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Report to Parliament of Costs of Electricity Privatisation

Public Utility Transfers and Water Charges Bill – in the House of Commons at 6:30 pm on 2nd February 1988.

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The Secretary of State shall report to Parliament all items of expenditure including consultancy fees, incurred by electricity boards or the Electricity Council in facilitating the transfer of their property or functions to another body corporate, arising from the privatisation of the electricity supply industry.—[Mr. Prescott.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Photo of John Prescott John Prescott Shadow Secretary of State, Shadow Secretary of State for Energy

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

New clause 4 is a somewhat narrower clause dealing with clause 1, which concerns the electricity industry. I have read the Committee and Second Reading debates on the privatisation of the electricity supply industry. It was a surprise to many of us that the clause should have been included in the Bill. All that I can tell from the debates that have been held is that the Government think that it would be right for the electricity board and the Electricity Council to be able to spend 'their money for consultation and fees on the possible plans that are being prepared for the privatisation of the industry. However, they appeared to fear the fact that NALGO had threatened to take action in the case of a water board, and so the Government have taken this chance to reinforce and state in legislation their view that it would be entirely proper and legal for the electricity board and the Electricity Council to use consultancy fees and to take into account recommendations and considerations on the transfer of their property or functions to another body corporate. The intention of the new clause is to make it clear that the Secretary of State shall report to Parliament all items of expenditure incurred in that way.

The Opposition's concern is to take this opportunity to debate what sort of reports the Government, or the Electricity Council, have in mind, and why it is necessary to take powers in this way. As the legislation is not yet before the House, one presumes that this is a sort of paving clause. I accept the Minister's statement in Committee that there are no powers in clause 1 — perhaps he will reaffirm that today — to advance any part of the privatisation of the electricity industry. It is merely to prepare the reports and advice that the Government and the CEGB need to prepare and influence the legislation that is to come.

What are the reports about—the financial problems that will arise from privatisation? Are they about the consumer, the nuclear part of the industry or other ports of call? Those are all essential matters that will be directly affected by the Government's proposals for and commitment to privatisation of the electricity supply industry.

This debate gives the Government an opportunity to give us an idea of what they had in mind. What has influenced the Government to want to spend their money in this way? If action were taken by NALGO in connection with the moneys used for consultation—presumably the legislation is not retrospective — and the reports had already been prepared by the Electricity Council and the CEGB, had the action been found to be illegal, it would still be illegal and not affected by the Bill. If so, why is this being done? One assumes that the provision will not apply, so why is it in the Bill? There was some discussion about that in Committee, but it is still not clear.

Our new clause is designed to deal with the Bill as it stands. We want to take into account the sort of things that the Government have in mind. I note that the Minister, replying to queries raised by hon. Members in Committee, said: the authorities would not have to fight lengthy and costly legal battles to defend their position. That would result in extra costs to people who are paying for their services." —[Official Report, Standing Committee B, 10 November 1987; c. 46.] It seems that the Minister felt that the costs were not justified and that if there were any fear of them arising he wanted to take the chance to prevent such extra costs being imposed on the consumer. At the end of the day the consumer must pay all the costs. There was a debate in Committee as to whether there would be any limit on the costs. The Minister replied that, because he set the effective rate and the fiduciary duties of nationalised industries, that would control how much was spent on the reports. That is not an effective way of controlling expenditure. He did not answer when several hon. Members asked in Committee what limits would be on the expenditure.

Even on a most generous assessment of the costs, they pale into insignificance when compared with what taxpayers will have to pay in commission to the City for handling the privatisation of the various industries. I think that about £500 million has been paid to bankers, accountants and solicitors for the 13 or 14 privatisations that we have had. It is peculiar that the Government are concerned about the chickenfeed of costs to be imposed on the consumer when the major cost of the sale of industries —hundreds of millions of pounds—has caused them no concern before. One can only assume that the amount involved in the privatisation of electricity, which will be greater than almost all the others put together, will be of considerable benefit to the City, where people have already been hired.

I do not know who the people are who are involved in the consultancies. I have tried to find out from the various bodies, but they are extremely secretive about what has been done and how much money has been spent. I know from the limited amount of information that has been published that the Government, the CEGB and the Electricity Council have different bankers and different accountants who will presumably do very well from acting for the different parts of the industry. That is all that I can find out about the people who have already been hired.

It would appear that the consultancy fees are limited very much to narrow financial obligations. I believe that the only concern of the Government in privatisation is how much money they can get from selling the silver. They are not concerned about the benefit to the consumer or whether the reorganisation that they wish to force on the electricity supply industry will be more efficient and safer for the consumer. Many people in the industry challenge the objects that the Government say they have in mind.

We want to know from the Minister whether the consultancy fees and other moneys to be paid out are really for the financial sector of the industry — the accountants and bankers — or whether the money is being used to get an assessment of the consequences of breaking up the electricity supply industry. We know from the public debate that the proposal to separate the grid from the CEGB is controversial. The various parties have made strong statements about the consequences for the consumer and for the security of the industry.

In the Second Reading debate the Secretary of State said: Much preliminary work needs to be done both within the Government and the industry itself. This Bill will ensure that the industry can participate fully in that process."—[Official Report, 21 October 1987; Vol. 120, c. 773.] Presumably the process is the privatisation of the industry. In the debate that has gone on since October there have been differing views about the consequences of certain actions that are proposed. It is unfortunate that the Secretary of State has not taken the opportunity to tell the House tonight his thinking on the reports that he has got. We have to watch him on television or read what he has said at a luxury hotel. I do not remember the name—I do not know the luxury hotels — but yesterday in a luxury hotel he lectured the mining industry on the consequences if it began to play politics with the industry. There is no one more politically motivated than the Secretary of State in his actions on the mining industry.

We have to wait for the press, the television or a side remark to find out about fundamental policy. Why could the Secretary of State not take the opportunity to come to the House and give us some information about the reports that we are asking for so that we may assess for ourselves the consequences of privatisation? The Secretary of State referred on Second Reading to a public debate in which the industry could participate fully; presumably he did not have it in mind that Parliament would take part in that full debate, because he referred only to the industry.

7.15 pm

The only reference to Parliament being considered is in complaints about the privatisation of utilities. When the gas industry was privatised many criticisms of the Select Committee about the procedures adopted for privatisation, about the protection of the consumer and about concern that a public monopoly was being turned into a private monopoly have been borne out by events.

The reason for the Bill is that the Government wish to move from a public monopoly to a private monopoly. Hence our fears about the attempt to break up the generation side and the distribution side, all in the name of competition. We wait to see the consequences.

In their response to the Select Committee the Government promised that they would issue a White Paper before the privatisation of any other public utility. Yet in this Bill we have a clause which refers to the privatisation of the electricity industry. In Committee the Minister said: The Government have a clear view of the merits of privatising the electricity industry". —[Official Report, Standing Committee B, 10 November 1987; c. 44.] What he meant was that he was not sure how they could do it. They did not know what the full effects would be. Presumably that was why they have to have reports. But they are not really interested in the consequences so long as they can get the money for the Treasury. That is all it is about. It is not about the rights of consumers. We have been told by the Minister and the Secretary of State about the exciting period for the consumers. They have exciting ideas about giving rebates if consumers do not get a proper service. We have yet to hear more about that.

Parliament is not allowed to debate the issues. We have to glean the information from public statements. There is an opportunity in this debate for all the believers in the privatisation of electricity to put forward their views. Much of the money will be made by Government supporters, the people involved in the process. Where are they now? They are not here. They are not interested in whether it is good for the consumer. They have no report to tell them the nuclear industry is to be tacked on. They are not interested in that. All they are interested in is the value of the privatisation.

The Secretary of State is very good at lecturing miners and everyone else but he cannot come here to tell Parliament how he stands. He cannot do the House the courtesy of coming to listen to the concerns of hon. Members, particularly after the announcement in Scotland today that because of his policies a British Coal contract will be cancelled, which will put thousands of miners out of work and result in the closure of more mines in Scotland. That is just the forerunner of what will happen in the rest of the United Kingdom.

I ask the Minister specifically what reports he has in mind. What moneys are to be used by the bodies concerned to prepare for privatisation? I would like to assume that the Minister is not solely concerned with the financial effects but may be concerned about the industry. Indeed, there is an obligation on the Department and on the industry to do something about that. But the Government are fast changing the terms of reference of the board, the chairman and the Electricity Council so as to kill off any critical opposition from those in the industry to their plans.

Have the Government done an assessment to justify the reports that we hear about the split of the CEGB from the national grid? We hear from the people who run the industry that there will be blackouts. I do not know whether that is right or wrong, but security of supply by the publicly owned electricity industry is important. We have been proud of the security of supply and it has been praised on both sides of the House. Indeed, recently during the gales electricity has still been supplied. In the home of privatisation, America, we see the fears of the people about a privatised service. It does not give them the security that we have with our publicly owned system. That is an issue on which there could be a debate, but when the Government decided to break up the CEGB and the grid—if that is their decision—how did they arrive at that view?

Have the reports been done? If the reports have been done, why have they not been made available to the House so that we can debate them? Is the CEGB to be broken up into two sectors? The industry says that that would cost far more than it would save. We have heard what the Secretary of State says on television, but the industry is saying the opposite. Parliament should be entitled to express a view about those matters.

I take the view from what we have heard in Committee —I had hoped we might hear differently today—that ideology is behind this. The Government say that they believe in the merits, but they just want to privatise for the sake of privatisation. They have not looked into this; it is a leap into the dark. They will risk this major industry, with a £12 billion turnover and £45 billion of assets; an important industry to the economy and to the industries that depend upon it. Plant manufacturers, the coal industry and the nuclear industry are all dependent on the policies to be pursued in those areas. It is crucial that the Government should make an assessment of what is going on.

Reports and studies should be carried out, but I am worried as to whether the reports will be independent. If they are independent, will they be taken into account if they arrive at a different conclusion from the Government? The Government do not want to listen to impartial advice. They simply change the chairmen. They have changed the chairman of health bodies, and they would change the chairman of the CEGB when his time is up if he does not carry out what the Government want. The Government should tell us of the consequences for industry of privatisation in the very important areas to which the studies should address themselves.

I hope that the Minister will tell us whether Parliament will be involved. He should tell us, instead of constantly teasing us, whether there will be a White Paper before the industry is privatised which will assess the consequences and whether the study will be taken into account. I hope that the Minister will make a definitive statement on the suggestions in the press as to whether there is tobe a White Paper. He should answer the question put by the Select Committee on whether there will be a White Paper.

I hope that the studies will take into account the problems associated with privatisation. We have read in the press of the decisions coming out bit by bit. Taking the nuclear industry as an example, will the Minister request a report on the consequences for the nuclear industry? We have heard from the Secretary of State that, while he believes in market forces, he is scared that if we privatise the electricity industry the nuclear industry may not order any more generating stations, so apparently a decision will be imposed on the privatised electricity industry that 20 per cent. of electricity must be produced by nuclear generation. That is what might be called an energy policy, although the Government constantly tell us that they do not believe in an energy policy; they believe in market forces. If they believe in market forces, why have they come to a judgment—perhaps the report led them along that path — that 20 per cent. of electricity must be produced by nuclear generation? We know the decommissioning cost of Magnox. Will that line be extended and will that bear the cost of privatisation? A legitimate inquiry should be made on how that will affect the price of electricity.

Have the reports been done? We should be debating the major consequences of privatisation. The Secretary of State has made a statement, and presumably he has made up his mind. If he has made up his mind, why does he need money for reports? Apparently he has made up his mind on the importation of coal. We have heard tonight that the Scottish electricity generating board has taken the view, as the Government have given it higher profit targets and have told them to reduce costs, that the only effective way to reduce costs is to replace British coal with imported coal, so we see the planning agreements for greater imports of coal. Many studies have been done on how many mining jobs will be lost—we are told that it will be 1,700 in Scotland—and what will be the effect on the community and on the balance of payments if we replace domestically produced coal with imported coal. The loss of production of 30 million tonnes could add £1 billion to the balance of payments, which would have an effect on the real economy.

Are the studies being done by the Government? If they are, why do they want the Bill to provide the money? Is it because the Secretary of State has already come to a judgment? The CEGB and the Scottish electricity board are already applying what the Secretary of State has told them to do, with major and disastrous consequences for the miners and pits, yet the Secretary of State has the audacity to tell us that the miners are playing politics, when he has fixed them in a political ring. They cannot win; there is no future for them. It does not matter how much he refers to pit closures and redundancies, because the Government have made up their mind to import coal and close down pits, to the worst fears of the miners, yet the Minister will come to the Dispatch Box and tell us about confidence in the industry.

Photo of Michael Spicer Michael Spicer Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of Energy)

This is the most appalling distortion, well below the normal standard of the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott). We have been absolutely clear about the coal industry — that a privatised electricity industry will be free to buy coal in the best markets. We have said that because we are confident that British coal can be competitive if it reforms. We have vast reserves of highly commercial coal and we intend to put money behind that coal so that it will be competitive with foreign coal. It is a total distortion to make any other case.

Photo of Mr Paul Dean Mr Paul Dean , Woodspring

Order. I remind the House that we are dealing with reports to Parliament. Most Front Benchers are going far too wide.

Photo of John Prescott John Prescott Shadow Secretary of State, Shadow Secretary of State for Energy

I take the point that we are debating reports, and those reports will be presented to Parliament. I am trying to ascertain whether the reports have already been prepared, because the Bill says that the Government want to be assured that they have the authority and legal powers to commission such reports. I find it peculiar that the Government should have to wait for the Bill, as money has already been spent on various reports. It appears that the threat of legal action is there, irrespective of the Bill. I want to know what reports have already been done, because the Bill will give us power to ask the Secretary of State to report to Parliament. What should we do with the reports that have already been prepared?

The Minister talked about market price. He should apply that to the nuclear industry. Why is he imposing a condition? Why is it strategically right to impose a condition on nuclear generated power if he is not prepared to put the argument for coal? It is vindictiveness against the coal industry. I do not want to open up that debate, but I presume that some reports were done by his Department. Can we have the reports so that we can make an honest judgment as to whether what the Secretary of State has been telling us is correct?

The point we are making is critical: Parliament must be informed. The Government have nothing but contempt for Parliament, when they constantly use their votes to force things through. The Government have no desire to inform Parliament. A combined Committee unanimously called on the Government to produce a White Paper, and we would have felt that we had made some advances if the Minister had said that that report would be produced. We are worried that we do not have access to reports and we are worried about the continued nobbling by the Government of the chairmen of nationalised industries, either by replacing them or by not making available their reports.

We do not have the means to judge the independence of reports. If the Secretary of State and Minister want evidence of that, they should look at the reply given to Parliament about the reappointment of Sir Philip Jones. The Government changed the terms of reference of a chairman who had been critical of the Government's proposals and told him to get into line if he wants the job and to carry out the Government's policy. They instructed him, for all to see — I will not quote it, but it was reported in Hansard last Friday. They have nobbled a chairman who disagreed with the Government.

We have moved the new clause because Parliament must be given the chance to make a judgment about reports. I hope that the Minister will give us more substantial replies than he did in the Committee, when no reports and no answers to questions were given. We must have a satisfactory reply to this. It is crucial to the rights of Parliament to check on the Executive in the privatisation of one of our fundamentally importart industries.

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Lofthouse Mr Geoffrey Lofthouse , Pontefract and Castleford 7:30 pm, 2nd February 1988

Like my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott), I am very keen that the reports that have been referred to should be presented to the House so that hon. Members can have an opportunity to decide where they want to go. The House will be aware that there have been expressions of concern that there may be a traumatic spin-off for the mining industry arising out of the privatisation of the electricity industry.

We know that at present there is an understanding that the electricity industry will take 80 per cent. of the output of British Coal. We are all aware that if privatisation takes place, that understanding will no longer exist; we shall be open to the commercial market. There is speculation that preparations are under way for greater imports of coal into this country. The Associated British Ports (No. 2) Bill and the North Killingholme Cargo Terminal Bill, on the Order Paper today, certainly point that way. If this is not the case, what are they all about?

I too am interested in the costs of and charges for consultancies, particularly looking at some of the consultants—the Electricity Council, Price Waterhouse, N.M. Rothschild and, when it comes to the CEGB, Lazards. We all know who is involved in that company. It is a man called Sir Ian MacGregor, whom the coal industry will never forget.

I believe that it is absolutely essential that the House have these reports before there is any further privatisation. It is absolutely right that White Papers should be presented and that there should be discussions before the Government continue on their path of channelling profits to the private sector. I also believe that, if there is to be a massive rundown of the coal industry arising out of the privatisation of electricity, the Government should give serious consideration to the effects of that and not leave us in a similar situation to that in which we have been left previously, with whole communities wiped out and no new employment opportunities provided.

The House has a right to know what the Government intend to do and how many men are going to be affected by the privatisation of electricity. Will it be another 40,000, as I can pretty well imagine? Indeed, as recently as last year, an eminent economist, Mr. J. McClusker, while giving evidence to the Select Committee on Energy, forecast that the work force in the mining industry would be down to 64,000 by 1990. If the Government have any reports indicating this, the House has a right to know about them. If the young men in the mining industry, where the average age at present is 34, are going to find themselves thrown out of work because of the privatisation of the electricity industry, the House has a right to know.

The House also has a right to know whether the Government have any reports, or intend making any reports, on the 20 per cent. nuclear power proportion, and if that will need subsidising. I put that question to the Minister because the indications are and my advice is that it could well be that the 20 per cent. will need subsidising. If that is the case, if we have suffered throughout the mining industry because of the withdrawal of subsidy only for it to be transferred to the nuclear sector, the House has a right to know. These reports are absolutely essential.

I hope that tonight the Minister will be able to say whether the Government are going to publicise these reports, if there are reports, and inform the House of the cost in terms of wiping out jobs in the mining industry. I believe that the Minister has an obligation, on behalf of the Government, to make these facts available before any major decisions on the subject are taken.

Photo of Mr Bob Cryer Mr Bob Cryer , Bradford South

I rise to support the very modest new clause proposed by my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott), which I expect the Government to accept. All it does is require the Secretary of State to report to Parliament all items of expenditure including consultancy fees, incurred by electricity boards or the Electricity Council in facilitating the transfer of their property or functions to another body corporate, arising from the privatisation of the electricity supply industry. The legislation that we are dealing with gives, under clause 1, massively wide powers. For example, under clause 1(3), the Minister will have the power to "do that thing with a view to promoting the interests of— (a) any body corporate to which it is proposed to transfer the property or functions. The Minister is provided with the power to promote the interests of any body corporate to which it is proposed to transfer the property or functions — not actually a transfer of property or functions, but simply a proposal to do so. This is a massive, sweeping power. It is not unreasonable, therefore, that we should ask that the Minister provide reports to Parliament about the application of the clause.

After all, we would not want the Minister to be giving kickbacks to the friends of the Conservative party who are contributing to its campaign funds. Under clause 1, the Government could provide a consultancy for or ask for a report from all that legion of organisations which have been giving money to the Conservative party. That would be a corrupt use of taxpayers' money, but it would have the gloss of legality because the Minister has been given such wide powers.

I expect that the Minister will deny any such activity, and the best way to embark on that denial is to accept the new clause in order to show that the Department of Energy is dealing at arm's length with all those organisations. He could also say that to demonstrate that arm's-length relationship the Government will promote various reports, consultations and so forth. One of the benefits of such reports would be to demonstrate that Government Members who are struggling along like the rest of us on their £24,000 a year are not benefiting from this privatisation measure through the various consultancies on which they are moonlighting and which are included in that very thick tome, the Register of Members' Interests.

This covers a wide range. Price Waterhouse has been mentioned, for instance. The hon. Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Smith) is a consultant to Price Waterhouse. This is a rich vein which one could mine for some time. I should have thought that, as the various bodies receive contracts from the Department, the Minister will be only too happy to provide the House with reports. There is in any event a question of general accountability.

The Minister cannot say that privatising electricity will lead to safeguards in management or standards. A few recent examples show that private ownership, with its pursuit of profit, sometimes disregards standards of safety. One has only to mention Townsend Thoresen for a shiver to run down people's spines. The private enterprise supervision of that organisation has not exactly become a byword for safety standards.

In the Bill, however, we are dealing with the electricity industry, which has one of the most dangerous and potentially harmful methods of electricity generation known to mankind. We ought to have some regular reports to know what is going on and to stop the Minister uttering the slick platitude that he uttered a few moments ago—that the electricity generating industry would be allowed to buy coal from the best market. What precisely does that mean? If the Minister wants to say now that that is not what he means, and that he means that coal will be bought in future from British coal mines, let him say so. Let him not talk in platitudes about buying coal from the best market. That generally involves the concept of competition. We have to make a judgment about the best supply of coal in a competitive market place.

It will be interesting to hear a statement from the Minister that, in carrying out the terms of clause 1, the Government will ensure that no coal is bought from South Africa, where black people are exploited. If he said that, it would at least reassure us. But if any of the bodies corporate to which it is proposed to transfer the property or functions of the electricity generating industry will develop a partnership in South Africa, should riot Parliament know about it? It would be in the interests of the community at large for Parliament to receive reports of such a development.

I am sure that the Minister will join in with a conventional consensus about apartheid, as some Conservatives do who say that they are against apartheid. Let the Minister demonstrate that to the House by accepting the new clause so that he can report to Parliament. Should any of the nefarious organisations with which the Minister might become involved promote a body corporate to take over electricity generation, the Minister can report to the House. He knows that he will get our backing.

7.45 pm

As my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) has said about fair competition, what of subsidies that other Common Market countries provide for their mining industries? Will that be dealt with fairly, or will the bodies corporate examine that sort of issue at the request of the Minister, if he is prepared to examine matters on that basis? Will he be prepared, for example, to say that we will not purchase coal from the mines of Colombia, where children are sent to work? We will be pleased to know about that, and he can include the information in the regular reports that the modest new clause asks him to make. The mining community will know then that this is not a vicious vendetta against them, to usurp their position by importing coal from any country where people are exploited to a greater degree.

In our experience, private industry often cuts corners to make greater profit. We must know what is happening in an industry with such a dangerous form of electricity generation. Indeed, at the moment there is insufficient information with regard to public facilities. The Central Electricity Generating Board frequently diffuses information that is economical with the truth.

To remind the Minister, not long ago a Government employee called Sir Robert Armstrong, who was paid a fantastic salary because he was a man of such importance, was knighted for lying to a court in Australia. What an extraordinary set of values! If he had been a sweeper-up, lathe operator, turner or weaver in an ordinary firm and caught out for lying, he would have been sacked. But the Government, with their warped values, reward people who are economical with the truth. Therefore, to avoid misunderstanding or the possibility of a charge of duplicity, regular reports to the House could be scrutinised, and judged.

Although we say that the standards of public utilities are not always of the best, the Minister should think of what happens in private utilities. They cut corners in safety standards to make bigger profits.

Photo of Mr Bob Cryer Mr Bob Cryer , Bradford South

I shall give way to the hon. Gentleman in a moment.

An overworked and under-staffed nuclear installations inspectorate cannot complete all the work that is required of it. There is a great danger in those circumstances that something could go wrong. In the United States of America, the incident at Three Mile Island occurred in a nuclear installation that was run by a private utility. That was the most dangerous accident before Chernobyl. Therefore, it behoves us to ask for regular reports to Parliament.

Photo of Michael Jack Michael Jack , Fylde

I thank the hon. Gentleman for giving way. Will he agree with me that reports are made available regularly and openly by the nuclear installations inspectorate, as well as the Health and Safety Executive and British Nuclear Fuels Ltd., with information on safety standards within the nuclear industry?

Photo of Mr Bob Cryer Mr Bob Cryer , Bradford South

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for mentioning those reports. Clearly he is in favour of requiring reports to be produced to Parliament. I am in favour of that too, and there is no difference between us on the issue. Under the new clause, we will be able to supplement such reports with information from the Secretary of State, because he is facilitating the transfer of a major public utility to private resources.

We want details and technical information, but we also need to have general information about the powers in clause 1 relating to the promotion of bodies corporate. We want to be able to match one sort of information with another. For example, if there was a particularly bad contractor, we should like to know whether the new body corporate will deal with that contractor. We should be able to marry information from the two reports and make a better judgment.

The Government, with their majority, can get a report through Parliament at the drop of a hat. The number of revolting Tories is very slender; even on a big issue, they get only a dozen revolters. That is all they can manage. The Government know that they can get a report through Parliament, but in a democracy the information should be made available.

Photo of Frank Cook Frank Cook , Stockton North

In relation to the possibility that existing reports, such as those suggested by the hon. Member for Fylde (Mr. Jack), could be combined with the reports that we seek in the new clause, perhaps my hon. Friend will ponder the gross inadequacy of some reports published now. I will remind him of the type of instance that I mean. A question mark was put over the weld quality assurance records at Hinkley Point B, which were admitted by an individual almost a year ago. The CEGB and the nuclear installations inspectorate were supposed to investigate that and said that they would be open to public scrutiny. I am still waiting to get access to the plant; as are the engineers that I nominated. We are still waiting. The CEGB keeps us outside the gate and denies us the right that it said would be granted nearly 12 months ago.

Photo of Mr Bob Cryer Mr Bob Cryer , Bradford South

I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who has pursued these matters with persistence and devotion to detail. It is one of the strengths of Parliament that it contains people such as my hon. Friend who are not prepared to take bland platitudes from bodies such as the CEGB.

The standards of public ownership tend to be better than those of private ownership. Publicly owned bodies tend to be more accountable, but, having said that, I accept my hon. Friend's criticisms. The Minister is being given enormous powers to promote bodies that are private and that will not have any element of accountability unless the new clause is agreed. If the Minister has any pretensions to democracy, he should accept the clause.

A lot of money—about £500 million—has flowed from the taxpayers' revenues to the Government's Tory friends in the City. If the Minister and the Government wish to divest themselves of the taint of lining the pockets of their friends—the wetter Conservative Members may indeed wish to divest themselves of that taint — they should accept the new clause. Of course, the Government may not regard that as a taint; they may regard it as a success story. Indeed, as some of that money has been recycled into the funds of the Conservative party, it is an even greater success story—although many of us would call that corrupt. However, as the Conservative party raises greed to a principle, they could argue that that principle is being carried into effect by their friends in the City who are being greedy and lining their pockets to a huge extent.

The Government are always talking about how it is not the Government who make the money; it is the taxpayer who provides the money and the Government who spend it. Therefore, if the Government want fairness and some accountability for the taxpayers' revenue, they should, in all equity, accept this modest new clause so that the most important assembly in the United Kingdom, this Parliament—that sounds a bit grand, but by and large it is true — should be able to examine the reports and question the Minister in a way that would not be possible without the new clause.

I shall be shocked if the Minister does not accept the new clause, because he will then stand adjudged of all my criticisms.

Photo of Kevin Barron Kevin Barron Shadow Spokesperson (Energy and Climate Change)

I wish briefly to support the call that the reports, which presumably are being worked on now and which will be published under clause 1, should be available in the House so that we can consider them. If nothing else, we should do so to ensure that the reports are in the national interest and not in other interests. That applies especially to the question of what will happen to the supply of electricity once this pagan Bill is followed by other legislation and ends by breaking up the electricity supply industry as we have known it for a long time. There is also the question of the protection of consumers under a regime that will be different from the public regime that is the electricity supply industry now.

However, as has been mentioned, the problems go wider than that. If the press reports are correct, it has been announced today that the South of Scotland Electricity Board is now to seek a market in which to buy its coal which will be much wider than the Scottish coalfield. That could be described as the beginning of the end for deep coal mining in Scotland. It should be remembered that that industry has served Britain for many centuries — certainly for decades—and has helped us to fight wars against the enemies without. However, if todays's press reports are true, the SSEB is to turn its back on the Scottish coal miners and effectively to close the industry. I am certain that in the national interest, any reports would take into account the cost to the nation of any rundown of the industry and the cost to its communities. It would be remiss of the House to pass the new clause without that being said.

On the question of judging the independence of that national industry, it is important for us to ensure that all the reports are in the national interest and that they do not have any other interest. The question of party political interest in selling off public utilities has been raised. The electricity supply industry will be the biggest single privatisation in terms of the money that the Government will receive. That is important especially in the light of recent legislation which has stated that local authorities are not able to use public funds for party political propaganda. Therefore, it is important to make sure when selling off this great asset of our nation that none of the reports will be used for party political propaganda.

I hope that any reports drawn up through the use of clause 1 — if the new clause is not accepted — will be available in the Library so that we can truly judge whether the national interest is being served.

Photo of Michael Spicer Michael Spicer Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of Energy)

The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott) asked various questions, to some of which I can give him a clear and positive response. That applies especially to his first question in which he asked whether I would confirm that there were no powers in the Bill relevant or concerned specifically with the restructuring of the industry. I am happy to confirm that to him. This is not a Bill of substance so far as the electricity industry is concerned. Certainly, the Bill does not say anything about the nature of the restructuring of the industry.

The hon. Gentleman went on to ask me why we need the Bill in connection with electricity. He made the point fairly that there have been previous privatisations and that the process of discussion about privatisation has already begun. In that context, the hon. Gentleman asked why the Bill was necessary and what it means in terms of the expenditure that has already been incurred. That is a perfectly fair point and the answer is that the Government have never believed that the Bill is necessary. What we have always said—I said this earlier in Committee—was that, in the context of the litigation which, when the Bill was introduced was live litigation, clearly, in some people's minds, there was doubt about the vires of the expenditure. Rather than all parties being engaged in lengthy litigation which, in our view, would be fairly pointless and wasteful of resources, we should make it clear in legislation that a limited form of expenditure—it is only limited—relating to the advice given by the bodies that are to be privatised, used in assisting the Secretary of State to facilitate or to modify his proposals, should be protected by statute.

I am not talking just about public sector parties and the effect of their expenditure on the consumer, although the hon. Gentleman is right to say that, ultimately, that expenditure would fall on the consumer. That seems a perfectly reasonable position for the Government to have taken, although we have never had any doubt that the expenditure was perfectly acceptable and legal. Indeed, if the Government had had to fight the matter in the courts, that is the basis upon which we should have fought. However, we felt that it would be a waste of time and a waste of everybody's resources if we pursued the matter in the courts and that it would be better to clear it up through legislation.

Photo of John Prescott John Prescott Shadow Secretary of State, Shadow Secretary of State for Energy

I am grateful to the Minister for that reply. As I presume that some consultancy fees have already been incurred, and as I presume also that the legislation will not be retrospective in such cases, is the Minister saying that the Bill gives the authority —although the Government believe that they already have that — to the next legislation for privatisation for the expenditure on the reports, consultations and consultancy fees that will be incurred while that privatisation Bill is going through the House during the next parliamentary Session?

8 pm

Photo of Michael Spicer Michael Spicer Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of Energy)

I am not sure that I fully understand whether the hon. Gentleman is talking about the past or the future. In the context of the Bill, I am speaking about the present electricity privatisation process. The Bill will give double assurance. We consider that there will be no problem regarding past or future expenditure, but for the sake of efficiency of use of resources we wish to be doubly clear about this matter, because there has been litigation. Rather than people spending their resources and time on wasteful litigation, we wish to make the issue doubly clear in the Bill.

Photo of John Prescott John Prescott Shadow Secretary of State, Shadow Secretary of State for Energy

I am sorry to press the Minister, but presumably some expenses have already been incurred which could not have been covered by present legislation. I was asking whether the real intention of the clause relates to expenditure to be undertaken in the next parliamentary Session, when we shall consider the privatisation Bill. Presumably that is all that it can cover.

Photo of Michael Spicer Michael Spicer Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of Energy)

It will apply both to the expenditure incurred when the Bill receives Royal Assent and to future expenditure. I have no idea what that expenditure will be. In the case of electricity, I assume that very little expenditure will have been incurred during the time to which the hon. Gentleman referred.

The hon. Gentleman asked, very fairly, what advice would be given under the terms of the Bill. Of course, the specific advice will depend on the proposals that the Government will make for privatisation. One thing is clear. We were asked whether we had a mandate to privatise. There is no question about our intention to privatise the electricity industry and our confirmation of that intention is in our general election manifesto. I could list the areas on which advice will be given, such as technical, economic and organisational matters, but the important point is that the precise nature of the advice will depend on the structure that the Government propose.

The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East asked how that would relate to Parliament. That was the theme behind many of the speeches tonight. The hon. Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer) made the same point. The role of Parliament clearly must be paramount. The structure of the industry that we are proposing under privatisation will be announced in the House. Whether that announcement is accompanied by a White Paper is still being considered by the Government.

I believe that the most important issue is the nature, contents, specifics and detail of the statement that the Secretary of State for Energy will make to the House. The questioning process and, dependent upon what the House wishes to do, the debates that take place are also important. The probing of the Government's position during that debate or those debates will be critical in regard to how the Government produce their plans for the country. I assure the House that that will be done through Parliament.

Photo of John Prescott John Prescott Shadow Secretary of State, Shadow Secretary of State for Energy

Is the Minister now telling the House that, despite all the press reports, there is a possibility that the Government will ignore the advice of the Select Committee and produce the White Paper before the privatisation of electricity? In response to a request from the Select Committee, the Government said that they would give consideration to its recommendations. Is that all that it is? Would consideration include the possibility that the Government may not produce one, anyway?

Photo of Michael Spicer Michael Spicer Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of Energy)

I am saying that the Government have not yet decided but they are certainly considering whether to produce a White Paper.

The important question that was raised by the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East was that our detailed plans for the privatisation of the electricity supply industry should be presented to Parliament, that Ministers should be probed and questioned and that the policy that we announce should be debated. Surely that is more critical than whether we produce a White Paper. Hon. Members on both sides of the House are discussing whether the statement should be accompanied by a White Paper. They have produced strong arguments, but the critical issue is how we present the facts and the proposals before the House. It may be for the convenience of the House that a detailed statement, questioning and debate should be accompanied by a White Paper. I am not in a position finally to tell the House that the Government have decided on that.

The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East asked what studies the Government were making of this extremely complex matter. After six months or so of examining the subject, I am bound to concede that it is a complex issue on which there are passionate feelings and technically supported opinions from all sides. Therefore, it would be foolish, to say the least, of the Government not to have engaged in deep technical, economic and organisational analyses of the various options that they were considering. If that was the hon. Gentleman's question, I can happily assure him that very substantive analysis has been made of all the implications of the various proposals that we now have in mind.

I shall now address the specifics of new clause 4. New clause 4 places certain requirements on the Government regarding the fees and the reports and advice that the bodies would undertake on behalf of the Secretary of State. The central issue is whether all that information should continuously be put before Parliament. My answer is that Parliament is already deeply embroiled in that process.

Under the terms of the Bill, Parliament restricts considerably the nature of the expenditure which can be undertaken. The hon. Member for Bradford, South said that the Bill was wide-ranging and sweeping. That was a fair rhetorical point, but it is not how the Bill is drafted. Clause 1(1)(a) and (b) are highly restrictive in regard to expenditure. Clause 1(1)(a) states that only advice which is facilitating the implementation of the proposal for the transfer can be accommodated within the terms of the Bill.

In regard to whether those moneys are likely to be properly spent, the Secretary of State has the responsibility to appoint auditors to ensure that the money is properly spent. He also appoints the members of the boards, who have their own financial responsibilities for the way in which money is spent.

Fundamentally, Parliament has devolved management responsibility on those nationalised industries. Parliament has said that within certain broad parameters and responsibilities which lie on the shoulders of the Secretary of State, those nationalised industries, within the financial targets set by the Secretary of State and debated in Parliament and within various constraints, must get on with the business of managing themselves and their operations in a way that complies with their broad objectives. It must be said that that kind of highly detailed expenditure, which, as I have already argued, is very limited, must be the responsibility of the bodies concerned. Parliament would want to engage itself with that expenditure on a daily basis, as is implicit under the terms of the new clause.

That is the substance of my case for voting against the new clause.

Photo of Michael Spicer Michael Spicer Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of Energy)

I suspect that the hon. Gentleman would not agree with me, let alone be informed by me, however long I spoke. Therefore, it might be for the convenience of the House, having made those specific points against the new clause, if I advised that the new clause be withdrawn or that hon. Members vote against it.

Photo of Mr John Garrett Mr John Garrett , Norwich South

I had hoped that this brief debate about expenditure to facilitate privatisation would give us the opportunity to establish the Department's thinking about the Government's largest proposed privatisation. I had hoped that we would learn what studies might be undertaken before privatisation so as better to inform the House.

I found the Minister's reply somewhat less than satisfactory given the major issues raised by my hon. Friends on matters of great consequence about the ultimate effect of privatisation. The Minister said that the Department would seek advice from the bodies referred to in the new clause. He said that he was unwilling to list the necessary advice which might be technical or economic and, I assume, social or even political.

We had expected a White Paper to precede the publication of the Bill. The Minister referred to a statement. What does a statement mean? It amounts to 10 minutes after Question Time for Back Benchers to address questions to a Minister. How is that public accountability? Surely that bears out the authoritarian style that we are so accustomed to in the way in which the Government conduct their affairs.

I believe that the privatisation of the electricity supply industry should he preceded by several studies which should be reported to the House. I want to add one or two to those mentioned by my hon. Friends.

On 6 November the Secretary of State admitted that Britain's electricity costs were among the lowest in Europe and lower than those of the United States, Japan and Germany where privatised or semi-privatised electricity supply is dominant. The efficiency of our electricity supply industry derives from the planning control possible under an integrated system, including the security and ability to use the cheapest source of power on any given day. An early study by the Department of Energy might concern the potential benefit of privatisation to the consumer and the cost penalties of the separation of generation and transmission—or have we already seen one effect of the impending privatisation in the 15 per cent. increase in electricity tariffs over the next 18 months? Is that what the Secretary of State meant by talking about making it possible for competitors to enter the business?

We can learn one major social and economic consequence from gas privatisation. According to the Gas Consumers Council, there has been a 35 per cent. increase in disconnections over the past year. How did that contribute to efficiency? What protection for the poor will there be in electricity privatisation? What will happen to the 2·5 million householders who now receive help with their heating costs, particularly when the social security regulations to be introduced in April will make such help unlikely in future?

A major study is required, with a report to the House, on the effect of the proposals on fuel poverty. Is the Minister aware of the effects, or will he commission a study to find out? The Secretary of State often refers to the consumer interest. How will that be safeguarded? What will happen to consultative councils? What forms of representation will be available against the activities and performance of private boards and generators? The experience of British Telecom and British Gas is that consumer consultation has been substantially weakened. What is proposed for the Electricity Consumers Council? What machinery will exist for public and consumer accountability? We must assume that security of supply and safety will transcend private profit in these matters.

The greatest mystery of all surrounds nuclear power. I should have thought that a substantial report would be due to Parliament on what the Department has in mind about nuclear power. How does the Secretary of State propose to reconcile the least cost argument with the desire to preserve a nuclear power capacity? How will the cost of decommissioning nuclear power enter the equation?

8.15 pm

The second report of the Select Committee on Energy in 1986–87 includes a memorandum from the Central Electricity Generating Board which states that the total cost of decommissioning a major Magnox station would be £180 million to £330 million with stage 2 taking 15 years. The lower figure assumes that the final stage would be deferred for 100 years. It stated that improved technology over the 100 years would lead to cost reductions in decommissioning. Surely it is more likely that more stringent safety codes will be introduced over that period which would increase decommissioning costs. Safety is not getting cheaper and that might be the subject of a major report to the House.

Are the Government proposing to exempt nuclear power from privatisation or to discount the cost of decommissioning when striking a price for nuclear generation? Will private generators have to take on nuclear generation or commit themselves to building new nuclear power capacity?

On 29 January David Fairhall explained in The Guardian:The British nuclear establishment … contrasted its own integrated approach with a US system under which the electricity utilities are largely left to run their own nuclear programmes so long as they obey the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's rules.The danger of the US arrangement, as the Americans themselves have conceded, is that the safe operation of a nuclear power station is far too complicated to be susceptible to a set of written rules …Britain's nuclear power industry was created for strategic reasons, not short-term commercial ones. It depends on a vast infrastructure of research …and technological expertise …No commercial outfit is going to touch it, in other words, without all-risks cover from government and taxpayer. Perhaps we can have a report to the House on that novel form of insurance.

When formulating the guidelines for a new regulatory body, how would fuel costs be treated if they could be passed on to the consumer? How would that encourage efficiency? In assessing allowable costs other than fuel, how would the prudence of investment costs — for example, in safety—be established?

If a private generator has to be offered a rate of return over the life of a power station of 30 years or so, how will it be possible to run a national merit order to use the cheapest first? If the rate of return to a private generator is guaranteed, surely that must increase prices.

There is a national interest in R and D, shared by the House, in this area. It is important that a study is carried out into R and D. Profit maximisation will mean that investment and innovation decisions are made on a short time scale. That will lead to a greater buying in of research and development, including from overseas, with a corresponding rundown in United Kingdom expertise. That is likely to mean that either Britain will lose its position at the leading edge of the relevant technologies or that it will become increasingly and dangerously reliant on overseas expertise—or both.

There is major R and D in the electricity industry, including combined cycle pressurised fluid bed combustion, new technologies for emission control and super conductivity in transmission systems. It is most unlikely that private enterprise will invest in those matters to the detriment of our science and of providing cheap and safe electricity.

I had hoped that the Minister would offer to instigate studies on those matters and report the results to the House. I suspect that Ministers are not interested in the results. Our major misgivings are not satisfied by the Minister's explanation. We are extremely unhappy about the Government's failure to give a guarantee of a White Paper. A statement is not good enough. The new clause is about public accountability and about telling the truth.

Photo of Mr Bob Cryer Mr Bob Cryer , Bradford South

It is also very modest.

Photo of Mr John Garrett Mr John Garrett , Norwich South

As my hon. Friend says, it is very modest. I should have thought that the Minister could concede it easily. This is a matter of public and parliamentary accountability. We are dissatisfied with the Minister's reply and we shall divide the House on the clause.

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

The House divided: Ayes 217, Noes 252.

Division No. 162][8.20 pm
AYES
Abbott, Ms DianeDoran, Frank
Adams, Allen (Paisley N)Douglas, Dick
Allen, GrahamDuffy, A. E. P.
Anderson, DonaldDunnachie, James
Archer, Rt Hon PeterDunwoody, Hon Mrs Gwyneth
Armstrong, Ms HilaryEadie, Alexander
Ashdown, PaddyEastham, Ken
Ashley, Rt Hon JackEwing, Harry (Falkirk E)
Ashton, JoeEwing, Mrs Margaret (Moray)
Banks, Tony (Newham NW)Fatchett, Derek
Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE)Fearn, Ronald
Barron, KevinField, Frank (Birkenhead)
Battle, JohnFields, Terry (L'pool B G'n)
Beckett, MargaretFlannery, Martin
Bell, StuartFlynn, Paul
Bennett, A. F. (D'nt'n & R'dish)Foot, Rt Hon Michael
Bermingham, GeraldFoster, Derek
Bidwell, SydneyFoulkes, George
Blair, TonyFraser, John
Blunkett, DavidFyfe, Mrs Maria
Boateng, PaulGalbraith, Samuel
Boyes, RolandGalloway, George
Bradley, KeithGarrett, John (Norwich South)
Bray, Dr JeremyGarrett, Ted (Wallsend)
Brown, Nicholas (Newcastle E)George, Bruce
Brown, Ron (Edinburgh Leith)Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)Godman, Dr Norman A.
Buckley, GeorgeGolding, Mrs Llin
Caborn, RichardGordon, Ms Mildred
Callaghan, JimGraham, Thomas
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)Grant, Bernie (Tottenham)
Campbell, Ron (Blyth Valley)Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Campbell-Savours, D. N.Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Canavan, DennisGrocott, Bruce
Carlile, Alex (Mont'g)Hardy, Peter
Clark, Dr David (S Shields)Harman, Ms Harriet
Clarke, Tom (Monklands W)Healey, Rt Hon Denis
Clay, BobHeffer, Eric S.
Clelland, DavidHenderson, Douglas
Clwyd, Mrs AnnHinchliffe, David
Coleman, DonaldHolland, Stuart
Corbett, RobinHome Robertson, John
Corbyn, JeremyHood, James
Cousins, JimHowarth, George (Knowsley N)
Crowther, StanHowell, Rt Hon D. (S'heath)
Cryer, BobHowells, Geraint
Cummings, J.Hoyle, Doug
Cunliffe, LawrenceHughes, John (Coventry NE)
Dalyell, TarnHughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Darling, AlastairHughes, Roy (Newport E)
Davies, Ron (Caerphilly)Hughes, Sean (Knowsley S)
Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'l)Hughes, Simon (Southwark)
Dewar, DonaldIllsley, Eric
Dixon, DonIngram, Adam
Janner, GrevillePike, Peter
John, BrynmorPowell, Ray (Ogmore)
Johnston, Sir RussellPrescott, John
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S W)Primarolo, Ms Dawn
Kaufman, Rt Hon GeraldQuin, Ms Joyce
Kilfedder, JamesRadice, Giles
Kirkwood, ArchyRandall, Stuart
Lambie, DavidRees, Rt Hon Merlyn
Lamond, JamesRichardson, Ms Jo
Leadbitter, TedRoberts, Allan (Bootle)
Leighton, RonRobinson, Geoffrey
Lestor, Miss Joan (Eccles)Rogers, Allan
Lewis, TerryRoss, Ernie (Dundee W)
Litherland, RobertRowlands, Ted
Livingstone, KenRuddock, Ms Joan
Livsey, RichardSalmond, Alex
Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)Sedgemore, Brian
Lofthouse, GeoffreySheerman, Barry
McAllion, JohnSheldon, Rt Hon Robert
McAvoy, TomShore, Rt Hon Peter
McCartney, IanShort, Clare
Macdonald, CalumSkinner, Dennis
McFall, JohnSmith, Andrew (Oxford E)
McKay, Allen (Penistone)Smith, C. (Isl'ton & F'bury)
McKelvey, WilliamSmith, Rt Hon J. (Monk'ds E)
McLeish, HenrySnape, Peter
McNamara, KevinSoley, Clive
McTaggart, BobSpearing, Nigel
McWilliam, JohnSteel, Rt Hon David
Madden, MaxSteinberg, Gerald
Mahon, Mrs AliceStott, Roger
Marek, Dr JohnStrang, Gavin
Marshall, David (Shettleston)Straw, Jack
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Martlew, EricTaylor, Matthew (Truro)
Maxton, JohnThomas, Dafydd Elis
Meacher, MichaelThompson, Jack (Wansbeck)
Meale, AlanTurner, Dennis
Michael, AlunWall, Pat
Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)Wallace, James
Michie, Mrs Ray (Arg'l & Bute)Walley, Ms Joan
Millan, Rt Hon BruceWardell, Gareth (Gower)
Mitchell, Austin (G't Grimsby)Welsh, Andrew (Angus E)
Moonie, Dr LewisWelsh, Michael (Doncaster N)
Morgan, RhodriWigley, Dafydd
Morley, ElliottWilliams, Alan W. (Carm'then)
Morris, Rt Hon J (Aberavon)Wilson, Brian
Mowlam, MarjorieWinnick, David
Mullin, ChrisWise, Mrs Audrey
Murphy, PaulWorthington, Anthony
O'Brien, WilliamWray, James
O'Neill, MartinYoung, David (Bolton SE)
Orme, Rt Hon Stanley
Owen, Rt Hon Dr DavidTellers for the Ayes:
Parry, RobertMr. Frank Haynes and
Patchett, TerryMr. Frank Cook.
Pendry, Tom
NOES
Aitken, JonathanBiggs-Davison, Sir John
Alison, Rt Hon MichaelBlackburn, Dr John G.
Allason, RupertBlaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Amess, DavidBody, Sir Richard
Arbuthnot, JamesBonsor, Sir Nicholas
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)Boscawen, Hon Robert
Ashby, DavidBoswell, Tim
Aspinwall, JackBottomley, Peter
Atkins, RobertBottomley, Mrs Virginia
Atkinson, DavidBowden, Gerald (Dulwich)
Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley)Bowis, John
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N)Boyson, Rt Hon Dr Sir Rhodes
Baldry, TonyBrazier, Julian
Banks, Robert (Harrogate)Bright, Graham
Beaumont-Dark, AnthonyBrittan, Rt Hon Leon
Bellingham, HenryBruce, Ian (Dorset South)
Bendall, VivianBuchanan-Smith, Rt Hon Alick
Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke)Budgen, Nicholas
Benyon, W.Burns, Simon
Bevan, David GilroyBurt, Alistair
Biffen, Rt Hon JohnButcher, John
Butler, ChrisHolt, Richard
Butterfill, JohnHoward, Michael
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd)
Carttiss, MichaelHowell, Rt Hon David (G'dford)
Cash, WilliamHowell, Ralph (North Norfolk)
Chapman, SydneyHughes, Robert G. (Harrow W)
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)Hunt, David (Wirral W)
Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S)Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)
Colvin, MichaelHunter, Andrew
Conway, DerekIrvine, Michael
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest)Irving, Charles
Coombs, Simon (Swindon)Jack, Michael
Cope, JohnJackson, Robert
Cormack, PatrickJanman, Timothy
Couchman, JamesJones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)
Cran, JamesJones, Robert B (Herts W)
Currie, Mrs EdwinaKellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine
Curry, DavidKey, Robert
Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g)King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield)
Davis, David (Boothferry)Kirkhope, Timothy
Day, StephenKnapman, Roger
Devlin, TimKnowles, Michael
Dickens, GeoffreyLang, Ian
Dicks, TerryLeigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)
Dorrell, StephenLennox-Boyd, Hon Mark
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord JamesLester, Jim (Broxtowe)
Dover, DenLightbown, David
Dunn, BobLloyd, Peter (Fareham)
Dykes, HughMcLoughlin, Patrick
Eggar, TimMcNair-Wilson, M. (Newbury)
Emery, Sir PeterMcNair-Wilson, P. (New Forest)
Evans, David (Welwyn Hatf'd)Mans, Keith
Evennett, DavidMarshall, John (Hendon S)
Fairbairn, NicholasMartin, David (Portsmouth S)
Fallon, MichaelMates, Michael
Farr, Sir JohnMitchell, Andrew (Gedling)
Favell, TonyMoate, Roger
Fenner, Dame PeggyMonro, Sir Hector
Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)Moss, Malcolm
Finsberg, Sir GeoffreyMoynihan, Hon C.
Fookes, Miss JanetNeedham, Richard
Forman, NigelNeubert, Michael
Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)Nicholls, Patrick
Forth, EricNicholson, David (Taunton)
Fox, Sir MarcusNicholson, Miss E. (Devon W)
Franks, CecilPage, Richard
Freeman, RogerPaice, James
French, DouglasPatnick, Irvine
Gale, RogerPatten, Chris (Bath)
Garel-Jones, TristanPatten, John (Oxford W)
Gill, ChristopherPawsey, James
Glyn, Dr AlanPorter, Barry (Wirral S)
Goodhart, Sir PhilipPorter, David (Waveney)
Goodson-Wickes, Dr CharlesPowell, William (Corby)
Gow, IanPrice, Sir David
Gower, Sir RaymondRaffan, Keith
Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)Rathbone, Tim
Greenway, John (Rydale)Redwood, John
Griffiths, Sir Eldon (Bury St E')Rhodes James, Robert
Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon
Grist, IanRiddick, Graham
Ground, PatrickRidsdale, Sir Julian
Grylls, MichaelRoberts, Wyn (Conwy)
Gummer, Rt Hon John SelwynRoe, Mrs Marion
Hampson, Dr KeithRost, Peter
Hanley, JeremyRyder, Richard
Hannam, JohnSackville, Hon Tom
Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr')Scott, Nicholas
Harris, DavidShaw, David (Dover)
Haselhurst, AlanShaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)
Hawkins, ChristopherShaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')
Hayes, JerryShelton, William (Streatham)
Hayhoe, Rt Hon Sir BarneyShephard, Mrs G. (Norfolk SW)
Hayward, RobertShersby, Michael
Heathcoat-Amory, DavidSkeet, Sir Trevor
Heddle, JohnSmith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)
Hicks, Mrs Maureen (Wolv' NE)Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Hill, JamesSoames, Hon Nicholas
Hind, KennethSpeed, Keith
Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)Speller, Tony
Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)Waddington, Rt Hon David
Squire, RobinWakeham, Rt Hon John
Stanbrook, IvorWaldegrave, Hon William
Steen, AnthonyWalden, George
Stern, MichaelWalker, Bill (T'side North)
Stevens, LewisWaller, Gary
Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)Ward, John
Stewart, Andrew (Sherwood)Wardle, C. (Bexhill)
Stokes, JohnWarren, Kenneth
Stradling Thomas, Sir JohnWatts, John
Sumberg, DavidWells, Bowen
Summerson, HugoWheeler, John
Taylor, Ian (Esher)Whitney, Ray
Taylor, John M (Solihull)Widdecombe, Miss Ann
Tebbit, Rt Hon NormanWiggin, Jerry
Temple-Morris, PeterWilshire, David
Thompson, D. (Calder Valley)Winterton, Mrs Ann
Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)Winterton, Nicholas
Thorne, NeilWolfson, Mark
Thornton, MalcolmWood, Timothy
Thurnham, PeterWoodcock, Mike
Townend, John (Bridlington)Yeo, Tim
Tracey, RichardYoung, Sir George (Acton)
Tredinnick, David
Trippier, DavidTellers for the Noes:
Twinn, Dr IanMr. Alan Howarth and
Vaughan, Sir GerardMr. David Maclean.

Question accordingly negatived.