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Orders of the Day — Electricity Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:28 pm on 13th December 1988.

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Photo of Malcolm Rifkind Malcolm Rifkind Secretary of State for Scottish Office 4:28 pm, 13th December 1988

If the hon. Gentleman will listen, I will tell him.

Over the past 10 years, there has been tremendous growth in the opencast sector, so that it is now producing over 50 per cent. of the coal mined in Scotland. The latest decision on the Kilroot power station in Northern Ireland provides further welcome opportunities for coal from the Ayrshire fields. The decision on that was welcomed by Members representing the area as good news for employment.

Clearly, we hope to see a substantial future for the deep mining sector. Exports of surplus capacity provide the best prospects. If the two Scottish companies can export a significant proportion of their surplus electricity, it should be possible to see a significant demand for deep-mined coal in Scotland. Much of the answer to the problem lies with the coal industry through improvements in productivity and the quality of coal produced from the deep-mined pits. I hope, together with the hon. Member for Dunfermline, West (Mr. Douglas), that it will be possible to see real developments which will secure the future of those pits. I cannot give any guarantee, but I believe that it will be influenced by the success in exporting surplus electricity in the way I have suggested.

One of the most difficult aspects of the Opposition's view to understand is the implication of nationalisation and privatisation for regional policy. Over the years, we have seen a policy of nationalisation pursued by Labour Governments. Whatever the doctrinal or ideological reasons for that or whatever economic justification they may feel their arguments have had for the United Kingdom, there can be little doubt that one of the consequences of nationalisation was the diminution of the private sector in Scotland, Wales and many of the English regions.

In successive nationalisations, we have seen the amalgamation of large numbers of private sector companies, many of them in the regions, and, as a consequence, the concentration of control in the hands of the Government of the day in London. Scottish Members, Welsh Members and hon. Members representing the English regions have been concerned that that has been a weakening factor for the economy of their regions.