Control of Fuel and Electricity

Part of Opposition Day – in the House of Commons at 11:03 pm on 13th November 2000.

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Photo of Mr Keith Darvill Mr Keith Darvill Labour, Upminster 11:03 pm, 13th November 2000

I fully support the order. There are law and order issues to be addressed. The people who took it upon themselves to restrict the flow of fuel to the nation were clearly putting lives at risk. They did so with no electoral mandate. They took to themselves rights that are denied to people involved in an industrial dispute. The reserve powers were thus needed for the protection of the public.

My second point is on the use of the powers. I had some experience of the crisis in the London borough of Havering, where the community management team worked to keep essential services going. The community management team is made up of the police, the local authority and representatives of the health and emergency services. It met immediately the fuel crisis arose, and put into effect policies to assist wherever possible.

After the crisis ended, the team reported to the community planning forum to which Members of Parliament in my area are invited. We discussed the powers and how efficient the team's planning had been. The only criticism was that there had been a lack of co-ordination at a central level in terms of the guidance that was given by Government Departments. At a local level, plans were made to meet the problems of keeping fuel flowing and providing special services, but the implementation of those plans was not helped by the different advice received from different Departments.

Different parts of the country had different experiences, so it would be useful to analyse those experiences to see whether the reserve powers will be able to deal with circumstances such as that arose during the crisis. An inquiry or report into those experiences should be debated on the Floor of the House, because it may be necessary to have different reserve powers on the statute book in future so that much more efficient arrangements can be put in place. I do not want to be critical, because the crisis was a unique experience that arose suddenly; none the less, I would like to hear my right hon. Friend the Minister's response to those points.