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Strang, Dr. Gavin
Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Thompson, Jack (Wansbeck)
Walker, Rt Hon Sir Harold
Wardell, Gareth (Gower)
Wareing, Robert N
Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Sw'n W)
Williams, Alan W (Carmarthen)
Wright, Dr Tony
Tellers for the Noes :
Mr. Alan Meale and
Mr. Eric Illsley.
Question accordingly agreed to.
Queen's Recommendation having been signified
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That, for the purposes of any Act resulting from the Coal Industry Bill ("the Act"), it is expedient to authorise--
(1) the payment out of money provided by Parliament of the following, namely--
(a) sums required by the Secretary of State for paying to the Coal Authority established by the Act amounts required by that Authority for carrying out its functions ;
(b) expenses incurred by the Treasury or the Secretary of State in consequence of provision made by the Act for the acquisition of, or of rights to subscribe for, securities of successor companies ; (
(c) sums required by the Secretary of State for making grants to the British Coal Corporation and to successor companies which are wholly owned by the Crown ;
(d) sums required by the Secretary of State for making payments for purposes connected with the supply of concessionary coal and the payment of sums in lieu of concessionary coal ;
(e) sums required by the Secretary of State for making any payment of compensation for loss of office--
(i) to a person who ceases to hold office as a chairman or member of the Corporation, or
(ii) to the person who is the chairman of the Domestic Coal Consumers' Council when it ceases to exist ;
(f) sums required by the Secretary of State for making payments in pursuance of arrangements entered into by him for securing that the assets of an existing pension scheme are sufficient for meeting pension obligations arising under the scheme ;
(g) administrative expenses incurred by the Secretary of State or the Treasury in consequence of the provisions of the Act ; (
(h) sums required by any Minister of the Crown or Government department for meeting obligations arising in consequence of that Minister or department becoming entitled or subject, in accordance with a scheme under the Act, to any property, rights or liabilities ;
(i) increases attributable to the Act in the sums payable out of money so provided under any other Act ;
(2) the extinguishment of liabilities of the British Coal Corporation in respect of--
(a) sums lent to that Corporation out of money provided by Parliament ;
(b) sums which are to be taken as having been so lent ; and (
(c) interest in respect of any such sums ;
(3) the issuing out of the National Loans Fund of sums required by the Secretary of State for making loans to a successor company at a time when it is wholly owned by the Crown ;
(4) the charging on and issuing out of the Consolidated Fund of sums required by the Treasury for fulfilling such guarantees given by them for the discharge of financial obligations in connection with sums borrowed by a successor company as are given in respect of such a company at a time when it is wholly owned by the Crown. In this Resolution "successor company" means any company to whom property, rights or liabilities of the British Coal Corporation or any of its wholly-owned subsidiaries are transferred in accordance with a scheme under the Act and at a time when the company is wholly owned by the Crown.-- [Mr. Arbuthnot.]
Mr. Derek Enright (Hemsworth) : One has only to read the money resolution to realise what is wrong with the privatisation of the coal industry. The Government need not look far beyond the end of their noses-- if, indeed, they need to look that far.
We need to take a long-term view of our energy needs. We should not consider coal, electricity, nuclear power or gas in isolation, but should take account of our long-term
Column 806energy needs in their entirety. That is very far from what is suggested in the resolution. Britain requires an integrated energy policy. [Interruption.]
I was silent for a moment to give Government Front-Benchers a little time to cool down so that they can prepare themselves to listen to my important words, just in case they believe that they are able to reply to the strength of our arguments.
One of the most important questions is whether Government Front Benchers can cite any specialist from the energy world who says anything other than that, by the turn of the century, coal will once again be the main source of energy. Even if they cannot do so, the fact remains that the resolution would mean the running down of our coal resources. In other words, by the turn of the century we shall have made ourselves utterly dependent on foreign resources for our energy needs.
Such a situation is dangerous but not untypical of what is happening at the moment, or of the Government's policy. It is why, for example, we lost the race for the European bank. We lost the race because of our absurdities and our ridiculous posture on Maastricht. We also lost because London is a short-term financial sector, whereas Frankfurt has always made it clear that it is a long-term financial centre. Our continental partners rightly chose Frankfurt as the location for the bank, and their decision was important. That is not merely symbolic but at the heart of the Government's failure to take this country into the next century.
As many of my hon. Friends want to speak, I will briefly examine different aspects of Government policy. The gas industry was most unwilling to provide the electricity supply industry. That was the last thing it wanted, but it was prepared to make that provision at what it said was a commercial price. I thought that we had freed gas to operate in the marketplace, but a money resolution made the gas industry sell its product below the market price.
The money resolution before the House will sell off the coal industry to a company with remarkably limited objectives, which cannot possibly pursue what is really needed in energy policy.
Mr. Peter L. Pike (Burnley) : One problem with private coal mines is that they can rarely restore the environment properly at the end of their operations. Does my hon. Friend believe that the money resolution makes adequate provision to ensure adequate environmental restoration to British Coal standards?
Mr. Enright : That would be possible, if the motion contained a single enabling factor giving the companies the money and powers to restore clapped-out coal mines--of which there are many in my constituency--to their previous state.
The resolution provides no guarantee in respect of small social factors that still count in the local environment. It takes no account, for example, of the Coal Industry Social Welfare Organisation. The senior and junior Frickley bands really go back to basics, to coin a phrase. Those institutions take young people off the streets and give them something worth while to do, education and culture, and are enduring. I think also of Frickley Amateur Athletic, which is at the heart of football in that area.
How much money would be needed to keep two bands going? Remarkably little. I am sorry that the Financial Secretary to the Treasury is not present. I also expected his
Column 807Parliamentary Private Secretary--the hon. Member for City of Chester (Mr. Brandreth)--to be present in support of his boss. The hon. Member of City of Chester had enough money given to his company, Unicorn Heritage, to support a football team and two bands into the next century.
Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Janet Fookes) : Order. The hon. Gentleman must not try my patience too much. The money resolution does not go as wide as the hon. Gentleman might want, and I ask him to confine his remarks to the motion.
Mr. Enright : My complaint is that the money resolution does not cater for functions previously performed by British Coal in respect of bands, football teams, athletics, social welfare and pensions. It was apparently very easy for another Department to provide money that could be thrown down the drain and allow companies to go bankrupt. That money would have enabled two bands and one football team to continue for not 50 but 250 years, on the basis of the average amount that is currently given by British Coal as subvention, and should be given by the new body that is being established.
It is scandalous that two hon. Members who are so closely associated with the motion do not see fit to give that money to my people in Frickley, who have suffered directly as a result of the Bill and the motion. There is no doubt that people in South Elmsall, South Kirby, Hemsworth, Featherstone and Havercroft have suffered particularly from the restrictions imposed by the inadequate creature that we are discussing.
I feel very strongly about what the Government are doing. In their rush towards a crazed nationalisation that they have not justified--I appreciate that I cannot discuss it on this motion--they have taken no account of the lives that they have tossed aside, especially in constituencies such as mine. The smirking of public school Conservative Members is intolerable. I am not referring to the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Technology ; I applaud his jolly nice secondary modern-school background. I am referring to the Minister for Energy, whose school motto is "Manners makyth man".
The Minister displayed none of the virtues associated with "Manners makyth man". It means consideration for ordinary people--not just those who can take the money and make the profit, which is what the motion is all about, with no thought of protecting the five sites in my constituency--the only five green field sites--that will be opencast. Following the erection of the filthy muckstacks, we now have the craters ; but we do not even have the consolation of seeing moon men land on them. We may have the consolation of seeing the junior Minister open those sites, but I warn him that that would be a dangerous task to undertake.
Another important aspect has not been dealt with properly. I refer to the scientific research undertaken by British Coal. It was very successful, relying on a tradition
Column 808going back to Dr. Bronowski--who, although much maligned by the Daily Express, did superb work for British Coal very early on. The work on clean-coal technology, particularly that done at Grimethorpe, was a wonder, marvelled at by the rest of the world. The rest of the world bought it, and was grateful for it. What mention is it given in the motion? None at all.
There is a simple reason. British Coal closed down Grimethorpe. The reason why Grimethorpe was closed down was simple : it was successful. It was going to show how one could use coal effectively and cleanly. That technology was thrown away. The people who will benefit are the Swedes and the French. That shows precisely why we cannot trust energy policy to the Government, and why this pathetic creature that is called a money resolution will not and should not survive. It should be beaten. I urge the House to throw it out as the puny creature that it is.
Mr. Stuart Bell (Middlesbrough) : It is always a pleasure, even a joy, to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Hemsworth (Mr. Enright). We felt at one stage that he was about to use a Latin phrase when he said, "Manners makyth man". When he was describing the Minister of State, I thought that he was going to say, "Profits makyth man" because to the Government profits are more important than manners. We have got used to that over the years.
I am glad to say that my hon. Friend excluded the Under-Secretary from the accusation of having a public school background. We all looked at my hon. Friend aghast, if that is the right word, when he seemed about to suggest that the former miner about whom we have heard so much, who has come such a long way from the Back Benches to the Front Benches and who will take the Bill through Committee, went to public school. My hon. Friend the Member for Hemsworth pulled back and listed him as a former pupil of a secondary modern. I can feel a little superior, having gone to a grammar school ; I got through the 11-plus.
I shall come back to the money resolution, Madam Deputy Speaker. I know that it pleases your heart enormously that we stay on the script, the programme and the resolution before us.
We heard a lot today from the President of the Board of Trade in the first instance about a £20,000 million investment in the coal industry since 1979. Our figures alshow £12,000 million investment in deep mining since 1974. The hon. Member for Bedfordshire, North (Sir T. Skeet) said in an intervention that £8,000 million of that had gone into machinery. The question was asked in a sedentary intervention on our side how much of that had gone into redundancy. How much of that money was not investment but redundancy money to pay off the miners, get them out of the pits and soften up the industry? When the President of the Board of Trade referred to the figure of £20,000 million, my hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Cummings) intervened to ask how, if that investment had been made in the coal mining industry, the Government could walk away from collieries and leave them in a state of desuetude--if, unlike my hon. Friend the Member for Hemsworth, I may use a word that comes from the Latin. How could they leave them to flood? How could they invest so much money in plant and machinery and walk away from it?
Column 809The money resolution, the financial obligations in the resolution and the financial memorandum, which is part of the Bill, are not about money. They are about ideology. My hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner), who was so highly praised by Lord Lawson in his autobiography--Lord Lawson enjoyed his interventions--was right to say that the Bill and the money resolution are more to do with ideology than money.
If we were debating tonight the sale of British Petroleum shares, to add to the Government's piggy bank, we could say at least that there was merit in the Bill. If we were debating the sale of other assets of the state which Lord Stockton, to whom the Minister of State referred, called the family heirlooms or jewels--assets that would bring money into the coffers of the state and reduce the public sector borrowing requirement, we could say that at least there was merit in the Bill. There is no merit in the Bill or the money resolution, because the legislation is ideological.
The President of the Board of Trade said that privatisation of the coal industry was in the manifesto, and that the Government had a mandate for it. What we say is this : we had a mandate in 1945 and nothing has given this, or any, Conservative Government the right to reverse the mandates of previous Governments and take us back to a past that we heard about from my hon. Friends. The Minister does not need to grimace. He can intervene later if he wishes.
The mandate that the Government are trying to reverse is our mandate from many years ago, and they are doing so on ideological grounds. The financial memorandum to the Bill mentions the sum of about £70 million in respect to concessionary fuel for former British Coal employees. We believe that the figure should be £150 million. On pensions, the memorandum states :
"The capital values of these liabilities are not expected to exceed £400 million and £45 million respectively."
A whole host of financial obligations will reduce the impact of the privatisation and show that the Bill is ideologically and politically correct from the Government's point of view, but has no merit in financial terms.
The money resolution is part of the sham of the Bill, which has nothing to do with raising money.
Mr. Peter Hardy (Wentworth) : Before my hon. Friend concludes, will he look at paragraph (4) of the resolution regarding the sums required for the purposes of providing a pension guarantee? My hon. Friend is probably more of an expert than I in that area. If there is an average retail price index of 4 or 4.5 per cent., in five out of every six years the pension fund could be expected to provide a surplus far in excess of the RPI. We have heard little from the Government today, or in the preceding weeks, but they are minded to take half the surplus of the pension fund. If that is the case, will my hon. Friend invite the Minister to tell us what the Government expect sub-paragraph (f) to cost and what they expect to get from their share of the miners pension fund during the next 10 or 12 years?
Mr. Bell : I thank my hon. Friend for intervening in that way. I and other hon. Members in the House appreciated his moving account of the vesting day of 1947 when he gave his first speech, as I also remember that day. We
Column 810remember the great relief felt throughout the mining communities that the coal owners had gone. There was a blue flag on the masthead of our colliery and a cartoon at the time said, "Never come back." That message was directed to the coal owners. Opposition spokesmen stand at this Dispatch Box today with some sadness, with Members of Parliament for mining constituencies all around us, knowing that the coal owners will come back.
The President of the Board of Trade said that nationalisation had been a failure. It was Conservative Governments' refusal to accept it and to change the management of British Coal--in some cases, their activities were worse than the coal owners of old--that was the failure. That conspiracy between the National Coal Board, as it was then, and Conservative Governments has undone the mining industry. To respond to my hon. Friend the Member for Wentworth (Mr. Hardy), that matter is a part of my speech. The financial memorandum contains this phrase :
"The Bill provides, in return for the guarantee, for surplus assets in the modified schemes to be available to the Secretary of State"-- who is acting in the guise of the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Treasury.
The President of the Board of Trade and the Minister, when he summed up, referred to the interests of taxpayers, but they have no interest in pension funds that were built up by mine workers over many years. We shall point that out in Committee, as we have done on the Floor of the House.
I know that other colleagues want to speak in the debate, which is important, so I shall be brief. The money resolution touches on many issues. I referred to pensions, and we have spoken to the trustees of the pension funds, who are not entirely happy with the Government's approach. They are also not entirely happy that the Minister wishes to appoint and dismiss members of the board and to handle the fund's surplus.
The Minister of State, in his usual glib fashion, was saying from the Dispatch Box that there would be all types of guarantees for people in the pension fund ; there would be index-linked pensions and guarantees. Then he mentioned a 50 : 50 split of the surplus. We shall examine those matters carefully as we go along, when we consider the financial memorandum and the money resolution before the House.
Many of our colleagues spoke about water from the mines, especially in the north-east of England--the environmental liabilities. Where are the environmental liabilities in the money resolution and the financial memorandum? We shall consider that serious--as we see it--issue of pollution in the north, and the complications that that will pose for the privatisation of the industry. That is another subject to which we shall return with the Minister--I understand that he will serve on the Committee with us and that he will work with us in Committee.
Concessionary coal has also been mentioned. I mentioned earlier the reference in the financial memorandum to the sum of £70 million. We believe that £150million is involved, and we say that the current proposals on the table fall short of providing concessionaries with security in their entitlement to concessionary fuel and cash in lieu. We shall return to that and the lack of
Column 811protection, as we see it, for the entitlement of workers who are currently employed in the industry. That worries us ; it will worry the Committee, and we will take that forward.
We have also heard about the Coal Industry Social Welfare Organisation-- CISWO. The interesting thing about CISWO is that the Minister did not quite know how to pronounce it. There was a great difficulty in the pronounciation. As my hon. Friend the Member for Wentworth (Mr. Hardy) says, it is pronounced "Siswo", not "Kiswo". We could have a lot of discussion about that. Nevertheless, it is a major subject that we shall consider.
We say that the Bill as a whole, with the money resolution, should seek to continue the work of CISWO and ensure that it is adequately funded. As yet, as we see it, there are no satisfactory proposals which would give CISWO or a successor organisation a secure enough future with adequate funding.
So the Minister can see--I am glad that he will be on the Committee--that, as we wend our way through the money resolution and through ways and means, and as we get through the Bill and into Committee, there will be enough sustenance for us. There will be enough fears to allay of pensioners, of people who receive concessionary fuel and of people who are worried about environmental liabilities.
We promise, not a long hot summer for the Minister, but a chilly, lengthy winter.