentleman catches your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, perhaps he can expand on that point later, when my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Defence Procurement would certainly respond. Also, I have no doubt that the Committee will consider that matter as one of prime importance during its deliberations Upstairs.

In cases where there is room for legal doubt whether a necessary Crown privilege would continue to apply after contractorisation, provision has been made in the schedule to ensure that it will. That does not necessarily mean that, in each case, the privilege would be lost if no provision were made. The intention is to put the issue beyond doubt. We will continue to examine AWE's position in relation to the Acts mentioned in the schedule before and during Committee stage.

The main reason for the provisions that have been made in the schedule is security. It is essential that access to classified nuclear weapon information, and to the highly sensitive AWE sites themselves, is restricted to specially cleared personnel. The majority of the provisions in the schedule are intended to prevent local authorities and other non-Crown bodies from acquiring rights of access to establishment sites and to nuclear weapon information.

There are also practical reasons involved. For instance, so that my Department will have the flexibility to change the contractor in the future, it will be necessary to prevent a contractor from acquiring security of tenure at establishment sites. Accordingly, there is provision for AWE to be exempt from the section of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1954 that deals with security of tenure for business tenants.

Clause 3 also gives the Secretary of State power to repeal or amend any of the provisions of the schedule. Clause 4 ensures that the Ministry of Defence police will continue to fulfil its existing roles with respect to the establishment. They include not only its vital guarding role at the sites, but also criminal investigation. My Department will continue to be responsible for setting security standards, and for the vetting of AWE staff, who will have to meet the same stringent security requirements that apply now.

Clause 5 provides for certain expenses that might arise in connection with the employing company to be paid for out of money provided by the House.

As well as creating a framework within which contractor operation can be introduced, the Bill provides safeguards both for the United Kingdom's defence interests, by helping to protect national security considerations, and for AWE staff, by ensuring that they will keep their existing jobs without detriment to their conditions of service when the contractor is introduced. Those, together with other rigorous safeguards that will be imposed through the provisions of the contract, and by the close and continuous scrutiny of the establishment by my Department through the compliance office, will ensure that the considerable benefits of contractor operation will be achieved without detriment to safety, security, or the establishment's world-class reputation as a research establishment. I commend the Bill to this House.

5.9 pm

Mr. Martin O'Neill (Clackmannan)

When the Secretary of State announced his intention to introduce the Bill 12 months ago, many of us expressed grave reservations about it. Like most people who follow the work of the atomic weapons establishment, I was aware of the difficulties facing it. Last year, I had the opportunity to visit Aldermaston and Burghfield and I spoke to people at both plants.

There is little disagreement that the problem was pay. The same conclusion was reached by the National Audit Office in 1987, when it said: The MOD identified the basic problem as being uncompetitive Civil Service pay. The Select Committee on Defence noted that, at Aldermaston and Burghfield, pay for skilled workers is£148 while in the rest of the travel-to-work area the average wage is of the order of £209. That has resulted in the problem of staff shortages in the AWE doubling from 268 in March 1988 to 552 in March this year.

As I understand it, the Bill's purpose is to address the challenge to management arising not only from staff shortages but, since there is to be an increase in the scale of manufacturing, from the weakness in production manufacturing. It also seeks to address the problem of the undue distraction of research scientists from their research work.

Those aspects merely serve to reinforce my original point about the problems of pay and staff shortages in an area where one has to concede that the economy is overheated. If the AWE were to be relocated, the first choice would not be the Thames valley. I am not sure that many other communities would be prepared to have it, but I recognise that some of the past concerns about safety have been unfounded, because its record has been good. Whether that would be the case in future is open to question.

It would be wrong to suggest that the Ministry of Defence has done nothing about pay. It must be given credit for its attempts to introduce special pay arrangements. However, they have often created more problems than they have resolved. For example, when pay rises were given to one group in span 8, people in the allegedly higher group 7 found that they were being paid less and asked to be downgraded. Because of the narrowness of the Treasury instruction, money was made available only to a particular section of work force at any one time and a comprehensive review of pay and conditions was never possible. In a number of instances, the Treasury created problems by intervening. There is no one here to defend the Treasury, but it defends itself well enough by other means.

There are cases within the United Kingdom public sector where unions have been able to negotiate new and more flexible arrangements as, for example, in the case of the highly successful deal for the railway inspectorate, as outlined in the evidence to the Select Committee.

The resolution of such difficulties need not require the kind of Bill that is being proposed today. The model of the Defence Research Agency could be taken. Staff could be brought in from outside the civil service, new management structures could be adopted, more flexible pay scales created and the current reallocation of work between the various establishments could continue.

The present AWE structure is being retained and the various plants are not being split up, as happened with the contractorisation of the dockyards. How the management structures will operate may be debated in Committee. I remember sitting through the Committee proceedings of the Dockyard Services Bill 1986 and being told that the attraction was stand-alone management in each place. I realise that the functions are different and I shall return to that point. Even without the contractorised arrangement, there could be subcontracting between sites and that would assist greatly.

But the basic point that the Government do not appreciate is that the contractorisation of the AWE requires a privatisation of the labour force. It will be taken out of the civil service and become the asset of the employing company. The workers will cease to be civil servants and will not be guaranteed many of the employment rights that they presently enjoy. The Minister said that a number of things would be just about the same, that he hopes that things will be all right, but that no guarantees can be given.

Mr. Alan Clark

I do not anticipate any redundancies.

Mr. O'Neill

We shall wait and see about that. The experiences of other contractorisations have been mixed. Where new management teams have come in with the purpose of, as much as anything else, finding new work, they have been reasonably successful. But if the labour shortages are to be overcome, more people will have to be employed in the short term, with the higher wages needed to attract them, being funded, I imagine, by the higher productivity in the early stages, and that in turn will result in redundancies in the future.

I wrote that passage before the Minister spoke and I read it in its entirety because I recognise that the Minister said that no redundancies are anticipated. But will he confirm that no redundancies will be anticipated throughout the five years of the contract?

Mr. Alan Clark

I stand exactly by my words. No redundancies are anticipated. One of the advantages that will accrue from the Bill is a greater flexibility in terms and conditions and pay which will allow more effective recruitment. No one can predict what will happen in five years' time. It would be irresponsible to do so.

Mr. O'Neill

That is fine. We have now got it. At least at the beginning of the five-year period no redundancies are anticipated, but towards the end they are a possibility.

Mr. Alan Clark

No, not at all.

Mr. O'Neill

The Minister will give no undertakings, and that is what I said earlier. That is the kind of problem we have had. I recognise that people do not have jobs for life, but under the system that the Minister envisages, money will be made available by the contractors, as is often the case in such contracts, in the early stages when there is no profit, and only as the five-year period goes on will profits begin to accrue.

The situation is viewed over the five years. In this instance, we shall see additional recruitment and an enhancement of conditions, and we shall then have to get increased productivity. Thereafter, as I said earlier and as the Minister has now conceded, it cannot be guaranteed that there will be no redundancies towards the end of the five-year period. That is the only way in which I can see this measure washing its face financially. We will doubtless come back to that in Committee.

Individuals may well he surplus to requirements or not suited to the new set-up, and the difficulty about removing them from the civil service is that they will no longer have access to the other career openings that the civil service offers. They would have to leave the AWE and apply afresh to the civil service, which is a complicated business and which need not be imposed on the work force in the way that I have described.

I am concerned that the Minister has glided over the honouring of existing agreements. He has said that conditions and the private pension scheme will be better. We shall have to look at that again to see what guarantees in writing can be given to the work force that that will be so. If it proves correct, I shall be happy to concede the point on Third Reading; but, as we say in Scotland, I hae me doots.

In Committee we shall examine the issues surrounding the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 1981—TUPE 81—but that is a detailed matter and we do not have time to go into it now.

The British experience of Government-owned, contractor-operated—GOCO—facilities is limited. Neither Rosyth nor Devonport has a great record on job security. In Devonport the work force has fallen from 14,000 to 5,000. The role of the contractors has been to shed labour. There have been attendant problems in Devonport, as the Minister knows, because of the nature of the site, the rent for which is felt to be excessive, and reductions in the core programme and the difficulties of finding alternative work. In different circumstances, Rosyth has probably done better; it has improved industrial relations and has a good record of winning additional work, but there are still problems with the size of the core programme and with MOD business generally.

The jury is still out on British GOCOs. That is certainly not so in the United States where the problem has been one of safety. There have been faults due to cost-cutting and carelessness. I know that the record of the AWE is generally good, not least since the recommendations of the Pochen report were implemented. We have not had problems on the scale of those in the United States, where GOCOs will require between £66 billion and £100 billion to be spent on them in the next 25 years. The name Rocky Flats has become synonymous with environmental disaster. The House, the communities around the establishments and the whole country will require much more convincing than we had from the Minister this evening about the duties of the compliance officers.

Mr. Alan Clark

Chernobyl was not a GOCO.

Mr. O'Neill

It was not; it was operating under different circumstances. But it is legitimate to compare and contrast the United States and Britain, no matter how unpleasant the Minister may find such comparisons.

The Opposition believe that the role of the compliance officer is somewhat dubious—not in the sense that we are hostile to him, because we wish him well, but there are other agencies and other ways of looking at the problem. We shall also look at this in detail in Committee. We are not convinced that nuclear safety and profitability are always compatible. We do not envisage that the financial arrangements will be generous enough to ensure that contractors can meet all their responsibilities and still find money at the end to make a sizeable profit.

The Labour party recognises that AWEs will exist for a long time to come. We want them to be reorganised along the lines of the Defence Research Agency. We are committed to continuing with the Trident programme, and we recognise that AWE will have to accommodate future nuclear disarmament, the dismantling of warheads, and the creation of new inspection and verification procedures. These establishments are unique and are responsible as much for the preparation for peace as for the preparation for war. Understandably, they work in conditions of secrecy.

The trust that the workers, people who live locally and the nation place in these establishments rests on the knowledge that the director and staff are answerable to the Secretary of State and this House. Labour believes that that clear line of accountability is paramount. We believe that there is a way of resolving the management and production problems of the establishment, and that can be achieved—

Mr. Douglas

Given the hon. Gentleman's responsibilities, it would be helpful if he would clarify the position of a future Labour Government. Would they be in a position to cancel the contract or to renegotiate it and bring everything back into the public domain?

Mr. O'Neill

We shall have to wait and see what happens. We are in the run-up to a general election, and I believe that this contract will never see the light of day. We shall win the general election, and the contract will not proceed. Vesting day is towards the end of this Parliament, and it is likely that the Government will have been defeated by then—not that the hon. Gentleman will have anything other than an academic interest in the House by that stage.

The Opposition believe that establishing an agency capable of working out new pay deals free from Treasury interference and capable of securing higher productivity through having a full complement of staff and keeping that staff in the civil service, can meet the obligations of the House to the people who work in the industry. We can assure the people who live around it that their environment, health and safety will be maintained, and we believe that the security of the nation can be retained. All that can be secured by voting against this unnecessary Bill.

5.25 pm
Mr. Michael Mates (Hampshire, East)

My goodness me: until the hon. Member for Clackmannan (Mr. O'Neill) spoilt it all by saying that the Opposition would vote against this sensible measure, I was struck by how far the Labour party has come—in favour of Trident and sensible nuclear deterrence, for instance. I hope that the hon. Gentleman, who spoke with common sense, will still be alive after all his Back Benchers who did not hear his speech have read what he said.

The ninth report of the Defence Select Committee of last Session and the Government's reply to it are mentioned on the Order Paper as relevant to this debate. It was the latest of our annual examinations of the progress of the Trident programme. We have visited Aldermaston more than once, most recently in March 1989, and this year we took evidence from the trade unions and AWE here in Westminster.

Part V of the latest report deals with the Government's proposals for the contractorisation of AWE. Over the past 10 years, we have had cause repeatedly to express concern about the situation at AWE, and particularly about the implications of manpower shortages there for the Trident programme. This year we reported: the manpower difficulties … have worsened. Unless the remedial measures proposed prove effective, there is now a significant risk that some elements of the warhead programme may fail to meet their scheduled delivery dates. It is against this background that the Government have decided to introduce this Bill, and we shall do all we can to give it a fair wind.

Our report mentions a number of potential anxieties about the contractorisation proposals, many of them expressed most strongly in evidence given us by AWE trade unions, which described the reaction of their members to the proposals as one of dismay. Principal among these anxieties is safety. It was good to hear my hon. Friend the Minister of State for Defence Procurement say that that was paramount among his concerns. The Ministry has assured us that AWE's high safety standards will be maintained after contractorisation, but we were a little worried that, in practice, a contractor might be tempted to cut corners.

As we pointed out in paragraph 68 of the report: There is clearly some potential contradiction between the notion that new management is required to change the `culture' of AWE, and the argument that safety standards will be inviolate because the staff of AWE will take with them their existing culture. Somewhere between the two we must make certain that everyone understands that the old excellent standards must be maintained while the new approach to management, productivity and work changes in accordance with the Government's wishes.

We have also recently produced a report on MOD's record of radiological protection of service and civilian personnel. In our 12th report of last Session, published in November, we had occasion to examine AWE again. We welcomed the recent improvement in recruitment of health physicists to make up for staff shortages in health physics posts in AWE's safety division, and we recommended that a duty to keep health physics staffing up to strength be included in the AWE management contract. I hope that the Minister can assure me that it will be so included.

In general terms, we welcome the recent fall in exposure levels of AWE staff—we go into that in detail in the report, and I shall not repeat it now.

One acid test of whether the contractorisation of AWE is a result of this Bill has improved health and safety environment at AWE will be shown by the extent to which recent trends towards ever lower individual and total exposure levels can be maintained. I am hopeful about that, having seen at first hand the progress made at Rosyth in this respect, and we are told that the commercial operators in the dockyards at Devonport have managed to do the same.

We voiced concern in our report that the compliance office might not have enough staff with the relevant expertise to conduct adequately its monitoring and auditing role. I welcome the assurance in paragraph 14 of the Government's reply that the compliance office will be fully independent and properly resourced. I hope that the Minister will be able to flesh out that assurance with specific facts and figures. In that regard, clause 5 of the Bill is noteworthy, because it gives the Secretary of State funds to meet expenses incurred in assuming responsibility for any liabilities". That seems to suggest that the management contractor at AWE will not himself be liable in respect of nuclear safety. Perhaps my hon. Friend could clarify that position in his winding-up speech.

Similarly paragraph 9 of the schedule gives exemption to the contractor from certain sections of the Health and Safety at Work, etc. Act 1974. I should be grateful if my hon. Friend could explain what is involved and why he thinks that exemption is necessary.

Our report concluded with these words: It is essential that the move to contractorisation is not rushed and that the details are very fully worked out before the contract is awarded. Progress in bringing forward the Bill has been swift, and we can assume that its implementation will be equally swift. The Committee and the House would welcome my hon. Friend's assurance that, in its speed, the Ministry is not neglecting the finer points—the small print—of the contractual terms, because it is upon them that the success of the Government's plans will turn.

I and my colleagues on the Committee welcome the Bill. However, we shall watch for the points that I have raised, and I hope that the Minister will be able to help us by answering some of them.

5.30 pm
Mr. Menzies Campbell (Fife, North-East)

In spite of, or perhaps because of, the typically exiguous remarks by the Minister, I regret that I retain a deep-seated unease about the principle that lies behind the Bill.

On Second Reading, we are concerned more with principle and rather less with detail. The principle that we ought to bear in mind, above all others, is the legitimate protection of the public interest. We cannot have a debate of this kind without reminding ourselves that nuclear weapons are weapons of mass destruction, and that the responsibility for their deployment and potential use is probably the most awesome of all ministerial responsibilities.

I am unrepentantly of the view that ministerial responsibility for the development and manufacture of such weapons ought to be retained, to the extent that the atomic weapons establishment should remain in the public domain, and that those who are most directly concerned should remain part of the civil service. I cannot flinch from the conclusion that contractorisation reflects something of a dilution in ministerial responsibility.

If there have been staff shortages and weaknesses in management—the Select Committee on Defence has certainly identified these, and they seem to have been almost a matter of omission—is it really the case that such defects cannot be cured without contractorisation? I do not believe that the case made to support that proposition this afternoon was of the compelling nature that it ought to be to justify the substantial alteration which the Bill proposes.

I remain of the view that overcoming those defects was, and is, a question of will and resources. If sufficient will and sufficient resource had been made available, there would be no justification for embarking upon the course of action required by the Bill.

Contractorisation, whether on an interim or a full basis, seems to be an acknowledgement of failure, and we should not allow this occasion to pass without drawing that to the attention of the public. It seems inevitable that, while research and development will be matters of contract, safety issues will continue to be controversial. We may find ourselves in a curious situation. If there is a failure to meet the standards of safety set down by the compliance officer, the Government may find that they have to go to the civil court to ensure that the standard of safety specified in the contract is met. Alternatively, if the Government withhold stage payments in the contract, on the grounds that standards of safety are not being met, they may find that they are the subject of civil litigation.

In my submission, it is a curious notion that something as fundamental and important as development of and research into nuclear weapons could be the subject of civil litigation. At a time of international tension, that could hardly inspire confidence in the capacity of the Government of the day, whatever their colour, to deal with the interests of the people.

Mr. Allan Rogers (Rhondda)

The hon. and learned Gentleman mentioned the possibility of civil litigation being used to impose health and safety requirements. As I understand it, the whole purpose of the exemptions in the schedule is to put the company outside the bounds of civil litigation. The company will be able to invoke Crown immunity because it will get that from the schedules. The company will be exempt from 13 Acts of Parliament, ranging from the Explosives Act 1875 through to more recent Acts.

Mr. Campbell

There may well be exemptions in the schedule of the kind that the hon. Gentleman has mentioned, but if there is a dispute between the Government and the contractor as to whether or not the contractor is fulfilling his contractual obligations with regard to meeting safety standards, the only way that it can be enforced will be to sue on the contract. That seems to be a curious position in which to find ourselves.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence Procurement (Mr. Kenneth Carlisle)

The compliance office, which will be very strong, will have the right to cancel a contract if safety regulations are not met. The exemptions in the schedule will preserve the situation as it is at present. The establishments are seeking no greater indemnity than they have at the moment.

Mr. Campbell

While I accept the Minister's second point, as it seems to reflect accurately the terms of the Bill, we should still direct our attention to the first. Let us suppose that the compliance officer says, "You have failed to meet the necessary standards of safety. This contract is cancelled." Can one imagine that the contractor will walk quietly away and say, "Tough luck. That was one that didn't quite work out?" When we consider the sums of money involved, it is inevitable that the contactor will seek recourse to law in such circumstances. Therefore, we would find ourselves disputing issues of this nature in the High Court of Justice in the Strand. That is why it seems to me that, in the public interest, this matter should stay firmly and irreconcilably in the public domain.

I think that I am correct in saying that there is no statutory reference to the compliance officer within the terms of the Bill. What will be his authority? What powers will he have? What sanctions will he be able to exercise, other than those provided by the terms of the contract that the contractor enters into?

Let us suppose that there were a breach of safety. If the compliance officer has the right to say, "Meet the necessary standard," but the contractor declines to do so, what will the compliance officer do then? Will he cancel the contract? If we were three years into a five-year contract, at a time of international tension, is it conceivable that the Government would be party to the cancellation of a contract for the research, development and production of weapons which are of such significance—whether one is in favour of them or against? Once the Government were committed to any one contractor it seems to me that the contractor would be in a position of extraordinary strength and influence. The Government would essentially be at the mercy of the contractor.

The hon. Member for Clackmannan (Mr. O'Neill), who opened the debate on behalf of the Labour party, is no longer in the Chamber. The truth of the matter is that, if contractorisation takes place, no Government, whatever their colour, are likely to reverse it. The decision on the Bill which will be taken by the House will stand for a very long time, because the disruption which would necessarily be caused by moving the atomic weapons research establishment back into the civil service would be so great that no Government could properly contemplate it.

I have no particular allegiance to the trade unions that have been party to the discussions that preceded the Bill; I am bound to say, however, that all the evidence suggests that their responses displayed considerable maturity and responsibility. It is a pity that their proposals for a "next steps" or defence support agency have found so little favour with the Government. Perhaps the Minister will say more about that when he winds up.

The hon. Member for Clackmannan referred to the United States experience. In my view, the United States experience of Government-owned, contractor-operated atomic weapons activities hardly inspires confidence, and the Rocky Flats establishment does not strike me as a model that we should seek to emulate—any more than the standards of management at Chernobyl would have satisfied the civilian nuclear energy industry in this country.

Government-owned, contractor-operated activities may well suit the environment of the United States. We know that that environment allows for much more scrutiny. The armed services committees of both Houses of Congress have far greater powers than the Select Committee on Defence in the House of Commons, and members of those Houses have much more access to information than British Members of Parliament. We have only to consult the index of, for instance, Jane's Defence Weekly to see—week in, week out—what contracts have been placed in the United States, and how much is involved. When contracts are placed by our Ministry of Defence, we are not entitled to be given the details.

I have no doubt that ministerial responsibility for nuclear weapons, from their development through every conceivable stage, should be unequivocal and unbending. I fear that, if the element of contract is introduced, Ministers' natural response to any criticisms made in the House will be, "It is not us; it is the contractors." To some extent, the responsibility will be sloughed off. That is not in the interests of the people of the United Kingdom, which is why my hon. Friends and I will vote against Second Reading of the Bill.

5.42 pm
Mr. Andrew Hunter (Basingstoke)

I hope that the hon. and learned Member for Fife, North-East (Mr. Campbell) will forgive me if I do not take up the points that he has just made. This is a short debate, and I know that many of my hon. Friends want to catch your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I hope that the Committee stage will provide an opportunity for hon. Members to explore and challenge his remarks.

I welcome the chance to speak this evening, simply because I have considerable constituency interests. Aldermaston is only a few hundred yards—and Burghfield only a few miles—outside the Basingstoke constituency. Many hundreds of my constituents work at those establishments: during the past 12 months or so I have received many representations about the Government's proposals, and have listened with the greatest care to every point put to me.

My hon. Friend the Member for Newbury (Sir M. McNair-Wilson) is not attending the debate: he is recovering from an operation, and I know that the House will wish him well. I was in touch with him recently, however, and I have discovered that his views coincide with mine to a significant degree. I believe that his constituents, if they read the report of the debate, will wish to know that.

Unlike the hon. and learned Member for Fife, North-East, I have no quarrel with contractorisation in principle—provided that the worst instances of the United States experience can be avoided, and provided that my constituents will not suffer as a result of its implementation. I look to my hon. Friend the Minister for reassurances in regard to points with which we are both familiar from the voluminous correspondence that has passed between us, as well as correspondence from his predecessor.

My first point relates to safety and security. I accept that the two consultative documents provided considerable reassurances. Both stressed the role of the compliance office, which is clearly a debatable matter, and my hon. Friend the Member for Hampshire, East (Mr. Mates), in his capacity as Chairman of the Select Committee on Defence, described—and knows far better than I—the further reassurances given in the Committee's ninth report, Session 1989–90, page 29, question 226. Nevertheless, I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will demonstrate to my constituents that their fears about safety and security under contractorisation are misplaced.

My second point concerns pensions. I am encouraged by assurances given to me by my hon. Friend the Minister in correspondence—for instance, that new pension arrangements … will match those of the PCSPS as closely as possible and that the accrued pension rights in the PCSPS of staff transferred will not be lost". The ball is in my hon. Friend's court, however: he must give my constituents further assurances that they need not worry on this score.

My third point concerns redundancy. My hon. Friend's predecessor wrote to me on 8 June: On the question of redundancy rights, I can give a categorical assurance that the length of service before contractorisation will count fully towards the calculation of redundancy benefit". I hope that my hon. Friend will stand by that.

I am prepared to accept that contractorisation may be the way forward for the AWE, but I cannot accept it if it fails to safeguard the interests of my constituents. I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Newbury would wish me to make that point on his behalf, too.

5.46 pm
Mr. Rhodri Morgan (Cardiff, West)

Like the hon. Member for Basingstoke (Mr. Hunter), I have a constituency interest in the atomic weapons establishment—in my case, a Cardiff interest. The AWE is in the constituency of the hon. Member for Cardiff, North (Mr. Jones)—who has been seeking to catch your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker—but several hundred of my constituents work at AWE Llanishen, which the Minister visited only last week. Perhaps he will say a word about his visit when he winds up the debate.

What worries the Opposition is that the Government's approach is based entirely on one of those "quickie" principles: "If it moves, privatise it; if it does not, privatise it until it does." The Government have not devoted sufficient thought to what constitutes the real problems, and what is the most apposite solution—as distinct from the one that comes immediately to mind.

We are also worried about the hypocrisy of a Government who attempt to gain the alleged advantages of private-sector management of production and research facilities on the four sites involved, on grounds of flexibility, while at the same time trying to preserve all the Crown immunities that go with being in the public sector. It cannot be right for the House to be presented with a Bill that puts in private management but retains the part that is most convenient to the Government—the absence of any threat of independent challenge by regulatory authorities in the event of a breach, or alleged breach, of health and safety or environmental legislation by which other private firms must abide.

Let me take another example from the constituency of the hon. Member for Cardiff, North, and even closer to mine; just across the river, in fact. Amersham International also deals with hazardous toxic substances—in this instance, radioactive—and it moved from the public to the private sector. It has to abide by all the health and safety and environmental legislation. It is open to inspection by the National Rivers Authority or the environmental health department of Cardiff city council in respect of some of its emissions, and by the inspectorate of pollution in respect of air emissions.

None of that will apply to the atomic weapons establishment at Llanishen. It will all be dealt with by the compliance officer under a completely untested, cosy in-house arrangement. The compliance officer's duty is not simply to ascertain whether a naughty has happened in the plant, which would be a breach of the environmental and health and safety provisions if it happened in the private sector.

The compliance officer will also have the duty of ascertaining whether the establishment is giving good service in terms of production. He or she will therefore have a jumbled job, trying to judge whether the employees of the organisation are doing a good job and earning their bonuses, whether for production or quality, as well as carrying out all the other functions relating to possible breaches of the environmental and health and safety legislation, if such legislation were to apply—which it will not—to the privatised GOCO, or government-owned, contractor-operated, plant.

Anybody who knows the Cardiff area will be aware of the problem with the location of AWE Llanishen. Although I have never visited or driven past Aldermaston and Burghfield, I believe that they are located in relatively leafy suburbs and that there are no highly built-up residential areas right at their edge. Cardiff is different. The atomic weapons establishment at Llanishen is in the middle of densely populated residential suburbs in a city of 300,000 people. That is probably unique for a nuclear weapons facility in the western world. In addition, AWE Llanishen is surrounded by other work places, such as the tax office. Thousands of people spend every day bang next door to the production facility at Llanishen.

I grew up in that area during the war when almost everybody in Cardiff had a relative working at what was then the Shell factory. Over 20,000 people worked at the royal ordnance factory then. During a war, people put up with a lot in terms of decisions about the location of such sites which they might not tolerate today. I stress that that plant is surrounded by residential areas in a city of 300,000 people.

That is why we are concerned about the reputation of the GOCO facilities in the United States, where the idea has come from. We want to know on the basis of what record the House is being asked to accept that GOCO management is better than the present public sector civil service Ministry of Defence management. Given their record in the United States, GOCOs are causing us considerable concern. The Government have a tendency to follow United States management devices without giving them proper and serious consideration. We are concerned that the Government have not properly thought through whether GOCO, which has a long tradition in the United States, will work satisfactorily in this country. Although it has a long tradition in the United States, it also has a long tradition of causing problems.

The film "Silkwood", which I seem to remember watching on television last Christmas, was a story about something going wrong in a GOCO facility in the Okie country, in the Appalachians, where serious problems arose because Kerr McGee, the GOCO contractor in that case, consistently breached all manner of health and safety and environmental legislation in the push continually to beat nuclear production records so that the organisation could meet its contracts and make good profits on them. Anybody who saw that film and who lives in the Cardiff area is naturally concerned.

I turn now to the attempt to apply GOCO in this country. How many people have expressed a strong interest at the interim stage, which has now been going on for two months? On an interim basis and without the benefit of this primary legislation, we hear that the Government have appointed Hunting-BRAE to act as their interim, semi-contractorised management contractors to run the four establishments. Nobody had previously heard of Hunting-BRAE. That firm was put together ad hoc, being formed out of one division of Hunting Engineering plus Brown and Root from Houston in Texas, plus—oddly enough—another public sector company in the Atomic Energy Authority.

Hunting-BRAE is therefore part public and part private. One might say that it is almost a cross-breed between a hybrid and a mongrel. Nobody had previously heard of Hunting-BRAE; it has no previous record. Although all its existing parent companies might have good records in their own industries—and although they have gained the confidence of Ministers—they are not names on which one could make a judgment about whether they are suitable to be given the contracts, at least for the present two years, and presumably then to win the long-term five to seven-year contract that will be available if the Bill is enacted.

Brown and Root has been famous for being close to the United States Government. When Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson became President and Vice-President of the United States in 1960, an apocryphal conversation is supposed to have taken place when victory was announced, in which President Kennedy—the first Roman Catholic President of the United States—was supposed to have said, "Right, now we can start to build that tunnel from the White House to the Vatican", and Lyndon Johnson is supposed to have replied, "Yes, as long as Brown and Root get the contract."

Although Brown and Root is the flagship of civil and mechanical engineering industry in Texas, we have never heard of Hunting-BRAE. It is not a household name about which one can say, "We know that, if Hunting-BRAE is in charge, everthing will be okay." We cannot say that, because the two associates have never worked together. This is very much a pig in a poke. There is no transparent chain of command from the managing director of Hunting-BRAE, so we cannot say that we know who to go to or whose backside to kick if something goes wrong. We shall be relying on an untried consortium and on the untried compliance officer mechanism if things go wrong. Naturally, that concerns people in Cardiff.

The Cardiff plant does not deal with radioactive substances. By and large, it deals with beryllium, which is a highly toxic substance. The Cardiff plant carries out precision engineering operations to provide high-quality, space-age components for nuclear warheads, rather than being involved in the final assembly or in the plutonium-related facilities in the manufacture of nuclear warheads. The work at the Cardiff plant is absolutely critical.

The city of Cardiff, of which I represent a quarter, wants to know what would happen if there was the sort of corner-cutting about which we have heard in connection with GOCOs in the United States. What would happen if a fire broke out and if a beryllium-enriched toxic cloud wafted over the whole city? You will be aware, Mr. Speaker—if you are not aware, I should make both you and the House aware—that although beryllium is not radioactive, it is one of the most toxic substances on the face of this earth. Its effects are similar to those produced by asbestos and the effects of berylliosis on the lungs are comparable to those of asbestosis. Any increased fire hazard risk, as a result of corner cutting resulting from the pressure on management to earn bonuses, which would come about if the Bill were enacted, must be of enormous concern to any hon. Member who represents part of a city such as Cardiff, which has a nuclear weapons facility right in its centre.

We are anxious to know what the Minister can say about his observation that this primary legislation may assist the Cardiff factory in its ability to win more outside work. That is what he said to the press. We are mystified by the relationship between the Bill and that observation. It is no doubt true—it has been proved true in the past few years—that any plant, such as that at Cardiff which has enormous precision engineering skills, can and should win more outside work. The Cardiff factory made complex autoclave facilities for the national health service when nuclear weapons work was quiet. It carried out work that few other plants could carry out.

It is of much concern that the introduction of specific single-purpose management with one objective—simply to speed up the production rates of nuclear weapons—is unlikely to contribute to diversification from sole dependence on nuclear weapons. The Minister mentioned that earlier, and perhaps he will return to it when he replies to the debate.

I should be glad to hear any explanation of how Crown immunity can be compatible with diversification from nuclear weapons production. If a private sector company that is competing with AWE Llanishen for precision engineering work has to abide by modern health and safety and environmental legislation whereas AWE Llanishen does not, one can imagine the complaints that will be made to the Office of Fair Trading.

I rest on the point that the hypocrisy of the Government must be exposed. They are trying to gain all the supposed advantages of privatisation, but we must bear in mind the disadvantages that we shall suffer as a residential area with this facility sited right in the middle of it.

6 pm

Sir David Mitchell (Hampshire, North-West)

I support the Bill, but I have several reservations, about which I hope to receive some reassurance, probably in Committee.

Many of Aldermaston's employees live in my constituency, in the villages of Tadley, Baughurst, Kingsclere and Overton. Indeed, the fence of the AWE forms the boundary of my constituency. I am sure that the House will therefore understand why I have a particular interest in certain parts of the Bill.

We live in dangerous times, with the unhappy prospect that, in the not-too-distant future irresponsible people will be able to have nuclear weapons. It is vital that our nuclear weapons are up to date and are delivered on time to ensure that, in a few years' time, we are not blackmailed. I see the Bill as a major step forward in achieving the production of nuclear weapons on time.

The staff of the atomic weapons establishment are the most loyal and dedicated to be found in any industry in the United Kingdom. Their skills and professionalism are outstanding, but they work against a background of dangerous substances. It is of unique importance that there is trust and commitment, especially to safety. Many of the staff who work at Aldermaston are exasperated by the civil service bureaucracy. Given the factory's unique operation, it is as inappropriate to civil service bureaucracy as one can imagine. I quote from the letter of a constituent who works there, who speaks of at every turn having to contend with the rigours of bureaucracy which has increased enormously since transferring from the UKAEA. This is so demoralising for team leaders and project managers with endless paperwork and delays in sometimes getting the simplest of jobs accomplished. It would not be possible to sum up more neatly or more completely the problem and the exasperation that the Bill will enable the AWE to break away from, thereby offering it substantial benefits.

Wherever there is change, there is always anxiety among the staff and people affected by it. I have some reservations, to which I need to receive answers either now or in Committee. We are told that most of the jobs will be secure. One cannot definitely tell whether there may be some sporadic redundancies. Will the staff be any worse off if they are made redundant than they would have been had the existing employment arrangements continued? Will staff suffer any loss in their prospective pensions? That is of particular relevance to the older members of staff, who already can identify and look forward to a pattern of pension, some indexation and a standard of living in their retirement. Will that be at risk in any way?

In opening, my hon. Friend the Minister referred to a further consultative document on pensions that he will publish. Will it be published before the Committee stage? By that stage, will we know what is in the consultative document and what are the Government's views on it? I draw particular attention to the position of the ex-UKAEA staff, who have had one change in pension arrangements. I want a clear assurance that they will be no worse off as a result of the changes that are being made.

May we have an assurance that staff vetting will be as stringent as it has been in the past, and who will pay for it, which is of some relevance?

The most important of those factors is safety, not only in the plant and for its employees but for the residents of Tadley and Baughurst. The safety of the wider area as well as of those who work in the establishment is of much importance.

We must ensure that no corners are cut on safety. We have been given assurances on that, and I value those assurances. We know about the compliance officer's role, but can we be told more about the powers and the independence that he will have, because that, too, is particularly relevant?

Having expressed those perfectly natural anxieties on behalf of my constituents, I give the Bill a fair wind and will support its Second Reading, but I seek assurances on those matters both now and in Committee.

6.7 pm

Mr. Gwilym Jones (Cardiff, North)

I am glad to have the opportunity of following my hon. Friend the Member for Hampshire, North-West (Sir D. Mitchell). I listened to his description of the factories that are adjacent to his constituency, which apparently are close to residential areas. In my brief remarks—I appreciate that I must be brief to ensure that every hon. Member has the opportunity to contribute to the debate—I shall be most concerned with ROF Llanishen. I am guilty of using the old initials; it is taking me some time to catch up with the new ones.

ROF Llanishen has been very much part of our community in Cardiff. It is in a residential area, but it is quite fanciful to describe it as a nuclear weapons facility. It is a high-precision engineering factory, but in no grammatical sense of the phrase could it be described as a nuclear weapons facility.

My comments essentially relate to that factory in my constituency and to those who work in it. High priority should be accorded to those who work in it. These are vital defence factories, the prime resources of which are their employees. Their skills and dedication make the quality of that important work force.

All those who are involved in this matter agree that change is necessary. I understand that the trade unions that represent the work force in the factories agree that change must be brought about, although they do not necessarily agree with the changes embodied in the Bill.

The Bill offers opportunities for better use of those vital defence factories and better employment for the people who work there. I see no reason why anyone employed in the factories should be worse off merely because of the change to contractorisation.

As recently as 2.45 this afternoon, I met three of my constituents who work at ROF Llanishen and who wanted to tell me their fears about the future, despite the assurances that they had been given. They said that the Bill did not adequately cover pensions and redundancies and that there were no guarantees about redundancies, contrary to their present position while they are part of the civil service. They said, in the same mood as those who say that change in the factories is necessary, that the only difference between their view and the Government's proposals was the loss of their civil service status.

I know that the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 1981 will be applied and that they will essentially relate to pay and conditions of employment, but significant differences affect pensions and redundancy terms because of the differences between the civil service and the outside world.

I am glad that my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence Procurement visited ROF Llanishen on 12 December. I know from those who work there that his visit was appreciated by those he met. They put these very points about pensions and redundancy terms and he sought to reassure them. He said that he expected the pensions and redundancy terms to be at least equal to the present provisions. I understand that he promised to consider their concerns further and even to consider whether it was possible or appropriate to change the Bill.

I know that my hon. Friend will give every consideration to the representations that hon. Members and those who work in the factories have made. Any reassurance which he can give the workers must be good and right. If he finds it possible to embody such changes in the Bill, that would be welcomed not only by me but by everyone who works at ROF Llanishen.

Safety is the paramount issue in Cardiff and at the other factories not only for the staff—although, naturally, they are the first to be concerned about it—but for all those who live near them, including my family, which is a neighbour of ROF Llanishen. I have always known that that high-precision engineering factory operates to the highest standards. Independent monitoring has shown that it always operates not only within the safety limits but to practically the highest possible such limits—tests have shown that that factory sticks within 1 per cent. of the maximum permissible limits. Obviously, if possible, we should aim for even higher limits, not a lowering of those limits. Those who work at ROF Llanishen are concerned that contractorisation might lead to a different approach to standards and safety measurements. That must not happen.

My hon. Friend the Minister offered us the reassurance that there will be a compliance officer who will maintain the Ministry of Defence standards which are presently in force. That officer must have all the resources necessary to ensure that he maintains all those standards, so that those who work in the factories and those of us who live outside them are completely reassured that they will continue to operate to the highest standards.

With those important reservations, I give at least a cautious welcome to the Bill.

6.14 pm
Mr. Tony Durant (Reading, West)

I am pleased to speak on the Bill. I do so because, like my colleagues, I have constituents who live in my constituency but work at Aldermaston and Burghfield. I also speak on behalf of my hon. Friend the Member for Newbury (Sir M. McNair-Wilson), who represents the area and who, as many hon. Members know, has had a kidney transplant. I am pleased to report that he is mending satisfactorily. We hope that he will return soon. In fact, I have been doing his work for him, but he is now dealing with his own letters, which is one load off my back. He is taking a great interest in these matters.

Aldermaston and Burghfield are highly rated organisations of a very high standard. They integrate well into the local community and employ a large number of people n the area. All my references to them over the years have been based on their high calibre. However, I support the principle of contractorisation, perhaps because I feel, having heard from Ministers, that there is no alternative.

I was not entirely satisfied by the answers by my hon. Friend the Minister of State to the question why did we not go down the route of having executive agencies. They are part of the Government's proposals in several parts of the civil service. I am still not convinced of the reasons why we did not leave the whole organisation within the civil service. That would have been a better way to proceed, and I should be interested to hear from my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary about that matter.

My constituents, like those of other hon. Members, are concerned about safety. Are we sure that the contractors will be conscious of safety? This is a volatile, dangerous activity. The present staff have high technical skills. In Reading, I have looked into the incidence of leukaemia among children who live in the area. Nothing has been proved, although there have been many research projects. The local population are worried about this activity being undertaken by the factories. They are dangerous places, and we must be sensitive to the concerns of local people.

I am also worried about security. After all, plenty of people in the world would like to get hold of some of the secrets of the establishment. It seems that other hon. Members were taken all over it, but I was not allowed to go very far. It has been opened up a little, but some of the secrets have rightly been kept. The establishment should be kept as secure as possible. What will happen when the business is run by a contractor rather than those who work there at present?

The staff are worried about the future of their pension scheme, as I know from letters which I have received. In 1987, the trade unions and the management encouraged them to join pension schemes rather than to opt out, and they all did. But they are now worried that, having taken that decision, they will be in difficulties. What is the future of those who were in the UKAEA pension scheme? It is not a very good scheme. One of my constituents, for whom I have been battling for years, transferred from that scheme and has had difficulty in getting his money. I am anxious that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary should clear up the anxieties which have been expressed.

Those staff who joined the principal civil service pension scheme would like some reassurances—rightly so, because their pension is their future, they work at the establishment and they live in the area. Although it is a nice area in which to live, the work position is not as good as it was. They want to keep their jobs rather than be made redundant. I should like the place to continue to be a successful establishment. I am concerned about those matters and I hope that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary will reassure me.

6.19 pm
Mr. Julian Brazier (Canterbury)

I welcome the opportunity to speak on the Second Reading of the Bill, which is a welcome and timely measure. As other hon. Members have said, it deals with an important subject. We live in an age in which there has been a proliferation of nuclear weapons and in perhaps as little as 10 years' time, there may be as many as 15 or 20 nuclear powers. It is extremely important that our nuclear deterrent is kept up to date, and Aldermaston and its satellite facilities are central to that.

Five years ago, I had the privilege of working briefly as a project manager for a firm of management consultants on a project at the atomic weapons research establishment at Aldermaston and I very much enjoyed the experience. I hasten to add that I now have no financial connection with any body or organisation connected with Aldermaston, with any commercial ventures with which it may now be involved or with any other defence contractor. I found it an interesting experience and I was extremely impressed by the calibre of the scientists at Aldermaston while I was studying the possible contractorisation of one facility.

I welcome the proposal to move to a Government-owned, contractor-operated arrangement for three reasons, two of which have already been covered succinctly by my hon. Friend the Member for Hampshire, North-West (Sir D. Mitchell), following my hon. Friend the Minister's remarks. One reason is the need to get away from civil service pay and conditions for specialised, high-grade work in an area in which living costs are exceptionally high. Within the framework of national pay bargaining, it is impossible to deal properly with pay requirements.

The second reason is the need to get away from civil service procedures where possible. Some procedures derive inevitably from the requirement for safety, which has been mentioned so often. Other procedures—I heard a lot about this when I was at Aldermaston—are just sheer bureaucracy, such as the need to have continual meetings, to produce minutes of those meetings and to comment on the minutes. There should be scope to get away from that.

The third reason, which has not been touched on, is also important and the heart of my contribution is concerned with the contractual arrangements. The two facilities in the world that are closest to the scientific side—I stress the word "scientific" because there is a far larger production side at the sites involved—are the Los Alamos facility and the Lawrence Livermore laboratory in America. As my hon. Friend the Minister will know, they are run by the contractor operation of the university of California. That arrangement goes back to the second world war when Los Alamos played its famous role in developing the first atomic bomb. Apart from the appointment of the chief executive, the key part that the university of California plays in its arm's-length relationship with those two facilities is the system of peer review.

Under that system, eminent scientists from the university of California who are not directly involved in the programme periodically sit down with the scientists at the facility, study their work over an extended period and access it. That is very motivating for the scientists concerned. When I was at Aldermaston, it was raised as a complaint that nothing similar happened there. There are nominally a number of Government committees that look at such matters at arm's length. They are sometimes—but not always—manned by people of comparable expertise.

The fact that every scientist once every one or two years has the opportunity to sit eyeball to eyeball with other scientists—and one or two are Nobel prize winners—who will look at their work is a motivating experience. That system also pulls out the occasional rotten apple in the barrel and there are one or two of those even in the best organisations. The scientific side at Aldermaston is extremely good. We must never let the well-publicised problems on the production side detract from the fact that the Aldermaston scientific side has a reputation that is not only world class, but comparable with that of its American counterparts, which have 15 or 20 times as much to spend.

The expression "GOCO" can mean many different things. I visited the successful GOCO shipyard in Sydney, which is the best of the Australian naval dockyards. Sometimes the contractor runs things from top to bottom, as is the case with the Rocky Flats arrangement, the low technology end of the nuclear side in America. Alternatively, there can be a more arm's-length strategic arrangement which the university of California has with the two laboratories that I mentioned.

I firmly believe that for the scientific side at Aldermaston—the minority, but the most important end—it is best to go for the latter arrangement. It is essential that our key scientists there should continue to be Government representatives in the international arena. That is not a quibble about words. In the nuclear business, collaboration—principally with the Americans, but increasingly with the French—is essential. We cannot afford to do everything ourselves. I have it on good authority that it will not be acceptable to those with whom we deal in America or in France to have people arriving at international conferences and being billed as employees of a contractor, rather than as Government representatives. It will be essential for those people to be covered not only by conditions relating to secrecy—which has already been dealt with adequately—but by conditions on commercially confidential intellectual property rights.

American and, increasingly, British contractors will not be willing to pass information to people who are not in some way tied to Government. It does not matter to whom they belong as employees. The crucial point is that their conditions of service must involve the key areas of secrecy and of intellectual property rights, and when people go to international conferences, they must bear a label saying "Government representative". That is the case with the key scientists at the two American laboratories although, technically, they are employees of the university of California. That is an important point; it is not just a quibble.

The Bill is splendid. For a number of reasons, it is right that we should make a GOCO out of Aldermaston. However, it is important that we get the contractual relationship right at the scientific end of the operation so that those who work in the key scientific posts—who may be doing the more sensitive work and who are oriented towards a scientific environment—maintain and enjoy their present international status through continuing to be recognised as Government representatives at international conferences abroad. They must also continue to be subject to their present constraints on the passing of knowledge. I commend the Bill to the House and I will vote for the Second Reading.

6.27 pm
Mr. Allan Rogers (Rhondda)

As every hon. Member who has participated this afternoon has said, the Bill is extremely important for many reasons. On Second Reading, we look at those reasons briefly, as we shall go into detail on them in Committee. Many hon. Members, especially Conservative Members, have said that they will support the Bill, but with strong reservations in some areas. I accept that many of them said that because they have substantial constituency interests. It is right that they should look after the workers who live in their constituencies. I only wish that on some occasions they had looked after the interests of workers who live in my constituency. That was not to be and, sadly, this Friday we shall see the end of the last coal mine in the Rhondda valley. It is the end of a great era in British history. But there we are. Self-interest is as good a motive as any in politics. If people come to our side through self-interest, who am I to deny that?

I am sure that Conservative Members will be rushing to fill the Committee and I look forward to their support. I know that the Government Whip is greatly relieved at the possibility of having all these worthy gentlemen sitting on the Committee. He will not have to dragoon anyone. Of course, if they support our amendments, the Government Whip will be in greater trouble. I am looking forward to the Committee and, if necessary, to doing battle with the Under-Secretary of State. His unfailing courtesy will mean that he will listen to our arguments. However, as I have always said, we win the arguments but lose the votes.

The Bill is a response to incompetence. That has been acknowledged and was illustrated by the hon. Member for Canterbury (Mr. Brazier), who had the honesty and decency to acknowledge that he was part of the incompetence for a brief period. We will forgive him.

Mr. Brazier

The House understands that the hon. Gentleman has to fill his speech somehow, but he should not throw random barbs around the Chamber. He must have heard me say that Aldermaston has on its scientific side a world-class reputation disproportionate to the amount of money it spends.

Mr. Rogers

Yes. I often wondered what the hon. Gentleman was doing there.

The Bill is a response to the Government's incompetence. They are acknowledging that they cannot run the atomic weapons establishments. It is an open and honest acknowledgment. The enormous criticism of the Government's performance in the past year or so is finalised in the Bill. It is a bolt-hole Bill. They are running away from the problem by saying, "You do it." They are hoping to offload the problem on to a private company. Of course, the private company does not mind because it will receive substantial resources from the Government. It will probably be a substantial contributor to the Conservative party, but there we are. That is called the recirculation of Government money.

The Government will have to face the same problems because they will not go away. The problems of today will be the same next year and the year after. The difficulty is that there will be one stage in between and the Government may have more problems in the future than they have now.

It is strange that in the proposals the problems have now been identified. On the Conservative Benches are all the business men, managers and those such as the hon. Member for Canterbury who visit such establishments. I should have thought that once the problems have been identified and once it has been acknowledged that they are not intractable, one should just apply oneself and resolve them. The Government are not doing that. They are saying, "We are incapable of managing these institutions and running the business, so please do it for us." This is privatisation in a real sense. Talking about contractorisation obfuscates the truth. It is a Government-owned, contractor-operated privatisation.

We shall be looking closely at how the capital assets are to be controlled. I am not sure whether they will be handed over to the company or whether they will be in the form of a lease. It is a little ambiguous in the Bill, but we shall pursue it later. I wonder whether the company knows what a shambles some of the buildings are. Is it aware of the Government's incompetence in relation to construction contracts, particularly the A90 buildings constructed specifically for the Trident warhead?

We are not talking about the privatisation of an engineering company or a consumer commodity such as water or electricity. As hon. Members on both sides of the House have said, this is the privatisation of the means of production of the most fearful weapons known to mankind. I honestly and sincerely believe that it should not be in private hands. Also, it is the privatisation of the production of material at the very frontiers of technology, not only in engineering and electronics but in physics and chemistry with potential dangers for safety within and without the establishments. We heard the hon. Member for Cardiff, North (Mr. Jones) and my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. Morgan) talk of the serious problems that could occur in the Cardiff residential area if there happened to be an escape of, for example, beryllium gases. That is possible unless security and safety are tightly controlled.

Someone said to me, "Why are you bothered about this Bill? Many weapons are produced by private companies." Of course, under this Government, with the giveaway of Royal Ordnance, almost all the production of weapons is now in private hands. This is different. We are not talking about aeroplanes, ships, tanks or weapon delivery systems, but about the ultimate explosives being constantly enhanced through research at these establishments.

We shall wish to discuss many issues in Committee, not least those raised, rightly, by the hon. Member for Reading, West (Mr. Durant) about the precise position on pensions. Other hon. Members on both sides have mentioned the security of employment of those presently working in the establishments. Will they have jobs for the period of a contract? For my sins, I happen to be a geologist by profession and I worked for some time on contracts that were for a specific period.

If we give a contract to a private company, will we be telling it to take on workers under a specific contract, or will it be told, "Treat your workers as you like"? Will the Government wash their hands of the workers once they have been handed over to the private contractors? Is that what it is about? We shall pursue that matter in Committee. Conservative Members are now feeling the pinch that has been felt over the past 10 years under this Government by hon. Members in Wales, Scotland and the north of England because substantial numbers of their constituents may be thrown out of work.

As I said, the physical framework and fabric—the buildings and surroundings—of the atomic weapons establishments are in an appalling condition. The Government know that that is so. At Aldermaston we have had one of the most appalling examples of the Government's inefficiency and mismanagement of the defence industry. The construction of the A90 buildings is a saga of cost and time overruns, overcharging and profiteering. It is a sad and sorry mess and, in the near future, I am sure that it will lead to criminal charges. Not even this Government can sweep that amount of dirt under the carpet.

The Minister knows about that, because the information has been laid before the Ministry of Defence. It has not acted upon it yet, but it will eventually because it will have to. The problem is not just the buildings and problems with the roof, but items such as stainless steel tanks that have welding problems and may, for example, allow the emission of toxic gases into the atmosphere. Similar gases may be released into the Cardiff area.

That work was done to British Nuclear Fuels specifications, was privately constructed and inspected and approved by the Ministry of Defence yet it had to be done all over again because it was unsafe. Who picked up the bill for the extra millions of expenditure? The taxpayer. That does not fill me with confidence about the proposals in the Bill for the production, the supervision of both performance and safety, and the ultimate delivery of the finished product—the nuclear warhead—on time. I am at a loss to understand how some of the proposals will operate, and we shall explore them in Committee.

Another point that we shall examine in Committee is the relationship of sub-contractors within the contracts. In paragraph 303 of this year's defence estimates the Government said: On all contracts worth more than £1 million we review with the prime contractor his plans for awarding sub-contract work, paying special attention to sub-contracts to his subsidiaries. Where in the Bill is that assurance carried through to this contractorisation? Will the Government inspect subcontractors or will they simply hand over inspection to the contractors? I am worried about not only the health and safety aspect but the performance of sub-contractors within the overall contracts.

Incidentally, I noticed that in paragraph 304 of the estimate, the Government said: We firmly believe in the advantages of prime contractors managing projects on our behalf … Taut contracts with firm or fixed prices and the use of payments linked to achievements give the prime contractor a clear interest in speedy and efficient development and production. That is quite a departure for the Government. I am not sure how they will achieve that aim. They have never done so in the past 10 years.

During the opening speech by the Minister of State for Defence Procurement, I, like several other hon. Members, was disappointed by his response to a question about consultation with the trade union movement. He had an absolute ideological block. A gate dropped and he said, "No, we will not consult." The Minister was at pains to say that only the views of Members of Parliament could be considered. His words were, "Parliament is supreme." That is ironic because the only reason why we are discussing this matter tonight is that the Government are determined to pass the AWEs out of the control of Parliament. On one aspect, the Minister beats his breast about the strength and supremacy of this place, yet the Government spend all their time moving responsibility for issues such as this out of this Chamber. Therefore, they make public accountability even more difficult.

Sir David Mitchell

The hon. Gentleman seems to have misconstrued what my hon. Friend the Minister of State said. My hon. Friend said that consultation in Committee could be only with Members of Parliament. Clearly, that is correct.

Mr. Rogers

Yes. I know that that is what the Minister hedged back on. But those of us who know the Minister and some of the Conservative Members present readily identify the ideological block which arose as soon as the words "trade unions" were mentioned.

The Minister also gave some reasons for the exemptions in the schedule. A Conservative Member, not I, said that he did not find the reasons convincing. Nor do Opposition Members. The privileges and immunities which clause 3 extends to the new GOCOs are matters which we shall examine closely in Committee. We give the Minister warning now that we might spend long hours on the schedule, because its effect is to exempt the AWE from most of the controls that would apply to privately owned factories.

It is intended that 13 Acts of Parliament will be suspended including the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, the Explosives Act 1923 and the Planning (Hazardous Substances) Act 1990. I am not yet convinced that the new compliance body is capable of protecting the public interest. The exemptions may protect the Crown—that is what they are for—but that is of little help to people who work in or live near the AWEs. As the hon. and learned Member for Fife, North-East (Mr. Campbell) said, we shall want to examine the legal basis of the compliance office.

I have taken my allocation of time. As I said, the proposals are the Government's response to their incompetence and inability to run the AWEs. We believe, as do some Conservative Members, that there are better ways to resolve the problems. We shall oppose the measure here and in Committee.

6.45 pm
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence Procurement (Mr. Kenneth Carlisle)

This has been a useful debate and in the time available I shall seek to respond to the points raised. If I cannot do so, I shall write to hon. Members on the matters which they raised. I look forward to the careful scrutiny of the Bill in Committee. I am encouraged to feel that we might survey at great leisure the highways and byways of the Rhondda constituency. I am sure that the hon. Member for Rhondda (Mr. Rogers) has much to teach us about his constituency.

This is a technical Bill and it must be argued closely. I shall listen carefully to the points made in Committee, because it is important in a Bill of this nature to get it absolutely right. I pay tribute right at the beginning of my speech to the people who work at the AWEs. I have had the privilege of meeting some of them and I shall meet more. They are dedicated people. Many have worked in the establishments for many years, serving the country. I recognise their skill and dedication and, as I shall describe later, we intend fully to protect their position.

My hon. Friend the Member for Hampshire, North-West (Sir D. Mitchell) asked about consultation. His point was correct. We take seriously the need to consult everyone who might be affected by the Bill. Whenever I go to the establishments, I make sure that I meet the trade union representatives. I shall listen carefully to what they say about the Bill. I want to know their fears, because they represent the people who will be affected. Indeed, many of the points raised by hon. Members in the debate are the same as those made to me by people in the trade unions.

Mr. Teddy Taylor (Southend, East)

My hon. Friend the Minister has given some helpful assurances. The staff at AWE Foulness, some of whom are my constituents, have been confused by the assurances given to them over a period. When consideration of the Bill is completed, would not it be helpful if every member of staff were given a small sheet of paper outlining the various assurances given? If the facts are known it might help to remove many of the uncertainties that have arisen.

Mr. Carlisle

My hon. Friend makes a good point. We have developed good lines of communication. We are sending out to the staff various pieces of paper that explain our approach to pensions and so forth. However, his point about communications is important.

I remind the House of the purpose of the Bill. At its heart is our need to ensure that we manufacture our nuclear deterrent in the most effective way possible. That is our duty at the Ministry of Defence. The operations of the AWEs combine research and development and manufacturing. It is our experience and belief that those activities are managed far better in the private than in the public sector.

My hon. Friend the Member for Reading, West (Mr. Durant) asked why the AWE could not remain an agency. The truth is that agency status does not provide the flexibility to employ the necessary people or full professional management. At the halfway stage, there are only 20 people from the private sector and they cannot bring all the skills to manage this manufacturing facility to the best of their ability. We have learnt the lesson that manufacturing is best done by people in the private sector. In the manufacture of atomic warheads, it is absolutely essential that the assets remain owned by the Government. That is why the Government will continue to own the buildings, machinery and equipment in the establishment. The contract that we draw up with the contractors will define clearly the parameters of their activities.

Many hon. Members are worried about safety. My hon. Friends the Members for Hampshire, North-West., for Hampshire, East (Mr. Mates), for Basingstoke (Mr. Hunter), for Cardiff, North (Mr. Jones) and for Reading, West asked about it. I am glad to hear from my hon. Friend the Member for Reading, West that our hon. Friend the Member for Newbury (Sir M. McNair-Wilson) is making good progress. I also know of his interest. Labour Members have also voiced their anxiety about safety.

Safety is a key concern. It will be built into the heart of the contract. We already have many safeguards and more will be added after the contract. The safety division, which will continue, will report to the chief executive as it does now. The Health and Safety Executive has an important part to play in the supervision of safety and will continue that activity.

There is one additional safeguard. At present, the Government own and run the AWE and cannot be prosecuted. After full contractorisation if the employer contravenes the health and safety provisions, he can be prosecuted. There will be an extra layer of safety. A compliance office will be well manned by Ministry of Defence officials and will ensure that all safety aspects are fully complied with. If, by some unimaginably stupid act, the contractor fails to comply with safety as he should, the compliance office can cancel the contract. If it does so, it will be easy for the Ministry of Defence to return the AWE to Government management. That facility exists in the Bill.

I had an interesting, enjoyable and instructive visit to the plant at Cardiff. The employees there told me that they were worried about safety. They would be absolutely certain to make their fears known if there were any likelihood of their being asked to do anything that was unsafe or involved unsafe practices. Our best policemen for safety are the employees themselves.

We have had a substantial building programme to improve buildings and make them safer. In contrast to what the hon. Member for Rhondda says, the A90 building has been finished. It is safe and modern. The problems faced there are a good example of how badly managed buildings often are in the public sector.

Mr. Rogers

Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Carlisle

I have too little time.

The ultimate guarantee of safety is that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is ultimately responsible for the safety at AWE.

My hon. Friend the Member for Reading, West asked about radiation. It is important to note that the Committee on Medical Aspects of Radiation in the Environment said that radiation from Aldermaston was negligible and could not endanger local people. Everyone who has contact wears dose meters and is monitored. Our aim is to reduce exposure to radiation. At present, one is exposed to less radiation in Aldermaston than in the natural environment—less than 2 mSv a year.

Hon. Members raised the important matter of security. Obviously, in the production of nuclear warheads everyone has an interest in security. The Ministry of Defence police will look after security, as they do now. They will remain employed by the Ministry of Defence and security will be their responsibility. There will also be proper vetting of everyone who works there by the Ministry of Defence, as there is now.

All hon. Members are anxious about employment conditions. As my hon. Friend the Minister of State for Defence Procurement said, we shall ensure that the conditions of those who are transferred from the civil service to employment under a contractor will be protected.

Many of my hon. Friends asked about pensions. I can give the commitment that pensions will be as good in future as they are now. They will be index-linked. Moreover, we shall consult fully. We intend to issue a document in January—we hope to do so before the Committee stage starts—and to discuss it.

Mr. O'Neill

Can the Minister say whether staff who are taken on after contractorisation will have index-linked pensions?

Mr. Carlisle

Those people will have access to the same pension scheme as we shall negotiate for the employees who transfer. Moreover, for the first time some employees will be trustees who will help to look after the terms and conditions of the pension fund. We give that guarantee. I know what a worry it is. In the same way, if anyone should be made redundant—I do not in the least expect it, because our programme for the nuclear deterrent is firm—the redundancy terms will be as good as they are now.

AWE employees will have greater scope. They will be away from bureaucracy and its frustrations. As properly managed people with great skills, they will have greater scope.

Many other important points were raised and I look forward to debating them in Committee. This is a technical Bill and we must be careful.

This is a simple Bill, the aim of which is to enable us to be certain of meeting our nuclear weapons programmes in the most effective way possible. It is important for national security. At the same time, we are committed, above all, to the safety and security of the operation and our proposals will ensure that. We shall safeguard the terms and conditions of employment of the work force and ensure that pensions will be just as good as they would have been without this change.

In reality, management by the private sector within the secure ownership of the Government will lead to a more efficient operation and better prospects for the employees. This is a practical and sensible way forward, and I commend the Bill to the House.

Question put, That the Bill be now read a Second time:

The House divided: Ayes 292, Noes 221.

Division No. 34] [7 pm
Adley, Robert Dykes, Hugh
Aitken, Jonathan Eggar, Tim
Alexander, Richard Emery, Sir Peter
Allason, Rupert Evennett, David
Amos, Alan Fallon, Michael
Arbuthnot, James Favell, Tony
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Fenner, Dame Peggy
Ashby, David Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)
Aspinwall, Jack Finsberg, Sir Geoffrey
Atkinson, David Fishburn, John Dudley
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N) Fookes, Dame Janet
Baldry, Tony Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)
Banks, Robert (Harrogate) Forth, Eric
Beaumont-Dark, Anthony Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman
Beggs, Roy Fox, Sir Marcus
Bellingham, Henry Franks, Cecil
Bendall, Vivian Freeman, Roger
Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke) Fry, Peter
Benyon, W. Gale, Roger
Bevan, David Gilroy Gardiner, George
Biffen, Rt Hon John Gill, Christopher
Blackburn, Dr John G. Goodhart, Sir Philip
Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter Goodlad, Alastair
Body, Sir Richard Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles
Boscawen, Hon Robert Gorst, John
Boswell, Tim Grant, Sir Anthony (CambsSW)
Bottomley, Peter Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)
Bottomley, Mrs Virginia Greenway, John (Ryedale)
Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich) Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)
Bowis, John Grist, Ian
Boyson, Rt Hon Dr Sir Rhodes Ground, Patrick
Brandon-Bravo, Martin Grylls, Michael
Brazier, Julian Hague, William
Bright, Graham Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)
Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's) Hampson, Dr Keith
Bruce, Ian (Dorset South) Hannam, John
Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon Alick Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr')
Buck, Sir Antony Harris, David
Budgen, Nicholas Haselhurst, Alan
Burt, Alistair Hayes, Jerry
Butler, Chris Hayward, Robert
Butterfill, John Heathcoat-Amory, David
Carlisle, John, (Luton N) Hicks, Mrs Maureen (Wolv' NE)
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Hicks, Robert (Cornwall SE)
Carrington, Matthew Hill, James
Carttiss, Michael Hind, Kenneth
Cash, William Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)
Chalker, Rt Hon Mrs Lynda Hordern, Sir Peter
Chapman, Sydney Howarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A)
Chope, Christopher Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd)
Churchill, Mr Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Clark, Hon Alan (Plym'th S'n) Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk)
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford) Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W)
Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S) Hunt, David (Wirral W)
Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe) Hunt, Sir John (Ravensbourne)
Colvin, Michael Hunter, Andrew
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest) Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas
Coombs, Simon (Swindon) Irvine, Michael
Cormack, Patrick Jack, Michael
Cran, James Jackson, Robert
Critchley, Julian Janman, Tim
Currie, Mrs Edwina Jessel, Toby
Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g) Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey
Davis, David (Boothferry) Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)
Day, Stephen Jones, Robert B (Herts W)
Devlin, Tim Jopling, Rt Hon Michael
Dicks, Terry Key, Robert
Dorrell, Stephen Kilfedder, James
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield)
Dunn, Bob King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater)
Durant, Tony Kirkhope, Timothy
Knapman, Roger Rifkind, Rt Hon Malcolm
Knight, Greg (Derby North) Roberts, Sir Wyn (Conwy)
Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston) Rossi, Sir Hugh
Knowles, Michael Rowe, Andrew
Knox, David Ryder, Richard
Lang, Ian Sackville, Hon Tom
Latham, Michael Sayeed, Jonathan
Lawrence, Ivan Scott, Rt Hon Nicholas
Lee, John (Pendle) Shaw, David (Dover)
Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh) Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)
Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')
Lester, Jim (Broxtowe) Shelton, Sir William
Lightbown, David Shephard, Mrs G. (Norfolk SW)
Lloyd, Sir Ian (Havant) Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham) Shersby, Michael
Lord, Michael Sims, Roger
Luce, Rt Hon Richard Skeet, Sir Trevor
Macfarlane, Sir Neil Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)
MacGregor, Rt Hon John Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Maclean, David Smyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S)
McLoughlin, Patrick Soames, Hon Nicholas
McNair-Wilson, Sir Patrick Speed, Keith
Malins, Humfrey Speller, Tony
Mans, Keith Spicer, Sir Jim (Dorset W)
Maples, John Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Marland, Paul Steen, Anthony
Marshall, John (Hendon S) Stern, Michael
Martin, David (Portsmouth S) Stevens, Lewis
Mates, Michael Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)
Maude, Hon Francis Stewart, Andy (Sherwood)
Mawhinney, Dr Brian Stokes, Sir John
Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin Sumberg, David
Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick Summerson, Hugo
Mellor, Rt Hon David Tapsell, Sir Peter
Meyer, Sir Anthony Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Miller, Sir Hal Taylor, Rt Hon J. D. (S'ford)
Mills, Iain Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)
Miscampbell, Norman Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman
Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling) Thompson, D. (Calder Valley)
Mitchell, Sir David Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Molyneaux, Rt Hon James Thorne, Neil
Montgomery, Sir Fergus Thornton, Malcolm
Moore, Rt Hon John Thurnham, Peter
Morris, M (N'hampton S) Townend, John (Bridlington)
Morrison, Sir Charles Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)
Morrison, Rt Hon P (Chester) Tracey, Richard
Moss, Malcolm Tredinnick, David
Moynihan, Hon Colin Trippier, David
Mudd, David Trotter, Neville
Neale, Gerrard Twinn, Dr Ian
Nelson, Anthony Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Neubert, Michael Viggers, Peter
Newton, Rt Hon Tony Wakeham, Rt Hon John
Nicholls, Patrick Waldegrave, Rt Hon William
Nicholson, David (Taunton) Walden, George
Norris, Steve Walker, Bill (T'side North)
Oppenheim, Phillip Waller, Gary
Page, Richard Ward, John
Paice, James Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Patten, Rt Hon Chris (Bath) Warren, Kenneth
Patten, Rt Hon John Watts, John
Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Wells, Bowen
Pawsey, James Wheeler, Sir John
Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth Whitney, Ray
Porter, Barry (Wirral S) Widdecombe, Ann
Porter, David (Waveney) Wiggin, Jerry
Portillo, Michael Wilkinson, John
Powell, William (Corby) Wilshire, David
Price, Sir David Winterton, Mrs Ann
Raffan, Keith Winterton, Nicholas
Raison, Rt Hon Timothy Wood, Timothy
Rathbone, Tim Yeo, Tim
Redwood, John Young, Sir George (Acton)
Rhodes James, Robert
Riddick, Graham Tellers for the Ayes:
Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas Mr. John M. Taylor and
Ridsdale, Sir Julian Mr. Irvine Patnick.
Adams, Mrs. Irene (Paisley, N.) Garrett, John (Norwich South)
Allen, Graham Garrett, Ted (Wallsend)
Archer, Rt Hon Peter George, Bruce
Armstrong, Hilary Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John
Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy Godman, Dr Norman A.
Ashley, Rt Hon Jack Golding, Mrs Llin
Ashton, Joe Gordon, Mildred
Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE) Gould, Bryan
Barnes, Mrs Rosie (Greenwich) Graham, Thomas
Barron, Kevin Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Beckett, Margaret Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Bell, Stuart Grocott, Bruce
Bellotti, David Hardy, Peter
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Harman, Ms Harriet
Bennett, A. F. (D'nt'n & R'dish) Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy
Benton, Joseph Haynes, Frank
Bermingham, Gerald Heal, Mrs Sylvia
Bidwell, Sydney Henderson, Doug
Blair, Tony Hinchliffe, David
Blunkett, David Hoey, Ms Kate (Vauxhall)
Boateng, Paul Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)
Boyes, Roland Home Robertson, John
Bradley, Keith Hood, Jimmy
Bray, Dr Jeremy Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Brown, Gordon (D'mline E) Howell, Rt Hon D. (S'heath)
Brown, Nicholas (Newcastle E) Howells, Geraint
Brown, Ron (Edinburgh Leith) Howells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd)
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon) Hoyle, Doug
Buckley, George J. Hughes, John (Coventry NE)
Caborn, Richard Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Callaghan, Jim Hughes, Roy (Newport E)
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE) Illsley, Eric
Campbell, Ron (Blyth Valley) Ingram, Adam
Campbell-Savours, D. N. Janner, Greville
Canavan, Dennis Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)
Carlile, Alex (Mont'g) Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Cartwright, John Kennedy, Charles
Clark, Dr David (S Shields) Kirkwood, Archy
Clarke, Tom (Monklands W) Lambie, David
Clay, Bob Lamond, James
Clelland, David Leadbitter, Ted
Clwyd, Mrs Ann Leighton, Ron
Cohen, Harry Lestor, Joan (Eccles)
Coleman, Donald Lewis, Terry
Cook, Robin (Livingston) Litherland, Robert
Corbett, Robin Livingstone, Ken
Corbyn, Jeremy Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)
Cousins, Jim Lofthouse, Geoffrey
Crowther, Stan McAllion, John
Cryer, Bob McAvoy, Thomas
Cummings, John McCartney, Ian
Cunliffe, Lawrence Macdonald, Calum A.
Cunningham, Dr John McKay, Allen (Barnsley West)
Dalyell, Tam McKelvey, William
Davies, Ron (Caerphilly) McLeish, Henry
Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'l) McMaster, Gordon
Dewar, Donald McNamara, Kevin
Dixon, Don McWilliam, John
Dobson, Frank Madden, Max
Doran, Frank Mahon, Mrs Alice
Douglas, Dick Marek, Dr John
Duffy, A. E. P. Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Dunnachie, Jimmy Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Dunwoody, Hon Mrs Gwyneth Martin, Michael J. (Springburn)
Eadie, Alexander Martlew, Eric
Eastham, Ken Maxton, John
Evans, John (St Helens N) Meacher, Michael
Ewing, Harry (Falkirk E) Michael, Alun
Fatchett, Derek Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)
Field, Frank (Birkenhead) Michie, Mrs Ray (Arg'l & Bute)
Fields, Terry (L'pool B G'n) Mitchell, Austin (G't Grimsby)
Fisher, Mark Moonie, Dr Lewis
Flynn, Paul Morgan, Rhodri
Foot, Rt Hon Michael Morley, Elliot
Foster, Derek Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)
Foulkes, George Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)
Fraser, John Mowlam, Marjorie
Galbraith, Sam Mullin, Chris
Galloway, George Murphy, Paul
Nellist, Dave Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)
Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon Smith, C. (Isl'ton & F'bury)
O'Brien, William Smith, J. P. (Vale of Glam)
O'Hara, Edward Snape, Peter
O'Neill, Martin Soley, Clive
Orme, Rt Hon Stanley Spearing, Nigel
Parry, Robert Steel, Rt Hon Sir David
Patchett, Terry Steinberg, Gerry
Pendry, Tom Stott, Roger
Pike, Peter L. Strang, Gavin
Powell, Ray (Ogmore) Straw, Jack
Prescott, John Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Quin, Ms Joyce Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Radice, Giles Thompson, Jack (Wansbeck)
Randall, Stuart Turner, Dennis
Redmond, Martin Vaz, Keith
Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn Wallace, James
Reid, Dr John Wardell, Gareth (Gower)
Richardson, Jo Wareing, Robert N.
Robertson, George Watson, Mike (Glasgow, C)
Robinson, Geoffrey Welsh, Michael (Doncaster N)
Rogers, Allan Wigley, Dafydd
Rooker, Jeff Williams, Alan W. (Carm'then)
Rooney, Terence Wilson, Brian
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W) Winnick, David
Rowlands, Ted Wise, Mrs Audrey
Ruddock, Joan Worthington, Tony
Sedgemore, Brian Wray, Jimmy
Sheerman, Barry Young, David (Bolton SE)
Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Shore, Rt Hon Peter Tellers for the Noes:
Short, Clare Mr. Martyn Jones and
Sillars, Jim Mr. John McFall.
Skinner, Dennis

Question accordingly agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time, and committed to a Standing Committee pursuant to Standing Order No. 61 (Committal of Bills).