HC Deb 10 January 1990 vol 164 cc996-1038

Order for Third Reading read.

7.1 pm

Mr. Michael Brown (Brigg and Cleethorpes)

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

The House will recall that there have been a number of opportunities in the previous two years and three months to consider the merits of the Bill. We debated the measure at considerable length on Second Reading and we had the opportunity of considering it in the Private Bill Committee. The special report which that Committee produced has been available to the House, and several hon. Members on both sides have referred to it.

Mr. Michael Welsh (Doncaster, North)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. On various occasions when the Bill has been discussed, the hon. Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes (Mr. Brown) has either not spoken or has spoken so quickly that we have not been able to understand him. The fact that our debates are now being televised should not make any difference to our proceedings. In other words, should he not proceed as he has proceeded before, and speak so quickly that nobody can understand him?

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harold Walker)

Order. Mr. Brown.

Mr. Brown

I shall speak at a pace which I hope will enable the House in general and the hon. Gentleman in particular to understand what I am saying. As the comment was once made that I owed it to the House to give an outline of the purposes and benefits of the Bill, I shall do that briefly, bearing in mind the fact that Opposition Members will want time in which to contribute to the debate.

I was honoured and proud to have the opportunity to bring the Bill before the House on behalf of the promoters. As the Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes, I am proud to represent the port of Immingham, which is operated by Associated British Ports, a company that was brought into the private sector by my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir N. Fowler) when he was Secretary of State for Transport. I served on my first Standing Committee in the 1980–81 Session, when my right hon. Friend privatised that company, with the result that it is now so successful that it can raise funds from the private sector. For the development that is proposed under the powers in the Bill, it has raised £30 million to develop the port of Immingham.

Associated British Ports is seeking these powers simply to bring the port of Immingham into the 21st century. The port is at present limited in the size of vessels that it can take because of the lock gates. The Bill would enable Associated British Ports to build a jetty into the River Humber so that the largest vessels in the world—which are currently unable to come to United Kingdom ports and instead go to ports such as Rotterdam, thereby depriving Britain's ports of vital revenues—could come here.

Mr. Ronnie Campbell (Blyth Valley)

Would the hon. Gentleman care to tell the House on how many occasions he has visited South Africa and at whose invitation he went there?

Mr. Brown

I would be happy to do that, although I fear that Mr. Deputy Speaker would rule me out order were I to go into that subject in the context in which the hon. Gentleman raised it. The entries in the Register of Members' Interests are available to the hon. Gentleman. All the information that he requires is there. I last visited South Africa in January 1989 at my own expense. I paid for my aeroplane ticket and hotel accommodation.

Mr. Jimmy Hood (Clydesdale)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. When we previously debated this measure, my hon. Friend the Member for Makerfield (Mr. McCartney) raised a point of order concerning an hon. Member who, he said, was sleeping on the Bench below the Gangway. Although we have only just started to debate the Bill, I note that already a Member is asleep on the Bench beyond the Bar.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The House takes no account of what happens beyond the Bar.

Mr. Brown

The Bill applies not only to the port of Immingham. New port facilities are also proposed for King's Lynn which I know are welcomed by my hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, North-West (Mr. Bellingham), and for the Port Talbot Associated British Ports facility.

There has been some controversy during the passage of the Bill, and some Opposition Members have been concerned about the implications for the coal industry were the Bill to become law. I reassert, as I have done on many occasions, that the Bill is not concerned with coal imports. It is for the electricity and coal industries to work out between themselves whether more coal should be imported.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Brown

I will gladly give way to one of the several Opposition Members who are endeavouring to interrupt me when I have completed the matter I am now raising.

Coal contracts have been negotiated successfully between British Coal and the new private electricity companies that will shortly come into being. The whole House, and certainly hon. Members who represent coal mining constituencies, will join British Coal in expressing satisfaction at the successful negotiations that were completed towards the end of 1989. So there need be no doubt that the Bill will in any way damage the British coal industry, to the success of which we look forward in the years to come.

Mr. Peter Hardy (Wentworth)

The hon. Gentleman is now discussing coal. I tried to intervene earlier to make a point about transport. He said that the Bill would represent a £30 million investment at Immingham port. May we have an assurance that that port will not bring grievous disadvantage to people living in the areas through which the lorries will pour as a result of that unnecessary port development?

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that when the House considered the Felixstowe Dock and Railway Bill it was pointed out that a reputable survey had been carried out—I am sure that the hon. Member for Southampton, Test (Mr. Hill) will confirm this—which showed that we did not need vast expenditure on additional port capacity in the United Kingdom because we had quite enough already?

Mr. Brown

The great advantage of Associated British Ports being in the private sector is that it can decide what market opportunities are available to it. It is for ABP, in considering market circumstances, to make the decisions, Thankfully, now that we no longer have the old British transport docks board, it is not for this House to make such decisions. I remind the hon. Gentleman that I would be the most likely Member of the House to receive the most representations if the Bill were to be detrimental to my constituents. I have received no representations from any other constituency about the transport implications.

Immingham docks are now linked to the M180. That road project was delayed by the previous Labour Government. The first parliamentary question that I put to the Secretary of State for Transport when I was elected was whether he would extend the M180 to the ports of Immingham and Grimsby. Thanks to investment in the road infrastructure in and around south Humberside, we now have superb road transport facilities. That means that no heavy goods vehicles need cause any trouble or inconvenience to people in the small villages in south Humberside and south Yorkshire.

Mr. Geoffrey Lofthouse (Pontefract and Castleford)


Mr. Brown

I have been generous in giving way and shall give way to the hon. Gentleman with whom I had the honour to serve until recently on the Select Committee on Energy. However, we must make progress because many hon. Members wish to speak.

Mr. Lofthouse

Does the hon. Gentleman recall that during a recent meeting of the Select Committee Malcolm Edwards, the marketing director of British Coal, made clear in answer to a question from me that the only real reason for the extension of the ports was the importation of coal? If the Bill will have no effect on our coal industry, why did not the hon. Gentleman and the promoters of the Bill accept British Coal's amendments?

Mr. Brown

That is not my interpretation of what happened in the Select Committee. British Coal has successfully negotiated future contracts with the electricity industry. The Bill's primary purpose is to ensure that the port industry can compete on equal terms with the best in the rest of Europe and the world. We are discussing a Bill that will facilitate exports and imports. Many companies in my constituency, such as Norsk Hydro and SCM Chemicals, which have to import dried bulk cargo, will be better able to import their raw materials and enabled to go about their manufacturing business at cheaper cost.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)


Mr. Brown

It is always a privilege to give way to the hon. Gentleman, but this is the last time that I shall give way.

Mr. Skinner

The hon. Gentleman has moved the Third Reading of a private Bill. Both he and his colleagues have made great play of the fact that the Bill has nothing to do with the Government or the Conservative party. He told the House that the infrastructure in the area had been improved through Government action. He also said that there have been discussions and negotiations between two nationalised industries and one that is now privatised to ensure coal arrangements. That is another political decision.

The hon. Gentleman, as the surrogate Member for Johannesburg, has the cheek to tell us that he is putting forward a private Bill. The argument that we have sustained for a long time is that the Bill is part of the same political argument that he makes in relation to the infrastructure in his constituency. For that reason the Bill should not be a private measure. It should be brought forward by the Government as a political measure, because its net result will be that more coal will be imported. We already have a balance of payments deficit of £20 billion, and coal imports will add to that.

Mr. Brown

Associated British Ports is a major company in my constituency. It came to me and indicated its intentions and the tremendous benefits in terms of jobs, not only in the ports but in construction, that would accrue to my constituents. I volunteered to assist in piloting the Bill, and I commend it to the House.

7.14 pm
Mr. Stanley Orme (Salford, East)

I shall be brief. As my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) said, to all intents and purposes this is a Government Bill. It has Government support and is whipped by the Government—[Interruption.] One does not need three lines on a piece of paper to be able to say that a Bill is being whipped. We know very well that the Government have thrown their full weight behind the measure. The vote will show the number of Ministers and Cabinet Ministers who pass through the Division Lobby.

Since the Bill started its progress through the House, there have been some dramatic changes not only in the coal industry but in the electricity industry. We have also seen dramatic changes to our imports and our balance of payments, and all those changes have dramatically altered the balance of argument about the Bill.

The hon. Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes (Mr. Brown) said that the Bill has nothing to do with the import of cheap coal, but that is nonsense. The investment in improving port facilities will result in an increase in imported coal. That will have an adverse effect because it will lead to job losses in the United Kingdom coal industry, increased coal prices, which will affect electricity prices, inflation, and an aggravation of the balance of payments deficit, both as a whole and in the fuel balance of trading. Coal will be imported from south America, Poland and South Africa. Initially, that coal will be cheaper than British coal but that will not last. Prior and McCloskey have carried out some work on this issue and their figures show that by 1995 imported coal will be dearer than British coal. By that time we will have got rid of about another 40,000 miners and it will not be possible to reverse the trend in indigenous coal.

We are in an exceedingly serious position. This nation has the gift of coal that will last for 200 or 300 years and it can be used particularly by the electricity industry. The areas hardest hit will be the north-east and not least Nottinghamshire. The Nottinghamshire field has some rich seams, and many pits there will be closed and miners thrown out of work. The hon. Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes should listen to the arguments. He might see the matter as funny but we are discussing thousands of mining jobs.

We believe in the future of British industry, not least in mining. In the light of the increase in oil prices, the price of imported coal will go up and our coal will not be mined because of redundancies. On the "Today" programme this morning it was calculated that within the next few years 40,000 miners will go from an already depleted industry.

Mr. Martin Redmond (Don Valley)

I regret that my right hon. Friend's comments appear to be falling on stony ground. Conservative Members, except perhaps for two, do not care what happens to the Nottinghamshire coalfield. They simply go through the motions in the Chamber in an attempt to ensure that they will be representing their constituencies after the next election. Will my right hon. Friend stress the serious effect that the Bill will have not only on mining but on the nation? It will also exploit the use of slave labour in the production of cheap coal in South Africa and Colombia.

Mr. Orme

I agree with every word my hon. Friend says. Although the coal to be imported is cheap at the moment, the rise in world prices and the increased price of oil mean that it will not be cheap in years to come. My hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover referred to the balance of payments deficit. For the first 11 months of 1989, it stands at £19.3 billion, and will probably reach £20 billion when the December figure is known. Moreover, for the first time in our history there is a fuel trade deficit. That stands at an all-time high, and for 1989 is projected to be 18.5 million tonnes. Britain used to be self-sufficient in coal, but both deficits will increase if coal imports grow, putting further pressure on the economy.

We are talking about the future of mining, which is a crucial part of the United Kingdom's manufacturing output. The Bill spells the end of the industry as we know it.

Mr. Michael Welsh

Is it not a fact that if the Bill is enacted coal imports will increase to such an extent that our supplies will give us no security? We cannot decide subsequently to produce more coal because once a pit is closed it cannot be reopened. Coal production cannot operate simply according to supply and demand; there must be planned production. That is the difference between coal mining and other industries. Opposition Members will vote against the Bill tonight and I ask Conservative Members to think seriously on behalf of the nation before they vote tonight. If the Bill is enacted, we shall be at the mercy of the world market with coal being divided up among business men, and we may find that our industries cannot afford it.

Mr. Orme

I agree with my hon. Friend. Even with drift mines we are talking of between eight and 10 years for a new mine to be developed. That is the sort of planning that is necessary. Pits in the Nottinghamshire and south Yorkshire areas are classic examples. There are profitable pits with plenty of coal, but even in the short term they will face closure because imports will knock them out. Then, when import prices rise, we will not be able to replace them. We shall be at the mercy of imports and import prices.

Mr. Hood

I am sure that my right hon. Friend is aware that the high-production pits in Nottinghamshire produce 80 per cent. of steam coal—coal that can be burned only in power stations. My right hon. Friend will be aware, although few, if any, Conservative Members are, that the consequences for the Nottinghamshire pits have been very much understated. They will be far greater than has been suggested.

Mr. Orme

I agree with my hon. Friend, who has personal knowledge of Nottinghamshire.

Our opposition to the Bill tonight is not a narrow, negative opposition; it is about the future of the industry and of our economy. We believe that the Bill is bad and should be defeated.

7.25 pm
Mrs. Edwina Currie (Derbyshire, South)

I have so far abstained on the Bill, but I intend to support it tonight. I recognise that the Bill has given cause for concern in the coal industry, and those who support it, particularly those who have changed their stance, as I have, should be prepared to meet those arguments head on.

The coal industry has been a protected industry for a long time. It has had no competition whatever from overseas and it has had precious little competition from the private sector. I now find that I have rather more coal being mined in my constituency through opencast mining than through deep mining, and I am interested to see just how efficient the private sector is and how competently it deals with the environmental problems—often far more competently these days than deep mining used to in constituencies such as mine. Opencast mining is still bitterly opposed by deep mining interests. I understand that that is because of competition, but they are wrong to do so.

The protection that we will still be giving the coal industry if Bills such as this are defeated is not in the interests of the industry. I am sure that it is not in the interests of consumers, particularly consumers of electricity, nor is it in the interests of Britain; or at least, not for much longer.

Mr. Chris Mullin (Sunderland, South)

Does the hon. Lady understand that, in order to compete with coal coming in from South Africa or Colombia, we would have to reduce wages and all the other conditions in our mines to the same level as in those countries, and it is that that we are anxious to avoid?

Mrs. Currie

If the hon. Gentleman will forgive me, I shall come to potential coal imports in a moment, but many of the arguments against coal imports are misplaced.

Mr. Eric Illsley (Barnsley, Central)

Will the hon. Lady give way?

Mrs. Currie

No, not yet.

Let me explain why I have changed my mind. I have not done so under any pressure but because I have given some thought to the arguments. My first reason for changing my mind is that, as of 31 March this year, the Government have been immensely generous in writing off the coal industry's debts. The total bill for the British taxpayer will be about £5 billion, the biggest write-off that such an industry has ever seen. It wipes the slate clean.

Mr. Redmond

Will the hon. Lady give way?

Mrs. Currie

No, not yet.

On 1 April this year, the industry will start with a completely clean slate. Not many corporations in Britain can say that. That puts British Coal at a slight advantage when compared with many businesses, certainly with many privately funded businesses in my constituency.

Secondly, as my hon. Friend the Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes (Mr. Brown) mentioned, British Coal has signed long-term contracts with the successors to the CEGB. Those substantial contracts will tide British Coal over any period of difficulty. They have been concluded in the interests of the coal industry.

Mr. Illsley

The hon. Lady referred to the writing off of the coal industry's debt, but the Coal Industry Bill does not say exactly how much of that debt will be wiped off As far as I am aware, throughout the Bill's Committee stage, there has been no reference to how much debt will be wiped off. Therefore, for the hon. Lady to say that, as from 1 April, British Coal will be starting with a clean slate is wrong. That will not be the case.

The hon. Lady should also bear in mind that, since 1980, British Coal has given £1.2 billion of that debt to the CEGB in the run-up to privatisation.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. Right hon. and hon. Members should confine their remarks to the Bill that is before the House and not to one that is in Committee upstairs.

Mrs. Currie

I endorse your point entirely, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

Mr. Ted Leadbitter (Hartlepool)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. As someone who has an interest in the Bill, I want to know its real purpose. M y understanding is that the Bill's promoter gave a firm indication that the ports required the legislation to assist their development, not the importation of foreign coal. However, the hon. Member for Derbyshire, South (Mrs. Currie) made it clear that the Bill will facilitate coal imports. Her remarks cannot be interpreted in any other way. I seek clarification from you, Mr. Deputy Speaker., as to the real purpose of the Bill.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I am not denying the relevance of debate about the future development of the coal mining industry, but I stress that right hon. and hon. Members should not involve themselves too much in the detail of the Bill directly relating to the coal industry that is already in Committee.

Mr. Redmond

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. On previous occasions you have ruled that the measure before the House is not a hybrid Bill. However, the remarks made by the Bill's promoter and by the hon. Member for Derbyshire, South (Mrs. Currie) imply that the Government have an interest in it and that the Bill has national implications. Even at this late stage, I ask you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to rule that the measure is a hybrid Bill and should be withdrawn front consideration by the House this evening.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: The hon. Gentleman repeats a point that he has made several times before. I reiterate that the Examiners have studied the Bill carefully and are satisfied that no hybridity is involved.

Mrs. Currie

In reply to the hon. Member for Barnsley, Central, (Mr. Illsley), some of my briefing comes from Conservative Central Office. The hon. Gentleman might find it helpful to be aware that the figure of £5 billion was just hinted at. That was clearly the figure some Ministers thought that the Government would have to fork out to settle British Coal's debts.

Mr. Redmond

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. You have just ruled that there is no hybridity involved in the Bill, because the Government have no interest in it. However, if the remark by the hon. Member for Derbyshire, South that part of her brief came from Conservative Central Office is not a sign of Government involvement, I do not know what is.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I have nothing to add to my earlier ruling.

Mrs. Currie

If the Bill is passed, as I hope it will be, the ports will be a tremendous asset to the north-east. They may be used to import some coal, which is why Opposition Members oppose the measure.

I changed my mind about the Bill because the Government have already dealt very generously with the industry, which also has substantial long-term contracts in the provision of electricity. Its future is secure. British Coal's board has undertaken a major reconstruction of the industry over the past four years or so, and it is to be congratulated on having done so in the teeth of opposition from Labour and the National Union of Mineworkers. Any industry or business that can halve its work force in four and a half years and at the same time double its productivity should be capable of coping with any minor changes and challenges that a tiny amount of coal brought in through one port might produce.

Mr. Andy Stewart (Sherwood)

What I have heard so far from my hon. Friend has appalled me. Given that she was a lady of courage and stood beside the working miners during the difficult period of 1984–85, does she not feel remorse or even a pang of conscience at sticking a knife into their back tonight?

Mrs. Currie

Clearly my hon. Friend has not kept up with developments in my constituency. In the first place, there are no longer any miners there. Secondly, we are about to welcome Europe's biggest inward investment with Toyota. Thirdly, the bulk of British Coal employees in my area now work for bodies involved in mining research, which will continue to serve the whole country so long as such research is needed.

Others serve in workshops, which will also continue to provide a service to the whole country. As and when the industry is privatised, as I firmly hope that it will be, those workshops will be able to provide a service to the engineering industry of the midlands, including the developing car industry there. That is what the workshops should do—not be tied to a limited, non-competitive pattern of contracts from one particular industry.

In reply to the hon. Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. Mullin), we should not worry too much about coal imports. Even if the port does handle coal, it will not be able to introduce so much into the country that it will damage our own industry. That apart, many countries that are currently exporting their coal will need it for their own purposes in future. Poland must be a prime example of that. As the economies of eastern Europe grow and they develop a capitalist approach to life, they will need to keep their coal to meet their own energy requirements.

The same is true of the developing economies of the far east, which will find themselves competing with us both for imports and exports. If Opposition Members will read the brief available in the Library, they will learn that there is not a huge collection of foreign countries waiting to send their coal to Britain. Most of them have their own markets, including their domestic markets.

Mr. Michael Welsh

If in the short term we allow more coal imports, as the Bill will do, and close our own pits, where shall we turn when those countries now exporting their coal to us decide that they need it for their own purposes? It does not take a great intellect to appreciate that, in those circumstances, we shall have to pay whatever price is demanded. In a country that has no energy of its own, it is very hard to get off your knees—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman should not keep dragging me into his argument.

Mrs. Currie

I have already explained that the "short term" of which the hon. Gentleman speaks cannot begin for several years. The coal industry's contracts with the electricity generating industry have already been signed and will be adhered to.

Mr. Welsh

But they cover only a three-year period.

Mrs. Currie

In my constituency, three years is a very long time. By then, I hope that my majority will have increased again.

If there were no proposals to write off the coal industry's debt to leave it struggling, because although the pits were profitable, the industry could not make money because of interest charges if no long-term contracts were already in existence with the electricity generating industry, and if there was no recent history of strong, solid management in the coal industry, then I would not support the Bill.

Mr. Michael Brown

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. Has she considered this issue in the time frame of the next two or three years? Because of the hard work that she did to secure the Toyota factory, which I hope will be operating by that time, her constituency will contribute considerably to Britain's manufacturing export effort. Has my hon. Friend considered that we will need additional port facilities to export the products that her constituents will be at the forefront of making in the years to come?

Mrs. Currie

I could not have put it better myself. That is absolutely right.

My hon. Friend may also be aware that Toyota has also just signed a £50 million contract with PowerGen. That is a competitive contract and Toyota would not have signed it if it did not think there was the potential for coal in Britain to stay closer to world prices. That has to be a good thing for my constituents.

In my view, there are advantages to some competition—not much, just a modicum. More of my constituents, and those of my hon. Friend the Member for Sherwood (Mr. Stewart), would benefit if we had a competitive price for British coal.

The Bill will benefit my constituents in two ways, and that is why I am prepared to vote for it. I think that we are likely to have cheaper electricity in the long run and, as Britain has high prices for fuel, it seems wise to aim to do our bit for inflation by getting down fuel prices, if possible.

I have two major coal-fired power stations in my constituency, and I hope they will continue to operate. They take coal from the Nottinghamshire coalfield. If coal is sold at a slightly lower price, the future of those power stations is more likely to be guaranteed, and they will be more able to compete. If the coal is high-priced, the electricity generators would want to take power from gas and oil, and that is already beginning to happen. I feel confident that coal will continue to come into the power stations down the merry-go-round from Nottinghamshire and the other coalfields.

One change that convinces me of the merits of the Bill is that I was involved in negotiating the second largest set of contracts that the British Coal Board has ever had—those with the National Health Service. Only when there was a hint that the Yorkshire health authority might consider importing coal if it did not get a decent price for coal did British Coal seem interested in settling a contract. The NHS got a better deal than it would have done if there had been no competition.

I apologise to my hon. Friend the Member for Sherwood, and to my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, South (Mr. Brandon-Bravo), but I am convinced that a vote for the Bill tonight will be in the interests of their constituents and mine.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. A large number of hon. Members wish to take part in the debate, which is short. I hope that speeches will be brief.

7.43 pm
Mr. Alexander Eadie (Midlothian)

One of the most significant events in this debate is the speech that we have just heard—not that it was such a distinguished speech, but it shows a break in the ranks of Conservative Members representing constituencies in Nottinghamshire. That will cause a great deal of embarrassment to the parliamentary colleagues of the hon. Member for Derbyshire, South (Mrs. Currie).

The hon. Member for Derbyshire, South says that she has been converted. I have already taken part in many debates on the Bill, as the sponsor of the Bill has mentioned. My hon. Friends and I have never deviated from our view of the Bill. One of my hon. Friends described it as a hybrid Bill, but I call it a bastard Bill.

Many things have happened since the Bill was introduced. The energy situation now is unrecognisable compared with that when the Bill was introduced. Hon. Members are entitled to speak as they believe in the House and I have no objection to that, but when the hon. Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes (Mr. Brown) introduced his contribution to the Third Reading debate, he said that the Bill had been before a private Bill Committee. I do not object to retelling its history, but I object to rewriting it, as the hon. Member did when he told us how the Bill came before that Committee.

As the hon. Gentleman knows well, no amendments were tabled in Committee. The significant fact that emerged was that the private Bill Committee did something that no other Committee has done. It said that it was concerned about the energy implications of the Bill, and—contrary to what the hon. Gentleman told the House—it identified that there would be coal imports. The private Bill Committee report said that the promoters were not arguing that there would be no coal imports, as they gave in evidence a figure of 2.5 million tonnes by 1993. The Committee went on to challenge that figure, and said that the level of imports, if the Bill receives Royal Assent, will be determined by a range of commercial factors at present unknowable. We conclude that it is not possible at this stage to predict with any degree of assurance the amount of foreign coal that may be imported, although we concede that this may be considerably more than the promoters of the bill were prepared to accept in giving evidence. I think that the hon. Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes should have been more candid and should have told the House what the Committee, on which he served, decided in relation to this issue.

Mr. Michael Brown

This is a private Bill, and I was debarred from serving on the private Bill Committee. The hon. Member for Bradford, North (Mr. Wall) served on the Committee. I sat in the Gallery for most of its proceedings, and I can advise the hon. Member for Midlothian that I heard many amendments tabled by the National Union of Mineworkers, the Union of Democratic Mineworkers and the British Coal hoard. I believe that he, the hon. Member for Bradford, North and the three other hon. Members had many amendments to consider, but the Bill was reported to the House by that Committee without amendment.

Mr. Eadie

I am obliged to the hon. Gentleman, and I recall that he was not allowed to serve on the Committee. However, that does not minimise the thrust of my argument—that when the hon. Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes introduced the Bill, he said that it would involve no coal imports. The hon. Gentleman says that he sat in the Committee Room while the Bill was being considered. If so, he should have at least done the House the courtesy of reading the deliberations of the Committee.

I am not quoting my view. I am quoting the opinions of the Committee. I could go on, but I do not want to because this subject was covered in the debate.

During the debate the figure for coal imports was put much higher—between 10 and 15 million tonnes. It is dishonest for the sponsors of the Bill to suggest that no coal imports are involved and, to some extent, they are deceiving the House. I hope that the hon. Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes will accept that.

Mr. Redmond

I understood that there would be coal imports. If there were to be no coal imports, Associated British Ports could have accepted what the coal board was saying about its amendment to the Bill. But it refused to accept that amendment, which clearly shows that one of the major functions of the Bill is the importation of coal.

Mr. Eadie

I understand what my hon. Friend is saying, but I should like now to deal with the second significant aspect. It was the hon. Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes who introduced the subject of the private Bill Committee. I see that its Chairman is present; no doubt he will confirm what I am saying. I do not know whether he intends to catch your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but I do not think that he will dispute my claim, as it is already on the record. The Committee was concerned about the energy implications of the Bill, and took a significant step: it reported, in a special subsection or subparagraph, that the Government should consider those implications. I am speaking, as it were, in shorthand, and I hope that the hon. Gentleman will not quote me verbatim, but I think that I am conveying the sense adequately.

The implications of the Bill are, of course, something that the whole House should consider. My right hon. Friend the Member for Salford, East (Mr. Orme) said earlier that, if the Bill contained everything that its sponsor claimed, it should have been introduced by the Government. The miners' parliamentary group—I make no apology for the fact that I am its secretary—tried its best to establish the Government's view. We had a meeting with the then Secretary of State for Energy and the then Leader of the House—who, incidentally, is now Secretary of State for Energy—and asked for written details of the Bill's implications for the coal industry and the nation's energy.

We received our reply in July, by which time it was out of date. Momentous changes had taken place in the industry. A leaked private document showed that—Coal Industry Bill or no Coal Industry Bill—the industry was due for a chop, at a cost of 30,000 jobs. Even more significant, the Government had decided to abandon the thermo-nuclear power programme, or at least cut it, perhaps building just one more pressurised water reactor. That represented a dramatic change in energy policy.

There was a third factor. I hope that the hon. Member for Derbyshire, South is listening. Members of the energy studies group had the privilege of listening to the chief executive of British Gas, telling them that within 10 years he hoped that there would be between 3 and 10 GW of electricity per station. As a GW represents 1,000 MW, they mean five new power stations.

Mrs. Currie

With respect, I think that the hon. Gentleman is making my point for me. High-priced coal generates competition from other fuels, and I would like a competitive British coal industry. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that one way to ensure competitive coal prices is to allow not enormous levels of imports, but enough to generate competitive pricing?

Mr. Eadie

Let me say, in all kindness to the hon. Lady —who is talking about a subject that she neither understands nor has studied—that it is always a great mistake for hon. Members to come into the Chamber and discuss matters about which they know nothing. I do not think that the hon. Lady listened to my remarks about the significance of the contraction in the thermo-nuclear power industry. Is she aware that the coal industry at present subsidises the nuclear industry? In cost terms, nuclear power was a fraud, as it is much more expensive than coal. In view of the millions of pounds that are spent on nuclear power, let us not hear any lectures about the cost of coal.

There is also an environmental aspect—we are always hearing how environmentally conscious the hon. Lady is. It is well known that foreign coal has a very high sulphur content; the sulphur content of British coal is much smaller, and my part of the world probably has the lowest levels of all. The coal that we import will pollute the environment.

The more that the Bill has been debated in the House, the more inconsistencies have been revealed. We are meeting the chairman of British Coal on Tuesday, and we know that a further contraction of the industry will be announced, involving some pits in the Nottinghamshire area. The coal industry is under threat. When a nation is confronted with a balance-of-payments problem such as ours, it is sheer lunacy to start talking about importing foreign coal. The Bill, however, is designed to import coal, and it will harm not only the coal industry but the nation. The House should vote it down tonight.

7.55 pm
The Minister for Public Transport (Mr. Michael Portillo)

I see that many hon. Members on both sides of the House wish to speak, and I do not wish to detain the House for more than a few moments. Hon. Members always find it helpful to know the Government's attitude, however, and I have pleasure in being able to tell them what it is. Members have had the opportunity to give their views in debates on earlier stages, but tonight we are deciding whether to give the Bill its Third Reading.

Having considered the contents of this private Bill, the Government have no objections in principle to its proposals—the Departments of Energy and Transport do not consider that there are any outstanding problems to be resolved. The Department of Transport's basic policy is that Associated British Ports, or any other port authority, should be free to compete on price and service, and our view is that if ABP thinks that it can make a commercial success of its proposed new facilities at Kings Lynn and South Killingholme, there can be no Government policy objection. It is obviously for ABP to persuade Parliament that the powers that it seeks are justified.

Mr. Redmond

I find it strange that the Minister should say that the Government have no policy view on the Bill, as we were told, in a room in this building, that they intended to ensure that it was passed. If that is not their intention, why should a Minister say what this Minister has said?

Mr. Portillo

I am describing the Government's present attitude, which is that this is a private Bill on which we are neutral. In my closing remarks I shall explain that, in the circumstances, we believe that it should be allowed to proceed—the circumstances being that it has passed through its various stages and has been considered by the private Bill Committee which has decided that it should be allowed to proceed unamended. The Committee, however, made that subject to a binding undertaking from the promoters, which they have given.

Mr. Martin Flannery (Sheffield, Hillsborough)

Surely the Minister is not talking about the reality when he talks of "allowing the Bill to proceed". He knows as well as anyone here that the Government support the Bill. Why does he not say so?

Mr. Portillo

No. The Government's attitude is that a private Bill on which they stand neutral should be allowed to proceed for further consideration in the House. The Bill must then move to another place, where it will be entirely for their Lordships to decide whether it should be amended or should not be allowed to proceed further. All that the Government are saying is that, as the Bill has emerged from the private Bill Committee unamended, it is proposed that we allow it to end its parliamentary progress in another place.

Dr. Michael Clark (Rochford)

My hon. Friend mentioned that, having imposed two conditions, the private Bill Committee voted that the Bill should proceed to its next stage. He referred to one binding condition—that the promoters should publicise by placing in the House of Commons Library the amount of coal imported quarterly through the facility, if and when it is constructed. Will my hon. Friend refer to the other condition—the special report that brought to the Government's attention the fact that if coal were to be imported in the massive quantities suggested by some petitioners it could have a seriously adverse effect on the British coal industry? The Committee decided, with my casting vote, that it was important to have this port facility for other reasons—for grain, iron ore, finished iron products and motor car exports—but that the Government ought to take note of the special report and should be aware of the dangers of massive coal imports. Will my hon. Friend please tell us whether note has been taken of the special report? The Committee has received no notification from the Government as to whether it has been received or read.

Mr. Portillo

My hon. Friend makes two points. First, ports have many uses. They can be used for both imports and exports. It is not clear what effect the Bill would have on any aspect of Government policy. My hon. Friend also referred to the special report that he wishes the Government to consider. I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Energy will wish to bear it closely in mind.

Mr. Lofthouse

The hon. Member for Rochford (Dr. Clark) was the Chairman of the private Bill Committee. He is also Chairman of the Select Committee on Energy. The hon. Gentleman referred to the fact that the Committee imposed two conditions. The Minister now tells us that the Government have given no assurances whatsoever about those conditions. The Bill should not, therefore, be given a Third Reading. The Committee does not wish it to proceed.

Mr. Portillo

I understand that the Committee sought a binding undertaking from the promoters and that that binding undertaking was forthcoming. My hon. Friend the Member for Rochford (Dr. Clark) said that the Committee also wished the Government to take account of its special report. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Energy will certainly take account of it.

Mr. Hardy

The House considers legislation, not edicts and special reports. We should have been able to secure amendments to the Bill on Report. We were denied that opportunity, on account of the rules and practices of the House. I make no complaint about that. However, on Report we could have sought to embody in the Bill the very conditions that the hon. Member for Rochford (Dr. Clark) has properly drawn to our attention. It is no good the Government saying that they can be neutral on the Bill. By being neutral, an imperfect measure will leave this Chamber because our rules and practices deny us the opportunity to inject that degree of common sense of which the Government now appear to approve.

Mr. Portillo

It is not for the hon. Gentleman, or for me, to change the rules of Parliament. However, it is in the hands of Parliament to change the rules. If Parliament in its wisdom wishes to have Report stages for private Bills even when there have been no amendments, that would be a matter for the appropriate Committee to consider. The Labour party's policy is to abolish the House of Lords. However, it is extraordinary that the Opposition are ignoring the fact that the Bill now passes to another place for further consideration. There are two opportunities to amend the Bill—during the Committee stage of the Bill in each of the two Houses. No amendment was made by the private Bill Committee in the House of Commons. For that reason, the Government believe that the Bill ought to be allowed to go to the other place, without any objection but without our active support. The House of Lords will have the opportunity to take into account that point and any other point that it may think is appropriate.

Mr. Martin M. Brandon-Bravo (Nottingham, South)

Will the Minister clarify the Government's position? There has been one formal intervention, and also a sedentary comment, that this is de facto Government business and that it is whipped. My hon. Friend has sat in on all the debates. Will he confirm, from his knowledge, that five Parliamentary Private Secretaries have opposed the Bill consistently from the beginning and that four of them certainly intend to do so tonight? That would surely give the lie to Opposition comments that this is a Government-sponsored Bill.

Mr. Portillo

How right my hon. Friend is! This is not a Government-sponsored Bill. Of course there has been no whipping and there have been no disciplinary proceedings against any of my hon. Friends who voted against the Bill at any stage. Moreover, there will be no disciplinary proceedings. Conservative Members of Parliament will vote in different ways tonight, I have no doubt, and they will be perfectly free to do so.

Mr. Skinner

When he responded to his hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, South (Mr. Brandon-Bravo) the Minister accepted that some unpaid Parliamentary Private Secretaries, not Government Ministers, had voted against the Bill. Is the hon. Gentleman able to name any Ministers of the Crown who have gone into the Lobby against the Bill? There have been several Divisions on the Bill during the last two years. It is inconceivable that this should be regarded as a free vote if, on every occasion, no paid Minister of the Crown joined a few of his hon. Friends in voting against the Bill. The truth is that, without fail, Ministers of the Crown have either .supported the Bill or abstained. Not one of them has joined the Opposition in voting against the Bill.

Mr. Portillo

I do not accept for a moment the hon. Gentleman's premise. If it is the case—I do not know whether it is—that Ministers have voted only in one way, that says nothing about whipping. There has been no whipping on the Bill. It may suggest that there are very few Ministers of the Crown from Nottinghamshire. I hope that that defect will be put right in due course.

Mrs. Currie

Does my hon. Friend recall that on Second Reading only 51 Opposition Members bothered to vote? All the rest went home.

Mr. Portillo

My hon. Friend makes the point in her own way, but she is leading me astray. As a Government Minister, I am giving the Government's view on this private Bill.

Mr. Kevin Barron (Rother Valley)

I may be able to help the Minister about what has been said by Conservative Members about the Government's attitude to the Bill. I tabled a question for written answer on 30 October 1989. I asked the Secretary of State for Energy what steps the Government are taking to protect the indigenous coal mining industry; and if he will make a statement on the special report". In the last paragraph of his reply the Minister said: It is not for Government to make a formal response to the special report but for the House to take it into account on Third Reading."—[Official Report, 30 October 1989; Vol. 159, c. 21.] If the Chairman of the private Bill Committee or any other Conservative Member is concerned about the contents of the special report, would it not be best to vote against the Bill being given a Third Reading?

Mr. Portillo

If my hon. Friend the Member for Rochford, who is Chairman of that Committee, is concerned about the matter, he may wish to say so during the debate and he may wish to ask hon. Members to bear that in mind. My hon. Friend asked me whether the Government would consider the special report. I am able to tell him that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Energy has considered the report and will bear it in mind. The fact that he has not made a response is neither here nor there.

In the circumstances, I hope that the Bill will be allowed to proceed.

8.8 pm

Ms. Joan Ruddock (Lewisham, Deptford)

Throughout the debates on the Bill a number of distinguished arguments have been advanced by Opposition Members. None of them has, in my view, been adequately answered by the promoters and sponsors. We would not have expected them to do so. We have raised important strategic and economic issues. At stake are major questions concerning the balance of payments, the trade and not least the energy industry of this country.

I remind the House that the private Bill Committee that considered the Bill concluded: The decisions on energy and trade policy we have been invited to take are, in our opinion, national decisions which are the ultimate responsibility of the national Government. That Government are represented here tonight. Despite the voting record of Ministers and of the Conservative party, the Government continue to maintain that they have no view on the Bill and that they are not organising support for it. They may say that they have no view, but clearly they have a considerable responsibility.

The proposal to build a dry dock terminal on the Humber cannot be examined as a local constituency issue as the hon. Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes (Mr. Brown) seems to suggest. He told us tonight that the powers are sought simply to bring the port of Immingham into the 21st century and to provide vital revenues to port authorities. I wonder whether he agrees that the port authority would not contemplate such investment without calculating potential markets. He denied that coal imports were being sought and referred to the new contracts between the electricity generating industry and British Coal, but he knows that those contracts are of only three years' duration. Does he deny that if the measures in the Bill were to go ahead, in five years' time planned capacity would reach 10 million tonnes? If that were transmitted into the displacement of British coal it would mean the closure of 13 collieries or necessitate the rundown of more than 20 pits.

Mr. Michael Brown

May I answer the hon. Lady's charge on behalf of the promoters of the Bill? If, as Opposition Members have suggested, the world price of coal tonight or tomorrow should exceed the price of British coal and not one single piece of coal were imported through the Immingham terminal when it is built, that terminal would still go ahead because the promoters have calculated that there is sufficient demand from a variety of other products. If not one piece of coal came through that terminal, it would still go ahead. The promoters have made that investment and that commitment.

Ms. Ruddock

The hon. Gentleman may say that, but I and my hon. Friends maintain that calculations will have been made based on potential markets for the import of coal at current foreseeable prices for the near future. We have already conceded that there may be an increase in world prices of coal for the future, but that in itself is an extremely damaging prospect.

Mr. Allen McKay (Barnsley, West and Penistone)

My hon. Friend is quite correct in that assumption. Will she take into account, in addition to the arguments by Opposition Members, the comments of the World Export Coal Organisation, which clearly stated that the amount of coal likely to be imported through Immingham will not affect world coal prices but that the collieries that will close because of those imports will no longer exist when they are needed in the 1990s?

Ms. Ruddock

I could not agree more and I am grateful to my hon. Friend for reiterating that point.

It is not for me to take up much of the debate as it is a private measure. However, I wish simply to put on record the view of the Opposition from the Front Bench. We have not been satisfied by the arguments of the sponsors and the supporters of the Bill and we maintain that it is the Government's responsibility. Had there been any honour among Ministers, they would have accepted that the national interest is at stake. As my hon. Friend the Member for Midlothian (Mr. Eadie) said, the Bill will have a fundamental impact on our energy policy and on the balance of payments, which we all know are at an all-time and disastrous high. Most damaging of all, it will destroy the potential production of coal in Britain—coal that will be required in the 21st century and beyond. Any Government who are prepared to stand by and allow that industry to be placed in jeopardy—which they have already encouraged—are in my view not fit to be in government.

The security of our energy base for the next century and beyond is at stake tonight, and that is why I shall join my hon. Friends in the Lobby and vote against the Bill.

8.15 pm
Mr. Richard Alexander (Newark)

I join my hon. Friend the Minister in confirming that this is not a Goverment Bill. It is not a whipped Bill and I intend to vote against it, as I have done throughout. I have not been pressured by the Whips or leaned on by anyone in authority, not even by my hon. Friend the Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes (Mr. Brown), who has been aware of my feelings on the subject, or my hon. Friends representing Nottinghamshire constituencies, who have consistently voted against the Bill. As my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, South (Mr. Brandon-Bravo) said in an intervention, he is a Parliamentary Private Secretary and has been subject to no sanctions whatsoever for voting against it. Had it been a Government Bill with all the intensity behind it that Opposition Members assume, sanctions would have followed, certainly for Parliamentary Private Secretaries, but that was not the case.

Mr. Brandon-Bravo

My hon. Friend mentioned the possibility of sanctions against Parliamentary Private Secretaries if they do the wrong thing. Will he confirm that one of the five Parliamentary Private Secretaries who voted against Second Reading was promptly promoted to Under-Secretary of State for Transport?

Mr. Alexander

My hon. Friend tempts me, and I shall yield to that temptation by hoping that he will join us in the Lobby this evening. However, I know of no pressure upon him one way or the other.

Mr. Illsley

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Alexander

No, I must move on to the main part of my speech.

Hon. Members are aware that there has been tremendous reorganisation in the mining industry. I shall not weary the House by repeating the statistics, as they are well known. If we were to pass the Bill, all the courage, heartache and sheer hard grind involved in turning around a very difficult industry would be put totally at risk, because it would encourage cheap imports. I wonder whether my hon. Friend the Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes is aware of that.

If cheap coal were to be imported, the power stations most affected would be West Burton, Cottam, Thorpe Marsh and High Marnham, one of which is in my constituency. They are nearest, so it would be cheapest for them to receive imported coal with which to carry on their generating activities. Those stations are taking 16 million tonnes of British coal, 11 million tonnes from Nottinghamshire and the midlands and 5 million tonnes from Yorkshire. Last year, 40 per cent. of all Nottinghamshire's coal sales went to those four power stations. The dependence of the Nottinghamshire pits on those markets cannot be exaggerated.

British Coal has estimated that 10 million tonnes of imported coal would cause substantial further closures of pits in Britain. Those would not be worn-out or near-marginal pits: productive pits would be closed because their market had gone. Their closure would also mean that the orderly restructuring of the mining industry, which I described earlier, would have to be abandoned. It would dangerously harm the ability to guarantee further long-term contracts for the electricity supply industry and would bring likely but unpredictable and high price hikes in electricity.

If we, by Act of Parliament, decide to cripple our coal industry, it will surely follow that we shall be at the mercy of overseas suppliers, who will be able to increase the price of their coal to this country. They alone will be this country's suppliers. Those overseas supplies are already extremely volatile. The electricity supply industry would hesitate if it believed that it would have to rely on them.

Dr. Michael Clark

Will my hon. Friend concede that he is making a strong argument against the importation of foreign coal rather than against the provision of additional port facilities for this country?

Mr. Alexander

I am certainly saying that to rely on foreign coal would be short-sighted.

The coal industry in the United States has been hit by a long-running miners' strike. Australia has a good market for its coal in Pacific countries, but it is experiencing labour disputes. As South Africa comes out of isolation, it will surely sell to less-developed African countries. That leaves China, Russia and Poland. China will probably be a net importer of coal, and as Russia and Poland develop, they will have less and less to export. Yet, in the short term, the Bill will destroy our productive pits, and in the long term it will make us dependent on countries whose unreliability I have just enunciated.

The hon. Member for Doncaster, North (Mr. Welsh) said that, once a pit closes, it stays closed. A coal mine cannot be mothballed and be expected to be of any use within a few years if the international supply position changes.

I say to my hon. Friends who are thinking of voting for the Bill that it is not a protectionist measure. British Coal will have completed its restructuring by 1995. In view of the trauma which it, miners and their families have gone through to enable it to be able to achieve its aims by 1995, we should not have these port facilities until that time. By then, more long-term contracts for the electricity supply industry will have been settled, international prices and supplies will have settled to long-term levels and we will be well aware of the international position.

If the Bill were asking us to close a port to protect an industry, I would have nothing to do with it—this answers my hon. Friend the Member for Rochford (Dr. Clark) —yet arbitrarily and deliberately to create facilities that will strike at the heart of one of our indigenous industries would be a wicked thing to do. We owe a great debt to the coal miner in this country, particularly over the past 10 years, but we owe an even greater debt to the coal miner in Nottinghamshire. For those reasons, I shall continue strongly to oppose the Bill.

8.25 pm
Mr. Peter Hardy (Wentworth)

I was brought up in nonconformity. We always rejoiced when sinners repented. I am therefore delighted to follow the hon. Member for Newark (Mr. Alexander). The nonconformist welcomed the reformed sinner and said, "Do not sin again," but unfortunately the hon. Member for Newark and his hon. Friends, who happily will join us in the Lobby tonight, will in future vote with the Government, whose position logically they perceive as completely inappropriate to the British economy.

My hon. Friend the Member for Midlothian (Mr. Eadie) spelt out the economic realities. We are building a dependence on imported energy at a time when our balance of payments is in an appalling position. Conservative Members cannot dispute that we have the highest balance of payments in the civilised world. However, we are seeing a determined attempt to compound that difficulty. Economically, the Bill represents a profound danger, which was perceived in the opinions which the hon. Member for Rochford (Dr. Clark) offered the House. As I said to the Minister, the House deals in legislation and not in opinion or documents.

I am glad that some Conservative Members will vote with us tonight, but I am sad that the hon. Member for Derbyshire, South (Mrs. Currie) is not in her place, because she did my constituency a profound disservice a little while ago. When British Coal decided to reduce its scientific laboratories from two to one, it decided that the laboratory at Wath upon Dearne in my constituency, which has enormous unemployment, should close and move to Bretby in the constituency of the hon. Member for Derbyshire, South where there are no pits at all.

I assumed that that step was taken by British Coal—it is noted for taking decisions that are not always intelligent —to ensure that the hon. Lady remained one of the few Conservatives who supported the industry. I thought that it was providing a sweetener for her because her eggs had turned sour. Obviously, the moment that British Coal decided to locate the laboratory there, she decided that she would not remain one of the pro-coal minority on the Conservative Benches. She can now be attacking, offensive and damaging to the industry. She was most ungracious in her speech, with her new attitude to the coal industry. Hon. Members who have spoken in coal debates over a long time know that before she got egg on her face she was a consistent supporter of the industry that she now spurns.

The hon. Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes (Mr. Brown) spoke about £30 million of investment in the new port, but how many scores of millions, if not billions, of pounds of investment in coal mines over the past 20 years under successive Administrations since the "Plan for Coal" will simply be wiped out by the Bill? Pits will close on which millions of pounds have been spent in the past 20 years. My hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley, West and Penistone (Mr. McKay) and I were talking yesterday about huge investment by British Coal in a plant at the side of the M1 motorway at Woolley, which every hon. Member will have seen. Some £40 million or £50 million has been invested—more than the cost of the port—yet as a result of the Bill that will almost certainly become what my hon. Friend described as a white elephant. The Bill will wipe out recent and substantial investment which dwarfs the investment proposed for the port.

Every hon. Member perceives the inevitable contraction of the industry, no matter what camouflage they attempt. The Bill will destroy a large part of the remaining home base of our important engineering and technological industry. The whole mining engineering industry will be affected. [Interruption.] I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley, Central (Mr. Illsley) for drawing my attention to another piece of evidence of the Government's interest in the Bill.

The Government have been telling us for months that they are not in the slightest interested in it. Now in comes no other than the Prime Minister's Parliamentary Private Secretary, the hon. Member for Morecambe and Lunesdale (Mr. Lennox-Boyd), to consult the hon. Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes, the sponsor of the Bill. No doubt the right hon. Lady will want to know the score and will be worried about the powerful arguments advanced by the hon. Member for Newark and others who share our detestation of the measure. I hope that when the hon. Member for Morecambe and Lunesdale leaves the Chamber he will tell his mistress, "Don't be on the losing side tonight. Stay in No. 10; then we shall not be associated with defeat." Defeat should certainly be the fate of this measure.

My final point—I do not think that my voice will hold out much longer—is this. On Monday I was with a group of people visiting Wath upon Dearne in my constituency to consider a serious problem that we face. I pointed to the east, where as far as I could see there was dereliction. I pointed to the west, and as far as we could see there was dereliction. There were hundreds of acres of land with closed marshalling yards, coking plants and science laboratories, and pit after pit had been closed in the past three or four years. Those hundreds of acres of dereliction and despoliation present my community and this country with enormous problems.

It is difficult to secure investment in such areas when the interest rate in the marketplace is 16 or 17 per cent. That is one of the problems that we face in Britain. It is not certain that we should have the industrial muscle to take advantage of the port facilities proposed in the Bill, because of the effect of current economic policies on investment.

As far as I could see to the east and to the west and in the middle of the Dearne valley, there was dereliction, despoliation and need. For a Government or a party—we had better say party in this context—deliberately to support a Bill which will cause those intense and extensive difficulties to be repeated on a wider scale in other areas would be a criminal act.

I am glad that there are a few repentant sinners on the Conservative Benches. I only hope that there will be enough of us in the Lobby with common sense to make sure that the Bill is defeated.

8.32 pm
Mr. Jack Thompson (Wansbeck)

Before I begin the main part of my speech, may I refer to a comment made by the hon. Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes (Mr. Brown) at the beginning of his speech. He almost flippantly suggested that coal imports have nothing to do with the Bill. It is clear to me that the purpose of the Bill is to provide a facility to allow large ships to come into Immingham, where now only small ships can enter, with coal from Rotterdam. It is obvious from the proceedings of the private Bill Committee that the main issue discussed there was the effect on the coal industry. Almost everything else seemed to be put to one side.

Like many other hon. Members, I decided to re-examine all the documentation and records available to me for the debate this evening. Since the Bill was first presented in the House two years and two months ago —that is a historic length of time—until tonight's debate, it has had a stormy passage. Originally, the Bill seemed to be marginally contentious, but it has caused justifiable interest and opposition.

The delays in processing the Bill have in many ways been fortunate. If it had received its Third Reading in May 1989, as originally intended, world events in the past six months would not have influenced opinion. I believe that world events should influence opinion on this issue.

I congratulate the Committee on its deliberations. It is evident from its wish to produce a special report and present it to the House that the proposal to use the port facility for coal imports was of the greatest concern to it. It brought the attention of the House and of the Government to what it believed would be the potential disastrous effects of large-scale coal imports. That is precisely the reason why Associated British Ports brought the Bill before the House.

I found some aspects of the Committee's report particularly interesting, especially the reference in paragraph 20 to the petitioners' assessment of the amount of coal likely to be imported. That assessment could be correct, depending on the state of the international market. I also agree with the Committee's view that 15 collieries and 15,000 jobs will probably be lost.

I am disappointed that the hon. Member for Derbyshire, South (Mrs. Currie) is not here. She said that her constituency has workshops on an experimental base only. I should like to tell her that, if the jobs in the mining industry go, so will the workshops. I have experience of that in my constituency, and it has happened in many other mining areas.

Vast areas of coal will be permanently sterilised. That will have an effect on local communities. The report suggests that the knock-on effect will be felt only in Nottinghamshire, south Yorkshire and Derbyshire. My view is slightly different. I believe that the effect will be far more widespread. If British Coal considers closing more pits in the face of competition from imported coal, it is probable that the least economic pits—despite their potential and coal reserves—will be the first to go. That may mean that collieries in other parts of Britain—the north-east and Wales—will close. The issue is of concern to all hon. Members with coal mining interests in their constituencies.

The Committee also commented—it is printed in heavy type in its report: In our view, it is the Government's duty to take whatever steps are necessary, in the overall national interest, to protect the indigenous coal mining industry. We should all agree with that view. I commend the Committee for its wisdom in making that observation. It foresaw—deliberately, or by accident—that world events in the period after it produced the report would change the whole perspective of energy production and export. Many of the major countries which export coal to Britain are going through traumatic political and economic changes which could seriously affect their ability to supply coal to Britain. The potential loss of domestic production, which is difficult if not impossible to recover, could significantly influence our economy.

International sources of coal imports, such as China, Russia, Poland and South Africa, are suspect in terms both of heavily subsidised coal production and of reliability. I was glad to hear the hon. Member for Newark remark on that. I had the opportunity to visit China in May and June last year during the student demonstrations. I was there as a member of the Western European Union defence committee. We witnessed some of the activities in Peking, Shanghai and Canton—demonstrations and other activities—and the deteriorating relationship between the Chinese Government and the demonstrators. In the end, the Government used violent and horrific means to quell further demonstrations.

I saw something there which I am sure will continue well into the future. Some time in the near future, the issue of democracy in China will be raised again and a long period of instability will ensue. China is a source of imported coal to Britain, and in my view it will be a very unreliable supplier.

We are all aware of the welcome changes taking place in Russia, but recent events point to domestic problems, one of which involves Russian miners. That instability will affect that country's ability to provide reliable supplies. Russia is another country with the potential to export coal which will not be in a position to do so for many years to come.

Poland has also moved on politically. Polish miners have been in the forefront of change. They seek a better quality of life. The price of that could be higher coal prices as well as unstable exports. Although I was pleased to learn that the Government are offering assistance to the new Polish regime, I hope that that will not take the form of support for Polish coal subsidies.

Perhaps I am an optimist for suggesting that significant changes are in the offing in South Africa—I hope without much more blood being spilt. Perhaps the hidden subsidies of low pay and low safety levels will be removed from South African mines. If there is no real attempt to reform apartheid, however, stronger sanctions should be imposed, especially on coal imports. I expect that the next Labour Government will apply those sanctions as soon as they come to office.

I shall not support the Bill, because I believe that we need a strong indigenous coal industry, which should be expanded. With positive marketing attitudes we could tonight be discussing coal exports rather than coal imports.

8.40 pm
Mr. Kevin Barron (Rother Valley)

It is important to draw attention to our balance of payments and its effect on energy source imports. Many hon. Members will be familiar with the circumstances of the past 20 years. They will recall the 1970s when the cost of oil, imported into this country for electricity generation, increased.

In the 1970s, however, we began to see a gradual improvement in our energy needs deficit as North sea oil came on stream. In 1981 we moved into surplus for the first time in many years. That surplus peaked in 1983 at some 29.3 million tonnes of energy. In 1988, however, the surplus stood at just 9 million tonnes. Last year my hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson) produced figures for the first 10 months of 1989 which showed that the fuel trade deficit was some 15.4 million tonnes and gave a projected deficit for the year of about 18.5 million tonnes. That deficit is incredible when one considers our natural energy assets—we have many riches in terms of coal, oil and gas. The fact that we have moved into a deficit in our energy supplies in such a short time, given the expansion of those fuel industries, is a sign of a badly run Government energy policy.

At 1985 prices, the value of our surplus in 1986 was £6.4 billion. That was a great benefit to the British economy, but in the first 10 months of 1989 the sum had been reduced to just £76 million. We should also remember that, at the same time, it cost us £222 million to buy French electricity. In money terms, we are approaching a deficit in our energy supplies, yet we are such an energy-rich country.

After many years of argument we shall shortly vote on the Bill which, if passed, will take a major tranche from our energy industries. The country will head towards a larger energy supply deficit despite our natural resources. Many countries would love to possess just a small percentage of our energy reserves.

It is obvious that the Bill has been driven through the House and through Committee with scant regard for our national interest. The hon. Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes (Mr. Brown) once again said that the Bill was not necessarily about coal imports. He also spoke of the new contract that has been settled between British Coal and the new electricity generators. Every hon. Member should know that that contract is an interim one for the next three years only and that it includes the 10 million tonne loss that British Coal incurred on the market last year. That contract is ideal as it will nicely bridge the gap between now and the building of the port terminal. The contract that will follow will no doubt mark a further major reduction in the demand for British coal.

Mr. Redmond

If the hon. Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes (Mr. Brown) said that he accepted that no coal should be imported through the new proposed port facility, I am sure that that assurance would assist my hon. Friends to support the Bill. He could give that assurance now if he so desired.

Mr. Barron

My hon. Friend will know as well as I do that British Coal tabled an amendment to the Bill in Committee with that precise purpose. It wanted an assurance that, for a short time only, no coal would be imported and it sought that amendment to protect the coal industry. The amendment was rejected.

Mr. Michael Brown

Let me respond to the intervention from the hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. Redmond). It is not for me to decide whether coal is imported; it is for customers to decide whether they want to buy British coal. It is for the users of the port, exporters or importers, to decide upon that given the market conditions.

Mr. Barron

The hon. Gentleman is not always consistent, and that intervention suggests that he has shifted his position a little. A few years ago I recall him saying that the Bill had nothing to do with coal imports and that the terminal would be used for purposes other than for importing coal.

Mr. Illsley

My hon. Friend was right to say that the contract between British Coal and the new electricity generators is an interim one. It is also important to consider the fixed-term nature of that contract. There will be no price increase in the cost of that coal for the next three years. If inflation continues at its present rate or increases, as it is likely to do under this Government, the contract will represent a net loss and a net price reduction to British Coal.

Mr. Barron

I do not know the exact details of the contract, but it has been mooted in the press—normally it gets to know about such matters well before Parliament —that that is likely to be the case. In the next three years, as in the past three years, further reductions in the price of British coal are likely. It is a great pity that, in the past three years, we have not seen commensurate reductions in the price of electricity. The cost of electricity increased so that the industry could be floated without debt. That has been achieved at a great cost to the electricity consumer, industrial and domestic.

No one will disagree when I say that the natural catchment area for the new port will be the Aire valley, the lower Trent valley and the power stations that they contain. Those power stations are largely served from collieries in the Nottinghamshire and Yorkshire coalfields. There are six specific power stations in that area—Drax, Ferrybridge, Eggborough, Thorpe Marsh, West Burton and Cottam. In 1987–88 those six power stations took some 34 million tonnes of British Coal's output—nearly half the total of British Coal's sales to the Central Electricity Generating Board. It is obvious that there is a strategic significance about a port on the Humber rather than in any other area.

All the power stations in that area are supplied by collieries of the north-east, Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire or Derbyshire. If the port is developed and is used to import coal it will have its greatest effect on the power station at West Burton. In 1987–88 that station drew 4 million tonnes of coal from the Nottinghamshire coalfields. It is also worth considering the effect on Cottam power station, in Nottinghamshire. On 6 January an article appeared in the Financial Times by Maurice Samuelson, who knows a great deal about the generation of electricity from British coal supplies. He described what is already happening in the catchment area and made some specific reference to Cottam when he said: Some 40,000 tonnes of Australian coal were tried out last week at the Trent Valley's Cottam power station, owned by the PowerGen division of the Central Electricity Generating Board. Colombian coal has also been tested there. The article continues: Like similar trials carried out by the bigger National Power company, the aim is to prove the burning characteristics of different coals We all know that this is precisely what is behind the proposals that have been in front of us since May 1988. There can be no doubt that the 10 million tonnes of imported coal coming into the catchment area will have a major regional impact, putting at risk almost a third of the British coal supplies to those major power stations. Such a large reduction in the market would inevitably result in substantial closure of deep mine capacity. It would be impossible to rearrange the overall market for coal to avoid the greatest number of closures taking place in Nottinghamshire and Yorkshire, with Nottingham probably suffering the most. It is impossible to rearrange our internal market to stop that happening.

The hon. Member for Rochford (Dr. Clark), who has sat throughout this debate, chaired the Committee. That was contentious, not just because of the views expressed by Opposition Members but because many outside organisations petitioned against the Bill. We have commented on the special report that was published and I shall not repeat what was said at the time. My hon. Friend the Member for Wansbeck (Mr. Thompson) reported on it only too well. When I tabled a parliamentary question it became clear that the Government were not going to take any measures to protect the indigenous coal industry.

My hon. Friend the Member for Midlothian (Mr. Eadie) mentioned a letter from the Secretary of State for Energy in July that year, explaining in five-page detail that the Government would not take action to protect the British coal industry. If any hon. Member wants to protect the British coal industry, he or she should join us in the Lobby to vote against the Bill's Third Reading.

Dr. Michael Clark

It is too early to say whether the Government will take measures to protect the coal industry. The idea of the special report to which the hon. Gentleman referred is to alert the Government to the dangers to the coal industry should the port facility—if and when built—be used heavily for coal importation. The Committee decided—granted, with my casting vote—that there was a need for a port facility, but there was a danger if that facility was used too much for coal and that the Government should be alerted to that danger. It is too early to say whether the Government will respond to that danger.

Mr. Barron

I am grateful for that intervention. I shall read out the first sentence of the answer given to me by the Secretary of State for Energy on 30 October 1989. It states: It is not this Government's policy to restrict imports of coal."—[Official Report, 30 October 1989; Vol. 159, col. 21.] I shall give the latest news about what is likely to happen in the coal industry. During the past five years, while there has been a tremendous increase in productivity, of which all Members should be proud, the industry has suffered job losses of more than 100,000.

On 9 January the Financial Times reported that a source of "senior coal industry officials" warned of another 5,000 job losses each year for the next three years in the British coal industry. That is without any increase in imports through the port facility proposed tonight.

The effects are only too plain. The Government say that it is not a matter for them, but, as has been mentioned, Government Departments have to pay out special assistance, whether to the coal industry in restructuring grants for 70 per cent. of the cost of colliery closures or to other organisations in coalfield areas to pay for the damage that they have already suffered through past closures.

Mr. Eadie

Further to the intervention of the hon. Member for Rochford (Dr. Clark), I should like to put on record a quote from the Secretary of State for Energy's letter. It states: In responding to the Committee's concern, I must emphasise that it has never been the Government's policy to restrict the import of coal. Decisions on coal purchases, whether from indigenous or imported sources, must be for the commercial judgement of those concerned, on the basis of a willing buyer and willing seller. It would be quite wrong to compel coal users to purchase supplies from British Coal by denying them the right to buy from the supplier of their choice. But neither would we prevent coal users from buying as much coal as they would wish from British Coal. That is a policy of "you go first and I'll go before you." Contrary to what the hon. Member for Rochford said, the Government have made up their mind.

Mr. Barron

I am grateful for my hon. Friend's intervention. There should be no question in anybody's mind and there is no way that any hon. Member can avoid the issue if there is a Division on Third Reading later tonight.

Money has gone from other Government organisations to coalfields that have already suffered from closures and we should avoid any further British colliery closures being caused by the Bill. I have a news release dated 9 January 1990 from the Rural Development Commission. I did not know about that organisation until I received the press release, but I have made inquiries and it is totally Government-funded to look after problems in rural areas. The Department of the Environment has given the commission permission to set up projects in the British coalfields. The press release states that this is in the light of circumstances which have now arisen in the midlands areas following pit closures. It continues: Particular emphasis will be given to those areas where unemployment rates have remained high—East Derbyshire, North Nottinghamshire and South Yorkshire. The precise areas that are now suffering will suffer further if the Bill is enacted. It could not be clearer for anybody to see the implications of what will happen if the Bill is passed tonight.

Hon. Members should ensure that they do not sit wringing their hands about the position in the one or two pits that may be affected, but should consider the major effects that the Bill will have on the country and the coalfields, and vote with us against the Bill's Third Reading.

8.57 pm
Mr. Andy Stewart (Sherwood)

My views opposing the Bill have been well noted in previous debates, but I shall remind the House of the dangers of the Bill receiving a Third Reading tonight. The Associated British Ports proposals strike at the heart of Britain's coal industry arid coal-fired power generating capacity. The proposed port will most directly threaten the collieries of the east midlands and Nottinghamshire, which have already paid a heavy price for British Coal's rationalisation and restructuring programme. Such communities face the loss of more efficient and productive pits, many of which have received substantial investment in recent years. More than 25 collieries in the east midlands have been identified as at risk from the Humber port. Up to 10 will be displaced by between 4 million and 5 million tonnes of foreign coal, and at least 15 will be closed by a 10-million-tonne importation, putting 24,000 miners at risk.

Coalfield economies are highly dependent on the coal industry and a multiplier of two is a realistic assessment of the knock-on effect of the loss of one mining job—thus, every colliery job lost will lead to another lost in another sector. If 15 collieries closed, the total impact would be the loss of about 30,000 jobs.

The areas affected are those that already have very few job opportunities. For example, six of the 15 travel-to-work areas at risk lie in the botton 10 per cent. of travel-to-work areas, graded by long-term unemployment. The coalfield communities threatened by imports already face a range of economic, social and environmental handicaps. Employment structures have been dominated by coal and other basic industries, with a marked lack of the service sector engine of regeneration. Environmental quality is poor and land reclamation programmes will take decades to tackle the dereliction. If all the collieries at risk were to close, another 2,500 hectares would require reclamation—

Mr. Allan Rogers (Rhondda)

I accept the hon. Gentleman's point about the communities that will he most intimately involved—the midlands and Yorkshire —but I assure him that the port will affect coal mining communities right across the country, particularly in south Wales, where British Coal recently issued a circular to all households receiving concessionary coal, apologising for the fact that the company had to give them inferior imported English coal instead of good Welsh house coal. British Coal suggested to the users, most of whom are elderly, that they should carry out certain practices to reduce the pollution from the low quality coal. The knock-on effects will be felt in other coalfields, too.

Mr. Stewart

I apologise for concentrating on my deep anxiety about my constituency of Sherwood, but the hon. Gentleman is correct about the knock-on effect penetrating Wales—

Mr. Barron

If the hon. Gentleman is so concerned about the knock-on effect, why did he say nothing when the Blidworth colliery in his constituency recently closed?

Mr. Stewart

I do not wish to delay the House by going over what I said about the closure of that colliery, but I am quite prepared to give the hon. Gentleman all the records of what I said here and in the local press.

High import levels raise the prospect of greater road transport of coal. Nottinghamshire county council secured payments from the CEGB for damage to roads from the increase in road movements during the 1984–85 strike. The loss of pits removes an important source of revenue from central and local government, whatever types of rates and collection are used.

I contend that the dramatic improvement in the fortunes of British Coal, the massive investment by Government and the enormous changes already borne by the coalfield communities should not be squandered for the illusory benefits of foreign coal. Development of the Humber port will severely damage the economies and communities of areas that have fallen progressively further behind the wealthier regions of this country. For these reasons I shall oppose the Third Reading.

9.2 pm

Mr. Geoffrey Lofthouse (Pontefract and Castleford)

Like many other Opposition Members, I was born into a mining community and worked in mining all my life before coming to this place. I want to tell Conservative Members, especially those who represent Nottinghamshire, that although I understand that they are representing the interests of their constituents and opposing the threat to their livelihoods, I take great exception to the way in which the miners whom I have loved all my life have been deliberately deceived in the past.

After past debates on the Bill I was sick in the guts to read press reports that Nottinghamshire Conservative Members had accused the Opposition of not blocking the Bill. It was never reported that Conservative Members had told their constituents that the Conservative Government and their supporters were pushing the Bill through the House—a Bill that was going to close many Nottinghamshire pits. Miners are genuine, hard-working people and they are not to be deceived. Conservative Members representing Nottinghamshire know that as a result of tonight's vote the Bill will be passed and many pits in Nottinghamshire and elsewhere will close.

Since the early days of the Bill, all hon. Members have known that it has had Government support. On the first occasion we saw the Prime Minister leading her troops through the Lobby in the early hours. I and other hon.

Members have sat through every step of the debate on the Bill. Indeed, I sat through most of the debates in Committee.

I was aware of the unenviable task that faced the Chairman of the Committee and his Conservative colleagues. They were aware of the Government's support for the Bill, although I do not suggest that they were anything but impartial. Having said that, I hope that the hon. Member for Rochford (Dr. Clark)—the Chairman of the Committee—will tell us whether, had he been aware that the Government were not going to take into consideration the wishes of the special report and give consideration to the effect on the mining communities, he would have given his casting vote. With greatest respect to the hon. Gentleman, I do not share his view that the Government still have time. Had the Government intended to make a statement arising from the special report, they would have done so tonight.

Dr. Michael Clark

The hon. Gentleman's last comment anticipated the answer that I had intended to give him. It was the answer I gave in my intervention in the speech of the hon. Member for Rother Valley (Mr. Barron). I said that I still think that there is plenty of time for the Government to take whatever steps are necessary to protect the coal industry should that facility be used heavily for the importation of coal. As for my voting intentions tonight, I shall be abstaining, following the pattern that is traditional for Chairmen of Committees. Indeed, I have abstained in all Divisions since I took the Chair, as have many other Committee Members.

Mr. Lofthouse

I should be grateful if the hon. Gentleman could say what is meant by the phrase, "taking all the necessary steps to protect the mining communities." I was astounded to hear the hon. Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes (Mr. Brown) say what he did because he has sat for years on the Energy Select Committee taking evidence on the coal report and the Electricity Bill. Without exception, he has heard much expert evidence from different chairmen of British Coal, different Secretaries of State for Energy and Lord Marshall, all of whom at some time conceded that the importation of coal means the running down of the mining industry.

Recently Malcolm Edwards, the marketing director of British Coal, told the Committee that the ports were to be extended for the major purpose of the importation of coal. That is a fact and the House knows it. If the mining industry is run down to 60 million tones—I am aware that under the new agreement it goes to 65 million tonnes in three years—and the press statement from British coal is true, the figures must be renegotiated in three years time and reduced to the magic figure of 60 million tonnes—the magic figure in that leaked document. It has never been denied. In five years time that will coincide with the extension of the ports, which will be ready to receive a further 5 million tonnes. That means the loss of 30,000 miners' jobs over and above the 27,000 that have been lost in the past five years.

In the mining communities in 1989 the average age of the workforce was 34, so without the attractive redundancy payments that miners over 50 have received hitherto those young men will be without any future prospects or even any weekly payments to cushion the blow. When we are told that the Government will take steps in relation to the mining communities, what sort of steps are meant? In fact, no steps at all will be taken, and the hon. Member for Rochford knows that only too well.

It is clear to many people, certainly to my hon. Friends and 1, that what is proposed is all part of Government policy to run down the mining industry for purely dogmatic reasons. The Government are prepared to finance, at great expense to the taxpayer, 20 per cent. of nuclear supply to the electricity industry. Nobody knows the true cost of that. Recent figures put to the Select Committee on Energy by British Nuclear Fuels gave a decommissioning cost at present prices of £4.6 billion. Nobody can possibly know what the true cost will be if and when decommissioning becomes necessary in due course.

It is clear that the Government are prepared to spend a lot to run down the mining industry and extend the ports. Once we reach a demand level of 60 million tonnes, the coal industry will have been run down to such an extent that we shall not be able to meet the demand from the electricity industry. We will then be in the hands of foreign competitors. The additional demand for coal will have to be met by coal from abroad. For how long then will prices stay low?

It is deceitful to try to shelter behind a document stating that the Government will bear in mind the consequences of what is proposed in the mining industry. I have tried to explain those consequences. I urge hon. Members tonight to think carefully before taking a drastic decision. No Conservative Member can put his hand on his heart and say that further imports will not be necessary. It is clear that the proposed extension of the ports is designed to cater for the rapid rundown of the industry and of miners' jobs. Before that takes place, we have a moral obligation to the mining communities, many of which, like mine, have already been destroyed. It must be made clear what will be done for those communities before such a drastic step is taken.

I appeal to the hon. Member for Rochford and all Conservative Members to give serious consideration to the points that I have raised. They should join us in throwing out the Bill, at least until we have received firm assurances on behalf of the mining communities.

9.12 pm
Mr. Nicholas Bennett (Pembroke)

I was wondering why we had not seen in his place the hon. Member for Dagenham (Mr. Gould). Having heard the hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Ms. Ruddock) and other Opposition Members, I now know why the hon. Member for Dagenham has not joined us. After all, he was the architect of the Labour party policy document about making the change and meeting the challenge or making the challenge and meeting the change. I cannot recall the precise title of that document. Whatever it was, it was a vacuous title of meaningless words.

Mr. Eadie


Mr. Hood

On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. Is the hon. Gentleman in order in treating the House with such frivolous disrepect when we are discussing an important Bill?

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Paul Dean)

Order. Mr. Bennett.

Mr. Bennett

If the hon. Gentleman thinks that the policy document to which I referred was frivolous, I agree with him. It is clear from what has transpired tonight that that cleverly packaged, well-written, meaningless policy document was designed to convince us that the Labour party had become consumer friendly, was in favour of competition, was against monopoly and wanted to get rid of the big bad old nationalised industries and their poor ways. But we find that, when Labour Members are scratched, they really want to go back to the good old days of anti-competition, import controls and restrictions on industry. They want to stop anybody importing and companies setting up businesses in this country, and they do not want new ports. They want a siege economy. The Opposition do not want industrial change. They want a nice cosy monopoly for the National Union of Mineworkers.

Mr. Eadie

I wish that the hon. Gentleman had given way earlier. He was a bit rude. I had intended to assist him. My hon. Friend the Member for Dagenham (Mr. Gould) wrote to me and apologised for not being able to be here to contribute to the debate. He is on unavoidable business elsewhere. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will accept his apologies in good faith.

Mr. Bennett

The hon. Gentleman says that the hon. Member for Dagenham is unavoidably away. I am not surprised. If he were here he would see that all the revisionism of the last 12 months has been swept away in one night and that we are back to the good old-fashioned Labour party of the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. If the hon. Member for Dagenham could see that he would be ashamed.

Mr. Flannery

You nasty man.

Mr. Bennett

The hon. Member, who is an expert in nastiness, accuses me of being nasty. I was merely pointing out for his edification that the underlying opposition to the Bill is opposition to competion. All the arguments used to oppose the Bill have been used by protectionists over the years to oppose any competition from abroad to British industry. It has not done British industry any good to be protected for 100 years. Competition has improved it and that has been brought about by market forces and by the customer having an alternative.

The Labour party wants to ensure that there is no alternative and that the customer is forced to use the product of an industry dominated by one trade union by which many Opposition Members are sponsored. That is the real reason for their fervent opposition to the Bill.

Mr. Illsley

When the hon. Gentleman talks about competition, is he referring to fair competition or to competition from countries such as Colombia with its drug industry and its child labour? Is he talking about South Africa? We have heard much in the debate about the situation in Colombia, South Africa and China. Has he considered the £1.2 billion that our coal industry has paid to the Central Electricity Generating Board since 1980? If price reductions had not been forced on British Coal over the past 10 years British Coal would be profitable even now. British Coal has paid out hundreds of millions of pounds in interest charges every year for the last decade to the Government, who paid over the money to the CEGB to fatten it up before privatisation. We are not afraid of competition. British Coal can compete with some of the best, but it cannot compete with unfair competition.

Mr. Bennett

Clearly the hon. Gentleman has not been following proceedings on the Coal Industry Bill. At the moment the Government are writing off a British Coal debt of between £4 billion and £5 billion. If the coal industry can claim to be supported by any Government, it is the present Government.

We are talking about the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes (Mr. Brown) having the opportunity for a £30 million investment in the construction of a new port. Any hon. Member who had the opportunity for such investment in his constituency would be fighting for it. I congratulate my hon. Friend on speaking up for his constituency. I would be delighted to have a £30 million investment in my constituency. In my area we are considering an application by the CEGB to import coal to Milford Haven. I warmly support that because the customer comes first and the best way to improve the performance of British Coal and our mining industry is by the force of competition from abroad. We are faced with a balance of payments deficit, and it is wrong to try to get round it by setting up a siege economy and banning imports. We should improve the competitiveness of British industry so that it can compete with foreign imports and sell abroad.

Mr. Michael Brown

Does my hon. Friend recall that when I was first elected to the House I represented a steel industry constituency and that Britain had a large, monopolistic supplier of steel? That industry had to compete with foreign steel and, as a result of having to face international competition, it is now one of the most successful industries in the world. It is profitable and private and serves the customer. That is an example for the coal industry that protectionism does no industry any good.

Mr. Bennett

My hon. Friend is right. One has only to look at the shake-up in British Steel in the early 1980s following the disastrous strike at the beginning of the 1980s led by Mr. Bill Sirs. The British steel industry, having shed a large part of its work force, has become lean, competitive and able to compete abroad. For example, in Llanwern in south Wales, half the labour force now produces twice as much. That is the way forward for British Coal and for other old-fashioned nationalised industries that for too long have been protected.

I am concerned that tonight we have the same old-fashioned, anti-competitive, monopolistic views from the Labour party. It has not changed its real policies one jot. When we have a debate such as this, away goes the glitz and the fancy packaging and out comes the reality of the Labour party, wedded to the union block vote, to sponsorship and to the views of the masters who put Labour Members into this place. They are not interested in competition; they are interested only in protecting their own industry from the forces of competition which every other industry in Britain has to face.

It would be a sad day for Britain if the Bill were defeated tonight. It would mean that the customer did not come first. It would mean that the producer, the supplier, came first, and that would not be right for the future of British industry. I hope that the Bill will receive its Third Reading.

9.21 pm
Mr. Pat Wall (Bradford, North)

I apologise for my voice. I am recovering from a chest infection.

The Bill has helped to give rise to misgivings about the private Bill procedure. It, above all private Bills, has created disquiet. Having been a member of the Committee that considered the Bill for five and a half months, I can well understand why.

You, Mr. Deputy Speaker, do not wear a wig, but you wear another hat as Chairman of Ways and Means, and you are conducting an inquiry into the private Bill procedure. Some months ago, you said that hon. Members who sat on private Bill Committees should be objective, fair and reasonable.

As I understand it, private Bills basically relate to planning permission, and that can be controversial. A major development in any area can affect the environment or the community, but it is not usually as politically sensitive as this Bill has been.

Four Back Benchers, three of them of only a few months' standing, have served on the Committee considering the Bill. It dealt with imports and exports during a period when our balance of payments deficit increased from £2 billion to £20 billion. It dealt with attempts to regenerate parts of south Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire that were savagely hit by the decline of industry in the past. The Bill is deeply political in a way that no private Bill should be.

The Bill has been intertwined with, and has taken the place of, Government legislation, by opening the door to the privatisation of the electricity industry. The sponsor says that it does not necessarily have anything to do with the future of the coal industry. The truth is that I and other hon. Members considered the Bill in Committee for five and a half months, in 26 double sessions. Advice on that Bill and on an adjacent Bill came from the well-known management consultants Coopers and Lybrand, who stated that, excluding scrap, iron ore and coal, the ports on the Humber could develop only to the tune of 8 per cent. more business between 1982 and 1987, which is less than 2 per cent. a year.

On the basis of the figures presented to the Committee by the promoters of the Bill, there is no justification for expenditure of £30.5 million at 1988 prices and of development costs of as much as £370 million at Immingham on the basis of the trade expected there, if coal is excluded. Steel and scrap is dealt with by British Steel using its own facilities, so the only product that could be imported is coal.

The Committee was wholly political, in that its two Conservative members voted for the Bill and against amendments, whereas two Labour members voted against the Bill—and having failed to defeat it, then voted for the amendments. We know full well about people who take the chair and use their vote. Bradford has had two Tory lord mayors who helped to pass all kinds of controversial measures over the past 18 months by using their casting vote.

Mr. Redmond

Does my hon. Friend agree that it would be safe to draw the conclusion that the usual channels manipulated the selection of the Chairman of that Committee? Labour and Conservative Members take it in turns to chair Committees, and by manipulating that convention it was possible to ensure that the Committee's Chairman would be a Conservative, who could influence the result of the voting.

Mr. Wall

My hon. Friend knows more about such procedures than I do, as a relatively new Member of this House. Two Bills were taken together, and the normal procedure would be for an Opposition Member to chair one of the Committees and for a Government Member to chair the other. If that had been done, the Opposition too would have had a casting vote.

The port in question cannot be for any purpose other than the importation of coal. In response to the hon. Member for Derbyshire, South (Mrs. Currie), cars are not brought in on Panamax ships of 80,000 and 100,000 tonnes. How many chemical manufacturers on Humberside import chemicals in those quantities? Not one. It only makes sense to compete against the ports of Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Antwerp—the ARA ports —if one can import a bulk cargo—and that can be nothing but coal.

I believe that the Committee's Tory members were embarrassed and under pressure, not from Conservative Members representing Nottinghamshire constituencies but from the Government, as a result of the hatred that resides in certain sections of the Tory party towards miners and mining communities. No such Committees would normally demand concessions from the promoter of a Bill unless even its Conservative Members were well aware that coal importation was the issue really at stake.

I am the grandson of a dock worker and was brought up politically on the Mersey docks, where I learned to debate and to fight politically among dockers and the dock industry. I have nothing against the development of Immingham or of any other port. However, only a madman would deliberately open a facility that cannot be economically viable or used sensibly except for importing coal. Even a little Englander does not deliberately set out to sabotage his own economy. The only cargo that can come in is coal and that coal can only replace coking coal that goes to the power stations in the Trent and Aire valleys, and that will mean the loss of miners' jobs.

I shall bring my contribution to an end with two quotations. Doctor Ben Fine told the private Bill Committee that the Bill would mean the deliberate importation of between 7 and 10 million tonnes of foreign coal into the Humber to ruin jobs. In Committee, we spoke of 15 pits and 15,000 jobs, and Doctor Fine said it could be 28 pits and 28,000 jobs. He went on to say: According to our figures, the economic and social costs of pit closures will be made up of three components. First, lump sum redundancy payments will be of the order of between £191 million and £360 million, depending upon the extent and consequences of transfers. Second the annual recurrent direct costs due to dole payments and lost income tax, etc. will be in the region of £150 million and this cost will be supplemented through the multiplier effect on other jobs by a further £100 million. Doctor Fine spoke of a total cost of more than £600 million, and of further devastation in areas such as south Yorkshire, Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire, upon an industry that has lost 97,000 jobs and has seen nearly 100 pits closed, with all the problems that that has already caused for those communities.

The Humber ports, without the deep anchorage, already import twice as much as they export.

Mr. Joseph Ashton (Bassetlaw)

While my hon. Friend is talking about losses, can he not mention the profits that the newly privatised electricity industry will make? They want to build a new power station in my constituency. It was promised, and then turned down by the Government. The electricity industry will make enormous profits out of the cheap coal that it can bring in. The two tie together, and that is one of the factors that the Government are riot stating.

Mr. Wall

Even that profitability is illusory. The case has been well argued. If we close the pits, if we go to 60 pits and 60 million tonnes, or, as many hon. Members think may be possible, to 50 pits, 50,000 miners and 50 million tonnes of coal, then we will be at ransom to the world fuel and coal markets. There is no way out of that.

The truth of the matter is that we have to realise that there is a serious political point to the Bill, which should not have gone to a private Bill Committee. If I go on to such a Committee again, in similar circumstances, I shall learn to be a guerrilla. I have always been opposed to guerrilla tactics to sabotage a Committee, but it is wrong that the Government's policy should be carried out in this way.

There are many Opposition Members here who represent mining communities. Some Conservative Members represent mining communities in Nottinghamshire. Because of the procedures of the Bill, what remains of their most vital industry is threatened. Existing jobs are threatened with dislocation and so are existing services. They are also threatened with a reversal of all that they and their local authorities have done so painstakingly to try to repair the damage caused by previous redundancies. That is the situation that those hon. Members face.

Because of the political nature of the Bill, it was not amended, and hon. Members have not had the opportunity to amend it on behalf of their electors—the miners, the mining communities and local authorities—so that the Bill can meet their needs.

9.34 pm
Mr. Alan Meale (Mansfield)

I shall be voting against the Bill for quite a few reasons. First, the Government have abused the private Bill procedure in an attempt to ensure that what should be a Government Bill reaches the statute book. Secondly, in view of the United Kingdom's current port capacity there is no need for such a Bill. Thirdly, if the legislation is enacted, many British coal mines will close. Fourthly, the intention is to import cheap foreign coal, mainly—despite the protestations of Conservative Members—from such countries as South Africa and Colombia, not Australia and the like. I was interested to hear Conservative Members say that most of the imports would come from China. Following events in Tiananmen square, that strikes me as weak reasoning.

Fifthly, I share with other Labour Members a feeling of deep distrust about the Committee's decision to allow the Bill to get this far. Sixthly, I believe that it is mainly aimed at helping the Government's friends in the City, rather than being concerned with the nation's needs. Seventhly, it reflects the Government's historic hatred of the coal mining industry, and particularly of its work force: it is not really to do with the nation's mineral reserves.

Eighthly, the Bill is concerned with the destruction of many mining communities. Ninthly, the British taxpayer will be paying for private profit through lost reserves and the money spent on unemployment and social security benefits, and other aid resources paid to the mining communities. Finally, the Bill's whole intention is to use energy resources for profiteering purposes, to the ultimate cost of the British public.

Let my explain my reasons in detail. First, most hon, Members who are now in the Chamber will agree that the use of the private Bill procedure rather than Government time is a disgrace to the House. Some hon. Members, especially those from Nottinghamshire, have again tried to use the weak excuse that this is not a Government-backed Bill. They, and any other hon. Member who is in any doubt, should recall the way in which, in the early hours of the morning, Ministers in their droves arrived to vote for it. There was evidence that whipping procedures were being used to bring more and more Conservative Members into the Aye Lobby—and, as has already been mentioned, on one occasion the Prime Minister herself turned up to vote for the Bill.

If any hon. Member needs further proof, he should look towards the Government Front Bench and observe the delicate piece of machinery called the Government Whip. He has sat there throughout the evening, cajoling his hon. Friends and reminding them that their time will come soon, when the Division Bell rings.

My second point relates to port capacity. The Government are pushing the Bill through for the sake of private profit, at a time when between 26 million and 30 million tonnes of port capacity is currently available and could adequately meet any extra needs. It is disgraceful that, through the use of the private Bill procedure, investment is being allowed that could lead to the loss of many coal mines in Britain. I pay tribute to the Coalfield Communities Campaign, which has done a great deal of work in this regard. It is supposed to be a cross-party organisation. A few Conservative Members, particularly those from Nottinghamshire, say that they support it. It says that 12 pits will close if the Bill is passed. It would also result in a threefold loss of coal-related jobs in the coal mining communities. If the Bill is passed, 40,000 to 42,000 people will lose their jobs in coal mining communities throughout the country, but particularly in Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire and Yorkshire.

Conservative Members used fringe arguments about coal imports. I have received a letter from an anti-apartheid organisation in South Africa which asks hon. Members to vote against the Bill. It would lead to the import of South African coal. Millions of tonnes of South African coal have already come here. It has been shipped to such places on the continent as Rotterdam and Ghent where it has been mixed with other coal and then brought to our shores, in particular to the north-east and Humberside. It is disgraceful that hon. Members, of whatever party, should allow that to happen. They should resist the importation of another 8 million to 10 million tonnes of cheap coal.

The hon. Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes (Mr. Brown) has had many free trips to South Africa. [HON. MEMBERS: "Disgraceful"] He wants the Bill to be given a Third Reading. Other Conservative Members who are likely to vote for the Bill should recall that, apart from South African coal, Colombian coal, dug by children of only eight years of age, is coming to this country. The Colombian Government manufacture drugs that are peddled around the world. Conservative Members ought to reflect on the fact that they will be supporting a Government who allow children to dig cheap coal in Colombian mines.

Opposition Members question whether the proceedings in Committee were correct. It is important to point out what happened on one occasion. During the debate a member of the Committee left his seat and spoke to a consultant. He gave him a message of support. In those circumstances, I question whether the Bill should have been allowed to proceed. It ought to have been referred to a new Committee for further consideration.

The Bill has to be placed alongside what the Government are trying to do to the coal mining and energy industries. They do not even try to hide the fact that they intend to privatise the supply of energy in order to provide a fast buck and a quick profit for their friends in the City.

To support the Bill would be an absolute disgrace and shame. I ask Conservative Members to vote with the Opposition and throw it out.

9.43 pm
Mr. Martin Redmond (Don Valley)

Opposition Members say that the Associated British Ports (No. 2) Bill should not be given a Third Reading. Unfortunately, many Conservartive Members have not listened to the arguments. Had they done so, they would not give it a Third Reading.

The hon. Members for Sherwood (Mr. Stewart), for Derbyshire, West (Mr. McLoughlin) and for Derbyshire, South (Mrs. Currie) should get to know what the industry is about. On previous occasions they have explained to the House why they oppose the Bill. Obviously, they were trying to kid their constituents and the Union of Democratic Mineworkers. At least they should be truthful when they tell their constituents that they are opposing the Bill for the right reasons.

It is a great pity that the country and the Government have not learnt any lessons. In 1972 Conservative Members applied the same philophy to cheap oil. Thank God we have a mining industry because the Tories were nearly caught with their pants down. Thank God that the mining industry survived. History shows that the coal industry can compete, given the same terms and understanding as are given to other British industries. It is a great pity that market forces dominate everything to the detriment of our country and that Government policies are motivated only by profit and greed.

It is a great pity that the hon. Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes (Mr. Brown) did not remain in his previous constituency instead of opting out. I feel sure that his former constituents in Scunthorpe would have been only too pleased to vote for his opponents. He put forward what he had done for his constituents as a model and then opted out without giving them a chance to show how they felt. Had he stayed, I am sure that his former constituents would have returned a different Member of Parliament.

If that had happened in days gone by, the Monarch would have sent for the Tories responsible and had their heads chopped off. The Government's policies are not in the long-term interest of the nation and should not be pursued.

Finally, if we are interested in humanity, we should be interested not only in Britain but in the world because we have a duty and an international commitment to humanity. The Bill seeks to import coal from South Africa and Colombia and that can be motivated only by profit and greed. It is a pity that the Bill was not amended in Committee because of the Chairman's casting vote. It stinks that the Government support it and there is no doubt whatsoever that there is a Whip on the Bill. This time it has not been put on paper, but it has got round by word of mouth. They are telling hon. Members to support the Bill to make sure that they get a Government job.

9.48 pm
Mr. Jimmy Hood (Clydesdale)

I shall be brief and to the point, which is very much in character, as the hon. Member for Sherwood (Mr. Stewart) will agree. The Bill is about closing pits and importing apartheid coal. The miners know it, the mining communities know it and a hell of a lot of people on both sides of the House know it. The Conservative Members who support the Bill also know it. The Government also support the Bill. Tonight, as we have seen throughout the proceedings on the Bill, the Government will bring out the payroll vote. The woman from the little flat above the shop will probably support the Bill in the Lobby tonight.

I am pleased that Conservative Members who represent Nottinghamshire constituencies oppose the Bill. We are told that four Parliamentary Private Secretaries oppose it, but I remember the days when, if a PPS felt strongly about an issue and wanted to be taken seriously, he made his views felt. If a Bill that will close a dozen Nottinghamshire pits is not a point of principle for a Nottinghamshire Member of Parliament, I do not know what is. I would have more faith in the sincerity of the hon. Member for Nottingham, South (Mr. Brandon-Bravo) and others if they said, "On a matter of principle I am resigning as a PPS", but they have not chosen to do so.

The miners' parliamentary group knows only too well the effect that the Bill will have on mining communities, as does the Coalfield Communities Campaign. To its credit, it has gone up and down the country putting the case for the coalfield communities. Unfortunately, one or two hypocrites have put their name to the campaign but have had no heart in it.

The hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Bennett) is playing the jester tonight. He talked about Labour Members wanting a cosy monopoly for Members sponsored by the National Union of Mineworkers. I shall remind him of the cosy monopoly that they have had since the Government took office in 1979. They have had 120 pit closures, over 150,000 miners have lost their jobs and a proposal in the Coal Industry Bill will lead to another 40,000 jobs being lost.

Mr. Nicholas Bennett

The hon. Gentleman complains about the number of pit closures under this Government. Will he remind the House of the pit closures record of the Labour Government under the stewardship of the right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn)?

Mr. Hood

I will not take up that point. Some Conservative Members who represent Nottinghamshire have seen 18,500 jobs lost in Nottinghamshire since 1979 but have said nothing about it. Another 10,000 to 12,000 jobs will he lost in Nottinghamshire.

We know the effect that the Bill will have on mining communities. I sincerely hope that some Conservative Members will have the guts to stand up for the communities and will not support the bovver boys of the South African Government.

9.52 pm
Mr. George J. Buckley (Hemsworth)

I am pleased to contribute to the debate, which has run over months and, indeed, years, to highlight the devastation that the Bill will cause if it is passed.

I am sure that its passing will have a major effect on my constituency and the general economy of the area that I represent. The decline of the British coal industry as a major employer in the mining communities has had a considerable and disastrous effect since 1985. Labour Members do not doubt that if the Bill is passed more than 25 collieries will be at risk.

The hon. Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes (Mr. Brown), who is talking to the hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Bennett) and not listening to the debate, said that the purpose of the Bill is to divert shipping from Rotterdam to the Humber port. That is an acceptance that the purpose of the Bill is to divert shipping off-loading coal in Rotterdam to the Humber ports.

I find it disdainful that the hon. Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes has tried to mislead the House by suggesting that the intention of the Bill is not the one that I have stated. My hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, North (Mr. Wall) was a member of the special Committee which considered the Bill. In his speech he made the relevant and salient point that the proposal could not be sustained economically without large imports of coal going through the port. It must be in the mind of the developer to import large amounts of coal.

The hon. Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes is contradicted by the developers, who readily admitted in the Committee that they would be able to import only 1.2 million tonnes of coal by 1993. Obviously they cannot import more than 2.5 million tonnes because the port will not be capable of handling more than that at that point. I suggest that the promoters of the Bill intend to expand the capacity of the ports precisely in order to increase the tonnage capacity from 2.5 million tonnes to a possible 10, 12 or 15 million tonnes. Conservative Members who deny that that is the purpose behind the Bill are blinded by their political disdain for miners and the mining industry.

Evidence was submitted to the private Bill Committee by the petitioners against the Bill about consequences of the proposed tonnage of imported coal. They suggested that 15 collieries would he closed with a loss of 15,000 jobs if, as British Coal suggests, 7 million tonnes of coal were imported.

Opposition Members are clear that the imposition of this private Bill will have major consequences on the mining industry. I hope that the House will reject it. It is ironic that those Conservative Members who oppose the Bill are the same hon. Members who supported the Union of Democratic Mineworkers in 1984 to 1985, who put the Government in the position that they are in today. The UDM miners will be the people most affected by the importation of coal which the Bill will allow. It is ironic that those miners, whom Conservative Members represent, will be most affected by the proposals on nuclear power stations.

Mr. Meale

Is my hon. Friend aware that already the noise—

Mr. Michael Brown

rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.

Question, That the Question be now put, put and agreed to.

Question put accordingly, That the Bill be now read the Third time:—

The House divided: Ayes 232, Noes 209.

Division No. 32] [9.59 pm
Aitken, Jonathan Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)
Amery, Rt Hon Julian Forth, Eric
Amess, David Fox, Sir Marcus
Arbuthnot, James Freeman, Roger
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) French, Douglas
Arnold, Tom (Hazel Grove) Gale, Roger
Aspinwall, Jack Gardiner, George
Atkins, Robert Garel-Jones, Tristan
Atkinson, David Gill, Christopher
Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley) Glyn, Dr Sir Alan
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N) Goodlad, Alastair
Banks, Robert (Harrogate) Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles
Bellingham, Henry Gorman, Mrs Teresa
Bendall, Vivian Gow, Ian
Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke) Grant, Sir Anthony (CambsSW)
Benyon, W. Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)
Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter Gregory, Conal
Body, Sir Richard Ground, Patrick
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Hague, William
Boscawen, Hon Robert Hamilton, Hon Archie (Epsom)
Boswell, Tim Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)
Bottomley, Peter Harris, David
Bottomley, Mrs Virginia Hawkins, Christopher
Bowden, A (Brighton K'pto'n) Hicks, Robert (Cornwall SE)
Bowis, John Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)
Boyson, Rt Hon Dr Sir Rhodes Holt, Richard
Braine, Rt Hon Sir Bernard Hordern, Sir Peter
Brazier, Julian Howard, Rt Hon Michael
Bright, Graham Howarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A)
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd)
Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's) Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Buck, Sir Antony Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford)
Budgen, Nicholas Hunt, David (Wirral W)
Burns, Simon Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas
Butler, Chris Irvine, Michael
Butterfill, John Irving, Sir Charles
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Janman, Tim
Carrington, Matthew Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey
Carttiss, Michael Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)
Cash, William Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine
Chapman, Sydney Kilfedder, James
Chope, Christopher King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield)
Clark, Hon Alan (Plym'th S'n) Knapman, Roger
Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S) Knight, Greg (Derby North)
Colvin, Michael Knox, David
Coombs, Simon (Swindon) Lamont, Rt Hon Norman
Cormack, Patrick Lang, Ian
Couchman, James Lawrence, Ivan
Cran, James Lee, John (Pendle)
Currie, Mrs Edwina Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)
Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g) Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark
Day, Stephen Lightbown, David
Devlin, Tim Lilley, Peter
Dorrell, Stephen Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)
Dunn, Bob Lord, Michael
Durant, Tony Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas
Dykes, Hugh Macfarlane, Sir Neil
Eggar, Tim MacGregor, Rt Hon John
Emery, Sir Peter MacKay, Andrew (E Berkshire)
Evans, David (Welwyn Hatf'd) Maclean, David
Fallon, Michael Madel, David
Favell, Tony Malins, Humfrey
Field, Barry (Isle of Wight) Mans, Keith
Fookes, Dame Janet Maples, John
Forman, Nigel Marland, Paul
Marshall, John (Hendon S) Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)
Marshall, Michael (Arundel) Shersby, Michael
Martin, David (Portsmouth S) Sims, Roger
Maude, Hon Francis Skeet, Sir Trevor
Mawhinney, Dr Brian Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)
Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin Speller, Tony
Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Mellor, David Squire, Robin
Meyer, Sir Anthony Stanbrook, Ivor
Miller, Sir Hal Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Mills, Iain Steen, Anthony
Miscampbell, Norman Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)
Mitchell, Sir David Stewart, Rt Hon Ian (Herts N)
Moate, Roger Stradling Thomas, Sir John
Monro, Sir Hector Sumberg, David
Moore, Rt Hon John Summerson, Hugo
Morrison, Sir Charles Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Morrison, Rt Hon P (Chester) Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Moynihan, Hon Colin Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman
Mudd, David Temple-Morris, Peter
Neubert, Michael Thatcher, Rt Hon Margaret
Newton, Rt Hon Tony Thompson, D. (Calder Valley)
Nicholls, Patrick Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Nicholson, David (Taunton) Thorne, Neil
Norris, Steve Thurnham, Peter
Page, Richard Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)
Paice, James Trippier, David
Parkinson, Rt Hon Cecil Twinn, Dr Ian
Patnick, Irvine Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Patten, Rt Hon Chris (Bath) Viggers, Peter
Patten, Rt Hon John Waddington, Rt Hon David
Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Waldegrave, Rt Hon William
Pawsey, James Walker, Bill (T'side North)
Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth Waller, Gary
Porter, David (Waveney) Ward, John
Portillo, Michael Warren, Kenneth
Price, Sir David Watts, John
Rathbone, Tim Wells, Bowen
Redwood, John Wheeler, Sir John
Renton, Rt Hon Tim Whitney, Ray
Rhodes James, Robert Widdecombe, Ann
Riddick, Graham Wiggin, Jerry
Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas Wilshire, David
Roberts, Wyn (Conwy) Winterton, Mrs Ann
Rossi, Sir Hugh Winterton, Nicholas
Rowe, Andrew Wolfson, Mark
Ryder, Richard Woodcock, Dr. Mike
Sackville, Hon Tom Yeo, Tim
Sainsbury, Hon Tim Young, Sir George (Acton)
Scott, Rt Hon Nicholas
Shaw, David (Dover) Tellers for the Ayes:
Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey) Mr. James Hill and
Shephard, Mrs G. (Norfolk SW) Mr. David Davis.
Abbott, Ms Diane Brown, Nicholas (Newcastle E)
Adams, Allen (Paisley N) Brown, Ron (Edinburgh Leith)
Alexander, Richard Buchan, Norman
Allen, Graham Buckley, George J.
Alton, David Caborn, Richard
Anderson, Donald Callaghan, Jim
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)
Armstrong, Hilary Campbell, Ron (Blyth Valley)
Ashton, Joe Campbell-Savours, D. N.
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Canavan, Dennis
Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE) Carlile, Alex (Mont'g)
Barron, Kevin Clark, Dr David (S Shields)
Beckett, Margaret Clarke, Tom (Monklands W)
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Clay, Bob
Bennett, A. F. (D'nt'n & R'dish) Clelland, David
Bermingham, Gerald Cohen, Harry
Bidwell, Sydney Coleman, Donald
Blair, Tony Cook, Frank (Stockton N)
Blunkett, David Cook, Robin (Livingston)
Boateng, Paul Corbett, Robin
Boyes, Roland Corbyn, Jeremy
Bradley, Keith Cousins, Jim
Brandon-Bravo, Martin Cox, Tom
Bray, Dr Jeremy Crowther, Stan
Brown, Gordon (D'mline E) Cryer, Bob
Cummings, John Hood, Jimmy
Cunningham, Dr John Howells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd)
Dalyell, Tam Hoyle, Doug
Darling, Alistair Hughes, John (Coventry NE)
Davies, Ron (Caerphilly) Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'l) Ingram, Adam
Dewar, Donald Janner, Greville
Dixon, Don Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)
Dobson, Frank Jones, Ieuan (Ynys Môn)
Doran, Frank Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S W)
Dunnachie, Jimmy Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Dunwoody, Hon Mrs Gwyneth Knowles, Michael
Eadie, Alexander Lambie, David
Eastham, Ken Lamond, James
Evans, John (St Helens N) Latham, Michael
Ewing, Harry (Falkirk E) Leadbitter, Ted
Ewing, Mrs Margaret (Moray) Leighton, Ron
Fatchett, Derek Lester, Jim (Broxtowe)
Faulds, Andrew Lestor, Joan (Eccles)
Fearn, Ronald Lewis, Terry
Field, Frank (Birkenhead) Litherland, Robert
Fields, Terry (L'pool B G'n) Livingstone, Ken
Fisher, Mark Lofthouse, Geoffrey
Flannery, Martin Lord, Michael
Flynn, Paul Loyden, Eddie
Foot, Rt Hon Michael McAllion, John
Foster, Derek McAvoy, Thomas
Foulkes, George McCartney, Ian
Fraser, John Macdonald, Calum A.
Fyfe, Maria McFall, John
Galloway, George McKay, Allen (Barnsley West)
Garrett, John (Norwich South) McKelvey, William
Garrett, Ted (Wallsend) McLeish, Henry
George, Bruce McNamara, Kevin
Godman, Dr Norman A. McWilliam, John
Gordon, Mildred Madden, Max
Graham, Thomas Mahon, Mrs Alice
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S) Marek, Dr John
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend) Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Grocott, Bruce Martin, Michael J. (Springburn)
Hardy, Peter Martlew, Eric
Harman, Ms Harriet Maxton, John
Haynes, Frank Meacher, Michael
Healey, Rt Hon Denis Meale, Alan
Heffer, Eric S. Michael, Alun
Hinchliffe, David Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)
Hoey, Ms Kate (Vauxhall) Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)
Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth) Moonie, Dr Lewis
Morgan, Rhodri Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)
Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe) Smith, C. (Isl'ton & F'bury)
Mowlam, Marjorie Smith, Rt Hon J. (Monk'ds E)
Mullin, Chris Smith, J. P. (Vale of Glam)
Murphy, Paul Snape, Peter
Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon Soley, Clive
O'Brien, William Spearing, Nigel
O'Neill, Martin Steinberg, Gerry
Orme, Rt Hon Stanley Stevens, Lewis
Parry, Robert Stewart, Andy (Sherwood)
Pike, Peter L. Stott, Roger
Powell, Ray (Ogmore) Strang, Gavin
Prescott, John Straw, Jack
Primarolo, Dawn Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Quin, Ms Joyce Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Radice, Giles Thompson, Jack (Wansbeck)
Redmond, Martin Turner, Dennis
Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn Wall, Pat
Reid, Dr John Wallace, James
Richardson, Jo Warden, Gareth (Gower)
Robertson, George Wareing, Robert N.
Robinson, Geoffrey Watson, Mike (Glasgow, C)
Rogers, Allan Welsh, Michael (Doncaster N)
Rooker, Jeff Williams, Rt Hon Alan
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W) Williams, Alan W. (Carm'then)
Rowlands, Ted Wilson, Brian
Ruddock, Joan Winnick, David
Salmond, Alex Worthington, Tony
Sedgemore, Brian Young, David (Bolton SE)
Sheerman, Barry
Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert Tellers for the Noes:
Shore, Rt Hon Peter Mr. Eric Illsley and
Short, Clare Mr. Bernie Grant.
Skinner. Dennis

Question accordingly agreed to.

Bill read the Third time, and passed.

Mr. Bob Cryer (Bradford, South)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I wonder whether you could draw to the attention of the Serjeant at Arms the difficulties created in New Palace Yard by the hordes of ministerial cars blocking the area and preventing easy access to it—because of a Bill that is not supposed to be whipped hut for which the payroll vote has clearly turned out to get it through.