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Mr. Geoffrey Lofthouse (Pontefract and Castleford) : Like many other Opposition Members, I was born into a mining community and worked in mining all my life before coming to this place. I want to tell Conservative Members, especially those who represent Nottinghamshire, that although I understand that they are representing the interests of their constituents and opposing the threat to their livelihoods, I take great exception to the way in which the miners whom I have loved all my life have been deliberately deceived in the past.
After past debates on the Bill I was sick in the guts to read press reports that Nottinghamshire Conservative Members had accused the Opposition of not blocking the Bill. It was never reported that Conservative Members had told their constituents that the Conservative Government and their supporters were pushing the Bill through the House--a Bill that was going to close many Nottinghamshire pits. Miners are genuine, hard-working people and they are not to be deceived. Conservative Members representing Nottinghamshire know that as a result of tonight's vote the Bill will be passed and many pits in Nottinghamshire and elsewhere will close.
Since the early days of the Bill, all hon. Members have known that it has had Government support. On the first occasion we saw the Prime Minister leading her troops through the Lobby in the early hours. I and other hon.
Column 1024Members have sat through every step of the debate on the Bill. Indeed, I sat through most of the debates in Committee.
I was aware of the unenviable task that faced the Chairman of the Committee and his Conservative colleagues. They were aware of the Government's support for the Bill, although I do not suggest that they were anything but impartial. Having said that, I hope that the hon. Member for Rochford (Dr. Clark)--the Chairman of the Committee--will tell us whether, had he been aware that the Government were not going to take into consideration the wishes of the special report and give consideration to the effect on the mining communities, he would have given his casting vote. With greatest respect to the hon. Gentleman, I do not share his view that the Government still have time. Had the Government intended to make a statement arising from the special report, they would have done so tonight.
Dr. Michael Clark : The hon. Gentleman's last comment anticipated the answer that I had intended to give him. It was the answer I gave in my intervention in the speech of the hon. Member for Rother Valley (Mr. Barron). I said that I still think that there is plenty of time for the Government to take whatever steps are necessary to protect the coal industry should that facility be used heavily for the importation of coal. As for my voting intentions tonight, I shall be abstaining, following the pattern that is traditional for Chairmen of Committees. Indeed, I have abstained in all Divisions since I took the Chair, as have many other Committee Members.
Mr. Lofthouse : I should be grateful if the hon. Gentleman could say what is meant by the phrase, "taking all the necessary steps to protect the mining communities." I was astounded to hear the hon. Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes (Mr. Brown) say what he did because he has sat for years on the Energy Select Committee taking evidence on the coal report and the Electricity Bill. Without exception, he has heard much expert evidence from different chairmen of British Coal, different Secretaries of State for Energy and Lord Marshall, all of whom at some time conceded that the importation of coal means the running down of the mining industry.
Recently Malcolm Edwards, the marketing director of British Coal, told the Committee that the ports were to be extended for the major purpose of the importation of coal. That is a fact and the House knows it. If the mining industry is run down to 60 million tonnes--I am aware that under the new agreement it goes to 65 million tonnes in three years--and the press statement from British coal is true, the figures must be renegotiated in three years time and reduced to the magic figure of 60 million tonnes--the magic figure in that leaked document. It has never been denied. In five years time that will coincide with the extension of the ports, which will be ready to receive a further 5 million tonnes. That means the loss of 30,000 miners' jobs over and above the 27,000 that have been lost in the past five years.
In the mining communities in 1989 the average age of the workforce was 34, so without the attractive redundancy payments that miners over 50 have received hitherto those young men will be without any future prospects or even any weekly payments to cushion the blow. When we are told that the Government will take
Column 1025steps in relation to the mining communities, what sort of steps are meant? In fact, no steps at all will be taken, and the hon. Member for Rochford knows that only too well.
It is clear to many people, certainly to my hon. Friends and I, that what is proposed is all part of Government policy to run down the mining industry for purely dogmatic reasons. The Government are prepared to finance, at great expense to the taxpayer, 20 per cent. of nuclear supply to the electricity industry. Nobody knows the true cost of that. Recent figures put to the Select Committee on Energy by British Nuclear Fuels gave a decommissioning cost at present prices of £4.6 billion. Nobody can possibly know what the true cost will be if and when decommissioning becomes necessary in due course. It is clear that the Government are prepared to spend a lot to run down the mining industry and extend the ports. Once we reach a demand level of 60 million tonnes, the coal industry will have been run down to such an extent that we shall not be able to meet the demand from the electricity industry. We will then be in the hands of foreign competitors. The additional demand for coal will have to be met by coal from abroad. For how long then will prices stay low? It is deceitful to try to shelter behind a document stating that the Government will bear in mind the consequences of what is proposed in the mining industry. I have tried to explain those consequences. I urge hon. Members tonight to think carefully before taking a drastic decision. No Conservative Member can put his hand on his heart and say that further imports will not be necessary. It is clear that the proposed extension of the ports is designed to cater for the rapid rundown of the industry and of miners' jobs. Before that takes place, we have a moral obligation to the mining communities, many of which, like mine, have already been destroyed. It must be made clear what will be done for those communities before such a drastic step is taken.
I appeal to the hon. Member for Rochford and all Conservative Members to give serious consideration to the points that I have raised. They should join us in throwing out the Bill, at least until we have received firm assurances on behalf of the mining communities.
Mr. Nicholas Bennett (Pembroke) : I was wondering why we had not seen in his place the hon. Member for Dagenham (Mr. Gould). Having heard the hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Ms. Ruddock) and other Opposition Members, I now know why the hon. Member for Dagenham has not joined us. After all, he was the architect of the Labour party policy document about making the change and meeting the challenge or making the challenge and meeting the change. I cannot recall the precise title of that document. Whatever it was, it was a vacuous title of meaningless words. Mr. Eadie rose--
Mr. Bennett : If the hon. Gentleman thinks that the policy document to which I referred was frivolous, I agree with him. It is clear from what has transpired tonight that that cleverly packaged, well-written, meaningless policy document was designed to convince us that the Labour party had become consumer friendly, was in favour of competition, was against monopoly and wanted to get rid of the big bad old nationalised industries and their poor ways. But we find that, when Labour Members are scratched, they really want to go back to the good old days of anti- competition, import controls and restrictions on industry. They want to stop anybody importing and companies setting up businesses in this country, and they do not want new ports. They want a siege economy. The Opposition do not want industrial change. They want a nice cosy monopoly for the National Union of Mineworkers.
Mr. Eadie : I wish that the hon. Gentleman had given way earlier. He was a bit rude. I had intended to assist him. My hon. Friend the Member for Dagenham (Mr. Gould) wrote to me and apologised for not being able to be here to contribute to the debate. He is on unavoidable business elsewhere. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will accept his apologies in good faith.
Mr. Bennett : The hon. Gentleman says that the hon. Member for Dagenham is unavoidably away. I am not surprised. If he were here he would see that all the revisionism of the last 12 months has been swept away in one night and that we are back to the good old-fashioned Labour party of the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. If the hon. Member for Dagenham could see that he would be ashamed.
Mr. Bennett : The hon. Member, who is an expert in nastiness, accuses me of being nasty. I was merely pointing out for his edification that the underlying opposition to the Bill is opposition to competion. All the arguments used to oppose the Bill have been used by protectionists over the years to oppose any competition from abroad to British industry. It has not done British industry any good to be protected for 100 years. Competition has improved it and that has been brought about by market forces and by the customer having an alternative.
The Labour party wants to ensure that there is no alternative and that the customer is forced to use the product of an industry dominated by one trade union by which many Opposition Members are sponsored. That is the real reason for their fervent opposition to the Bill.
Mr. Illsley : When the hon. Gentleman talks about competition, is he referring to fair competition or to competition from countries such as Colombia with its drug industry and its child labour? Is he talking about South Africa? We have heard much in the debate about the situation in Colombia, South Africa and China. Has he considered the £1.2 billion that our coal industry has paid to the Central Electricity Generating Board since 1980? If price reductions had not been forced on British Coal over the past 10 years British Coal would be profitable even now. British Coal has paid out hundreds of millions of pounds in interest charges every year for the last decade to the Government, who paid over the money to the CEGB
Column 1027to fatten it up before privatisation. We are not afraid of competition. British Coal can compete with some of the best, but it cannot compete with unfair competition.
Mr. Bennett : Clearly the hon. Gentleman has not been following proceedings on the Coal Industry Bill. At the moment the Government are writing off a British Coal debt of between £4 billion and £5 billion. If the coal industry can claim to be supported by any Government, it is the present Government.
We are talking about the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes (Mr. Brown) having the opportunity for a £30 million investment in the construction of a new port. Any hon. Member who had the opportunity for such investment in his constituency would be fighting for it. I congratulate my hon. Friend on speaking up for his constituency. I would be delighted to have a £30 million investment in my constituency. In my area we are considering an application by the CEGB to import coal to Milford Haven. I warmly support that because the customer comes first and the best way to improve the performance of British Coal and our mining industry is by the force of competition from abroad. We are faced with a balance of payments deficit, and it is wrong to try to get round it by setting up a siege economy and banning imports. We should improve the competitiveness of British industry so that it can compete with foreign imports and sell abroad.
Mr. Michael Brown : Does my hon. Friend recall that when I was first elected to the House I represented a steel industry constituency and that Britain had a large, monopolistic supplier of steel? That industry had to compete with foreign steel and, as a result of having to face international competition, it is now one of the most successful industries in the world. It is profitable and private and serves the customer. That is an example for the coal industry that protectionism does no industry any good.
Mr. Bennett : My hon. Friend is right. One has only to look at the shake-up in British Steel in the early 1980s following the disastrous strike at the beginning of the 1980s led by Mr. Bill Sirs. The British steel industry, having shed a large part of its work force, has become lean, competitive and able to compete abroad. For example, in Llanwern in south Wales, half the labour force now produces twice as much. That is the way forward for British Coal and for other old-fashioned nationalised industries that for too long have been protected.
I am concerned that tonight we have the same old-fashioned, anti- competitive, monopolistic views from the Labour party. It has not changed its real policies one jot. When we have a debate such as this, away goes the glitz and the fancy packaging and out comes the reality of the Labour party, wedded to the union block vote, to sponsorship and to the views of the masters who put Labour Members into this place. They are not interested in competition ; they are interested only in protecting their own industry from the forces of competition which every other industry in Britain has to face. It would be a sad day for Britain if the Bill were defeated tonight. It would mean that the customer did not come first. It would mean that the producer, the supplier,
Column 1028came first, and that would not be right for the future of British industry. I hope that the Bill will receive its Third Reading. 9.21 pm
The Bill has helped to give rise to misgivings about the private Bill procedure. It, above all private Bills, has created disquiet. Having been a member of the Committee that considered the Bill for five and a half months, I can well understand why.
You, Mr. Deputy Speaker, do not wear a wig, but you wear another hat as Chairman of Ways and Means, and you are conducting an inquiry into the private Bill procedure. Some months ago, you said that hon. Members who sat on private Bill Committees should be objective, fair and reasonable.
As I understand it, private Bills basically relate to planning permission, and that can be controversial. A major development in any area can affect the environment or the community, but it is not usually as politically sensitive as this Bill has been.
Four Back Benchers, three of them of only a few months' standing, have served on the Committee considering the Bill. It dealt with imports and exports during a period when our balance of payments deficit increased from £2 billion to £20 billion. It dealt with attempts to regenerate parts of south Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire that were savagely hit by the decline of industry in the past. The Bill is deeply political in a way that no private Bill should be.
The Bill has been intertwined with, and has taken the place of, Government legislation, by opening the door to the privatisation of the electricity industry. The sponsor says that it does not necessarily have anything to do with the future of the coal industry. The truth is that I and other hon. Members considered the Bill in Committee for five and a half months, in 26 double sessions. Advice on that Bill and on an adjacent Bill came from the well-known management consultants Coopers and Lybrand, who stated that, excluding scrap, iron ore and coal, the ports on the Humber could develop only to the tune of 8 per cent. more business between 1982 and 1987, which is less than 2 per cent. a year.
On the basis of the figures presented to the Committee by the promoters of the Bill, there is no justification for expenditure of £30.5 million at 1988 prices and of development costs of as much as £370 million at Immingham on the basis of the trade expected there, if coal is excluded. Steel and scrap is dealt with by British Steel using its own facilities, so the only product that could be imported is coal.
The Committee was wholly political, in that its two Conservative members voted for the Bill and against amendments, whereas two Labour members voted against the Bill--and having failed to defeat it, then voted for the amendments. We know full well about people who take the chair and use their vote. Bradford has had two Tory lord mayors who helped to pass all kinds of controversial measures over the past 18 months by using their casting vote.
Column 1029Committee? Labour and Conservative Members take it in turns to chair Committees, and by manipulating that convention it was possible to ensure that the Committee's Chairman would be a Conservative, who could influence the result of the voting.
Mr. Wall : My hon. Friend knows more about such procedures than I do, as a relatively new Member of this House. Two Bills were taken together, and the normal procedure would be for an Opposition Member to chair one of the Committees and for a Government Member to chair the other. If that had been done, the Opposition too would have had a casting vote.
The port in question cannot be for any purpose other than the importation of coal. In response to the hon. Member for Derbyshire, South (Mrs. Currie), cars are not brought in on Panamax ships of 80, 000 and 100,000 tonnes. How many chemical manufacturers on Humberside import chemicals in those quantities? Not one. It only makes sense to compete against the ports of Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Antwerp--the ARA ports--if one can import a bulk cargo--and that can be nothing but coal.
I believe that the Committee's Tory members were embarrassed and under pressure, not from Conservative Members representing Nottinghamshire constituencies but from the Government, as a result of the hatred that resides in certain sections of the Tory party towards miners and mining communities. No such Committees would normally demand concessions from the promoter of a Bill unless even its Conservative Members were well aware that coal importation was the issue really at stake.
I am the grandson of a dock worker and was brought up politically on the Mersey docks, where I learned to debate and to fight politically among dockers and the dock industry. I have nothing against the development of Immingham or of any other port. However, only a madman would deliberately open a facility that cannot be economically viable or used sensibly except for importing coal. Even a little Englander does not deliberately set out to sabotage his own economy. The only cargo that can come in is coal and that coal can only replace coking coal that goes to the power stations in the Trent and Aire valleys, and that will mean the loss of miners' jobs. I shall bring my contribution to an end with two quotations. Doctor Ben Fine told the private Bill Committee that the Bill would mean the deliberate importation of between 7 and 10 million tonnes of foreign coal into the Humber to ruin jobs. In Committee, we spoke of 15 pits and 15,000 jobs, and Doctor Fine said it could be 28 pits and 28,000 jobs. He went on to say :
"According to our figures, the economic and social costs of pit closures will be made up of three components. First, lump sum redundancy payments will be of the order of between £191 million and £360 million, depending upon the extent and consequences of transfers. Second the annual recurrent direct costs due to dole payments and lost income tax, etc. will be in the region of £150 million and this cost will be supplemented through the multiplier effect on other jobs by a further £100 million."
Doctor Fine spoke of a total cost of more than £600 million, and of further devastation in areas such as south Yorkshire, Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire, upon an industry that has lost 97,000 jobs and has seen nearly 100 pits closed, with all the problems that that has already caused for those communities.
The Humber ports, without the deep anchorage, already import twice as much as they export.
Mr. Joseph Ashton (Bassetlaw) : While my hon. Friend is talking about losses, can he not mention the profits that the newly privatised electricity industry will make? They want to build a new power station in my constituency. It was promised, and then turned down by the Government. The electricity industry will make enormous profits out of the cheap coal that it can bring in. The two tie together, and that is one of the factors that the Government are not stating.
Mr. Wall : Even that profitability is illusory. The case has been well argued. If we close the pits, if we go to 60 pits and 60 million tonnes, or, as many hon. Members think may be possible, to 50 pits, 50,000 miners and 50 million tonnes of coal, then we will be at ransom to the world fuel and coal markets. There is no way out of that.
The truth of the matter is that we have to realise that there is a serious political point to the Bill, which should not have gone to a private Bill Committee. If I go on to such a Committee again, in similar circumstances, I shall learn to be a guerrilla. I have always been opposed to guerrilla tactics to sabotage a Committee, but it is wrong that the Government's policy should be carried out in this way.
There are many Opposition Members here who represent mining communities. Some Conservative Members represent mining communities in Nottinghamshire. Because of the procedures of the Bill, what remains of their most vital industry is threatened. Existing jobs are threatened with dislocation and so are existing services. They are also threatened with a reversal of all that they and their local authorities have done so painstakingly to try to repair the damage caused by previous redundancies. That is the situation that those hon. Members face.
Because of the political nature of the Bill, it was not amended, and hon. Members have not had the opportunity to amend it on behalf of their electors--the miners, the mining communities and local authorities--so that the Bill can meet their needs.
Mr. Alan Meale (Mansfield) : I shall be voting against the Bill for quite a few reasons. First, the Government have abused the private Bill procedure in an attempt to ensure that what should be a Government Bill reaches the statute book. Secondly, in view of the United Kingdom's current port capacity there is no need for such a Bill. Thirdly, if the legislation is enacted, many British coal mines will close. Fourthly, the intention is to import cheap foreign coal, mainly--despite the protestations of Conservative Members--from such countries as South Africa and Colombia, not Australia and the like. I was interested to hear Conservative Members say that most of the imports would come from China. Following events in Tiananmen square, that strikes me as weak reasoning.
Fifthly, I share with other Labour Members a feeling of deep distrust about the Committee's decision to allow the Bill to get this far. Sixthly, I believe that it is mainly aimed at helping the Government's friends in the City, rather than being concerned with the nation's needs. Seventhly, it reflects the Government's historic hatred of the coal mining industry, and particularly of its work force : it is not really to do with the nation's mineral reserves. Eighthly, the Bill is concerned with the destruction of many mining communities. Ninthly, the British taxpayer
Column 1031will be paying for private profit through lost reserves and the money spent on unemployment and social security benefits, and other aid resources paid to the mining communities. Finally, the Bill's whole intention is to use energy resources for profiteering purposes, to the ultimate cost of the British public.
Let my explain my reasons in detail. First, most hon, Members who are now in the Chamber will agree that the use of the private Bill procedure rather than Government time is a disgrace to the House. Some hon. Members, especially those from Nottinghamshire, have again tried to use the weak excuse that this is not a Government-backed Bill. They, and any other hon. Member who is in any doubt, should recall the way in which, in the early hours of the morning, Ministers in their droves arrived to vote for it. There was evidence that whipping procedures were being used to bring more and more Conservative Members into the Aye Lobby--and, as has already been mentioned, on one occasion the Prime Minister herself turned up to vote for the Bill.
If any hon. Member needs further proof, he should look towards the Government Front Bench and observe the delicate piece of machinery called the Government Whip. He has sat there throughout the evening, cajoling his hon. Friends and reminding them that their time will come soon, when the Division Bell rings.
My second point relates to port capacity. The Government are pushing the Bill through for the sake of private profit, at a time when between 26 million and 30 million tonnes of port capacity is currently available and could adequately meet any extra needs. It is disgraceful that, through the use of the private Bill procedure, investment is being allowed that could lead to the loss of many coal mines in Britain. I pay tribute to the Coalfield Communities Campaign, which has done a great deal of work in this regard. It is supposed to be a cross-party organisation. A few Conservative Members, particularly those from Nottinghamshire, say that they support it. It says that 12 pits will close if the Bill is passed. It would also result in a threefold loss of coal-related jobs in the coal mining communities. If the Bill is passed, 40,000 to 42,000 people will lose their jobs in coal mining communities throughout the country, but particularly in Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire and Yorkshire. Conservative Members used fringe arguments about coal imports. I have received a letter from an anti-apartheid organisation in South Africa which asks hon. Members to vote against the Bill. It would lead to the import of South African coal. Millions of tonnes of South African coal have already come here. It has been shipped to such places on the continent as Rotterdam and Ghent where it has been mixed with other coal and then brought to our shores, in particular to the north-east and Humberside. It is disgraceful that hon. Members, of whatever party, should allow that to happen. They should resist the importation of another 8 million to 10 million tonnes of cheap coal.
The hon. Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes (Mr. Brown) has had many free trips to South Africa. [ Hon. Members :-- "Disgraceful"] He wants the Bill to be given a Third Reading. Other Conservative Members who are likely to vote for the Bill should recall that, apart from South African coal, Colombian coal, dug by children of
Column 1032only eight years of age, is coming to this country. The Colombian Government manufacture drugs that are peddled around the world. Conservative Members ought to reflect on the fact that they will be supporting a Government who allow children to dig cheap coal in Colombian mines.
Opposition Members question whether the proceedings in Committee were correct. It is important to point out what happened on one occasion. During the debate a member of the Committee left his seat and spoke to a consultant. He gave him a message of support. In those circumstances, I question whether the Bill should have been allowed to proceed. It ought to have been referred to a new Committee for further consideration.
The Bill has to be placed alongside what the Government are trying to do to the coal mining and energy industries. They do not even try to hide the fact that they intend to privatise the supply of energy in order to provide a fast buck and a quick profit for their friends in the City.
To support the Bill would be an absolute disgrace and shame. I ask Conservative Members to vote with the Opposition and throw it out. 9.43 pm
Mr. Martin Redmond (Don Valley) : Opposition Members say that the Associated British Ports (No. 2) Bill should not be given a Third Reading. Unfortunately, many Conservartive Members have not listened to the arguments. Had they done so, they would not give it a Third Reading.
The hon. Members for Sherwood (Mr. Stewart), for Derbyshire, West (Mr. McLoughlin) and for Derbyshire, South (Mrs. Currie) should get to know what the industry is about. On previous occasions they have explained to the House why they oppose the Bill. Obviously, they were trying to kid their constituents and the Union of Democratic Mineworkers. At least they should be truthful when they tell their constituents that they are opposing the Bill for the right reasons. It is a great pity that the country and the Government have not learnt any lessons. In 1972 Conservative Members applied the same philophy to cheap oil. Thank God we have a mining industry because the Tories were nearly caught with their pants down. Thank God that the mining industry survived. History shows that the coal industry can compete, given the same terms and understanding as are given to other British industries. It is a great pity that market forces dominate everything to the detriment of our country and that Government policies are motivated only by profit and greed. It is a great pity that the hon. Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes (Mr. Brown) did not remain in his previous constituency instead of opting out. I feel sure that his former constituents in Scunthorpe would have been only too pleased to vote for his opponents. He put forward what he had done for his constituents as a model and then opted out without giving them a chance to show how they felt. Had he stayed, I am sure that his former constituents would have returned a different Member of Parliament.
If that had happened in days gone by, the Monarch would have sent for the Tories responsible and had their heads chopped off. The Government's policies are not in the long-term interest of the nation and should not be pursued.
Column 1033Finally, if we are interested in humanity, we should be interested not only in Britain but in the world because we have a duty and an international commitment to humanity. The Bill seeks to import coal from South Africa and Colombia and that can be motivated only by profit and greed. It is a pity that the Bill was not amended in Committee because of the Chairman's casting vote. It stinks that the Government support it and there is no doubt whatsoever that there is a Whip on the Bill. This time it has not been put on paper, but it has got round by word of mouth. They are telling hon. Members to support the Bill to make sure that they get a Government job. 9.48 pm
Mr. Jimmy Hood (Clydesdale) : I shall be brief and to the point, which is very much in character, as the hon. Member for Sherwood (Mr. Stewart) will agree. The Bill is about closing pits and importing apartheid coal. The miners know it, the mining communities know it and a hell of a lot of people on both sides of the House know it. The Conservative Members who support the Bill also know it. The Government also support the Bill. Tonight, as we have seen throughout the proceedings on the Bill, the Government will bring out the payroll vote. The woman from the little flat above the shop will probably support the Bill in the Lobby tonight.
I am pleased that Conservative Members who represent
Nottinghamshire constituencies oppose the Bill. We are told that four Parliamentary Private Secretaries oppose it, but I remember the days when, if a PPS felt strongly about an issue and wanted to be taken seriously, he made his views felt. If a Bill that will close a dozen Nottinghamshire pits is not a point of principle for a
Nottinghamshire Member of Parliament, I do not know what is. I would have more faith in the sincerity of the hon. Member for Nottingham, South (Mr. Brandon-Bravo) and others if they said, "On a matter of principle I am resigning as a PPS", but they have not chosen to do so.
The miners' parliamentary group knows only too well the effect that the Bill will have on mining communities, as does the Coalfield Communities Campaign. To its credit, it has gone up and down the country putting the case for the coalfield communities. Unfortunately, one or two hypocrites have put their name to the campaign but have had no heart in it.
The hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Bennett) is playing the jester tonight. He talked about Labour Members wanting a cosy monopoly for Members sponsored by the National Union of Mineworkers. I shall remind him of the cosy monopoly that they have had since the Government took office in 1979. They have had 120 pit closures, over 150,000 miners have lost their jobs and a proposal in the Coal Industry Bill will lead to another 40,000 jobs being lost.
Mr. Nicholas Bennett : The hon. Gentleman complains about the number of pit closures under this Government. Will he remind the House of the pit closures record of the Labour Government under the stewardship of the right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn)?
Mr. Hood : I will not take up that point. Some Conservative Members who represent Nottinghamshire have seen 18,500 jobs lost in Nottinghamshire since 1979 but have said nothing about it. Another 10,000 to 12,000 jobs will be lost in Nottinghamshire.
Column 1034We know the effect that the Bill will have on mining communities. I sincerely hope that some Conservative Members will have the guts to stand up for the communities and will not support the bovver boys of the South African Government.
Mr. George J. Buckley (Hemsworth) : I am pleased to contribute to the debate, which has run over months and, indeed, years, to highlight the devastation that the Bill will cause if it is passed. I am sure that its passing will have a major effect on my constituency and the general economy of the area that I represent. The decline of the British coal industry as a major employer in the mining communities has had a considerable and disastrous effect since 1985. Labour Members do not doubt that if the Bill is passed more than 25 collieries will be at risk.
The hon. Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes (Mr. Brown), who is talking to the hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Bennett) and not listening to the debate, said that the purpose of the Bill is to divert shipping from Rotterdam to the Humber port. That is an acceptance that the purpose of the Bill is to divert shipping off-loading coal in Rotterdam to the Humber ports.
I find it disdainful that the hon. Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes has tried to mislead the House by suggesting that the intention of the Bill is not the one that I have stated. My hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, North (Mr. Wall) was a member of the special Committee which considered the Bill. In his speech he made the relevant and salient point that the proposal could not be sustained economically without large imports of coal going through the port. It must be in the mind of the developer to import large amounts of coal. The hon. Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes is contradicted by the developers, who readily admitted in the Committee that they would be able to import only 1.2 million tonnes of coal by 1993. Obviously they cannot import more than 2.5 million tonnes because the port will not be capable of handling more than that at that point. I suggest that the promoters of the Bill intend to expand the capacity of the ports precisely in order to increase the tonnage capacity from 2.5 million tonnes to a possible 10, 12 or 15 million tonnes. Conservative Members who deny that that is the purpose behind the Bill are blinded by their political disdain for miners and the mining industry.
Evidence was submitted to the private Bill Committee by the petitioners against the Bill about consequences of the proposed tonnage of imported coal. They suggested that 15 collieries would be closed with a loss of 15,000 jobs if, as British Coal suggests, 7 million tonnes of coal were imported.
Opposition Members are clear that the imposition of this private Bill will have major consequences on the mining industry. I hope that the House will reject it. It is ironic that those Conservative Members who oppose the Bill are the same hon. Members who supported the Union of Democratic Mineworkers in 1984 to 1985, who put the Government in the position that they are in today. The UDM miners will be the people most affected by the importation of coal which the Bill will allow. It is ironic that those miners, whom Conservative Members represent, will be most affected by the proposals on nuclear power stations.
Column 1035Mr. Meale : Is my hon. Friend aware that already the noise-- Mr. Michael Brown rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.
Question, That the Question be now put, put and agreed to. Question put accordingly, That the Bill be now read the Third time :--
The House divided : Ayes 232, Noes 209.
Division No. 32] [9.59 pm
Amery, Rt Hon Julian
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)
Arnold, Tom (Hazel Grove)
Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley)
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N)
Banks, Robert (Harrogate)
Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke)
Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Body, Sir Richard
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas
Boscawen, Hon Robert
Bottomley, Mrs Virginia
Bowden, A (Brighton K'pto'n)
Boyson, Rt Hon Dr Sir Rhodes
Braine, Rt Hon Sir Bernard
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter
Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's)
Buck, Sir Antony
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)
Clark, Hon Alan (Plym'th S'n)
Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S)
Coombs, Simon (Swindon)
Currie, Mrs Edwina
Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g)
Emery, Sir Peter
Evans, David (Welwyn Hatf'd)
Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)
Fookes, Dame Janet
Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)
Fox, Sir Marcus