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House of Commons

Wednesday 16 October 1991

The House met at half-past Two o'clock

PRAYERS

[Mr. Speaker-- in the Chair ]

NEW WRITS

For Kincardine and Deeside, in the room of the right hon. Alick Laidlaw Buchanan-Smith, deceased.-- [Mr. Ryder.]

For Langbaurgh, in the room of James Richard Holt Esquire, deceased.-- [Mr. Ryder.]

For Hemsworth, in the room of George James Buckley Esquire, deceased. [Mr. Foster.]

PRIVATE BUSINESS

London Underground (Safety Measures) Bill

[Lords] (By Order) Order for Third Reading read.

To be read the Third time tomorrow.

King's Cross Railways Bill

(By Order)

Order for consideration, as amended, read.

To be considered tomorrow.

East Coast Main Line (Safety) Bill

(By Order) Order read for resuming adjourned debate on Question [13 May], That the Bill be now read a Second time.

Debate further adjourned till tomorrow.


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Oral Answers to Questions

TRADE AND INDUSTRY

Science Parks

1. Sir Trevor Skeet : To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will make a statement on the number of science parks that have been established since 1979.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Industry and Consumer Affairs (Mr. Edward Leigh) : Only two science parks existedin 1979 ; now there are 41.

Sir Trevor Skeet : Does my hon. Friend agree that those figures speak for themselves, and that this is a great achievement for the Conservative Government? Universities and industry are being utilised and scientific ideas are being converted into new products and processes. Will my hon. Friend give us his ideas about the course of development ahead? Is it likely to be by way of the Link scheme and other audits, so that the science parks which have been so successful in past years can be developed?

Mr. Leigh : I am grateful to my hon. Friend. In fact, 20 more science parks are already planned. I believe that it is a major achievement to have increased the number from just two to 41 in the past 12 years.

The Department of Trade and Industry spent some £100 million on technology transfer last year. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State takes a particularly close interest in all innovation matters and has announced a number of new schemes--most recently the technology audit--to try to encourage universities to take an active interest in the commercial exploitation of their undoubted academic achievements.

Dr. Bray : We welcome the development of science parks, but will the Minister talk to the occupants and potential occupants of the science parks and ask them whether they would like the business expansion scheme to be replaced by a scheme to encourage investment in high-tech manufacturing industry and high technology development to be set in the context of policies, with access given to finance, tax credits for research and development and regional support? In short, will he ask them whether they would prefer the Opposition's science and technology development policies to those of the Government?

Mr. Leigh : That is extremely unlikely. The success of science parks is that they have been market led. It is true that in the assisted areas the Department of Trade and Industry's English Estates has taken an interest in and has helped with the establishment of science parks. What is important, though, is that the DTI uses its innovation budget--some £100 million--to encourage technology transfer and that it does not seek to pick winners. We tried that policy before and it failed lamentably.

Minimum Wage

2. Mr. Riddick : To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry whether he has received any representations from business men about the impact on industry of minimum wage levels.


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The Secretary of State for Trade and Industry and President of the Board of Trade (Mr. Peter Lilley) : I am aware of the very widespread concern among business men that a national minimum wage would destroy jobs and competitiveness.

Mr. Riddick : Is my right hon. Friend aware that the chief executive of Sears the retailers has said that if a minimum wage policy were introduced it would be bound to lead to unemployment going over 3 million? Has not the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development said that the French minimum wage has reduced employment opportunities, particularly for young people with few skills? Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is the height of hypocrisy for Labour to say that it cares about the most disadvantaged people in society when its own policies would deny job prospects to those very same people?

Mr. Lilley : My hon. Friend is absolutely right. A number of estimates have been published by business of the damage that would be done by a minimum wage and of the number of jobs that would be destroyed. All of them are very large. Only the Labour party, in the shape of the Opposition spokesman on employment, maintains that there will be no impact on jobs from a minimum wage. Asked by Jonathan Dimbleby :

"is it your view that there is no negative impact on jobs from a minimum wage of any kind?"

he said :

"Yes, that is my view."

Mr. James Lamond : Is the Secretary of State telling us that he has so little confidence in the ending of the recession that he does not believe that there will be sufficient wealth in the economy to cascade down to those on the very lowest wages, who are asking for just £3.40 per hour, which is barely enough to maintain a reasonable standard of living?

Mr. Lilley : I do not think that one can ever afford to be reckless with jobs in the way that the Opposition plan to be. It is particularly unwise to destroy the jobs of those on the bottom rung of the employment ladder. If they can never get on to the first rung of the employment ladder, they can never rise up it. If the Labour party says that a minimum wage of £3.40 would have no impact at all on jobs, why stick at £3.40? Why not set it at £5? Would that have any effect? Or is the Labour party saying that there is some magical higher figure which will influence them but that £3.40 has no impact at all?

Mr. Budgen : Does my right hon. Friend agree that minimum wage legislation will encourage illegal immigration and overstaying? Would it not encourage some employers to employ people in the unrecorded and perhaps ironically called black economy?

Mr. Lilley : My hon. Friend is almost certainly right. It creates a new form of law breaking--namely, giving jobs to people who need them.

Mr. Beggs : Does the Secretary of State accept that Northern Ireland already has a low wage economy and that we still have the highest unemployment? Does he agree that we have a responsibility to ensure that people receive a fair reward for the services that they provide and


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that they are not exploited? Will he tell the House how many other members of the European Community have a minimum wage strategy?

Mr. Lilley : The one thing that is absolutely certain is that a minimum wage would do great damage in Northern Ireland, as elsewhere in the United Kingdom. It is also equally certain that in France, where the OECD carried out a study, it has been recognised that the minimum wage has destroyed jobs, particularly among the low paid, the young and the less skilled. I cannot believe that it would be to the benefit of the Province of Ulster that its unemployment problem should be aggravated further by this imposition.

World Trade

3. Mr. Roger King : To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will make a statement on the United Kingdom's share of world trade (a) from 1974 to 1979 and (b) since 1979.

The Minister for Trade (Mr. Tim Sainsbury) : Britain's share of world exports of manufactures by volume declined between 1974 and 1979. The decline continued into the 1980s. Since 1981 our export volume has increased faster than that of any of our major competitors.

Mr. King : I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. Can he confirm that in the first eight months of this year manufactured exports have risen by more than 60 per cent. of the 1979 average? Does not that show, in particular, the dramatic resurgence of the British car industry, which exports an ever-growing number of its products throughout the world? Will my hon. Friend further confirm that, instead of knocking Britain's achievements, as the Labour party does, British industry is out abroad knocking on doors to get business?

Mr. Sainsbury : I am happy to confirm that my hon. Friend is absolutely right. I join him in paying tribute to the achievements of the British car industry. The achievements of British exporters are a tribute not only to the quality and competitiveness of their products, but to the quality of the Government's policies, which invite inward investment and, through low taxation, encourage productivity and entrepreneurial skills.

Mr. John Evans : Is the Minister aware that since 1979 more than 23,000 jobs have been lost in St. Helens? More than two thirds of those jobs were in the glass industry. A further 750 redundancies have been announced by Pilkington this week. Will the Minister acknowledge that the United Kingdom's share of the glass industry has fallen dramatically since 1979? When will the Department stimulate the economy to assist firms such as Pilkington to start employing people and to stop sacking them?

Mr. Sainsbury : The hon. Gentleman will be aware that to be competitive in export markets--as, indeed, in home markets--it is necessary to use the latest techniques and technology. Sadly, that sometimes means that more glass can be produced by fewer people. Any lay-off is a matter for regret, but I hope that the hon. Member will applaud companies such as Pilkington, which has improved productivity, as has British industry as a whole.


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Buy British Campaign

4. Mr. Amess : To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what recent representations he has received calling for a Buy British campaign.

The Minister for Corporate Affairs (Mr. John Redwood) : My hon. Friend the Minister for Trade has recently announced a partnership sourcing initiative which encourages companies to look carefully at how they buy goods. They should take into account currency fluctuations and distance of travel when considering purchasing. We get several representations on this subject. I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Basildon (Mr. Amess) is especially keen to promote the purchase of goods from Basildon, and I welcome that.

Mr. Amess : In the light of the opportunities likely to be provided by the advent of the single market next year, is my hon. Friend aware that on Friday our local European Member of Parliament, Miss Patricia Rawlings, and I will re-launch the "Buy British Goods From Basildon" campaign? Does my hon. Friend agree that Opposition parties would do well to follow our lead and talk up British goods and services rather than talking them down, as they so often do?

Mr. Redwood : I am delighted by my hon. Friend's energy and delighted that he supports his local industry so strongly. When he has finished with Basildon, perhaps he could come and support goods from Wokingham, which I am keen to see bought in the markets of the world.

Mr. Tony Banks : If we are to have a Buy British campaign, may I suggest that Members of Parliament could set an example to begin with? If the Minister goes down to the car park, he will see that most of the cars there are not British but foreign. How many Conservative Members can put their hands up and say that they are dressed in British clothes and buy British cars?

Mr. Redwood : The hon. Gentleman has chosen the wrong Minister. I have a British car and I am proud to own one. It provides extremely good value for money and is a high-quality motor vehicle. Many of my hon. Friends do the same, especially those who represent midlands constituencies, where they strongly support the British motor industry. I hope that the same is true of Opposition Members.

Mr. Charles Wardle : I have a British car in the car park and have never had a non-British car there. Is not the most effective Buy British campaign one that does not play on consumer loyalty but urges manufacturers to outdo imports with the best-designed and best-quality products at the keenest prices?

Mr. Redwood : That is exactly right. We do not say, "Buy British" because goods are British but because--and if--they are extremely good products. I buy many British products and I am usually delighted with the quality and value for money. That is the way to encourage British manufacturing industry.

Mr. Alton : How does the Minister counter the charge made by some of the workers recently made redundant at the GPT plant at Edge Vale in Liverpool, where 600 redundancies have occurred in the System X production unit, who say that the Government are not encouraging


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people to buy British technology in the same aggressive way as the French Government encourage people to buy the same sort of product, particularly in the developing world?

Mr. Redwood : My hon. Friend the Minister for Trade, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and all other Ministers in the Department of Trade and Industry give full support to all British businesses trying to sell abroad. On purchasing within the United Kingdom and the European Community, we have to live within the rules of article 30 and the public purchasing directives. If the hon. Gentleman thinks that other countries are not playing fair, he should let us have the evidence and we will take the matter up with the Commission, because we believe that all countries should play by the same rules.

UK-Japanese Trade Balance

5. Mr. Amos : To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will make a statement on the United Kingdom-Japanese trade balance.

Mr. Sainsbury : Between 1986 and 1990 the value of United Kingdom exports to Japan more than doubled, while imports rose by only a third.

Mr. Amos : Does my hon. Friend accept that the Government have done more than any other to increase free trade at home and abroad, but that it also has to be fair trade? British exports to Japan have fallen this year and the British visible trade gap with Japan is still running at well over £4 billion per year. Will he ensure that Japan opens its markets to British goods on the same basis as the British market is open to Japanese goods? Will my hon. Friend warn the Japanese that if they fail to do so, they will be subject to retaliation from the EEC?

Mr. Sainsbury : The figures that I have just given show that British exporters are succeeding extremely well in the Japanese market, which is not so difficult a market as some people think. In the current year, British exporters are holding their share of the market while all our EEC competitors have been losing their market share. There are a few barriers still in the Japanese market, such as high tariffs on finished leather products, but I can assure my hon. Friend that I, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and other Ministers will continue to work to remove those obstacles so as to open the Japanese market fully in the same way as we have successfully opened many other markets.

Mr. Cousins : Will the Minister confirm that the loss of an order for Rolls-Royce Trent engines to Japan Airlines followed directly from the refusal by British Airways to buy a similar engine for its British fleet? Will the Minister also confirm that he has done nothing about that, proposes to do nothing about it, and that the laissez-fairies are in full control in his Department?

Mr. Sainsbury : I wonder whether the hon. Gentleman is aware that one of the largest ever single export orders to Japan was won recently by British Aerospace. The order was worth £445 million and was to provide search and rescue aircraft to the Japanese self-defence force.

Mr. Colvin : Further to that supplementary, is my hon. Friend aware that Japan is the world's second biggest domestic market for civil aircraft? Is he also aware that the


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Japanese aerospace industry is only 20 per cent. civil and that in the short term there are tremendous opportunities for British exporters of civil aircraft to Japan, particularly the regional jet? Also, in the long term Japan would like to enter into collaborative ventures with British aerospace companies in order to develop its own aerospace industry.

Mr. Sainsbury : I agree with my hon. Friend that there are considerable opportunities for the aerospace industry in the Japanese market. The successful contract to which I referred is evidence that British Aerospace and its suppliers are beginning to get into that market, which has hitherto traditionally been supplied by the United States.

East Midlands

6. Mr. Janner : To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry whether he will make a statement on support for the traditional industries of the east midlands.

Mr. Leigh : The traditional industries of the east midlands are well placed to take advantage of recovery.

Mr. Janner : Has the Minister no conception of the disastrous decline in traditional industries in the east midlands and Leicester? Does he not realise that the Chancellor's claim that manufacturing industry is improving and the recession is over is total rubbish? Do the Government intend to offer any practical help to those industries--employers, employees and all who depend on them for their livelihood?

Mr. Leigh : The hon. and learned Gentleman and I share this--we both represent the east midlands, but he enjoys talking down the east midlands whereas I shall do some talking up. He did not tell us, for instance, that retail sales of footwear and clothing are doing better than almost any other retail sales, that exports of clothing are up 14 per cent. in value compared with last year or that the east midlands has a record second to none in inward investment. He did not mention Toyota, Phoenix Electrical, Toray or Nippon Seiko in his constituency.

The hon. and learned Gentleman does not want to tell the good news about Leicester, so I shall do it. I want to encourage importers to come to Leicester and businesses to set up in Leicester. The hon. and learned Gentleman does not because he is too intent on making petty party political points. He could talk about George Duxbury and Sons setting up two new factories in Leicester near his constituency and about Rank Taylor Hudson making a £140,000 investment in his constituency. He could talk about Tyson Scientific putting investment into his constituency. The Opposition do not like it, but that is going on in the hon. and learned Gentleman's constituency.

Mr. Latham : Is my hon. Friend aware that the traditional industries of the east midlands, including Leicestershire, as well as the non- traditional ones, have greatly welcomed the reduction in interest rates that has taken place in recent months and are looking forward to another one pretty soon?

Mr. Leigh : I am grateful to my hon. Friend. While we are on the subject of Labour allegations, I happened to look at the Labour party political broadcast. The Sunday


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Times did a truth test on it. Labour claims that British industry could not compete abroad and that exports have shrunk. As The Sunday Times told us,

"Fact : Manufactured exports have increased by nearly 60 per cent. in real terms since 1979."

Verdict on Labour's political broadcast : "False." We now have lies, damned lies and Labour party political broadcasts.

Mr. Vaz : Does the Minister agree that one way in which we could help the traditional industries in the east midlands is to provide local education establishments with resources for education and training? Will he therefore support an application by Southfields further education college in Leicester for a £50,000 footwear fashion design computer which will greatly help the local footwear industry in Leicester and the east midlands?

Mr. Leigh : I am grateful for that constructive question. We shall certainly look into that, and I will take it up with my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science.

Mrs. Currie : May I beseech my hon. Friend not to support traditional industries in the east midlands such as lace making, pork pie manufacture and arrowhead production and instead to recognise the increasing contribution of modern industries not only to the British but to the European economy? I refer in particular to Toyota in my constituency, which will soon be making the finest cars in the world.

Mr. Leigh : I am grateful to my hon. Friend. That investment by Toyota is worth no less than £700 million and will create 3,000 jobs. Investment by another modern industry in the region is that of Phoenix Electrical in Coalville. That is a £14 million investment. Toray industries is investing £50 million. Nippon Seiko is setting up a brand new research centre worth £10 million. My hon. Friend is right. The east midlands is attracting the industries of tomorrow.

Mr. Wigley : Given the long list of successes in the east midlands to which the Minister referred, why was it necessary for the Prime Minister to intervene to take the Toyota plant away from Wales, which had worked hard to get it and had higher unemployment than the east midlands? Was the Department part of that conspiracy which was described in the book written by the right hon. Member for Worcester (Mr. Walker)?

Mr. Leigh : Not a penny of Government assistance went to Toyota. Derbyshire won that contract on its merits because of the skills of the local work force and the hard work put in by the local Member of Parliament.

Science Parks

7. Mr. Brandon-Bravo : To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will make a statement on the number of science parks that have been established since 1979.

Mr. Leigh : Only two university science parks existed in 1979 ; there are now 41 and a further 20 are planned.

Mr. Brandon-Bravo : Is my hon. Friend aware that possibly the largest science park is the one attached to Nottingham university, which provides 48 units of advanced accommodation? What bothers me most--I


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wonder whether my hon. Friend will address this point--is how the possible taxation policies of the Opposition may affect the staff who are employed in those parks, which are the seed-corn of our country's future. Although the employees may not be the highest paid, is it not the case that the kind of salaries necessary to keep science parks running would be precisely the kind of salaries that would be almost taxed out of existence by a Labour Government? Once again we would see the brain drain that we thought we had brought to an end 12 years ago.

Mr. Leigh : My hon. Friend is right to refer to the successful science park of Highfields in his constituency. It is an example of the type of high technology and investment that we in the Department of Trade and Industry encourage. We have more and better science parks than any other country in Europe. You may not be surprised to hear, Mr. Speaker, that I did some research into my hon. Friend's point. I found that a senior research scientist earning more than £30,000 a year would be required under Labour's taxation plans to pay £5, 000 a year extra tax and £2,600 a year national insurance. In other words, the Labour party would impose £150 a week on our senior research scientists. These men and women have highly developed skills and they are extremely marketable internationally. If Labour was ever to get close to Downing street, there would be a queue to flee to America. The only science parks to be set up would be, not in Cambridge, but in Cambridge, USA.

Rev. Martin Smyth : I welcome the Minister's announcement and the development of the science parks. In particular, I pay tribute to the one in Antrim in Northern Ireland. Will the Minister have conversations with his colleagues in the Northern Ireland Office to encourage the speedy provision of the proposed science park in south Belfast, which could utilise the provisions of the excellent university there?

Mr. Leigh : Of course, I shall.

CBI, North East

8. Mr. Clelland : To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry when he will next meet representatives of the north-east regional Confederation of British Industry to discuss industrial policy.

Mr. Lilley : I visited the north-east in August and again in September 1991 when I met a wide cross-section of business people. I expect to meet CBI representatives from all regions when I attend their national conference.

Mr. Clelland : Is the Secretary of State aware that in this first year of office of his right hon. Friend the Prime Minister business failures in the north have risen by 50 per cent. and mortgage repossessions by 60 per cent., and that unemployment is now running at 200,000? When the only major political initiative--pardon the pun--in the region has been taken within the region by the trade unions, local authorities and the CBI in setting up the Northern Development company, how can the Secretary of State convince the CBI that business as usual at No. 10 is good for business in the north?

Mr. Lilley : The north-east is doing much better than it has done previously at this stage of the economic cycle, although Members like the hon. Gentleman talk it down


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and ignore the progress made even in their own constituencies. He did not mention the Newcastle business park, which by the end of this year is creating 5,000 jobs in his constituency, or the Vickers order, which will go to the Vickers Defence Systems tank factory in his constituency, or British Airways taking 700 jobs by 1994 to his constituency, or the Gateshead Metrocentre, which is the largest in Europe and has created 6,500 jobs in his constituency.

Mr. Amos : Does my right hon. Friend accept that what he has just said proves why the north-east is doing so well and has been able to weather the recession better than most regions? If a Labour Government ever took office, they would impose a devolved assembly with higher taxes and more bureaucracy, which would drive industry from the region. It is about time Labour Members spoke up for the north-east instead of running it down.

Mr. Lilley : My hon. Friend is absolutely right. During my visits to the north-east, not a single business man has expressed the least desire for the sort of regional assembly to which he refers. A reason why the region is doing particularly well is that it has been outstandingly successful in attracting inward investment, notably from Japan. The threat to that posed by the TUC motion condemning Japanese investment as alien would be even more damaging to the north-east than to the rest of the British economy. People there are well aware of that and are appalled that no Labour Front-Bench spokesman has been prepared to disown it.

Mr. Gordon Brown : When the Secretary of State visited the north- east was not he condemned by the very business men he visited in Gateshead? Does he now accept that, despite the complacency that he exhibits, those in the north-east and elsewhere expect that another 90,000 jobs will go in engineering, another 40,000 jobs will go in the car industry and that another 100,000 jobs are still to go in the construction industry? What does the Secretary of State say to the 40,000 businesses that are going under in the north-east this year? What does he say to manufacturers who, having faced an 18 per cent. fall in manufacturing investment this year, will, according to the CBI, face another 9 per cent. fall in 1992? If the Secretary of State is so proud of his record, as he told the Conservative conference, why does he not put his record and that of the Government to the electorate?

Mr. Lilley : On the first part of the hon. Gentleman's question, the answer is no, they do not, he should not believe everything that he reads in the newspapers. On the second part of his question, I note that the hon. Gentleman failed to take the opportunity to dissociate the Labour party from the TUC motion that condemned Japanese investment. That investment has been one of the most important sources of jobs, new investment and higher incomes in the north-east. The hon. Gentleman discredits the Labour party.

Merger Policy

9. Sir Michael Neubert : To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry when he next expects to meet the chairman of the Monopolies and Mergers Commission to discuss merger policy.


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Mr. Redwood : My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State last met the chairman of the Monopolies and Mergers Commission on 16 July. The next meeting has not yet been arranged.

Sir Michael Neubert : Will my hon. Friend ask the chairman of the MMC to lend his support to his beleaguered counterpart in Brussels, Sir Leon Brittan, whose powers are under threat a week today because he has had the temerity to reject the takeover of the Canadian company De Havilland by the French company Aerospatiale and its Italian partners, Alenia? Does not the reaction of senior French politicians demonstrate that however much our continental neighbours may profess themselves consenting federasts in public, in private they put their own national interest numero uno every time?

Mr. Redwood : I am afraid that my hon. Friend is right in his assessment of French actions on this particular transaction. The British Government are determined that the Commission should exercise its jurisdiction independently without fear of political interference. To do so we believe that the Competition Commissioner himself should have a particularly important role because he and his staff are the people who have seen all the evidence and listened to all those making their submissions. Therefore, the Commissioner should be the one who brings it all together. There should not then be a political shenanigan to settle the issue ; it should be settled on the facts of the case in accordance with European law.

Mr. Hardy : Will the Minister ask the chairman of the MMC to look urgently at the issue posed by the present operations in the electricity supply industry? I suggest that that issue should be addressed urgently because high-energy-using industries now face the devastating effects of the pricing and patterns of pricing for electricity to the point that a hitherto extremely successful company, Rotherham Engineering Steels, is now facing serious cuts in production simply as a result of the operation of the electricity supply industry. That should be investigated immediately.

Mr. Redwood : A competitive structure has been introduced into the industry for the first time. If the hon. Gentleman has a reasonable complaint he should send it to my Department or to the Director General of Fair Trading and, of course, it will be examined closely to see whether any further action is needed. I would need more information about the specifics than the hon. Gentleman's general allegation gives me.

Mr. Batiste : Further to the De Havilland issue, will my hon. Friend take the opportunity to discuss the matter with his French opposite number? Will he tell her in unambiguous terms that this extraordinary fuss belies French claims to be good Europeans and undermines the confidence of their partners in French intentions to support competition which is at the heart of the movement towards a single market?

Mr. Redwood : I intend to raise the general issue of Community competence and the exercise of its jurisdiction in the Single Market Council meeting when I next go to Brussels for that meeting. I may well get the chance to discuss various matters with my colleague, the French Minister. I hope that she will be interested in what I have


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to say, although it might not be in exactly the terms of my hon. Friend's remarks. This matter raises general issues that the Community as a whole must face.

Mr. Alex Carlile : Does the Minister agree, and will he tell the chairman of the MMC when he next sees him, that a credible mergers and monopolies policy must involve a reference to the commission of British Gas in the light of its threat to renege on its recent price schedule agreed with Ofgas? Will he include in such a reference the recommendation that the pipeline network should be demerged from British Gas into other hands?

Mr. Redwood : We are not sure what British Gas will do. The matter is being watched closely by the gas regulator and the Director General of Fair Trading. I shall ensure that the hon. and learned Gentleman's comments are forwarded to both those bodies, because they are important. I cannot give him all the guarantees that he wishes. In a recent speech my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State set out some strong measures which will promote more competition in the gas industry. The Government intend to see those through and they will do the job that the hon. and learned Gentleman seeks.


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