I mentioned the question of coal movement in my constituency when, on the previous occasion, my hon. Friend the Member for Stretford (Mr. Lloyd) was talking about what is likely to happen in the North Killingholme area if coal is imported through the proposed port. In the villages of Dinnington and Thurcroft there has been intense movement of coal by lorries and, as a result, there has been a procession of people to my surgery and to local authority representatives' surgeries to try to get that stopped.
This coal traffic is a road safety hazard and wakes people up early in the morning. There is also the question of the substantial damage being done to the roads by the heavy lorries. That will involve the local authority in the cost of repairs and so on. I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Stretford will agree that the hon. Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes (Mr. Brown) should take the message back to his constituents that substantial movements of coal are not good for the local environment or its people.
Since my hon. Friend began his intervention I have been able to go to sleep 12 times and travel back and forth between Manchester and here on two occasions. Surely that must make it one of the longest interventions in the history of Parliament.
I have also had an opportunity to visit the constituency of the hon. Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes (Mr. Brown), as I told him I would. I went to the funeral of one of my aunts who was a county councillor on Humberside county council for many years and who had also served on Lindsey county council. Her political contribution, unlike that of the hon. Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes, was geared to improving the north Lincolnshire and Humberside region. On the way to the funeral I took a detour through the port of Killingholme. I shudder when I think of the impact of the traffic on Myrtle villas or Westfield farm in his constituency, both of which are a long way from the A 180, which the hon. Gentleman told the House would be the only area affected. The roads to the port of Killingholme will be severely affected. As the hon. Gentleman knows, the roads are narrow and are not capable of taking the amount of coal that will travel by road. All the information that I have received shows that the coal will have to travel by road.
Is my hon. Friend aware that a village called Blyth in my constituency, which used to win the title for the best kept village, has 1,100 heavy lorries thundering through it every day? Is he further aware that in many of the villages in my area, where there is to be a new power station, there are literally hundreds of lorries tearing up the roads where there are no pavements and no street lighting, and that as a result there will be horrendous costs for repair? Who will pay for the repair of the roads? Will it be the county council and the ratepayers of the hon. Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes (Mr. Brown)? It certainly will not be the people operating the ports. Will the people in the area have to pay more poll tax to cover the cost? Has the hon. Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes taken that into consideration? Is he aware of the drop in property values because people do not want to buy a rural house, no matter how pretty it is, if 1,000 lorries pass it by every day and night, shaking it to its foundations?
My hon. Friend has made an important point. I cannot answer for the hon. Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes. As my hon. Friends will know, the hon. Gentleman's speech was short on answers and comments on the impact of the scheme. The answer to the question about who will pay for repairs to the roads is that it will be the poll tax payers in my hon. Friends' constituencies. A significant amount of the coal will travel by road.
In an intervention in my speech on the previous occasion the hon. Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes said that it was not long ago that 5 million tonnes of coal were being taken through the ports on the River Humber in his constituency. Since my hon. Friend the Member for Rother Valley began his intervention I have had time to find out what has changed since then. The hon. Gentleman omitted to tell the House that what has changed is British Rail's capacity to carry the coal. British Rail is not in a position to pick up the minimum 1 million tonnes of coal that would come through Killingholme initially. British Rail could not take up that capacity, unless it was on a permanent basis. For the coal mining communities it would be worse if it were on a permanent basis. At least initially the coal would come in on an experimental basis, to test the market, and in those circumstances the coal would not be carried by British Rail because it does not have the rolling stock to do so. That means that the coal would travel by road and, as my hon. Friends have said, it would travel through the coalfield villages and other villages, destroying the roads and the environment and making the lives of the residents in those areas significantly worse, at no cost to the promoters of the Bill.
Is my hon. Friend aware of why British Rail does not have the rolling stock? It does not have the stock because it is inefficient. In my area it Is carrying coal from Selby coalfield, the major coalfield in the country, more than twice the distance that it needs to because it will not spend £2 million to provide a shorter route. It allows 150 coal trains to pass through the town of Nottingley every day, when they could travel half the distance. British Coal and the coalfields have to pay for that. British Rail will be doing that for 60 years and it could result in some of the pits becoming uneconomic.
My hon. Friend highlights the central point in the debate. I know that many of my hon. Friends want to make a contribution about the impact of the scheme on their communities. They want to talk about the social implications, the consequences of unemployment and so on.
My hon. Friend the Member for Pontefract and Castleford (Mr. Lofthouse) has criticised British Rail. British Rail's senior management should be criticised, but I should like him to join me in ensuring that some criticism is directed at the Government. There has been a poverty of planning in the way in which British Rail undertakes its operations. The Government should be criticised for the absence of any ports policy, the result of which we see in the Bill. We have seen no justification for the Bill on the grounds of the port capacity of Britain. We have seen no justification in terms of a policy for energy requirements, because the Bill is irrelevant to the energy needs of the nation. We have seen no development of planning for road transportation, because it is obvious that neither the Minister nor the proposer of the Bill has any idea of how the coal will be carried when it is imported.
The Bill seeks to subvert the British economy. It will increase massively the imports of coal to Britain. It will destroy the jobs of those who work in the coalfields in Nottinghamshire and Yorkshire. That concern is shared by hon. Members on both sides of the House. It will put Britain in hock to the purveyors of apartheid. The hon. Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes is smiling, but at no point has he sought to distance himself from that view.
The House would be negligent if once again it went through the pretence that the Bill had received adequate consideration or that answers had been given to the searching questions that have been posed by my hon. Friends and myself. I hope that even at this late stage the hon. Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes will give answers to those questions or, preferably, withdraw the Bill.
In common with other hon. Members, I have sat through several hours of debate on the Bill. Most hon. Members present tonight are not friends of the Bill. My hon. Friend the Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes (Mr. Brown) has received no support from his hon. Friends. Even the Minister is neutral, or so he says.
I believe, like many of my hon. Friends, that if the Bill were passed it would harm the mining industry. I am sorry that much of the debate has been bedevilled by discussion of South Africa. The debate should be about not South Africa but what the Bill will do to the coal-mining industry of this country.
I accept that I am making a constituency and county point—I make no apology for that—but the Trent valley power stations provide a market for 70 per cent. of Nottinghamshire's deep-mined coal. Together with my hon. Friends, I am articulating a worry that has been expressed. As the Coalfields Communities Campaign points out to hon. Members in its briefing, British Coal has undertaken a significant and major programme of restructuring the industry in recent years. It has taken enormous strides to become competitive.
Those strides, which would be reversed if the Bill were passed, have been taken at some cost to the industry and its employees. At the end of the Scargill strike there were 169 pits in this country; there are now 96. Nottinghamshire has lost eight pits and 16,500 jobs. The industry is now concentrated on high-performance pits and coal faces. The human cost has largely been accepted by the mining industry's employees—certainly by the Union of Democratic Mineworkers—in the full knowledge that the industry is and was gearing itself to becoming competitive now and until the end of the century against world prices.
Today, international prices are low, yet no one pretends that they will continue to be. If by legislation the House makes it easier for foreign coal to enter this country, thus closing more pits before the industry is profitable, hon. Members will be doing grave harm to the industry. Imports will certainly come, and they will be based not on real, long-term prices but on spot prices. As a result, British coal will be driven further into deficit, at a time when it is looking to balance its books. Its profitability and ability to compete with other fuels will be nil.
|Division No. 393]||[7.14 pm|
|Ashton, Joe||Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)|
|Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE)||Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon|
|Buckley, George J||O'Brien, William|
|Dalyell, Tam||Patchett, Terry|
|Eadie, Alexander||Redmond, Martin|
|Flynn, Paul||Richardson, Jo|
|Grocott, Bruce||Salmond, Alex|
|Hinchliffe, David||Skinner, Dennis|
|Illsley, Eric||Welsh, Michael (Doncaster N)|
|Jones, leuan (Ynys Môn)||Wise, Mrs Audrey|
|McKay, Allen (Barnsley West)||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Mahon, Mrs Alice||Mr. Frank Haynes and Mrs. Llin Golding.|
|Adley, Robert||Favell, Tony|
|Alexander, Richard||Fearn, Ronald|
|Allen, Graham||Forth, Eric|
|Arbuthnot, James||Fox, Sir Marcus|
|Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)||French, Douglas|
|Ashby, David||Gale, Roger|
|Atkins, Robert||Gill, Christopher|
|Atkinson, David||Goodhart, Sir Philip|
|Bennett, A. F. (D'nt'n & R'dish)||Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles|
|Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke)||Gorman, Mrs Teresa|
|Benyon, W.||Gorst, John|
|Biggs-Davison, Sir John||Gow, Ian|
|Blackburn, Dr John G.||Grant, Sir Anthony (CambsSW)|
|Boswell, Tim||Greenway, John (Ryedale)|
|Bottomley, Peter||Ground, Patrick|
|Bowis, John||Hanley, Jeremy|
|Boyes, Roland||Harris, David|
|Braine, Rt Hon Sir Bernard||Hayhoe, Rt Hon Sir Barney|
|Brandon-Bravo, Martin||Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.|
|Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's)||Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)|
|Bruce, Ian (Dorset South)||Howarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A)|
|Budgen, Nicholas||Hughes, John (Coventry NE)|
|Burns, Simon||Hunt, David (Wirral W)|
|Butler, Chris||Irvine, Michael|
|Butterfill, John||Jack, Michael|
|Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)||Janman, Tim|
|Campbell-Savours, D. N.||Jessel, Toby|
|Chapman, Sydney||Jopling, Rt Hon Michael|
|Chope, Christopher||Kirkhope, Timothy|
|Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)||Knapman, Roger|
|Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S)||Knight, Greg (Derby North)|
|Conway, Derek||Lang, Ian|
|Cope, Rt Hon John||Latham, Michael|
|Corbyn, Jeremy||Lawrence, Ivan|
|Couchman, James||Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark|
|Currie, Mrs Edwina||Lester, Jim (Broxtowe)|
|Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g)||Lightbown, David|
|Davis, David (Boothferry)||Lilley, Peter|
|Devlin, Tim||Livingstone, Ken|
|Dixon, Don||Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)|
|Dorrell, Stephen||Lyell, Sir Nicholas|
|Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James||Maclean, David|
|Dunn, Bob||McLoughlin, Patrick|
|Emery, Sir Peter||McNair-Wilson, Sir Michael|
|Evans, John (St Helens N)||Madden, Max|
|Fallon, Michael||Major, Rt Hon John|
|Malins, Humfrey||Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)|
|Mans, Keith||Shephard, Mrs G. (Norfolk SW)|
|Marshall, Michael (Arundel)||Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)|
|Martin, David (Portsmouth S)||Shersby, Michael|
|Mates, Michael||Skeet, Sir Trevor|
|Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)||Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)|
|Michie, Mrs Ray (Arg'l & Bute)||Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)|
|Miller, Sir Hal||Speed, Keith|
|Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)||Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)|
|Mitchell, David (Hants NW)||Stanbrook, Ivor|
|Moate, Roger||Steen, Anthony|
|Montgomery, Sir Fergus||Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)|
|Moonie, Dr Lewis||Stewart, Andy (Sherwood)|
|Morris, M (N'hampton S)||Stradling Thomas, Sir John|
|Moss, Malcolm||Summerson, Hugo|
|Moynihan, Hon Colin||Taylor, Ian (Esher)|
|Neale, Gerrard||Taylor, John M (Solihull)|
|Nelson, Anthony||Taylor, Matthew (Truro)|
|Neubert, Michael||Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)|
|Newton, Rt Hon Tony||Temple-Morris, Peter|
|Nicholls, Patrick||Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)|
|Onslow, Rt Hon Cranley||Thurnham, Peter|
|Page, Richard||Tracey, Richard|
|Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey||Wakeham, Rt Hon John|
|Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth||Walden, George|
|Pendry, Tom||Walker, Bill (T'side North)|
|Porter, David (Waveney)||Wall, Pat|
|Portillo, Michael||Watts, John|
|Powell, Ray (Ogmore)||Wheeler, John|
|Price, Sir David||Widdecombe, Ann|
|Raison, Rt Hon Timothy||Wiggin, Jerry|
|Redwood, John||Wilkinson, John|
|Renton, Tim||Wilshire, David|
|Rhodes James, Robert||Winterton, Mrs Ann|
|Riddick, Graham||Wood, Timothy|
|Roe, Mrs Marion||Young, Sir George (Acton)|
|Rossi, Sir Hugh||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Sayeed, Jonathan||Mr. Richard Ryder and|
|Shaw, David (Dover)||Mr. Kenneth Carlisle.|
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. On other occasions, most hon. Members have voted not to exclude Strangers from the Gallery. You will have noted that in this Division a few of my hon. Friends decided to vote for the exclusion. They wish to place on record their worry not about those in the Strangers' Gallery—I am not supposed to refer to that—but about the promoters of the Bill who are sitting in the Under Gallery. I hope that the press understands that those who called the Division did so to exclude those representing South Africa and the coal importers.
Before I was unnecessarily interrupted, I was trying to draw to the attention of the House the effect that the Bill would have on the future profitability of the coal industry and the viability of coal as against other fuels. I was about to suggest that the results of a further large-scale contraction in the industry would be permanent. In those circumstances, it would not be possible to resume the current march towards profitability in our coalfields.
A pit that closes stays closed. It would be far too expensive ever to reopen a pit that closed, even if the closure was originally thought to be on a temporary basis—until it proved possible to sell coal at a higher price. One cannot simply mothball a coal mine as one can parts of many other industries. Therefore, the Bill has very serious implications.
Some of my hon. Friends might say that the industry should be completely governed by market forces. They might say, "If foreigners come in and dump coal and destroy our markets, so what?" I hope that none of my hon. Friends will take that view; it is a very simplistic view of the market economy. I do not take that view and neither do the electors of Nottinghamshire, especially members a the Union of Democratic Mineworkers, who would certainly not expect Conservative Members representing Nottinghamshire to adopt that line. We are here to protect those who sent us here. If we do not stand up and look after them, we should be doing a different job elsewhere.
The issue is wider than protecting the industry and our constituents' jobs. If we destroy our coal industry, as I believe the Bill will, we will put the cost of electricity and possibly even its supply in the hands of our competitors abroad. They could do that with the benefit of our destroyed coal industry. From the day we pass the Bill, the cost of our energy could well be in the hands of others.
Those who supply cheap coal will not continue to supply it cheaply once our industry has been destroyed. Why should they when they have destroyed our market? We would be totally in their hands as to cost. There may be an added cost which we would be unable to control—the cost of paying seamen and dockers to handle imported coal.
I am sure that Mr. Scargill speaks common sense from time to time. If he shares my view, I believe that he speaks common sense.
I should like to underline the fact that we are proposing to risk this damage just when British Coal feels ready to take on the world. On 13 June, British Coal's chairman said:
The nation's coal reserves are a great asset, and we have in sight a viable and competitive coal industry. I believe we arc through the worst and poised on the brink of success. To sum up, we have an excellent opportunity to turn British Coal from a long-term national liability into a successful business and national asset.
I share his view and believe that the chairman would be hostile to the Bill as presently drafted.
Our reserves are a national asset and we should protect them. We should not be making it easier for our competitors to come in and ruin our market. No other country in the world would do that. If we allow the Bill to pass, we shall be allowing our competitors to come in and take advantage of the short term—of the current spot market rate. We should look after our mining industry. In my view, the Bill will not do that.
I found parts of the speech of the hon. Member for Newark (Mr. Alexander) quite interesting. I have a feeling that some of his hon. Friends do not agree with him—they are not in the Chamber. All Labour Members who represent Nottinghamshire are here, as are those from Yorkshire and elsewhere. I hope that, with this Bill, we do not have a repeat of what happened with previous legislation, when 115 Conservative Members walked through the Lobby to agree to legislation which had a similar effect.
I shall not give way now.
I am grateful for this opportunity to speak as the Bill is important to Nottinghamshire and to my constituency. It is unfortunate and inappropriate that the method being used to introduce it and other Bills associated with it is described as the private Bill procedure. They should be described as commerical Bills—that is surely their prime objective.
On this and other related matters, the House has often heard the pleas of hon. Members who oppose the blatant misuse of parliamentary procedures to push commercial interest legislation such as this on to the statute book. The House should not fool itself into believing that the main aim of this Bill is anything other than private gain set against the undoubted effects on the nation as a whole.
Because of those effects, we should also consider whether it is in the interests of the public to allow the Bill to proceed. Is the Bill's purpose to aid the importation of cheap, foreign coal for a privatised electricity industry? Is its purpose to aid British Coal's pit closure programme? Is it simply the free market strategy pursued by the Government taken to its wildest extremes? Not surprisingly, I believe that the answer is a combination of all three, and that it is motivated by the desire for profit which is set against the needs of the nation.
If the Billl and others associated with it are approved, they will have a devastating effect on Britain's remaining mining communities. Pits will close in all coalfields, particularly because of the importation of cheap foreign coal, mainly from South Africa and Colombia, where it is dug by child labour or miners on such low wages that every other civilised nation in the world condemns its purchase.
I must tell the hon. Member for Newark that we cannot disregard what is happening in the mining industry in South Africa. Children are being used to dig coal and miners are dying underground because of appalling conditions. Appallingly low wages are paid to workers.
I am grateful for that intervention.
The facts and figures are clear. If the Bill and others associated with it go through, coalfields in Yorkshire, the midlands and Nottinghamshire will be affected. They currently supply 65 million tonnes to the market, 50 million tonnes of which go directly to power stations. In Nottinghamshire, building facilities such as is proposed will mean that at least 13 of the remaining 18 pits in the county will be at risk as most of their product goes to power stations. I should like to give the figures for the pits in Nottinghamshire. At Blidworth colliery, 51 per cent. of output goes directly to power stations; at Calverton, 80 per cent.; at 011erton, 87 per cent.; at Thoresby, 93 per cent.; at Creswell, 95 per cent.; at Harworth, 97 per cent.; at Bilsthorpe, 98 per cent.; at Silver Hill, 98 per cent.; and at Bevercotes, Cotgrave, Sherwood, Welbeck and Clipstone, 100 per cent. Building facilities such as those proposed would put directly at risk at least 12,000 miners' jobs in the county. In Yorkshire, 16 pits would be threatened; in the midlands and Derbyshire, five out of the nine remaining pits might close. Up to 37,000 jobs would be directly at risk in those areas alone.
Has my hon. Friend seen the report of the Unemployment Unit that was sent to hon. Members last week listing a new jobs table for 633 constituencies in England, Wales and Scotland? Does he realise that during the past 12 months his constituency was number 627 and mine was number 621? Even the constituency of the hon. Member for Sherwood (Mr. Stewart) was number 586. Those areas are in dire straits even before the importation of coal—let alone after these port facilities are built.
In addition to the jobs lost directly, the indirect effect will mean a total job loss well into six figures in those communities. I am grateful to my hon. Friend for pointing out that both of the remaining pits in my constituency would be at risk. Eight others in a 12-mile radius would be similarly threatened. There are already more than 38,000 unemployed in that geographical area. The Government's recent refusal to support the coal industry has led to the closure of Mansfield colliery in my constituency, with a loss of more than 1,000 jobs. I am pleased to note that my hon. Friends have expressed their sorrow about that, while Conservative Members have had little or nothing to say.
The Bill would have devastating effects on my constituents and others in the area. We may ask what the benefits could be of such measures, apart from fat profits for its backers and promoters. It would jeopardise Britain's ability to be self-sufficient in coal; it would lead to mass unemployment in mining communities; and it would allow artificially priced coal to increase prices when the opportunity arose.
If those pits are closed because of the proposed port facilities, the remaining pits will have to pay for and carry all investment costs. Therefore, unit costs will rise in the remaining pits, causing them to suffer. Is it not possible that our coal industry will cease to exist and we will depend completely on foreign coal?
I agree with my hon. Friend's analysis. This Bill, coupled with the appalling management of British Coal, would probably ensure that fate for it. It would also set Britain apart from most other civilised nations, which refuse to allow the use of cheap, slave labour, blood coal imported from South Africa and Colombia.
It has been established that the Humber ports, in particular, would be used to import bulk South African coal to our power stations. That was proved by the recent visit of four representatives from major South African mining corporations to try to arrange long-term contracts for their businesses. The Dutch company Van Ommeren is part of the company that will run the terminal. It is the second largest Dutch coal importing company. According to the Dutch central statistics bureau, last year it imported about 5·8 million tonnes of South African coal—4·3 million tonnes were shipped on to other countries, of which 2·9 million tonnes were transhipped from Dutch ports to the United Kingdom. The signs are that the figures will increase this year and that South African coal will be piled up not only in Holland, but in such places as Ghent and Rotterdam.
Does my hon. Friend agree that, apart from a loss in national resources, the Bill could result in the loss of 50,000 miners jobs, plus 26,000 spin-off jobs? That will cost the nation more than £500 million in unemployment pay, redundancy and so on. Could not that money be better spent by British Coal than by competing with coal from abroad mined by slave labour?
My hon. Friend will recall that the week before last I pressed the hon. Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes (Mr. Brown) about the role of Van Ommeren, and the hon. Gentleman either feigned surprise or genuinely did not know the answer. Will my hon. Friend press the hon. Gentleman again about the role of Van Ommeren and ask him to come clean with the House?
I am happy to ask the hon. Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes (Mr. Brown) to disclose his links with Van Ommeren, whether through meetings or other contacts. For example, I should like to know whether those persons who are not actually in the Chamber but to whom he spoke earlier are either part and parcel of that company or have links with it. The hon. Gentleman will have an opportunity to come clean and admit that his trip to South Africa was not merely to study the tourist industry—or, indeed, to eat the Outspan oranges that he undoubtedly liked—but was linked with the commercial private companies that wish to set up Britain for private gain, using the Killingholme terminal.
Many hon. Members on both sides of the House want to speak against the Bill. I have yet to hear of anybody who wishes to speak in favour of it, apart from its sponsor. I take pride in urging hon. Members to vote against the Bill for the sake of Britain generally, but especially of Nottinghamshire, and of South African and Colombian miners.
On the surface, this is round two in a debate on another Immingham dock. In practice, of course, it is really round four, because the Bill that was given a Second Reading last week provoked contentious arguments for and against another dock at Immingham. That Bill included two other docks, one in south Wales and another in Kings Lynn, but they were not objected to by hon. Members on either side of the House. Conservative Members who voted for those two ports may regret that because they will be tied to the inevitable delaying tactics in Committee and at later stages about the contentious issue of the Immingham dock. This Bill concerns the single dock at Immingham, so there are no issues to sidetrack us.
Sadly, I feel that the Second Reading last week has caused some Conservative Members to think that because of last week we are trying to close the stable door after the horse has bolted. Perhaps that is true, but I believe that the arguments should be made and I wish to put them on record.
On commercial and industrial matters I am normally what is described as "dry". Therefore, on this particular issue, I admit to being on unfamiliar and perhaps uncomfortable ground. Normally it is not my wont to argue against matters that are better dealt with in purely commercial and industrial terms, but I have looked at this issue in commercial, industrial and human terms and I wish to oppose the Bill. A number of my colleagues will join me. We shall oppose it not just for narrow constituency reasons, but because we believe that the whole region will be adversely affected by it.
The two pits that used to be inside the city boundaries of my constituency closed 20 years ago, and I doubt whether there are 100 miners, if that, in my constituency. Nevertheless, wider issues must be considered. The hon. Member for Mansfield (Mr. Meale) has sought to disparage Conservative Members' comments on this matter. Other Labour Members have sought to suggest that, in some way, Conservative Members have been acting out a charade. As this is probably a time-limited debate, I speak for all my colleagues in and around Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire. They feel strongly about this matter. When they voted last week against Second Reading of the Associated British Ports (No. 2) Bill, they were not seeking phoney publicity.
I am pleased that the hon. Gentleman has said that. It is true that the other associated Bill to this was given a Second Reading last week and that in Nottinghamshire a lot of publicity followed that decision. The reason why the Bill was given a Second Reading last week was not the failure of any one Labour Member, but the number of Government supporters who marched through the Lobby in support of it.
The real reason is that the Labour party could not organise a digestive explosion in a storm. Last week, at 7 o'clock, there were more than 100 Labour Members present. By half past eight, when the vote on the Bill was taken, it suited Labour Members, having made all the noise and the shouting about South Africa and the miners, to go home. All that was necessary was for 100 Labour Members to remain at half past eight and, together with Conservative Members, the Bill would have been defeated—[Interruption.] Any honest study of the vote that night would show that few members of the Government voted.
The hon. Gentleman knows about the figures. If he compares the number of absent Labour Members with the number of absent Conservative Members, he will find that one cancels out the other. If he looks at the Division list in Hansard, he will see those who voted from the Government Front Bench range from a Secretary of State to the Chief Whip, the Deputy Chief Whip——
I am grateful to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but Labour Members are trying to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. They know that they were not here, and that is the bottom line.
I have two reasons for opposing the Bill. The first reason may be described as an emotional one—it is a sense of debt. I do not believe that I am going over the top if I say that some Conservative Members——
Some Conservative Members feel that they have a debt of honour. [Laughter.] Apparently that causes great amusement on the Labour Benches, but that surprises no one.
My second and main reason for opposing the Bill is on straightforward, longer-term economic grounds. No one on either side of the House could say that, on economic grounds, the creation of the port—the one that was voted for last week—will not have a major economic effect on the east midlands. No one needs reminding of the events of March 1984 to May 1985.
The Bill will have a devastating impact on the east midlands coal industry, but it will also have a tremendous impact throughout the country. The hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends talk about the need to be self-sufficient and to protect the balance of payments, but they continue to support the Government's attacks on the coal industry. What they should do is work jointly with British Coal, the unions and the Government to give the industry and the country the future that it desperately needs.
I have never heard such rubbish in my life. If the hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. Redmond) is seeking to suggest that his country could have gone on defending, via massive wasteful subsidies, the type of coal industry that we had eight years ago, he is living in cloud-cuckoo-land. We set out to create a viable coal industry, one that did not need massive support. We now have a splendid coal industry and the Government are now seeking to give it a fair chance to make it right through to the next century. That is a different story from the one that the hon. Gentleman was seeking to put to me.
Is my hon. Friend aware that, since the end of the disastrous strike, productivity has increased by 60 per cent. due to the skilful negotiations of the Union of Democratic Mineworkers. whose negotiated conditions were subsequently imposed on the other people who work in the industry? Does my hon. Friend agree that that is the way forward?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. It is a great pity that the written word in Hansard never quite conveys the feelings of the House. What was apparent last week, and is apparent tonight, is the animosity that is still felt on the Labour Benches for the 30,000 Nottinghamshire miners and their families who said no to the concept of Scargillism. That is what the debate should be about.
I am not certain whether that was a point of order or a question to me.
I repeat that a number of my Conservative colleagues recognise the debt that they owe to the 30,000 Nottinghamshire and east midlands miners. They had no great love for the Conservative party and they probably still do not, but that does not take away from the fact that my hon. Friends and I believe that we owe a debt to those miners and their families for what they did three years ago and for what they have done since. We would like them to continue their success in the next 10 to 20 years. They probably will not thank us for it, but it should be put on the record. That is what I meant when I said that we owe a debt of honour.
There is an economic base for our opposition to the Bill, and in support I should like to quote from the former Secretary of State for Energy, who was asked at the 1984 Conservative party conference why we do not import cheap coal. He said:
We could import a lot of cheap coal at certain times. That would undermine our industry and we could lose all of our pits. Then we would become very dependent upon that imported cheap coal—and when we did so it would no longer be cheap. That would mean enormous economic and social disruption. We have not done that. Nor have we rushed into closing pits the moment they have become uneconomic. If new investment and machinery could make a pit economic, we have put in that new investment and machinery. We have done it in a way showing that the community's problems are understood. We will follow a sane policy towards the coal industry.
My right hon. Friend closed his speech by saying:
To the miners we say this. We promise you a future better than the past, a future of high investment in your industry, a future of better pits, better machinery and better conditions, an expanding future in which, as the industry becomes more profitable and prosperous your pay packets will reflect that new prosperity. We promise your communities a programme which will help their future so that the sons and daughters of miners where pits now close have a better future than their fathers had in the past.
My right hon. Friend is still a member of the Cabinet and, to the best of my knowledge, that philosophy and policy have not changed.
Is my hon. Friend aware of the words of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister during that same conference? She said that the bravery of the thousands of miners who went to work during the dispute had kept the coal industry alive and that not only the nation but the miners who went on strike and whose jobs were saved by the UDM members owed them a great debt? They also enabled British Coal to continue to supply its customers.
Order. I remind the House that we are not debating the coal industry. But the coal industry is relevant to the Bill and references to it in the context of the Bill are in order.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Those words of the Prime Ministers and of the former Secretary of State for Energy are evidence that the Government deliver what they promise, and the screams and shouts from the Opposition no longer hold water.
My right hon. Friend the former Secretary of State did not promise that there would never be exposure to free and fair competition. Nor would I argue that the coal industry should never be exposed to such competition because by that means we can judge its efficiency.
The hon. Gentleman talks about fair competition and economic arguments. I repeat the question that I asked previously. Is it not true that we already have an overcapacity in docks? The argument is that this port will bring work for dockers, but in fact it will take work from other ports and not increase the number of jobs for dockers and other people connected with that industry. That is the first point.
I take your point, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is it not a fact that continental ports are subsidised in relation to their infrastructure and dredging, and that they work to a plan under which shipping is directed to different ports? In Britain the matter is completely open and a dock never knows when it will get a contract. To get fair competition with continental ports, would we not have to introduce such planning? If we do not, this new port will be entirely unnecessary.
The hon. Gentleman has made two fairly valid points. If we create a dock here or a new factory there, we may be simply taking work away from somewhere else. We may gain 100 jobs there, but lose 50 elsewhere. That is not in dispute, but our case against this dock is not along those lines. We oppose it because of the risk to the pits in the east midlands and the line of power stations along the Trent valley, not because it will take dockers from other ports. I go along with the hon. Gentleman's point about fair competition. I have spent 35 years in commerce and industry, and I have never known a time when there was strictly free and fair competition. Industrial life is more of a "rough-and-tumble," and I use the phrase in inverted commas, not in the absolute sense.
The argument for importing coal is that it would be cheaper. I recognise that fuel represents almost half the cost of producing electricity and that if we could halve the cost of fuel, in theory, the price of electricity would be reduced by 25 per cent. That is attractive to commerce and industry and it would be extremely interesting to an employer like me. If that cheap fuel—in this case, coal—is unfairly dumped on the British market, we shall have cheap electricity for as long as the cheap coal comes in, but we must ask: for how long? If we build up a stock during the next few years, we may benefit from lower coal prices while our pits are still alive, but, as my hon. Friend the Member for Newark (Mr. Alexander) said, once our pits are closed or their output gets so small as to make no difference, the price of the imported coal will increase.
Is it not interesting that, although some companies are prepared to sign long-term contracts for the supply of imported coal, they are not prepared to sign long-term contracts for the price of that coal? The price has to be re-negotiated every year, so it will not be as long as my hon. Friend suggests before price3 return to the production costs which they are now well below.
That is a valid point. All the cheap coal is either spot coal, as my hon. Friend the Member for Newark pointed out, or bought one year at a time, as my hon. Friend the Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Lester) said. Electricity boards must have long-term stability and know what price they will have to pay. We are saying that the early construction of this terminal could be terminal for Nottinghamshire.
There are some interesting figures about British Coal's contributions to industry in Nottinghamshire. It is estimated, for example, that about £300 million is paid in wages and salaries, about £5·6 million in rate contributions, and about £130 million is added to purchasing power in and around our area. Conservative Members do not want to put that at risk. The dock does just that; and that is why we are arguing against it.
No one can doubt the strides that British Coal has made these past three years. The improvement in productivity has been nothing short of astonishing. It could be argued that the natural changes and improvements that should have taken place were blocked, first, by the oil crisis of 1973 and then by the first coal strike in 1974. From then on the union was appeased and a blind eye was turned to good management practices. The only thing that British Coal could do was to try to improve matters by capital spending. In a way, capital spending became a substitute for management and normal commercial decisions.
The board has a fine record these past three years. All we are asking is that hon. Members on both sides of the House should give the board the time it needs to ensure that it can compete in "free and fair competition" with the rest of the world, once normality has returned to world coal.
In discussion of world coal and subsidised prices, in this debate and the three previous ones, there has been constant harping on South African coal, as if we were debating apartheid by means of the Immingham terminal. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is a pity that the hon. Member for Mansfield has left the Chamber. At least he did us the courtesy of mentioning Colombia. My hon. Friend the Member for Broxtowe mentioned it last week. I understand that Colombia has opencast mining, which is quite different—although I understand that all sorts of oddities are associated with that country's production. Australia also has mostly opencast coal, so let us not fool ourselves into thinking that we are arguing only about South African coal. The Colombians, Australians and even the Chinese have been trying to export coal for the Western hard currency that it can bring them. I agree with the hon. Member for Bradford, North (Mr. Wall.) that this is not free and fair competition. We want enough delay in the construction of the terminal—if it is ever to be built-for British Coal to be able to get its act together.
Finally, I want to quote Sir Robert Haslam's address to the UDM conference. He said:
National productivity records have been broken four times in the opening seven weeks of 1988–9.
He also spoke of the records that were established by the Nottinghamshire coalfield in the early part of this year. Then it was announced—I think on the day of our debate last week—that the Nottinghamshire pits had, for the first
time, passed the five tonnes per man-shift barrier. [Interruption.] The people who tried to kill off the Nottinghamshire miners were on the Opposition side and the Nottinghamshire miners know that.
Sir Robert said:
National productivity is currently 16 per cent. higher than a year ago".
He added that productivity is 60 per cent. up over the past three years.
Sir Robert also made a point that concerns Leicestershire miners. He referred to the new mine at Asfordby, to which many people in Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire were looking for their future:
At present exchange rates it is difficult to justify going ahead with this project. But the Corporation are planning to do so as an act of faith".
Sir Robert Haslam is prepared to make that act of faith—
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. This is a three-hour debate and the hon. Member for Nottingham, South (Mr. Brando-Bravo) has gone on for almost half an hour in a partisan speech. May we have a 10-minute rule so that other hon. Members will be allowed to reply, or will the closure be moved when we have had only a one-sided contribution from the hon. Gentleman?
Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. It ill becomes the hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Ashton) to complain about the length of speeches. If he had read the previous debates on this subject, he would have seen that many of his hon. Friends spoke for 40 or 50 minutes and prevented Conservative Members from speaking.
At the moment the Chair has no power to impose a 10-minute limit on speeches, but the hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Ashton) has given me the opportunity to say that many hon. Members wish to take part in the debate. I hope that those who are called will bear that in mind.
I apologise if I have been longer that I intended to be, but the record will show how many times I have given way. If I had not, I doubt whether that criticism would have been made of me. It is also true to say that last week a colleague of the hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Ashton) spoke for one hour and 20 minutes, so his point of order was grossly unfair.
You are right, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to say that we are not debating the coal industry, but we are debating another terminal at Immingham, which is seen by hon. Members on both sides as providing a means for cheap, subsidised coal to enter the country. It is on that basis alone that we seek to oppose it.
My hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster, North (Mr. Welsh) informed the House that he had failed to identify the sponsors of the Bill as it is drafted. I believe that the hon. Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes (Mr. Brown) should withdraw the Bill or suspend proceedings on it until it is so drafted that all hon. Members can identify which organisations or companies are promoting it.
My hon. Friend the Member for Mansfield (Mr. Meale) referred to a company called Van Ommeren, which is not even mentioned in the Bill. That makes one wonder which company is involved, as the parent company listed in the Bill, Chemical and Oil Storage Management Ltd., cannot be identified.
The Bill is designed to enable considerable work to be carried out on a cargo terminal, which will increase imports of various cargoes, but most of all of cheap foreign coal. It is a sad fact that some Conservative Members support a private company in order to make profit out of imports, even after the horrendous balance of payments figures that were announced recently. As we have heard from every speaker so far, these imports will lead to a loss of jobs in our industries.
One of the main factors behind the Bill is the import of cheap South African coal, mined by exploited labour in South Africa at a time when public opinion is turning against the South African regime, as we have seen recently, with concerts opposing the apartheid regime. Even now a march is taking place in this country, which will end with a mass rally in London, calling for the release of Nelson Mandela. We all noted that in the Daily Mail on 6 April this year the promoter of the Bill, the hon. Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes, was referred to as having invited representatives of the South African coal industry to this country. It is obvious from that that South African interests will be paramount if the Bill is passed. The hon. Member for Nottingham, South (Mr. Brandon-Bravo) mentioned how hon. Members were trying to support the coal industry, but it makes a mockery of that and of ideas of buying British or supporting British industry when we see the hon. Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes promoting South African interests.
As I said earlier, the terminal is for imports as opposed to exports. Our balance of payments figures show that our exports are not doing well. Recent figures for imports and exports through the ports on the Humber show that in 1987 imports were exactly double exports. In that year there were about 20 million tonnes of imports, compared with 10.5 million tonnes of exports. Therefore, the idea that the Bill will facilitate any exports through the Humber is a fallacy.
It is appropriate to consider the contents of the Bill in detail, in view of the considerable number of powers under it, together with special powers to give directions and make byelaws. The powers are wide-ranging. I feel that it is an abuse of the House that we are asked to bestow those powers on a private company, as opposed to an authority that will be accountable.
I agree with my hon. Friend. The Examiners could take the Bill as an example of that abuse. I hope that they will consider that in their deliberations.
As I mentioned, the Bill gives powers to make byelaws and special directions to an unelected and unrepresentative body, a private company that will have absolute power over the terminal area. Those powers include the power for the Central Oil Refining Company Limited—we cannot identify it; we have been told that perhaps it is now a subsidiary of another company, Simon Engineering plc—to become a public harbour undertaking. That is interesting. If we are to believe the Bill, that company has direct commercial interests in oil and it will become the controlling authority for the terminal. It remains to be seen whether, in the circumstances, the House should let this private company become a harbour authority. The company might abuse its position in the use of those facilities and of the powers that will be granted under the Bill.
The parent company is listed as Chemical and Oil Storage Management Ltd., although we are not sure whether it is still in existence, or even still connected with the Bill. Obviously the company has chemical and oil interests at heart. I shall refer to some of the powers in the Bill that could affect adversely the communities in and around Killingholme.
If the terminal is to be built and expanded, there should be adequate controls, and the byelaws and powers granted under the Bill should be in the hands of an authority that is accountable and representative, not in the hands of a private commercial interest. The Bill states:
It is expedient that the other powers contained in this Act should be conferred on the company.
Expedient to whom? Why should it be expedient that the powers in the Bill are conferred on the company? We have heard fronm Conversative Members that the Bill will not do any favours for Nottinghamshire or Leicestershire, and Opposition Members have said that it will do nothing for south Yorkshire or Nottinghamshire. It will certainly not be to the benefit of miners or others whose jobs are affected.
There are wide powers in the Bill to improve, maintain, regulate, manage, construct, alter, demolish and reconstruct. There is every conceivable power that the private company would need to enable it to carry out whatever function it likes and ride roughshod over the community, which will have no right of redress against the private company, because it will be unaccountable to anyone other than the shareholders.
One must ask why the Bill has been brought forward in this manner. One must ask whether the promoters, who as yet remain unidentified, are seeking to avoid the necessity of obtaining planning permission in order to use the wide powers of construction and demolition.
A further power is to stop up footpaths, extinguishing present rights of way in the process. I am sure that the environmental lobby in the House—some hon. Members supporting it have already spoken in the debate—will want to look long and hard at the power granted to a private company to stop up footpaths throughout the Killingholme area and extinguish rights of way, which might have been there for many years. The people of the area are to lose their amenities without any redress against the authority that will remove them.
There is another interesting power in the Bill, which enables a company that remains unidentified to take at least 10 years to do the works in question. If the need for those facilities is so pressing in Killingholme, why is there a power in the Bill to allow the company to take 10 years to build the terminal? Surely that is contradictory. However, like outline planning permission, it could be a selling point for the company. As we have heard, the company appears to be changing hands at a rapid rate, so when it is offered for sale again to the next bidder it will be able to advertise the power of having 10 years in which to build a cargo terminal. So much for the pressing need for port facilities on the Humber. This is simply a speculative Bill.
The Bill contains a power to impose special penalties if works are obstructed. Why should that power be contained in the Bill? Does the company expect the works to be obstructed? Why should there be local opposition to the construction of these facilities? Does the company expect obstruction because of local opposition? I remind the House again that local people cannot take on the company.
Why should there be opposition? It is not long since the hon. Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes (Mr. Brown) was encouraging opposition to dumping nuclear waste in his constituency. He threatened to resign, and he did not get paid for that. Naturally, these matters lead to demonstrations. My hon. Friend is right to say that not only will this upset miners in Nottinghamshire, south Yorkshire and Derbyshire, but will upset environmentalists, ramblers and so on. If so many groups are against the Bill, who is in favour of it? It must be that the Prime Minister and those in South Africa are in league and are determined to pass the Bill, come hell or high water.
In view of the contributions of my hon. Friends the Members for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) and for Barnsley, Central (Mr. Illsley) about the delay and the number of people, including environmentalists, who object to the Bill, should there not be a public inquiry, in fairness to all concerned? Would that not be more in keeping with the position than proceeding in this way?
Normally when a Bill goes through the House there are hon. Members for and hon. Members against it present in the Chamber debating it. Nearly everybody present, including Conservative Members, is against this Bill. If an hon. Member moved the closure and you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, accepted it—I do not believe that you should—the Tory Whips, acting like shop stewards, would herd Conservative Members into the Aye Lobby, while all the hon. Members now in the Chamber would vote in the No Lobby. It is strange that those who support the Bill are outside the Chamber and do not know anything about it, except what the Prime Minister has told them to do.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for making those valid points. So far, only one hon. Member has spoken in favour of the Bill. My hon. Friend made an interesting point about the hon. Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes opposing the Nirex proposals. I hope that those who oppose the Bill will be as successful as the objectors to Nirex were and that we shall prevent the terminal from being built.
After the powers come the byelaws. The company is seeking power to make byelaws. Surely Parliament should take great care before granting a private company the power to make byelaws. As my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) said, the majority of hon. Members are outside the Chamber and not listening to the debate. If more were present to listen to the list of powers, byelaws and special directions, they would be more inclined to vote against the Bill.
Did my hon. Friend notice that when my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) accused the hon. Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes (Mr. Brown) of being paid to promote the Bill the hon. Gentleman had plenty of opportunity to deny it? There is no mention of that in the Register of Members' Interests. Time and again when the allegation has been made the hon. Gentleman has taken no notice, but continued to sit and talk to his hon. Friends. He refuses to answer these allegations. Is the hon. Gentleman being paid to promote the Bill? If so, are we entitled to know how much and by whom?
The hon. Gentleman has a constituency interest, as have many of my hon. Friends and some Conservative Members. It is interesting to note that he implies that his constituency interest outweighs the interests of his constituents, to which I have referred, such as the amenities that will be taken from them.
The Bill will give the company power to create byelaws for 19 different purposes. Clause 21 will give the company power, by a byelaw, to discharge into the terminal any material or substance. A chemical and oil company is asking the House for power to create a byelaw to tip chemicals, oil and anything else that it sees fit into the Humber. I wonder whether the people of Killingholme are aware of these powers and whether they would agree to such a byelaw. I hope that the environmental lobby will take note of that.
The company also wants power to regulate fishing in that area of the river—that is, if there are any fish left in the Humber after the company has finished discharging chemicals and oil into it. Again, amenities will be removed. It seeks a byelaw to regulate bathing. I am not sure that I should like the idea of bathing there, in view of the possible discharges if the Bill is passed.
I would consider bathing in any clear river in this country. I would campaign for the River Humber to be cleaned up, and for the Bill to be stopped, so that the river is not further polluted. It is sad that the hon. Gentleman should have to challenge Opposition Members on whether they would bathe in a river in his constituency which he obviously believes to be polluted.
Let me remind the House of the wide powers that the company is seeking. They will be unrepresentative, and the people of Killingholme will have no redress. Moreover, another byelaw in the Bill allows the company to levy fines. Anyone in breach of one of the company's byelaws or caught by one of its powers or special directions can be fined.
There is another good clause in the Bill. Just in case the company has left anything out of the 19 byelaws and the powers to which I have referred, clause 21(3) allows it to make
different provision for different circumstances.
It says nothing specific, just "different circumstances." What sort of different circumstances are meant, and what sort of different provision is the company seeking? Which company is seeking those different provisions? Perhaps the hon. Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes should identify it.
That is an important issue. The company does not have the money for which it is applying, and cannot raise it until a meeting is held in September. If it is decided that the company cannot have the money—it could he just over £3 million—it means that nobody knows what will come out of the terminal. It could be anything.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for making such an important point. We could be passing a Bill that would give powers to a company about which we know nothing, and we have no idea whether it can raise the finance. We arc being asked to take a shot in the dark by giving the Bill a Second Reading.
Clause 21(4) allows the company to take on the powers of a local authority—the power to make byelaws and give special directions—while being unaccountable. A local authority must be accountable to its electors. That is a key issue that goes to the heart of the Bill, and I hope that, should we be so unwise as to give the Bill a Second Reading, the Examiners will consider it in detail.
After the byelaws come the special directions. There are only a dozen. Fines can again be imposed on anyone in breach of them. There are further powers, including the power to sell the entire undertaking. We are being asked to give a Second Reading to a Bill whose sponsor we cannot identify, and are giving the sponsor the power to sell or lease the undertaking to a further body whose identity we do not know either.
The Bill also gives the power to mortgage, and a further key power to transfer all the powers that I have mentioned to any of its subsidiaries. That makes a mockery of the drafting of the Bill. The powers, special directions and byelaws are listed in minute detail, but neither the identity of the parent company nor that of any subsidiary is given.
As my hon. Friend points out, this is a massive piece of legislation. It has 19 extensive byelaws, and it refers to 10 other bits of legislation to be incorporated. At one stage it refers to the Harbours, Docks, and Piers Clauses Act 1847. Although 31 sections of that Act are excluded, 72 are to be incorporated. That means that when the Bill comes back on Report we must go through all those provisions.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I, too, consulted the Harbours, Docks and Piers Clauses Act, which is in the Library, and abandoned the idea of reading it, such was its length. When combined with this Bill, it would give very wide-ranging powers.
The Bill can be boiled down to three main powers. The first is the right to do the work over 10 years. The second is the right to sell the terminal, with that power to construct over 10 years. Thirdly, the powers and byelaws in the Bill can be transferred to a subsidiary. This is a speculator's document. The speculators are banking on the import of coal because of the decision announced in February this year to privatise the electricity supply industry.
The Secretary of State has said that there will be a free-for-all over the purchase of coal supplies by the CEGB and it will be able to choose the cheapest source for its fuel. The sponsors of the Bill have not been slow to react to the White Paper. A recent speech by the Secretary of State for Energy to the Institition of Mining Engineers gave the game away. He said:
But there is a limit to the rate at which coal imports could build up in any case—for a start they will be limited by the lack of handling facilities.
That is a key quote that was not missed by the hon. Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes or the Bill's sponsors. They have taken the Secretary of State at his word and have decided to put right what he sees as a lack of coal-importing facilities by starting to build them.
The hon. Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes is a member of the Select Committee on Energy. He knows the evidence given by the CEGB in and after 1986. In 1986 the CEGB said that it could get another 10 million tonnes of imported coal into the country quite easily, and within two or three years could bring in another 30 million. Why, then, is there any need for these port facilities? Since then the CEGB has revised its estimate, and in recent evidence to the Select Committee and in recent statements has mentioned 50 million tonnes.
Even more disturbing is the fact that the SSEB did not wait for the privatisation of the electricity supply industry, but went straight out for imported coal. In doing so it has put in jeopardy the whole Scottish coalfield. It is interesting to note that the three-month period in which negotiations were to take place between British Coal and the SSEB expired today. If those coal contracts are not sorted out amicably, there could be a drastic announcement about the Scottish coal industry in the next few days.
Surely this is a short-sighted policy for anyone, including the Secretary of State for Energy, whom I am told now has a new job, in charge of the Star Chamber. Within our short political lives many people have come along with bright ideas, assuming that a particular situation would go on for ever. At the moment there is some cheap coal knocking about on the market, especially from South Africa. At one time there was a lot of cheap oil, but then in 1973–74 it went up to four times the price. This is a very short-sighted policy. That is probably one reason for the 10-year period in the Bill, SD that the speculators can pounce at the appropriate time in case the market turns against them.
My hon. Friend reinforces the point. It is a Bill for speculators. The sponsors have 10 years in which to chance their arm in the market for cheap imported coal. The promoter knows that British ports can bring in more coal than the Secretary of State believes. The promoter just wants his South African connections to get in early and cash in on the imports. We are led to believe that the world is awash with coal imports just waiting to be dumped in this country through the Humber and other ports. The promoter and his confederates just want to get in early to promote the South African coal industry.
If we consider the capacity of existing British ports and those already under construction, we can calculate the capacity for importing coal or, indeed, any other cargo. Taking the maximum ship size and the fastest unloading time for each port, this country could import 27·7 million tonnes of coal, assuming total devotion of all ports to those imports. In practice, the figure would clearly be much lower. In 1985, in the absence of any specific policy—we have heard from Conservative Members how the Nottinghamshire miners brought this about by keeping their lights on—12 million tonnes of coal were imported. So we already have facilities to bring in plenty of cheap coal.
Let us consider the maximum capacities of the various ports. Gladstone dock, Liverpool, can bring in 4 million tonnes. Southampton and Fawley could bring in 8 million tonnes. That is the other 25 per cent. of the South African connection. The ex-Shell refinery site, Tees and Hartlepool, could bring in a further 5 million tonnes. Kingsnorth on the Thames could bring in 5 million tonnes. The Humber ports could bring in 7 million tonnes if this Bill and the Associated British Ports (No. 2) Bill are passed. In Scotland, at the Hunterston terminal, Grangemouth and even Rothesay, 2 million tonnes could be brought in. That makes a total of 31 million tonnes. Added to the 27 million tonnes, that makes 58 million tonnes capacity. It is thus not true that a new facility is needed. The fact that the sponsors are allowed 10 years to build it makes that clear. Imports from the Humber are simply not needed.
The figures that I have given are somewhat theoretical, as they would entail total devotion of all ports to the import of coal. Nevertheless, 12 million tonnes were imported in 1985 and the CEGB stated that a further 30 million tonnes could rapidly be brought in. Adding the 31 million tonnes that I have mentioned to the 12 million tonnes that were actually imported gives a total of 40 million tonnes.
Every hon. Member who has contributed to the debate, apart from the promoter of the Bill, has pointed out that that scale of imports would have a devastating effect on the British coal industry, especially in south Yorkshire and Nottinghamshire. It could mean 50 to 60 further colliery closures and a further 60,000 jobs lost. The British coalfields would face the same devastation as we saw in 1985 and 1986. Since then, 107,000 jobs have been lost in the British mining industry. In my constituency unemployment is still about 17 per cent., and in neighbouring constituencies the figure is as high as 22 or 23 per cent. in some areas. We do not want that kind of devastation again.
As Conservative Members have said, we want our industry to achieve the targets set for it. In 1985, whole villages and communities were blighted by the rundown of the coal industry. The proposed imports are unnecessary. Our coal industry is on target to compete internationally and to break even by the end of this financial year, but even if British Coal dropped its price tomorrow the Government and the CEGB would still not buy that coal. They would look elsewhere. They would support the promoter of the Bill and his South African interests. They would support their comrades in South Africa, who make profits on the backs of exploited labour.
Why should that be? The Conservatives are always talking about competition in the market place. If British Coal dropped its prices, it would make sense for the electricity industry to buy British coal. Why should that not be so? The hon. Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes will be aware of the recent evidence of Lord Marshall of Goring to the Select Committee. He said:
However, British Coal also has 99 per cent. of our market and therefore there has to be some change"—
not because British coal is too expensive, but because it accounts for 99 per cent. of the market. The Conservatives want away from British Coal, and their motive has nothing to do with market prices.
We have heard that collieries are to close in the next two or three years, although they would have been profitable by 1995. The Financial Times coal report has stated that it would be a shortsighted policy and a mistake to close collieries that will be profitable in a few years' time. We have heard that the world price of coal will increase as soon as any country starts dipping into the market. Conservative Members have pointed out that coal is being dumped in this country, especially from Colombia, at far less than the cost of production. It is not merely expensive to reopen collieries once they have been closed—it is damned nigh impossible. We should not close those collieries, and we should not allow legislation of this kind to pass. I call on all hon. Members to vote against the Bill.
I should like to draw together some points that have not been made and to support one of the remarks of the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner). My hon. Friend the Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes (Mr. Brown) is promoting the Bill because of a constituency interest. To link the Bill with South Africa, as some hon. Members have done, is not the way to deal with a private Bill. I am sure that Labour Members, because of their considerable rhetoric, will persuade many of their colleagues to follow them into the Division Lobby in voting against the Bill, but they failed to do so on the Associated British Ports (No. 2) Bill. There is no Whip for Conservative Members on this private Bill.
The hon. Member for Barnsley, Central (Mr. Illsley) gave an exposé of the speculative nature of the Bill. The House should take account of the 10-year period in which the work can be carried out. It is vital in this country's interests that we have a secure energy supply. I do not agree with the argument that British Coal wants to import coal. That is not in its interests, even when privatised. British Coal wants to check that the accurate world price of coal is reflected in the price that it pays. That is not unreasonable. We are talking about the percentage of coal imports necessary to balance the fact that British coal can be produced at a reasonable world price. That is in the interests of the industry as a whole and of the electricity boards.
Some of us have been involved thoughout our lives in the life of Nottinghamshire. We remember when people thought that coal was out of date because oil was so cheap. I vividly remember, as I am sure does the hon. Member for Ashfield (Mr. Haynes) because we were on the same authority, that we thought that we could build oil-fired power stations because we did not need our coal. Many Nottinghamshire pits were closed at that time and many of us put a great deal of effort and energy into finding alternative jobs for the miners. It was believed that oil would remain cheap for a long time. The hon. Member for Bolsover rightly pointed out that that changed.
The same could happen with cheap imported coal. It is good sense to make an investment on the basis of need. The hon. Member for Barnsley, Central said that there were sufficient coal-importing facilities to balance the price of British coal against the price of coal on the world market. We do not need this facility to ensure that the price paid by the CEGB, or the privatised body that takes over, is fair and reasonable. That need is not proven.
Speculation that cheap coal produced in the rest of the world will undermine the price of our coal for all time is dangerous. Investment in strip mining in many of the countries mentioned by my hon. Friends was carried out on the basis that oil prices would remain high. That is why many oil companies speculated in Australia, Colombia, and other countries. They thought that strip mining of that energy source would be profitable.
My hon. Friend is right. It would be ridiculous from an investment point of view for anyone to consider putting a new port facility in North Killingholme solely on the basis of securing that facility's future through coal imports. I draw my hon. Friend's attention to the fact that this facility is not just for coal. As I said on 22 June, the purpose of the facility is to take bulk commodities—not only coal but
grain, coal, coke, aggregates, fertilisers and minerals."—[Official Report, 22 June 1988; Vol 135, c. 1183.]
My hon. Friend may make the case for bulk commodities, but most of us recognise that the key bulk import that can be handled much more cheaply at this facility is coal.
The oil companies that invested in this production world wide have burnt their fingers. They have invested and overproduced, which is why the spot prices at Rotterdam are so low. My hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, South (Mr. Brandon-Bravo) referred to China coming on to the world market. China is a big coal producer that wants hard currency and is not too bothered about the price. We have seen this all before. We do not need to rewrite history. Those of us who lived through the 1960s and saw the impact on the coal industry of the Labour Government's short-sighted policy do not want those events to happen again.
I am pleased to catch your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, so that I can speak in this debate. I shall be as brief as possible, as I am aware that many hon. Members with constituencies similar to mine wish to speak. These are all constituencies where employment has already been heavily hit by the Government's attitude to the coal industry and the closure programme of British Coal.
This private Bill may appear to be quite innocent, but its enactment would devastate our constituencies. I accept that this is a private Bill, but I am convinced that the Government support it, and that it is all part of their plans for the energy industry and the privatisation of that industry. Not only would their supporters be in a position to buy our power industry, but this Bill would provide the opportunity to import cheap, subsidised coal. I am satisfied that, although the Bill is not Whipped, as happens with other Bills, just before the vote is taken, we shall see the arrival in the Chamber of the so-called payroll vote.
My hon. Friend mentions the payroll vote. We are debating a vital subject, and Nottinghamshire has been mentioned many times, but, again, only three Nottinghamshire Members are on the Tory Benches, including the hon. Member for Nottingham, South (Mr. Brandon-Bravo). Is that not disgraceful?
That needs no further comment from me.
My hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley, Central (Mr. Illsley) spoke about the Secretary of State's speech to the Institution of Mining Engineers, in which he said that imports are limited by handling facilities. This reflects the Government's attitude. Why did he have to make that comment? The Centre for Fiscal Studies, another Tory think tank, has called for 30 million tonnes or more of coal imports. This Bill and others like it will provide facilities that will meet that demand eventually. We are all aware of the recent visit of a high-powered delegation from South Africa, looking for markets, a delegation that had sympathy and support from Tory Back-Bench Members. All these considerations lead me to suspect that Tory Members will vote strongly in favour of the Bill.
To put the matter into sharper perspective, let us look at a recent decision by the South of Scotland Electricity Board to import 1 million tonnes of coal, part of this contract to be filled by Shell, itself subject to an anti-apartheid contract. Apparently, Shell has sent out subtenders for 20,000 tonnes of coal to be shipped from Rotterdam to the Firth of Forth. This means only one thing—a South African blend. Coal is shipped to the huge complex of Rotterdam and then blended and re-exported as Netherlands coal. There are suggestions that we already import 200,000 tonnes of South African coal in this way.
I could speak at great length about the morality of dealing with South Africa, but instead I shall speak about the inherent dangers of our electricity supply industry relying on subsidised cheap coal imports. This will last only until our coal industry is decimated. Even the chairman of British Coal has expressed fear for the future.
It is no accident that the CEGB is looking at coastal sites for future power stations and that privatisation is on its way. We are all aware that it has already applied for planning permission to build a new 1,800 MW station at West Burton, on the Trent. That will be the closest power station to North Killingholme cargo terminal. Therefore, if West Burton A and West Burton B were to be privatised, the CEGB would be in a good position to import coal for those stations from South Africa and other countries, which even now rely on child labour in some instances to provide cheap coal.
The use of South African coal may not come about immediately, but we all know that certain Tory Members have visited South Africa and discussed coal sanctions with the mining industry in that country. They are against the CEGB ban on South African coal and they may even have encouraged South African business interests to buy into the United Kingdom electricity supply industry on its privatisation.
I have already referred to the West Burton power stations and their likely use of imported coal.
My hon. Friend has said that Tory Members have been to South Africa on paid visits and have come back to support Bills of this nature. He is absolutely right. Does he accept that they are subject to a system of apartheid voting in the House of Commons? The Tory Whips have told the few Nottingham Members bordering on the coalfield areas, "You can have one system of voting and you can vote with the Labour party, as long as you acknowledge that the rest of us will have another form of apartheid voting. We will vote in substantial numbers for South Africa and South African coal." That is what the game is all about—an apartheid system of Tory voting.
I have just given way.
The Bill would enable the North Killingholme cargo terminal to import 2 million tonnes of coal per year, which would be aimed at the Trent and Aire power station markets. If that were to happen, constituencies such as mine would be devastated. We already have one of the highest unemployment figures in the country and there is little prospect for the young unemployed. The effects of the Bill are unthinkable.
It is ironic that the problems will also apply in constituencies in Nottingham which supported the Government during the miners' strike and betrayed their comrades in Yorkshire and other areas. It is a poor reward for their treachery. I hope that the leaders of the Union of Democratic Mineworkers and its membership realise the consequences that the Bill will have on their communities. It may be that North Killingholme has an unemployment problem, for which I have every sympathy. However, to steal jobs from other areas is madness and a poor investment.
The Bill does not have the interests of the country at heart. One can imagine the effect on our balance of payments and the likely increase in costs to our energy industry when the Government have finally decimated our coal industry. It will not be the greedy few who will benefit from privatisation——
My hon. Friend knows who his friends are. Does he realise that during the debate on the Associated British Ports (No. 2) Bill the hon. Member for Sherwood (Mr. Stewart) sent a letter to some of his Tory friends telling them to stay on for dinner? He said, "Hang on for dinner." He got nobody to back him. The people to whom he sent the letter stuck up two fingers. They turned up and voted with the Tory Front-Bench Members and Tory Whips. He sent out that letter and did not receive any support apart from that of a handful of hon. Members in the Nottinghamshire area.
The information given by my hon. Friend is fascinating. Some of the information that one hears in the Chamber is remarkable. I hope that the hon. Member for Sherwood will listen and learn.
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The letter to which the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) referred resulted in 300 Conservative Members staying away from the House, which was its objective. Of those who voted for the Bill, four were parliamentary private secretaries but there was only one Cabinet Minister. The rest stayed away.
The hon. Member for Sherwood should sit quietly, listen and learn.
It will not be the greedy few—who will benefit from privatisation—but the public who will have to pick up the bill for the increases in unemployment. The customer will suffer increased electricity prices because no one will buy into an industry that is making a loss.
The Government's strategy, under the guise of a private Bill, is government by deceit, which I find abhorrent. I hope that all hon. Members will recognise that and show their disgust in the Lobby.
The purpose of the Bill and of the Associated British Ports (No. 2) Bill, which we discussed last week, is clear. It is designed, as other hon. Members have said in detail, to open up the heart of the British coalfields to import penetration. It is designed specifically to shunt foreign coal on to the doorsteps of the power stations in the Aire and Trent valleys, which currently are supplied by the Yorkshire coalfield and especially the midlands coalfield. The hon. Member for Mid-Worcestershire (Mr. Forth), who is a friend of South Africa, is happily nodding his head at that fact.
I have three objections to this legislation. First, such imports would be the kiss of death for the coal mine that is left in my constituency and to the Yorkshire and midlands coalfields. There is evidence to prove that fact.
My second objection is that the provison of specialised additional port facilities—we understand the connections of the hon. Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes (Mr. Brown)—will boost the import of South African coal.
I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman should try to intervene. The Bill raises moral issues that concern me, my constituents and other Labour Members.
My third objection has been made effectively by my hon. Friends and by some Conservative Members. It is economic nonsense, with British Coal moving to profitability and being competitive in international markets, to allow vast amounts of imports to penetrate our market.
I make no apology for taking a parochial attitude to this matter, as other hon. Members have also done. My family has had connections with the mining industry in the Yorkshire area for nearly 200 years. The coal industry remains the life-blood of the local economy in Wakefield, the rest of Yorkshire and, indeed, the midlands, and I am deeply worried about its future. The industry is fighting for survival.
Let me give some facts and figures which are relevant to the debate. When the Government came to power in 1979, the Wakefield constituency had 4,395 jobs in mining at eight pits. Now we have 565 jobs at one pit complex, the Denby Grange Calder drift complex. That huge reduction worries me and my constituents, as well as my hon. Friends. One aspect that has not arisen out of this debate or our previous debates on similar legislation is the knock-on effect of the reductions on other industries. I am especially anxious about the engineering industry and the service sector. People forget that corner shops and supermarkets and other places of employment—especially for women—are directly affected by the reduction of employment in the mining industry.
I shall concentrate on the impact of the figures on engineering in my constituency. British Ropes, a famous company of long standing, closed down in 1986, with a loss of 180 jobs. That closure was directly related to the rundown of the coal industry. In 1986 British Jeffrey Diamond, a famous company with a record second to none in manufacturing and exporting mining machinery, employed 950 people in my constituency; it now has 780 employees there. There have been 90 redundancies in the past two months alone. That, too, is directly related to the Government's deliberate running down of the coal industry. Fletcher Sutcliffe Wilde, another company in my constituency, is a major exporter. We should be concerned about such companies, given the drop in exports and the balance of trade figures announced last week. That company employed 781 people in my constituency in 1981, but the figure is now down to 385. There have been 30 redundancies at that company in the past two months. One point made forcefully by the management of that company when I visited it recently is that the rundown of British pits makes it more and more difficult for it to market machinery for export. The company needs British pits to display machinery and to show people from abroad the expertise available in the British mining and engineering industries. The management argued strongly that the engineering and mining supplies industry depends heavily on the prosperity of British Coal. We should consider that in the context of the Bill.
In Wakefield metropolitan district, there were 15,061 mining jobs in 1983; now there are 4,252; and 2,225 jobs have disappeared so far in 1988. A research report from Leeds university published only today shows the full economic cost to the area. The hon. Member for Nottingham, South (Mr. Brandon-Bravo) talked about massive wasteful subsidies. Let us consider the figures in the report. Since 1985 the reduction in the Wakefield metropolitan district has cost British Coal £65,585,000 in redundancy payments alone. It has cost Wakefield metropolitan district about £5·5 million in loss of rate revenue and resources to meet the additional needs of unemployed miners. It has cost central Government about £169 million in redundancy contributions, loss of income tax, rent and rate rebates and unemployment benefits, and it has cost £884,000 in European Community redundancy contributions. That is a total of £241 million. Conservative Members refer to massive wasteful subsidies, but look at what it is costing British taxpayers and ratepayers to keep people unemployed in the coal industry.
When my hon. Friend talks about subsidies, will he take account of the fact that agriculture receives subsidies which far exceed those received by mining? Would he like to reflect on why Conservative Members never oppose such subsidies?
My hon. Friend is right to contrast the Government's attitude to those two industries. It is important to kill the idea that when a pit is shut down it costs the public no more through subsidy. The economy is drained by our having people chucked on the dole and the other costs which I have mentioned and which are described in the report published today by Wakefield metropolitan council.
We often talk about Government assistance to areas such as mine, but Wakefield metropolitan district has received no assistance, bearing in mind the number of jobs that have been lost. I shall give the Government's record of assistance to the area. In 1982, they scrapped the industrial development certificate system, which had a direct bearing on northern constituencies and districts such as mine. Also in 1982, they took away assisted area status and, most recently, in 1985, they took away our eligibility for urban development grant, which we had previously used well to generate employment.
I should like to say something about South African coal. My hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley, West and Penistone (Mr. McKay), who unfortunately is not in the Chamber at the moment——
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way. He will recall that when this matter was last before the House, about 50 of his 229 colleagues cared enough about the issue to be in the House early on a Thursday evening to vote on it. It is all very well for the hon. Gentleman to lecture us about morality, but when enough of his colleagues turn up in the House to back their words with action, I shall be impressed.
I would not waste my time lecturing the hon. Gentleman on morality.
I shall continue with the point that I was about to make. My hon. Friend mentioned an event that took place in his constituency yesterday. I attended, but not as an invited guest. We were commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Husker pit disaster, when 26 children were killed as a direct result of exploitation by mine owners.
I am glad that the hon. Member for Mid-Worcestershire is leaving, as my argument would be wasted on Conservative Members who are lackeys of the South African Government. That is the job that they are here to do. They are here to give excuses for apartheid.
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I do not know whether you heard what the hon. Member for Mid-Worcestershire said as he was leaving the Chamber, but I understood that he was leaving to secure a Division. I hope that that is not the case. If it is, is he not presuming your good nature and the policy of the Chair? I hope that the hon. Gentleman will say that that is not the case.
There is a clear similarity between what is being commemorated in Yorkshire today—the 150th anniversary of a pit disaster in which 26 children were killed—and what is happening this very day in South Africa and in the mining industries of other Fascist regimes. Lives were cheap 150 years ago. Children's lives were cheap. I went along yesterday because my great grandfather was a 10-year-old child in that area when those 26 children were killed. I went because there are family associations and memories of the event, and I feel deeply about it. It nauseates me when I see Conservative Members grinning happily at what is happening in South Africa, where 1,000 miners are killed every year. Those people are promoting South African coal.
The fact that scores of miners are still being detained following the strike in South Africa is a disgrace in this day and age. We all know that South African coal is coming into this country. A company called Optimum, in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Hemsworth (Mr. Buckley), already openly imports South African coal. That is a disgrace. Conservative Members want to import even more South African coal, despite the moral implications.
I must say something about the role of the hon. Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes. On the first occasion that we debated the principles of the two Bills, I said that the South African coal industry had recently formed in Britain an organisation called the Office of South African Coal specifically to advance its case. Anti-apartheid News said in January:
A group of Conservative Members led by the hon, Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes is believed to have connections with the office of the South African coal industry.
On 5 April 1988 The Times noted the visit to South Africa of a delegation of Conservative Members who claimed that the South African coal industry should not have sanctions applied by Britain or by the EEC. Of course, that delegation included the hon. Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes, who is openly promoting the Bill.
Following that visit people from the South African coal industry came to Britain looking for ways and means to support the moves to import South African coal.
No. My hon. Friend is giving way. There is more to say yet on the South African matter.
Did my hon. Friend notice that while he was speaking about South African interests and all their lackeys, one of the Government Whips, who is sitting near to Mr. Deputy Speaker, spoke to the Bill's promoter—another South African supporter in the House—and said that there would be a vote before 10 pm? That really is an attack upon the Chair because it presupposes that the Government Whips and the promoter of South African interests have it in their power to close the debate. I suggest, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that you have a cast-iron opportunity to prove that you will not be a lackey of the Tory Front Bench. You must refuse that closure. I hope that my hon. Friend agrees with that.
My hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) made some important points. It is disgraceful that the British Parliament is being so openly used. Other legislation has been put aside to discuss openly a Bill that promotes the interests of the most obnoxious regime in the world.
Before my hon. Friend concludes his remarks, he should refer to the frequency with which the two Bills have come before the House during the past two or three weeks. He should also mention that the Government have been trying to push through these port facility Bills before the proposed legislation to privatise the electricity industry.
As a new Member, I am increasingly surprised by the way that this place works. Quite frankly, what has happened stinks. I say to people in the Strangers' Gallery that if they want a really good seat in this place, all that they need to do is to find a soft Tory Member to promote private legislation. They can then sit in the Under Gallery on the Floor of the Chamber and have an even better view of what is happening. It is interesting to note how those with a special interest in the Bill are sitting in that special Gallery while other members of the public are sitting——
I accept that, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I raised a point of order during the debate on the sister Bill because it surprised me that we seemed to accept that people from private commercial companies could sit in the Chamber and hand briefs to the promoters of such obnoxious legislation. That is disgraceful.
On several occasions, the hon. Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes has been asked to make it clear that he has no pecuniary interest in the legislation. He has stated that he has not, despite the fact that the South African coal industry paid for his freebie trip there. No doubt he will have more freebies in future. Shortly after I came here, I vividly recall seeing my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover being chucked out of this place for saying what I believed to be the truth when he raised the issue of another hon. Member who had been involved in promoting the privatisation of British Telecom, and who now sits on the board and gets a good rake-off because of what he did here. What concerns me is not whether the hon. Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes is getting something now, but what he will get in the future. I am damn sure that he will get someting out of this before he is finished.
I agree with the allegations that have been made today about certain Conservative Back Benchers. Does my hon. Friend agree that if the payroll vote goes through the Lobby tonight in favour of the Bill, they will be just as much implicated as anybody?
I agree with my hon. Friend, who has anticipated what will happen tonight and during the remaining stages as the Bill passes through the House.
Finally—I am aware that many of my hon. Friends wish to speak—I come back to the issue that has been stressed time and again by my hon. Friends and by certain Conservative Members. There is every reason to believe that British Coal will be able to compete with imported coal by 1995. All the information available proves that argument, and it is available not just from British Coal, the NUM or, dare I say it, the other union whose name I have forgotten. Other hon. Members have quoted the Financial Times article of 9 May by Prior and McClosky—an independent objective analysis—that demonstrated that, by 1995, our industry will be able to compete in the world. The hon. Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes is trying to smash that industry and the jobs in our areas. We must defend those jobs before any change takes place.
It is vital to the interests of my constituents, the rest of the Yorkshire coalfield, the midlands coalfield and elsewhere in Britain that we retain a viable coal industry and do not destroy the pits that, on any objective analysis, will be competitive in the near future.
I oppose the proposals. The miners of Staffordshire say that we should not be investing in ports to facilitate the importing of coal, but that we should be investing in British Coal. It is already clear that the development of the Gladstone dock at Liverpool to supply Fiddlers Ferry power station with the bulk of its 4·5 million tonnes per year is likely to be harmful. I am told that those imports will threaten jobs at Silverdale colliery in my constituency and the jobs at Hem Heath colliery, where many of my constituents work. If imported coal were used at Rugeley and Ironbridge, that would add to the threat to Hem Heath. It would not be right to put those pits at risk by the production of British opencast coal. To threaten them with coal imports is economic lunacy.
In the Staffordshire coalfield, Silverdale pit has done well. It has been a model pit, the men have worked well, investment has taken place and production records broken. No imported coal that puts those jobs at risk can be described as cheap—it would be very expensive. Even on the Department of Employment's doctored figures there are more than 8 per cent. unemployed in my constituency, and we must not add to that number.
Taking coals to Newcastle—my Newcastle—would be lunacy in social and economic terms. What is the point of producing lower-cost electricity—lower-cost only for the moment—if it means that we have to pay out more in unemployment benefit? But it is not only a waste of money, which is estimated at £21 million a year by the unemployment unit for Newcastle. What worries me is the waste of men's lives. Our miners should be producing coal, and the Bill brings a threat to miners throughout the coalfield. The immediate impact of the work at Immingham, North Killingholme and King's Lynn will be on pits in Yorkshire, north Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire, where eight collieries and 9,000 miners' jobs could go. Engineers estimate that the work at Immingham and King's Lynn will cost £34·5 million, and that the work at North Killingholme will cost £4,209,000, but they have ignored completely the real costs to our mining communities and to those who produce mining equipment.
The implications for Yorkshire, north Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire are clear, but the story will not end there. The attack on our mining industry will continue and spread. Efficient, profitable pits will close as the Central Electricity Generating Board takes advantage of coal dumped here. Colombia plans to sell coal at a great loss, as the Australians have done. It is not only their loss, it is our loss. The Financial Times made it clear that protecting the British coal industry would make economic sense. The result of buying cheap coal now will be dearer electricity in the long run. That will hit many other jobs, too. The Government have devastated our industrial base, and the Bill will add to that devastation.
I am pleased to be able to speak in the debate. I have listened to the debate during the two days allocated to it, and I recognise that there is a conflict of interest between British Coal and foreign imported coal, especially South African. Conservative Members seem to be sensitive to any mention of South Afrcia, and it is not surprising that the sponsor of the Bill, the hon. Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes (Mr. Brown), recently visited that country and has been associated with the mining industry in southern Africa.
This is a debate about economics. The economic case made by hon. Members for the North Killingholme port does not bear examination. The hon. Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes says that he has promoted the Bill in the interests of his constituency. That is questionable, but at least it is an honest statement. But what he and the House must consider is whether his constituency's interests are more important than the nation's interests. There is no doubt which interest is paramount to Opposition Members. If the Bill is successful, it will cause devastation in other parts of the United Kingdom. I understand that the hon. Gentleman wishes to generate employment in his constituency, but the Bill will have far-reaching consequences for other constituencies.
The Secretary of State for Energy told the Institution of Mining Engineers that one of the factors affecting the imposition of imports on the mining industry was the limitation of the facilities for importing and handling such coal. Since then, private Bills have been brought in to rectify that. It is clear why they are being promoted. My hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley, Central (Mr. Illsley) said that there is more capacity for importing coal than is being used by the importing companies. I suggest that these new ports and facilities are being promoted to handle larger tonnages with larger vessels. At Killingholme, for instance, facilities will be provided for vessels that can import 65,000 tonnes. The Associated British Ports (No. 2) Bill will provide facilities for 100,000 tonne vessels. Imported coal is already coming in from Rotterdam and other continental ports, but how much more profitable it will be if it arrives in vessels of larger tonnage.
It is obvious that the hon. Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes is not concerned with the economic argument. He is happy to accept the promoters' praise, if not financial appreciation, for promoting the Bill.—[Interruption.]
I heard no offensive term. I was listening with great care to what the hon. Gentleman was saying. I hope no such term was used.
I may say to those hon. Members below the Gangway, whom I have been watching rather than listening to, that they should listen to the speeches and not chat to each other.
I did not hear the offensive word to which my hon. Friend referred, but the offensive word that I have heard constantly in this debate is apartheid. It is obvious that the Government, unlike the Governments of most nations, are not prepared to urn their face against it. This Bill presents the Government with an opportunity to oppose apartheid by opposing its passage through the House—but they are supporting it. By promoting this private Bill the Government are assisting the Botha Government in South Africa.
The hon. Member for Nottingham, South (Mr. Brandon-Bravo) made a valid point about why there is a surplus of low-priced coal in the international market. I agree with his view that there is a bulge in international production of coal as a result of the large investment that took place after the escalation of coal prices because of the middle east crisis. There is now a flood of cheap coal on the market because that capital investment's results have come on to the international market. This coal must be sold at all costs, and the most natural place for it to find a market is in the United Kingdom, because of the Government's intention to privatise the electricity industry. The chairman of the electricity board told the Select Committee on Energy that the CEGB was in a position to import 30 million tonnes of coal in the next three years.
There seems to be a combination of circumstances encouraging the promoters of the Bill to increase the facilities for handling coal. The chairman of what could be a future privatised industry says that they are eager and prepared to take an increasing amount of imported coal, from 30 million tonnes up to even 50 million tonnes. That is their preference, rather than using indigenously produced coal. We have a major national asset of millions of tonnes of coal reserves that could be mined in this country. One must balance mining that coal with the consequences of not mining it.
Importing 30 million tonnes of coal, as outlined by the chairman of the CEGB, Lord Marshall, would have devastating consequences beyond the coal mining industry. It would probably increase the number of unemployed by nearly 80,000, including miners, at a cost to the nation of over £500 million in unemployment benefit alone. That would be the consequence of a preference for coal from South Africa and other countries, costing the taxpayer over £500 million. There would be an estimated 47,000 redundancies in the mining industry, costing the Exchequer well over £1 billion. Those matters must be taken into account by the House before it gives a Second Reading to the Bill and the Bills consequential upon it.
Recently the Government announced the devastating balance of payments figures. We shall increase the problem by a minimum of an estimated £1 billion by importing 30 million tonnes of coal.
My hon. Friend is giving realistic figures for where the economy is at present, with the imbalance of payments and the problem with imports and exports, yet we are now at the mercy of foreign competitors in respect of engineering steels, for which we argued the same case in the House. The Government have still not learnt their lesson and will do the same for coal.
I thank my hon. Friend for his intervention. He is following my train of thought on the economic argument.
Speeches have been made mainly by hon. Members representing mining constituencies because of the obvious and glaring effect that the passing of the Bill will have on their constituencies.
I thank my hon. Friend for his intervention. He made quite a few points in his speech about the byelaws that the Bill will give the company. A chemical company could be given the authority to dispose of substances. That leaves open the inclusion of nuclear waste. I understand that the hon. Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes was opposed to such waste being disposed of in his constituency.
My hon. Friend makes an important point about waste. Is he aware that, of the 60,000 tonnes of special waste—dangerous substances—that the United Kingdom imports from Europe because European countries cannot dispose of them due to environmental regulations, 20,000 tonnes comes up the Humber? Is he further aware that it is highly likely that these port facilities will be used to increase even further the import of such waste?
Is my hon. Friend aware that Conservative Members who have not been present for the debate are now streaming into the Chamber to force a vote rather than to allow hon. Members to continue arguing these points?
That is a valid point. I have noticed the sudden increase in attendance in the Chamber.
Recently, in his speech to the Institution of Mining Engineers, the Secretary of State for Energy pointed out that the Government supported British Coal. He claimed that £9,000 billion had been invested in British Coal——
|Division No. 394]||[9.56 pm|
|Allason, Rupert||Howarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A)|
|Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)||Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd)|
|Ashdown, Paddy||Howells, Geraint|
|Atkinson, David||Hunt, David (Wirral W)|
|Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N)||Hunter, Andrew|
|Baldry, Tony||Janman, Tim|
|Banks, Robert (Harrogate)||Jessel, Toby|
|Beaumont-Dark, Anthony||Jones, Robert B (Herts W)|
|Bellingham, Henry||Jopling, Rt Hon Michael|
|Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke)||King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield)|
|Biggs-Davison, Sir John||Knapman, Roger|
|Blackburn, Dr John G.||Knight, Greg (Derby North)|
|Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter||Lang, Ian|
|Boscawen, Hon Robert||Lawrence, Ivan|
|Boswell, Tim||Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)|
|Bowden, A (Brighton K'pto'n)||Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark|
|Bowis, John||Lightbown, David|
|Braine, Rt Hon Sir Bernard||Lilley, Peter|
|Brooke, Rt Hon Peter||Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)|
|Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's)||Lyell, Sir Nicholas|
|Browne, John (Winchester)||Maclean, David|
|Bruce, Ian (Dorset South)||McNair-Wilson, Sir Michael|
|Buck, Sir Antony||Malins, Humfrey|
|Budgen, Nicholas||Mans, Keith|
|Butler, Chris||Martin, David (Portsmouth S)|
|Butterfill, John||Maude, Hon Francis|
|Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)||Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick|
|Carlile, Alex (Mont'g)||Michie, Mrs Ray (Arg'l & Bute)|
|Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)||Miller, Sir Hal|
|Carttiss, Michael||Mills, Iain|
|Cash, William||Miscampbell, Norman|
|Chalker, Rt Hon Mrs Lynda||Mitchell, David (Hants NW)|
|Chapman, Sydney||Moate, Roger|
|Chope, Christopher||Moss, Malcolm|
|Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)||Moynihan, Hon Colin|
|Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S)||Neubert, Michael|
|Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe)||Newton, Rt Hon Tony|
|Conway, Derek||Nicholls, Patrick|
|Cope, Rt Hon John||Onslow, Rt Hon Cranley|
|Couchman, James||Paice, James|
|Critchley, Julian||Parkinson, Rt Hon Cecil|
|Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g)||Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth|
|Day, Stephen||Porter, David (Waveney)|
|Devlin, Tim||Portillo, Michael|
|Dorrell, Stephen||Price, Sir David|
|Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James||Redwood, John|
|Dunn, Bob||Rhodes James, Robert|
|Durant, Tony||Riddick, Graham|
|Eggar, Tim||Roe, Mrs Marion|
|Emery, Sir Peter||Rossi, Sir Hugh|
|Fallon, Michael||Ryder, Richard|
|Favell, Tony||Sackville, Hon Tom|
|Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)||Sayeed, Jonathan|
|Fookes, Miss Janet||Shaw, David (Dover)|
|Forman, Nigel||Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)|
|Fox, Sir Marcus||Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')|
|Franks, Cecil||Shersby, Michael|
|French, Douglas||Sims, Roger|
|Garel-Jones, Tristan||Skeet, Sir Trevor|
|Gill, Christopher||Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)|
|Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles||Speed, Keith|
|Gorman, Mrs Teresa||Speller, Tony|
|Gow, Ian||Steen, Anthony|
|Grant, Sir Anthony (CambsSW)||Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)|
|Griffiths, Sir Eldon (Bury St E')||Stradling Thomas, Sir John|
|Ground, Patrick||Taylor, Ian (Esher)|
|Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn||Taylor, John M (Solihull)|
|Harris, David||Taylor, Matthew (Truro)|
|Hayward, Robert||Thatcher, Rt Hon Margaret|
|Hicks, Robert (Cornwall SE)||Thompson, D. (Calder Valley)|
|Holt, Richard||Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)|
|Thorne, Neil||Whitney, Ray|
|Thurnham, Peter||Widdecombe, Ann|
|Tredinnick, David||Wiggin, Jerry|
|Trippier, David||Wilkinson, John|
|Twinn, Dr Ian||Wilshire, David|
|Waddington, Rt Hon David||Winterton, Mrs Ann|
|Wakeham, Rt Hon John||Winterton, Nicholas|
|Walker, Bill (T'side North)||Wood, Timothy|
|Ward, John||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Watts, John||Mr. Eric Forth and|
|Wells, Bowen||Mr. David Davis.|
|Abbott, Ms Diane||Latham, Michael|
|Alexander, Richard||Leadbitter, Ted|
|Allen, Graham||Lester, Jim (Broxtowe)|
|Armstrong, Hilary||Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)|
|Ashton, Joe||Lofthouse, Geoffrey|
|Banks, Tony (Newham NW)||McAllion, John|
|Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE)||Macdonald, Calum A.|
|Battle, John||McKay, Allen (Barnsley West)|
|Bennett, A. F. (D'nt'n & R'dish)||McKelvey, William|
|Bermingham, Gerald||McLeish, Henry|
|Blunkett, David||McLoughlin, Patrick|
|Boateng, Paul||McWilliam, John|
|Boyes, Roland||Madden, Max|
|Bradley, Keith||Mahon, Mrs Alice|
|Brandon-Bravo, Martin||Marek, Dr John|
|Brown, Nicholas (Newcastle E)||Maxton, John|
|Buchan, Norman||Meale, Alan|
|Buckley, George J.||Michael, Alun|
|Caborn, Richard||Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)|
|Callaghan, Jim||Millan, Rt Hon Bruce|
|Campbell, Ron (Blyth Valley)||Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)|
|Campbell-Savours, D. N.||Mitchell, Austin (G't Grimsby)|
|Clark, Dr David (S Shields)||Moonie, Dr Lewis|
|Clay, Bob||Morgan, Rhodri|
|Clelland, David||Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)|
|Clwyd, Mrs Ann||Morris, M (N'hampton S)|
|Cohen, Harry||Mowlam, Marjorie|
|Cousins, Jim||Murphy, Paul|
|Cummings, John||Nellist, Dave|
|Dalyell, Tam||Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon|
|Dewar, Donald||O'Brien, William|
|Dixon, Don||O'Neill, Martin|
|Doran, Frank||Orme, Rt Hon Stanley|
|Dunnachie, Jimmy||Patchett, Terry|
|Dunwoody, Hon Mrs Gwyneth||Pendry, Tom|
|Eadie, Alexander||Powell, Ray (Ogmore)|
|Eastham, Ken||Prescott, John|
|Evans, John (St Helens N)||Redmond, Martin|
|Faulds, Andrew||Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn|
|Flynn, Paul||Robinson, Geoffrey|
|Foster, Derek||Rogers, Allan|
|Fraser, John||Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)|
|Fyfe, Maria||Rowlands, Ted|
|Garrett, Ted (Wallsend)||Skinner, Dennis|
|Golding, Mrs Llin||Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)|
|Grocott, Bruce||Steinberg, Gerry|
|Haynes, Frank||Stewart, Andy (Sherwood)|
|Hinchliffe, David||Strang, Gavin|
|Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)||Turner, Dennis|
|Home Robertson, John||Wall, Pat|
|Hood, Jimmy||Wareing, Robert N.|
|Howarth, George (Knowsley N)||Williams, Alan W. (Carm'then)|
|Hoyle, Doug||Wilson, Brian|
|Hughes, John (Coventry NE)||Wise, Mrs Audrey|
|Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)||Worthington, Tony|
|Hughes, Sean (Knowsley S)|
|Illsley, Eric||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Ingram, Adam||Mr. Michael Welsh and|
|Knowles, Michael||Mr. Kevin Barron.|
|Division No. 395]||[10.9 pm|
|Allason, Rupert||Lang, Ian|
|Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)||Lawrence, Ivan|
|Atkinson, David||Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)|
|Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N)||Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark|
|Baldry, Tony||Lightbown, David|
|Banks, Robert (Harrogate)||Lilley, Peter|
|Beaumont-Dark, Anthony||Lloyd, Sir Ian (Havant)|
|Bellingham, Henry||Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)|
|Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke)||Lyell, Sir Nicholas|
|Benyon, W.||Maclean, David|
|Biggs-Davison, Sir John||McNair-Wilson, Sir Michael|
|Blackburn, Dr John G.||Major, Rt Hon John|
|Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter||Malins, Humfrey|
|Boscawen, Hon Robert||Mans, Keith|
|Boswell, Tim||Martin, David (Portsmouth S)|
|Bottomley, Mrs Virginia||Maude, Hon Francis|
|Bowden, A (Brighton K'pto'n)||Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick|
|Bowis, John||Miller, Sir Hal|
|Braine, Rt Hon Sir Bernard||Mills, Iain|
|Brooke, Rt Hon Peter||Miscampbell, Norman|
|Brown, Michael (Brigg S Cl't's)||Mitchell, David (Hants NW)|
|Browne, John (Winchester)||Moate, Roger|
|Bruce, Ian (Dorset South)||Moss, Malcolm|
|Buck, Sir Antony||Moynihan, Hon Colin|
|Budgen, Nicholas||Neubert, Michael|
|Butler, Chris||Newton, Rt Hon Tony|
|Butterfill, John||Nicholls, Patrick|
|Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)||Onslow, Rt Hon Cranley|
|Carttiss, Michael||Paice, James|
|Chalker, Rt Hon Mrs Lynda||Parkinson, Rt Hon Cecil|
|Chapman, Sydney||Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth|
|Chope, Christopher||Porter, David (Waveney)|
|Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)||Portillo, Michael|
|Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S)||Price, Sir David|
|Conway, Derek||Redwood, John|
|Cope, Rt Hon John||Rhodes James, Robert|
|Couchman, James||Riddick, Graham|
|Critchley, Julian||Roe, Mrs Marion|
|Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g)||Rossi, Sir Hugh|
|Day, Stephen||Ryder, Richard|
|Dorrell, Stephen||Sackville, Hon Tom|
|Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James||Sayeed, Jonathan|
|Dunn, Bob||Shaw, David (Dover)|
|Durant, Tony||Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)|
|Emery, Sir Peter||Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')|
|Fallon, Michael||Shersby, Michael|
|Favell, Tony||Sims, Roger|
|Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)||Skeet, Sir Trevor|
|Fookes, Miss Janet||Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)|
|Forman, Nigel||Speed, Keith|
|Fox, Sir Marcus||Speller, Tony|
|Franks, Cecil||Steen, Anthony|
|French, Douglas||Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)|
|Garel-Jones, Tristan||Stradling Thomas, Sir John|
|Gill, Christopher||Taylor, Ian (Esher)|
|Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles||Taylor, John M (Solihull)|
|Gorman, Mrs Teresa||Thatcher, Rt Hon Margaret|
|Gow, Ian||Thompson, D. (Calder Valley)|
|Grant, Sir Anthony (CambsSW)||Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)|
|Griffiths, Sir Eldon (Bury St E')||Thurnham, Peter|
|Ground, Patrick||Trippier, David|
|Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn||Twinn, Dr Ian|
|Harris, David||Waddington, Rt Hon David|
|Hayward, Robert||Wakeham, Rt Hon John|
|Holt, Richard||Walden, George|
|Howarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A)||Walker, Bill (T'side North)|
|Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd)||Waller, Gary|
|Hunt, David (Wirral W)||Ward, John|
|Hunter, Andrew||Watts, John|
|Janman, Tim||Wells, Bowen|
|Jessel, Toby||Wheeler, John|
|Jones, Robert B (Herts W)||Whitney, Ray|
|Jopling, Rt Hon Michael||Widdecombe, Ann|
|King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield)||Wiggin, Jerry|
|Kirkhope, Timothy||Wilkinson, John|
|Knapman, Roger||Wilshire, David|
|Knight, Greg (Derby North)||Winterton, Mrs Ann|
|Winterton, Nicholas||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Wood, Timothy||Mr. Eric Forth and|
|Mr. David Davis.|
|Abbott, Ms Diane||Howarth, George (Knowsley N)|
|Alexander, Richard||Howells, Geraint|
|Allen, Graham||Hoyle, Doug|
|Armstrong, Hilary||Hughes, John (Coventry NE)|
|Ashdown, Paddy||Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)|
|Ashton, Joe||Hughes, Sean (Knowsley S)|
|Banks, Tony (Newham NW)||Illsley, Eric|
|Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE)||Ingram, Adam|
|Battle, John||Knowles, Michael|
|Bennett, A. F. (D'nt'n & R'dish)||Latham, Michael|
|Bermingham, Gerald||Leadbitter, Ted|
|Blunkett, David||Leighton, Ron|
|Boateng, Paul||Lester, Jim (Broxtowe)|
|Boyes, Roland||Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)|
|Bradley, Keith||Lofthouse, Geoffrey|
|Brandon-Bravo, Martin||McAllion, John|
|Brown, Nicholas (Newcastle E)||Macdonald, Calum A.|
|Buchan, Norman||McKay, Allen (Barnsley West)|
|Buckley, George J.||McKelvey, William|
|Caborn, Richard||McLeish, Henry|
|Callaghan, Jim||McLoughlin, Patrick|
|Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)||McWilliam, John|
|Campbell, Ron (Blyth Valley)||Madden, Max|
|Campbell-Savours, D. N.||Mahon, Mrs Alice|
|Carlile, Alex (Mont'g)||Marek, Dr John|
|Clark, Dr David (S Shields)||Maxton, John|
|Clay, Bob||Meale, Alan|
|Clelland, David||Michael, Alun|
|Clwyd, Mrs Ann||Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)|
|Cohen, Harry||Michie, Mrs Ray (Arg'l & Bute)|
|Cousins, Jim||Millan, Rt Hon Bruce|
|Cummings, John||Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)|
|Dalyell, Tam||Mitchell, Austin (G't Grimsby)|
|Dewar, Donald||Moonie, Dr Lewis|
|Dixon, Don||Morgan, Rhodri|
|Doran, Frank||Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)|
|Dunnachie, Jimmy||Morris, M (N'hampton S)|
|Dunwoody, Hon Mrs Gwyneth||Mowlam, Marjorie|
|Eadie, Alexander||Murphy, Paul|
|Eastham, Ken||Nellist, Dave|
|Evans, John (St Helens N)||Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon|
|Faulds, Andrew||O'Brien, William|
|Flynn, Paul||O'Neill, Martin|
|Foster, Derek||Orme, Rt Hon Stanley|
|Fraser, John||Patchett, Terry|
|Fyfe, Maria||Pendry, Tom|
|Garrett, Ted (Wallsend)||Powell, Ray (Ogmore)|
|Golding, Mrs Llin||Prescott, John|
|Grocott, Bruce||Redmond, Martin|
|Haynes, Frank||Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn|
|Hinchliffe, David||Rogers, Allan|
|Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)||Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)|
|Home Robertson, John||Rowlands, Ted|
|Hood, Jimmy||Skinner, Dennis|
|Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)||Williams, Alan W. (Carm'then)|
|Steinberg, Gerry||Wilson, Brian|
|Stewart, Andy (Sherwood)||Wise, Mrs Audrey|
|Strang, Gavin||Worthington, Tony|
|Taylor, Matthew (Truro)|
|Turner, Dennis||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Wall, Pat||Mr. Kevin Barron and|
|Wareing, Robert N.||Mr. Michael Welsh.|
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. A substantial number of hon. Members took part in the Divisions on the closure and the principle of the Bill, including the Prime Minister. On previous occasions I have raised the question of the private Bill procedure and the fact that it is now being abused. At one time, private Bills were geographically constrained and hon. Members could serve on Committees without the fear being engendered that they might be tarnished by their activities. On Bills such as the North Killingholme Bill, which look after the interests of South Africa and big business, ensuring a turn-out of Cabinet Ministers, there cannot be an hon. Member on either side of the House who could be regarded as not being involved in the issue. Therefore, the private Bill procedure must be radically reformed.
I think that I can help the hon. Gentleman. I share his concern, as does the House. A Committee is looking into the matter, and the hon. Gentleman's duty is to make his representations to it.
Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I am a member of that Committee and I must endorse the views expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner). I cannot see how it is possible for the Bill to proceed to its Committee stage. On previous Bills we have looked round for hon. Members on either side of the House who could deal with them in an objective and impartial fashion. On that basis, the North Killingholme Bill cannot be considered to be a genuinely private Bill, and I have no alternative but to recommend to the Committee tomorrow that the Bill should not be considered as a private Bill.