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The money resolution is central to the privatisation of the coal industry. One has to ask oneself why the coal industry needs to be privatised. If one thinks back to the days when the coal mining industry was nationalised, one has to remember that there were about 1,000 coal mines in the United Kingdom. Year after year, closure has followed closure. It is common knowledge that Lord Robens and the former Secretary of State for Energy, the right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn), closed about one coal mine every 10 days. The right hon. Gentleman was Secretary of State for Energy for the Labour party : we must not forget that.
We must not sit on the Conservative Benches taking lessons on why we should do this and why we should do that, without fighting back a little and reminding the coal mining industry why we need the money resolution. We need the resolution because, if we are to save the coal mining industry-- hon. Members should remember that, even in the state in which it is today, it is still one of the largest coal mining industries in the world, and it will remain as such--we still need to safeguard the work force with a money resolution. The successor companies must have the wherewithal to safeguard pension funds and to ensure that the obligations are met, so that miners receive their proper pensions, whoever owns the coal mines. We have to ensure that the concessionary fuel that mining families have enjoyed over the years is still paid to those families, or money in lieu. That is why the money resolution is central to the Bill. If they want to save the mining industry, the Opposition should not vote against it, or make difficulties in
Column 812Committee. It is through the money resolution and in Committee that we shall safeguard the welfare of the work force in the mines. It may surprise Labour Members to know that I come from mining stock. I had relatives down the Ripley and the Alfreton mines, in Derbyshire. I do not need lectures from the Opposition about the interests of the coal mining industry, because I speak for my own flesh and blood. No, I did not go to university, either. I went to a secondary modern school, and I am quite proud of it, although I also wish that I had had a university education, because I know that the lack of it shows at times-- although not so clearly as it shows every day of the week in Labour Members.
The money resolution is central. We must ensure the continuation of the mining industry, because we must have a mix of fuel. The hon. Member for Hemsworth (Mr. Enright) talked about an energy policy, and we need oil, gas, nuclear power and coal--one could put those fuels in the reverse order if one liked. Never again must the United Kingdom be held to ransom by a year-long miners' strike that threatens to put out the lights and stop companies from running. Never again must we be placed in that position.
Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Janet Fookes) : Order. Before the hon. Gentleman takes off too far, I remind him that we are dealing with a money resolution. I should be grateful if he would return to that topic.
Mr. Dickens : I am grateful to you for having drawn that to my attention, Madam Deputy Speaker. You are right. Just by chance, I was about to finish my speech, because I know how many Labour Members want to speak.
Mr. Illsley : Has not the hon. Gentleman just let the cat out of the bag with his reference to the 1984 miners' strike? Obviously he intended to go on to refer to the 1974 strike, too. Is it not true that the privatisation of coal is related to those strikes, in that it is a way of getting back at the mining unions in revenge for those strikes, especially that of 1974?
To answer the question asked by the hon. Member for Barnsley, Central (Mr. Illsley), we are privatising the coal industry for one reason alone. Whatever party is in power, politicians, in the form of the Department of Trade and Industry, are the worst people to help run industry. The sooner we get politicians off the back of industry the better. The DTI has done a reasonable job until now, but I am sure that private industry will do a good job in one respect. The mining industry is in a mess today because of its pitiful marketing of coal. It is no good digging coal if one cannot sell it. Private industry, with its management techniques and marketing skills, is far better able to market coal across Europe and to provide the coal mining industry with a future. As I finish my speech, all that I ask Labour Members to remember is that the future of the United Kingdom coal mining industry is in their hands today. If they want a future, they must allow it to carry on.
Mr. Harry Barnes (Derbyshire, North-East) : It would be useful if, when hon. Members discussed the money resolution, they showed some sign of having read it. It is a funny old money resolution, because in some ways it says too much and is too open ended, yet in other ways it says too little.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Hemsworth (Mr. Enright) pointed out some of the omissions in the motion, perhaps I ought to illustrate some of the ways in which the motion opens issues up too much and how they should be defined more clearly. It has been talked about it as a funny old money motion. A lot of funny old money is likely to be made out of the privatisation of mining, because the country has massive coal reserves. We are blocking off certain coal reserves off the Durham coast, but otherwise the coal reserves of deep-mined coal will remain underground for a future of opencast development.
If we shift pricing policy and alter the fuel market, vast amounts of profit will be made from the coal mining industry.
Mr. Jimmy Hood (Clydesdale) : On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. May I bring to your attention the conference being held in the corner, which is distracting me? I cannot hear what my hon. Friend is saying.
There is a great deal of money to be made out of coal in the country, despite the fact that we are now considering the privatisation of a relatively small industry, which has been allowed to shrink considerably. Nevertheless, there are massive coal reserves, from the Leeds area to Nottingham and Derby, cutting through my constituency, to be obtained by opencast methods. Whether it is in a former mining area or in areas which were mined in the past century, almost any piece of land that has not been built on will become open to that potential.
There is something missing to enable our consideration of the money motion. Nothing in the motion or the Bill tells us what size the coal industry will be after privatisation. We should have figures that are relevant to its size, because of the open-ended provisions in the motion. The motion outlines the Coal Authority's rights of acquisition, its rights of obtaining security, the operations of successor companies, and the compensation to people being moved from positions on the board. However, for us to be able to make some assessment of all that, we should be able to understand what is being proposed and planned for the future of the industry. It is a peculiar motion.
Even if Opposition Members accept that we have lost the Second Reading, that measures are to go into Committee, and even in the light of the fact that the money resolution is attached to that Bill, it has massive shortcomings. The motion should be rejected on its own demerits, as well as on the demerits of its being part and parcel of a Bill which is anti-social and will kill off the coal industry in Derbyshire, in Durham and in many other parts of the country.
Mr. Hood : My hon. Friend is making an important point. I am pleased to see that the President of the Board of Trade has joined us as we come to the end of discussing the money resolution. Perhaps he can tell us what paragraph 1(e)(i) means, which uses the words : "to a person who ceases to hold office as a chairman or member of the corporation".
Is it not the responsibility of the President of the Board of Trade to tell the House what sums of money are involved in that so-called compensation ?
How much are we talking about ? Neil Clarke has been as good to the coal industry as Rachman was to housing policy in Westminster city council. Now we have a provision that will pay him hundreds of thousands of pounds in compensation. The President of the Board of Trade should say exactly how much we are going to use to pay off the chairman, who has ruined the coal industry, as a backhander for his services.
It is interesting that the Minister has not sought to speak. He could have jumped up at the beginning of the debate and explained what the missing points are about. Ideally, there should not be missing points. We should be able to read the motion, see the detail and the implications involved, and do our own accountancy in order to make up our minds before we vote.
In the absence of that, and in a very short time, the Minister should explain exactly what the motion is about. He should also take up the points that were made on Second Reading about the environment, safety and so on, and tell us how they relate to the measure and whether our concerns will be answered by the resolution.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Technology (Mr. Patrick McLoughlin) : In some respects, this has been a rather amusing debate. The hon. Member for Middlesbrough (Mr. Bell) told us that, because the Labour party nationalised the coal industry in 1947 and it was in its election manifesto, and therefore a mandate, we should not seek to change it. I take a little more comfort from a more recent document, the previous Conservative manifesto, which said that we would privatise British Coal. That commitment has far more standing than one given in 1945.
The hon. Member for Hemsworth (Mr. Enright), in a most incredible speech, almost accused me of having gone to a public school. That has never happened to me before. He asked for an assurance that the bands in his constituency will be around for the next 250 years. Not many politicians-- not even the hon. Gentleman--would make a commitment relating to the next 250 years. That was a strange request. It shows the farce which the debate has come to.
Column 815Parliamentary Private Secretary who took enough money out of the Government to subsidise, for 250 years at current prices, the shortfall for the two bands of Frickley and Frickley Athletic. It was a simple mathematical point that I was making.
I was asked several questions about concessionary fuel by the hon. Member for Middlesbrough. That is a matter in which I have a particular interest. My mother has been receiving concessionary fuel as the beneficiary of my father, who worked in the coal industry for 30 years. Concessionary fuel and the rights and entitlements of beneficiaries are very important.
Yesterday, in announcing our conclusions on the consultation paper, my hon. Friend the Minister of State made the Government's position clear. If Labour Members vote against this resolution, they will be voting against the Government having the opportunity to provide the funds for concessionary coal.
Mr. Michael Clapham (Barnsley, West and Penistone) rose --
As we have seen from the exchanges tonight, it is an important matter which undoubtedly will be debated in Committee. I have made my position clear on the importance of that subject. Clearly, if Labour Members vote against this money resolution, they will be voting against the provision of concessionary coal--
It being three-quarters of an hour after the commencement of proceedings on the motion, Madam Deputy Speaker-- put the Question, pursuant to Standing Order No. 14 (Exempted business).
The House divided : Ayes 304, Noes 122.
Division No. 76] [11.15 pm
Ainsworth, Peter (East Surrey)
Alison, Rt Hon Michael (Selby)
Allason, Rupert (Torbay)
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)
Arnold, Sir Thomas (Hazel Grv)
Atkinson, David (Bour'mouth E)
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)
Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley)
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset North)
Banks, Matthew (Southport)
Banks, Robert (Harrogate)
Beith, Rt Hon A. J.
Beresford, Sir Paul
Biffen, Rt Hon John
Blackburn, Dr John G.
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas
Bottomley, Rt Hon Virginia
Boyson, Rt Hon Sir Rhodes
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter
Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thorpes)
Browning, Mrs. Angela
Bruce, Ian (S Dorset)
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)
Carlile, Alexander (Montgomry)
Carlisle, John (Luton North)
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)
Channon, Rt Hon Paul
Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth (Ruclif)