Pensions

Orders of the Day — Atomic Energy Authority Bill – in the House of Commons at 5:15 pm on 2 May 1995.

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Photo of Dr Lewis Moonie Dr Lewis Moonie , Kirkcaldy 5:15, 2 May 1995

I beg to move amendment No. 16, in page 30, line 22, after 'transfer scheme', insert 'or other transfer of an undertaking'

Photo of Mr Michael Morris Mr Michael Morris , Northampton South

With this, it will be convenient to discuss also the following amendments: No. 19, in page 30, line 50, after 'transfer scheme', insert 'or transfer of an undertaking'. No. 20, in page 31, line 13, after 'transfer schemes', insert 'or transfers of undertakings'.

No. 21, in page 31, line 13, at end insert— '(7) This paragraph shall have effect for transfers of undertakings other than by transfer scheme, that occur on or after I March 1995.'.

Photo of Dr Lewis Moonie Dr Lewis Moonie , Kirkcaldy

We now come to the first of two groups of amendments on the pension rights of employees within AEA Technology. In fact, the first group of amendments concerns employees who are no longer employees of AEA Technology. The amendments would allow some rights of pension transfer for people in other parts of AEA that have already been sold off, in particular the services division. While we were debating the Bill in Committee, the services division was sold off to Procord without the employees being given the pension guarantees included in the Bill for the scientific employees of AEA Technology.

We should be clear what the distinction means. The largely manual work force who make up the facilities services division—the support services—have been sold off into the private sector without the pension guarantees given to the professional and scientific staff who will largely be involved in selling off AEA Technology. I consider that the distinction is disgraceful. Amendment No. 16 would restore—it is retrospective—to members of the facilities services division and others the rights that have been given to the employees of AEA Technology.

Photo of Mr Robert Maclennan Mr Robert Maclennan Party Chair, Liberal Democrats

I support the amendment. I have a substantial number of constituents at Dounreay, employed formerly by the facilities services division, but now by Procord. It is extremely unsatisfactory that their pension rights were not preserved by the Government when the transfer was made by UKAEA. If it is necessary to legislate for this purpose, it is open to the Government to do so through the Bill. I hope that they will remedy the defect even now. It is not satisfactory to make such changes without due and proper consultation and consideration of those affected. Those who have been consulted about the transfer of responsibilities have expressed, from the beginning, the strongest opposition to what is proposed. Their complaints are entirely justified and I hope that Parliament will now remedy the wrong that has been done to them.

Photo of Andrew Miller Andrew Miller , Ellesmere Port and Neston

I worry when that mistake is made from time to time.

Photo of Andrew Miller Andrew Miller , Ellesmere Port and Neston

I understand the hon. Gentleman's words.

The amendments would give equal pension rights to employees who are divested, as my hon. Friend the Member for Kirkcaldy (Dr. Moonie) has just explained. He has already cited examples to explain why there should be an element of retrospection. In Committee, some reference was made to the Atomic Energy (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1981. At that time, in the context of the disposal of Harwell—I mean Amersham International; I am not trying to give the Minister ideas—the Government said that they accepted that the employees of Radiochemical Centre Ltd. should remain in the Atomic Energy Authority pension scheme. We were told in Committee—repeatedly—that that was the point at which the Government changed their position, and all subsequent privatisations were dealt with in the way that is before us today.

I wonder whether the Minister has accidentally misled us, because there is a contradiction. In Committee, during the consideration of the Atomic Weapons Establishment Bill, the then Under-Secretary of State for Defence Procurement, the hon. Member for Lincoln (Sir K. Carlisle), when pressed on the question of pensions in that particular case, said: The amendments relate to guaranteed terms and conditions … including redundancy and pension provisions, and to the payment of redundancy money on transfer to the contractor. I have already given repeated assurances during the passage of the Bill that arrangements will be set up that provide benefits at least as good as those that staff presently enjoy."—[Official Report, Standing Committee F, 14 February 1991; c. 216.] 5.30 pm

Let us assume that the word "staff' could mean singular or plural. On 24 April 1991, the Minister was very specific. He said: No one will be made to suffer detriment to their pension arrangements as a result of contractorisation."—[Official Report, 24 April 1991; Vol. 189, c. 1108.] What we have here, as I tried to illustrate in Committee, is an exercise that can potentially, and will actuarily, present disadvantage to some individuals.

The Minister was gracious enough, at the end of the Committee's sittings, to comment on people who were terminally ill, and I am grateful for that, but there are still answers that must be given. I am even more concerned when I look at our exchanges in relation to the Government Actuary. On 27 March this year, the Government Actuary's Department, in a letter to the central staff side, made it clear that Comparability assessments have been commissioned in the context of a compulsory transfer of employment requiring a specific group of employees to cease to be members of the UKAEA Schemes, but providing them with the opportunity to join their new employer's scheme. Again, there is a contradiction. In Committee, the Minister repeatedly stressed the independence of the Government Actuary. On 4 April this year, the Under-Secretary of State for Industry and Energy said: The role of the GAD is crucial. It has a well-proven record of independence and it will decide whether there is a fair balance of benefit. Later, in response to a question that I raised, he said: The definitions are from the Government Actuary."—[Official Report, Standing Committee D, 4 April 1995; c. 123–24.] It seems to me that the independence of the GAD is being put in jeopardy, because it is clear from the text of the letter to which I have referred that the GAD was asked to act under specific circumstances, to provide a briefing for the Government under the terms that they have dictated as being the best mechanism for the disposal of this particular business. It was not asked to examine and compare the benefits to the individuals or the collective population in the context of the various ways in which the pension scheme could be dealt with. The text of the letter is quite specific. The GAD was not even asked to look at the option of the benefit to individual employees if the earlier options that were available in 1981 were brought into play.

It seems to me that we clearly have evidence of interference by the Treasury in the manipulation of the pension arrangements around the point of sale. There is no clear logical basis in pension terms for the way in which the Government have reached their conclusions. Labour Members are seeking to make the best of a bad job by building in some protection in the amendments for the people who have already been disposed of, so to speak, in the context of the subsidiary to which my hon. Friend the Member for Kirkcaldy referred, and to build in the maximum protection within the disappointingly limited framework that the Government have provided us.

Photo of Mr Richard Page Mr Richard Page , South West Hertfordshire

As the House knows, the Bill is primarily designed to permit the privatisation of AEA Technology and it creates a successor company, or companies, by transfer scheme prior to the point of sale or the transfer of assets directly to the private sector.

The amendments that have been tabled by the Opposition have been presented as a model of reasonableness, but we had all of those methods in Committee. I would like to think that we dealt with them adequately, but, obviously Opposition Members have been driven by forces beyond their control to come again to the House and give it another run. I have no objection to that. I must tell the House, however, that the amendments would add a completely new dimension to the Bill by bringing within its scope any divestment, however, small, which the authority, for example, AEA Technology or the Government division, might wish to make in the normal course of business. Just to put the cap on it, the amendments would not just encompass future divestments but would go back to those that have taken place since 1 March this year.

We have to keep some form of proportion, because, with the exception of the facilities services division, the transfers involve a small number of employees. We have already had the debate on whether a company such as AEA Technology should worry about how the support systems should be run and whether that should be a separate operation. The authority has had wide experience of such transfers and existing law does provide adequate protection for employees. The amendments would mean that a panoply of provision designed for a specific purpose—the major transfer of AEA Technology—would come into play for a divestment which may, in fact, be just one employee.

Amendment No. 21 is slightly curious. I think that I understand what the hon. Gentleman is trying to do. He is trying to open the basis on which recent sales by the authority, particularly the sale of the FSD, have taken place.

Photo of Andrew Miller Andrew Miller , Ellesmere Port and Neston

The problem is that the Government are looking at the global interest. The whole structure of pensions is about how within that global picture one protects the best interests of the individual who is a member of that collective scheme. The Minister, by his own admission, is prepared to isolate an individual. It might be that individual who needs the greatest protection from the scheme. It seems to me that the Government are standing on their heads some of the ideas that they have promoted in terms of the importance of occupational pensions.

Photo of Mr Richard Page Mr Richard Page , South West Hertfordshire

As I suspected, if the hon. Gentleman had restrained himself for a moment I would have come to that point.

Amendment No. 21 endeavours to reopen the basis of the recent sales by the authority, in particular the facilities services division. The amendment is defective, but is no less important because of that. It seeks to impose a duty to do something in relation to an event that is already taking place. Even if the amendment were not obviously defective, it would be wrong in principle. Purchasers have bought the divested operations in good faith and it would be wrong to try, retrospectively, to change the basis on which the transaction took place.

I wonder whether Opposition Members have consulted not just the unions but the employees, because I am not certain that the employees would be pleased with what they are advocating today. In the case of the facilities services division, I know that the unions, in all their circumstances, recommended the transfer to Procord to their members. The new pension schemes include some significant improvements in benefit.

I thought that hon. Members raised genuine and valid concerns in Committee and I believe that the way in which I reacted to those concerns showed that I acknowledge what was said. In Committee, we debated the death-in-service benefit and it is much better than under the authority's scheme. I have a long list—

Photo of Mr Richard Page Mr Richard Page , South West Hertfordshire

Hang on. The hon. Gentleman should not get so excited.

I have a long list of the various benefits offered by the UKAEA scheme and the scheme offered by Procord. For example, on pension benefits, the UKAEA scheme offers one eightieth for every year of service. The FSD scheme—Procord—offers one sixtieth for every year of service. There is one difference in inflation protection. Under UKAEA there is full inflation proofing and under the Procord scheme protection is guaranteed up to 5 per cent., with provision for discretionary increases beyond 5 per cent. Contribution levels depend on whether the person is industrial or non-industrial. There is a flat rate of 5.75 per cent. for Procord. Under UKAEA it is 7.5 per cent. in the case of the principal non-industrial superannuation scheme category and 5.75 per cent. in the industrial superannuation scheme category. The UKAEA staff under PNISS are talking about an extra 2 per cent. in their contribution levels. The Procord death-in-service lump sum benefit is three times the salary while the UKAEA benefit is twice the salary. Under the Procord scheme, benefits are payable to spouses or, at the discretion of the trustees, to other dependants. There is service enhancement to normal retirement age.

The general benefit is so much greater and I understand why the unions recommended full transfer.

Photo of Dr Lewis Moonie Dr Lewis Moonie , Kirkcaldy

Just for the record, may I say that the Minister is misquoting us to some extent? We are interested in preserving choice for individuals, not for pension companies or pension schemes. We are trying to ensure that the Bill allows an individual, not the company making up the scheme, to decide whether to stay in the old scheme or to move to the new one.

Photo of Mr Richard Page Mr Richard Page , South West Hertfordshire

I understand that, but at the moment those people in the UKAEA scheme are staying in that scheme. I do not feel that it is necessary to provide that sort of choice. When people move out of the UKAEA scheme, they move into the next scheme. I want to make it clear to the House that the scheme to which they will move is very good. The assessment of relative benefits shows that the Procord scheme is superior.

When divesting activities, including those recent examples, the authority has ensured, and will continue to ensure, that employees are able to join a pension scheme that is broadly comparable. It means that, as a whole, the mix of the benefits will have broadly the same value as in the authority's scheme. Employees will not lose out. There can be no question of there being a scheme that is not broadly comparable, otherwise employees may have grounds for constructive dismissal.

In each case, the schemes are certified by the Government Actuary as being broadly comparable. The Government Actuary is independent and I believe that his integrity is beyond question. I know that we have gone over this matter in Committee, but I believe that the Government Actuary is well recognised for his independence of thought. He reaches his conclusions only after careful consideration of all the features, including entitlement under the schemes being compared. Therefore, employees can have every confidence that their interests are being looked after. I urge the House to reject the amendments.

Photo of Dr Lewis Moonie Dr Lewis Moonie , Kirkcaldy 5:45, 2 May 1995

Just for the record, I want to make it clear that we are not questioning the integrity of the Government Actuary's Department. We are raising some questions about competence. We are not questioning the integrity of Procord, the company that bought the facilities services division. We are questioning the competence of the decision that transferred pensioners from the AEA to Procord without leaving them the choice of remaining in the previous scheme.

I do not intend to pursue this matter to a Division and I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Photo of Dr Lewis Moonie Dr Lewis Moonie , Kirkcaldy

I beg to move amendment No. 17, in page 30, line 35, leave out '(taken as a whole)'.

Photo of Mr Michael Morris Mr Michael Morris , Northampton South

With this, it will be convenient to discuss the following amendments: No. 18, in page 30, line 36, leave out 'other benefits' and insert 'entitlements to injury benefits and redundancy benefits'. No. 22, in page 31, line 26, leave out '(taken as a whole)'.

No. 23, in page 31, line 27, leave out 'other benefits' and insert 'entitlements to injury benefits and redundancy benefits'.

Photo of Dr Lewis Moonie Dr Lewis Moonie , Kirkcaldy

During the previous debate we strayed into the subjects covered by these amendments. I suppose that was inevitable. I congratulate the staff of the House and Madam Speaker on their exceptional generosity in providing us with a chance for two debates on pensions.

There was a clear division between them in my mind when I started the first debate, but it is much less clear now having concluded that debate.

The amendments deal with the comparability of the AEA pension scheme and any future pension scheme provided by a new company. At present the Bill considers comparability to include all employment benefits, not just pensions. That is not considered to be acceptable by staff trade unions. For the benefit of the Minister who appears to be hard of hearing, I shall repeat that it is not considered acceptable by staff trade unions.

In Committee it was argued that the present AEA scheme includes injury and redundancy benefits and that they could not be reproduced in any new scheme for tax reasons. Our amendments return to the issue more precisely and, I hope, avoid that problem. We are doing our best to be helpful to the Minister.

We are not questioning the integrity of anybody involved in this process. We are questioning the competence of the decisions that have been made and we are giving the Government a chance to make amends for what we consider to be a mistake in the Bill's drafting. It will enable them to improve the Bill to the benefit of individual employees. We are trying to achieve full choice for individual members. They should be able to choose which pension scheme is most advantageous for them, depending on their circumstances. The Government are, ostensibly, in favour of choice and I can see no reason for them to reject these amendments.

Photo of Andrew Miller Andrew Miller , Ellesmere Port and Neston

I shall be brief because I made some of my intended comments during the previous debate. The amendments seek to deal with comparability between the AEA scheme and any future scheme provided by a new company. At present, the Bill considers comparability to include all employment benefits, not just the pensions. That is not acceptable. In the Government's infamous booklet, "The Government's Guide to Market Testing", there is a peculiar clause on pensions, including injury benefits. It says: Civil servants whose jobs transfer under TUPE cannot continue to belong to the PCSPS. Their accrued pension rights are fully protected by social security legislation and they have the option of preserving them in the PCSPS for payment at age 60 (provided they have two or more years qualifying service), or transferring them to the new employer's pension scheme or to a personal pension arrangement. In the latter two cases a transfer value will be paid by PCSPS. The paragraph starts by referring to pensions, including industrial injury benefits, but that is then conveniently omitted. This is where we get into complications.

The Government Actuary's Department letter, to which I referred earlier, makes it clear that some individuals may be disadvantaged. That is the effect of this sort of block transfer into a scheme. The Minister set out, dare I say, a lucid argument—I might incur the wrath of my hon. Friends for saying that—as to why the services division scheme is better. He should refer to the Government Actuary's letter before he jumps to that conclusion. One of the problems with making such a comparison actuarially is that, in this life, people do not get more than they pay for, unless the Minister has invented some sort of perpetual motion machine in his visits to the AEA.

The letter says: The purpose of the GAD assessment is to ensure that, for the group of staff who are affected, the new pension scheme offers a package which is broadly speaking no worse in value than that which they presently enjoy. The method of measuring that value is by calculating the sum total of all the benefits. Of course, they can be up or down on the comparable figures in different schemes. The Government Actuary continues: This is not to say that some individuals may not be better or worse off in certain circumstances but that, overall, there is no significant detriment to any identifiable individual or group of individuals within the body of staff being transferred. Broadly speaking, the Minister is presenting an accurate picture. The problem comes back to the fact that the Government Actuary cannot give him a guarantee that no individual will be worse off.

Against that background, in any sale or transfer, whether it affects the provisions of the Bill or, indeed, the sale of one private sector company to another, protection must be brought down to the lowest common denominator: the interests of the individual. No hon. Member can predict the individual needs of people in such circumstances. If a company is sold, there needs at the very least to be a period of grace, during which people can determine whether, in their own personal interest, they should transfer into the new scheme.

That is precisely what the Government did in 1981 in relation to the Amersham sale. It made a lot of sense then. In Committee, the Minister made clear, and was right to say, that the majority of people in Amersham have transferred into the new scheme, first, because starters have no choice—they can join only the new scheme—but, secondly, because a part of the population would actuarially be advantaged by such a move at particular times in their lives. Inevitably, therefore, over time the problem that the Government perceive in presenting employees with that option will be phased out.

Sometimes, in some of the subsidiary operations of the industry under discussion, we are talking about a half life of thousands of years, but the transition from the pension position that existed in 1981 to the one that the Government seem to be satisfied with in relation to Amersham today, took a handful of years. The Government should not worry about that.

If the Government are serious when they say, as we hear from time to time, that the Conservative party is the party of choice and of freedom of the individual, let us see them act on that and revert to the provisions that existed in 1981. Such clauses would therefore not be necessary because individuals would determine whether, against all the risks that exist in their place of work, their family circumstances, and their own personal health, they could make a judgment based on the best available professional advice as to what scheme they should be in and when they should transfer. If the Government are serious about the Conservative party being a party of choice, let us see them deliver on the amendment.

Photo of Mr Richard Page Mr Richard Page , South West Hertfordshire

I start by agreeing with the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy (Dr. Moonie) that the two blocks of amendments have in many ways blurred and merged, but a fairly fine line existed between the two and, if his side will, I plead guilty to merging them. The amendments continue the debate that took place in Committee. Opposition Members are trying with considerable ingenuity to tie down a new employer to provide a pension scheme that, as a minimum, provides benefits that mirror those in the authority scheme. I understand the point made by the hon. Member for Ellesmere Port and Neston (Mr. Miller) but I cannot accept his argument or that the amendment can be translated into the Bill.

Every privatisation is different and the pension provisions have been tailored to the particular circumstances that apply. We have designed the pension provisions that we believe to be the most appropriate to this privatisation.

In the case of AEA Technology, under our proposals, employees transferring who participate in an authority scheme will be given access to another pension scheme—either a new or existing scheme—operated by their new employer. The Bill provides the protection that, taken as a whole, it must be no less favourable than the authority scheme. Employee representatives must be consulted before the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry or the authority can be satisfied that a new scheme meets those requirements.

The new scheme must offer benefits that are at least equivalent to the authority scheme, although the benefit mix may be different. The Secretary of State or the authority would ask the Government Actuary to verify that the new scheme meets the requirements of the schedule.

I repeat what I said in Committee; the Government Actuary is impartial, has wide experience of these matters, and his opinion has been taken as authoritative on many such previous occasions. The proposed amendments would restrict the ability of the vendor to decide that a new scheme is comparable when the provisions of the scheme are taken as a whole. They would effectively require each benefit to be as good as the present one. As I have said, the new employer would be hamstrung into providing a pension scheme whose benefits, as a minimum, mirror the authority scheme. That would be unduly restrictive and could work against the interests of employees.

Let us take one example. [Interruption.] May I move on a little before the hon. Member for Ellesmere Port and Neston returns to his arguments, which he has advanced on more than one occasion? Let us take the example of a new employer whose pension scheme is superior to the authority scheme but has a different mix of benefits. One or more of those benefits, which in the overall scheme may be minor, may be less favourable than the comparable benefit in the authority scheme. Agreeing to the amendments would prevent that scheme from meeting the terms of the legislation.

When similar amendments were discussed in Committee, I noted that they may have meant that new pension schemes could not be tax exempt. I am afraid that the current amendments suffer from a similar problem. In Committee, I gave two examples of benefits that prevented the authority scheme from being tax exempt. The hon. Member for Kirkcaldy has reflected those in amendments Nos. 18 and 23. Removing injury and redundancy benefits would not mean that the scheme would be tax exempt. Those are only some examples of benefits in the authority scheme that would prevent schemes from attaining tax-exempt status. Employees would not thank the Labour party for preventing their pension scheme from being tax-exempt. It would mean paying tax on their own and on their employer's contributions on their lump sums. People would not thank the Opposition for preventing the overall mix of benefits from being rearranged so as to increase them.

The hon. Member for Ellesmere Port and Neston seemed to start from the basis that the authority schemes are the best things since sliced bread and that everything else is completely and utterly inferior. I am glad to say that there was a shift of view in Committee. Some 90 per cent. of the Amersham employees who remained in the authority's scheme have now transferred to Amersham's scheme. In that case the mix of benefit was very different from that in the authority's scheme. I shall not waste time by reading through the benefits of the Amersham scheme compared with the authority's scheme. However, if I had to make a choice of pension scheme I should choose the Amersham scheme.

6 pm

Photo of Andrew Miller Andrew Miller , Ellesmere Port and Neston

The Minister puts great store on the Government Actuary's words and accepts them as accurate. Does he accept the sentence which reads: That is not to say that some individuals may not be better or worse off"? Does he not realise that we are discussing the interests of individuals?

Photo of Mr Richard Page Mr Richard Page , South West Hertfordshire

I understand that; the hon. Gentleman has made the point on more than one occasion. We are debating the transfer of group schemes. At this stage I cannot say what terms an employer may wish to propose, but whatever happens the overall terms must be no less favourable. Before coming to a view about that, employees' representatives would have to be consulted and I have no doubt that at that time they would make their views well and truly known.

The Bill as it stands represents the right approach and I hope that the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy will withdraw his amendment.

Photo of Dr Lewis Moonie Dr Lewis Moonie , Kirkcaldy

It is clear that we shall not manage to persuade the Minister about the merits of our case and I do not propose to go on flogging a dead horse. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Order for Third Reading read.

Photo of Mr Richard Page Mr Richard Page , South West Hertfordshire 6:02, 2 May 1995

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

I shall start on a note of discord. I have been called many things in my life, but being called a dead horse is hurtful and wounding. I hope that when the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy (Dr. Moonie) responds to the debate, he will have the grace to withdraw that remark.

Photo of Dr Lewis Moonie Dr Lewis Moonie , Kirkcaldy

My hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West (Mr. Battle) will respond to the debate. I was of course referring to the issue and not to the unfortunate Minister.

Photo of Mr Richard Page Mr Richard Page , South West Hertfordshire

I thank the hon. Gentleman for that clarification.

We had our disagreements in Committee and in the House, but we have had a useful discussion on the substance of the Bill and have clarified many issues. I pay tribute to the Opposition's constructive attitude. By and large, they did not set out to wreck the Bill, but tabled amendments that were designed to probe the thinking behind it and procure further information about the Government's intentions. Time will tell whether that is symptomatic of new Labour. Labour Members may have an immediate chance to test the new thinking that is sweeping through the Labour movement by not opposing Third Reading. I like to think that I have striven to encourage the process of conversion that is creeping across to the Opposition.

I have not been able to accept any Opposition amendments, but in my humble way I hope that I have provided clarification where it was necessary and given a number of assurances on key issues in the privatisation process. In particular, I have made it clear that the sale will involve only the commercial activities of the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority. The Bill specifically prohibits the transfer of nuclear site licences and freehold interests in land that is subject to such licences.

UKAEA Government division will retain ownership of the authority's nuclear sites as well as responsibility for the safe management of the authority's nuclear liabilities and nuclear facilities, such as the fuel reprocessing plants at Dounreay, which still have operational life in them. It will also retain responsibility for fusion research, for the constabulary and for the authority's other non-commercial activities. I have made it clear that when AEA Technology operates nuclear facilities or works with special nuclear material, the highest possible safety standards will apply and existing security and regulatory requirements will be maintained.

Given the recognition that the future success of AEA Technology depends on its employees—I think that the House is united on that—I have given assurances that I would be prepared to consider seriously any bids from management and employees. Whatever the form and method of sale, I shall look to achieve substantial employee participation. The profile of AEA Technology is such that without its staff, it has little future. Therefore, I want to do everything possible to encourage the staff to feel committed to making AEA Technology grow in the international marketplace.

For the same reason, I have made it absolutely clear that the Government have no intention whatever of selling employees short. Their terms and conditions and pension rights will be fully protected. I think that the Opposition and I agree about the future of AEA Technology. We want to see it grow, thrive and prosper and, more importantly, we want it to achieve its full potential and contribute to the United Kingdom economy. The only difference between us is that I still do not believe in the conversion that is allegedly taking place within the Labour party. Labour believes that such achievements can be brought about in some shape or form in the public sector. But I believe that AEA Technology can be successful only in the private sector. Its privatisation will add to Britain's international competitive position in the scientific and engineering services market and strengthen our international reputation for scientific excellence.

AEA Technology has come a long way in a remarkably short time. It is becoming more focused both in terms of what it does and in serving the specific needs of its customers. It recognises the many economic opportunities that are available to it and is organising itself to exploit them. Even in the few short weeks that have elapsed between Second Reading and today, AEA Technology has won a multi-million pound contract from British Telecom for recycling the tritium from the old trimphone dials for medical purposes such as in cancer research. It has won contracts worth £6 million for supplying offshore services, and has won a new three-year contract worth £16 million to supply scientific services to Nirex. There will be many more such successes, but it will be able to take full advantage of the opportunities that will be open to it if it has the freedom and flexibility that I know that the private sector can supply.

Privatisation encourages efficiency and improves competitiveness. Companies flourish when they are removed from state control. They perform better and respond better to their customers. We believe that privatisation is the only way forward and that it is the best way forward for the business and the staff. I commend the Bill to the House.

Photo of John Battle John Battle , Leeds West 6:08, 2 May 1995

After all our deliberations in Committee and in the House, the Bill simply gives the Secretary of State outline permission to privatise AEA Technology, to do with it whatever he wants on his own terms. As the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan) plainly spelt out, it gives him power without having to rely on a vote in the House.

Despite our questions on Second Reading and in Committee, we are still left without an answer to that great unknown question: how exactly do the Government envisage the privatisation of AEA Technology? We are left absolutely unclear about the form of the sale. The problem is that, as always, the devil is in the detail. We are entitled to ask—indeed, we insist on asking, even at this late stage—whether privatisation will be en bloc; will the authority he sold as a single entity?

I got a hint from the Minister, when he was put under pressure on Report, that the Government were changing the position and leaving the sale rather more open than was suggested on Second Reading. The Under-Secretary's instincts are that the authority should be sold as a single entity, but he then falls behind the phrase that it ought to be left to the market—the ultimate mantra of this Government; their classic refrain. We say that that is not good enough. The Government ought to play a positive role.

All the evidence suggests that it is unlikely that AEA Technology will be bought lock, stock and barrel. The only alternative is a piecemeal, stripping-out, cherry-picking exercise, during which the best bits will be sold off, leaving vital gaps in research. Current research will not be continued as a result of the Bill. In future, vital expertise and experience will be lost. The Government look to privatisation to bring in better services and lower prices. In this case, privatisation of AEA Technology will simply lead to the breaking up of a critical mass of scientific expertise, which is vital to the United Kingdom's scientific research and development and, indeed, its scientific contribution internationally.

It is important to emphasise that we are still to this day waiting for the Government's promised nuclear review. It has been promised since November 1989, when a Government statement announced a moratorium on the construction of further nuclear power stations up to 1994, when, we were told, the Government would review the situation. We are now in May 1995 and we are still awaiting the results of that review. All that has squeaked out are the Government's intentions to privatise Nuclear Electric and Scottish Nuclear Ltd. Coincidentally, the staff of Scottish Nuclear Ltd. lobbied the House—

Photo of Mr Michael Morris Mr Michael Morris , Northampton South

Order. On Third Reading, the hon. Gentleman really cannot discuss matters outside the province of the Bill.

Photo of John Battle John Battle , Leeds West

I accept your ruling of course, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but it seems rather surprising to be discussing the privatisation of AEA Technology operations when we are waiting for a nuclear review. I simply make the point, as Labour Members have said throughout the passage of the Bill—

Photo of Mr Michael Morris Mr Michael Morris , Northampton South

Order. Life is full of surprises.

Photo of John Battle John Battle , Leeds West

Clearly, it is the Government's intention not to put the Bill in the broader context of an energy policy, as referred to in the scientific foresight report that they commissioned into the future of energy. Even in that report, surprise was expressed at the Government ploughing ahead with privatising such operations of UKAEA.

UKAEA was formed in 1954 with a wide remit to advance a whole range of nuclear technologies. In 1965, UKAEA was empowered by the Science and Technology Act to undertake research on non-nuclear topics. The result has been a successful business. At present, the forecast turnover for the whole of UKAEA in 1994–95 is £370 million. AEA Technology's contribution is about £250 million and its profits in 1994 were £10 million. AEA Technology services to private sector industries increased by 37 per cent. to £92 million, compared with £67 million in 1993–94. The Minister referred to the contracts that AEA Technology has recently won to supply BT, and the winning of £6 million worth of offshore services.

If AEA Technology is so successful, why on earth have the Government introduced a Bill that will set in train the dismantling of a successful British and international business? Indeed, the business is expanding, with offices in America, the Netherlands and Belgium. It is established in eastern Europe, providing assistance in decommissioning and cleaning up nuclear power stations. Its expertise is recognised and purchased worldwide. AEA Technology has a highly skilled work force. Recent research at Oxford, commissioned by the Economic and Social Research Council, emphasised the importance of retaining key scientific and engineering staff as a contribution to a composite scientific effort. Why, if it is so successful, smash it up and sell it off in bits? The Bill is preparing the way for that to happen.

Spin-off technologies for industry outside the nuclear arena have been developed within AEA Technology directly as a result of that scientific interaction across a wide range of engineering and scientific disciplines. That has led to the transfer of non-destructive testing skills to the oil, gas and aerospace industries, to the application of fluid dynamics modelling to the oil and gas sectors and to the setting up of the heat transfer and fluid flow service; an international research development club with some 250 members worldwide and an annual turnover of £3 million.

AEA Technology has set up the National Centre for Tribology, which handles £3 million worth annually of industrial problem-solving in areas concerned with friction, lubrication and wear. In addition, clean-up technologies have been developed to world-class levels of expertise.

The expertise of AEA Technology is precisely what the Office of Science and Technology energy foresight report recommended should be supported and enhanced. That report—the Government's scientific inquiry—was published in the past few weeks. Yet the Bill could lead to an irrevocable loss of scientific and engineering expertise, which the UK ought to be maintaining and enhancing, not dismantling.

Despite the debate on Second Reading and the questions that we asked during the weeks in which the Committee sat, it is fair to say that a whole range of issues are still outstanding. For example, questions on managing the safe decommissioning of nuclear liabilities and the custody and maintenance of radiation dose records have not been answered. The nuclear installations inspectorate recently expressed concern about the safety implications of fragmentation. The inspectorate warned that it would want assurances that Scottish Nuclear Ltd. would have access—timely indeed—to the wider body of technical information residing with Nuclear Electric and the Atomic Energy Authority. Yet with the break-up of UKAEA and the dispersal of its nuclear expertise, how on earth can the Government assure us on those questions?

We have also asked questions about medical supervision of employees in subsidiary companies. As my hon. Friend the Member for Kirkcaldy (Dr. Moonie) said on Report, the whole question about national interest relating to the work of AEA Technology, if parts are sold abroad, is still outstanding. Our questions were not satisfactorily answered when we moved amendments on Report. Already we have heard that the facilities service division is moving abroad because American companies have bought it.

My hon. Friend the Member for Ellesmere Port and Neston (Mr. Miller) asked again about pension rights of employees whose departments are to be sold off or transferred. Those rights have not been guaranteed. Our amendments for equal pension rights for employees were voted against. All that we have been given are vague assurances. Those caught up in transfer have no legislative cover whatever under the Bill. Their rights ought to have been included in a Bill of this nature—they are not. It is disappointing perhaps, but not surprising that the Government regularly vote against all our reasonable amendments. They are perhaps just making a crude attempt to protect the new power to be given to the Secretary of State to be able to privatise industry.

All AEA Technology's achievements have been built on maintaining an integrated business. AEA acknowledges that its commercial success derives from the capability to consider process, plant and environmental matters in relation to each other. That has been its dynamic and the engine behind the success of the whole enterprise.

As privatisation erects artificial barriers between commercial and non-commercial activities, key synergies will be jeopardised and lost. AEA Technology will work best if it remains intact. As a smaller dismantled organisation, it will lose precisely what is considered its major trading asset—the synergy of its component parts.

Breaking up AEA Technology by privatising it will not allow its combined skills, expertise and knowledge to be directed to exploring the best and safest methods of decommissioning nuclear power stations. As usual, the Government's priority is to get the cheapest, quickest short-term deal. In this case, that will prejudice a whole area of valuable United Kingdom scientific research.

We should maintain an integrated research facility rather than atomising it, especially when the Government have thrown the whole future of the nuclear energy industry up in the air. Parliament should decide the precise form of the sale. That is why we must oppose the Bill. The Bill leaves far too much unsaid; it is a "Leave it to me," or rather, a "Leave it to the Secretary of State" Bill, which will simply create more uncertainty and insecurity for everyone involved. It is a dismantling Bill that does not deserve a Third Reading. Hon. Members should vote against it.

Photo of Andrew Miller Andrew Miller , Ellesmere Port and Neston 6:20, 2 May 1995

On Third Reading I shall not re-run the pensions argument; I simply tell the Minister that whatever skills he may have—I realise that he must have some, as he has found himself on the Government Front Bench—they are not those of a pensions actuary. I urge him to revisit some of the arguments advanced during the debate, because it is clear that he has failed to recognise that the building of a pensions scheme is about how to protect the best interests of individuals within a collective arrangement. The suggested scheme fails to do that.

I asked the Minister earlier what the core business of the enterprise was. He failed to understand that. My hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West (Mr. Battle) has just listed some of the extraordinarily diverse scientific skills that exist in the enterprise, and the dispersal of those elements into a fragmented group of companies will work to the disadvantage of British science.

It is crucial that if it is to be sold off at all the science base should be dealt with as one entity. I can do no more than urge the Government again to consider the greater good of British science, and to acknowledge the fact that the operation can continue to deliver the enormous contribution that it has made over the years to an extremely diverse group of scientific disciplines only if it is kept together.

I shall not stray into the subject of the nuclear review, but I am deeply concerned about our failure during the proceedings on the Bill to get answers from the Government about the relationship between the parts of the Atomic Energy Authority that overlap with the Berkeley technology centre, which is part of Nuclear Electric. Because of the uncertainty about the Government's intentions—one day the railways are top of their list, the next day it is the nuclear industry—it is difficult to assess where AEA will fit in and what the interplay with Berkeley will be in the future structure of the company. Again, the Government would be wise at least to defer any action until the outcome of the nuclear review is known and has been debated in this place.

The final question is: what benefit will there be for the taxpayer? We do not yet know. There is no obvious financial gain, although I suppose that there is a long-term gain for the public sector borrowing requirement in the disposal of the long-term pension liabilities. However, we do not even know how much will be gained there. There is at least a possibility that the Government's overall financial gain will be extremely small. We have not yet been told how much money is likely to be transferred for the contingent liabilities of the pension fund, and we could find ourselves making no money at all from the sale.

The taxpayer's interests have not been taken into account, nor have those of British science, and the interests of the employees have certainly not been taken into account. Yet the Government say that it is perfectly okay to give the Secretary of State all the responsibility without his having to come back to the House with any detailed measures stemming from the Bill. We have a most unsatisfactory measure before us and I cannot do other than concur with my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West in opposing it.

Photo of Ken Purchase Ken Purchase , Wolverhampton North East 6:26, 2 May 1995

My hon. Friend the Member for Ellesmere Port and Neston (Mr. Miller) asked what benefit there would be for the nation. The answer is that the Government do not know, for they have made no assessment—no benefit, no cost, no analysis. They have simply brought here a Bill which, as my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West (Mr. Battle) said, is a loosely worded piece of paper designed to do nothing more than to dismantle a company which has served Britain well.

That company was formed under an earlier and wiser Conservative Administration, and it is now being dismantled by a completely foolish Administration. There is a story about virgins and lamps, and it applies to the present Government compared with the earlier Government who had the wisdom and foresight to understand the importance of the nuclear industry, how it needed to be regulated and how it would serve the needs of this country for many years. Now all that is to be lost.

To understand the way in which the Government have brought the Bill to the House, we need look no further than the politics of the past 15 years. The measure is a simple crude privatisation of an industry for which they have no further use or purpose, for they are not the slightest bit interested in the future of British technology or science. They believe implicitly that the market will sort it all out.

That is crazy and inappropriate, and the loose structure of the Bill is positively dangerous. There may be a case for all-encompassing clauses in certain circumstances, when what we are dealing with is certain and can be seen and understood, but it is in the nature of scientific endeavour that one cannot call the shots for the future. Yet we are being asked to give the Secretary of State all the power to determine what form the future ownership of the company will take, and how it might be transferred, with securities and shares, in the future.

The Bill before. us is not one that we can gladly embrace, and it should be voted down.

Let us look at some previous privatisations and draw a comparison with what the Government are doing in this instance. Following almost every privatisation, we have seen boardroom share options blossoming and people ripping off public funds like there was no tomorrow. Those involved have ensured that their back pockets are filled, and it will be no different following this privatisation.

The Minister has said that he will ensure that there is the full and proper participation of the employees. I shall believe that when it happens. The Government's purpose is simple. They know that the value of the company is low, at around £200 million. If this privatisation follows the pattern of others, the company will be massively undervalued and in a short time will be trading at a much higher price.

That is the history of all of the privatisations, and the history of the Government's uncaring and silly attitude towards our national assets. In the Government's opinion, it is always better for a company to be in the private sector rather than the public sector, but this is unquestionably an exception that we ought to be looking at much more carefully than we are.

Let us consider the matter of ownership, and how it could have been better structured if more thought had been given to the company. The Government ought to have thought as Ernest Bader did at Scott Bader in the 1950s. He determined that the company that he owned would be given to the workers in trust. In so doing, he ensured that the company would continue to grow and succeed and that it would remain in the ownership of the people in that company. He believed implicitly that labour should employ capital, not the other way round.

Here is another opportunity in which the real value of a company is the intellectual capital on which it has been built. Here was a golden opportunity for the Government to privatise, if they must, but to do so in such a way that the interests of Britain were served for as long as we could see into the future. The Government claim that companies cannot grow in the public sector because of Treasury rules, but they could change those rules. The Post Office has shown that the Government can help provide for a successful business by dealing in a different way with such matters. The Government need not be hamstrung by Treasury rules, which they can change. It is within the gift of the Government so to do. But they have done as they always do and disposed of the company.

In the area of scientific endeavour and monitoring, we can be sure that the Government will say that it is nothing to do with them if anything goes wrong. They will say that it is a private company, and it is not their responsibility. The Government take their hand off everything that they ought to have their hand upon.

Photo of Mr Richard Page Mr Richard Page , South West Hertfordshire

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will make reference to the fact that the nationalised companies which are now in the private sector were dipping their hands into the taxpayer's pockets to the tune of £50 million a week before privatisation. They are now contributing £50 million a week to the Exchequer.

Photo of Ken Purchase Ken Purchase , Wolverhampton North East

What an intervention to make at this stage of the debate. I tell you, the Government make no assessment whatever of the benefit of important companies to the British economy. All that they can see is the balance sheets and the share options. They never see the benefit of having companies within the public sector, providing vital services to industry to enable it to expand and improve the economy. It is always a matter of how to get a penny today and never mind what happens tomorrow. That is the truth. That is the Government's philosophy; it never changes and it never will.

On this occasion, we are dealing with a very dangerous subject—the proper supervision and monitoring of the development of nuclear technology in this country. I tell you, when it goes wrong—I am sorry to say that it almost inevitably will—the Government wil be the first to say, "Don't blame us; it has nothing to do with us—it is for the private sector to determine how best to deal with these matters." That is not the way any Government should deal with these matters. I tell you—

Photo of Ken Purchase Ken Purchase , Wolverhampton North East

I can tell the hon. Gentleman a great deal.

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Lofthouse Mr Geoffrey Lofthouse , Pontefract and Castleford

Order. I hesitate to intervene on the hon. Gentleman, but he keeps blaming me. This has nothing to do with me at all.

Photo of Ken Purchase Ken Purchase , Wolverhampton North East

You are quite right, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and I unreservedly apologise. I am blaming the Government, of course, and not your good self.

The Government have presented us with an untenable measure and a Bill so loosely worded and structured that it can mean anything to anybody. The Bill in no way preserves the integrity of ownership that is necessary for the proper development, supervision and monitoring of the nuclear industry. It in no way attempts to make a proper financial appraisal or a cost-benefit analysis of what is good for this country and what is not.

The Government have made no effort to do that because the Bill has been brought to this House for the simple reason that they failed to convince the House and the country that the Post Office ought to be privatised. This Bill is a substitute. It is a failure, and we should vote against it.

Question put, That the Bill be now read the Third time:—

The House divided: Ayes 284, Noes 246.

Division No. 143][6.35 pm
AYES
Ainsworth, Peter (East Surrey)Brandreth, Gyles
Aitken, Rt Hon JonathanBrazier, Julian
Alexander, RichardBright, Sir Graham
Alison, Rt Hon Michael (Selby)Brooke, Rt Hon Peter
Allason, Rupert (Torbay)Brown, M (Brigg & Cl'thorpes)
Amess, DavidBrowning, Mrs Angela
Ancram, MichaelBruce, Ian (Dorset)
Arbuthnot, JamesBudgen, Nicholas
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)Burt, Alistair
Arnold, Sir Thomas (Hazel Grv)Butcher, John
Ashby, DavidButler, Peter
Atkins, RobertButterfill, John
Atkinson, David (Bour'mouth E)Carlisle, Sir Kenneth (Lincoln)
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)Carrington, Matthew
Baker, Nicholas (North Dorset)Carttiss, Michael
Baldry, TonyCash, William
Banks, Matthew (Southport)Channon, Rt Hon Paul
Banks, Robert (Harrogate)Chapman, Sydney
Bates, MichaelClappison, James
Batiste, SpencerClark, Dr Michael (Rochford)
Bellingham, HenryClarke, Rt Hon Kenneth (Ru'clif)
Bendall, VivianClifton-Brown, Geoffrey
Beresford, Sir PaulCoe, Sebastian
Biffen, Rt Hon JohnCongdon, David
Booth, HartleyConway, Derek
Boswell, TimCoombs, Anthony (Wyre For'st)
Bottomley, Peter (Eltham)Coombs, Simon (Swindon)
Bowden, Sir AndrewCope, Rt Hon Sir John
Bowis, JohnCouchman, James
Boyson, Rt Hon Sir RhodesCran, James
Currie, Mrs Edwina (S D'by'ire)Jenkin, Bernard
Curry, David (Skipton & Ripon)Jessel, Toby
Davies, Quentin (Stamford)Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey
Davis, David (Boothferry)Jones, Robert B (W Hertfdshr)
Deva, Nirj JosephKellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine
Devlin, TimKing, Rt Hon Tom
Dicks, TerryKirkhope, Timothy
Dorrell, Rt Hon StephenKnapman, Roger
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord JamesKnight, Mrs Angela (Erewash)
Dover, DenKnight, Greg (Derby N)
Duncan, AlanKnight, Dame Jill (Bir'm E'st'n)
Dunn, BobKnox, Sir David
Durant, Sir AnthonyKynoch, George (Kincardine)
Dykes, HughLait, Mrs Jacqui
Elletson, HaroldLang, Rt Hon Ian
Evans, David (Welwyn Hatfield)Lawrence, Sir Ivan
Evans, Jonathan (Brecon)Legg, Barry
Evans, Nigel (Ribble Valley)Leigh, Edward
Evans, Roger (Monmouth)Lennox-Boyd, Sir Mark
Faber, DavidLester, Jim (Broxtowe)
Fabricant, MichaelLidington, David
Fenner, Dame PeggyLightbown, David
Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)LiIley, Rt Hon Peter
Fishbum, DudleyLloyd, Rt Hon Sir Peter (Fareham)
Forman, NigelLord, Michael
Forsyth, Rt Hon Michael (String)Luff, Peter
Forth, EricLyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas
Fox, Dr Liam (Woodspring)MacGregor, Rt Hon John
Fox, Sir Marcus (Shipley)MacKay, Andrew
Freeman, Rt Hon RogerMaclean, David
French, DouglasMcLoughlin, Patrick
Fry, Sir PeterMcNair-Wilson, Sir Patrick
Gale, RogerMadel, Sir David
Gallie, PhilMaitland, Lady Olga
Gardiner, Sir GeorgeMalone, Gerald
Garel-Jones, Rt Hon TristanMans, Keith
Garnier, EdwardMarland, Paul
Gill, ChristopherMarlow, Tony
Gillan, CherylMarshall, John (Hendon S)
Goodlad, Rt Hon AlastairMarshall, Sir Michael (Arundel)
Goodson-Wickes, Dr CharlesMartin, David (Portsmouth S)
Gorman, Mrs TeresaMates, Michael
Gorst, Sir JohnMawhinney, Rt Hon Dr Brian
Grant, Sir A (SW Cambs)Mellor, Rt Hon David
Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)Merchant, Piers
Greenway, John (Ryedale)Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll & Bute)
Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth, N)Mills, Iain
Grylls, Sir MichaelMitchell, Andrew (Gedling)
Hague, WilliamMitchell, Sir David (NW Hants)
Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir ArchibaldMoate, Sir Roger
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)Molyneaux, Rt Hon James
Hampson, Dr KeithMonro, Sir Hector
Hanley, Rt Hon JeremyMontgomery, Sir Fergus
Hannam, Sir JohnNeedham, Rt Hon Richard
Hargreaves, AndrewNelson, Anthony
Harris, DavidNeubert, Sir Michael
Haselhurst, AlanNewton, Rt Hon Tony
Hawkins, NickNicholls, Patrick
Hawksley, WarrenNicholson, David (Taunton)
Heald, OliverNicholson, Emma (Devon West)
Heath, Rt Hon Sir EdwardNorris, Steve
Heathcoat-Amory, DavidOnslow, Rt Hon Sir Cranley
Hendry, CharlesOppenheim, Phillip
Heseltine, Rt Hon MichaelOttaway, Richard
Higgins, Rt Hon Sir TerencePage, Richard
Horam, JohnPaice, James
Hordem, Rt Hon Sir PeterPatnick, Sir Irvine
Howard, Rt Hon MichaelPatten, Rt Hon John
Howarth, Alan (Strat'rd-on-A)Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford)Pawsey, James
Howell, Sir Ralph (N Norfolk)Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth
Hughes, Robert G (Harrow W)Pickles, Eric
Hunt, Rt Hon David (Wirral W)Porter, Barry (Wirral S)
Hunt, Sir John (Ravensbourne)Porter, David (Waveney)
Jack, MichaelPortillo, Rt Hon Michael
Jackson, Robert (Wantage)Rathbone, Tim
Renton, Rt Hon TimTaylor, Ian (Esher)
Richards, RodTaylor, John M (Solihull)
Rifkind, Rt Hon MalcolmTemple-Morris, Peter
Robathan, AndrewThomason, Roy
Robertson, Raymond (Ab'd'n S)Thompson, Sir Donald (C'er V)
Robinson, Mark (Somerton)Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)Thornton, Sir Malcolm
Rowe, Andrew (Mid Kent)Thumham, Peter
Rumbold, Rt Hon Dame AngelaTownsend, Cyril D (Bexl'yh'th)
Ryder, Rt Hon RichardTracey, Richard
Sackville, TomTrend, Michael
Sainsbury, Rt Hon Sir TimothyTrotter, Neville
Scott, Rt Hon Sir NicholasTwinn, Dr Ian
Shaw, David (Dover)Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)Viggers, Peter
Shephard, Rt Hon GillianWaldegrave, Rt Hon William
Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)Walden, George
Shersby, MichaelWalker, Bit (N Tayside)
Sims, RogerWaller, Gary
Skeet, Sir TrevorWard, John
Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)Waterson, Nigel
Spencer, Sir DerekWatts, John
Spicer, Sir James (W Dorset)Wells, Bowen
Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)Whitney, Ray
Spink, Dr RobertWhittingdale, John
Spring, RichardWiddecombe, Ann
Sproat, IainWiggin, Sir Jerry
Squire, Robin (Hornchurch)Wilshire, David
Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Steen, AnthonyWinterton, Nicholas (Macc'fld)
Stephen, MichaelWolfson,Mark
Stem, MichaelWood, Timothy
Stewart, AllanYeo,Tim
Streeter, GaryYoung, Rt Hon Sir George
Sumberg, David
Sweeney, WalterTellers for the Ayes:
Sykes, JohnMr. Simon Burns and
Tapsell, Sir PeterMr. David Willetts.
NOES
Abbott, Ms DianeCampbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)
Adams, Mis IreneCampbell-Savours, D N
Ainger, NickCaravan, Dennis
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)Cann, Jamie
Allen, GrahamChisholm, Malcolm
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E)Church, Judith
Anderson, Ms Janet (Ros'dale)Clapnam, Michael
Armstrong, HilaryClark, Dr David (South Shields)
Ashdown, Rt Hon PaddyClarke, Eric (Midothian)
Ashton, JoeClelland, David
Austin-Walker, JohnClwyd, Mrs Ann
Banks, Tony (Newham NW)Cohen, Harry
Barnes, HarryConnarty, Michael
Barron, KevinCorbett, Robin
Battle, JohnCorbyn, Jeremy
Bayley, HughCousins, Jim
Beckett, Rt Hon MargaretCox, Tom
Beggs, RoyCummings, John
Berth, Rt Hon A JCunliffe, Lawrence
Bell, StuartCunningham, Jim (Covy SE)
Benton, JoeCunningham, Rt Hon Dr John
Bermingham, GeraldDarling, Alistair
Berry, RogerDavidson, Ian
Betts, CliveDavies, Bryan (Oldham C'tral)
Blair, Rt Hon TonyDenham, John
Boateng, PaulDewar, Donald
Bradley, KeithDixon, Don
Bray, Dr JeremyDobson, Frank
Brown, Gordon (Dunfermline E)Donohoe, BrianH
Brown, N (N'c'tle upon Tyne E)Dowd, Jim
Burden, RichardDunnachie, Jimmy
Caborn, RichardDunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth
Callaghan, JimEagle, Ms Angela
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)Eastham, Ken
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)Enright, Derek
Etherington, BillMcNamara, Kevin
Evans, John (St Helens N)Madden, Max
Fatcnett, DerekMaddock, Diana
Fisher, MarkMahon, Alice
Flynn, PaulMandelson, Peter
Forsythe, Clifford (S Antrim)Marek, Dr John
Foster, Rt Hon DerekMarshall, David (Shettleston)
Foster, Don (Bath)Marshall, Jim (Leicester, S)
Foulkes, GeorgeMartin, Michael J (Springbum)
Fraser, JohnMartlew, Eric
Fyfe, MariaMaxton, John
Galbraith, SamMeacher, Michael
Galloway, GeorgeMeale, Alan
Gapes, MikeMichael, Alun
Garrett, JohnMichie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)
Gerrard, NeilMichie, Mrs Ray (Argyll & Bute)
Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr JohnMilburn, Alan
Godman, Dr Norman AMiller, Andrew
Godsitf, RogerMitchell, Austin (Gt Grimsby)
Golding, Mrs LlinMoonie, Dr Lewis
Graham, ThomasMorley, Elliot
Grant, Bernie (Tottenham)Morris, Rt Hon Alfred (Wy'nshawe)
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)Morris, Estelle (B'ham Yardley)
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)Morris, Ftt Hon John (Aberavon)
Grocott, BruceMudie, George
Gunnell, JohnMullin, Chris
Hain, PeterMurphy, Paul
Hall, MikeOakes, Rt Hon Gordon
Hanson, DavidO'Brien, Mike (N W'kshire)
Hardy, PeterO'Brien, William (Normanton)
Harman, Ms HarrietOlner, Bill
Hattersley, Rt Hon RoyO'Neill, Martin
Henderson, DougOrme, Rt Hon Stanley
Heppell, JohnPatehett, Terry
Hill, Keith (Streatham)Pearson, Ian
Hinchliffe, DavidPendry, Tom
Hoey, KatePickthall, Colin
Hogg, Norman (Cumbemauld)Pike, Peter L
Hoon, GeoffreyPope, Greg
Howarth, George (Knowsley North)Powell, Ray (Ogmore)
Howells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd)Prentice, Bridget (Lew'm E)
Hoyle, DougPrentice, Gordon (Pende)
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)Purchase, Ken
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)Quin, Ms Joyce
Hughes, Roy (Newport E)Randall, Stuart
Hutton,JohnRaynsford, Nick
Illsley, EricRedmond, Martin
Ingram, AdamReid, Dr John
Jackson, Glenda (H'stead)Rendel, David
Jackson, Helen (Shef'ld, H)Robertson, George (Hamilton)
Jamieson, DavidRoche, Mrs Barbara
Janner, GrevilleRogers, Allan
Jones, Barry (Alyn and D'side)Rooker, Jeff
Jones, Lynne (B'ham S O)Rooney, Terry
Kaufman, Rt Hon GeraldRoss, Ernie (Dundee W)
Keen, AlanRowlands, Ted
Kennedy, Jane (Lpool Brdgn)Ruddock, Joan
Khabra, Piara SSalmond, Alex
Kilfoyle, PeterSedgemore, Brian
Lestor, Joan (Ecdes)Sheerman, Barry
Lewis, TerrySheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Litherland, RobertShore, Rt Hon Peter
Livingstone, KenShort, Clare
Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)Simpson, Alan
Loyden, EddieSkinner, Dennis
Lynne, Ms LizSmith, Andrew (Oxford E)
McAllion, JohnSmith, Chris (Isl'ton S & F'sbury)
McAvoy, ThomasSmith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
McCartney, IanSnape, Peter
Macdonald, CalumSoley, Clive
McFall, JohnSpellar, John
McKelvey, WilliamSquire, Rachel (Dunfeimline W)
Mackinlay, AndrewSteel, Rt Hon Sir David
McLeish, HenrySteinberg, Gerry
Maclennan, RobertStevenson, George
McMaster, GordonStott, Roger
Strang, Dr. GavinWelsh, Andrew
Straw, JackWicks, Malcolm
Sutcliffe, GerryWiliams, Alan W (Carmarthen)
Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)Winnick, David
Taylor, Matthew (Truro)Wise, Audrey
Thompson, Jack (Wansbeck)Worthington, Tony
Timms, StephenWray, Jimmy
Tipping, PaddyWright, Dr Tony
Touhig, DonYoung, David (Bolton SE)
Turner, Dennis
Walker, Rt Hon Sir HaroldTellers for the Noes:
Wallace, JamesMr. Jon Owen Jones and
Watson, MikeMr. Stephen Byers.

Question accordingly agreed to.
Bill read the Third time, and passed.