Associated British Ports (No. 2) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 7:46 pm on 8th November 1988.

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Photo of Dennis Skinner Dennis Skinner Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee, Party Chair, Labour Party 7:46 pm, 8th November 1988

My hon. Friend the Member for Pontefract and Castleford (Mr. Lofthouse) gave us that figure in a previous debate, and that is the total if we include the spin-off jobs.

Our mining industry adds about £500 million to the balance of payments. The other day the Chancellor of the Exchequer had the audacity to say that one of the reasons why the Government had been able to pay so much money in debt repayments was that they had saved £1,000 million because dole queues had decreased. We are opposing the carry-over motion because we do not want more people thrown on to the dole. The Bill will mean that more people will have to go to employment exchanges, and that will mean a loss of revenue—just the opposite of what the Chancellor of the Exchequer said the other day. I have no doubt, however, that he will be telling his friends to turn up in the Lobby tonight.

This year we have a £13 billion balance of payments deficit and a massive manufacturing trade deficit, but here we are talking about giving commercial opportunities to South African and other foreign interests within the Common Market to launder coal through ports such as Amsterdam and Rotterdam. Coal will be brought into this country via those ports and will make our balance of payments deficit worse. Not only are the Government going to throw people out of work, but they are going to add to the £13 billion deficit that already exists.

If one considers why we have got into this mess with our balance of payments, it is clear to everyone that it is because our manufacturing industry has been decimated because our coal industry has been hammered, and because we are importing so much oil. We went through it all before in the 1950s and the 1960s. We warned the Tories about importing coal and running down our mining industry. Then the result was another balance of payments crisis. For a temporary period in our history, however, we have recently managed to overcome the problem as a result of North sea oil. Yet, here we are with North sea oil still available, but with a massive balance of payments deficit. The Bill will make matters worse. No wonder those in West Germany and Japan are laughing all the way to the bank. They are sitting on a $120 billion surplus between them, but we are getting further and further into the mire.

I am concerned about those miners and others who will be thrown out of work in Doncaster, Derbyshire, Durham, Nottinghamshire and the rest of the midland coalfields. Everyone should be concerned about that—my hon. Friends and I certainly are.