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Mr. Newton : Of course, the arrangements made in respect of different tenants and by different brewers vary. I note what my hon. Friend has said, and I very much hope that the responsible approach he reports from one brewer will be followed universally.
Mr. Nicholas Bennett (Pembroke) : Will my right hon. Friend, in his discussions with the brewing industry, draw to its attention the continuing concern about the use of restrictive covenants to stop competition, following the case in my own constituency in which a restaurant, which was a pub 37 years ago, has been told that if it wishes the covenant to be lifted it will cost £10,000 and that it will have to continue to use that brewery's beer?
Mr. Newton : I would not wish to comment on a specific case without the opportunity to look into it more fully. However, the general effect of our proposals will be to enhance competition and to reduce the scope for restrictive covenants of all kinds.
Mr. Graham Riddick (Colne Valley) : Is my right hon. Friend aware of the survey which Market Access International carried out among 100 Members of Parliament which showed that only 23 per cent. of Labour Members wished the MMC proposals to be fully implemented? Will my right hon. Friend, therefore, wholly
Column 696ignore the rantings of the hon. Member for Dagenham (Mr. Gould), who is clearly seeking to score political points on the issue?
Mr. Riddick : Can my right hon. Friend allay one fear? In countries where the tie does not exist, or in Scotland where there are far fewer tied outlets, there is a far higher brewery concentration and prices are higher as well. Which of his proposals will ensure that that does not happen in this country?
Mr. Newton : The effects of the proposals, taken as a whole and including the removal of the tie in respect of national brewers on non- alcoholic, low-alcohol and soft drinks, combined with the proposals on loan ties and on guest beer, will move us significantly in the direction that my hon. Friend wants.
Mr. Jeremy Hanley (Richmond and Barnes) : I thank my right hon. Friend for carrying out and responding to a genuine consultation exercise. However, I ask him for some clarification. Will brewers be free to choose which pubs suffer divestment? Will there be a maximum number of pubs that brewers can hold in various towns? Over what time must divestment take place? There could, otherwise, be an unfairly falsely low market.
Mr. Newton : I will make, briefly, four points in response to my hon. Friend. This is not divestment in the sense in which I thought he was using the word, but a requirement that a given proportion over 2,000 should be operated at arm's length. It will, of course, be for the brewers to decide which of their on-licences they wish to put into that category. The period involved to carry through the changes will be two years. They are large, structural changes to the market. There will then be a review at the end of the third year, after a year's experience of the full effect of the changes.
Mr. Kenneth Hind (Lancashire, West) : My right hon. Friend will be aware that the public, realising that 23,000 pubs will now be free to sell guest beers and that more than 11,000 of those will be free to sell beers of all types, will not regard that as a climb-down. However, does my right hon. Friend have any proposals to ensure that the big breweries do not try to breach the guest beers rule by swapping lagers or by doing deals between themselves to introduce guest beers? In that sense, local and regional brewers would regard it as a betrayal of the traditions and ideas at stake.
Mr. Newton : I have already said that we are talking about cask- conditioned beers and that no cask-conditioned lagers are manufactured in this country. The other point that my hon. Friend raised is precisely the issue to which we shall give further consideration during the consultation period on the orders. We shall then decide whether some restrictions should be introduced to ensure that guest beer has to come from a small or regional brewer.
Mr. Robert G. Hughes (Harrow, West) : Does my right hon. Friend agree that this package will be welcomed by consumers, who will especially welcome a greater supply and variety of low-alcohol beers in pubs, and the fact that the prices will come down from their outrageous levels at the moment?
Mr. Gould : Earlier, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster referred to a letter from me and seemed to imply that I had recommended that the Monopolies and Mergers Commission report should not be fully applied. As I am sure that he would not wish to mislead the House, will he confirm that my purpose in writing to the Secretary of State was to urge him to apply the report in full and to take further steps to ensure that the major brewers were not able to evade its recommendations? In the event, the brewers did not have to bother as, presumably, they knew all along that Tory party Central Office was already a tied house.
Mr. Newton : I shall seek to respond in the spirit in which the hon. Gentleman made his point. I am grateful for the courteous way in which he did so. He knows that I would not have sought deliberately to distort his views-- [Interruption.] I do not think that I did so, but if I did in any way, of course I apologise.
The point that I was making was simply that, when the hon. Gentleman wrote to my right hon. and noble Friend the Secretary of State shortly after the publication of the report at the end of March, he saw clear dangers--that is the word that the hon. Gentleman used--in the MMC proposals on tied houses and he asked us to guard against two threats. He now takes the view that the action that we have taken, which as we see it guards successfully against those threats, is not the right action. However, he must agree that, while wanting to go at least as far as the MMC, he was not himself endorsing the exact detail of its recommendations.
Mr. Charles Kennedy (Ross, Cromarty and Skye) : On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I rise briefly to ask, through you, Mr. Speaker, whether later this week the Leader of the House might be able to use his good offices to arrange for a Foreign Office statement on the position of the hostages in Beirut. This arises following contact that some colleagues had earlier today with the friends of John McCarthy, and with Jill Morrell in particular, following the sad news of Mrs. McCarthy's death at the weekend.
It would be a great reassurance to all those involved in seeking to achieve John McCarthy's release, and that of other citizens who are in a similarly hellish position, if the House were to extend its sympathy to the McCarthy family today and if the Leader of the House could grant my request later in the week.
The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. John Wakeham) : Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I am sure that the whole House will have heard the sad news to which the hon. Gentleman has referred. I shall, of course, refer the matter to my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and ask him to consider it.
Mr. Barry Jones (Alyn and Deeside) : On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I seek your help regarding the need for a statement on the National Health Service in Wales, because there is immense resistance to the Government's proposals in the Health Service White Paper. For several weeks my hon. Friends have pressed the Leader of the House in business questions for a Health Service debate in the Welsh Grand Committee.
It will help you, Mr. Speaker, to know that on 1 March the Secretary of State for Wales promised a debate on the White Paper. That promise is recorded in Hansard. However, we have had no such debate. The Secretary of State for Wales has refused to make a statement on the matter. Moreover, although working papers on the White Paper for England have been supplied, the Secretary of State for Wales has not given the people of Wales any working papers, although he promised such working papers on 1 March.
We demand a debate before the House rises. We demand the papers relating to the National Health Service in Wales. We demand that the Secretary of State for Wales comes to the Grand Committee or to the House because these matters are of crucial importance to the people of Wales. They are important to our valleys, to the rural areas, to the medical profession and to all our people. We believe that the Secretary of State for Wales is running away from an important matter.
Mr. Nicholas Bennett (Pembroke) : Further to the point of order, Mr. Speaker. Can you confirm that there is an Opposition day next Monday and that if Opposition Members feel so strongly about the matter, they could arrange a debate for that day?
Mr. Ted Rowlands (Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney) : Further to the point of order, Mr. Speaker. I wish to draw to your attention one aspect of the point of order raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Alyn and Deeside (Mr. Jones). In reply to an intervention made by me in the St.
Column 699David's day debate on 1 March, the Secretary of State for Wales said that the Welsh Office would be preparing papers that week or soon after. It is now July and we have not a single paper on the Health Service in Wales before us, months after that commitment was given. Surely that should justify our demand for a statement and debate if nothing else does.
Mr. Wakeham : Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I shall certainly look into the question of papers, although the question of a debate is more directly my responsibility. The hon. Member for Alyn and Deeside (Mr. Jones) is right to say that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales said :
"I hope that we shall debate the White Paper in the Welsh Grand Committee". --[ Official Report, 1 March 1989 ; Vol. 148, c. 302.] The Secretary of State and the members of the Welsh Grand Committee knew that its next meeting would be on 6 April, when the subject for debate was to be chosen by the Opposition. The Opposition chose to debate a matter other than the Health Service, which was a disappointment to everybody concerned. The next debate in the Welsh Grand Committee was just a short time ago, on 28 June, when the subject was chosen by the Government's supporters, who chose the valleys programme because that day was its first anniversary and, therefore, an appropriate occasion. Clearly, both sides of the House would welcome a Grand Committee debate on the Health Service ; it is a question of when is the most appropriate time to organise it, and that is a matter for discussion through the usual channels. The Committee meets about every two months ; it met recently, on 28 June ; we shall do our best but we cannot make any promises.
Mr. Allan Rogers (Rhondda) rose --
Mr. Ray Powell (Ogmore) rose --
Mr. Powell : Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I do not have a copy of Hansard before me, but I recall that in reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Mr. Michael) on 22 June, the Leader of the House said that we would have a debate on the Health Service before the summer recess. That was the promise. I repeat what I said last Thursday at business questions. I do not want to take the time of the House, but having promised that, the Leader of the House told me that I had no confidence in the usual channels. My confidence will wane still further if we cannot have a debate on the Health Service in Wales in the Welsh Grand Committee.
Several Hon. Members rose --
Mr. Speaker : Order. The hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. Powell), who is the Whip on the Grand Committee, said that this matter was raised at business questions last Thursday. This is not business questions, and I remind hon. Members that a large number of hon. Members wish
Column 700to participate in a subsequent debate. It is unfair for Front-Bench spokesmen to seek to take Back-Bench Members' time.
Mr. Rogers rose --
Mr. Speaker : Order. Please sit down. It was not a threat. I must have regard for the hon. Members who wish to speak in the subsequent debate. I was merely saying to the hon. Gentleman--and it is absolutely true--that a large number of hon. Members wish to participate and may be disappointed.
In his response to my hon. Friend the Member for Alyn and Deeside (Mr. Jones) the Leader of the House deliberately misled the House by suggesting that the Opposition--
Mr. Rogers : All right, the Leader of the House inadvertently misled the House, and perhaps he will take this opportunity to retract what he said in his reply. The Leader of the House suggested that the Opposition had the opportunity on two occasions to bring a debate on the National Health Service to the Welsh Grand Committee. However, the right hon. Gentleman obviously has not been informed by his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales of the fact that the working papers prepared by the Secretary of State for Wales were not ready for debate on those occasions.
Mr. Speaker : Order. I will have to call the shadow Leader of the House. However, I must again make the point that today is a rare opportunity for Back Benchers to participate in a debate on Select Committee reports. The hon. Gentleman's point of order will unquestionably be to their detriment.
Mr. Dobson : I want to raise an entirely separate point of order, Mr. Speaker. Have you received any representations from the Secretary of State for Defence asking to come to the House to make a statement about the extraordinary circumstances surrounding the untruths about Birkbeck college which were published in The Mail on Sunday and The Sunday Times on 2 July? The Ministry of Defence denied the truth of those accounts on the following Tuesday. It now appears that those stories got
Column 701into those two newspapers because they were being peddled by public officials--press officers of the Ministry of Defence. In those circumstances, we believe that it is right and proper that the Secretary of State for Defence should come to the House and explain which of the 217 MOD press officers were involved, how they came to be peddling those lies and what disciplinary action he intends to take.
That the Customs Duties (ECSC) (Amendment No. 4) Order 1989 (S.I., 1989, No. 1088) be referred to a Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, &c.
That the draft Inter-American Development Bank (Seventh General Increase) Order 1989 be referred to a Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, &c.
That the draft Appropriation (No. 3) (Northern Ireland) Order 1989 be referred to a Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, &c. That the draft Representation of the People (Northern Ireland) (Amendment) Regulations 1989 be referred to a Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, &c.-- [Mr. Dorrell.]
Department of Energy
[Relevant document : Fourth Report from the Energy Committee of Session 1988-89 on the Department of Energy's spending plans : 1989-90 (House of Commons Paper No. 435)]
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a further sum, not exceeding £24,044,000, be granted to Her Majesty out of the Consolidated Fund to defray the charges which will come in course of payment during the year ending on 31st March 1990 for expenditure by the Department of Energy on salaries and other administrative costs.-- [Mr. Michael Spicer.]
Sir Ian Lloyd (Havant) : I am sure that Back Benchers on both sides of the House will have noted with great pleasure the energetic and forceful way in which you, Mr. Speaker, sought to protect our time. We value these opportunities to debate matters that come before our Select Committees and we believe that it is in the interests of the House and the country that we should have opportunities to comment. I hope that my Committee, the Select Committee on Energy, has discharged its annual obligation to consider the Estimates of the Department of Energy and in particular to consider chapter 6 of the public expenditure White Paper and class VI of the Supply Estimates. Last year when we undertook a similar task, we requested that the Department of Energy should improve its performance indicators and achieve a greater consistency of presentation. I am glad to say that it is the general view of the Select Committee that the performance indicators have been greatly improved and broadened and we look forward to that process being continued. We cannot yet make a judgment about the consistency of presentation because that is an ongoing objective which the Department will consider from time to time and from year to year, and obviously the Select Committee will consider that in due course.
The first subject on which I want to concentrate--the coal mining industry- -has probably occupied most of the time of the Select Committee. In many senses, coal mining is a primary industry to this country and it imposes a primary financial burden on the state. There is no dispute about the fact that the industry's subsidies have been vast and are apparently unending, whatever its scale of operation. The industry's scale of operation has undoubtedly been reduced quite dramatically over the past decade.
We are concerned about the uncertainty of the industry's finance forecasts. However much year by year is budgeted by the Department and the Government in March, more appears to be required by October and this year is no exception. According to the exact figures in the public expenditure White Paper, the requirement from the state in January was estimated at £560 million ; in February the Secretary of State told us that that figure would rise to £720 million and in July we were told that
Column 703there would be a summer Supplementary Estimate of £250 million which the Committee was told in evidence was "a temporary blip". All I can say is that it is some blip and, unfortunately, the evidence does not seem to support the use of the adjective "temporary", but we all hope that it is. We hope that, because of Sir Robert Haslam's undoubted achievements and leadership, these forecasts will be fulfilled. Nevertheless, some of us remain sceptical, and I think that that scepticism probably spreads throughout the Committee. Break-even always seems to be about 18 months ahead. I suspect that what we are really looking at is a national reluctance to face facts whenever we examine the coal mining industry. There seems to be a genuine inability to conclude that the horizon is always receding and that we will never quite get there. I wonder whether we are being ground between the upper and the nether millstones. The upper millstone--I think that all members of Committee are agreed on this--is the fact that there is no secure substitute for plus or minus 100 million tonnes of indigenously mined coal. Whether it is deep mined or opencast is another matter, but there is no clear and secure substitute for it. I emphasise the word "secure". A great deal of argument can take place about what that means in different contexts. The nether millstone is the fact that there seems to be no way in which our coal can be mined at world market prices, and no possible way of predicting exactly what those prices would be if we imported 50 or 60 per cent. of our national coal requirement.
The volume of international trade in coal and the competition is such that, in my judgment, the scope for market exploitation is small, although I fully understand and accept that there are many views on this question and that they cover a wide spectrum and are legitimately held.
Since there are no easy solutions, the Committee, considering the contemporary scene--it has tried to do so as specifically as it can-- deplores the negotiating uncertainties which appeared to start between the South of Scotland electricity board and British Coal in Scotland, and which still seem to be hovering over the industry in a rather unfortunate way.
I think it is the view of the Committee that national policy--this is still a matter of national policy because neither coal nor electricity has effectively been privatised yet--should not be settled in the courts. Both are still in the public sector so there is a considerable obligation on the state to take the leaders of these two great and important industries by the hand and say to them, "For heaven's sake, get on with it and achieve a settlement." Even if both industries were in the private sector, there would still be such an obligation because it is in the national interest not to keep matters suspended indefinitely so that the managements of both major industries do not know where they are.
The additional £250 million Supplementary Estimate which the Secretary of State has asked for is discussed in some detail in paragraph 5 of our report. We noted there, with some dismay, that we were given four reasons for the extra money : mild weather, higher interest rates, accelerated closure costs and the repayment of existing loans. The Committee was somewhat dissatisfied with this explanation, first, because we thought that all those factors
Column 704could probably have been guesstimated at least somewhat more accurately further ahead and, secondly, because we felt that £250 million is too large a figure to be swept under the carpet in a one-line explanation.
On the broader question whether these matters would occur in some different institution or organisation, I should say that privatisation would not necessarily guarantee that the problems would be solved ; nor would it alter the need for a national view to be taken, first, on whether coal should be mined ; secondly, on how much coal should be mined ; thirdly, at what cost coal should be mined--and certainly at what cost to the nation ; and, fourthly, for what purpose coal should be mined.
That brings me to the other question that will not be eliminated by changing the structure or ownership of the industry. That question can be divided into separate parts. Again, the change that is foreseen will not necessarily solve the problem and eliminate these questions. One question is whether and to what extent the social obligation that will remain if we decide to keep a major coal mining industry in the United Kingdom should be borne directly by subsidy, indirectly through the price mechanism, or by a combination of the two. That is another way of describing the inevitable distribution of any burden resulting from a coal mining policy between the private consumer, the industrial consumer and the taxpayer.
Those questions will not easily be answered. If the record of the past 20 to 30 years is any guide--I do not share the most optimistic forecasts-- those questions will be with us for the next 10 years. Whatever the answer may be, equivocation and uncertainty would be the worst possible outcome. Wherever possible, equivocation and uncertainty should be removed.
Perhaps optimistically and hopefully, in our report we used the phrase
"a strong and competitive indigenous industry."
If the coal mining industry is a high-productivity industry, and it is becoming so at considerable and welcome speed, it will be competitive. Although recent productivity improvements have been dramatic, no solution is yet in sight.
The industry has received about £20 billion in subsidy, without achieving its target. It has borrowed and remains in debt to the extent of £4.3 billion. To illustrate the scale of that problem--generally speaking, such large numbers are lost to the public and to most hon. Members--that debt of £4.3 billion represents £86 per head of the population, and the total subsidy so far represents £430 per head of the population. Therefore, the Committee strongly supports new, specific and quantified objectives. They must be new if we are to solve the problem. They must be specific if we are to make sensible judgments about them. Obviously, if we are to be able to make policy measurements, they must be quantified.
The Committee was delighted that, almost uniquely among the major Departments of state, the Department of Energy described its research policy and performance in about 12 pages of "The Government's Expenditure Plans for 1989-90." That excellent example should be widely noted. None the less, some definitions are not sufficiently rigorous. For example, the figures under research and development include non-research and development elements. That can be clearly discerned from time to time. Also, energy efficiency monitoring and targeting are included under research and development, when they could not accurately be so described. Similarly, some
Column 705non-research and development nuclear programmes have been brought together under nuclear research and development. Again, that gives a slightly inaccurate and misleading figure when we should be able to know very precisely how much is being spent, where it is being spent and what the objectives are. The general analysis is greatly improved, and we look forward to seeing a continuation of it.
Energy efficiency is of increasing prominence. My Committee was in slight difficulty with that matter. Having taken evidence on the greenhouse effect over the past six or eight months, we are about to report to the House--a week from today--in great detail about energy efficiency in the context of the greenhouse effect. However, we felt that, in the light of the policy set down in the estimates, we could draw attention to what the Department is doing at the moment in some matters and what its priorities are.
Recently, the Committee visited the research installation at Grimethorpe and we were impressed by what we saw there. We were somewhat disturbed by the equivocation surrounding certain projects and the uncertainty, which was obviously having a depressing effect on the morale of those involved. If energy efficiency is as important as we shall suggest that it is in a few days' time, there is no doubt that the Grimethorpe project is one of the technologies that should be explored either to success or destruction, whichever the research proves. It should not be left in suspension, hanging and uncertain. A great deal of work has been done in this country, in the United States and elsewhere, into energy renewables, and various suggestions have been made about what contribution these might ultimately make to energy supply in the United Kingdom. Although I have seen figures as high as 20 per cent., these generally seem to follow rather over- optimistic assessments both of the costs and of the technologies. More generally, fairly small figures, of perhaps between 5 and 6 per cent., are realistic targets. One then has to conclude that if renewables are to make a significant contribution to energy consumption--as everyone hopes, and as they must--a great deal more work is required on them.
The next issue to which I should like to draw the attention of the House is the more complex and controversial one of fast breeder reactors. The Committee is suspending its judgment because we have decided that we should undertake a full-scale inquiry into this important subject, and that will be starting towards the end of the year. In the meantime, it is our view that the research and development work on the post-thermal reactor technology should continue and should not be seriously reduced in any way.
In that context I--like, I imagine, other members of the Committee--was somewhat surprised and disturbed to see late last week an advertisement published in all the national newspapers by a large number of scientists, including 15 distinguished fellows of the Royal Society. They said, effectively, that nuclear power provides no realistic, safe, or possible solution to our energy problems. I find that extremely disturbing, although I have the greatest respect, as the House knows, for scientific opinion and judgment. If those 15 members of the Royal Society who signed that statement had listened to all the evidence presented to my Committee and waited one week for the report of the Committee, which is to be published next Monday, I wonder whether they would still adhere to the view that we need not, cannot and should not develop
Column 706nuclear power. My judgment is that many of them, being distinguished scientists, and essentially the most rational of human beings, would reverse that judgment.
Mr. Charles Kennedy (Ross, Cromarty and Skye) : I am encouraged to hear that the Committee will specifically conduct an inquiry into the future of the fast breeder reactor and associated issues. What time scale does the hon. Gentleman envisage for its report, and when will it be published? He will appreciate the great concern in the northern part of Scotland about the dislocation that the effective rundown of Dounreay is causing, and the controversy that that is generating on all sides.
Sir Ian Lloyd : I should imagine that the Committee would start the procedure for inviting memoranda fairly soon--probably the beginning of September. The notice of this inquiry has been published. Those parties who are likely to be principal witnesses will doubtless already be preparing their evidence to the Committee. However, I think it unlikely that the Committee will be taking verbal evidence before the House resumes in October or November and, if experience is any guide, it is unlikely that the Committee will be reporting on this inquiry, which is both important and complex, within the first four or five months of next year. We shall obviously proceed with great expedition, in view of the general importance of the subject. Another important matter is energy efficiency in the public sector. We knew that it was large, but it always comes as a surprise when one realises that the public sector--that is public buildings owned by the Government or public authorities--spent £1.8 billion on energy in the most recent year for which figures are available. We give that information in paragraph 20. That is a large sum, and we are somewhat disturbed that progress in improving efficiency of energy conservation in the public sector is less rapid than it might otherwise have been.
Since the report was published, I had the occasion to visit a major hospital, which I shall not name, although there is no reason why I should not, in the Portsmouth area. I discovered two interesting points. The hospital management told me that the hospital was designed for an average winter temperature of not less than 34 deg. and if the temperature falls below that the management has considerable doubt about whether it can maintain the right temperature in the wards so that it can avoid the conditions leading to hypothermia. I found that a rather dramatic conclusion because I realised that if this is the way in which we have been building hospitals, at least within the past 20 to 30 years, it shows a surprising lack of attention to energy efficiency.
I was told that the difference in the energy bill for one major hospital between one year and another could be as much as £1 million. If that is so, it reinforces the Committee's conclusion that this is something to which the Government must pay the closest attention. I have now a general question that has assumed an increasing prominence in the debate in the press within the past few months, and that is the need for a Department of Energy. We discuss this in paragraphs 26 and 27. It is a broad and controversial subject and, again, there is room for many points of view. I speak only for myself on this occasion, but I hope that I can speak somewhat more objectively than I might otherwise have been able to do because, in almost all probability, I shall not be opening
Column 707the debate on the Energy Department's estimates next year, although I hope to be around. Therefore, I speak with objectivity when I say that I reinforce everything that the Committee has concluded. This is not the right time to disband, dismantle or move around the Department of Energy.
Energy, as a major subject with enormous political implications, is rising into increasing prominence, almost with every month that passes. That does not suggest that now is the time to disperse a major and important Department among other Departments of state, however competent. Whatever the other arguments may be for such a dispersion and reorganisation of Government, the Department of Energy is an essential means for focusing attention on national energy policies. It will be far better if that is done centrally under a Secretary of State for Energy rather than peripherally by any other Secretary of State who has energy matters as a subsection of his Department.
I have no axe to grind. The words in paragraph 27 are largely mine and I am glad to say that the Committee endorsed them. I believe that the work of the Department and the Select Committee must continue, because together they will get it right.
Mr. Ted Leadbitter (Hartlepool) : It is convenient for me to respond to the Chairman of the Select Committee, the hon. Member for Havant (Sir I. Lloyd), by beginning my contribution on the expenditure report and on the work of the Select Committee by emphasising the importance of the Department of Energy.
I have spent many years in this House ; this is my 25th. I spent many years with the old Science and Technology Select Committee, which became the Select Committee on Energy. Over the years during our hearings upstairs we have been privileged to see the growing competence of the people who serve in and represent the Department of Energy. We have many controversial cross -examining procedural requirements, merely to satisfy the thirst of Parliament. It is not a titillating exercise ; it suits my personality to be aggravating, aggressive and questioning. That is what Parliament is about. In those years we have seen some excellent officers--excellent at stonewalling, at remarkable revelations and, sometimes, at confessions. Nevertheless, the Department is important to Parliament.
I shall seek to suggest, perhaps in a slightly different way from the Chairman of the Select Committee, how I look upon the significance of the Department of Energy, the importance of the parliamentary role in the work and development of energy policy and resources, and the paramount importance of public interest. In any kind of human activity there must be one essentially striking objective--what it is expected to do. I pose that question in relation to the activities of the Department of Energy. The answer is not difficult or original. Our linguistic facilities do not give us the opportunity to be innovative in this regard. As Lord Rothschild would say, it is self-evident. The Department of Energy is expected to meet national energy needs, but the question is how best to use our energy resources. All things spring from that and therefore the desired objectives