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House of Commons

Friday 10 December 1993

The House met at half-past Nine o'clock


[Madam Speaker-- in the Chair ]


Heathrow (Road and Rail Links)

9.34 am

Mr. Alan Keen (Feltham and Heston) : It is with pride that I present a petition signed by 3,433 of my constituents in Feltham, Heston, Hanworth and people in the surrounding areas. They live adjacent to Heathrow airport and are proud to support one of Britain's major industries, but they suffer great environmental problems such as noise and regard the Department of Transport's proposals to drive a new road and rail link straight through one of the last remaining green areas south of Heathrow as completely unacceptable. They ask the Minister to completely reject the Heathrow access south-west quadrant proposals and begin consultations with local people and councillors.

Wherefore your Petitioners pray that your Honourable House disregard this study and seek further study by working with local authorities and people concerned.

And your Petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray, etc. To lie upon the Table.

Rutland Park Mansions

9.35 am

Mr. Ken Livingstone (Brent, East) : I have a petition from the residents of Rutland Park Mansions and the surrounding community. Those residents face eviction in the week before Christmas by the council, which seeks to demolish the block and replace it with housing for half the number of current residents.

The petitioners, being residents of Rutland Park Mansions and their supporters, declare that the present conflict with Brent council is to be regretted. The Rutlanders urgently declare their wish to offer their plan as a working model of urban sustainable living to the good people of Willesden Green and the councillors of Brent. It is believed that the implementation of the community plan for Rutland Park Mansions would provide a valuable resource within the terms of the Agenda 21 initiative of the Rio Earth summit conference in 1992. Wherefore your Petitioners therefore humbly request that the House of Commons appoint a person of good standing to mediate between the Rutlanders and Brent Council, so that the Rutlanders' plan may be heard and understood by the council and the local population. To lie upon the Table.

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Business and Industry

9.36 am

Sir Donald Thompson (Calder Valley) : I wish to call attention to business and industry ; and I beg to move,

That this House congratulates the Government on its Budget for business and industry, but reminds it that, if large and small firms are to prosper, create jobs, keep a clean environment and export, then each department of state must apply itself constantly to the needs of business and industry.

I was delighted to win the ballot for the debate. It is traditional in the Conservative party, and perhaps in the Labour party, that the Member whose name is drawn first out of the ballot should say, "No, please put it back ; draw it again." I did not have that option ; nor would I have wanted it. I thank the Whips for encouraging us all to sign the ballot books as frequently as possible.

I have had support from all sorts of people in the Mid-Yorkshire chamber of commerce, Kirklees council, Bradford airport support group, the CBI, the Food and Drink Federation, various schools, the Institute of Directors, all sorts of textile associations, private firms, banks and many more. It is always necessary to draw the attention of the Government to business and industry, because it is from business that all else flows. There is no doubt that our taxes--taxes on business and taxes on people's earnings and spending--should be as fairly distributed as possible and properly spent, but when there is no manufacturing and no trade, there can be no income, no inheritance and no future.

The Government are no different from other enterprise--whether a single entity, a farm, a small family business, a large business or a multinational business. All must keep control of their money ; all must budget wisely. My right hon. and learned Friend's Budget has been almost universally judged by the communities interested in this debate as wise and fair.

The next sentence of my motion--at least, I imagine that it is a sentence because it starts with a capital letter--implores all Departments to bear in mind every day that trade, business and industry matter. It is obvious that Departments have to balance other needs and that is, no doubt, sometimes difficult. Health, education, social security, defence and the rest are all integrated. However, we shall have a stronger health service, more money for education, less to pay on social security, and more adaptable and better defence if our industries are strong and prospering.

It is a curious fact--this fact may not be relevant only to the United Kingdom--that the responsibilities that one would imagine rested entirely with the Department of Trade and Industry are spread out among the DTI and many other Departments. The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food looks after the food and drink industry ; the Department of the Environment looks after the construction industry ; the Department of Health deals with pharmaceuticals ; the Treasury tries to deal with the City ; the Department of National Heritage has the tourism industry in its remit ; the Foreign and Commonwealth Office attempts to look after much of our trade overseas.

I hope to touch on each aspect of the motion. I am glad to see here my hon. Friends the Under-Secretary of State for Technology and the Comptroller of Her Majesty's Household, who are both men of business and who have both worked. I am glad to see on the Opposition Benches the hon. Members for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer) and for

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Huddersfield (Mr. Sheerman), two colleagues from West Yorkshire who understand business and manufacturing industry, and their importance.

It is important that Members of Parliament have worked. A Tory grandee, a former Minister, visited Hebden Bridge one Friday. When he was asked what he had done besides being a Member of Parliament, he said, "I was Monty's aide-de-camp in the war. I went into advertising and then I went into Parliament." My friend said, "Oh, you have never worked then." People who have worked have a different attitude, and this debate is about work.

My own background is in three industries. I was a farmer in the 1950s, and a wholesale and retail butcher in the 1960s. From that grew a glass fibre manufacturing business, fabricating liners for the backs of vans and estate cars so that they could carry food cleanly. From that, the business moved into manufacturing bits for the building industry, for the caravan industry and for others. My mother started work at the age of 12 in textiles in Liversedge and my father, who was a farmer, probably started work before he was 12 years old. My friends, whom I am lucky enough to see every weekend and with whom I was at school, are from every industry : textiles, dyeing, valve manufacturing, insurance, electronics, metal spin-ning, transport and banking.

My interests are declared in the Register of Members' Interests. As I said, I was a butcher, and I represent butchers and catering manufacturers. As I said, I made glass fibre bits for the caravan industry and I do some work for that industry. I was a farmer and I do some work for the British Agricultural and Garden Machinery Association. There are companies, large and small, in engineering in my part of the world. All of them depend on the mining industry and on the nuclear industry. From time to time, I advise a cross-party team on nuclear matters through the Nuclear Forum. Naomi Arnold is an old pal of mine and I help her in her consultancy. It is perfectly right and proper that Members of Parliament should declare their interests. I am delighted that we have a Select Committee on Members' Interests which makes it easier for Members of Parliament to take up various interests and to broaden the base of knowledge in the House. My speech is in three parts. The first deals with Calder Valley and Calderdale, and with its business and industrial base. The second part deals with the wider national scene and, if I have time, the third will deal with the international scene.

Calder Valley lies in West Yorkshire, with its boundary hard against Lancashire. To set the scene, unemployment in my constituency is, thankfully, at 6.7 per cent.--6 per cent. too much--and in Halifax, unemployment is at 9.7 per cent. By comparison, the figure for Belgium is 9.7 per cent., for Denmark it is 10.6 per cent., for France it is 11 per cent., for Ireland it is 18 per cent., for Italy it is 11 per cent. and for Spain it is 21 per cent. The United Kingdom national average is 10.3 per cent. and the EC average is 10.6 per cent.

However, a job is a job and being a statistic is not nice if one does not have a job--the more people in work, the better. I feel distress for all who look for work and who find none. The fact that the unemployment figure is falling

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month by month proves to me that my constituents and others are actively looking for work and want work. The more work that can be provided, the better it will be.

The strength of Calder Valley is its historical diversity. There are textiles, wool, cotton, clothes manufacturing, engineering, foundries, metal benders, wire drawers, valve manufactures, fabricators, machine tools, clay pipes, furniture, carpets and trousers. We are fortunate to have such diversity.

Parts of South Yorkshire rely solely on mining, and the withdrawal of that industry has been devastating. It is difficult to overestimate the effect on a one-company town when that company is closed or that industry is withdrawn. No amount of aid rapidly repairs such a wrench, so I am doubly grateful for the diversity and adaptability of the people who work in my constituency and in West Yorkshire, and of its entrepreneurs.

The development agency that covers the rural part of my constituency tells me that it is amazed by the many different ideas that emerge from my part of the world. I am delighted that the development agency is to stay with my constituents. It does a remarkably good job on a very tight budget.

It is impossible to count the number of firms in my patch. They range from large multinationals to four-person firms. There are long-established family businesses, with grandfathers, sons and grandsons working in the firm ; one example of that is Cinderhill Spinners in Todmorden. There are brand-new enterprises. All those firms are set in valleys that are made beautiful and kept beautiful by farmers.

The area increasingly attracts visitors who are catered for by a growing tourist industry. We are not an assisted area, although the development agency's writ runs in part. As one can imagine, in an area that was formerly highly industrialised--and still is--derelict land grants play a significant part. The EC periphery scheme is putting money back into Todmorden.

The tourism industry has benefited from improvements to the environment through various job creation schemes. When the schemes were envisaged as long as 10 years ago, they were pooh-poohed and sniffed at, but they have proved to be valuable in strengthening the environment, especially around the canals.

The use of the derelict land grant, which has just been sanctioned to be used on canals, will remove the last blockage in the Leeds-Rochdale canal at Sowerby Bridge. That will be boon to many people. With the help of Prince Charles, Business in the Community has led to amazing initiatives. A recent study called "Calderdale Inheritance Decade" celebrates those 10 successful years of activity. It is also celebrating the Calder Valley being put back on the map. The local project has worked hard to motivate and initiative reinvestment and regeneration into our businesses. By reviving our heritage, it has provided a model of economic success for others to follow in both national and European programmes. That comes from the document "Calderdale Inheritance Decade", which was paid for by the DTI and is written by people from outside the area. In it, we are reminded of efforts combined with the Business in the Community initiative.

When the project was launched in 1984, it was a unique exmple of urban and economic regeneration. Nine years on, we are still proud to be supported by the Civic Trust, the Council of Europe and Prince Charles, all of whom

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have visited Calderdale and have had an active part in our environment. I am lucky enough to serve as a member of the Council of Europe and the Western European Union.

The Calderdale Inheritance started with the plan of enhancing the remarkable buildings of our towns to stimulate business interest. The approach has been unique by involving local business people and their ideas while promoting enterprise and the projects of Calderdale on a national level. We have had marvellous results and have attracted all sorts of businesses, new and old, which have chosen our valley in which to settle.

Through regeneration, large manufacturing businesses such as Hoechst, Volex, Warmans and Readicut International all feel safe to stay in our valley. They were not the only ones giving us a vote of confidence. Other businesses, ranging from the huge and significant Halifax building society to Eureka!--an experience for children which has been an immense success, and which was stimulated and financed by Vivienne Duffield--have also put Calderdale on the map, way ahead of much of its opposition.

In all, some £10 million has been raised and used to help business people and workers in our valley. Almost £3 million of that has been used in Brighouse, Ripponden, Elland and Sowerby Bridge. There is now a "Build a Better Brighouse" campaign. It is run by local people enthusiastically. It sounds amusing from here, but the people of Brighouse and the industries care. They want to live there. Whether one lives in Tower Hamlets or Brighouse, one should be able to do what one can to enhance the neighbourhood, and the Member of Parliament should occasionally --if he is lucky in the ballot--be able to crow about it. On behalf of Todmorden, in which £650,000 has gone in for improvement schemes, and Hebden Bridge with £460,000, I am doing a bit of crowing.

The initiative has been an outstanding success. It is a pity in some ways that the latest document has not been more whole-heartedly embraced by all sides of Calderdale council. I know that the DTI wanted--and still may want --to run a special seminar on the importance of the initiative in Calderdale. It has national and international significance. It can be copied in all sorts of areas--Wakefield and elsewhere--to strengthen the community.

Having said that, there are two spectres, both controversial, looming on the horizons of Calder Valley : opencast mining and wind farms. With the Clean Air Act 1956, which was one of the best bits of legislation to clean up the north of England that was ever introduced, and small-bore central heating, the whole of the industrial north was transformed. The smoke had gone from the streets and the hills, and houses of all sizes could be kept snug and warm for the first time.

There were no more cold bedrooms and no need to slide one's feet gently down the sheets at this time of the year, hoping that they would not be too cold. Small-bore central heating removed all that. The subsequent appreciation by more and more people of the industrial landscape and the reutilisation of former "dark Satanic mills" has led to a regeneration of our hills and valleys.

The friendly charm of once hard towns such as Hebden Bridge and Brighouse has lead to a growing self reliance and an increasing tourist industry. All that is now threatened by what can only be seen as no longer acceptable industrial scars. If one could have a modern anachronism, that is what an opencast mine on a moorland, or wind farms in the Pennines would be. The tearing up of

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moorland for opencast mining and the implementation of giant wind farms, both of which are unwanted in a fragile setting, is unjustifiable in the minds of many of my constituents.

Wind farms are not only a Yorkshire problem. I have chosen the Western Mail, as the Welsh are further down that windy road than we are. In it, a Welshman man called Mario Basini [Laughter.] --there is always a little Celtic chip--writes :

"The Department of Trade and Industry estimates that eventually wind power could provide up to 10 per cent. of our electricity needs. To achieve that, Britain would need no less than 38,000 of these spare, space-age windmills, dotting 4,000 square kilometres of land or 1.7 per cent. of our already overcrowded land space."

He adds :

"Since Wales and Scotland have both the wind and empty high spaces needed to exploit it, many of the turbines will have to be located about there. Once again, many will argue Britain's Celtic Fringe will have to shoulder the disproportionate burden of supplying Britain's energy needs."

The Western Mail might not know that Yorkshire has always supplied a great deal of Britain's energy needs and still does, and does not want to share its wind farms with it. Mr. Basini says : "Confronted with the prospect of these skeletal towers mushrooming all over our countryside, supporters will shrug and say, so what?'. After all, this is an energy free from the poisonous pollutants of fossils. Its turbines are, friends argue, comparatively noise free--although there are many living close to the farms who fiercely contest that. Some claim to find these skeletal towers as pleasing modern sculpture.

Nothing better illustrates the truth of that old cliche, beauty lies in the eye of the beholder.

I must admit that for me, confronting these monsters lining a hitherto unspoilt mountain ridge has much more to do with pain than pleasure.

They fit as naturally into the landscape as John Wyndham's Triffids."

I agree. I look out of the window of my golf club on to an ex-opencast site which has been beautifully restored--on grazing land rather than moorland. It is no use spending 10 years regenerating Calder Valley and the north and bringing in business from all over the world with the help of Prince Charles and the rest only to reimpose industrial dereliction.

Two other industries run a similar risk of vandalism. All industrial complexes and conurbations need to be able to dispose readily of waste food. Mink farming used to provide my constituency such a system : 20 per cent. of all farmed mink came from my constituency. Now much of the industry has been driven abroad to countries where it is not only welcome but receives industrial and EC state aid.

The second industry is the manufacture of sporting clothes, which is under direct and illegal threat from an uncaring minority. Caldene clothing--an old established-firm--and Elizabeth Greenwood's more recently established company export their riding gear worldwide. In recent times, those companies and their employees' jobs have been undermined by vicious groups whose clear agenda it is to attack the country sports, country living, equestrian sports, fishing and eventually even pet keeping. That phenomenon is threatening my constituency and my constituents. Compassion and a clean environment are to be secured by green policies, but it is as well to remember that green can be a chemical or a dyestuff and that, in either case, it must be applied wisely.

This summer, I visited innumerable businesses in my constituency. Their questions to me were not about exports

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or manning levels but about crime and break- ins. The enemy of business is crime, both nationally and internationally, and we were all glad when the Home Secretary announced tht he would take tougher action against crooks. I hope that we shall do as well with City crooks and City fraudsters, because no one wants to work hard all his life for a pension and then be swindled out of it. To make working people unsure of what is happening to their pension fund and thus their future is a cruel thing to do.

Despite the downside, my manufacturing companies are ready to do battle in Europe and the rest of the world. There are a couple of sore spots in that regard, too. It seems that--as usual, some would say--we are depriving our businesses of legitimate trading opportunities. For example, a firm in my constituency that attended the November defence exhibition in Hungary found the French selling protective equipment to their hosts, which they are not allowed to do. That company would like at least to be able to open a marketing dialogue with such countries. I suppose that that is another example of things not being the DTI's problem : it is probably a problem for the Ministry of Defence. The fact remains, however, that my company's market is restricted, while its competitors can sell all over the world. There may be reasons for that, but I see very few.

Mr. Bob Cryer (Bradford, South) : Does the hon. Gentleman agree that other member countries of the European Community have numerous hidden advantages? For example, British textile companies going abroad to exhibitions usually have to pay all the costs of attending and promoting their products. In Germany, on the other hand, the Lander--the regional governments--pay 100 per cent. of the costs incurred by German textile firms visiting exhibitions all over the world. The Government need to intervene positively to prevent other Common Market countries from exercising such considerable advantages.

Sir Donald Thompson : I knew that the hon. Gentleman would be here this morning, because he is interested in small business--indeed, he was once the Minister responsible for it. I also knew that he would mention textiles, although I am glad that he did not mention GATT, because I am coming to that.

I agree with much of what the hon. Gentleman said about the way in which we choose to fund the companies that go abroad to textile and high-tech exhibitions. A certain amount of rigidity has been creeeping into the selection of such companies and I have written to my hon. Friend the Minister and my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade on a number of occasions about firms that have been bitterly disappointed that they have not been able to go to textile and engineering exhibitions.

There is a need, especially in the new Europe, for a constant dialogue between Whitehall--

Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Janet Fookes) : Order. I am not sure whether the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) is staying or going. He must either sit down or go out.

Sir Donald Thompson : It is not just one Department

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Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover) : I beg to move, That strangers do withdraw.

Madam Deputy Speaker : May I make a point? The hon. Gentleman was standing near his place for a long time. I did not intervene until it was not at all clear whether he was coming or going. I am referring to the period before he moved That strangers do withdraw.

Notive having been taken that strangers were present, Madam Deputy Speaker, -- pursuant to Standing Order No. 143 (Withdrawal of Strangers from House), put forthwith the Question, That strangers do withdraw :--

The House divided : Ayes 0, Noes 20.

Division No. 25] [10.06 am


Tellers for the Ayes


Nil Tellers for the Ayes :

Mr. Harry Barnes and

Mr. Dennis Skinner.


Arbuthnot, James

Bates, Michael

Batiste, Spencer

Burns, Simon

Chapman, Sydney

Deva, Nirj Joseph

Dykes, Hugh

Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)

Hawksley, Warren

Knight, Greg (Derby N)

Lightbown, David

McLoughlin, Patrick

Malone, Gerald

Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)

Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey

Ryder, Rt Hon Richard

Shaw, David (Dover)

Taylor, Rt Hon John D. (Strgfd)

Thompson, Sir Donald (C'er V)

Townsend, Cyril D. (Bexl'yh'th)

Tellers for the Noes :

Mr. Michael Brown and

Mr. Robert G. Hughes.

It appearing from the report of the Division that 40 Members had not taken part in the Division, Madam Deputy Speaker-- declared that the Question was not decided, and the business under consideration stood over until the next sitting of the House.

ic Mr. Cryer : On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. In view of the abysmal failure of the Tory Administration to organise themselves properly and to keep a quorum in the House, have you had any notification that the Prime Minister or a Minister will come to the House and give an explanation of how incompetent the Government are? In view of their failure to maintain their position in Parliament, there is a question whether they continue in Government.

Mr. Skinner : Further to that point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. The Tory Government have failed to mobilise and organise within the House on a Friday morning, the day after they introduced a guillotine on two important Bills to be debated next week. It is disgraceful that they have gone away for their holidays, only to come back next week to guillotine two important Bills, which will cost people outside millions of pounds. The Tory Government should now resign.

Madam Deputy Speaker : Order. Those are not matters for the Chair. I shall explain what the position now is in the light of the voting.

Mr. David Shaw (Dover) : On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker.

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