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Mr. Michael Spicer : The Atomic Energy Authority has decided to restructure its activities into a series of distinct businesses under the new corporate identity of AEA Technology. The businesses will be focused on the areas of work with the best commercial prospects. I welcome these developments.
Mr. Butler : Will my hon. Friend confirm that with the downgrading of the fast breeder reactor programme all is not doom and gloom with the AEA, and that its prospects could be extremely positive in the near future?
Mr. Allan W. Williams : We know how desperate the AEA is to try to diversify its business and to try to improve its public image, but will the Minister dissuade it from entering the business of food irradiation? I understand that the Government are thinking of lifting the ban on food irradiation although there is serious public concern about the safety of irradiated food products. The British Medical Association opposes the irradiation of food.
Mr. Michael Spicer : The market value of the electricity supply industry will depend on a number of factors such as market conditions at the time of the sale, the profitability of the companies and their prospects. It is premature to speculate on the likely level of proceeds.
Mr. Smith : Will the Minister kindly explain to my constituents who work at the coal-fired power station at Aberthaw how they can be expected to compete equally and fairly with nuclear power stations when so much has to be written off from the value of power stations when they are transferred and sold off to the private sector? Surely my constituents at Aberthaw will be competing with one hand tied behind their backs?
Mr. Spicer : The hon. Gentleman prejudges how the balance sheet will be structured for the privatised companies. We have not said how we shall restructure them. We do not know yet what the state of the market will be when we come to privatise the companies. I can tell the hon. Gentleman in direct answer to his supplementary question, which related to the protection of the coal industry as against the nuclear industry, that we spend £2 million every working day on investment--a large chunk of that is from the public sector in the form of taxpayers' money--on the coal industry. If that is not a protected industry, I do not know what is. We are getting slowly to a position where it will be able to stand on its own feet.
Mr. Michael Spicer : Current policies and initiatives are intended to limit the emission of greenhouse gases. The encouragement of cost- effective energy efficiency measures, the development of renewable energy resources, our support for nuclear power, and the diversified and efficient supply options in the Electricity Bill are a firm basis for any future action.
Column 727when we recall that on Thursday the Government removed from the Electricity Bill the only real teeth in that measure for ensuring that there is energy efficiency and conservation?
Mr. Spicer : The hon. Gentleman knows that the Electricity Bill, which we shall be debating further later this afternoon, has two major features connected with energy efficiency. The first feature is that the entire industry is to be restructured to bring forward the most efficient forms of energy production. Secondly, for the first time in the United Kingdom's history, we shall have built into legislation requirements on the regulator to promote the interests of energy efficiency. That is a major step forward. It is extraordinary that the Opposition still fail to understand that important point.
25. Mr. Alan W. Williams : To ask the Secretary of State for Energy what research has been conducted into British public attitudes towards the role of nuclear power in tackling the greenhouse effect ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Williams : Does the Minister recognise that no matter how often he, the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for the Environment--or perhaps the ex-Secretary of State--repeat the nonsense that nuclear power is the solution to the greenhouse effect, the general public have rumbled them and believe that spending money on energy conservation rather than nuclear power makes much better economic sense and plays a much greater part in tackling the greenhouse effect?
Mr. Spicer : The Government agree that energy efficiency has its part to play, which is precisely why I gave the answer that I did to the hon. Member for Rother Valley (Mr. Barron). The hon. Gentleman, for various reasons, may not like the nuclear industry, but I am surprised that he is not prepared to accept the facts. Electricity produced through the nuclear industry accounts for only 4 per cent. of CO emissions even taking into account the Friends of the Earth figures. That is far less than the level produced by the coal industry. If the hon. Gentleman cannot understand that fact, I cannot understand how he can raise such a question.
56. Mr. Livingstone : To ask the Attorney-General, pursuant to his answer to the hon. Member for Brent, East of 29 June, Official Report, column 507 , if he will make a statement on the contents of the letter to the Director of Public Prosecutions dated 7 March from the chief constable of the Sussex police concerning the circumstances surrounding Mr. Colin Wallace's conviction for manslaughter.
Mr. Livingstone : Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman's refusal to make a statement mean that he is satisfied with the 10 questions that I put to the chief constable of Sussex about collusion to create identical police statements, police interference during the trial and
Column 728police withholding of evidence? Is he personally satisfied that all those fears are groundless and unfounded? Will he give the House that assurance?
Mr. Skinner : When the right hon. and learned Gentleman finally meets the Director of Public Prosecutions--[ Hon. Members :-- "Tomorrow."]--yes, tomorrow, does he expect to discuss the scandal at NatWest, County NatWest, Phillips and Drew and the way in which the crooks in Tory-dominated firms are getting away with blue murder? Will he tell the DPP that it is no excuse for business men, often earning more than £100,000 a year, to say, "We do not understand the niceties of the law"? Will he also tell the DPP that he should act extremely quickly because those well-paid men may follow the example of Cameron-Webb and Dixon of the PCW syndicate, fly the coop and end up in America? Under this Tory Government is there not one law for the directors who support the Tory party and another for the old lady who has a tin of pilchards out of Marks and Spencer?
The Attorney-General : The County NatWest papers have been referred not to the DPP but to the director of the serious fraud office because he is the appropriate official to consider them. That is all that it is proper for me to say at this stage, other than to suggest that it does not assist the course of justice to shout, or even to say quietly, the sort of remarks that the hon. Gentleman made. Such matters must be dealt with in a sensible, ordered and balanced way, because that is the way that justice is done in this country.
Sir John Stokes : Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that most right and hon. Members appreciate his comments? However, ordinary people look to him and others to ensure that where fraud is found in an organisation, those at the top do not escape the penalty.
The Attorney-General : Fraud is an extremely serious criminal offence, wherever it is found. That is why a great deal of trouble is taken to investigate proper allegations, to establish whether criminal proceedings are justified, and to ensure that prosecutions are properly prepared before they begin. I agree very much with my hon. Friend's comments, and I am grateful to him for them.
Mr. Fraser : Despite the Attorney-General's dismissal of the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner), is not the right hon. and learned Gentleman concerned that the Tory enterprise culture seems to have spawned a few mulit-million pound viruses in the City? The real problem is that such incidents are not occurring at the fringes of the City but at its very centre. Will the Attorney-General confirm that decisions about investigations and prosecutions are consistent and made without partiality or prejudice as to the rank, title, seniority or antecedents of the individuals concerned?
The Attorney-General : Certainly they will be. Whether it is congenial to the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) that such decisions will be taken without concern to rank, title, status or anything else, I rather doubt. Of course it is right that all prosecution decisions are taken by reference to the
Attorney-General's guidelines, laid down by my predecessor and now incorporated in the code for Crown prosecutors, a copy of which is in the Library, under the statutory authority of the Prosecution of Offences Act 1985. It is extremely important that such matters are examined absolutely impartially and fairly, and without regard to extraneous considerations.
Mr. Dykes : I appreciate that my right hon. and learned Friend cannot say much about County NatWest because a report has gone to the serious fraud office. While dissociating myself from the hysterical remarks of the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner), further to the question of my hon. Friend the Member for Halesowen and Stourbridge (Sir J. Stokes), does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that there is widespread consternation about the report's suggestions and allegations of bad handling and of dishonest behaviour in the City? There may be suggestions that that behaviour is tantamount to fraud or is fraud, and does my right hon. and learned Friend appreciate that it would not be enough for the House, and that it would be outraged, if just a small number of lower level executives were to be the scapegoats for what happened and there were no resignations at the higher level?
The Attorney-General : I repeat, misconduct of any kind connected with a breach of trust, and particularly in respect of the affairs of the City of London, is very serious. Whether or not it amounts to fraud is a matter for the director of the serious fraud office to consider in due course. However, no one who has paid attention to the comments of my noble Friend Lord Young of Graffham when he was Secretary of State for Trade and Industry can be under the slightest illusion as to the high degree of gravity that he and the Government he represented attach to such misconduct. The matter was referred by the then Secretary of State for Trade and Industry to two inspectors, and a very thorough report was prepared and published, which has been sent to the director of the serious fraud office. The gravity that right hon. and hon. Members in all parts of the House attach to the matter is entirely understandable, but the proper authorities must be allowed to do their job.
Mr. Dalyell : On the subject of misconduct, may I ask, in a quiet and sensible way, whether Mr. Ingham did not get hold of legal advice and approve its quite improper disclosure in relation to the Solicitor- General's own letter on Westlands? Also on the question of misconduct, was not Sir Michael Havers so angry when he returned from his sick bed that he threatened to have Scotland Yard at the door of No. 10 Downing street if an inquiry was not set up? Equally, on the question of misconduct--gross
Column 730misconduct--did not the Prime Minister, when cornered and in difficulty--she is now forming another Cabinet--resort, at column 657 of the Official Report for 27 January 1986, to telling Parliament, in order to get out of her difficulty, a self-preserving and self-seeking lie?
Mr. Dalyell : This is too serious a matter. It is dragging on and on. As you know, Mr. Speaker I have been to see you about this issue. It is a serious matter. Our questions have been pushed aside. Question after question has not been answered. What does the House expect--
That Mr. Tam Dalyell be suspended from the service of the House. Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 43 (Order in debate) :--
The House proceeded to a division --
Mr. Ian Taylor (Esher) (seated and covered) : On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is it in order that we are about to lose Overseas Development questions, particularly those on Brazilian rain forests which were tabled by several Conservative Members, because of the disgraceful behaviour of Labour Members?
The House having divided : Ayes 188, Noes 28.
Column 731Division No. 315] [3.21 pm
AYES Adams, Allen (Paisley N)
Alison, Rt Hon Michael
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)
Beith, A. J.
Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke)
Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas
Boscawen, Hon Robert
Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)
Boyson, Rt Hon Dr Sir Rhodes
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)
Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon Alick
Buck, Sir Antony
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)
Clark, Hon Alan (Plym'th S'n)
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest)
Coombs, Simon (Swindon)
Currie, Mrs Edwina
Davis, David (Boothferry)
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James
Dunwoody, Hon Mrs Gwyneth
Fenner, Dame Peggy
Finsberg, Sir Geoffrey
Fox, Sir Marcus
Glyn, Dr Alan
Golding, Mrs Llin
Grant, Sir Anthony (CambsSW)
Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)
Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)
Hicks, Robert (Cornwall SE)
Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.
Howarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A)
Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd)
Hughes, Roy (Newport E)
Hunt, David (Wirral W)
Hunt, Sir John (Ravensbourne)
Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas
Jones, Robert B (Herts W)
Jopling, Rt Hon Michael
Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine
King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield)
Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil
Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston)
Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark
Lloyd, Sir Ian (Havant)
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)
Lyell, Sir Nicholas
McKay, Allen (Barnsley West)
McNair-Wilson, Sir Patrick