HC Deb 22 March 1994 vol 240 cc182-212

'.—(1) Conditions included in any licence under Part II of this Act shall include a requirement on the holder of the licence to prevent discharges of minewater from the mine at any time unless authorised by the National Rivers Authority.

(2) The duty under subsection (1) above shall include a duty to continue pumping operations until the licence is transferred to another person or the Authority assumes responsibility for pumping.

(3) The Authority shall not permit the holder of a licence under Part II of this Act to allow minewater to be discharged unless authorised by the National Rivers Authority.

(4) In an emergency, any person authorised by the Authority may enter a coal mine or pumping station operated by a holder of a licence under Part II of this Act to ensure that pumping is continued in pursuance of the Authority's duty under subsection (3) of this section.'.—[Mr. Bell.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Mr. Stuart Bell (Middlesbrough)

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

Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Janet Fookes)

With this, it will be convenient to discuss the following amendments: No. 41, in clause 1, page 1, line 20, leave out 'and' and insert '(dd) monitoring, controlling and preventing pollution arising from present and former coalmining activity, including that caused by polluted minewater, in a manner that ensures the protection of the environment; and'. No. 14, in clause 2, page 2, line 33, after 'subsidence', insert 'or minewater'.

No. 55, in clause 3, page 4, line 17, at end add— '(9) It shall be the duty of the Authority, in carrying out its functions under this Act, to use its best endeavours to protect the water environment. (10) In this section "water environment" means water quality, and land drainage and flood defence systems where that water and those systems are affected by coalmines operated by any person licensed under Part II of this Act, or are affected by abandoned coalmines.'. No. 7, in clause 53, page 48, line 41, at end add— '(5A) Section 89(3) of the Water Resources Act 1991 shall be amended by inserting after the word "mine" the words "other than an abandoned coal-mine.".'. No. 15, in schedule 11, page 155, line 26, at end insert:— '1991 c. 57 Section 89(3)'.

Mr. Bell

We are now discussing one of the major items of the Bill, dealing with mine water. You might feel, Madam Deputy Speaker, that mine water is not a subject of great attraction or of great interest, but it is a matter of major concern, not only throughout the former Durham coalfield, but throughout the country where there have been mine workings in the past. In my area of Durham today, The Northern Echo, our local newspaper, devoted much of its front page to the problems that will, and can, arise from mine water.

The new clause deals with licences and the need to pump the mine water out of the ground. That subject is not limited to the debate tonight. The issue was first mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. Mullin), whom I am very glad to see in his place. He raised the issue in an Adjournment debate. He spoke of water table rebounds, of iron pyrites, of adits—a horizontal or near-horizontal tunnel from the surface into a mine for entry, drainage or exploration.

We also had a ten-minute rule Bill from my hon. Friend the Member for Gower (Mr. Wardell), who is also in his place tonight. In a short and eloquent speech, he described the effects of pollution from abandoned mines. He gave a graphic description of what can happen with such pollution, when he described the red stain sediment from dissolved iron salts. He also described the effects on the overall ecosystem of such pollution. My hon. Friend rendered us a service and widened the debate by giving examples from south Wales of the effects of pollution of rivers from abandoned pits.

One of the essences of the debate tonight has arisen already from that Adjournment debate and that ten-minute rule Bill is the question, who will take ultimate responsibility for mine water pollution? Where does the buck stop? We have asked in Committee, on the Floor of the House, in meetings with Ministers in the Department of the Environment and with Ministers in the Department of Trade and Industry: who will eventually take responsibility for that mine water?

Mr. Simon Hughes

It is even more important, because one would have thought that, in the light of Wheal Jane—which my Cornish colleagues became very exercised about—the issue would have been resolved. It was not resolved adequately then. The historic lesson has not been learnt and the issue still has not been expressly tackled by the Government.

Mr. Bell

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for referring us to Wheal Jane, and I think that he will speak later. If my memory serves me right, the problem of Wheal Jane was the problem of a tin mine. There was a discharge of red-brick-coloured metal-laden waters. That was of great concern, obviously, to all Government Departments as well as local citizens. One of the aspects of Wheal Jane was that we realised that we were falling foul of EC directive 80/68 on groundwater protection. One would have thought, as a result of all that anxiety, that the Government would have responded more strongly.

In fact, we realised that there was probably a legislative loophole on the subject of mine water. Section 85 of the Water Resources Act 1991 provides for prosecution of river polluters and for recovery from a polluter of the costs of cleaning. There was one exemption—an important and significant exemption, to which the hon. Member for Batley and Spen (Mrs. Peacock) can refer, because she has tabled an amendment on the same subject. Abandoned mines were exempted from the 1991 Act.

The Royal Commission on environmental pollution in 1992 recommended legislative action to cover the fact that no one would be responsible for polluted water from abandoned workings. We have gone through the Bill in Committee, and various statements have been made by Ministers, yet we are still here, confronted by the situation that, when pumps are switched off in a pit, the natural forces that make that water rise will come into play and will be allowed to operate.

A sombre picture has been painted of what will happen when the pumps are finally turned off in what we can now describe as the "old Durham coalfield". That coalfield once produced 35 million tonnes of coal every year, and now it does not produce coal through a nationalised industry.

What will happen when those pumps are turned off? We know as a matter of fact that British Coal currently pays about £6 million a year to pump the coalfield, as it is. It certainly spends £1 million on pumping 10 disused pits in the coalfield. If the pumping stations at Vinovium, Page Bank and Ushaw Moor were to close, the consequences might be catastrophic for Durham.

It is not for a Member of Parliament to use excessive language on the Floor of the House and to communicate fears to a population, but nevertheless the consequences will be extremely grave in locations along the Wear valley, south-west of Durham, in the vicinity of Bishop Auckland—I am glad to see my right hon. Friend the Chief Whip, the Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Foster) in his place—and in Durham city. Members of Parliament are here from the Durham coalfield, and my hon. Friend the Member for Durham, North-West (Ms Armstrong) is here, among others.

My hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Cummings), who played such a strong role in Committee and made some strong statements, said that there could be an "orange collar" around a world heritage site. He meant the Norman cathedral at Durham and the peninsula around the city.

In addition to the expressions of Members of Parliament, statements have been made by experts in the field. Dr. Paul Younger of Newcastle university has said that Durham could experience potentially the biggest single drainage of acid from mines we have seen … 300 years of stored up pollution could be coming to the surface. It has been said—we have heard it many a time—that coal mining in Durham goes back about 400 years. There is a honeycomb of former mines under the ground there. We all learned from pit village to pit village when we were young the background, the history and the traditions. We all know the consequences of water in a pit.

We are discussing tonight nothing less than a Domesday scenario, which could affect the former Durham coalfield and the people who live there. There has been some movement in relation to British Coal and the National Rivers Authority. There has been a slight movement to the effect that British Coal—

Mr. Ted Rowlands (Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney)

My hon. Friend has clearly and vividly described to us the problems of the Durham coalfield. May I draw to his attention the fact that we are very worried that the south Wales coalfield will manifest the same problems? The River Rhymney showed similar problems when the pumps stopped at the Britannia colliery, and I fear that, with the closure of Taff Merthyr, we could be facing similar problems on the River Taff. When my hon. Friend speaks for Durham, he speaks for the whole of the south Wales coalfield, too.

Mr. Bell

I am grateful to my hon. Friend, because I tried to preface my remarks by saying that this was a national problem wherever coal had been mined in the country. That included south Wales. It certainly covers Durham and Northumberland. My hon. Friends the Member for Wansbeck (Mr. Thompson) and for City of Durham (Mr. Steinberg) are in their places.

We are conscious that what we are debating tonight is not only Durham, but any part of the country where there have been coal mines, and, as the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) reminded me, tin mines in the south-west of the country. So we are aware that the context is far greater than the narrow issue confronts us in the Bill. The consequences are greater than those that affect the Durham coalfield.

The only result of the pressure and the publicity and the anxieties of our people has been an agreement by British Coal to give the National Rivers Authority two weeks' notice before it switches off pumps at any of its pits. That is not a satisfactory response to the important matters that have been brought to the Government's attention.

I am glad to see my hon. Friend the Member for Sherwood (Mr. Tipping) in his place. Unfortunately, he had an accident in heavy snow on the first day of the Committee and could not take part in its further proceedings. Nevertheless, when he was there he said that the two-week period of grace was simply a "short-term palliative". I entirely agree with him.

The Minister gave his view on the matter in Committee. He said that the Coal Authority will be responsible for water pollution from abandoned mines except to the extent that any part of the responsibility may be passed to the private sector through leases. That is not an adequate response for people who live in those areas or those who seek to protect the environment.

7 pm

The new clause says that it shall be a condition of a licence that there be a requirement on the holder of the licence to prevent discharges of minewater from the mine at any time unless authorised by the National Rivers Authority and that there shall be included a duty to continue pumping operations until the licence is transferred to another person or the Authority assumes responsibility for pumping. That seems to meet the point which my hon. Friend the Member for Gower made in his 10-minute Bill. What will happen if the Coal Authority grants a licence to a company to work a mine and the company eventually abandons the mine? Who will be responsible for pumping the water? Shall we not be back in the same position if British Coal, the Coal Authority and everybody else wash their hands of the responsibility? It will simply become an abandoned mine with no one responsible for the mine water pollution.

A strong delegation, particularly from Durham county council, has come to the House today to brief Members of this House and the House of Lords from all parties about the risks in Durham if no positive steps are taken to maintain pumping.

Under the Bill, we have discussed licensing of mining safety, pension rights, concessionary fuel, coal bed methane, exploitation and subsidence, but we cannot discuss mine water pollution or pumping because that subject is not in the Bill. In Committee, we tried to put it on the same footing as subsidence, which is why we have moved another amendment to cover mine water pollution.

We do not accept that clause 3(7), which deals with the Coal Authority's duties, sufficiently covers mine water pollution. My hon. Friends the Members for Neath (Mr. Hain) and for Easington explained people's anxieties about that matter in different parts of the country. In Committee, the Government sought to shuffle their responsibility on to the Coal Authority and the National Rivers Authority without being specific. They will simply set the National Rivers Authority and British Coal at each other's throats in the courts, trying to bring injunctions to avoid taking the necessary action.

The time has come for the Government to make a clear commitment by accepting new clause 3 and to recognise the serious dangers of water pollution where coal has been mined, such as in Yorkshire and Nottinghamshire. Wherever coal has been mined, people will be affected. The running and shuffling must stop, as must the buck passing between the Department of the Environment and the Department of Trade and Industry. The Government must take the necessary action and accept the new clause. As there is all-party support for other amendments on this issue, we hope to carry the House with us, should it come to a vote.

Mrs. Peacock

Pollution from contaminated mine water occurs when water floods old mine workings and carries pollutants, notably iron and sulphur, to the surface via rivers and other water sources. The polluted mine water contaminates those sources, destroying wildlife and discolouring the water.

British Coal has always kept its working mines free of water by a network of pumping stations, which it may shut down when pits close. It now has an agreement to inform the National Rivers Authority before turning off any pumps. Like other mine operators, British Coal is exempted by the Water Resources Act 1991 from prosecution for knowingly permitting water pollution and has not yet been successfully prosecuted for causing pollution.

British Coal has no clear liability for pollution from mine water, although it has operated a "good neighbour" policy and maintained pumping. It is therefore not possible automatically to transfer liability to the Coal Authority, which must be specifically directed to take on responsibility for mine water pollution from former British Coal mines. The new industry will not be obliged to adopt British Coal's "good neighbour" policy or take up its existing agreement with the NRA.

I appreciate that the Department of the Environment is reviewing laws on water pollution, but there is no indication of when that will be completed or whether this issue will be addressed. The Bill should establish liability for the historical environmental legacy of coal mining. Once pollution has occurred, remedial action is costly and it may take years to reverse the damage.

It is important that we ensure, during the passage of the Bill, that we do not allow pollution of our water courses. We currently spend millions of pounds on cleaning up our rivers, beaches and water courses. My hon. Friend the Minister will agree that we would not want to put that at risk by allowing a loophole in the Bill.

Ms Armstrong

The problem has already been outlined by my hon. Friend the Member for Middlesbrough (Mr. Bell). It will affect any area where coal has been mined. I wish to speak specifically about how the problem affects my part of Durham.

My constituency is at the western edge of the Durham coalfield. Many of the thousands of old mine workings under the ground are not on maps because they operated centuries ago. Mines in that part of the county closed 20, 25 or 30 years ago, but British Coal has consistently pumped the water from the mine workings, so the water table has not changed. Throughout that period, the county has continued to attract Government grants and has worked with the Government to clean up the environment after the closure of mine workings.

Anyone who now visits Durham county finds a beautiful environment that is attractive to visitors but is also re-attracting much of the wildlife, flora and fauna that existed in the past. We have also cleaned up the rivers. I am told that, at the edge of the coalfields in my constituency there is good salmon and trout fishing because the river water is of good quality.

Apart from anything else, we should be incredibly negligent if we were to fail to guard the public money that has been invested in the area for the purpose of reclamation to provide an environment offering a high quality of life. This has taken work; it has not just happened by accident. What is achieved by way of cleaning up the environment is the result of the commitment of local people working in partnership with the Government and with the European Community.

The work that has been done in Durham is second to none, but there will be a threat—a real threat, not an imagined one—if pumping operations are not continued. British Coal has already shut down some pumps. On at least one occasion, it failed to give even the two weeks' notice that had been promised. Some of the problems caused by water pollution from old mines are already manifesting themselves in the western part of my county. The water table has risen, and some fields are now flooded. As one drives past, one notices the orange muck. The river and some streams on the western edge of the county are affected already. In addition, in my part of the county, there are problems of subsidence. The water authority and the rivers authority put this down to the closure of mines.

This is not an imagined problem, but one which we already have to deal with. With members and officers of Durham county council, I took part in a delegation to the Minister following the publication of the Bill. We sought an assurance that the hon. Gentleman understood the problem and an undertaking that, under the Bill, appropriate measures would be taken to deal with it. I am sorry to say that such measures have not been taken. The assurances that have been given are simply not strong enough to make us confident that the new authority will accept responsibility.

7.15 pm

I understand that the Minister does not want to write an undertaking into the terms of the Bill. That reluctance will give rise to real problems. Recent court judgments make it very clear that assurances given in Parliament by Ministers are not sufficient in court. I cite a case in a totally different realm—the terms of the contracts of lecturers in colleges of further and higher education. The assurances given by Ministers during the debates on employment legislation were dismissed by the judge, who said that he was guided not by things said in Parliament but by his understanding and interpretation of the law. That is the problem.

Outside experts who have looked into this matter say that assurances given in the House and in Committee by Ministers are simply not sufficient. Their judgment is that, in the event of problems arising and being taken to court, there is nothing in the Bill to make the new Coal Authority responsible in such a way that they could be tackled. I am sure that no hon. Member wants such a situation to arise. No doubt the Minister does not want to see problems that no one is able to tackle. If he wants the new authority to have this capacity, he will have to accept our proposed changes or write in his own.

If changes are not made, much of Ministers' push for privatisation will run into difficulty. It is my view that many private operators would be very cautious about starting business in Durham. People will not have to wait five, 10 or 15 years before problems occur. As I have said, what is going to happen is already visible. We know already the potential extent of the problem and what it may mean. People who are thinking of investing in the area will need to be assured that the Government will cover them. We are asking for assurances on the face of the Bill. We are asking for a commitment to the provision of resources to tackle any problems that arise.

We want to ensure that, whatever happens, the quality of life and the environment of future generations, as well as of those of us who will be around for another few years, will not be destroyed. Many of my hon. Friends have personal experience of, for example, the gases and poisons in mine workings. These will accumulate in water and may become explosive when they reach the surface. In saying that, I am not being fanciful: people who know about these things make the same point.

It is critical that this matter be tackled seriously in the context of the legislation that we are considering. Regardless of the Government's ideological wishes, we cannot afford to have our environment threatened in the way that the Bill, as drafted, threatens it. In saying that, I refer not just to Durham but to other coalfield areas. The adjoining constituencies of Durham, North-West and Bishop Auckland are the first to face the problem. We are beginning to see examples of what the rest of the county and the other coalfields in Britain will encounter. I therefore urge the Minister to realise that, in respect of this matter, he cannot simply give assurances, hoping that they will be observed in the future. The evidence is that courts are not being bound by such assurances. We need actual words in the legislation. I hope that the Minister will reconsider what he said in Committee and indicate that he is prepared to write into the Bill a provision to the effect that any problems arising will very firmly be the responsibility of the new Coal Authority.

Mr. Richard Alexander (Newark)

I am sure that hon. Members on both sides of the House await with great interest the Minister's response to the concerns that have been expressed so far—concerns which are felt equally by the residents of Nottinghamshire and by the people of the other areas that have been mentioned.

When the Bill was first mooted I was asked by constituents in north Nottinghamshire what proposals would be made, under the new arrangements, to deal with mine water pollution. I said that I would be very surprised if arrangements were not spelt out clearly when the Bill came before the House and was considered in Committee. I am indeed surprised that we have reached this stage without being able to give our constituents the assurances that they seek. We shall listen most carefully to such assurances as the Minister can give us during the debate.

The primary cause for concern about mine water stems from the provisions of the Water Resources Act 1991, section 89 of which states that it is not an offence to permit water from an abandoned mine to enter controlled waters. That has created great concern, not least in Durham, whose county council has given us a briefing on the subject.

To switch off the pumps and allow the mines to fill up, and then to discharge polluted water, is a positive act, but it is not illegal or actionable under current law. My amendment would restrict the possibility of widespread environmental decline. It proposes that it should be an offence to allow mine water to escape from any mine in the ownership of British Coal. With the unparalleled number of mines that are closing, there is growing concern about the possible harm from the escape of contaminated water from abandoned mines and thence into the water system.

Reference has been made to the arrangements between British Coal and the National Rivers Authority. Fourteen days' notice of cessation of pumping is minimal, but even that number is not written into the Bill. Once mines have been abandoned, with no responsibility on operators to prevent water from escaping, not only will existing provisions come to an end but an unknown quantity of new hazards is likely to appear. What is required is a holding operation until each closed colliery can be properly assessed and measures taken to prevent polluted water from entering the system.

At the very least, we must ensure that polluted water does not escape or that it is cleaned before its entry into the water system. If neither the operators nor British Coal or the Coal Authority is responsible for this pollution, there is a real fear that the long-term costs of the problem will fall on local people. Local resources will have to be found, in the form of the council tax, to clean up the problem in the very areas suffering the greatest hardship from the closure of coalfields.

This is an important issue; the House looks forward to hearing what reassurances my hon. Friend can give on the subject.

Mr. Simon Hughes

The Minister will have begun by now to get the message—

Mr. Chris Mullin (Sunderland, South)

I doubt it.

Mr. Hughes

—although the hon. Gentleman appears to have lingering suspicions.

Hon. Members have spoken about their local communities and concerns, but we also need to tackle this problem nationally and in the light of the experiences to which I alluded earlier. With the tin mines in Cornwall we have seen what can happen if water leaking from mines into the water system is not controlled: there was a huge regional panic and many regional resources had to be deployed. In fact, the problem was not adequately dealt with even then—it was too late.

The Minister well knows that there is widespread support inside and outside the House for tightening up the Bill. Local government in particular is determined that there must be a better system—not only the Association of County Councils but local government generally. The Minister has had representations from the Coalfield Communities Campaign and from all the amenity organisations: the Council for the Protection of Rural England, the National Farmers Union, the Country Landowners Association, and the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors have all added their voices, saying that something must be done.

As the hon. Members for Newark (Mr. Alexander) and for Durham, North-West (Ms Armstrong) have said, we were greatly helped just today by a briefing given to us by Durham county council, which briefed Members of both Houses and of all parties and which provided us with a comprehensive document which we heard discussed only this morning.

Neither the President of the Board of Trade, on Second Reading, nor Ministers in Committee appeared to honour the obligation that the Government had seemed willing to undertake. In effect, the Government said that they were going to privatise the coal industry and transfer liabilities from British Coal to the Coal Authority. That prompted one question and did not deal with another. Are the current arrangements adequate? They are not. Furthermore, with the transfer of responsibilities, no corresponding duties have been transferred, let alone resources. Such obligations must be placed on people in advance, so that we all know who will be responsible.

The Government have often argued that the polluter should pay—that, they say, is one of the principles in their environmental legislation. It is all very well, provided the polluter can pay and, much more importantly, provided the polluter is given a duty to prevent the sort of incidents that might result in his having to pay. That means imposing duties.

The Minister has before him a whole menu of amendments. New clause 3, for instance, requires that the holder of the licence prevent discharges. The Minister and I attended the same law course and were taught the same things about legal duties. He therefore knows that the duty on a licensee can be written into statute.

New clause 3 includes a duty to continue pumping—a duty that must not be allowed to wither just because that may be in the interests of the Coal Authority or the licensee. In the same way, in County Durham the Coal Board has no interest in continuing pumping because certain mines will never be reopened. The point is not to serve these bodies' interests: it is to serve the wider interest.

New clause 3 also provides that no permission should be given to the holder of a licence to allow mine water to be discharged. Moreover, as the hon. Member for Batley and Spen (Mrs. Peacock) argued, a method of preventing pollution must be written into the Bill to protect the environment. Certainly that is a general duty, but it is at least a starting point.

Another amendment would extend the obligation, in clause 2, to persons in respect of subsidence to include damage from mine water. And a general duty should be imposed on the Coal Authority to look after the environment.

As more than one hon. Member has argued, there is also a need to deal with the exemptions provided for by the Water Resources Act 1991—and there are ways of dealing with them, such as the amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Newark. However we do it, the point remains the same: to create a criminal offence. As the Minister knows, the Water Resources Act specifically gives exemptions in relation to permitting water from an abandoned mine to enter controlled waters. Another exemption in the same legislation means that the NRA does not have the power to carry out works to prevent such pollution or to recover the costs involved. That, too, needs to be changed in law.

We are left with the obvious need to tighten up the Bill. To be consistent with their environmental principles and their claims about the importance of water quality and consequent environmental duties, the Government cannot resist the new clause. A few minutes ago, I heard the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) say very quietly—unusually for him—from a sedentary position that organisations will need resources. It is impossible to place a duty on someone and then say, "You have got to carry out that duty, even if you do not have the resources." Whether the organisation involved is the National Rivers Authority, the Coal Authority or the local authority does not matter. If an organisation breaches its duty but does not have the resources to prevent pollution, it is nonsense to give it that duty.

Week in, week out we place legislative requirements on people without giving them the resources to carry out the duties. It is too late to hold an inquiry and a departmental inquiry to find out what happened and pour money in after the damage has been done. That is not good enough. The Minister has been warned and I hope that he and the Government will be responsible and will respond to the warnings and the requirement.

7.30 pm

I know that the Government are concerned that if they include in the Bill the fact that a duty will be placed on purchasers, it will frighten off some of those purchasers. We know the score, we are not silly about the matter, but the Government's view is unacceptable. It is no good trying to flog off bits of the coal industry and to make it more saleable without making it responsible.

Mr. Hardy

Will the hon. Gentleman note that the South Yorkshire mines drainage unit, based in my constituency, was set up in the inter-war years by the private mining industry? If the private coal mine owners accepted at that distant time that a responsibility existed, it is reasonable to expect the new private coal mine owners at least to be asked to consider it.

Mr. Hughes

The National Rivers Authority has said to the Government that the present legislative proposals are unacceptable—it said that expressly in relation to Tyne and Wear and also generally. It advanced that argument during the Committee stage of the Bill. It has conducted research and it has done its homework. It realises that the issue is controversial because it might affect the saleability of the coal industry once it is privatised. It is not acceptable, however, to put at risk not only the immediately affected communities but the water network, which could extend not just locally, but down estuaries to the sea. There is no limit to the damage that could be done. We have a chance to prevent it.

I hope that Ministers will act responsibly. They may say that the amendments are defective. We do not mind if that is their response. There will be time for them to introduce tougher and better amendments. The county councils and the Association of County Councils will help. Plenty of work has been done and there are many people out there who know what they are talking about and can assist. They could even be seconded to the Department for a week on a higher salary. I hope that the Minister will not let the warnings go unheeded. He has a great responsibility.

Sir Cranley Onslow (Woking)

I apologise to the hon. Member for Middlesbrough (Mr. Bell) for not being able to be present to hear him move the new clause. I want to speak in support of what has been said about the importance of ensuring that pollution from abandoned mines does not enter the rivers, rendering them useless for any environmental purpose and making them, almost literally, a blot on the landscape.

I declare an interest. I am a council member of the Anglers' Co-operative Association, which has a reputation for vigorously prosecuting water polluters. It recently took the British Coal to court in south Wales over a pollution case, which is still sub judice, so I shall make no further reference to it. It is important that the Minister should respond to the spirit of what has been said in the debate.

Hon. Members on both sides of the House share a desire to see our countryside improved and not to let it deteriorate. In that context, nothing is more important than keeping our rivers pure so that everyone can enjoy them, not least anglers. Although I have not had the opportunity to fish in the rivers in the constituency of the hon. Member for Durham, North-West (Ms Armstrong), I envy those who have, because I know what a reputation they have gained and how much they have improved.

My hon. Friend the Minister does not need me to remind him that section 141 of the Water Resources Act 1991 requires the National Rivers Authority to maintain, improve and develop fisheries throughout the country. I do not see how it will be easy for it do that if it is faced with the problem of polluted water from abandoned coal mines flooding into water courses.

I hope that the Minister will tell us that he is sympathetic to the arguments that have been advanced. On behalf of anglers and anyone else who enjoys the countryside, I hope that he will ensure that we have an effective defence against pollution.

Mr. Paddy Tipping (Sherwood)

This issue has been around for a long time and it is astonishing that it has not been dealt with before. As has already been said, the present legal position is unclear. It is one of the problems about which there appears to be some buck-passing between British Coal and the National Rivers Authority and between their respective political masters, the Department of Trade and Industry and the Department of the Environment. The Bill will not improve matters, but will make them worse.

The key to the issue is that we are talking about big money and nobody wants to pick up the responsibilities and liabilities. We should remember that at Wheal Jane colliery the National Rivers Authority has worked hard to clear up a real mess. The cost in grant aid to the Government has been £8 million—that is the scale of money about which we are talking. Given that scale of money, it is not surprising that British Coal and the NRA, so I am reliably told, are talking to each other through their lawyers because they are frightened of committing themselves and picking up any liabilities.

The issue affects the whole country. It affects the Nottinghamshire coalfield, which still operates and still has a future, I hope, in the privatised industry. It has recently been announced that the Annersley Bentinck colliery is to close. It pumps out mine water from the east of the Derbyshire coalfield and the west of the Nottinghamshire coalfield. That water is treated on the site of Annersley Bentinck colliery and is taken by pipeline some 10 miles to be discharged into the River Trent. Only the volume of water in the River Trent can deal with that level of pollution.

What will happen when the pumps are turned off at Annersley Bentinck colliery? It is all very well for the Minister to say that there is a memorandum of understanding between British Coal and the National Rivers Authority. That memorandum is not backed by law; it is a short-term palliative. It requires British Coal to give the NRA only 14 days' notice. That is not good enough. There will be real problems if the issue is not dealt with in the Bill.

It is clear that mine water discharge not only discolours the water by introducing heavy metals like iron, but has a knock-on effect on water companies. Mine water is pumped into rivers. Some of those rivers are associated with sewage works. Many of those sewage works only just meet emission standards. If there is a drop in water volume—and there will be if the pumping stops—it is clear that a great deal of remedial work will need to be carried out at those sewage works to meet environmental standards. The cost of that will be immense. The Minister should consult his colleagues to find out the water companies' estimates for that remedial work.

We will pay for that remedial work through our water and sewerage costs. We shall pay in other ways because polluted water will inevitably lead to the loss of plant life and wildlife in streams in Nottinghamshire and other coalfield communities. Some 80 per cent. of the drinking water in Nottinghamshire is pumped from the underlying aquifer, the bunter sandstone. That aquifer is fissile—it has been affected by mining subsidence.

There is a real possibility of discharged polluted mine water penetrating the bunter sandstone. The Government should listen to good professional advice. The British Geological Survey, based at Keyworth in Nottinghamshire, put forward a proposition that has great merit: that no pumping at collieries should be switched off until a full geological survey of the effects of ceasing pumping has been undertaken.

We should remember that the quality of Nottinghamshire water has attracted inward investment. The Toray factory at Mansfield came to Nottinghamshire specifically because it required high-quality water to treat its textiles. It drilled a new well in Mansfield to provide that water.

We need and deserve new investment. As my hon. Friend the Member for Durham, North-West (Ms Armstrong) said, one of the ways to attract new investment into coalfield communities is to portray an attractive and forward-looking environment. The proposals in the Bill do nothing to secure that.

The new clause and the amendment secure the future; they tackle the problems. The Minister told us in Committee that he was aware of, and sympathised with, the problems. He told us that at the end of the day the Coal Authority would underwrite the Bill. If that is the case and his understanding of it, I hope that he will give us some comfort and say clearly—if not tonight, very soon—that he will introduce into the Bill provisions to protect our future environment.

People in coalfield communities are used to dirt and discharge, but they also want the benefits of the other side of the coin. People who work in that environment respect the countryside; they want better for their children than they had for themselves. The issue must be tackled, and I hope that the Minister will listen to the views from all parts of the House.

Mr. Jim Lester (Broxtowe)

It is a pleasure to see the hon. Member for Sherwood (Mr. Tipping) in his place. I hope that his leg is improving and that it has not caused him too much pain to take part in the debate; his presence is a measure of his concern.

Mr. Skinner

He will last longer than Gazza.

Mr. Lester

He is not under as much strain as Gazza who is trying to play for England.

I support my hon. Friends the Members for Newark (Mr. Alexander) and for Batley and Spen (Mrs. Peacock) and all those who have already spoken.

The hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) suggested an integrated approach, and the abstract concerns are important. In my constituency there was a mine overflow. For some reason, a mistake was made at Moorgreen pit and the overflow of water came gushing down a narrow ditch into a broader brook and flooded a whole row of houses. I vividly remember being called to the emergency and seeing the terrible problems that the people in those homes suffered.

We are all used to seeing pictures on television of people in wellingtons plodding around two or three feet of water in their homes. In this case, it was two or three feet of black slurry which could not be washed out or wished away. It was a serious emergency. If it had not been for the council being able to mobilise a great deal of help to stop it getting worse, the flooding would have extended to many more houses. Much work was required to ensure that it would never happen again.

It is one thing to talk in abstract; it is another to see the consequences of an overflow and to recognise how important it is we get it right. Amendment No. 7, which seeks to remove the exception, is one way forward. I also follow what the hon. Member for Sherwood said about the catchment area and the importance of clean water.

Hardy Hansons brewery in my constituency has been brewing beer for 150 years. One reason why it is there is the quality of the water. Over the years, it has sought to protect the catchment area whence it gets its water, as the well that serves the brewery is important to the quality of the beer. Any concern of Hardy Hansons would be considerable, especially as there are many old mine workings in the area and no one has specific responsibility to ensure that an overflow could not pollute that catchment area.

It is important that my hon. Friend the Minister listens carefully to all that has been said. We need specific assurances on responsibility and financing, which cannot be left in limbo or addressed in a vague way. If the composite of new clauses and amendments is not the right and total answer for the Department, it behoves Ministers to introduce clauses to deal with the issue to the satisfaction of hon. Members on both sides who share this concern.

7.45 pm
Mr. Mullin

First, let me welcome the new clause and the amendments. Most of us here tonight have been trying to draw the attention of the DTI and the Department of the Environment to the problem for some time. I had an Adjournment debate on the subject last July.

I find it incredible that the Bill should be published in the face of the enormous amount of advice that has been received from all quarters and from people of all political persuasions and should contain no explicit mention of responsibility for the consequences of mine water pollution.

Our attention in the Durham coalfield was first drawn to the matter when Easington council, which played a very helpful role in exposing the likely consequences, commissioned a report from Dr. Paul Younger, a lecturer in water resources at Newcastle university. He set out graphically what the consequences would be for the River Wear, which is one of the most beautiful rivers in the country and flows through Sunderland, if the pumps were switched off. The water table would rise; the long-term effect would be catastrophic; the flora and fauna of the River Wear, part of which runs through National Trust woodlands, would be devastated; the water supply to the city of Sunderland would be imperilled; wildlife would be endangered, as would livestock grazing near the river; use of the river by human beings for sports purposes would probably have to be restricted to wet weather; and there was a danger that parts of the Durham and Sunderland coastline, which has fine and well-used beaches would be contaminated.

The Minister has received warnings; hon. Members from both sides have agreed that the Bill needs to make it quite clear where the responsibility will lie. No quantity of assurances from this or any other Minister will get round the fundamental problem that the Bill provides for no responsibility when things go wrong. Things are already beginning to go wrong, as my hon. Friend the Member for Durham, North-West (Ms Armstrong) has mentioned. We can already see the consequences in some places.

Nothing in the behaviour of British Coal until now suggests that we need have any confidence in its assurances. Such concessions as have been obtained have been wrung out of British Coal by the National Rivers Authority. It has delayed, it has not provided information that it should have provided and at one stage it ridiculed the assertions by Dr. Younger, whom I quoted a moment ago.

British Coal has now signed the memorandum of understanding which provides for just 14 days' notice before the pumps are switched off. The memorandum is useless for any other purpose except that it gives 14 days to take legal action or perhaps to obtain an injunction. As everyone knows, the law is so unclear that no one can be confident of the outcome of legal action.

Elsewhere, British Coal has walked away from its responsibilities. The waters of Girvan, in Ayrshire, were polluted in the 1970s, and mine water seriously polluted the River Ore in Fife. Wheal Jane, in Cornwall, has also been mentioned; that, of course, is a tin mine.

The Minister has no excuse for not knowing about those problems. He has been warned by people of all persuasions: as I discovered this afternoon, he has even been warned by the National Rivers Authority. I should like to hear from him in that regard. I was a member of the Standing Committee considering the Water Bill, which was enacted in 1989, and I heard all the assurances about how effective the NRA would be. I understand that the authority—chaired by a former Tory Cabinet Minister, and set up by the present Government—has written to the Department of the Environment, saying that something must be written into the Bill to clarify the position. Is that so?

I appreciate that the Minister does not come from that Department, but no doubt it is represented here tonight. What response has been given to the NRA? It is incredible that a body set up by the Government specifically to advise on what should be done about this kind of pollution is being ignored.

Many of my constituents are very angry. We can all see the problem coming. Durham is one of the places that will be affected at an early stage; it is a world heritage site. Why are we standing by and allowing this to happen, when the solutions are reasonably obvious?

Mr. Gerry Steinberg (City of Durham)

The River Wear runs through the centre of my constituency, which my hon. Friend visits regularly. Literally hundreds of people are now terrified of what will happen to the river in the event of pollution. I know that my hon. Friend often walks along its banks; he will be aware that pollution would devastate the city of Durham. He will also be aware that hundreds of thousands of people visit Durham each year: it is now one of the most sought-after tourist spots in the north of England.

Mine water pollution would have a catastrophic effect throughout the city. Why in the name of heaven does the Minister not take the advice that he has received from virtually every expert? He has been told that the problem will arise, but he is taking no action. Even at meetings that I have attended, he has failed to respond to the genuine fears of my constituents.

Mr. Mullin

My hon. Friend has the privilege of representing the most beautiful city in England. As he says, the consequences for his constituency will be worse even than the consequences for the city of Sunderland.

Real anger is felt about the lack of action. The problem has been repeatedly drawn to the attention of the Minister's Department, and other Departments; the National Rivers Authority is attempting to draw it to the Minister's attention. I particularly want to hear what response his Department, or the Department of the Environment, has given to the NRA.

Mr. Gareth Wardell (Gower)

I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Middlesbrough (Mr. Bell) for his kind words at the beginning of this debate.

The issue involved in the new clause and amendments is clear: British Coal, or any other pit owner, is effectively responsible only for pollution from working mines. Once a mine has been abandoned, the responsibility ceases. The issue was examined in detail in March 1992 by the Select Committee on Welsh Affairs, which I still have the proud honour to chair; and, on 10 February 1993, I presented a ten-minute Bill to examine it further.

The environmental aspect is very simple. During mining operations, the mineral pyrite, or iron sulphide—which is often found in the coal seam—is exposed. When exposed to air and water, pyrite is oxidised into ferrous sulphate and sulphuric acid, a process which may be catalysed by the presence of chemo-synthetic bacteria.

The effects of that process were clearly spelt out in the debate in February last year, and many hon. Members have made the same point this evening. Let me say merely that the oxidisation of those metals ruins the spawning gravels for breeding fish, and leaves only some species of alga to grow into thick blankets of unpleasant-looking cover. That affects the overall eco-system of flora and fauna, especially bird species. Sometimes the water is also contaminated by traces of cadmium, zinc and other heavy metals. Such invisible pollution has far more serious implications for the food chain.

I congratulate the Welsh Office on commissioning a detailed study of the problem from the NRA. The study, published last Wednesday, is entitled "A Survey of Ferruginous Minewater Impacts in the Welsh Coalfields". It is extremely interesting: it examines two stages of a scientific analysis of the problem. In stage one, the NRA in the Welsh region located 90 discharges in Wales, and found that 59.4 km of river had been affected by ferruginous discharges; an area measuring 220,000 sq miles had been affected by iron hydroxide deposition.

In stage two, the NRA examined 33 of the top-rank discharges—those with the greatest environmental impact—selecting them with chemical, biological and fisheries impact assessments. That analysis is extremely interesting, but I wish to concentrate on a specific river identified by the NRA as the worst in Wales, in terms of biological impact. It clearly illustrates the possible effects of such discharges on life in a Welsh river polluted by an operator who has then walked away—in this instance, British Coal.

I am sure that the Minister has read the NRA survey with his customary diligence. I should be grateful if he would put his mind to considering how he intends to clean up the site identified by the NRA, and tells us in his reply. On page 19, the survey states: The site at which the greatest environmental impact occurred was below the discharge from Morlais colliery, Llangennech, Llanelli"— in the constituency of my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelli (Mr. Davies). That refers to the drainage of mine waters from beneath old coal workings in my constituency, particularly at the various coal measures on the eastern side of the Burry estuary.

The survey states: 'The minewater was having a dramatic impact upon the invertebrate fauna … The degree of deposition of iron hydroxide at the site was very high and the downstream iron concentration (max. 26.42 mg/l) was the highest of the 33 sites studied and well in excess of the environmental quality standard … for total iron. Such a high iron loading had a highly deleterious impact upon the invertebrate fauna causing a complete loss of 14 families and a reduction of 3 families at the site immediately downstream of the discharge … The ferruginous deposits impacted upon a wide range of families some of which are recognised as tolerant of other forms of pollution". I use that quotation because the NRA clearly showed that it is the worst polluted river in Wales in terms of the chemical, biological and other elements that it examined in detail. I want to know what provision in the Bill will help to clean up the mess.

8 pm

On 16 December last year, in my capacity as Chairman of the Select Committee on Welsh Affairs, I wrote to the Secretary of State for Wales to ask him for his comments on the Bill. In his reply of 12 January this year, he wrote: On the matter of water pollution from abandoned mines, we will ensure that both the historic and current liabilities of British Coal will continue to be discharged following privatisation. Those liabilities not transferred to mining operators will be discharged by the public sector. We have also announced our intention to review the legislative framework relating to water pollution from abandoned mines of all kinds. These matters are currently under careful consideration. I am interested in eliciting from the Minister some form of assurance that the problems highlighted by hon. Members of all parties will not be avoided but will be dealt with.

I conclude by drawing attention to what the Royal Commission on environmental pollution made clear in its 16th report published in 1992. It said: where the owners of the site are unwilling or unable to carry out work to reduce the risk of pollution, the authorities should seek from the Government the support and necessary funds to have the work carried out". Will the Minister accept the amendments? It would be a welcome change if he were to do so, but, if he cannot, will he at least give a more substantial assurance than merely saying that reed-bed technology is being examined and that that is the limit of the further consideration that the Government are giving to the issue?

The problem exists and it will not go away. I very much hope that the Minister will give an answer that is a little more comprehensive than that of the Secretary of State for Wales who said that the issue was still under consideration. Has that consideration now finished? If so, what provision is to be added to the Bill? If the Minister is not prepared to give us the assurance that we seek, we shall have to hope that it will be added in another place.

Mr. Skinner

All the hon. Members who have spoken this evening have said that some form of words should be added to the Bill to relieve the problems that will ensue in every area where there are coalfields and where there are, in any case, already a lot of problems.

The problem of mine water pollution is not new. It just so happens that there has been a massive closure programme, especially in the past 10 years. 'There were 170 pits 10 years ago, and there are now about 17. In many cases, pits have had to take over the pumping that was done by pits that have been closed. The problem became chronic with the result that, at one pit in my area, it is costing £5,000 per week per pump to pump out the water that has gathered as a result of the closure of the adjacent seven or eight pits. That has been the problem in Durham and in every coalfield in Britain.

Because of the massive closure programme, the problem has now become too big to handle. The Government are simply standing aside, believing that as no one has bothered much about the problem until now they can shunt off the coal industry—or the small number of remaining pits—to the Coal Authority. They think that they can heave a sigh of relief and, as happened with the establishment of the Benefits Agency and the rest of the quangos, then tell Members of Parliament, "It is nowt to do with us." The matter will be left to the National Rivers Authority and the local authorities. The poor old local authorities, which are mainly Labour controlled, will be told by a succession of Ministers that they must find the ways and means to resolve the problem, but without adequate money or standard spending assessment grants.

Only a weeks ago—we are still talking about it—the Government found about £230 million for the Pergau dam. It is not as if the Government cannot find the money. We are probably talking about a much smaller sum than that for the pits, but, because it suited the Government to line the pockets of their friends operating in Malaysia, they came up with the money there. The Government were worried not about jobs but about making money, so they were able to find the necessary brass. We want no excuses from the Government that they cannot find the necessary money because this is not a minor issue. The Government talk about Rio, the environment and all the rest of it, but this is a classic example of the Government's having been found out. They make abstract generalisations about saving the environment, but they do absolutely nothing at all.

The Minister has a duty to find a form of words to enable local authorities and people who live in the communities to provide for proper water in their areas. One of the things that antagonise people in the coalfield constituencies is that for a century or more—in Durham, it goes back for many centuries—people have had to put up with all the muck associated with pits. They have had to put up with pit tips and water running off them. Everything associated with coalfields has been muck and mess. Now that the pits have closed, many people are asking why they cannot have a bit of greenery and some clean water. That is the anger that my hon. Friends are expressing and you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, are no exception: you cannot participate in the debate, but you know and understand the problem.

Pits have been closed and opencast mining has taken place, resulting in great big holes and water running all over the place. It has now become such a big problem that no one knows how to tackle it. What is the water like? It has been described as black and oily, but we used to call it ochre water. I do not know whether it was the same in Nottingham, but I see my hon. Friend the Member for Sherwood (Mr. Tipping) nodding. Nothing could live in it, but we used to mess about in it when we were kids and we got a dear old belter for doing so—

Mr. Eggar

Those were the days.

Mr. Skinner

They were indeed the days. They were not golden days, but they were the days when my father worked two or three days a week if he was lucky. The hon. Gentleman who masquerades as a Minister yearns for those conditions to come back and the Government are working towards it. They have already chucked 4 million people out of work and they would like to see people on three and three. They would achieve it after privatisation if they were to remain in office, but they are being run by a tinpot wimp who does not know whether he is on this earth or fuller's earth. We shall soon be seeing the back of the Prime Minister and then we shall get around to dealing with the water problems in the coalfields. I know that I took a long, circuitous route in making that point, but the Minister provoked me.

Mr. Irvine Patnick (Lords Commissioner to the Treasury)

You are easily provoked.

Mr. Skinner

I am easily provoked when it is all about workers. The hon. Member for Sheffield, Hallam (Mr. Patnick) does not have to put up with such problems.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Will the hon. Gentleman return to the new clause before the House?

Mr. Skinner

We are talking about dirty water. We are talking about a dirty, rotten, lousy Government and the two things go together. One cannot draw a line between them. The Government can find money for their rich friends—£50 billion in tax cuts—but they cannot find money to resolve the problem of mine water. What is that water like? It has been described as black and oily.

When I worked down Glapwell colliery, the water was 800 yards deep in parts and it came off the seam. The miners who worked on the coal face did not wear shirts; they had only knee pads, shorts and boots. That water used to come out of the strata. I used to take the miners to the social security tribunal—this is water that we are discussing—where cases were carried to the extent that it was agreed that the water was so full of chemicals that it caused ulcers on the miners' backs and it was made a prescribed industrial disease.

That water permeates the water courses, it travels down the valleys in Wales and everywhere else and finishes up in drinking water. The Government would not tolerate that kind of water if it was anywhere near Buckingham palace. They would resolve the problem there. But the water happens to be in the coalfields where the Tories do not care. They know that there, by and large, with rare exceptions, people support the Labour party.

I want to draw the Ministers' attention to that problem and I want some answers. He sits there grinning like a Cheshire cat. Let us sort out the problem. Some people have said that because of the closure of the pits, the water courses have risen substantially. I believe that that is true in Bolsover.

Mr. Peter Luff (Worcester)

indicated dissent.

Mr. Skinner

What is up with the hon. Gentleman? Has he got St. Vitus's dance? He is another one who has several jobs and is not satisfied with living on £30,000 a year as a Member of Parliament. He lines his pockets on the side. Perhaps his constituents would like to hear about that as well.

In the Bolsover area, several pits are closed—

Mr. Geoffrey Dickens (Littleborough and Saddleworth)

You are a bully.

Mr. Skinner

What's up, fatso?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. That is enough of such talk from both sides of the House. Let us get back to new clause 3.

Mr. Skinner

Bring them to order.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I said that that was enough from both sides of the House.

Mr. Skinner

In the Bolsover area, several pits have shut over the past several years and a landslip has occurred—like the Scarborough hotel which slid down the pit cliff. I hope that the Minister is listening because it affects many constituents of mine. There are watercourses on the hillside. The neighbouring pits have been shut and, more recently, Bolsover colliery has been shut. So hardly any pumping takes place at all, with the result that the hillside has begun to fall away. Already six houses have been demolished, with the prospect of up to 80 more being in jeopardy. When the Scarborough hotel fell down the cliff, money was found under the Coast Protection Act 1949, but because Bolsover is not near the coast the Government do not want to know.

I ask the Minister again to consult his friends at the Department of the Environment to ensure that the people in that area receive grants to resolve the problem on that hillside. As surely as night follows day, that problem is due to the rising water levels in the area. My hon. Friend the Member for Sherwood has heard about the problem. Six properties in my constituency have already been demolished and the people do not know which way to turn. We need £1.5 million from the Government to ensure that we can put the hillside right. If the Minister cannot find that money in the Bill, he should tell his colleagues at the Department of the Environment to deal with the matter.

8.15 pm

Privatisation is about replacing a little public intervention—although the Coal Board never practised it properly—planning and organisation with market chaos. Nobody will care about anything. When people are striving to make money without any concern for the community, obviously the water will not be taken care of and the environment in general will be discarded because people cannot make profit out of such things.

The Government want to get rid of the problem by just forgetting all about it. If they can just get through the debate and manage to survive the passage of the Bill in this House and in the other place, the local authorities will be saddled with the problem. We are demanding money from the Minister. The debate amounts to a political will and the provision of money. That would enable those who have to deal with the problem to manage effectively, without having to deal with it themselves and without being deprived of the opportunity to receive proper grants through the Bill.

Mr. Dickens

The debate about water flowing through disused mines gives me an opportunity, in response to the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner), to tell one or two home truths to the House of Commons. First—

Ms Armstrong

The hon. Member has just come into the House.

Mr. Dickens

I was in earlier, my dear. First, let us consider why we are in this position and why coal mines have closed. The hon. Member for Bolsover laid the issue square on the shoulders of the Government, but to my mind that is not correct. I ask hon. Members to cast their minds back to the year-long miners' strike when—[Interruption.]

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I have already had to draw the attention of the House and of the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) to the fact that we are discussing new clause 3 and not the miners' strike of 1984.

Mr. Simon Hughes

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Before the hon. Gentleman speaks, may I point out that he has not been here for most of the debate? He has not apologised to the House for the fact that he has not been present. Will you ensure that if he trespasses again he does not abuse the time of the House when other hon. Members have been present throughout and want to make specific points and not widen the debate out to totally different issues?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

The hon. Member may safely leave that to the Chair.

Mr. Dickens

To put the record straight, I spent about an hour at the beginning of the debate sitting here, while the other Deputy Speaker was in the Chair. To say that I have not been here during the debate is a falsehood. I have been to have a meal and I have returned.

Mr. Tristan Garel-Jones (Watford)

Was is it a good meal?

Mr. Dickens

It was a good meal, but the debate is no better than it was when I left.

Mr. Robert Litherland (Manchester, Central)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The hon. Gentleman has not just returned from having a meal; I saw him asleep in the Library.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. Both sides of the House must settle down and debate new clause 3. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will get to the new clause.

Mr. Dickens

New clause 3 relates to flooding water in the coal mines and the sort of action that the Government are proposing, either financially or in kind, to deal with the problem and to place an obligation to be fulfilled by the people purchasing the mines. I know exactly what the debate is about and I intend to speak to it.

First, it is important to explain to the House why we are in this position. It is about continuity of supply. The lights have to be kept burning. Industry in an industrial nation must have—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The Chair does not want to hear anything about the past. I repeat that we are debating new clause 3 and I must tell the hon. Gentleman to debate that clause.

Mr. Dickens

With respect, you allowed the hon. Member for Bolsover—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The Chair is responsible for the Chair's actions. I have allowed the hon. Member for Bolsover and any other hon. Member to debate within the bounds of new clause 3. Apart from the time I pulled him up, the hon. Member for Bolsover was quite in order. Once again, I ask the hon. Gentleman to address new clause 3. He should get on with it.

Mr. Dickens

I understand that you represent Pontefract, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and that you have always taken a great interest in the coal mining industry. I say that sincerely, because I served with you on the Select Committee and you always put the details, desires and interests of the coal mining industry first and foremost, so I know about your sincere views on the subject.

I had hoped to explain the reasons for the mess that we are in today, but since I must concede to the Chair and respect what you say, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I shall move on and simply say that it is not the Government's fault that we are in our present position. The mines closed because of circumstances in the past that were beyond the Government's doing. There must be continuity of supply, so it was unfair, unjust and incorrect of the hon. Member for Bolsover to blame our Minister for the problem.

I am afraid that because of the restrictions placed on me this evening I cannot extend my speech any longer.

Mr. Clapham

I should like to trespass on the ground that the hon. Member for Littleborough and Saddleworth (Mr. Dickens) opened, but I have watched the Minister in Committee and I know that he can look after himself.

The new clause, and amendments Nos. 41, 14 and 55, are essential if we are to avoid widespread pollution. Using an example from my constituency, I shall explain to the House what may happen unless the Government are prepared to accept that the Bill must allocate responsibility.

The River Don begins its flow in the Pennines, in my constituency. It flows swiftly towards Penistone and then meanders through the beautiful countryside towards Barnsley, making a turn towards Sheffield. To the west of the A628—the Manchester road—at Millhouse Green, Bullhouse colliery closed in 1961 or 1962. Because it was privately owned, British Coal has denied any responsibility for it.

Just after the colliery closed, the mine water from the old pit started to seep into the River Don, and it has now been running into the Don at quite a pace for several years. For about four miles from the spot where the water from the Bullhouse pit enters it, the River Don is totally polluted; it is an orange colour due to the iron salts in the water. There are no fish, no flora and no fauna—or at any rate, the flora and fauna are greatly deterred by the polluted water. Yet west of the point where the polluted water joins it the Don is an A-grade river whose waters are coveted by the local angling association. We have been pressing for many years to try to get something done about the pollution.

Because the mine was private, British Coal denies any responsibility. We have been corresponding for a year with the National Rivers Authority, but that body says that it does not have the money to deal with the problem. I have also corresponded with the Minister, as well as with the Department of the Environment, to try to persuade them to explore the possibility of making grants available, perhaps through the European Community, to give us the opportunity to start to clear up the river.

That example shows clearly what can happen if no responsibility is laid on the authority or some other body to which we can turn to ensure that a cleaning-up job can be started if an area becomes polluted. It is therefore clear that the new clause and the amendments must be accepted, so if the Government are not prepared to make the required changes I ask Conservative Back Benchers to support the Opposition.

Mr. Peter Hain (Neath)

I shall be as brief as I can, but I must draw the attention of the House to the increasing pollution of the Neath waterways by mining effluent. My hon. Friend the Member for Gower (Mr. Wardell) has investigated the matter in detail through the Select Committee on Welsh Affairs, and we are most grateful for what he has done.

The pollution was first identified at the village of Tonmawr, in the River Pelenna, which has suffered increasing pollution and is now a dirty orange-brown colour; it is at present the subject of a five-year, £1 million-plus programme whose intention is to try to clean it up. The significant aspect of that is that the burden falls not on British Coal or on previous mine owners—the mines were private before nationalisation—but directly on the taxpayer, through the Welsh Office and West Glamorgan county council.

The River Pelenna is not the only heavily polluted waterway; the Neath river, the Neath canal and the River Dulais are all increasingly polluted with mining effluents. Those three waterways are the subject of an interesting story that illustrates the nature of a problem that the Government seem unwilling to recognise, or at least unwilling to concede openly.

When discoloration and pollution started to appear in the Neath canal and the Neath river, it was first thought that it came from the Ynysarwed mine, which closed in 1938 and which had worked the No. 2 Rhondda coal seam. That mine had been discharging a little water for several years, but it had not constituted any threat until spring 1993, when the National Rivers Authority first noticed an increasing discharge from the mine. There was then a sudden but steady increase.

On further investigation, it was realised that the water was coming not from Ynysarwed but from Blaenant colliery, which closed in 1991. How was that happening? Although both the collieries had worked the No. 2 Rhondda coal seam, they were separated. But as the ground water rose in the Blaenant colliery, it started to seep through a barrier of at least 90 m of coal into Ynysarwed, and so to discharge straight into the Neath canal and the Neath river.

I seek to draw the Minister's attention to the fact that the problem is complex, and that unless it is tackled comprehensively we shall not get to grips with it. The Minister is nodding; I am grateful for that, and I look forward with anticipation to his reply.

Pumping has now ceased in the Blaenant colliery. When pumping was occurring it artificially depressed the groundwater level there, but when it stopped the water rose to a sufficient height to start entering Ynysarwed and coming through the rock. The position is further complicated by the fact that the mine water is still rising in Blaenant. The National Rivers Authority says that it is increasingly seeping into the River Dulais.

Partly as a result of NRA pressure, Blaenant drift was sealed up in December 1993, but that in turn forced water up the nearby Cefn Coed shaft, where the two mines were linked. We are now told that the water has reached about 30 m from the top of Cefn Coed, which is one of the deepest shafts in Britain, and it is rising at the rate of half a metre a week. We seal up one apparent cause of a problem and the water seeps out elsewhere.

The same thing is occurring all over the Neath constituency. The Neath canal has now been declared ecologically dead below the level of Resolven, near Neath. There are intense concentrations of dissolved iron and oxidised iron; there is settlement of iron oxides. Fish have had to be recovered and relocated and are in very poor condition. The canal overflows into the River Neath at several points, helping to form deposits of iron hydroxide on the river gravels and causing red discoloration. It has also been blinding the gravels, which has affected the spawning areas, resulting in their destruction. As a result, salmon that spawns in the River Neath is being threatened and in some cases destroyed. Similar problems are affecting the River Dulais, which is also a salmon river. The recent discharges in the river bed at Blaenant are also causing iron oxide of the river gravels and affecting the whole of the river for 3 km downstream from Blaenant, which is also affecting salmon spawning.

8.30 pm

The problem has an effect on tourism. The upper Dulais falls, which have been regenerated over the past few years with an impressive project—it is a major tourist attraction attracting some 30,000 visitors a year—is affected. A fish pass is embedded in the new project. Salmon are coming up the River Dulais, but they are meeting the pollution from above.

The point of that description is that when a mining area starts to be affected by increasing neglect—as it will be over the years as the problem continues to grow—pumping stops, the water level rises and water seeps all over the place. Elderly residents have told me how the Neath river used to be black in the old days when the mines on each side of it were working—except during holiday periods when local children used to swim in it. That was a relatively benign form of pollution through coal. The river now has a deep orange-brown toxic form of pollution which is threatening fish and the environment. It will increasingly threaten the health of local residents as the pollution seeps into local water supplies, and it will increasingly threaten tourism.

I am not talking about an isolated problem. Across Wales, the National Rivers Authority has identified 90 sites that are heavily polluted with mine water effluent. We face an ecological nightmare in south Wales with pumping stopping, the Government abandoning their responsibilities and with pollution increasing throughout the area.

In Committee, the Government showed a cavalier attitude to the problem; regrettably, I anticipate the same attitude from the Minister shortly. Effectively, the Bill is a charter for passing the buck between mine owners, old mines and the National Rivers Authority. Neath borough council, West Glamorgan county council and other authorities believe that the protection allegedly offered in the Bill is totally inadequate. That is why new clause 3 is absolutely essential. If the House does not carry it tonight, I hope that at least it will be carried in the House of Lords.

Mr. Jack Thompson (Wansbeck)

It is interesting that new clause 3 has been supported by every speaker except one—the hon. Member for Littleborough and Saddleworth (Mr. Dickens), whose contribution could be described as neutral at best. I have spent almost as much time listening to the debate as I spent working in the mining industry looking after mine water. Mine water is the topic which we are debating, although apparently the hon. Member for Littleborough and Saddleworth was not aware of that.

I listened carefully to the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Neath (Mr. Hain) about the situation in his constituency and what was applicable in Wales. We must remember that the mines that were worked on each side of the Pennine chain through Northumberland, Durham, Yorkshire and Lancashire discharged water. The mines then closed and the water accumulated there. The water came down into the lower areas and there are problems on the coast, certainly in Northumberland and Durham. As my hon. Friend said, the problem goes right through.

Having had some experience of dealing with mine water for a number of years as an engineer in the industry, I understand the extent of the problem. The mine in which I worked pumped out 4 tonnes of water for every tonne of coal. That was the scale of the problem. Of course, there were problems other than mine water being discharged from the mines. A mine in my constituency that closed in 1966 worked coal reserves under the North sea. The mine closed, but pumps in the shaft still pump sea water. We have the same problem in the coastal areas of Durham and Northumberland; we must now pump out sea water to control the problem. Once the pumping system stops, the water accumulates.

I shall make a final comment that is relevant to the debate. There is an historic precedent for this problem. I am old enough to remember that when the mines were nationalised in 1947 the National Coal Board took over the problem of spoil heaps. The board came to the Government for support and, happily, Governments throughout the years have provided financial support to get rid of the spoil heaps. The spoil heaps were created by private coal owners before the mines were nationalised, and they did not spend one penny on dealing with the problem. The National Coal Board, British Coal and successive Governments have had to deal with the problem, and local authorities, taxpayers and ratepayers have paid for it.

Mr. Giles Radice (Durham, North)

We have all had the benefit of the brilliant briefing on the general problem given to us by Durham county council. May I illustrate the problem in terms of my constituency? We have a first-class new cricket ground at Durham. If the weir in front of the ground is polluted, it will not be a good advertisement for all that has happened. In addition, we have the Lumley waterworks, which draws from the river and supplies clean drinking water to Sunderland. If that is polluted, it will cost £24 million to replace. Does my hon. Friend agree that that figure alone makes the case for the amendment?

Mr. Thompson

I certainly agree. I am sure that when players at the Durham cricket club put a ball into the weir, they will be lucky if they get it back again.

I was making a point about spoil heaps. Over the years, major spoil heaps were created by the private coal industry before it was nationalised. The nationalised industry had to cope with the problem, although I accept immediately that it has had Government support over the years since 1947. The spoil heaps have now been dealt with, certainly in my area.

If the problem of spoil heaps is not dealt with properly now, we shall have a similar problem with mine water 10 or 15 years from now. The Government should deal with the problem now. If they do not, it will remain and 10 years from now hon. Members will be spending hours in the Chamber trying to find a way of dealing with it. New clause 3 would provide an opportunity to deal with the problem now, and it should be accepted on that basis.

Mr. Eggar

Understandably, we have had a lengthy and good debate. I was delighted to see the hon. Member for Sherwood (Mr. Tipping) on his feet again.

The theme of speeches from hon. Members on both sides of the House is that there is genuine concern about the Durham coalfield, the south Wales coalfield, Nottinghamshire and elsewhere. It may help the House if I briefly try to allay some concerns which I think are completely ill founded. There are other concerns, which I shall discuss later.

The first concern, which seems to have been put across by Durham county council—it was repeated by the hon. Member for Durham, North-West (Ms Armstrong)—is that the Bill will in some way weaken the environmental controls. The hon. Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. Mullin) also went down that route. That simply is not the case. The Bill makes it absolutely clear—it is all there in clause 7(3)—that the environmental obligations that currently rest with British Coal under separate environmental legislation are to be passed on to the Coal Authority unless and until separate licences are given to private sector operators. Therefore, the environmental legislation follows through from British Coal to either the Coal Authority or private sector operators. I thought that we had got that basic fact across to those who are genuinely concerned about environmental regulation.

Mr. Simon Hughes


Mr. Eggar

I will give way to the hon. Gentleman, but I am keen to try to reply in detail to the points that have been made by other hon. Members. It would be for the convenience of the House if I did so as rapidly as possible.

Mr. Hughes

I do not think that the Durham document seeks to say that there has been a weakening. Will the Minister address specifically the proposal on page 7 of the document, which relates to precisely the clause of the Bill to which he is referring? The Minister will see that the left-hand column refers to an amendment that would add liabilities, including environmental liabilities, in relation to abandoned coal mines.

Mr. Eggar

The hon. Gentleman abuses the right of intervention. I was going on to develop the arguments clearly with respect to that question. If the hon. Gentleman lets me continue, I shall seek to reassure him.

The obligations in terms of responding to existing environmental law and regulations relate under the contents of the Bill either to the Coal Authority or to private sector licensees. It is fundamental to the construction of the Bill both with regard to both safety and environmental obligations that we do not seek in any way to duplicate or mix up the role of the environmental regulatory organisation on one hand or the responsibility for safety on the other. It is a theme of the Bill that the National Rivers Authority remains responsible for environmental regulation.

That is why I must say to the House that I simply do not accept the logic behind new clause 3, or amendments Nos. 41, 55 and 14. They blur the structure which says that there should be an external environmental regulator. The concerns of my hon. Friends and of a number of Opposition Members—particularly the hon. Member for Sunderland, South—are whether the environmental regulations as laid out in the Water Resources Act 1991 are adequate for the future.

When people talk about the need to tighten the environmental rules and regulations, they are really addressing the perceived adequacy or otherwise of section 89(3) of the Water Resources Act. The debate is about that section, which provides that a person does not commit an offence by reason only of permitting water from an abandoned mine to enter controlled waters.

The legislation is there in that form because when the Bill was introduced and the Act debated it was felt to be unreasonable to place an absolute obligation in respect of environmental damage on a landowner who may never have been responsible for mining at all and who may have bought the land without being aware that it was undermined.

Much to my surprise, I must pay tribute to the hon. Member for Neath (Mr. Hain); I hope that I shall not ruin his reputation by doing so. The hon. Gentleman recognised how complicated the whole problem is because water flows are not fully understood. That is also true in Durham. It is not a simple matter of saying that there is an absolute obligation on a landowner because he may not in fact have any real responsibility for causing the environmental damage in the first place.


It is precisely because of the concerns expressed by my hon. Friends and by Opposition Members, and because of a more general concern about the whole statutory position with regard to contaminated land, that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment is currently carrying out a review of the legislative framework of water pollution in general. My right hon. Friend is conducting that review in tandem with a broader review of contaminated land and liabilities. It is obvious that the review must be careful. My right hon. Friend has asked for consultation, and responses are requested by 3 May. My hon. Friend the Minister for the Environment and Countryside announced only two weeks ago that he expected the review to be completed later this year.

In the meantime, the Government will make sure that all British Coal's current liabilities continue to be discharged. We have made that absolutely clear in the Coal Authority explanatory note that we have published. I very much hope that when my right hon. Friend introduces his proposals, he will be able to take account of what I recognise as hon. Members' genuine concerns. I hope that he will be able to get the balance right and that he can take account of all of the consultations. On the basis of those assurances, I hope that the hon. Member for Middlesbrough (Mr. Bell) will be willing not to press the new clause.

Mr. Bell

I am grateful for the explanations that the Minister has given. He seems again to have passed the buck to the Department of the Environment. We have seen the buck passed during the past two or three years and it is still being passed. The Opposition made it clear in Committee that we were not satisfied with the explanations that were given by the Minister and that we would bring the matter to the Floor of House.

My hon. Friends and I can hardly be satisfied with the way in which the Executive have disregarded the views of the legislature tonight. The House heard interesting remarks from the hon. Members for Batley and Spen (Mrs. Peacock), for Newark (Mr. Alexander), and for Broxtowe (Mr. Lester), and from the right hon. Member for Woking (Sir C. Onslow). They are Conservative Members, and that suggests that there is cross-party support for the suggestion that phrasing on contaminated water should appear somehow in the Bill. On the basis of that, I will not press the amendments, but will seek to divide the House on new clause 3.

Question put, That the clause be read a Second time:—

The House divided: Ayes 269, Noes 293.

Division No. 175] [8.50 pm
Abbott, Ms Diane Evans, John (St Helens N)
Adams, Mrs Irene Fatchett, Derek
Ainger, Nick Faulds, Andrew
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE) Field, Frank (Birkenhead)
Allen, Graham Flynn, Paul
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E) Foster, Rt Hon Derek
Anderson, Ms Janet (Ros'dale) Foster, Don (Bath)
Armstrong, Hilary Foulkes, George
Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy Fraser, John
Ashton, Joe Fyfe, Maria
Austin-Walker, John Galbraith, Sam
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Galloway, George
Barnes, Harry Gapes, Mike
Barron, Kevin Garrett, John
Battle, John George, Bruce
Bayley, Hugh Gerrard, Neil
Beckett, Rt Hon Margaret Godman, Dr Norman A.
Beith, Rt Hon A. J. Godsiff, Roger
Bell, Stuart Golding, Mrs Llin
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Gordon, Mildred
Bennett, Andrew F. Gould, Bryan
Benton, Joe Graham, Thomas
Bermingham, Gerald Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Berry, Dr. Roger Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Betts, Clive Grocott, Bruce
Blair, Tony Gunnell, John
Blunkett, David Hain, Peter
Boateng, Paul Hall, Mike
Bradley, Keith Hanson, David
Bray, Dr Jeremy Hardy, Peter
Brown, Gordon (Dunfermline E) Harman, Ms Harriet
Brown, N. (N'c'tle upon Tyne E) Harvey, Nick
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon) Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy
Burden, Richard Henderson, Doug
Byers, Stephen Heppell, John
Caborn, Richard Hill, Keith (Streatham)
Callaghan, Jim Hinchliffe, David
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge) Hoey, Kate
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE) Hogg, Norman (Cumbernauld)
Campbell-Savours, D. N. Home Robertson, John
Canavan, Dennis Hood, Jimmy
Cann, Jamie Hoon, Geoffrey
Chisholm, Malcolm Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Clapham, Michael Howells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd)
Clark, Dr David (South Shields) Hoyle, Doug
Clarke, Eric (Midlothian) Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Clelland, David Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Clwyd, Mrs Ann Hughes, Roy (Newport E)
Coffey, Ann Hughes, Simon (Southwark)
Cohen, Harry Hutton, John
Cook, Frank (Stockton N) Illsley, Eric
Cook, Robin (Livingston) Ingram, Adam
Corbett, Robin Jackson, Glenda (H'stead)
Corbyn, Jeremy Jackson, Helen (Shef'ld, H)
Corston, Ms Jean Jamieson, David
Cousins, Jim Janner, Greville
Cryer, Bob Jones, Barry (Alyn and D'side)
Cunliffe, Lawrence Jones, Ieuan Wyn (Ynys Môn)
Cunningham, Jim (Covy SE) Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)
Dafis, Cynog Jones, Lynne (B'ham S O)
Dalyell, Tam Jones, Martyn (Clwyd, SW)
Darling, Alistair Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham)
Davidson, Ian Jowell, Tessa
Davies, Bryan (Oldham C'tral) Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli) Keen, Alan
Davies, Ron (Caerphilly) Kennedy, Charles (Ross, C&S)
Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'dge H'l) Kennedy, Jane (Lpool Brdgn)
Dewar, Donald Khabra, Piara S.
Dixon, Don Kilfoyle, Peter
Donohoe, Brian H. Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil (Islwyn)
Dowd, Jim Kirkwood, Archy
Dunnachie, Jimmy Lestor, Joan (Eccles)
Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth Lewis, Terry
Eagle, Ms Angela Litherland, Robert
Eastham, Ken Livingstone, Ken
Enright, Derek Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)
Etherington, Bill Llwyd, Elfyn
Loyden, Eddie Radice, Giles
Lynne, Ms Liz Randall, Stuart
McAllion, John Raynsford, Nick
McAvoy, Thomas Redmond, Martin
McCartney, Ian Reid, Dr John
McCrea, Rev William Robertson, George (Hamilton)
Macdonald, Calum Robinson, Geoffrey (Co'try NW)
McFall, John Roche, Mrs. Barbara
McKelvey, William Rogers, Allan
Mackinlay, Andrew Rooker, Jeff
McLeish, Henry Rooney, Terry
McMaster, Gordon Rowlands, Ted
McNamara, Kevin Ruddock, Joan
McWilliam, John Sedgemore, Brian
Madden, Max Shearman, Barry
Maddock, Mrs Diana Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Mahon, Alice Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Mandelson, Peter Short, Clare
Marek, Dr John Simpson, Alan
Marshall, David (Shettleston) Skinner, Dennis
Marshall, Jim (Leicester, S) Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)
Martin, Michael J. (Springburn) Smith, C. (Isl'ton S & F'sbury)
Martlew, Eric Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Maxton, John Snape, Peter
Meacher, Michael Soley, Clive
Meale, Alan Spearing, Nigel
Michael, Alun Spellar, John
Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley) Squire, Rachel (Dunfermline W)
Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll Bute) Steel, Rt Hon Sir David
Milburn, Alan Steinberg, Gerry
Miller, Andrew Stevenson, George
Mitchell, Austin (Gt Grimsby) Stott, Roger
Moonie, Dr Lewis Strang, Dr. Gavin
Morgan, Rhodri Straw, Jack
Morley, Elliot Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Morris, Rt Hon A. (Wy'nshawe) Thompson, Jack (Wansbeck)
Morris, Estelle (B'ham Yardley) Tipping, Paddy
Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon) Vaz, Keith
Mudie, George Walker, Rt Hon Sir Harold
Mullin, Chris Wallace, James
Murphy, Paul Walley, Joan
Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon Wardell, Gareth (Gower)
O'Brien, Michael (N W'kshire) Wareing, Robert N
O'Brien, William (Normanton) Watson, Mike
Olner, William Welsh, Andrew
O'Neill, Martin Wicks, Malcolm
Orme, Rt Hon Stanley Wigley, Dafydd
Parry, Robert Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Sw'n W)
Patchett, Terry Williams, Alan W (Carmarthen)
Pendry, Tom Wilson, Brian
Pickthall, Colin Winnick, David
Pike, Peter L. Wise, Audrey
Pope, Greg Wray, Jimmy
Powell, Ray (Ogmore) Wright, Dr Tony
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lew'm E) Young, David (Bolton SE)
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Prescott, John Tellers for the Ayes
Primarolo, Dawn Mr. John Cummings, and Mr. Dennis Turner.
Purchase, Ken
Quin, Ms Joyce
Ainsworth, Peter (East Surrey) Batiste, Spencer
Aitken, Jonathan Bellingham, Henry
Alison, Rt Hon Michael (Selby) Bendall, Vivian
Allason, Rupert (Torbay) Beresford, Sir Paul
Amess, David Biffen, Rt Hon John
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Body, Sir Richard
Arnold, Sir Thomas (Hazel Grv) Bonsor, Sir Nicholas
Ashby, David Booth, Hartley
Aspinwall, Jack Boswell, Tim
Atkins, Robert Bottomley, Peter (Eltham)
Atkinson, David (Bour'mouth E) Bottomley, Rt Hon Virginia
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham) Bowden, Andrew
Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley) Bowis, John
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset North) Boyson, Rt Hon Sir Rhodes
Baldry, Tony Brandreth, Gyles
Banks, Matthew (Southport) Brazier, Julian
Banks, Robert (Harrogate) Bright, Graham
Bates, Michael Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thorpes)
Browning, Mrs. Angela Hampson, Dr Keith
Bruce, Ian (S Dorset) Hanley, Jeremy
Budgen, Nicholas Hannam, Sir John
Burns, Simon Hargreaves, Andrew
Butler, Peter Harris, David
Butterfill, John Haselhurst, Alan
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Hawkins, Nick
Carrington, Matthew Hawksley, Warren
Carttiss, Michael Hayes, Jerry
Cash, William Heald, Oliver
Churchill, Mr Hendry, Charles
Clappison, James Hicks, Robert
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford) Higgins, Rt Hon Sir Terence L.
Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas (G'tham)
Coe, Sebastian Horam, John
Colvin, Michael Hordern, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Congdon, David Howard, Rt Hon Michael
Conway, Derek Howarth, Alan (Strat'rd-on-A)
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre For'st) Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford)
Coombs, Simon (Swindon) Howell, Sir Ralph (N Norfolk)
Cope, Rt Hon Sir John Hunt, Rt Hon David (Wirral W)
Cormack, Patrick Hunt, Sir John (Ravensbourne)
Couchman, James Hunter, Andrew
Cran, James Jack, Michael
Currie, Mrs Edwina (S D'by'ire) Jackson, Robert (Wantage)
Curry, David (Skipton & Ripon) Jenkin, Bernard
Davies, Quentin (Stamford) Jessel, Toby
Davis, David (Boothferry) Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey
Day, Stephen Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)
Deva, Nirj Joseph Jones, Robert B. (W Hertfdshr)
Devlin, Tim Jopling, Rt Hon Michael
Dickens, Geoffrey Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine
Dorrell, Stephen Key, Robert
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James Kilfedder, Sir James
Dover, Den King, Rt Hon Tom
Duncan, Alan Kirkhope, Timothy
Duncan-Smith, Iain Knapman, Roger
Dunn, Bob Knight, Mrs Angela (Erewash)
Durant, Sir Anthony Knight, Greg (Derby N)
Dykes, Hugh Knight, Dame Jill (Bir'm E'st'n)
Eggar, Tim Knox, Sir David
Elletson, Harold Kynoch, George (Kincardine)
Emery, Rt Hon Sir Peter Lait, Mrs Jacqui
Evans, David (Welwyn Hatfield) Lang, Rt Hon Ian
Evans, Jonathan (Brecon) Lawrence, Sir Ivan
Evans, Nigel (Ribble Valley) Legg, Barry
Evans, Roger (Monmouth) Leigh, Edward
Evennett, David Lennox-Boyd, Mark
Fabricant, Michael Lidington, David
Fairbairn, Sir Nicholas Lightbown, David
Fenner, Dame Peggy Lloyd, Rt Hon Peter (Fareham)
Field, Barry (Isle of Wight) Lord, Michael
Fishburn, Dudley Luff, Peter
Forman, Nigel Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas
Forsyth, Michael (Stirling) MacGregor, Rt Hon John
Forth, Eric MacKay, Andrew
Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman Maclean, David
Fox, Dr Liam (Woodspring) McLoughlin, Patrick
Freeman, Rt Hon Roger McNair-Wilson, Sir Patrick
French, Douglas Madel, Sir David
Fry, Sir Peter Maitland, Lady Olga
Gale, Roger Major, Rt Hon John
Gallie, Phil Malone, Gerald
Gardiner, Sir George Mans, Keith
Garel-Jones, Rt Hon Tristan Marland, Paul
Garnier, Edward Marlow, Tony
Gill, Christopher Marshall, John (Hendon S)
Gillan, Cheryl Martin, David (Portsmouth S)
Goodlad, Rt Hon Alastair Mates, Michael
Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles Mawhinney, Rt Hon Dr Brian
Gorman, Mrs Teresa Merchant, Piers
Gorst, John Mills, Iain
Grant, Sir A. (Cambs SW) Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)
Greenway, Harry (Ealing N) Mitchell, Sir David (Hants NW)
Greenway, John (Ryedale) Moate, Sir Roger
Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth, N) Monro, Sir Hector
Grylls, Sir Michael Montgomery, Sir Fergus
Hague, William Moss, Malcolm
Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archie Needham, Richard
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton) Neubert, Sir Michael
Newton, Rt Hon Tony Stem, Michael
Nicholls, Patrick Stewart, Allan
Nicholson, David (Taunton) Streeter, Gary
Nicholson, Emma (Devon West) Sumberg, David
Norris, Steve Sweeney, Walter
Onslow, Rt Hon Sir Cranley Sykes, John
Oppenheim, Phillip Tapsell, Sir Peter
Ottaway, Richard Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Page, Richard Taylor, John M. (Solihull)
Paice, James Taylor, Sir Teddy (Southend, E)
Patnick, Irvine Temple-Morris, Peter
Patten, Rt Hon John Thomason, Roy
Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Thompson, Sir Donald (C'er V)
Pawsey, James Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Pickles, Eric Thornton, Sir Malcolm
Porter, Barry (Wirral S) Thurnham, Peter
Porter, David (Waveney) Townend, John (Bridlington)
Portillo, Rt Hon Michael Townsend, Cyril D. (Bexl'yh'th)
Redwood, Rt Hon John Tracey, Richard
Ronton, Rt Hon Tim Tredinnick, David
Richards, Rod Trend, Michael
Riddick, Graham Twinn, Dr Ian
Robathan, Andrew Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Roberts, Rt Hon Sir Wyn Viggers, Peter
Robertson, Raymond (Ab'd'n S) Waldegrave, Rt Hon William
Robinson, Mark (Somerton) Walden, George
Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne) Walker, Bill (N Tayside)
Rowe, Andrew (Mid Kent) Waller, Gary
Rumbold, Rt Hon Dame Angela Ward, John
Ryder, Rt Hon Richard Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Sackville, Tom Waterson, Nigel
Sainsbury, Rt Hon Tim Watts, John
Scott, Rt Hon Nicholas Wells, Bowen
Shaw, David (Dover) Whitney, Ray
Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey) Whittingdale, John
Shepherd, Colin (Hereford) Widdecombe, Ann
Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge) Wiggin, Sir Jerry
Sims, Roger Wilkinson, John
Skeet, Sir Trevor Willerts, David
Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick) Wilshire, David
Speed, Sir Keith Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Spencer, Sir Derek Winterton, Nicholas (Macc'f'ld)
Spicer, Sir James (W Dorset) Wolfson, Mark
Spicer, Michael (S Worcs) Wood, Timothy
Spink, Dr Robert Yeo, Tim
Spring, Richard Young, Rt Hon Sir George
Sproat, Iain
Squire, Robin (Hornchurch) Tellers for the Noes:
Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John Mr. Sydney Chapman and Mr. James Arbuthnot.
Stephen, Michael

Question accordingly negatived.

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