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Mr. Jim Murphy (Eastwood): Name names.

Mr. Luff: It is for those Members to identify themselves in due course. I shall not name them now, because they talked to me in confidence. I welcome their intellectual honesty.

I am disappointed that the hunting Bill represents the only mention in the Queen's Speech of rural England and Wales--of rural Britain. The countryside is in crisis, and

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has been for some time. The state of farming is--well, "depressing" is a totally inadequate description. I think it was my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, West who spoke of farmers' suicides. It is terrifying: the state of morale in British farming is awful. It is a shame that the only mention of rural Britain in the Queen's Speech concerns a Bill that will make farmers' suffering worse by taking from them a useful economic service for fallen stock, and also a useful pillar of rural society.

Another paragraph concerns devolution. I urge those who were not present to read the speech of the hon. Member for Clydebank and Milngavie, which I considered remarkable. He posed some important questions. He asked why Scottish Members would be voting on a raft of legislation--I think he said that it represented 70 per cent. of the proposals in the Queen's Speech--that had no relevance to Scotland. I suspect that his question will be most sharply focused when we deal with the hunting Bill, because it applies only to England and Wales, and the arithmetic makes it possible that banning hunting in England and Wales will depend on the votes of Scottish Members.

I believe that, in the case of that Bill, every Scottish Member should take a self-denying ordinance and not vote. Separate legislation is going through the Scottish Parliament to deal with the issue, and it will be settled in Scotland, for Scotland. I have no right over what happens in Scotland, and I have no objection to that; but I do not think that Scottish Members in this place should seek to impose their value judgments on my constituents in Worcestershire. Let English and Welsh Members speak for them.

Mr. Murphy: Does the hon. Gentleman think that English Conservative Members were right to vote for the introduction of the poll tax only in Scotland, with an English Conservative majority? Were they right, or were they wrong?

Mr. Luff: That was a world in which we were a United Kingdom Parliament. We could all vote on each other's legislation and business. We had just one Parliament. The world has changed now; the facts have changed. I am obliged to change my mind, and say that the issue has moved on. It is not possible to go back in history: we are where we are.

Personally, I am not very comfortable where we are. I preferred the status quo ante. Perhaps we should have been more sensitive to the wishes of the Scottish people sometimes--my party would probably have done better in Scotland had it been so sensitive--but, as I have said, we are where we are, and I seriously think that the hon. Member for Eastwood (Mr. Murphy) should undertake not to vote on the hunting Bill. It is not just a question of hunting, but I expect that to be the topical issue that will first bring the matter into focus. As the hon. Gentleman said, Bill after Bill in the Government's programme refers only to England and Wales, and I think that only English and Welsh Members should vote on those Bills.

The Department for International Development has, broadly, done a good job. It did a good job in its old incarnation under Lady Chalker, and I considered it churlish of the hon. Member for Clydebank and Milngavie

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not to pay tribute to her as well. The Department has evolved in the right direction, helpfully and continuously. As secretary of the all-party group on overseas development, which the hon. Gentleman chairs, I feel that he and I should pay tribute to what both parties have done and continue to do.

I was pleased to learn of the White Paper on the forces of globalisation. Although I honestly do not know what any Government can do to shape those forces, it will be fascinating to read the White Paper. I plead with the Government, however, as they examine the impact of globalisation on trade, to reconsider their wretched, unthinking acceptance of the inclusion of sugar in the everything but arms initiative. To include sugar in an initiative that allows the developed countries access to the products of the least-developed countries is to do something wrong in the context of something that is otherwise very good.

It is absolutely right morally for us to give the least-developed countries much greater access to British and other European--indeed, western world--economies. It will help them to trade out of poverty. However, including sugar--and, for that matter, rum, bananas and rice, but sugar concerns me most--will have a perverse effect. For one thing, acting too rapidly will add to the woes of British farmers. I can introduce Members to farmers who will lose their jobs, hauliers who will lose their jobs and sugar factory workers who will lose their jobs.

We should weigh that in the balance. Ultimately, it is sometimes right to make a sacrifice if that will alleviate poverty elsewhere in the world; I understand that. However, the tragedy is that the measure as currently conceived by the Government will cost not just British, French and German jobs, but jobs in the African, Caribbean and Pacific countries--the old Commonwealth countries. It could destroy the economies of many West Indian countries. The effect could be to reward countries such as Sudan--which will use the money that it gains probably to buy new arms to further its wretched conflict--and to destroy the economies of our traditional friends, who will then come to the Department for International Development to look for handouts to take them out of their new-found poverty. Therefore, I urge the Government to look at the matter again most carefully.

The Secretary of State for International Development State is an honourable, intelligent and objective woman; I note what she said about the dome, for example. I would like her to look at the measure again, to discard her prejudice, which she seems to have at present, that Conservative Members are opposing free trade--we are not--and to look at what she will do to those economies.

The one serious issue in the Queen's Speech that worries me--it is a national issue, not a local one; it is not about Worcestershire this time--is about NATO. I shall not labour the point, but the United States Secretary of Defence, William Cohen, has let the cat out of the bag in spectacular style in the past 24 hours or so. The Queen's Speech says:

The Government have just signed up to something--the putative European army--that will work against the words that the Government put into the Queen's mouth earlier today. I urge them again to look carefully at the messages that we are now getting from the other side of the Atlantic.

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There are things in the Queen's Speech that are seriously wrong and misguided. The three that I highlight are the abolition of trial by jury, the inadequate attention to the legitimate aspirations of the English in this place--their views are not being properly taken into account and the West Lothian question has not been answered--and the failure to protect NATO. Those three things worry me profoundly. They are serious errors of judgment by the Government, but a lot of the Queen's Speech is not too bad. It is not all together a bad Gracious Speech, but it is woefully inadequate.

9.47 pm

Mr. Harry Barnes (North-East Derbyshire): It is possible to make wide-ranging speeches, as Members have, on the Queen's Speech. It has at least 25 paragraphs, some of which might refer to more than one piece of legislation, and Members can obviously raise items which they think should be in the Queen's Speech, so almost anything goes, as long as it is within the general coverage of the Queen's Speech title. However, I shall direct my attention mainly to one item that I am concerned about.

A potential Bill that I wish to see stopped is hinted at in the Queen's Speech and in other Government publications. If it is not dealt with because a general election comes along, I will not want it to appear in the Labour party manifesto and to be adopted following a general election and the return of a Labour Government. Furthermore, I wish that the Government would withdraw from taking action under that measure, as though it had already passed into law--which it has not. It relates to matters connected with the items about continued economic stability, which have been mentioned several times.

I welcome much of what has been done and is to be done within the Queen's Speech to extend economic stability. It is generally welcome. The constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Mr. Michie) adjoins mine. The favourable comments that he made about the Queen's Speech and about economic stability lap over into my constituency. His points are relevant but, in some of our heartland areas, it sometimes seems that we take one step forward and two or more steps back. That could not be truer than in the case of Clay Cross, which is a part of my constituency's solid Labour heartland. Part of the tradition of "red Clay Cross" includes the fact that it was once known as Skinnerville, when it fought the Housing Finance Act 1972. In the inter-war years, it always returned a Labour candidate, even after the 1931 debacle. At a by-election, Harry Pollitt received 5,000 votes on behalf of the Communist party. Therefore, if there is such a thing as a Labour heartland, Clay Cross is probably it.

In Clay Cross, a perfectly viable pipe manufacturing works has been taken over by a multinational company called Saint-Gobain. The company is in the process of being closed, and its order book is being taken overseas. Even its machinery is being crated up and moved to India and South Africa, among other places. Although it is a viable firm, with 80 per cent. of its output being exported, 700 jobs are being lost in my constituency.

Although the Queen's Speech does not specifically mention the matter, some of the contents seem to be relevant to it. The Queen's Speech states:

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The Government propose that ministerial involvement in merger cases should be minimised. In the foreword to the "Mergers" document, the Secretary of State says:

The Secretary of State seems to be saying that business will be given its head. However, surely the political arena is composed of voters, pressure groups and elected representatives. Is not democracy very much about interaction in the political arena?

At Biwater, the community, workers, shop stewards, trade unions, women's support group, district councillors, the three Members of Parliament representing the area and Members of the European Parliament offered substantial arguments explaining the firm's commercially viability. We have made it clear that the firm is a competitor in pipe manufacturing. I believe that competition policy is important to the DTI. Additionally, Biwater is a key exporter. The point, however, is that jobs in the area need to be protected and big communal needs need to be taken into account.

As I indicated when describing the area's history, politics--with a large P, not a small one--are another important aspect of the matter.

In deciding mergers, we must change from a test based on public interest to one based on competition. Proposals to abandon the public interest test and to adopt the competition one should concern Labour Members. In practice, such a move would probably entail amendment of the Fair Trading Act 1973 to remove the Secretary of State's power when deciding whether to refer a proposed merger to the Competition Commission, to consider job losses, export losses and the devastation that would be caused to a community when industry is moved within a region. Yet such considerations enable a proposed merger to be effectively investigated.

The "Mergers" report states:

It seems that, if we are putting competition issues and consumer interests at the heart of the regime, consideration of other factors will be downgraded. The paper states:

In the Clay Cross case, it could be argued that the Saint-Gobain takeover did exactly that as it reduced competition in pipe manufacturing in the United Kingdom, but the next point in the document shows that that consideration can be ignored. It states:

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Thus, UK consumers will be considered to be protected if a firm in this country is closed down and its operations are moved overseas, so long as there is a global overseas market that benefits UK consumers. That is part of the Office of Fair Trading's justification of the closure of the works at Clay Cross.

How can I be sure that my interpretation of the document and of what the Secretary of State has in mind is correct? I discussed the matter with John Vickers, the Director General of Fair Trading, and he pointed out that the fact that the factory is being crated up and sent to India is not seen to be a material matter in these considerations, as under competition policy the British consumer will be protected by the fact that competition will continue in the international market. This is very worrying, not just in respect of what is happening in my constituency, but on a wider basis as it could affect the manufacturing industry elsewhere.

In the Clay Cross case, six guilty men seem to have been responsible for the takeover being accepted and the closure taking place. Jean-Louis Beffa, the chairman of Saint-Gobain, refused to alter his stance on the matter, even when appealed to by the Secretary of State. Pascal Queru, the head of Stanton plc, which is a subsidiary of Saint-Gobain, was the architect of the policy involving

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Stanton taking over Biwater, in the hope of rationalising the pipe industry in the UK. However, moving the operation overseas will ultimately be to the detriment of Stanton plc, as it has a foundry in my constituency that is bound to be affected two or three years down the line.

At the time of the takeover, Christian Streifft, the president of Saint-Gobain's pipeline division, said that he wished to conduct a full review of Biwater's operations before finalising his conclusions on the future running of Biwater. That never took place. The closure was announced within 45 minutes of the takeover, so there was nothing honourable about his response.

Another character involved in this deceitful move is Adrian White, the effective controller of Biwater and a close friend of Lady Thatcher, who retains the land. He was obviously involved in a very dubious deal, as the short control of the lease meant that Saint-Gobain would have had to get out in any case.

The final failure has been that of the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry in not using the 1973 legislation to refer the matter to the Competition Commission because he sees the legislation as a dead duck that he will seek to change in future. The thrust of these merger proposals must be stopped, and we must insist that the Secretary of State acts to defend the public interest. He still has time to send the Biwater case to the Competition Commission, even if it is now a bit late to save the plant.

Debate adjourned--[Mr. Jamieson.]

Debate to be resumed tomorrow.

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