HC Deb 23 March 1994 vol 240 cc289-320 3.58 pm
Mr. Robin Cook (Livingston)

I beg to move amendment No. 1, in page 11, line 49, at end add— `(10) The Secretary of State shall direct the Corporation to ensure that no coal mine shall cease production until the Coal Authority is established and able to invite applications for licences for these mines under section 26 of this Act. (11) The Secretary of State shall not perform the functions of the Coal Authority under subsection (10) above. (12) Where it is agreed that coal production is no longer possible, the Corporation may carry out its duty under subsection (10) above by operating on a care and maintenance basis only.'.

Madam Speaker

With this, it will be convenient to take amendment No. 8, in clause 66, page 63, line 37, at end insert— '(aa) section 11(10) to (12).'

Mr. Cook

The purpose of amendment No. 1 is simple: to ensure that there are no more closures before privatisation and that we have a truce in the closure programme, which has already given rise to too many casualties and too many human victims. It asks that there should be no more casualties in the few remaining months for which Ministers of the Crown remain responsible for an industry that is still in the public sector.

As well as being a simple amendment, it is charitable, because it takes Ministers at their word. It accepts the lavish promises that have been made that privatisation will be good for the coal industry and that pits will prosper under privatisation. [Interruption.] I see that on this point I carry the Minister with me. If he is so confident that pits will prosper under privatisation, what, then, is his problem in keeping open until that moment at least those that remain?

That will be a lot easier for him to do than it was at the time of Second Reading, because there are now fewer pits than there were when we discussed the Bill on Second Reading. Twenty-two were open then; there are now 17. What, therefore, will stop him saying that those 17 pits can remain in operation until privatisation? I hope that he is not planning another round of closures, which would prevent him from accepting this amendment.

I mention that because I notice that it was reported in the Financial Times last week that another two or three pits will close next month after the review meetings that have been convened to consider the collieries that are open. The report even names the five pits on the short list for closure: Bilsthorpe in Nottingham; Tower and Point of Ayr in Wales, which would mean that there will be no colliery left operating in Wales; Prince of Wales and Kiveton in Yorkshire. Those pits are at the heart of the amendment. Their fate will be decided next month at those review meetings. If the amendment is agreed to, those pits will go forward to take their chance after privatisation. If it is voted down, they may well be closed.

Those pits demonstrate the extent to which we are now closing pits that are financially viable and make economic sense. Point of Ayr is now producing coal at £1.14 per gigajoule. When the Government carried out the coal review they instructed Boyds to review pits that might be closed, and Boyds set targets in terms of cost per gigajoule for every pit for 1995. The figure currently achieved by Point of Ayr is below the figure that Boyds set it for 1995. Already, over a year in advance, it is below the target figure. Bilsthorpe is below the target figure, too, and Kiveton is not only below it but well below. Kiveton colliery is now producing coal at £1.38 per gigajoule, well below the target of £1.53 by 1995 set by Boyds.

Some of the most efficient pits in Europe, producing the cheapest fuel in Britain, which will give consumers the cheapest electricity, are at risk of closure. In a rational world, it should not be necessary for us to come to the House of Commons to move amendments to keep those pits open—but we are not talking about a rational decision. We can see that by considering the pits that have been closed since Second Reading.

Five pits have closed since the House started proceedings on the Bill in January. One of them, Manton, produces coal at £1 per gigajoule—cheaper than most imports and cheaper than the coal produced by most pits in this country. When Boyds carried out the review for the coal White Paper it reckoned that Manton was the eighth most profitable pit in Britain, with a potential profit margin of 20 per cent. We have just closed one of the most efficient pits in the coal industry. How can the Minister possibly defend that?

Mr. Joseph Ashton (Bassetlaw)

My hon. Friend mentioned Manton in my constituency, and everything that he said is true. Is there not also a cloak over the proceedings when people close a pit by saying that it will be amalgamated with another pit, or by two-thirds closing it by cutting three faces down to one, as happened at Harworth, in my constituency? That means that men who go for redundancy get £10,000 less because there is no actual pit closure, although some of the faces have closed. The whole process is filled with deception.

Mr. Cook

My hon. Friend touches on a clear case of deception—a proposal for the merger of pits. Such proposals are transparently proposals for a closure of one of the two merged pits. I suspect that the only reason that British Coal is operating by merger rather than by closure is that with "mergers" it does not need to offer the pit concerned for market testing, for private sector operators to come forward to take it over. That is a device to ensure not only that pits close but that they stay closed.

I was asking how the Minister could defend those actions. The reality, as he knows, is that he cannot defend them. I suspect that he will not even try. I know that he cannot because I have here the minutes of the British Coal privatisation project co-ordination group meeting on 14 February, at which the Minister had four representatives. The meeting took place the week after Manton was closed, and a Mr. Peter Jones, a merchant banker, was minuted as having repeated concerns: that cost projections"— for privatisation— would re-open debate about the reasons for closure of particular collieries". In other words, if the cost projections on privatisation were revealed, they would expose the fact that the pits that have been closed were just as cheap as those being kept for privatisation—in the case of Manton, probably even cheaper. I must say that, if a merchant banker cannot make the figures fit his case, they must be pretty robust figures. If Ministers are prepared to close pits when the case is so good that they dare not reveal the figures, it underlines the case for the House to pass the amendment to ensure that Ministers do not close any more.

I am told that those cost projections to which Mr. Jones refers arise from another Boyds' study. Boyds is currently making cost projections of the cost of pits under privatisation. Perhaps the Minister could confirm that; perhaps he could deny it. He would unwise to seek to deny it, because I have one of those cost projections with me. It is the first cost projection for Longannet and is dated 2 March.

That cost projection of the likely cost of coal in the pits after privatisation goes to the heart of our debate on the Bill. What is fascinating about Boyds' conclusion about the cost projections after privatisation is that it shows that the cost of coal will go up, not down. The Minister need not look so surprised. The paper has been already circulated to the DTI coal privatisation unit. He will have some difficulty denying that that paper exists and some difficulty

The Minister will be aware of the assumptions on which the calculation is based, which are revealing. I see that the paper was addressed to Nicola Kirkup. I do not know whether we have a Nicola Kirkup in the House, but I am sure that she can brief hon. Members on what she has read in that document. The assumptions show that, after privatisation, redundancy payments are expected to tumble to £5,000 per head—about a quarter of the present level under British Coal. That is relevant, because another assumption in the document is that 150 workers at Longannet will be sacked on privatisation of that pit.

Despite those savings and costs, the reduced redundancy payments and the reduced number of staff, the total operating costs rise because of the increase in pension contributions for a new pension scheme and the increased insurance premiums which are necessary from a private owner. Boyds concludes: Overall operating cash costs actually increase under private ownership from £1.32 per gigajoule to £1.34 per gigajoule. That is occurring at a pit which, over the past decade of public ownership, has dramatically reduced those costs. For the first time in 10 years, it is faced with an increase in its operating costs because of privatisation. How can Ministers possibly continue to defend the privatisation proposal when they have been told that it will put up the price of coal?

There is another problem for the Ministers—how can they sell the pits? Boyds concludes its assessment with the following observation: This cost assessment will be a major disincentive to buyers, who will point out cost increases despite aggressive improvements in performance. The question that Ministers must answer is, how can they square their wish to privatise coal with the fact that, plainly, they will have difficulty selling that idea to the market? In a sane House of Commons, they would find it impossible to sell those figures to hon. Members. I suspect that when they answer they will not try. The Ministers know that any figures are irrelevant to the Bill.

Privatisation has nothing to do with whether it pushes up the price of coal or cuts off access to our coal reserves. There was no economic case for the closure programme. That programme shuts down access to fuel which provides us with the cheapest electricity. There was no financial case for privatisation. The Government will never get much money for the pits and will receive even less when the word gets out that it will be more expensive to operate the pits. There is no social case for privatisation. As my hon. Friends forcefully expressed yesterday, no private coal company can boast the safety record of British Coal. Why put that safety record at risk with privatisation? The reason is that the Bill is not motivated by finance or by economics or by social argument, but by the vindictive prejudice of the Government against the coal industry.

That is what the Bill is about. That is why I suspect that the Minister will refuse to accept the amendment and give even a temporary reprieve to the coal industry. That is why the Bill will be remembered as the low tide of privatisation. It is a measure which we always knew was strategically inept and politically vindictive, and we now know—thanks to Boyds—that it is also financially bankrupt.

Mr. Peter Hardy (Wentworth)

I shall be brief. There are three enormities about the Bill: the enormity of the cost to the public purse, the enormity of the challenge to the communities that are affected and the enormity of the Government's idiocy. As my hon. Friend the Member for Livingston (Mr. Cook) said, the Government have produced a Bill which is bred from dogma and out of malice. With breeding of that sort, what sort of colt will be produced?

The national interest is not being served. We will generate dependency within a relatively short time. The Government have connived with Hobart house to have a small number of profitable pits which will not be able to meet Britain's requirements for coal within a short time. Given the Government's responsibilities to the nation as well as to mining areas, the least they could do is ensure that a sufficient number of collieries remain to meet Britain's needs, which may well become acute if the Government's calculations are wrong and the price of gas rises faster than they feared.

Indeed, as we reach the late 1990s, the Government will be extremely fearful in case the world gas price rises. I know that the Minister does not pay any attention to us. The Under-Secretary of State for Technology and the Minister for Energy are sitting there chatting while they care not at all about the national interest.

A short while ago, I was in Germany meeting a German local authority in the Ruhr coalfield. When I talked to the miners there, they grumbled a little because they got only three years' notice of a colliery being closed. Some of us had less than three weeks. Some of us have seen profitable collieries such as Silverwood in my constituency doomed soon after the brilliant men of Hobart house approved millions of pounds of expenditure, which simply stopped before Christmas and before the coal face that was being developed could begin to turn coal.

We have had enough stupidity, we have had enough dogma and we have had enough malice. It is time that the Government reconsidered the matter and accepted the amendment—in the national interest.

Mr. Paddy Tipping (Sherwood)

Miners in Nottinghamshire and throughout the country will see the amendment as a touchstone of the Government's commitment to the coal industry in Nottinghamshire. If the Government accept the amendment, at least it will give Nottinghamshire miners some hope. They need it, because they believe that the promises made to them first by Lady Thatcher's Government and then by this Government only last March have been betrayed. They believe that the Government have turned their back on them and simply walked away.

If the amendment is carried, mines could stay open a little longer. People in Nottinghamshire want that commitment. They remember that, on Second Reading, Ollerton and Manton were still open; both are closed now. The way in which those pits were closed was despicable. British Coal, backed by the Government, filled the miners' mouths with gold. It behaved in an ignorant and arrogant way; it showed no sense and no sensibility and it showed contempt for the miners and their families. It put an extra £10,000 in redundancy money on the table and told the miners at Ollerton and Manton to take the money by Friday, or they would lose it.

I was interested to see that, when the pit ponies came out of Ellington colliery only a few weeks ago, British Coal said that they would be looked after for the rest of their lives. Would it not be fine if miners who are thrown out of employment in Nottinghamshire daily received that sort of assurance from the Government?

As well as filling miners' mouths with gold, they have now filled the pit shafts at Ollerton and Manton, and there is no prospect of those collieries reopening. Those profitable pits have closed, and the jobs have gone for ever. Perhaps the Minister will come clean this afternoon and confirm that further closures are imminent. Perhaps he will say that British Coal has already decided which pits are to close before 30 April. Perhaps he will say whether he has been consulted on that point.

I am told, and I know it to be the case, that decisions have been made about a further round of closures, and that all we are waiting for is ministerial consent.

4.15 pm
Mr. Jack Thompson (Wansbeck)

I suspect that my hon. Friend believes, as I do, that there is something behind this in terms of the board of British Coal. To my knowledge, only one member of the board has said that he is neither involved nor interested in management buy-outs.

I feel that the management will try to get involved in the little group of collieries which will be left after privatisation. They will have a virtual monopoly in providing coal to the electrical generating industry, for instance. If that is the case, it is an example of absolute corruption.

Mr. Tipping

It is clear that there has been collusion between the Government and their supporters to define the market for coal. The level of that market will be 30 million tonnes, and it is clear that the British Coal managers have moved the number of collieries down to a level which will produce that amount. The pits currently in operation are producing 30 million tonnes of coal.

It is also clear that managers, senior managers and maybe board members within British Coal are looking at the prospects for a buy-out. It is no wonder that men who have worked in and given everything to the industry view those managers with suspicion and hostility. They know that those managers are backed by the Government, and that there is a master plan at Hobart house and at the Department of Trade and Industry for pits that are to be closed during the next few weeks.

It would be surprising—or perhaps not—if those announcements were made while Parliament was in recess for Easter. It would not be the first time that that has happened. Christmas holidays have been disasters for miners and for their families, and Easter holidays for many of them look dim and hostile.

The Government ought to come clean, and say whether they know which pits are to close before 30 April, when the present redundancy scheme ends. I suspect that there will be more bribery and corruption. Money will be put on the table to miners and they will be told to take or leave the extra £10,000, or they will have lost not just their jobs, but the extra money.

That is a fine way to treat miners at Bilsthorpe colliery, where there was a disaster last year. That disaster put the colliery's production back, but the miners worked hard and are now achieving their targets. They are on the rack. They believe that they have done everything that has been asked of them, and more. They want a clear commitment about whether they will survive the next round of closures.

The Government ought to show some faith with the miners. They ought to say clearly today that there are to be no more closures, or, if closures are conceived, that they be left in the distance until the new Coal Authority is in place.

The Government owe the mining industry. The miners in Nottinghamshire and throughout the country have done everything that has been been asked of them and more. They have increased productivity by 150 per cent. in recent years, and are producing coal at half the cost of coal from Germany. People all over Europe believe that we are crazy to close our mining industry.

Even at this late stage, the Government should show some compassion and sense, and accept the amendment. It is a small amendment, and a small step forward. It is at least a touchstone of faith for the miners of Nottinghamshire and throughout the country, who feel that they have been betrayed.

Mr. Simon Hughes (Southwark and Bermondsey)

My hon. Friends and I entirely support the amendment. As the hon. Member for Livingston (Mr. Cook) knows, we have added our names to it to show that.

The amendment makes two key points. The first is that, in any event and whatever the long-term plan might be, there is no excuse for not undertaking care and maintenance, even if mining is to stop, or for not holding the position pending the Coal Authority coming into operation and people bidding for licences and coming along to say that they are willing to take over a pit. It would be unacceptable to allow pits that are operating today to be lost between now and the end of the life of British Coal and the creation of the Coal Authority.

The second point is that we do not trust the Government. The point has been made on behalf of the industry over and over again. The industry does not trust the Government to look after its interests. It has already been made clear in speeches from these Benches that the industry does not trust British Coal to look after its interests, because it believes that British Coal is thinking about something else. It believes that British Coal is thinking about its own interests and the future interests of the people who work for British Coal, following the enactment of the legislation. That is a classic conflict of interest.

The amendment seeks to protect the industry and the current workers against the conflict of interest in the management of British Coal. Certain examples suggest how right we are to be suspicious.

It is not accidental that pits which stopped operation last year are being reopened by British Coal this year. In the past few weeks, British Coal has announced that it will put £9 million into restarting production at Maltby. Maltby happens to be near Rotherham. I do not think that it is coincidental that the announcement has been made in the past few weeks, given that a by-election is coming up in Rotherham.

Mr. David Hanson (Delyn)

The Conservatives will not win it.

Mr. Hughes

Of course the Government will not win. Not only will they not win, but they will be lucky to save their deposit. I did not mean that there was any great political benefit in reopening Maltby.

Mr. Kevin Hughes (Doncaster, North)

The Liberal Democrats might even beat them.

Mr. Simon Hughes

The hon. Member says that we too may beat the Conservatives. Indeed, we have good prospects of beating them in Rotherham and in all the other Labour-held seats where by-elections are to be held. So there will be no political gain for the Government.

Mr. Alan Duncan (Rutland and Melton)

That undermines the hon. Member's argument that this is done for political gain.

Mr. Hughes

No, it does not. The Government are standing by while British Coal plays games with the industry in the very shortest of short terms. It is self-evident that some of the pits that are currently closed have been the subject of interest from operators and are potentially perfectly viable. We know that people can make a go of those pits.

Mr. Hardy

My hon. Friends will have heard my hon. Friend the Member for Rother Valley (Mr. Barron) and me make relevant comments about the matter. British Coal intends to de-mothball Maltby but close Silverwood in my constituency. It will transfer men from Silverwood to Maltby, having got rid of most of the Maltby men first.

Does the hon. Gentleman recognise that the one thing that Hobart house should have been worried about was to keep Maltby going immediately after completing £190 million of capital investment? The price that British Coal would have had to pay for taking Maltby into the core group it wants to set up might well have been rather higher than it wished to pay.

Mr. Hughes

I agree. That touches on exactly the debate that we had last night, on mine water. Many unspecified liabilities have not yet been sorted out. As we have seen many times, the Government are forcing through the rush to sell off not the family silver or the Government's silver, but the nation's black silver, because they know that that is the only way in which they will be able to persuade buyers to make bids for some of the pits without knowing what the potential liability will be. That action is highly irresponsible, because it does not give any protection either to the people who are working in the pits at present or to the public at large.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Technology (Mr. Patrick McLoughlin)

At the beginning of his speech, did the hon. Gentleman say that, of the closures which are deemed necessary, if a closure does take place that colliery should be kept on a care and maintenance basis until such time as privatisation has taken place in full?

Mr. Hughes

I simply repeated the points of view that are formally expressed in this amendment. It makes two points very clearly—the Minister must have been briefed on how to respond to them.

First, the third paragraph of the amendment says that, where coal production is no longer possible, the corporation should operate on a care and maintenance basis. Secondly, it says that the Secretary of State should direct the corporation to ensure that no production in any of the pits ceases until the new authority is up and running. It is a twin argument, and we argue in this way because we do not trust management to make decisions about the pits operating currently which are not compromised by the interests of the current managers.

The risk is that pits will be closed, with a subsequent loss of jobs.We know about the potential unemployment, and we know how that will damage communities. We have rehearsed those arguments, and the Minister knows about the devastation that pit closures cause in communities where the mine is often the only major employer.

In almost every case, the consequence of decisions to close pits means either that pits will never reopen—which means the loss indefinitely of what could be a perfectly good pit—or that pits will be closed, with the risk that licences will be taken out by people who have not addressed or picked up full responsibility for health and safety, environmental liabilities and other matters dealt with by other amendments on Report.

The United Kingdom has some of the best coal in Europe, if not the world. The nation cannot afford to allow British Coal to make further announcements after the Bill has gone through the Parliament, and say, "Right, now that we know we are not going to run into political flak, we are basically free to make unaccountable decisions without having to justify them."

Seventeen is a small number of pits. If British Coal were determined not only to try to secure sales to the electricity generating industry, but to do what Mr. Neil Clarke said in a press release a couple of weeks ago and maximise sales in all other areas of life where there is a prospective market for coal, there is absolutely no reason why the amount of coal currently being produced from 17 pits cannot be sustained until this legislation passes through both Houses of Parliament.

Mr. Jack Thompson

Returning to the question of care and maintenance, the right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith) and I have had meetings with British Coal about Ellington colliery, and we still cannot get clarification about care and maintenance. By definition, that suggests keeping up the roof in the mine, making regulations work properly in the mine, and making sure water is contained within the mine—the safety aspects.

But I want clarification about the maintenance and care of production machinery. If the mine is to operate and produce coal, the production machinery must be maintained. It is my experience in the industry that there is a problem in a mine after three weeks' holiday, never mind after three months' closure.

Mr. Hughes

The hon. Gentleman speaks from great experience in the industry, and I bow to that experience. Even people like me, who have only been down pits, as opposed to those who work in them, understand very clearly that, once the coal mining operation is stopped, there is a huge capital cost, even if it is possible to get the pit working again.

I know for a fact that the right hon. Member and the hon. Gentleman were led to believe that the Ellington pit would survive, and then, about one month ago, learned, with two days' notice, that it was going to close. I think my recollection is correct—the right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed may correct me. The decision changed in a very short time.

There was no long lead time or any indication that Ellington was going to be closed. It was said to be secure, as were many of the pits which have closed since Second Reading. In October last year, we were told by the President of the Board of Trade that these were guaranteed core pits, but they have been closed.

The political reality is that we have two options left: we can protect the industry, rundown though it is and producing minimal amounts of coal with maximum efficiency and productivity but with the best possible performance indicators, or we effectively sign up to a minimalist coal industry with 13, 14 or 15 pits, which is what the Rothschild report promised us.

4.30 pm

This issue does not affect only the mining communities, although it may affect them principally. Let the House and the Government be in no doubt that the fact that there is no demonstration of 100,000 people on the streets of Westminster today does not mean that all the communities of Britain—from places as different as Cheltenham and Chelsea, which are unlikely supporters of the coal industry but which were forced to oppose the Government, and urban areas such as mine, which has not had a pit within 60 miles of it since there were pits in the Kent coalfield—do not feel just as strongly as the mining communities. The country is telling the Government that they have one last chance to exercise some authority.

It was the Government's idea to sell the coal industry, and it is they who are forcing the pace. If they wanted to do so, the Government could freeze the position to ensure that we have a coal industry able to compete in the international markets in future.

If the Minister says that he is sorry, but that the Government are going to leave it to Neil Clarke and British Coal, he will be allowing a conflict of interest to determine the national interest. That is entirely irresponsible and unhelpful to all those who have worked for decades and generations to earn our coal industry its reputation as one of the greatest in the world. Yes, the Government can sell the Tory party silver, but not the remainder of the nation's silver.

I hope that the Minister will accept that the amendment is not merely a token gesture on behalf of Opposition Members but a reflection of the opinions of people outside. We cannot afford to run down our coal industry any further. It is no good the Government saying that they are washing their hands of it and it is going into the private sector—it is not in the private sector today. It is still a national responsibility, and the Government must accept that responsibility and the duty to protect the coal industry to the utmost for the future.

Mrs. Elizabeth Peacock (Batley and Spen)

The amendment reflects the great lack of confidence in British Coal felt by many of those who work down the mines. I believe that the whole of the work force lack confidence in what British Coal is going to do. They are incensed that viable mines could be closed in the next few weeks. The lessons that we learned last year provide us with good examples in that some of the mines that were closed because British Coal said that they were not viable are now coaling again. They are open again only because they are in the private sector, but they have markets for their coal. I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will think about that.

It is fairly obvious to those of us who have perhaps studied the industry only in the past 18 months that, although British Coal said repeatedly that it had only two customers, the rest of the United Kingdom knew that there were far more than two customers, in this country and even beyond, who were willing to buy British coal.

Mr. Joseph Ashton (Bassetlaw)

My hon. Friend the Member for Sherwood (Mr. Tipping) referred to the speed with which the pits have been closed. He should perhaps compare it with what happened a few months ago, when he and I were talking about constituency boundaries being changed.

It is marvellous that, when the jobs of Members of Parliament are at stake, we hold an inquiry lasting several months. Everyone is allowed to state his views, which go before an independent assessor. This all takes several months, another solution is suggested and hon. Members can use a Queen's counsel to make their case. That is quite right; I am not condemning the process, because such changes are important arid should be handled properly. However, when it comes to miners' jobs, it is a finger-snapping exercise.

When an industry, factory, firm or shop is in trouble, a liquidator or receiver is called in. The first thing he does is try to keep the business going. He asks people who have not received their money or whose debts have not been paid, "Will you hold off? Will you not make the factory or the industry or the shop bankrupt? Please don't demand your money just now. Let's try to keep it going as a going concern and try to find a buyer." That has happened in the case of football clubs that are in terrible trouble, big stores that are involved in a merger or amalgamated, supermarkets that have joined up, or big companies such as Rover and BMW.

Surely it is the Conservative attitude that a business should be kept alive until a buyer is found, as any business man in the country would say. That has happened time and again with engineering companies, and with practically everything in the commercial market, but not with pits.

For some reason, there is underhand deception. A few months ago, the Government promised, as they did with regard to my constituency, that certain coal mines were core pits which would be there virtually for ever—places such as Manton, Welbeck and Harworth. They promised that, even if the number of pits got down to single figures, those pits would still operate. The men were assured of that. Suddenly, one night, as my hon. Friend the Member for Sherwood said, usually in the recess, when we cannot raise the matter in Parliament, the rug is pulled away from under them.

If ever a body of men have been deceived by the Government, it has to be the miners, with their promise of productivity. For years they were told, "Increase production; increase your productivity; turn out more; work faster; work harder; adopt all the new methods; adopt every piece of modern machinery; work shifts; work overtime and get the prices down." What was the result? The sack. Yet they wonder why, in all the years when I was a lad on the shop floor, miners used to say to me, "Go slow, lad; there is a whole day tomorrow not started on. You'll be working yourself out of a job."

Shop stewards advocated restrictive practices, about which the Conservatives screamed blue murder every time that the trade unions dug in their heels and said, "We're protecting our jobs." The people who shouted the loudest said, "You're destroying British industry." After the miners' strike, what happened? The miners did everything the Government told them to do—work harder, accept new practices, not stand in the way of modern investment and machinery. They did everything.

The Minister knows, because he is an ex-miner. That is the tragedy—an ex-miner shutting down his own industry. He ought to consider asking for another job. He understands what has happened. The reward of those miners has been the sack, in an underhand, indecent way. To prevent the miners from striking, to prevent them from protesting, to prevent them from saying, "Hold on a bit; there's a buyer for the pit," they were told, "If you sign the docket by next Friday, you will get £10,000 extra redundancy pay." Who could resist a bribe such as that?

Some of those miners think that they are getting something. They are getting nothing. I will tell the Minister what redundancy pay is. It is advance unemployment benefit; advance social security; advance supplementary benefit—call it what you like. That lump sum of 25,000 quid, or whatever, means that ex-miners cannot qualify for rent rebate, or for anything else that unemployed people get, until they have dwindled down and dwindled down their redundancy pay.

They have taken their benefits in advance and saved the Government a great many of the pay-outs that they would have had to make on income support and other benefits. They know it. Accountants have carefully worked out the costs of 10 years' unemployment with redundancy pay, compared with 10 years' weekly benefit.

There are people in my constituency who took redundancy, unwillingly—they were perhaps 48 or 50 years old—after the miners' strike. They thought that, as they had £90 a week—which was not inflation-proof—they would be able to exist for the rest of their life. Now they find that they cannot, because things wear out. Their car has worn out, and it is gone. The television is worn out. They are trying to make do with the clothes they wore 10 years ago. They tried to exist by scratching and scraping.

When interest rates fall, all Conservative Members cheer, but lower interest rates mean a smaller return on money in the bank, so redundancy compensation becomes worth less and less. Many people are now living in a state of deep poverty, having followed the advice of the Tory Government. Is it any wonder that the general election results in Nottinghamshire amounted to such a landslide?

After the miners' strike, the Conservative party promised the Union of Democratic Miners everything. My hon. Friend the Member for Sherwood won his seat from a UDM supporter, and two more seats in Nottingham came to Labour. In fact, my party secured the biggest swing to have been seen in very many years. People know how they have been betrayed.

My constituency has three big power stations. There is no doubt that the steam they produce results in acid rain over Europe. After all, they are 30-odd years old. But they could be modernised. Thousands of people could be provided with work at High Marnham, Cottam and West Burton, and, even with continued coal burning, the acid rain could be stopped.

That course would be much cheaper than the provision of gas-fired power stations, the payment of unemployment and other benefits and the decimation of areas. However, the Government's hatred of the mining industry is such that they refuse to take such action. They would sooner introduce gas-fired power stations employing 35 people and using the resources of the North sea for the sake of their own dogma. How often have they criticised us for dogma? They used to accuse us of being doctrinaire, of never being prepared to bend. In respect of this matter, their hatred of mining areas, and of working-class people in particular, is clear.

Ministers are still engaging in deception. They repeatedly denied that they intended to close two of the three faces in Harworth. Two weeks later, 300 people were made redundant. A hard-hitting, high-powered, high-production, low-cost pit has been swallowed despite the Government's promises.

We have heard that Manton produces coal at just over £1 a gigajoule. It is probably second or third in the league table of the eight or nine pits in the midlands, on practically every ground—productivity, cost of production, and so on. With the snap of a finger, it was announced that it was to be not closed but merged with Welbeck, which is seven miles away. Now that it has been merged, everything is shut.

Despite the padlocks and the blocking of the top, this is described as a merger. How can it be described as a merger? The mine with which it has been merged is in the Mansfield travel-to-work area, which is a development area, whereas my area has only assisted area status. But juggling the statistics makes the figures look better. And that is all that miners are—statistics. They are statistics in a table set out by people who have the cheek to try to tell us what is best for the industry.

There is no reason why the amendment should not be accepted. It simply says that final closure should not take place until the British Coal Authority has been set up. What is wrong with that? No other industry going through major upheaval—mergers, takeover bids, amalgamations —would dream of shutting down a branch in these circumstances. If Marks and Spencer decided to build a bigger store at Meadowhall in Sheffield, one would expect some discussion or consultation. In fact, Marks and Spencer has not behaved as badly as the pit owners.

But no one else would act like British Coal. Anyone else would talk. Let the Government accept the amendment, and let British Coal talk to the men for a change, instead of being told by the Government exactly what to do.

4.45 pm
Mr. Martin Redmond (Don Valley)

I have listened to Ministers' attempts to argue the case for the privatisation of coal, but I have heard no logic or common sense and no economic grounds. I can tell my hon. Friend the Member for Sherwood (Mr. Tipping) that, even with a scrubbing brush, one could not get Ministers to come clean. To close pits is, in effect, to sterilise areas. The amendment seeks to ensure that there will at least be a moratorium until such time as privatisation takes place—in other words, a pit will be a working pit or a pit in mothballs. British Coal does not come clean in relation to the future of the industry. It has not done so in the past, and I cannot see it doing so in the future.

Yorkshire has lost approximately 47,000 jobs, excluding those not in but associated with the industry. It is important that the taxpayer be given some consideration. After all, it is he who has to meet this enormous cost. At the Rossington pit, British Coal attempted to remove machinery to make the operation non-viable for any future purchaser.

In 1993 approximately 18.5 million tonnes of coal was imported into Britain. The Minister for Energy has refused to tell us who imports this coal, saying that it is a confidential matter. British Coal imports the coal; why the hell does not the Minister come clean? In terms of the balance of trade, what is happening is costing the country £687 million.

Neil Clarke was appointed chairman of British Coal to look after the industry. I have yet to see Neil Clarke do a day's work to earn his salary. It is the easiest thing in the world to stand back, do nothing and watch an industry collapse. But the Minister seems to be quite content with the situation. According to this week's "Westminster Brief', Neil Clarke intends to pursue every possible tonne of coal. Is that a reference to the 18.5 million tonnes of coal being imported? I am at a loss to understand how Budge and Edwards can take over pits and proceed to make profits. If Budge and Edwards can do it, why cannot Neil Clarke—this captain of industry whom the Government appointed and who has created so much misery throughout the coalfields of the country?

It is regrettable that the Minister is prepared to proceed and, possibly, connive with the chairman of British Coal. They are using collusion and secrecy to con Conservative Members into supporting pit closures. They take the heat out of the situation in the hope that, in three months' time, other issues will occupy people's minds. I hope that, at this late stage, the Minister will support our reasonable amendment, which is an attempt to inject some sanity into the action that is being taken against the coal mining industry.

Mr. Eric Clarke (Midlothian)

We find ourselves in a pitiful position. We are asking for a moratorium—a reasonable moratorium, based on common sense. I keep using that phrase, because when we debate the coal industry logic goes out of the window.

One of the Government's arguments is, "We are depending on British Coal officials." That is like the police asking for guidance from the mafia: it is nonsense. Those officials have got incompetence down to a fine art. They are hatchet men, determined to carry out the Government's wishes. The Government say that they are depending on them. Depending on them to do what? I could give example after example of the incompetence that they have shown over many years.

We are becoming a bit cynical. There have been closures in several areas, and various proposals have been advanced. We have seen a number of slogans: "We are streamlining the industry" was a good one, which hon. Members may remember. Headlines above so-called articles refer to "concentrating our assets", "concentrating on the main coalfields, not the peripheral ones", "transferring miners to a long-term future", and "an amalgamation of production units." The "peripheral" coalfields were in Scotland, Kent, the north-east and north-west, Durham, Northumberland and Wales. In those areas, the shock is over; despair and cynicism have set in.

The Government have promised to help. They have promised alternative employment, and they have promised RECHAR money. We have had some of that money, but some was not brought in because it was "additionality money". The Government were supposed to match the European Community pound for pound. The Irish Government seem to be very good in that respect, as are other EC Governments, but our Government are not. Money that could be spent on environmental and other coalfield improvements is going begging because the Government are not putting their money where their mouth is.

The Government speak of retaining assets. Retaining them for what? That is what is causing the cynicism. We had a boom and bust situation. I do not only blame the current Government; over the years, I have frequently lobbied other Governments of all persuasions who had fallen for this Coal Board nonsense of running down the industry while other countries expand theirs.

Assets should not be sold at the last minute because people are feathering their nests. Those people have a vested interest in the outcome of privatisation, and many of them are currently in charge of British Coal. I do not think it helps to remove plant and machinery in which investment—capital or otherwise—has been made. These are the finest collieries in Europe; indeed, they are the finest production units in the world. Yet, for some reason, deep mines are being destroyed. I think that those people's motivation is reluctance to allow a large industry to compete with the coal industry that they expect to inherit and run in the future.

I issue a plea on behalf of those in coalfield communities. We in Scotland have a mothballed colliery, Francis; we do not want it to be closed, and we do not want any of the other mines—Longannet, for instance—to be cut or otherwise affected.

I speak with some emotion, because people in my area, and in other mining communities, are at a low ebb as they try to work out what is happening to their industry. I plead with the Government to try to retain at least our existing assets, even at this eleventh hour before privatisation.

Mr. A. J. Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed)

Ellington colliery, in my constituency, is experiencing precisely the circumstances to which the amendment refers. It provides something of an object lesson.

First, we must ask, "Why the timing?" Just 'when Ellington was being actively considered for purchase, or licensing, by a number of outside interests—and British Coal had suggested a basis on which it would continue to operate for many years—we were suddenly confronted with a closure announcement. What possible justification or explanation can there be for that timing? Such action is completely alien to what would be done in the case of any other industry with an asset in which outside purchasers were interested: the aim, surely, would be to promote that asset, rather than destroying it and rendering it unusable in the future.

While that was going on, men were being told to go on to contract, because that would help to keep the pit lean and fit while safeguarding their jobs. In the end, it meant that they received less redundancy money than they would have received if they had remained in British Coal's work force. No concession is being made to those men now; they are being treated as if they had walked into the manager's office and said, "I have a bright idea: I want to be put on to contract." None of them had done that. They were all asked to go on to contract, for reasons connected with the future of the pit or their own jobs.

Mr. Derek Enright (Hemsworth)

The right hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. Grimethorpe colliery has closed; the Minister assured us that it had to close, because it could not make a profit. Grimethorpe supplied industrial coal. Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the industries that it supplied are now supplied with foreign coal, which is much more expensive? Those industries are complaining; meanwhile, Grimethorpe is being turned into a depot to mix Polish and South American coal. Is that not a good example of the nonsense that the right hon. Gentleman describes?

Mr. Beith

The hon. Gentleman has given another example of the unfathomable decisions made by British Coal in recent months. Here was a pit with a market for at least a significant part of its product, which went directly into a power station—providing power for a smelter—and also into the national grid. It was in an exceptional position, which made it more readily marketable than other pits as part of the privatisation process.

What happens now? Coaling stops, the pit is put on to a care and maintenance basis and, of course, it deteriorates. As the hon. Member for Wansbeck (Mr. Thompson) pointed out earlier—having worked in the pit for many years—in such circumstances a pit is bound to deteriorate, even if some active care and maintenance is in progress. While it deteriorates, potential licensees or buyers are presented not with a working pit to examine but with a deteriorating pit.

There is a further element of mystery. The day before the closure of the pit, a very expensive coal-cutting machine was put down it. There it was, in place, as though coaling was to continue. Wholly mystifying decisions have been made, leading to all sorts of rumours and suspicions among the work force. It is suspected that what is actually being planned is an internal management buy-sut, contradicting all the possibilities of outside firms coming in to take over. On top of everything else, there is now wild rumour and speculation based largely on facts that seem capable of no other interpretation. Why on earth was the machine put there?

In response to requests from a number of us, the Minister anoounced that equipment must not be taken away from pits—that, of course, must include the machine to which I have referred—unless there is an overwhelming safety reason for doing so. We expect that to be abided by strictly, but it adds to the air of puzzlement. What is going on? Here is an asset which, even when viewed on the Government's own privatisation terms, is potentially usable; from the community's point of view, it is an asset that can be worked in the future and in which there is genuine commercial interest, but one whose future is impaired by an apparently needless cessation of coaling which has left it open to deterioration and uncertainty about its future. That does not make sense.

I welcome the opportunity provided by the amendment to remind the House of the facts.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)

Two Liberal Members have taken part in the debate. We had one or two yesterday, but it was mostly the same one. It is just worth putting on record that although we welcome Johnny-come-latelies, we are talking about privatising what remains of the coal industry.

Before the last election in 1992, I remember going up and down the coalfields reminding people that in its manifesto, the Liberal party was in favour of privatisation. As a matter of fact, the Liberals have been in favour of most privatisation. When they go up those long, winding drives with pampas grass in the garden, they are in favour of privatisation, but when they go to Tower Hamlets and other places they talk another language—that is, when they are not talking racist language. It is worth noting that they have changed their tune.

5 pm

Although you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, are now beginning to shuffle uneasily in the Chair, it is worth noting that we welcome Liberal Members—not that we are about to engage in any coalitions or pacts when Labour takes control. I hope that they do not think that they are jumping on some clever bandwagon. However, we welcome them in the Lobby. It is a pity they did not think about it in 1992. After those great demonstrations in Hyde park in October 1992, that would have been a nice little gesture by the Liberal party, and the man who leads them, Captain Mainwaring, instead of joining the Tories and saving the Prime Minister's skin in November, just weeks after those great demonstrations. We would have had this Government out, we would not have been debating privatisation, and Ellington colliery, which the right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith) represents, would not be in the dilemma it is.

It is always worth putting on record how we reached the present position. It is a sad story, and the Liberal Democrats have played a significant role in assisting this lousy Government in placing the Bill before the House of Commons.

Mr. Beith

Where does the hon. Gentleman get his enthusiasm for British Coal, which shuts pits and fails to sell coal? That is why Ellington colliery is in the position it is now.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Geoffrey Lofthouse)

Order. The hon. Gentleman has swung his bat. We must now get down to the amendment.

Mr. Skinner

It is significant and important to talk about how we reached the position that gave the Tory Government the power to introduce the Bill.

As for British Coal, I do not sing its song at all. In July 1992, before the announcement of the pit closure programme, my colleagues and I went to meet British Coal at Hobart house and I challenged Neil Clarke, who has seen two thirds of the pits disappear under his leadership. Why is not he getting two thirds less salary? What is he doing with the same money? Two thirds of his domain has gone.

I hold no torch for British Coal and never have done. The management of British Coal—with the odd exception—are engaged in a conspiracy with the Government to line their own pockets. I have said several times in the House that they plan to run a few pits so that they will have little or no competition from outside to provide the captive market of 30 million tonnes to the power stations.

I hold no brief for British Coal; as far as I am concerned, it stinks, just like the Government. [Interruption.] I know that we are dealing with amendment No. 1. I know what it is all about and I do not need my hon. Friend the Member for Middlesborough (Mr. Bell) to tell me. The amendment asks the Government to instruct the Coal Authority not to shut any pits at this time. It is just a temporary amendment. We all understand that is what amendments are. I do not need any seminar or teaching.

We cannot talk about stopping pit closures, in however short a period, without considering the main problem. Yes, it is about saving time; I am not against that. It is and always has been the lawyers' technique—if they do not have a case, they buy a bit of time as something might turn up.

That is what we have to do with amendments. Most are either wrecking amendments or buying a bit of valuable time. I am not against it, but I do it against the background of knowing that there are more important matters to consider after we have bought some time. We have to base whatever we say or do on a set of principles.

I am pleased that my hon. Friend the Memberfor Livingston (Mr. Cook) raised the question of Boyds. Boyds was the Government's adviser. They used to quote Boyds at length. The President of the Board of Trade used to tell us what Boyds had said. Now Boyds tells us that, after privatisation, the price of coal per gigajoule will be higher than it is under the public sector and will cost about £40 a tonne more. That is important and is worth repeating in the House.

We also have to consider another problem when we are talking about saving a few pits. The amendment is about saving a few pits for a short period. If we have 170 pits, as we did at the end of the strike, and 10 per cent. of them are going through some bad geological problems, there are 160 stronger pits to carry the 10 weak pits, or in some cases it could be as many as 20 weak pits. There is a problem when we are down to 17 pits. How will a smaller number of pits manage to save the two or three that are going through a bad phase?

Selby coalfield, with the help of new technology and retreat mining has been able to produce coal at great productivity levels. Let us suppose that it went through a bad phase. Where are the strong pits to carry it through for a year or two? That is how we dig coal; it is an extractive industry. It is not like turning the electricity on in a factory.

The Government talk about getting the number of pits down to 17, 15 or 10 pits. Under privatisation, as soon as a pit runs into trouble, it will shut because there will be no others to bail it out. That is what happened in the previous privatisation and it is something which the Government have never considered. Once you run into trouble and you are not in the public sector, there is nobody to carry the weak pits that are experiencing difficulties at any given time.

Mr. Redmond

Will my hon. Friend care to comment on this point, as he has been around the industry just as long as I have? The National Coal Board, as it was then, had an ABC hit list. Bentley pit was due to close, but was carried on the strength of the other Doncaster pits. It was one of the last pits in the area to shut down.

Mr. Skinner

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. He has been in the industry for a long time and he knows that, when pits have gone through a bad period geologically, they have always known that the other pits in the area can support them, at least for a while, but that no longer applies. So, more and more, the relatively small number of pits that remains will shut.

Mr. Ashton

Does my hon. Friend agree that that is exactly when the Government have done for the farmers? People with bad land or hill farmers, many of them in the Minister's constituency, get subsidies. They have had massive increases last year, in some cases quite rightly. The whole industry is balanced; it has the quota system and the milk marketing board. Why can the Government not do the same for the pits?

Mr. Skinner

My hon. Friend is very perceptive. In an extractive industry that battles against mother nature every day, we cannot always be sure what will happen next. That is why the farmers get subsidies. I only wish that some of the subsidies went to the agricultural workers who have been offered 1.5 per cent.—below the rate of inflation.

Why can the coal industry not have set-aside schemes? We have all talked about saving pits and mothballing pits. If we could have set-aside schemes for the agriculture industry—which have gone up from £100 an acre to £128 an acre in the past few weeks—why can we not have them for the pits? Once the pits are privatised, the chances of doing that are nil. That is why these are very sad days, as everybody connected to the industry knows and others have said.

What sticks in my gullet is the fact the Government are importing German coal and shutting British pits. German coal is coming into Britain at £110 a tonne, yet the Government have shut down all the anthracite pits in Wales.

There is talk about the wonderful common market. It never bought a cobble of our coal. It ships coal into Rotterdam and launders it there, but it never takes any of our coal. We are still able to produce coal at about £38 a tonne, which compares well with the German price. Germany's steam coal is twice as dear as ours. We read that the Government are now calling on British taxpayers to provide £60 million so that the Spanish coal industry can expand. Their coal will cost twice as much per tonne as British coal.

The Government have a lot to answer for. They will hit the deck at the next election—I hope that it will be a Canadian-style whitewash. We should make no mistake —the coalfields may not cover the whole of Britain, but people out there who live miles from a coalfield understand the vindictiveness involved in shutting pits. As some of my hon. Friends have said, the amendment asks the Government only for a little extra time for some collieries.

We shall finish up with miners chucked out of work in Nottingham. We have a few remaining pits in Yorkshire, but there are none in Derbyshire, except for one in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Ashton) which has been amalgamated with a pit in Yorkshire. We will allow the French to send electricity here and chuck miners on the dole—equivalent to about 6 million tonnes of coal. We pay £9,000 year to keep a miner out of work. Yes, it is a tragedy.

My hon. Friends must face the argument. We have said that we will go through the Lobby to vote on this amendment and others, as we have done consistently in the past couple of days to save the industry. If we are prepared to go through the Lobby and vote against privatisation, it follows logically that we have a duty to tell the people now that when Labour gets back into power, it will take the coal industry back into public ownership. It is no use running away from that argument—it has to be faced. As my hon. Friend the Member for Bassetlaw knows, that argument cannot be won during the last four weeks of a general election campaign because the Tory tabloids and Tory money will rout us. We have got to start winning the philosophical battle now.

Taking back into public ownership the coal, rail and water industries is an important consideration. We are discussing a handful of pits. We know that we could reopen a few if we got back into power and took them back into the public sector. We are not naive, or innocents abroad. We know that the 700,000 miners that used to work in the mines when I first went down the pit cannot return to that work, but there are pits that could be saved, like the one mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley (Mr. Redmond) and others in every coalfield. That is the only way that we can save concessionary coal and miners' pensions, which the Government want to get their sticky fingers on. If we are to achieve those things, we must start commanding the agenda now.

I am happy to take part in my hon. Friends' campaign, but while the amendment is important, we are dealing with a much bigger issue—the demise of the coal industry, which has been destroyed by the President of the Board of Trade, who has got the gall to parade himself as a future Prime Minister. He has not got a cat in hell's chance.

Mr. Hanson

I very much welcome the debate. The argument of my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) is compelling and summarises our concerns and why the debate is so important. I hope that he will forgive me if I say that, for me and my constituents, the debate is about buying time. As my hon. Friend the Member for Livingston (Mr. Cook) mentioned, there is a shortlist for potential further closures in the run-up to privatisation. The Point of Ayr colliery in my constituency, which my hon. Friend the Member for Livingston mentioned, is on that hit list.

For me and my constituents, the debate is about the survival of the coal industry in north Wales and, for my hon. Friend the Member for Cynon Valley (Mrs. Clwyd), it is about the survival of the coal industry in Wales.

5.15 pm

When I came here to represent north Wales, I never thought that I would have to speak up for the remnants of the coal industry in Wales, but that is the position now. Come April, I will have been in the House only two years. In that time, 33 pits have closed nationally. The Point of Ayr pit in my constituency was included in the original list of 31. I remain surprised that it is still on the list. That pit is still open solely because of the work force's commitment, the quality of the product and the investment that they have put in. The amendment proposes that that pit will stay open until privatisation and until the Coal Authority is established.

Early-day motion 923, in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Cynon Valley, deals with Tower colliery. Point of Ayr and Tower collieries are the only remaining pits in Wales. The licences for those pits, which are on offer in the Bill, make up one fifth of the licences available for pits. What if the pits do not exist by the time that the Bill is enacted? One fifth of the licences will disappear. It still has to be debated in another place—I fervently hope that it us rejected there.

During the past two years, I have made many speeches about the the Point of Ayr colliery—most of my time in the Chamber has been spent arguing about that colliery and the future of coal mines. When I was selected about seven years ago to fight for the seat that I now have the honour to represent, about 700 people worked at that pit. When I was elected, about 460 people worked there and today about 180 work there. What a lack of faith in the quality and commitment of the work force would have been shown if, after doing everything that was asked of them and after jumping 30 fences in the grand national, they fall at the last fence, because the Government kick away the powers that would enable that pit to be maintained.

If the pit is on British Coal's hit list and if it closes in a contracting market, with privatisation around the corner, I doubt—I hope that the Minister will respond to this point—whether the private sector would want to invest in it. It is not that it does not produce quality products or employ high-quality staff, but once privatisation has happened, companies will concentrate on the licences that are on offer.

The debate is about the future of the five pits mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Livingston, one of which is Point of Ayr. If the Government do not accept the amendment and do not provide assurances for the constituency and work force at Point of Ayr and allow the pit to close, they will be throwing away a high-quality product.

Let us consider productivity. My hon. Friend the Member for Livingston mentioned the Boyds report. In 1987, miners at the Point of Ayr pit produced 3.1 tonnes per man shift; in 1991, they produced 4.5 tonnes; last year, they produced 8.9 tonnes per shift. Now they produce 14.7 tonnes per man shift with a work force that has been reduced by half. Despite that, the work force has made massive increases in productivity.

The cost of coal, as my hon. Friend the Member for Livingston said, is down to about £1.15 per gigajoule and the aim is to to get it down to £1 per gigajoule, which is well below the Boyds report target for Point of Ayr and other collieries.

Point of Ayr has made vast improvements in mining techniques. The Minister is aware of the continuous mining system that has been introduced into that colliery, of the advances that have taken place in roof bolting and of the £3 million worth of investment to achieve that productivity. The men have learned; they have worked, contributed, developed and improved productivity, and are producing more coal than ever before. Today, however, they are on a shortlist for potential closure a short time before the measure to enable privatisation is passed in another place. What kind of reward is that? The market is there–80 per cent. of Point of Ayr coal goes to the Fiddler's Ferry power station down the road. Although that power station has recently reduced its capacity by about 30 per cent., the coal produced still has a local market.

The colliery has an excellent work force and working conditions and high productivity, and can achieve and do the business. If the amendment is not accepted, the message will go to British Coal, in respect of Point of Ayr and Tower collieries, "Yes, if you want to close two, three, four, or five, we do not mind. We are trying to reduce the number of pits that can be handed over to a small number of private operators, to knock out competition and reduce the volume of coal produced for the market." That is being done at a time when the pit in my constituency has 15 years' coal supply remaining.

My hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover mentioned farm subsidies. Travelling to London by train on Monday, I read a report in The Times of a farmer who is receiving £26,000 this year for not planting thousands of acres on his farm. Next year, he will receive £42,000 for letting his land go to grass. The farmer in question was photographed wearing a red hunting jacket and breeches, and his horse was feeding from the ground—which did not endear him to me.

That apart, is it right that, while set-aside is paid to farmers not to produce a product, a potentially productive pit that is revolutionising mining techniques, improving productivity, and shows the way forward for many other pits in respect of costs and productivity will be closed? If the amendment is not passed, we will be saying to British Coal, "We don't mind. We will let the market decide. If you want to close the pit, close it." That does not seem logical.

The Bill provides for licensing in Wales and for the retention of a Welsh coalfield. If the amendment is not accepted, will the Minister assure the House and my constituents that, after the Bill leaves another place, a Welsh coalfield will still exist to offer to potential licensees —as was the aspiration in Committee? Many of my hon. Friends support the amendment, but my prime concern is securing the employment and productivity of the pit in my constituency. If the amendment is defeated, I will be a happier man if the Minister will at least confirm that my aspirations in Committee of a licensing round for Wales will be realised when the Bill completes its progress through both Houses.

My hon. Friend's early-day motion also refers to the 30 April redundancy deadline. From talking to miners in my constituency, I know that in addition to the uncertainty caused by privatisation, the possible rejection of amendment No. 1 and doubt about who will win contracts and how coal will be produced, there is the uncertainty of the 30 April redundancy arrangement. If the amendment fails, my constituents will face a dilemma that I would not wish on any hon. Member—they must look forward either to a potential future in a privatised industry or to accepting redundancy payments. They do not know whether they have a future in a privatised industry.

The Minister could accept the amendment today, but if, as I suspect, he rejects it, he could at least give assurances to miners in my constituency and others that there will be a future for them after privatisation. That will go a long way to meeting the amendment's objectives.

In Committee, my hon. Friends and I opposed privatisation, for a host of reasons. The Government majority that is not currently evident in the Chamber will doubtless ensure that further amendments are made before Third Reading and that the Bill will go to another place. I object to privatisation on principle and as a matter of practicality in respect of my constituents. However, if the industry cannot be publicly owned, my constituents want to work in a privatised industry.

Now that my constituents have reached this stage, they should be given time to compete in the privatised market. They should be allowed the opportunity to be offered employment under one of the new licences. If the Government accept the amendment, my constituents will be able to pass through the 30 April barrier with some hope for the future, knowing that there is a possibility of further work and productivity. They can produce quality coal cheaply, contribute and work, and they have shown their commitment.

If the Minister rejects the amendment, he will put the five pits mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Livingston at the mercy of British Coal—and to date, that mercy has brought the closure of 33 pits in my 20 months as a Member of Parliament. I urge the Minister to give my constituents the hope for the future that they deserve.

Mr. Michael Clapham (Barnsley, West and Penistone)

The amendment is essential if Britain is to have a sustainable coal industry. Reference was made to the way in which the industry has been run down but unless one studies the figures, one cannot appreciate the scale. In 1984, the country had 170 collieries employing 172,000 men. Ten years later, it has just 17 collieries. In one decade, the Government closed 153 collieries and made redundant 160,000 workers.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Sherwood (Mr. Tipping) said, the Government are working to an agenda. In 1990, Britain still had 73 collieries employing 65,500 men. That same year, the Government commissioned the Rothschild report and privatised the electricity supply industry. The architects of that privatisation, now Lord Parkinson and Lord Wakeham, worked the market in such a way as to rig it against the coal industry. My hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) and others stressed that the Government have a historical dislike of the mining industry and have been committed to running it down since 1974. They saw their opportunity with electricity privatisation.

The Rothschild report set an agenda of between 10 and 14 active collieries. Figures showing the run-down of the industry since 1990 prove that the Government have been working to the Rothschild agenda. In 1992, the country had 50 collieries employing 50,000 men. By 1994, it had 17 collieries employing 14,000 men. It is now reported that another four collieries are likely to be closed within a month, leaving just 13.

It has already been said that miners have increased productivity enormously. When we look at the figures again, we can see just what a great effort they have put into ensuring that their industry is one of high productivity and viability, and an addition to the energy market. In 1984, we were talking in terms of just over 2.4 tonnes per man shift; today, the average is almost 8.5 overall—an enormous increase in productivity.

When Boyds examined the industry during the Government's review, it was being spoken of in terms of an industry that could be sustained into the future if it could reach the productivity levels that are now being achieved. Boyds also referred to the cost per gigajoule and suggested that, if it could be brought down to around £1.30, a great slice of the industry would survive. Prices in the industry are now far below what he envisaged.

For example, Bentley colliery, which closed on 4 December 1993, was producing coal at below £1 per gigajoule. Between September and its closure, it was producing coal at 88p per gigajoule. That price is competitive with world market prices and the price of coal produced in deep coal mines anywhere in the world, yet it closed on 4 December.

5.30 pm

My hon. Friend the Member for Livingston (Mr. Cook) referred to Manton colliery and the fact that it was producing coal at less than £1 per gigajoule and was only recently closed. Quite clearly, the Government have launched their attack to ensure that the industry is pruned to a size where it will be profitable for a quick rip-off. It is madness to close the coal mining industry in that way and stop its contributions to the energy economy.

Reference has been made to gas prices. Other countries, such as Holland, are looking to change their energy economy and are moving away from gas to coal because they believe that, in the short to medium term, gas prices are likely to increase. When one bears in mind the Zhironovsky factor, considering that Europe takes some 21 per cent. of its gas from the Soviet Union, any cutoff of gas from the Soviet Union into Europe would have an enormous impact on the price of gas. That impact would immediately result in Britain having to turn away from an energy market that is moving towards gas to look to its coal resources, but those resources will have been sterilised. We would have to spend enormous amounts of money to reopen the collieries.

The amendment would ensure that, if some of the few collieries that are left are closed, they will be maintained on a care and maintenance basis so that they can be reopened and put up for sale when the industry is privatised. That is essential. Has the Minister inquired whether funding is available from the European Community to do that, as finance might well be possible to mothball collieries?

Some of my hon. Friends have referred to the common agricultural policy and set-aside. We should be talking about setting aside collieries to protect them for the future and about ensuring that we have a resource that can be used in the energy market. The amendment is enormously important if we are to have a sustainable industry for the future. I hope that the Minister can tell us that he is prepared to take it on board and accept it.

Mr. McLoughlin

We have had a wide-ranging debate, in which many hon. Members who were part of the Standing Committee that examined the Bill took part. The House will recall that, when the White Paper was published in March of last year, the Government welcomed British Coal's commitment to offer to the private sector any pits that it no longer wished to operate. Since then, British Coal has advertised a total of some 28 pits, announced the licensing of Clipstone and Rossington to R J B Mining and made a conditional agreement to licence both Trentham and Coventry to Coal Investments. In addition, British Coal is continuing negotiations on a further two tenders and is still evaluating tenders for four pits.

I remind the House of the answer that my hon. Friend the Minister of State gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Chingford (Mr. Duncan Smith) on 9 February, in which he made it clear that The Government are committed to ensuring that any closing pits are made available to the private sector…British Coal has indicated that the corporation is unlikely to offer any further closing pits for lease/licence. It is the Government's intention, therefore, to offer such pits in parallel to the privatisation regional packages. Such pits would meanwhile be kept on care and maintenance basis."—[Official Report, 9 February 1994; Vol. 237, c. 315–16.] That meets the point made by the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes).

Mr. Clapham

Is the Minister aware that, when Neil Clarke, the chairman of British Coal, appeared before the Trade and Industry Select Committee, he said that, of the 30-odd collieries that had been closed—some are still open, although not working as operating mines—only six would be likely to be granted licences?

Mr. McLoughlin

I have stated quite clearly the Government's position on any pits that close and on the regional packages if any future closures were to take place. I should have thought that hon. Members would have welcomed and endorsed the Government's policy of giving the private sector the opportunity to operate those pits even if it is some time after the event.

In opening the debate, the hon. Member for Livingston (Mr. Cook) told us that he believed that this privatisation was the low tide of the Government's privatisation policy. Quite frankly, he has believed that about every privatisation that the Government have introduced. He has not agreed with a single privatisation. When he winds up later, perhaps he will tell us whether he supports what the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) called on him to do—renationalising the industry—and whether that is a commitment that he is prepared to enter into. If so, how he would carry it forward?

Mr. Robin Cook

I am happy to respond to the Minister, because I have always said, whenever asked, that I would be astonished if our plans to rescue the coal industry after the next election did not involve public ownership. My right hon. and learned Friend the leader of the Labour party has always made it perfectly plain that, where we believe that the management of a pit is not meeting our energy strategy, and where the safety of the work force at that pit is at risk, we will not hesitate to revoke the licence of that pit.

The one qualification that we make is that that step back into public ownership should have the support of the work force. That means that the people who are contemplating taking over these licences should bear in mind that we have a clear commitment to restore public ownership of the coal industry and will have clear regard to whether the work force has confidence in them.

Mr. McLoughlin

I am interested in what the hon. Gentleman has now said. The hon. Member for Bolsover also went on to mention a few other industries, but I will not push the hon. Gentleman on that point, because that is slightly wider than what we are discussing at the moment.

It is interesting that a number of Labour Members have spoken of their contempt for British Coal. It is highly unlikely that any of the miners will seek necessarily to go back into the nationalised industry that is being proposed. Indeed, the hon. Member for Midlothian (Mr. Clarke) was perhaps more honest than most of his colleagues when he explained to us that he did not necessarily blame the Government and that he had constantly complained about a number of aspects of British Coal under a number of Governments—for example, the way that it had narrowed its horizons on the available markets.

We had interesting discussions in Committee about that. When the hon. Member for Livingston goes on about the low tide of privatisation, it is perhaps worth treating those words with some contempt as, so far as he is concerned, there has never been a high tide.

Mr. Tipping

The Minister has just been talking about British Coal and its management. Earlier, he gave a commitment that the Government would make available for licence any pit that closed. How can that be the case in Ollerton, where the mine shafts are being filled in at the moment? It is a complete reneging on that promise.

Mr. McLoughlin

I would simply say what I said earlier. I refer the hon. Gentleman to the response given by my hon. Friend the Minister for Energy. The Government stand by that commitment.

A number of questions were raised about the future size of the industry. In the run-up to privatisation, that must depend on British Coal's success in continuing to reduce costs and to supply competitive products that meet customers' needs. The White Paper offered opportunities not guarantees, and the Government are doing all that we reasonably can, consistent with the economic realities and the legal constraints, to increase the opportunities for British Coal. We took up the central recommendation of the Select Committee on Trade and Industry on a subsidy for coal and we have made four offers, subject to European Union clearance.

Mr. Clapham

The Minister says that the Government took up the Select Committee's central recommendation, but the central recommendation was about extending the market franchise. Had that been done, a market for 17 million tonnes of coal would have been created. The Government were certainly not prepared to accept that; they threw out all the main recommendations of the Select Committee's report.

Mr. McLoughlin

I do not think that anyone has argued that in the past. As I said, one of the central recommendations was to offer a subsidy and that is exactly what the Government did, in connection with the additional sales of deep-mined coal for electricity generation.

Several hon. Members, including the hon. Members for Southwark and Bermondsey, for Sherwood (Mr. Tipping) and for Midlothian, asked about conflict of interests and the possible position of British Coal management in any future sale of British Coal. I should like to put clearly on the record the fact that British Coal has internal guidelines requiring any manager preparing for a management buy-out proposal for any part of the business to declare an interest to the chairman. I understand that the chairman has received no such declaration of interest in respect of British Coal's mining operations.

Mr. Martin O'Neill (Clackmannan)


Mr. McLoughlin

May I finish my point? Then I shall give way.

British Coal has detailed internal guidelines to avoid any potential conflict of interest. Any employee who may in due course become involved in the preparation of a bid will be required to notify an interest so that proper monitoring arrangements and control can be established. Any bid by managers or other employees will be considered on its merits against bids from other potential purchasers. The Government will of course be the vendor in that case.

Mr. O'Neill

The Minister spoke initially about managers, and then mentioned other employees. Does he draw a distinction between the two? Are they to be treated the same? Can we take it that the people at Hobart house will be subject to exactly the same conditions? The balance of the Minister's comments suggested that some distinction would be drawn between the two types of British Coal employee. Will he clarify that question?

Mr. McLoughlin

What I said was fairly clear, but if it needs further clarification I shall gladly supply that later. The internal guidelines require any manager working on management buy-out proposals for any part of the business to declare an interest to the chairman, and I understand that no such declaration has hitherto been made.

Mr. Eric Clarke


Mr. Simon Hughes


Mr. McLoughlin

I give way to the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey.

Mr. Hughes

Does the Minister accept that that is a wholly unsatisfactory condition? Even if we believed that nobody in British Coal was interested in a buy-out, and nobody had yet come forward to say that he was, none the less if somebody eventually came forward surely it would be impossible for such a person to be working up a bid to win a tender and at the same time managing the best prospects for the whole disposal to the best bidder. Those two positions cannot be compatible. Cannot the Minister see that? Cannot he say at the Dispatch Box that no conflict of interests will be permitted and that if someone registers an interest in a buy-out he must cease to have a role in a company that may be seeking to dispose of the pits to somebody else?

5.45 pm
Mr. McLoughlin

I have made it clear that, when there is a conflict of interests, it must be drawn to the attention of the chairman. There are strict internal guidelines to cover that point. This is well-trodden territory, and no conflict of interests will be allowed.

Mr. Eric Clarke

The Minister mentioned me and I am of course interested in the same subject. I have no axe to grind against management—that is, against a manager of a colliery—but I have an axe to grind against the most senior management. What happens if the people at the very top do not declare a conflict of interests, yet become involved in a takeover bid? What is the logic? If they are not doing what we say they are doing, why? There is no logic in that.

Mr. McLoughlin

I am slightly puzzled about what the hon. Gentleman is asking. Where people have an interest, they will be required to declare it. If they do not, the various contacts with which they are involved will become subject to further consideration.

The hon. Member for Bolsover gave us his usual history lesson. I am glad that he spoke after the hon. Member for Wentworth (Mr. Hardy), because yesterday he told us that the whole problem was caused by the position of the National Association of Colliery Overmen, Deputies and Shotfirers in the 1984–85 strike. The hon. Member for Wentworth speaks on behalf of NACODS, so he might not exactly agree with that conclusion. The hon. Member for Bolsover went over his usual ground today. I am sure that he must find some comfort in his Front-Bench spokesman's commitment to renationalisation.

Mr. Skinner

It is a big improvement.

Mr. McLoughlin

The hon. Gentleman is never usually in the vanguard or the leadership of his party, but perhaps there is a chance for him yet.

Mr. Skinner

I want renationalisation without compensation.

Mr. McLoughlin

That is an internal matter. No doubt the hon. Gentleman will make his case with vigour. I do not ask the hon. Member for Livingston to comment; he may be a little less forthcoming than the hon. Member for Bolsover.

We cannot accept the amendment. I have made it abundantly clear that any mines closed will be offered to the private sector. That offers the best way forward for the British coal industry.

Mr. Robin Cook

Hon. Members who have attended the whole debate will have observed that the one question to which the Minister did not respond was the one that I asked at the start of the debate, about whether he had received the Boyds report showing that privatisation will put up the price of coal.

Mr. Skinner

He has got it.

Mr. Cook

On that matter, as on others, I am inclined to agree with my hon. Friend. It is a pretty sure bet that if that document did not exist we would have been told that it did not. If it existed, but proved that the price of coal after privatisation would fall rather than rise, we would have been told that from the Dispatch Box. Instead, there has been an eloquent silence on the subject of the Boyds paper. From that I can conclude only that the report from which I quoted exists, and that it concludes that for the first pit on which cost projections have been made, privatisation would put up the price of coal rather than bringing it down.

If I am wrong in that conclusion I shall be happy to give way to the Minister now, so that he can put the record straight. I suspect that those little notes that we saw being passed through the Chamber confirmed to the Minister the fact that privatisation will reverse the trend of the past 10 years of public ownership and put up, rather than bring down, costs.

The Minister argued about conflict of interests if British Coal were preparing a bid to buy the pits that it is selling. The only reason that we are in that position at all is that the Government have failed to arouse any interest from the major players in private mining, such as Hanson, which they had hoped to interest in privatisation. They talked about Hanson on the day on which the Bill was proposed for publication, only for Hanson immediately to announce that it had no interest. So the Government are prepared to put up with any amount of conflict of interest in British Coal so long as a bid is produced, because they are desperate for anybody at all to come forward and make an offer.

My hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) talked about the importance of the critical mass—the number of pits in operation—so that one can sustain pits that are not producing cash flow because they are undergoing development. In order to sell pits, the Government are willing to break the coal industry up into five different packets. They have only 17 pits, yet they are prepared to divide them into five packets. How on earth will they then achieve the critical mass that my hon. Friend described, so as to enable some pits to take other pits through periods in which they have no cash flow because they are not producing coal?

The Minister told the House that any pit currently in operation would be offered to the private sector in parallel to privatisation, although not necessarily as part of privatisation. If that is the Minister's conclusion, why cannot he accept the amendment to keep those pits operating in the meantime? Why operate them only on a care and maintenance basis, which results in having to pay the cost of the care and maintenance without receiving the benefit of the output? One cannot employ a work force on care and maintenance. If production is closed, it may be possible to keep the pit under care and maintenance, but the work force will be dismissed, the team will be broken up, the people in it will receive redundancy payments and they will be put on the dole.

The final point that hon. Members should weigh up when considering how to vote in the Division that is about to occur was made repeatedly from the Opposition Benches, especially by my hon. Friends the Members for Bassetlaw (Mr. Ashton) and for Delyn (Mr. Hanson). There has been a betrayal of the mining work force who, over the past decade, have achieved dramatic increases in productivity in their industry—for example, at Point of Ayr, to which my hon. Friend the Member for Delyn referred, where the work force have increased productivity fivefold over the past eight years. That dramatic achievement deserves better from the House than the betrayal of closing their pit. For that reason, we shall vote to keep that pit and the 16 others open.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 266, Noes 297.

Division No.178] [5.50 pm
Adams, Mrs Irene Denham, John
Ainger, Nick Dewar, Donald
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE) Dixon, Don
Allen, Graham Dobson, Frank
Alton, David Donohoe, Brian H.
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E) Dowd, Jim
Anderson, Ms Janet (Ros'dale) Dunnachie, Jimmy
Armstrong, Hilary Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth
Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy Eagle, Ms Angela
Ashton, Joe Eastham, Ken
Austin-Walker, John Enright, Derek
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Etherington, Bill
Barnes, Harry Evans, John (St Helens N)
Barron, Kevin Ewing, Mrs Margaret
Battle, John Fatchett, Derek
Bayley, Hugh Faulds, Andrew
Beckett, Rt Hon Margaret Field, Frank (Birkenhead)
Beith, Rt Hon A. J. Fisher, Mark
Bell, Stuart Flynn, Paul
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Foster, Rt Hon Derek
Bennett, Andrew F. Foulkes, George
Benton, Joe Fraser, John
Bermingham, Gerald Fyfe, Maria
Betts, Clive Galbraith, Sam
Blair, Tony Galloway, George
Blunkett, David Gapes, Mike
Boyes, Roland Garrett, John
Bradley, Keith George, Bruce
Bray, Dr Jeremy Gerrard, Neil
Brown, Gordon (Dunfermline E) Godman, Dr Norman A.
Brown, N. (N'c'tle upon Tyne E) Godsiff, Roger
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon) Golding, Mrs Llin
Byers, Stephen Gordon, Mildred
Cabom, Richard Gould, Bryan
Callaghan, Jim Graham, Thomas
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge) Grant, Bernie (Tottenham)
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE) Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V) Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Campbell-Savours, D. N. Grocott, Bruce
Canavan, Dennis Gunnell, John
Cann, Jamie Hain, Peter
Carlile, Alexander (Montgomry) Hall, Mike
Chisholm, Malcolm Hanson, David
Clapham, Michael Hardy, Peter
Clark, Dr David (South Shields) Harvey, Nick
Clarke, Eric (Midlothian) Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy
Clarke, Tom (Monklands W) Henderson, Doug
Clelland, David Hill, Keith (Streatham)
Clwyd, Mrs Ann Hinchliffe, David
Coffey, Ann Hogg, Norman (Cumbernauld)
Cohen, Harry Home Robertson, John
Connarty, Michael Hood, Jimmy
Cook, Frank (Stockton N) Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Cook, Robin (Livingston) Howells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd)
Corbyn, Jeremy Hoyle, Doug
Corston, Ms Jean Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Cousins, Jim Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Cryer, Bob Hughes, Roy (Newport E)
Cunliffe, Lawrence Hughes, Simon (Southwark)
Cunningham, Jim (Covy SE) Hutton, John
Dafis, Cynog Illsley, Eric
Dalyell, Tam Ingram, Adam
Darling, Alistair Jackson, Glenda (H'stead)
Davidson, Ian Jackson, Helen (Shef'ld, H)
Davies, Bryan (Oldham C'tral) Jamieson, David
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli) Jones, Barry (Alyn and D'side)
Davies, Ron (Caerphilly) Jones, Ieuan Wyn (Ynys Môn)
Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'dge H'l) Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)
Jones, Lynne (B'ham S O) Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lew'm E)
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd, SW) Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham) Prescott, John
Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald Primarolo, Dawn
Keen, Alan Purchase, Ken
Kennedy, Charles (Ross, C&S) Quin, Ms Joyce
Kennedy, Jane (Lpool Brdgn) Radice, Giles
Khabra, Piara S. Randall, Stuart
Kilfoyle, Peter Raynsford, Nick
Kirkwood, Archy Redmond, Martin
Lestor, Joan (Eccles) Reid, Dr John
Lewis, Terry Rendel, David
Litherland, Robert Robertson, George (Hamilton)
Livingstone, Ken Robinson, Geoffrey (Co'try NW)
Lloyd, Tony (Stretford) Robinson, Peter (Belfast E)
Loyden, Eddie Roche, Mrs. Barbara
Lynne, Ms Liz Rogers, Allan
McAllion, John Rooney, Terry
McAvoy, Thomas Rowlands, Ted
Macdonald, Calum Ruddock, Joan
McFall, John Salmond, Alex
McKelvey, William Sedgemore, Brian
Mackinlay, Andrew Sheerman, Barry
McLeish, Henry Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Maclennan, Robert Shore, Rt Hon Peter
McMaster, Gordon Short, Clare
McNamara, Kevin Simpson, Alan
McWilliam, John Skinner, Dennis
Madden, Max Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)
Maddock, Mrs Diana Smith, C. (Isl'ton S & F'sbury)
Mahon, Alice Smith, Rt Hon John (M'kl'ds E)
Mandelson, Peter Snape, Peter
Marek, Dr John Soley, Clive
Marshall, David (Shettleston) Spearing, Nigel
Marshall, Jim (Leicester, S) Spellar, John
Martin, Michael J. (Springburn) Squire, Rachel (Dunfermline W)
Martlew, Eric Steel, Rt Hon Sir David
Maxton, John Steinberg, Gerry
Meacher, Michael Stott, Roger
Michael, Alun Strang, Dr. Gavin
Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley) Straw, Jack
Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll Bute) Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Milburn, Alan Thompson, Jack (Wansbeck)
Miller, Andrew Tipping, Paddy
Mitchell, Austin (Gt Grimsby) Turner, Dennis
Moonie, Dr Lewis Vaz, Keith
Morgan, Rhodri Walker, Rt Hon Sir Harold
Morley, Elliot Wallace, James
Morris, Estelle (B'ham Yardley) Walley, Joan
Mowlam, Marjorie Wardell, Gareth (Gower)
Mudie, George Wareing, Robert N
Mullin, Chris Watson, Mike
Murphy, Paul Welsh, Andrew
Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon Wicks, Malcolm
O'Brien, Michael (N W'kshire) Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Sw'n W)
O'Brien, William (Normanton) Williams, Alan W (Carmarthen)
Olner, William Wilson, Brian
O'Neill, Martin Winnick, David
Orme, Rt Hon Stanley Wise, Audrey
Parry, Robert Worthington, Tony
Patchett, Terry Wray, Jimmy
Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth Wright, Dr Tony
Pendry, Tom Young, David (Bolton SE)
Pickthall, Colin
Pike, Peter L. Tellers for the Ayes:
Pope, Greg Mr. John Cummings and Mr. Alan Meale
Powell, Ray (Ogmore)
Ainsworth, Peter (East Surrey) Atkinson, David (Bour'mouth E)
Aitken, Jonathan Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)
Alexander, Richard Baker, Nicholas (Dorset North)
Alison, Rt Hon Michael (Selby) Baldry, Tony
Allason, Rupert (Torbay) Banks, Matthew (Southport)
Amess, David Banks, Robert (Harrogate)
Ancram, Michael Bates, Michael
Arbuthnot, James Batiste, Spencer
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Bellingham, Henry
Ashby, David Bendall, Vivian
Aspinwall, Jack Beresford, Sir Paul
Biffen, Rt Hon John Garel-Jones, Rt Hon Tristan
Body, Sir Richard Garnier, Edward
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Gill, Christopher
Booth, Hartley Gillan, Cheryl
Boswell, Tim Goodlad, Rt Hon Alastair
Bottomley, Peter (Eltham) Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles
Bottomley, Rt Hon Virginia Gorman, Mrs Teresa
Bowden, Andrew Gorst, John
Bowis, John Grant, Sir A. (Cambs SW)
Boyson, Rt Hon Sir Rhodes Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)
Brandreth, Gyles Greenway, John (Ryedale)
Brazier, Julian Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth, N)
Bright, Graham Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter Hague, William
Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thorpes) Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archie
Browning, Mrs. Angela Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)
Bruce, Ian (S Dorset) Hampson, Dr Keith
Budgen, Nicholas Hanley, Jeremy
Burns, Simon Hannam, Sir John
Butler, Peter Hargreaves, Andrew
Butterfill, John Harris, David
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Haselhurst, Alan
Carrington, Matthew Hawkins, Nick
Carttiss, Michael Hawksley, Warren
Cash, William Hayes, Jerry
Chapman, Sydney Heald, Oliver
Churchill, Mr Heathcoat-Amory, David
Clappison, James Hendry, Charles
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford) Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael
Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth (Ruclif) Hicks, Robert
Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey Higgins, Rt Hon Sir Terence L.
Coe, Sebastian Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas (G'tham)
Colvin, Michael Horam, John
Congdon, David Hordern, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre For'st) Howarth, Alan (Strat'rd-on-A)
Coombs, Simon (Swindon) Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford)
Cope, Rt Hon Sir John Howell, Sir Ralph (N Norfolk)
Cormack, Patrick Hunt, Rt Hon David (Wirral W)
Couchman, James Hunt, Sir John (Ravensbourne)
Cran, James Hunter, Andrew
Currie, Mrs Edwina (S D'by'ire) Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas
Curry, David (Skipton & Ripon) Jack, Michael
Davies, Quentin (Stamford) Jackson, Robert (Wantage)
Davis, David (Boothferry) Jenkin, Bernard
Day, Stephen Jessel, Toby
Deva, Nirj Joseph Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey
Devlin, Tim Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)
Dickens, Geoffrey Jones, Robert B. (W Hertfdshr)
Dicks, Terry Jopling, Rt Hon Michael
Dorrell, Stephen Key, Robert
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James Kilfedder, Sir James
Duncan, Alan King, Rt Hon Tom
Duncan-Smith, Iain Kirkhope, Timothy
Dunn, Bob Knapman, Roger
Durant, Sir Anthony Knight, Mrs Angela (Erewash)
Dykes, Hugh Knight, Greg (Derby N)
Eggar, Tim Knight, Dame Jill (Bir'm E'st'n)
Elletson, Harold Knox, Sir David
Emery, Rt Hon Sir Peter Kynoch, George (Kincardine)
Evans, David (Welwyn Hatfield) Lait, Mrs Jacqui
Evans, Jonathan (Brecon) Lang, Rt Hon Ian
Evans, Nigel (Ribble Valley) Lawrence, Sir Ivan
Evans, Roger (Monmouth) Legg, Barry
Evennett, David Leigh, Edward
Faber, David Lennox-Boyd, Mark
Fabricant, Michael Lester, Jim (Broxtowe)
Fairbaim, Sir Nicholas Lidington, David
Fenner, Dame Peggy Lightbown, David
Field, Barry (Isle of Wight) Lilley, Rt Hon Peter
Fishburn, Dudley Luff, Peter
Forman, Nigel Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas
Forsyth, Michael (Stirling) MacKay, Andrew
Forth, Eric Maclean, David
Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman McLoughlin, Patrick
Fox, Dr Liam (Woodspring) McNair-Wilson, Sir Patrick
Fox, Sir Marcus (Shipley) Madel, Sir David
Freeman, Rt Hon Roger Maitland, Lady Olga
Fry, Sir Peter Malone, Gerald
Gale, Roger Mans, Keith
Gallie, Phil Marland, Paul
Marlow, Tony Speed, Sir Keith
Marshall, John (Hendon S) Spencer, Sir Derek
Martin, David (Portsmouth S) Spicer, Sir James (W Dorset)
Mates, Michael Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Mawhinney, Rt Hon Dr Brian Spink, Dr Robert
Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick Spring, Richard
Merchant, Piers Sproat, Iain
Mills, Iain Squire, Robin (Hornchurch)
Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling) Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Mitchell, Sir David (Hants NW) Stephen, Michael
Moate, Sir Roger Stern, Michael
Monro, Sir Hector Stewart, Allan
Montgomery, Sir Fergus Streeter, Gary
Moss, Malcolm Sumberg, David
Needham, Richard Sweeney, Walter
Nelson, Anthony Sykes, John
Neubert, Sir Michael Tapsell, Sir Peter
Newton, Rt Hon Tony Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Nicholls, Patrick Taylor, John M. (Solihull)
Nicholson, David (Taunton) Taylor, Sir Teddy (Southend, E)
Nicholson, Emma (Devon West) Temple-Morris, Peter
Norris, Steve Thomason, Roy
Onslow, Rt Hon Sir Cranley Thompson, Sir Donald (C'er V)
Oppenheim, Phillip Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Ottaway, Richard Thomton, Sir Malcolm
Page, Richard Thumham, Peter
Paice, James Townend, John (Bridlington)
Patnick, Irvine Townsend, Cyril D. (Bexl'yh'th)
Patten, Rt Hon John Tracey, Richard
Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Tredinnick, David
Pawsey, James Trend, Michael
Pickles, Eric Trotter, Neville
Porter, Barry (Wirral S) Twinn, Dr Ian
Porter, David (Waveney) Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Portillo, Rt Hon Michael Viggers, Peter
Rathbone, Tim Waldegrave, Rt Hon William
Renton, Rt Hon Tim Walden, George
Richards, Rod Walker, Bill (N Tayside)
Riddick, Graham Waller, Gary
Rifkind, Rt Hon. Malcolm Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Robathan, Andrew Waterson, Nigel
Robertson, Raymond (Ab'd'n S) Watts, John
Robinson, Mark (Somerton) Wells, Bowen
Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne) Wheeler, Rt Hon Sir John
Rowe, Andrew (Mid Kent) Whitney, Ray
Rumbold, Rt Hon Dame Angela Whittingdale, John
Ryder, Rt Hon Richard Widdecombe, Ann
Sackville, Tom Wiggin, Sir Jerry
Sainsbury, Rt Hon Tim Willetts, David
Scott, Rt Hon Nicholas Wilshire, David
Shaw, David (Dover) Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey) Winterton, Nicholas (Macc'f'ld)
Shephard, Rt Hon Gillian Wolfson, Mark
Shepherd, Colin (Hereford) Wood, Timothy
Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge) Young, Rt Hon Sir George
Shersby, Michael
Sims, Roger Tellers for the Noes:
Skeet, Sir Trevor Mr. Derek Conway and Mr. Robert G. Hughes
Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)
Soames, Nicholas

Amendment accordingly negatived.

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