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Mr. Ieuan Wyn Jones : I, too, do not wish to detain the House for long, but the Opposition have an obligation to puncture the utter complacency of the Secretary of State for Scotland, who sought to commend the Third Reading. He trotted out the usual slogans that we have heard from the Government on this and other measures. I thought to myself that one slogan was missing because the Government's slogans came in threes. The right hon. and learned Gentleman used two, talking about choice and consumers. What about value for money? He did not mention it once.

We have heard that we are to have thumping big electricity price rises as a sweetener for the industry. Even the slogans that the right hon. and learned Gentleman used are false. We have heard much about competition. What competition? It is impossible to see any way in which the consumer can make an effective choice about the company from which he gets his electricity. The only option is for him to pay the bill, which will be higher than it has been.

The Secretary of State for Scotland and his colleagues would do well to look again at the recent report of the Select Committee on Energy, of which my hon. Friend the Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond) was a member. Two telling comments will haunt the Government following privatisation. The Committee said :

"Electricity is too important an industry for the country to gamble that everything will come out right" ;


"The Government has singled out only two factors to justify its decision ; security of supply and party manifesto commitment to a continuing nuclear programme. It has glossed over the industry s economics, ignored the industry's external costs, and still cannot be sure that the favoured PWR technology is the best available."

Mr. Rost : Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Jones : I am not prepared to give way because my contribution must be short.

The public and the consumer have been conned, but the voting public at the next election will not be conned.

10.41 pm

Mr. Jack Thompson : I am not an economist or accountant. My background is in engineering and my discussion on the Bill has been with engineers in the industry. The engineers--not the management--are critical of the privatisation propositions. One engineer commented, "It is like a bicycle. If the pedals and the

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cranks are taken off the chain and the sprockets on the wheel., the bicycle will not work." That is what is happening with the industry. The implication is that the CEGB and the area boards have not been efficient. Having spent some time with the good officers of the North Western electricity board, I refute that suggestion. That board was very efficient. My experience was that it was exceptional. I have links with the electricity board in my area which is aware of the consumers' needs and problems.

If a problem is to arise with the industry, it will be a technical one. If there is an argument to restore the industry to state control, it will be a technical one which will be irrefutable. The industry started with a municipal electricity supply and links with private electricity suppliers. There was no choice between the wars other than to have a nationalised industry. That argument will be made again, and we shall have to restore the industry to public ownership not for political but for technical reasons.

10.34 pm

Mr. Alan W. Williams : As I said in Committee and on Report, the Government have been on the defensive throughout the Bill's proceedings. That has been symbolised by the fact that only one Conservative Back Bencher has spoken on Third Reading. Often in Standing Committee the Secretary of State and Ministers were not just on the defensive but on the ropes--indeed, they were punch drunk at the end of several sittings from trying to defend some of the clauses.

I find no merit in the Bill. It will create a private monopoly because there will be no competition. Earlier, we challenged the Minister directly about what competition there would be for the individual householder. I think of people such as my mother, who is a widow and a pensioner. Apparently she can opt out and I suppose that she could devise her own supply, but in reality there will be no competition. The Bill also brings threats of price rises--6 per cent., 9 per cent. and much more to come when the shareholders want their cut.

The Bill provided an opportunity for measures on the environment and conservation, but the Government have pushed all such opportunities to one side. We have seen clearly that their commitment to the environment and green issues is non-existent. The Bill shows clearly the double standards for coal and the nuclear industry. The Government are carrying out a clear vendetta against the coal industry, which dates from the 1970s or even earlier than that. The Government are the descendants of the coal owners. [ Hon. Members :-- "Back to 1926."] That is right. The vendetta goes back to 1926 and before, and it has returned with a vengeance in the 1970s and 1980s and as a result of the miners' strike. I come from a part of the country that used to have many coal mines, but there are none left now. When I was elected, there were three just outside my constituency, but the number is down to one. Throughout our debates, we have seen the terrific pressure that will be put on the coal industry by privatisation and the free range of market forces--coal imports and the like. There will be no ring fencing or defence for the coal industry.

The nuclear industry will be completely ring-fenced under the Bill, with the nuclear quota, the nuclear tax and the pressurised water reactors that nobody wants. There

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will be problems of waste and decommissioning, yet the Government volunteer to take back those problems and to pay the bills. That is an appalling double standard. The public have noticed that fact through the reports of our debates and we shall carry on explaining that to them. They have noticed that one set of principles is applied to coal, whereas the nuclear industry is to be protected.

Dr. Kim Howells : I want to reinforce my hon. Friend's point. It is curious that the Government have chosen to ring-fence the nuclear industry as a reliable source of energy and electricity, yet they have refused to ring-fence the Nottingham coalfield, which in their books has been a marvellous and reliable source of electricity and energy. It is curious. We own the coal underground in Nottinghamshire, yet we do not own the uranium that we send to our nuclear power stations.

Mr. Williams : The Government's logic is strange. However, the public have seen what is happening and they do not like the Bill or the privatisation of water. Public opinion is overwhelmingly on our side. We have tried to reflect the views of the consumers, the taxpayers and the electorate. Unfortunately, the Government have not accepted any of our clauses or amendments and they will suffer for that at the hour of reckoning.

10.48 pm

Mr. Maxton : I shall be brief, but it is essential to make several points before this obnoxious piece of legislation leaves the Commons, especially in view of the case put by the Secretary of State for Scotland, who is deputising for the Secretary of State for Energy who is yet again swanning round the world.

Nothing in Committee or on Report has convinced me that I was wrong to argue that we should never have had Scottish legislation dealt with in an English and Welsh Bill. It has made it difficult to put the Scottish case and the Scottish people have not had the opportunity to consider it fully. Of course, it has exposed cruelly the Tory party's total failure to persuade the Scottish people of their case and their inability to conform to the normal constitutional conventions on Scottish legislation in this House because of their disastrous defeat in Scotland in 1987.

The Bill, like the Tory party itself, has little support in Scotland. Despite what the Secretary of State said, few employees at any level believe that the Bill will do anything for Scotland. Among the consumer organisations, political parties and churches in Scotland, it is difficult to find anyone who is not opposed to the Bill. Its opponents, I may add, include the Scottish CBI. The people of Scotland want their electricity supply industry to remain in public hands, and the Government have a responsibility, which they never fulfil, to listen to their voices.

My hon. Friends have shown that the Bill will create no real competition in England and Wales. The vertically integrated nature of the new companies in Scotland, with generation, transmission and supply all carried out by one company in clearly delineated geographical areas of Scotland, will deprive Scottish consumers of even a phoney facade of competition. The Bill creates private monopolies which, despite the so-called controls that the licences and regulation are supposed to impose on them, will be able to exploit their position to maximise profit at the expense of Scottish consumers.

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Yet again the Secretary of State for Scotland abdicated his responsibility for the electricity supply industry in Scotland. The headquarters of the South of Scotland electricity board are in my constituency, and most of the board members live in or near my constituency. The headquarters of the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board are in Edinburgh. If the Secretary of State had read his own press release or had bothered to attend our debates last week, during which I quoted him, he would know that it said that he had issued an instruction to the boards in connection with their financial limits. It was not the Treasury that did that ; it was the Secretary of State for Scotland.

At present, control of the electricity supply industry in Scotland rests in Scotland. The Government have not given us a single guarantee that after privatisation that control will lie anywhere other than outside Scotland-- perhaps even outside the United Kingdom. The price of electricity has already been increased by 8 per cent. to fatten up the industry to make it attractive to the new shareholders, as Mr. Joughin, the chairman of the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board said. If that can happen before privatisation, how much worse will it be afterwards? The Bill will mean higher prices, poorer services for consumers, probably the end of the coal industry in Scotland, a deterioration in the environment and hardship for the poorest members of society. The Bill is unwanted and unnecessary. Its sole purpose is to give fast bucks to the Government's friends in the City, and I ask my hon. Friends to join me in voting against its Third Reading.

10.52 pm

Mr. Michael Spicer : Rather to the Opposition's surprise, we have been happy to join them on what they thought was their chosen ground--the issue of prices--because we know that it must exert a downward pressure on prices if we replace the present structure of the industry under which a monopoly generates its own costs and supplies the industry on the basis of those costs, without intervention.

The hon. Member for Sedgefield (Mr. Blair) designated today consumer day. I told the House that, once the Bill has been passed, every day will be consumer day because every aspect of the Bill is devoted to ensuring that the consumer gets a better deal. That is not only true in relation to prices ; there will be a panoply of consumer rights and competitive pressure not only on generation, which accounts for 70 per cent. of the industry's costs, but on the public electricity supply industries. New duties will be placed on the regulator to ensure that the consumer is well cared for. In particular--something that the Opposition have not been willing to concede as a great new benefit--consumer committees will in future be part of the regulatory body rather than merely shouting their views from the touch line.

In this short debate the hon. Member for Wentworth (Mr. Hardy) rightly said that this will be the largest privatisation of all time. Added to the 9 million shareholders--three times the number when we tookoffice--will no doubt be considerably more private shareholders, and many will no doubt be the employees of the industry to whom we shall give special terms.

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One enormous advantage of privatisation will be that the massive investment programme that is due to take place in the industry will be determined not on the basis of decisions--

Mr. Dick Douglas (Dunfermline, West) rose--

Mr. Spicer : No, I shall not give way. The hon. Gentleman has not been here--

Mr. Douglas rose--

Mr. Spicer : No, I shall not give way. It is too late. I am not giving way to the hon Gentleman or to anybody else at this stage because I have promised to be brief.

Massive investment decisions are ahead. The decisions to invest will be made not on the basis of political infighting in Whitehall or behind beige doors in Whitehall, but on the basis of market conditions, and will be determined by the market place.

Our reforms of the electricity supply industry, which are undoubtedly radical, are aimed at making Britain's electricity supply industry one of the most efficient in the world. We believe that as the European market opens up in 1992 and transnational common carriage becomes a real possibility, Britain will have the opportunity to become the power house of Europe.

What we are proposing to do is what some people have argued is impossible-- to turn a massive producer-driven public sector monopoly into a series of customer-oriented private companies, many with shares that are owned by their employees and many of which will be competing with one another for business. In future the customer will call the tune, which is something that, despite all the protestations to the contrary, all the rhetoric and all the press releases, is not and never will be central to the beliefs of the Socialist party, the Opposition.

Question put, That the Bill be now read the Third time : The House divided : Ayes 251, Noes 193.

Division No. 151] [10.57 pm


Adley, Robert

Aitken, Jonathan

Alexander, Richard

Alison, Rt Hon Michael

Allason, Rupert

Amess, David

Amos, Alan

Arbuthnot, James

Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)

Arnold, Tom (Hazel Grove)

Ashby, David

Aspinwall, Jack

Atkins, Robert

Atkinson, David

Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley)

Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N)

Baldry, Tony

Banks, Robert (Harrogate)

Batiste, Spencer

Beaumont-Dark, Anthony

Bellingham, Henry

Bendall, Vivian

Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke)

Benyon, W.

Bevan, David Gilroy

Biffen, Rt Hon John

Blackburn, Dr John G.

Body, Sir Richard

Bonsor, Sir Nicholas

Boscawen, Hon Robert

Boswell, Tim

Bottomley, Peter

Bottomley, Mrs Virginia

Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)

Bowis, John

Brandon-Bravo, Martin

Brazier, Julian

Bright, Graham

Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's)

Bruce, Ian (Dorset South)

Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon Alick

Buck, Sir Antony

Budgen, Nicholas

Burns, Simon

Burt, Alistair

Butcher, John

Butterfill, John

Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)

Carrington, Matthew

Carttiss, Michael

Chalker, Rt Hon Mrs Lynda

Chapman, Sydney

Chope, Christopher

Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S)

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Colvin, Michael

Conway, Derek

Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest)

Coombs, Simon (Swindon)

Cope, Rt Hon John

Couchman, James

Cran, James

Curry, David

Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g)

Davis, David (Boothferry)

Day, Stephen

Devlin, Tim

Dicks, Terry

Dorrell, Stephen

Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James

Dover, Den

Dunn, Bob

Durant, Tony

Eggar, Tim

Emery, Sir Peter

Evennett, David

Fairbairn, Sir Nicholas

Fallon, Michael

Favell, Tony

Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)

Finsberg, Sir Geoffrey

Fishburn, John Dudley

Fookes, Dame Janet

Forman, Nigel

Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)

Fox, Sir Marcus

Franks, Cecil

Freeman, Roger

Fry, Peter

Gale, Roger

Gardiner, George

Garel-Jones, Tristan

Gill, Christopher

Glyn, Dr Alan

Goodlad, Alastair

Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles

Gow, Ian

Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)

Greenway, John (Ryedale)

Gregory, Conal

Griffiths, Sir Eldon (Bury St E')

Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)

Grist, Ian

Ground, Patrick

Grylls, Michael

Hague, William

Hamilton, Hon Archie (Epsom)

Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)

Hampson, Dr Keith

Hanley, Jeremy

Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr')

Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn)

Harris, David

Hayes, Jerry

Hayhoe, Rt Hon Sir Barney

Hayward, Robert

Heathcoat-Amory, David

Heddle, John

Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael

Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.

Hill, James

Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)

Hordern, Sir Peter

Howard, Michael

Howarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A)

Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd)

Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford)

Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W)

Hunt, David (Wirral W)

Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)

Hunter, Andrew

Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas

Irvine, Michael

Jack, Michael

Jackson, Robert

Janman, Tim

Jessel, Toby

Jones, Robert B (Herts W)

Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine

Key, Robert

King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield)

Kirkwood, Archy

Knapman, Roger

Knight, Greg (Derby North)

Lamont, Rt Hon Norman

Lang, Ian

Latham, Michael

Lawrence, Ivan

Lee, John (Pendle)

Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark

Lester, Jim (Broxtowe)

Lightbown, David

Lilley, Peter

Lloyd, Sir Ian (Havant)

Lord, Michael

Lyell, Sir Nicholas

McCrindle, Robert

Macfarlane, Sir Neil

MacGregor, Rt Hon John

MacKay, Andrew (E Berkshire)

McLoughlin, Patrick

McNair-Wilson, Sir Michael

McNair-Wilson, P. (New Forest)

Major, Rt Hon John

Malins, Humfrey

Mans, Keith

Maples, John

Marshall, Michael (Arundel)

Martin, David (Portsmouth S)

Mates, Michael

Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin

Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick

Meyer, Sir Anthony

Miller, Sir Hal

Mills, Iain

Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)

Mitchell, Sir David

Moate, Roger

Montgomery, Sir Fergus

Morris, M (N'hampton S)

Morrison, Sir Charles

Morrison, Rt Hon P (Chester)

Moss, Malcolm

Moynihan, Hon Colin

Neale, Gerrard

Nelson, Anthony

Neubert, Michael

Newton, Rt Hon Tony

Nicholls, Patrick

Nicholson, David (Taunton)

Nicholson, Emma (Devon West)

Norris, Steve

Onslow, Rt Hon Cranley

Oppenheim, Phillip

Page, Richard

Paice, James

Patnick, Irvine

Patten, Chris (Bath)

Patten, John (Oxford W)

Pawsey, James

Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth

Porter, Barry (Wirral S)

Porter, David (Waveney)

Portillo, Michael

Powell, William (Corby)

Price, Sir David

Raffan, Keith

Raison, Rt Hon Timothy

Rathbone, Tim

Redwood, John

Renton, Tim

Rhodes James, Robert

Riddick, Graham

Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas

Rifkind, Rt Hon Malcolm

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