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Column 989is inexcusable. Calling for more and better equipment for checking people and luggage when technology cannot cope is irresponsible. Pretending that such equipment exists elsewhere is even worse. The new American TNA detection machine is huge, heavy and slow, its safety has yet to be proved, and there are only two in operation in the world. The American Government and the public have not yet determined whether the gamma radiation emitted by such machines is safe.
With all this in mind, it is important to understand that a Bill that simply gives powers to the Secretary of State is no guarantee for effective action. For the Bill to pass the first test, the Government need to spell out how they will use the enabling powers. When the Government come to use those powers, they must state what steps must be taken to comply with their directions. It simply will not be good enough to fall back on saying that it is for the person to do it and for the courts to interpret what that direction means. We must also ensure that there is a sensible and flexible balance between effective security and convenient travel. Security of 100 per cent. will always be impossible unless we ground all aircraft and close all airports. Applying ultra-stringent security rules to all airports is not practical, because the travelling public will not tolerate it. Therefore, it is important to remember that, whatever changes the Bill might produce, risk assessment will remain a vital part of the future of aviation security.
The second test is whether the Bill's proposals look forward rather than backward. An all too common and unfortunate British habit is that, when faced with a tragedy, we search for a scapegoat and, with hindsight say, "If only this, that or the other had been done, the tragedy would never have happened." Opposition Members have absolute mastery of such skills. No fact is too obvious, no bereavement too tragic, for somebody to go in for a bout of finger pointing and point scoring.
Unlike the Opposition and their attempts to score cheap points, terrorists look forward, not backward, and ask what new methods they can use because everyone seems to be trying to close the loopholes that previously existed. If the Bill simply focuses on the past and on ensuring that another Lockerbie does not happen, terrorists will come up with a novel way to carry out their particularly nasty activities in the sky.
The hue and cry that has come out of Lockerbie smacks of looking back rather than forward. Of course we must guard against tragedies such as Lockerbie, but we must try to think like the terrorist and ask ourselves, "What next, where next and how next can we do something differently?".
In this context, I join other Members in drawing the Government's attention to the potential loopholes that exist in the cargo operation. There is an urgent need to re-examine that activity. Looking to the future also means trying to best-guess the technology that the terrorist will use in future. There is little to be gained from finally deciding how to discover Semtex, just as the terrorist moves on to another type of explosive.
The third test is simply to ask whether the proposals involve everyone and everything. In a global activity such as aviation, unilateral action can never be wholly effective. The Bill cannot hope to provide a total cure ; only international co-operation can do that. What is the use of a super- secure Heathrow when Athens airport still holds about as much water as a colander? To ensure that the proposals involve everyone, the Bill must also have a
Column 990domestic dimension. To deserve support, it must ensure that it catches everyone in its net and requires the participation of everybody in the industry and the travelling public.
Therefore, I share the concern of my hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Dicks) about the control authorities being exempt. They must be caught in the checking requirements, for no other reason than that they are open to blackmail to take items airside.
If we are to involve everybody, we must include the Government on a long- term basis. They must avoid the trap of regarding the Bill as the way to discharge their duty to help improve aviation security, and of believing that, having done so, they need only revert to directing and testing. However many Bills the House passes, and however many new measures are introduced at the airports, terrorism will never be eliminated while the causes that motivate the bomber still exist in the world. I am sure that the Government need little persuasion to play their part in ensuring that terrorism is made unnecessary by curing international problems.
There must be tests to ensure that the Bill is right and leads to practical proposals. Will it ensure that its proposals look forward rather than backward? Will it ensure that the proposals involve everyone and everything? If it will, it deserves the support of us all.
Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow) : First, I pay tribute to the young policemen among my constituents from Whitburn, Livingston and elsewhere who, day after day, went to Lockerbie and had the gruesome task of trying to clear up the mess. What those young people went through was formidable.
Secondly, to save time, will the Department look at my speech on the Consolidated Fund just before Christmas, in which I outlined in detail at 5.30 am various International Air Transport Association problems in relation to the importation of birds and other livestock into this country? Everything that I want to say is in that speech and I hope that the Department will reflect on those matters. Thirdly, some of us believe that the laws--difficult though they are--on the immunity of diplomatic bags must be changed because, as the hon. Member for Southampton, Test (Mr. Hill) said, abuse is going on.
Fourthly, I interrupted the Secretary of State earlier to refer to an answer of 14 December on airport security. I am not wholly convinced. Of course there are difficulties about providing sophisticated equipment for developing countries if there are not enough people to operate it, but the matter should be reconsidered because it is relatively easy to put lethal baggage on at some rather remote airport, and once it is in the system it is much more difficult to identify it when it is transferred from aircraft to aircraft.
I undertook to sit down at 6.40 pm.
Mr. Speaker : I call Mr. Snape.
Mr. Steen : Mr. Speaker, I have been waiting all day to speak--
Mr. Speaker : Order. I have called the Front-Bench spokesman.
Column 9916.40 pm
Mr. Peter Snape (West Bromwich, East) : It is a sad and frequent occurrence on these occasions that hon. Members from both sides who want to participate in debates do not, for various reasons, have the opportunity to do so. I and the Minister agreed to take the minimum possible time and I can only apologise to hon. Members who have had to truncate their speeches or who have not been called.
The Bill will strengthen security at Britain's air and sea ports. The Opposition will support it, as we would support any Bill with such good intentions. We welcome the Bill, but as we have made clear in the debate we believe that it has a number of fundamental defects that must be remedied. I give notice to the Under-Secretary of State that we shall seek to deal with those defects and flaws in Committee.
The Bill does not go far enough in its attempt to curtail the threat of activities likely to endanger aircraft, ships, their crews and the travelling public. Our main objection to the Bill has to do with funding. There is no significant increase in funding and no proper provision for the security that we would like at our airfields and sea ports.
Whenever the Opposition suggest that the Government are not doing enough, Conservatives ask, "Who will pay?" They always ask where the money will come from. We have made it plain, as did the Select Committee, that the restoration of an aviation security fund would go a long way towards providing the necessary money properly to protect passengers and crew.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott) said, the Select Committee agreed with us. In paragraph 30 of its third report it pointed out :
"The levy did provide a means whereby airlines and the travelling public could see how much they were paying for security and make a judgment as to whether that represented value for money"-- a key phrase that should appeal to Conservatives, who always talk about value for money. This Select Committee, with a Conservative majority, emphasised that point and made a recommendation that we wholeheartedly support.
The Select Committee also made a number of criticisms about inadequacies that it perceived in aviation security, and went on to point out in paragraph 31 :
"The whole ethos of financing security appears to be reactive : to provide funds to tighten up loopholes after terrorists have demonstrated their existence."
It is the custom for those who wind up debates to refer to speeches that have been made during them--a custom that I have always supported and tried to follow. With only six minutes left I am in some difficulty about doing so today, but I want to draw the attention of the hon. Member for Spelthorne (Mr. Wilshire), who made the last and worst speech from the Conservative Benches, to the Select Committee's recommendations.
Mr. Wilshire : I take that as a compliment.
Mr. Snape : The hon. Gentleman would ; that illustrates his mental capacities. Pomposity in one so young is not a particularly attractive trait, but added to self-delusion it gives me even more cause to worry about what I hope will be the hon. Gentleman's short career in the House.
The problems and inadequacies in security that we have pointed out, especially since Lockerbie, have needed to be pointed out to the Government --we make no bones about that. It is the purpose of the Opposition to point out
Column 992perceived inadequacies of the Government, and we shall go on pointing out shortcomings in aviation and maritime security and suggesting alternatives and how they might be funded.
The Government are not willing to commit extra funding to the relevant security services and the other authorities that will need it. For instance, the Bill does not mention extra resources for Customs and Excise, whose officers will presumably have some part to play in administering the extra security that we want. I hope that when the Committee of Selection decides the membership of the Standing Committee to consider this Bill it will examine some of the contributions from Members today and select accordingly. I hope, for example, that the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Dicks), to whom I always refer as representing the intellectual wing of the Conservative party, will be a member of the Standing Committee, because his Select Committee has made a valuable contribution and we should value his expertise during the passage of the legislation. The hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington pointed out that when Mr. Gregory Peck left an aircraft at Heathrow he was met by a great number of journalists, which must have caused him enormous concern. I hope that he managed to break the habit of a lifetime and toss them the odd crumb of news as he made his way down the gangway. But the serious point about the Government's attitude during the past year, as the Select Committee said, is that the Government's proposals to tighten security at Heathrow are aimed at least as much at journalists as at terrorists. Some Conservative Members did not like it, but my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, East rightly said that the first people to have punitive action taken against them and to have airside passes removed were those guilty of taking photographs of a previous Secretary of State leaving an aeroplane. That is no way in which to instil confidence that the Government's intentions are honourable.
The hon. Member for Southampton, Test (Mr. Hill) rightly reminded us that some clauses refer to maritime safety and the ports. He and the hon. Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Shersby) pointed out the problems that arise now, and are likely to arise in the future, in the recruitment of security staff with some of the duties of constables but with none of their responsibilities. Both hon. Gentlemen know the reasons behind such recruitment. Security staff working 70 hours a week for £1.75 per hour are cheaper than police constables whose pay is nationally agreed and whose conditions of service are laid down. When Conservative Members point out the deficiencies, I wish that occasionally they would point out to their Front Bench spokesmen that public sector expenditure is not necessarily a bad thing. Reducing public sector expenditure by cutting the number of police constables employed at Britain's ports in no way demonstrates the Government's concern about the safety and future security of such installations. The Bill does not go far enough, and in Committee we shall attempt to persuade the Government of that. I hope that when the Minister is in an environment where a little more time is available, he will be better prepared to listen than has been the Secretary of State or the previous Secretary of State. If he is prepared to listen, improved security at our airports and sea ports can be achieved. That is the desire of both sides of the House.
Column 9936.52 pm
The Minister of Aviation and Shipping (Mr. Patrick McLoughlin) : I am pleased to note that basically all hon. Members have given a warm welcome to the legislation. It is important that as much as is possible we have total unity in our attempt to ensure that the security at our airports and ports is as good as is expected. The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott) was, yet again, clutching at straws. There have been a number of changes during the past 12 months. The amount of money now spent by airports on security has vastly increased and the number of people they employ in carrying out security checks has also increased. The British Airports Authority employed 2,000 people in December 1988 ; the number increased to 2,981 by January of this year. That significant improvement is because of the directions issued by the Department of Transport. The authority realises that security is vital not only to the House but to the industry and to the travelling public. It is in the interests of both the airlines and the airports to ensure that they are used as safely as possible.
Neither I nor the Government accept the idea that there must be a central collected fund to ensure that those improvements are administered. The best way to ensure that security is implemented by the airports is by direction. If they fail to carry out our directions, we shall take the action that will be available to us under the legislation. If airports fail to carry out our directions, they can expect to be prosecuted. I assure the hon. Member for West Bromwich, East (Mr. Snape) that the Government will prosecute where it is necessary.
Of the Select Committee's 28 recommendations last year, the Government accepted 21, and we hope that they will be implemented as soon as possible. However, they cannot be implemented overnight, and the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East accepted that. A number of interesting points were raised during the debate but I cannot answer all of them as we have only a short time. I shall write to those hon. Members that I have not answered. We will have a number of opportunities during Committee to discuss the Bill in greater detail and to consider some of the arguments. I hope that we can also deal with some of the fears expressed.
My hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Dicks) expressed his concern that the searching of customs and immigration officers should not be excluded. I assure him that we gave careful consideration to that point, and only those with warrant cards will be exempt. If there is still a difficulty, a senior officer can be called. That was one of the recommendations of the Transport Select Committee, but apparently not when those members were responding to emergency calls. A better clarification of our system would be to have a policy wholly about warrant officers and people carrying warrant cards.
The hon. Member for Southport (Mr. Fearn) made some strange comments at the beginning of his speech. He suggested that the Bill would give us too many powers. I am not sure how we can have too many powers when we are trying to defeat terrorists. In some cases those powers are reserve powers. On the marine aspect we are merely setting up a body similar to that which already exists for aviation. That does not mean that we can mirror-image
Column 994everything that we do on aviation, but we shall consider individual ports, and to have the power of direction at some ports is welcome. I hope that that goes some way to answer the points raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Test (Mr. Hill). Some ports have already taken many of the precautions that we desire. An article in this morning's Lloyd's List welcomed us having those powers if the need arose. It would be irresponsible if the legislation were passed without introducing those powers.
I understand the comments and concerns of my hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Shersby) and in Committee we shall carefully consider his points. Concern was expressed that private security firms could carry firearms. That will not be the position. We are in discussion with the Home Office on the future of the docks police force. I hope that I can arrange for my hon. Friend to receive a good answer to his outstanding correspondence, and that we can erase some of his fears during Committee.
The hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Doran) expressed some fears about whether clause 8 could be used in an industrial dispute. Although I accept that the powers are widely drawn, it is because of the background of terrorism. Anything that we do under those powers would need the permission of the Attorney-General or the procurator fiscal in Scotland. Therefore, the hon. Gentleman need not be too worried about the use of those powers.
The speeches of hon. Members on both sides have clearly supported the Government's determination to continue to develop and improve our security against international terrorists. The legislation will enable the Government and the aviation and maritime industries, as partners in a common cause of protecting the passengers and crew of aircrafts and ships, to develop and improve the security measures at our airports and seaports.
The new legislation, taken together with the Aviation Security Act 1982, will provide the vital regulatory framework for security. However, to have effective security, we must look to the security staff at our airports and seaports, to the airline and shipping operators, who are in the front line. It is also vital that all who work at airports should be aware of the constant need for security, and should co-operate in playing their part in the security procedures. Security also requires the co-operation, patience and forbearance of the passengers. The year since Lockerbie has shown the readiness of passengers to help with the security procedures. I hope that the Bill receives the support of the House.
Question put and agreed to.
Bill accordingly read a Second time, and committed to a Standing Committee pursuant to Standing Order No. 61 (Committal of Bills).
Queen's Recommendation having been signified--
That, for the purposes of any Act resulting from the Aviation and Maritime Security Bill, it is expedient to authorise the payment out of money provided by Parliament of--
(a) any expenses of the Secretary of State under that Act, and (
(b) any increase attributable to that Act in the sums so payable under any other Act.-- [Mr. McLoughlin.]
Column 995Mr. Speaker : Order. It might be for the convenience of the House if we suspended the proceedings for one minute. I suggest that there would be no point in proceeding with the draft Co- operative Development Agency (Winding-up and Dissolution) Order 1989, since private business comes on at 7 o'clock.
Mr. Peter Snape (West Bromwich, East) : On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Anxious as ever to be helpful, perhaps I might make a brief comment. One would have thought that a Government Whip would have done the job that I am now performing. As we have dealt with the money resolution, perhaps I may seek your guidance, Mr. Speaker, about the composition of the Standing Committee.
It is custom and practice for the Committee of Selection to consider carefully those who have made contributions to the Second Reading debate when deciding the membership of the Standing Committee. I am aware of a few Conservative Members who have the proper expertise in the subject but who were not able to catch your eye, Mr. Speaker, and speak during the debate. I hope that I shall not make myself any more unpopular with them when I suggest that they might be able to make their contributions during the Committee stage, when at least their remarks would be appreciated by Opposition Members, if not by Conservative Members.
Mr. Speaker : I respond to that point of order in the spirit in which it was made, because it is always pleasant to deal with a point made by an hon. Member who has had some experience of the management of the business of the House. I am sure that what he said will have been carefully noted by the Chairman of the Committee of Selection, whose responsibility it is.
Order for Third Reading read.
Mr. Michael Brown (Brigg and Cleethorpes) : I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.
The House will recall that there have been a number of opportunities in the previous two years and three months to consider the merits of the Bill. We debated the measure at considerable length on Second Reading and we had the opportunity of considering it in the Private Bill Committee. The special report which that Committee produced has been available to the House, and several hon. Members on both sides have referred to it.
Mr. Michael Welsh (Doncaster, North) : On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. On various occasions when the Bill has been discussed, the hon. Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes (Mr. Brown) has either not spoken or has spoken so quickly that we have not been able to understand him. The fact that our debates are now being televised should not make any difference to our proceedings. In other words, should he not proceed as he has proceeded before, and speak so quickly that nobody can understand him?
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harold Walker) : Order. Mr. Brown.
Mr. Brown : I shall speak at a pace which I hope will enable the House in general and the hon. Gentleman in particular to understand what I am saying. As the comment was once made that I owed it to the House to give an outline of the purposes and benefits of the Bill, I shall do that briefly, bearing in mind the fact that Opposition Members will want time in which to contribute to the debate. I was honoured and proud to have the opportunity to bring the Bill before the House on behalf of the promoters. As the Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes, I am proud to represent the port of Immingham, which is operated by Associated British Ports, a company that was brought into the private sector by my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir N. Fowler) when he was Secretary of State for Transport. I served on my first Standing Committee in the 1980-81 Session, when my right hon. Friend privatised that company, with the result that it is now so successful that it can raise funds from the private sector. For the development that is proposed under the powers in the Bill, it has raised £30 million to develop the port of Immingham.
Associated British Ports is seeking these powers simply to bring the port of Immingham into the 21st century. The port is at present limited in the size of vessels that it can take because of the lock gates. The Bill would enable Associated British Ports to build a jetty into the River Humber so that the largest vessels in the world--which are currently unable to come to United Kingdom ports and instead go to ports such as Rotterdam, thereby depriving Britain's ports of vital revenues--could come here.
Mr. Ronnie Campbell (Blyth Valley) : Would the hon. Gentleman care to tell the House on how many occasions he has visited South Africa and at whose invitation he went there?
Column 997Mr. Brown : I would be happy to do that, although I fear that Mr. Deputy Speaker would rule me out order were I to go into that subject in the context in which the hon. Gentleman raised it. The entries in the Register of Members' Interests are available to the hon. Gentleman. All the information that he requires is there. I last visited South Africa in January 1989 at my own expense. I paid for my aeroplane ticket and hotel accommodation.
Mr. Jimmy Hood (Clydesdale) : On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. When we previously debated this measure, my hon. Friend the Member for Makerfield (Mr. McCartney) raised a point of order concerning an hon. Member who, he said, was sleeping on the Bench below the Gangway. Although we have only just started to debate the Bill, I note that already a Member is asleep on the Bench beyond the Bar.
Mr. Deputy Speaker : Order. The House takes no account of what happens beyond the Bar.
Mr. Brown : The Bill applies not only to the port of Immingham. New port facilities are also proposed for King's Lynn which I know are welcomed by my hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, North-West (Mr. Bellingham), and for the Port Talbot Associated British Ports facility.
There has been some controversy during the passage of the Bill, and some Opposition Members have been concerned about the implications for the coal industry were the Bill to become law. I reassert, as I have done on many occasions, that the Bill is not concerned with coal imports. It is for the electricity and coal industries to work out between themselves whether more coal should be imported.
Several Hon. Members rose--
Mr. Brown : I will gladly give way to one of the several Opposition Members who are endeavouring to interrupt me when I have completed the matter I am now raising.
Coal contracts have been negotiated successfully between British Coal and the new private electricity companies that will shortly come into being. The whole House, and certainly hon. Members who represent coal mining constituencies, will join British Coal in expressing satisfaction at the successful negotiations that were completed towards the end of 1989. So there need be no doubt that the Bill will in any way damage the British coal industry, to the success of which we look forward in the years to come.
Mr. Peter Hardy (Wentworth) : The hon. Gentleman is now discussing coal. I tried to intervene earlier to make a point about transport. He said that the Bill would represent a £30 million investment at Immingham port. May we have an assurance that that port will not bring grievous disadvantage to people living in the areas through which the lorries will pour as a result of that unnecessary port development?
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that when the House considered the Felixstowe Dock and Railway Bill it was pointed out that a reputable survey had been carried out--I am sure that the hon. Member for Southampton, Test (Mr. Hill) will confirm this--which showed that we did not need vast expenditure on additional port capacity in the United Kingdom because we had quite enough already?
Mr. Brown : The great advantage of Associated British Ports being in the private sector is that it can decide what market opportunities are available to it. It is for ABP, in considering market circumstances, to make the decisions, Thankfully, now that we no longer have the old British transport docks board, it is not for this House to make such decisions. I remind the hon. Gentleman that I would be the most likely Member of the House to receive the most representations if the Bill were to be detrimental to my constituents. I have received no representations from any other constituency about the transport implications.
Immingham docks are now linked to the M180. That road project was delayed by the previous Labour Government. The first parliamentary question that I put to the Secretary of State for Transport when I was elected was whether he would extend the M180 to the ports of Immingham and Grimsby. Thanks to investment in the road infrastructure in and around south Humberside, we now have superb road transport facilities. That means that no heavy goods vehicles need cause any trouble or inconvenience to people in the small villages in south Humberside and south Yorkshire.
Mr. Geoffrey Lofthouse (Pontefract and Castleford) rose--
Mr. Brown : I have been generous in giving way and shall give way to the hon. Gentleman with whom I had the honour to serve until recently on the Select Committee on Energy. However, we must make progress because many hon. Members wish to speak.
Mr. Lofthouse : Does the hon. Gentleman recall that during a recent meeting of the Select Committee Malcolm Edwards, the marketing director of British Coal, made clear in answer to a question from me that the only real reason for the extension of the ports was the importation of coal? If the Bill will have no effect on our coal industry, why did not the hon. Gentleman and the promoters of the Bill accept British Coal's amendments?
Mr. Brown : That is not my interpretation of what happened in the Select Committee. British Coal has successfully negotiated future contracts with the electricity industry. The Bill's primary purpose is to ensure that the port industry can compete on equal terms with the best in the rest of Europe and the world. We are discussing a Bill that will facilitate exports and imports. Many companies in my constituency, such as Norsk Hydro and SCM Chemicals, which have to import dried bulk cargo, will be better able to import their raw materials and enabled to go about their manufacturing business at cheaper cost.
Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover) rose--
Mr. Brown : It is always a privilege to give way to the hon. Gentleman, but this is the last time that I shall give way.
Mr. Skinner : The hon. Gentleman has moved the Third Reading of a private Bill. Both he and his colleagues have made great play of the fact that the Bill has nothing to do with the Government or the Conservative party. He told the House that the infrastructure in the area had been improved through Government action. He also said that there have been discussions and negotiations between two nationalised industries and one that is now privatised to ensure coal arrangements. That is another political decision.
Column 999The hon. Gentleman, as the surrogate Member for Johannesburg, has the cheek to tell us that he is putting forward a private Bill. The argument that we have sustained for a long time is that the Bill is part of the same political argument that he makes in relation to the infrastructure in his constituency. For that reason the Bill should not be a private measure. It should be brought forward by the Government as a political measure, because its net result will be that more coal will be imported. We already have a balance of payments deficit of £20 billion, and coal imports will add to that.
Mr. Brown : Associated British Ports is a major company in my constituency. It came to me and indicated its intentions and the tremendous benefits in terms of jobs, not only in the ports but in construction, that would accrue to my constituents. I volunteered to assist in piloting the Bill, and I commend it to the House. 7.14 pm
Mr. Stanley Orme (Salford, East) : I shall be brief. As my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) said, to all intents and purposes this is a Government Bill. It has Government support and is whipped by the Government-- [Interruption.] One does not need three lines on a piece of paper to be able to say that a Bill is being whipped. We know very well that the Government have thrown their full weight behind the measure. The vote will show the number of Ministers and Cabinet Ministers who pass through the Division Lobby. Since the Bill started its progress through the House, there have been some dramatic changes not only in the coal industry but in the electricity industry. We have also seen dramatic changes to our imports and our balance of payments, and all those changes have dramatically altered the balance of argument about the Bill. The hon. Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes (Mr. Brown) said that the Bill has nothing to do with the import of cheap coal, but that is nonsense. The investment in improving port facilities will result in an increase in imported coal. That will have an adverse effect because it will lead to job losses in the United Kingdom coal industry, increased coal prices, which will affect electricity prices, inflation, and an aggravation of the balance of payments deficit, both as a whole and in the fuel balance of trading. Coal will be imported from south America, Poland and South Africa. Initially, that coal will be cheaper than British coal but that will not last. Prior and McCloskey have carried out some work on this issue and their figures show that by 1995 imported coal will be dearer than British coal. By that time we will have got rid of about another 40,000 miners and it will not be possible to reverse the trend in indigenous coal.
We are in an exceedingly serious position. This nation has the gift of coal that will last for 200 or 300 years and it can be used particularly by the electricity industry. The areas hardest hit will be the north-east and not least Nottinghamshire. The Nottinghamshire field has some rich seams, and many pits there will be closed and miners thrown out of work. The hon. Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes should listen to the arguments. He might see the matter as funny but we are discussing thousands of mining jobs.
Column 1000We believe in the future of British industry, not least in mining. In the light of the increase in oil prices, the price of imported coal will go up and our coal will not be mined because of redundancies. On the "Today" programme this morning it was calculated that within the next few years 40,000 miners will go from an already depleted industry.
Mr. Martin Redmond (Don Valley) : I regret that my right hon. Friend's comments appear to be falling on stony ground. Conservative Members, except perhaps for two, do not care what happens to the Nottinghamshire coalfield. They simply go through the motions in the Chamber in an attempt to ensure that they will be representing their constituencies after the next election. Will my right hon. Friend stress the serious effect that the Bill will have not only on mining but on the nation? It will also exploit the use of slave labour in the production of cheap coal in South Africa and Colombia.
Mr. Orme : I agree with every word my hon. Friend says. Although the coal to be imported is cheap at the moment, the rise in world prices and the increased price of oil mean that it will not be cheap in years to come. My hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover referred to the balance of payments deficit. For the first 11 months of 1989, it stands at £19.3 billion, and will probably reach £20 billion when the December figure is known. Moreover, for the first time in our history there is a fuel trade deficit. That stands at an all-time high, and for 1989 is projected to be 18.5 million tonnes. Britain used to be self-sufficient in coal, but both deficits will increase if coal imports grow, putting further pressure on the economy.
We are talking about the future of mining, which is a crucial part of the United Kingdom's manufacturing output. The Bill spells the end of the industry as we know it.
Mr. Michael Welsh : Is it not a fact that if the Bill is enacted coal imports will increase to such an extent that our supplies will give us no security? We cannot decide subsequently to produce more coal because once a pit is closed it cannot be reopened. Coal production cannot operate simply according to supply and demand ; there must be planned production. That is the difference between coal mining and other industries. Opposition Members will vote against the Bill tonight and I ask Conservative Members to think seriously on behalf of the nation before they vote tonight. If the Bill is enacted, we shall be at the mercy of the world market with coal being divided up among business men, and we may find that our industries cannot afford it.
Mr. Orme : I agree with my hon. Friend. Even with drift mines we are talking of between eight and 10 years for a new mine to be developed. That is the sort of planning that is necessary. Pits in the Nottinghamshire and south Yorkshire areas are classic examples. There are profitable pits with plenty of coal, but even in the short term they will face closure because imports will knock them out. Then, when import prices rise, we will not be able to replace them. We shall be at the mercy of imports and import prices.
Mr. Hood : I am sure that my right hon. Friend is aware that the high-production pits in Nottinghamshire produce 80 per cent. of steam coal- -coal that can be burned only in power stations. My right hon. Friend will be aware, although few, if any, Conservative Members are, that the
Column 1001consequences for the Nottinghamshire pits have been very much understated. They will be far greater than has been suggested.
Mr. Orme : I agree with my hon. Friend, who has personal knowledge of Nottinghamshire.
Our opposition to the Bill tonight is not a narrow, negative opposition ; it is about the future of the industry and of our economy. We believe that the Bill is bad and should be defeated. 7.25 pm