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Commons Chamber
24 May 1989
Volume 153

House Of Commons

Wednesday 24 May 1989

The House met at half-past Two o'clock

Prayers

[MR. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Oral Answers To Questions

Environment

Unleaded Petrol

1.

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To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what percentages of car refuellings now take place at garages which stock unleaded petrol.

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There has recently been a dramatic increase in outlets. The UK Petroleum Industry Association has advised that approaching two out of three refuellings now take place at petrol stations where unleaded fuel is available.

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I welcome that reply from my hon. Friend and also the leaflet, "Adjust to Unleaded", which the Department of the Environment and the Department of Transport are producing and which I hope will have very wide circulation. Will my hon. Friend confirm that the wider availability of unleaded petrol is vital if we are to have more stringent controls on exhaust emissions? What are the Government doing about that and what do they intend to do in the future?

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I thank my hon. Friend for his comments. The "Adjust to Unleaded" leaflet is supposed to give practical advice and encouragement to people to use unleaded petrol. It is certainly the case that the distribution and use of unleaded petrol pave the way towards the strict car emission standards to which we are committed. I know that my hon. Friend will welcome the announcement by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State today that—provided that the industrially unrealistic interim standard of 1991 is withdrawn and there is a commitment to respect the unity of the market—we shall agree to the Commission's proposals for the new standards for small car exhaust emissions.

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While joining in congratulating the hon. Lady on the information that her Department has issued to the public, I draw her attention to one point. When the owners of a number of cars listed as being fully available to use unleaded petrol consult the dealers—for example, Volkswagen vehicles—they are told that they have to use a tank of leaded petrol from time to time to keep the engines in good order. Will the hon. Lady investigate that?

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Indeed. I chair the unleaded petrol group which works with members of the motor, petrol and oil industries and various Government Departments. We have been at great pains to ensure that proper and reliable information is available throughout the country. Of course, the information provided by the dealer or the garage mechanic is vital. I have even attended a training day for garage owners to encourage them to give the proper information to their customers.

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I congratulate the Government on carrying out the recommendation of the Select Committee on Trade and Industry for a 10p per gallon gap —the largest anywhere in the EEC—in the taxation of unleaded and leaded fuel. Will my hon. Friend confirm that it is just as important to reduce the carbon dioxide emissions from power stations by having a balanced element of nuclear power as to control the amount of lead going into the atmosphere from petrol, which is also very important?

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I thank my hon. Friend for his comments about the substantial differential, which I believe is the second highest in the European Community. It has made a significant difference to the uptake of unleaded petrol. He is right. of course, to identify the whole question of carbon dioxide. At the Council of Environment Ministers the Minister for Housing, Environment and Countryside, my hon. and noble Friend the Earl of Caithness, will be pressing the Commission to bring forward measures to tackle greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles, which is a matter of great concern to us all.

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The Minister has just made a most significant announcement, which should have been in the form of a formal statement. After a virulent, sustained and misinformed campaign by the Government against the catalytic converter and the adoption of stricter United States standards for vehicle emissions in Europe, have the Government not just done a U-turn by accepting the EEC directive on stricter vehicle emissions? Will the Minister confirm that although this will mean that all new cars will have to run on lead-free petrol and have a three-way catalytic converter the Minister's statement makes it clear that the Government are still trying to delay the implementation of those new standards from 1991 to 1993 and intend to move an amendment along those lines at the Council of Ministers meeting on 8 June? If that amendment is not carried, will the Government still try to hold up implementation of the directive?

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I apologise for having taken the wind out of the hon. Gentleman's sails and for disappointing him with my announcement today. For a long time the Government have believed that three-way catalytic converters and oxidation catalysts would have an important part to play in controlling pollution. That is one of the reasons why we have been so determined to extend the distribution and availability of unleaded petrol.

There is concern about the accumulation of carbon dioxide and the greenhouse effect. We believe that the right way to protect the environment is on the basis of hard science, not hot heads. We are seeking an agreement and it is time that the motor industry and the consumer knew the way forward. We shall welcome the Commission's proposals on the basis of the few conditions that I have made clear. We hope that we shall be able to encourage others to follow our example in taking sufficiently seriously the problems of the greenhouse effect and climate change.

River Polluters

2.

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To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment at what date members of the public were given the right to prosecute polluters of rivers.

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Members of the public were given the right to prosecute polluters of rivers by sections 31 and 32 of the Control of Pollution Act 1974 which were brought into force by the present Government on 31 January 1985.

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Will my hon. and learned Friend confirm that all the extra measures contained in the Water Bill will be implemented fully by the Government whereas the measures brought in by the Labour Government were never implemented? When we combine that fact with Labour's total opposition to the Water Bill, it is difficult to see the Labour party as the friend of people who want clean water. Labour is on the side of the polluters.

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I can indeed confirm that the rights of private prosecution will continue under the Water Bill, which is designed to achieve substantial improvements in our water environment and will help to correct the mischief from which we are still suffering as a consequence of the lack of investment in the industry under the Labour Government.

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In view of the Minister's reply to the main question, may I ask what steps the Government intend to take against the South West water authority, which has now polluted rivers for the third time, this time with aluminium sulphate?

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The incident to which the hon. Lady refers is certainly regrettable, but it did not affect the quality of drinking water in any way. The South West water authority has substantially reviewed its procedures since the Camelford incident and is reviewing the incident to which the hon. Lady refers.

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Does my hon. and learned Friend agree that hon. Members on both sides of the House and Members in the other place who care deeply about the purity of our river systems should not be hoodwinked into believing that there is a simple answer to pollution? While it is clear that sometimes the worst polluters are the water authorities themselves, the ecological balance of our river systems is extremely delicate and a great deal more research needs to be carried out by bodies such as the National Environmental Research Council and the Freshwater Biological Association.

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My hon. Friend is quite right. However, the National Rivers Authority will have a crucial role to play in ensuring that we have the highest possible river standards in this country. I am sure that my hon. Friend will be pleased to know that 95 per cent. of the rivers in the United Kingdom fall into grades 1 and 2—the highest proportion in any member state of the European Community.

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Does the Minister accept that the pollution incidents in the South West water authority area —there have been three within 10 months—are serious public problems and not private ones? Will he initiate a proper independent inquiry to discover why South West Water has mishandled things in such a way as to allow aluminium pollution to occur three times in succession? Will he do something to ensure that the privatisation of South West Water does not go ahead until that proper independent inquiry has taken place?

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I hope that the hon. Gentleman is not suggesting that those three incidents are an advertisement for public sector control of the water industry. The latest incidents need to be seen in perspective. Neither of the two more recent incidents affected the drinking water supply, but a thorough investigation of both is being conducted by the authority.

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I accept what my hon. and learned Friend has to say about South West Water but how many times have water authorities prosecuted themselves for the pollution of rivers or water supplies? I appreciate that he may not be able to answer that, but does he not agree that one of the great benefits of the Water Bill is that the prosecution role will be taken away from the water authorities and given to the National Rivers Authority?

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My hon. Friend is absolutely right. It is most unsatisfactory that under the present system water authorities combine the roles of gamekeeper and poacher. We are moving away from that. The National Rivers Authority will be responsible for prosecuting under the new system which is being put into place and which I expect to bring a substantial improvement in standards.

Playing Fields (Sales)

3.

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To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what proposals he has to protect playing fields from being sold for purposes other than sport and recreation.

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We have urged local authorities to take into account the needs of the wider community and to consult local sports and recreational interests before allowing recreational land to be developed, but these must be matters for local authorities themselves to decide.

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Is the Minister aware that according to the National Playing Fields Association 800 sites, or 100,000 acres of sports facilities, have been lost for ever as a direct consequence of Government policy? Will the Government therefore withdraw circular 909 and prevent even more of our playing fields from being taken over by property developers?

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The fault does not lie with the Government but, often, with Socialist local authorities. The hon. Gentleman may not be aware that yesterday the Socialist ILEA decided, over the heads of the London Playing Fields Society, to sell 20 acres of playing fields in south London. That proposal was hotly contested by the Conservatives, but sadly the Socialists had a majority.

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Is my hon. Friend aware that a few months ago Mr. Neil Fletcher, the leader of the Socialist-controlled Inner London education authority said that he would take all steps to prevent property developers from buying ILEA sports grounds and building houses on them? Yesterday ILEA agreed to sell 20 acres of unencumbered sports ground. Does my hon. Friend realise the consequences of that precedent, given that ILEA has more than 200 acres of satellite sports grounds? Will he give the House an undertaking to call in any planning applications to build houses on those sports grounds?

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Any planning applications that are made would have to be referred to the local planning authority, which would consider whether the local plan was such as to give a clear indication as to what should be done with those playing fields. My hon. Friend is right to draw the attention of the House to what happened with ILEA. Fortunately, ILEA is soon to be abolished and will thus be unable to pursue any more of this Socialist humbug.

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Does not the Minister accept that this is a national matter and, therefore, a matter for Ministers? Is there not a responsibility to ensure playing fields facilities for generations of sportsmen yet to come? Does he think that his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State would be so supine if someone wanted to flog off the playing fields of Eton?

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The fact that we should have more recreational facilities is a national matter. I am pleased to say that as a result of the Government's policies more people are participating in recreation than ever before. That is a sign that we have achieved a good balanced policy at national level. We shall be updating the planning policy guidance on this and hope to issue a new document before the end of the year.

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Is the Minister aware that most of ILEA's playing fields are in the outer London boroughs, which are not controlled by Socialist authorities? Will he therefore stop this nonsense and join me today in saying that it is absolutely essential for the future of community sport and school sport, on which all British sport depends, to stop selling off sports fields in any local authority whatever its political complexion? [HoN. MEMBERS: "What about Labour ILEA?"] Labour ILEA has playing fields in Conservative areas, where the authorities will not purchase them—[Interruption.]

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It is all right, Mr. Speaker; they think they are on the terraces.

Finally, I draw the Minister's attention to the fact that in 1984 the now Minister for Sport—he is not present today—promoted a Sports Fields and Recreational Facilities Bill requiring the Government to monitor the sale of sports fields carefully and to take appropriate action. Why has he surrendered that proposal since taking office?

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I hope that Socialist authorities up and down the country will heed some of the right hon. Gentleman's advice.

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Does my hon. Friend believe that any of the contributors from the Opposition have read his reply to the Adjournment debate on Monday night, particularly the reference to the sale of a sports ground in my constituency by the Co-operative Wholesale Society?

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That comment is a further indication that the Opposition are clutching at straws. They do not have a consistent policy like ours; the sooner they develop one, the better.

Unauthorised Development

4.

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To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he has any intention to strengthen the powers of planning authorities to deal with unauthorised development; and if he will make a statement.

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Yes, Sir. My right hon. Friend invited comments by 31 May on Mr. Robert Carnwath's report on this subject entitled "Enforcing Planning Control". When the response has been considered my right hon. Friend will seek an early legislative opportunity to strengthen the enforcement regime at present contained in the Town and Country Planning Act 1971.

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I am grateful for the Minister's reply, but will he tell us whether the Government intend to ad opt the recommendations in the Carnwath report? If so, what are his views on the 10-year immunity for unauthorised use?

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I do not think that the hon. Gentleman really expects me this afternoon to pre-empt the entire consultation exercise on which we are engaged. The Government take consultation seriously, and I want to study carefully the views expressed in response to the consultation before I make up my mind about an} of the proposals.

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I welcome my hon. and learned Friend's announcement that there will be legislation, but he will be aware from representations that he has received from many local authorities, including my own, that they consider their present statutory position quite inadequate. There is now insufficient provision to deter a developer who wishes to break all the rules. Can my hon. and learned Friend give a guarantee that that deterrent will be there in the future?

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I agree that the enforcement powers now available to local authorities are inadequate. That is why my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State asked Mr. Robert Carnwath to report on the matter, and why we are consulting on the report and hope to proceed to action.

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Can the Minister give us any idea of the timetable for the introduction of legislation, and when the consultation process will end? In the past 10 years of Tory rule, little has been done to prevent the abuse of planning laws. The appeal procedure is a costly and lengthy one for local authorities, and they must also suffer uncertainty about the outcome. It is therefore important that action be taken as soon as possible. Will the Minister also take on board the issue of third parties who may be aggrieved? Will they receive protection so that they can make representations in the event of abuse of planning laws?

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There will certainly be opportunities for all interested parties to make representations. As I said in my original answer, my right hon. Friend will wish to legislate on the matter at the earliest opportunity.

Peak Park Planning Board

5.

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To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment whether he has any plans to introduce direct elections to the Peak park planning board.

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I have no plans to do so.

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How does my right hon. Friend justify the fact that the Peak park is one of only two areas in the country where planning decisions are made by people who are not directly elected? Does he regard that as fair to those who live there?

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I know and acknowledge my hon. Friend's strong feelings and persistence on that point, but he will appreciate that if any change is made it will be necessary also to alter the arrangements for electing national park planning authorities—all of them, not just one or two. In Northumberland, only 2,500 people live in the national park, so such a solution would not be appropriate.

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Does the Secretary of State recall that when greater Manchester council was abolished the place for its elected representatives on the Peak planning authority was abolished? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that large numbers of people in greater Manchester enjoy visiting the Peak district for recreation and feel that they ought to have more say in the way in which its planning authority operates? They are particularly concerned that existing guaranteed access to water authority land should be retained and that the Peak park planning authority will not have to pay more for that access.

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Yes, and I am equally certain that many people living in the countryside would like more say in the way in which Manchester city council runs its affairs.

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Is my right hon. Friend aware that those of us who represent constituencies in which national parks are situated appreciate the consultations that his Department holds with right hon. and hon. Members on the selection of the people who are to serve on planning authorities? Does he agree that voluntary organisations and societies representing people who love the countryside have an important role to play? Is he aware that last weekend the Exmoor Society, which started with a victory over a proposal to plant conifers on a large part of Exmoor, celebrated its 30th anniversary? Will my right hon. Friend encourage the work of such voluntary societies?

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I shall certainly do so, and I join my hon. Friend in celebrating the anniversary to which he referred. I hope that he feels that our decision to restrict grants for coniferous plantations on the uplands of England makes a contribution of comparable value.

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Does the Secretary of State agree that one problem arising in direct elections is the size of constituency which should be involved? My constituents make regular use of the Peak park and should therefore be included in any extended franchise. If that happens, they should also have some control over what happens in the Peak park area. Water privatisation is interfering with rights of access there. Does the Minister agree that those elected under any transformed electoral system should be able to influence that?

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I agree with the hon. Gentleman that 12 different local authorities have part of their areas within the Peak district national park, but I entirely disagree with his comments about the Water Bill, to which the democratically elected Government and Parliament have given a fair wind because they believe it to be the right measure. The hon. Gentleman may be unaware that the Bill provides full safeguards for access to hitherto accessible water authority land.

Mortgage Repossessions

6.

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To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will give the latest figures for homelessness arising from mortgage repossessions in the south-east and south-west of England.

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Estimates from local authority returns for the fourth quarter of 1988 are that about 300 households in London and the south-east, and about 100 in the south-west, were accepted by local councils as homeless as a result of mortgage repossessions.

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Does the Minister accept that as a result of the Government's continuing disastrous economics policies, which brought yet another rise in interest rates today, the problem of mortgage repossessions is becoming even more serious? Is it not true that the figures that he gave do not take into account repossessions by banks and finance houses, and that the true proportion of homeless people in the priority need group presenting themselves to local authorities is one in 10? Is the Minister aware that the situation is deteriorating rapidly, and what action does he intend to take to solve this disastrous problem in the housing market?

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I can only describe the hon. Lady's figures as nonsense. The figures that I have already given in the substantive answer do not help the case that she is seeking to advance. The truth is that, according to the latest statistics, there has been a decline in the number of mortgage repossessions in the past two years. On the very point that the hon. Lady made about the economy, the director general of the Building Societies Association recently said:

"The decline in the number of repossessions and arrears is consistent with the improvement in performance of the economy in recent years and … the sharp fall in unemployment"
since
"the middle of 1986."

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Does my hon. Friend agree that the best advice that he can give those who find themselves in difficulties with their mortgages is not to wait until the 59th minute of the 11th hour with the bailiffs knocking at the door, but to go to the building society office that they deal with, put the problem to them and reschedule the borrowing? Does he further agree that in such cases there may be a case for building societies and other reputable lending institutions to take properties back and relet them to the former owners to prevent pressure on housing waiting lists?

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I agree with my hon. Friend's earlier point. That is sound advice. Experience has shown that in those circumstances building societies are, in the vast majority of cases, sympathetic, and that has contributed to the fairly dramatic fall that we have seen in the figures that I have already given to the House.

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The Minister's figures are misleading because they apply only to building societies, as the societies make clear. My hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, South (Ms. Primarolo) is right. The fastest growing area of homelessness for families is mortgage repossessions from all mortgage companies and the local authorities are having to pick up the bill. Why does not the Minister put that right? Does he remember the Tory party's promise in 1979 given by his ex-housing spokesman, supported by the Prime Minister in 1980, that mortgage rates would not rise above 9·5 per cent. under the Tory Government? Except on two brief occasions they have never been under 10 per cent. in the past 10 years.

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The hon. Gentleman knows why we have to have this temporary period of high interest rates. Several undertakings have been given by my right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer on that front. The main purpose is to reduce inflation—a lesson that was never learnt by the Labour party in office when its record was disastrous. We have not got anywhere near the 27 per cent. that inflation reached then.

I question where the hon. Gentleman gets his figures for his earlier point. We have to give the figures that are available from a number of sources. They have to be correct and subject to parliamentary reply. The hon. Gentleman's figures are pure hypothesis.

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Does my hon. Friend agree that, given that all the published statistics show that homelessness through mortgage arrears is a small proportion of those facing homelessness, the only purpose of the campaign being waged by the Opposition must be to alarm many people who have fallen into mortgage arrears and possibly to deter those who would otherwise buy their homes?

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I could not agree more with my hon. Friend. I genuinely believe that the campaign to which he referred which has been waged this week will not do a single thing to solve the problem—not a single thing. To put the matter in perspective, although it is distressing to the people involved—I emphasise again that no individual or political party has a monopoly on compassion—the latest figures show that less than one third of 1 per cent. of mortgage advances result in possession of the property by the lender.

County Hall, London

7.

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To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what information he has regarding the future use of the county hall, London SE1.

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The future use of county hall is in part the subject of an appeal to the Court of Appeal against a High Court decision made in March 1988 and in part the subject of planning appeals recently submitted to me. Arrangements are in hand for the holding of a public inquiry. I cannot comment on the proposals.

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Is not the conversion of county hall into a luxury hotel a studied insult to the homeless of London and to Londoners generally'? Would not the Secretary of State do well to advise the sleazebags who are corning up with this particular proposal that a Labour Government will take county hall back into public ownership by compulsory purchase and they will lose an awful lot of money unless they back off now?

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I cannot comment on the first part of the hon. Gentleman's question, but I can assure him that the hypothesis contained in the second part certainly will riot come true.

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In what ways would the progress of mankind be impeded if further municipal headquarters, notably those owned and occupied by Socialist authorities, were sold to the private sector?

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I confess that I am stumped by my lion. Friend's question.

Bad Landlords

8.

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To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what proposals he has to counter the activities of bad landlords in the private rented sector.

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The Government significantly strengthened the law against harassment in the Housing Act 1988.

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As there will certainly be a future Labour Government, has the right hon. Gentleman noted the Labour party's commitment to tenants in private sector accommodation to provide additional protection by offering them the opportunity to opt for decent landlords in non-resident properties? Is the right hon. Gentleman prepared immediately to offer that to tenants in the private sector?

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The hon. Gentleman is too early in that he predicts something that will not happen, yet too late in that we have already taken legislative steps to improve the law against harassment. The offence of

"Harassing a tenant knowing or having reasonable cause to believe that this was likely to cause him to leave his home"
is an improvement on previous law.

The hon. Gentleman probably is not aware that there is a new right to civil damages effective from 9 June based on the landlord's profit from illegal eviction. In a case brought by the Hammersmith and Fulham tenancy relations department a landlord was put in prison for 28 days under the new legislation. I can hardly think that the hon. Gentleman is dissatisfied with that.

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As the other half of the coin of private landlords is public landlords, is my right hon. Friend satisfied that enough is being done to deal with bad public landlords such as Camden council and others?

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I agree with my hon. Friend, who knows that we are continuing to take measures both to get publicly owned stock properly and fully used and to improve the standard of management of some local authorities, which leaves a lot to be desired.

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Why is it that the tenant of a Mr. Rachman or a Mr. Hoogstraten cannot have the right to change his landlord?

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The hon. Gentleman knows full well that the public sector is not in competition with the private sector in many areas, and that shows very much in local authorities' service to their tenants.

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Does not the history of well-intentioned efforts by Government since the first world war to regulate the private rented sector prove beyond peradventure two economic facts of life—that shortages raise prices and that Governments create shortages?

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My hon. Friend is right. The effect of the Rent Acts since the end of the first world war has deprived large numbers of people of the opportunity to have the sort of accommodation that they wanted. One of the great achievements of this Government is that that restriction on supply has been ended, at least for new tenants.

Recycled Paper

9.

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To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what percentage of paper used in Government offices is recycled paper.

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Most paper and paper products used by Government Departments contain some recycled paper. A growing proportion is 100 per cent. recycled.

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Does the Minister acknowledge that one of the brakes on the expansion of the use of recycled paper is that, in general, it is more expensive than freshly produced paper? Would not a considerable expansion of purchasing by a major purchaser such as the Government ensure that manufacturers had the volume to reduce prices and so extend the use of recycled paper? Are the Government prepared to expand the figures that the hon. Lady has given to the House?

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Government Departments are responsible for their own purchasing policies, but Her Majesty's Stationery Office is able and willing actively to explain to Departments the qualities of the paper that are available at an economically viable price which offer good value for money. All Department of the Environment ministerial correspondence uses fully recycled paper. A great deal of the Department's other paper is fully recycled. In other areas, a proportion of the paper has been recycled. My hon. Friend the Member for South Ribble (Mr. Atkins) co-ordinates a group of Ministers who are trying to encourage and promote recycling. Other Government Departments are looking again at the issue.

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Does my hon. Friend agree that most paper is made from coniferous soft woods that are grown in many parts of the northern hemisphere as a crop, just like a conventional agricultural crop? In attempting to protect the overall quantity of paper that is used, we must ensure that we maintain an adequate level of afforestation in the northern hemisphere.

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As my hon. Friend has said, the wood used for paper production is a managed crop. However, the Government recognise that recycled paper has a very important part to play. The majority of the input into the mills is recycled. We are the fourth largest user of waste paper in the world.

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Does the Minister agree that there is far more to a comprehensive waste policy in the United Kingdom than bagging, binning and winning it? Does she not agree that 70 per cent. of domestic waste consists of packaging and newsprint and that currently—this is what concerns the Opposition—less than 30 per cent. of our total consumption of paper and board is recycled? When will the Government introduce an integrated waste management policy that takes full account of the need to recycle? When will the Minister put her own house in order and say why all my previous requests that recycled paper should be used in the Palace of Westminster have fallen on the deaf ears of the Secretary of State for the Environment, who is sitting next to her?

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The hon. Lady must know that her last point is a matter for the Services Committee. The Government fully recognise the importance of recycling in helping to minimise waste and conserve resources and energy, whenever it makes economic sense and the proper quality can be provided. There are many remarkable initiatives to promote recycling. Only this week I launched Sheffield's recycling city initiative. Where it makes economic sense, Sheffield hopes to recycle a great number of products. It is important to work with the private sector. The way in which the private sector in Sheffield is working with the voluntary bodies and the local authority is a good example.

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Has my hon. Friend had a chance to work out how many trees have had to be cut down to provide material for all the press releases, letters and motions put forward by the Liberal party, claiming credit for other people's good ideas and hard work?

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I have not had the opportunity to work that out, but, rather than bagging and binning them, I hope that they will bag them, bin them and send them off to the City of Westminster where I know that the waste paper will be recycled and put to good use.

Urban Development Corporations

10.

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To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what percentage of each urban development corporation's budget in both 1988–89 and 1989–90 is allocated for community projects and voluntary sector initiatives.

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The percentages of UDC budgets allocated for community projects and voluntary sector initiatives for each of the years specified are as follows:

1988–891989–90
Black Country1·31·8
Bristol01·0
Central Manchester1·41·6
Leeds0·90·1
London docklands3·36·5
Merseyside4·53·1
Sheffield0·40·7
Teesside2·40·3
Trafford Park0·10·3
Tyne and Wear0·30·9

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Obviously the figures are not as high as we should like them to be, and we are disappointed. Does the Minister agree that it is essential that priority should be given to community projects, such as sports, open space parks and social housing? What advice is he giving to the chairmen of the UDCs to discuss these issues with the local authorities and the voluntary sector, both of which have vast experience of these matters?

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I certainly have no quarrel with the last point that the hon. Gentleman made. Sheffield development corporation is anxious to work with the local authority. As the hon. Gentleman knows, a number of local councillors are on the board. Among the initiatives supported by the development corporation are ethnic minority, social, educational and recreational projects, which is impressive. There are statutory responsibilities of Sheffield city council that have not passed to the urban development corporation. Those powers are retained by the city council. I cannot believe that the hon. Gentleman would wish us to transfer those powers to the UDC.

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I thank my hon. Friend for the answer that he gave to the hon. Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Mr. Michie) who, as a former Sheffield city councillor, will probably recollect that the powers are there. The local authority has power to do such things. Various leaders of Sheffield city council are members of the UDC and I am sure that the two bodies talk to each other. Furthermore, Sheffield city council is the planning authority or assists with planning for the development corporation.

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Indeed. We have an agreement with Sheffield development corporation and the city council that the council should be the agency for planning. That is a step forward. I detected in the substantive question on the Order Paper some antagonism. Contrary to what I expected, the hon. Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Mr. Michie) was not antagonistic in his supplementary—in stark contrast to his contributions in the past.

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I welcome the revitalisation work that is being carried out on the waterfront in Liverpool and the work of the Merseyside development corporation. The Minister will be aware of the widespread concern because some of the voluntary sector and community initiatives that are desperately needed in the area have not got off the ground. Will the Minister give continued attention to trying to find ways of using resources to benefit the local people rather than just tourists and businesses?

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I shall consider the point that the hon. Gentleman has raised. The main point is that a development corporation should not in any way supplant work that could be done by a borough council or, as in Liverpool, a city council. I recognise that development corporations can in some cases act as a catalyst. There is a good example in the Merseyside development corporation with regard to training and the support that it gives to Merseyside Education Training Enterprise Limited.

Paper Conservation

11.

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To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will introduce environmental measures to stop the excessive use of paper so as to save depletion of timber resources.

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The Government promote recycling of paper wherever it is economically viable to do so. The use of recycled paper is increasing and already the United Kingdom is the fourth largest user of waste paper in the world. There are no plans for compulsory restrictions on the use of paper.

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Is my hon. Friend aware that efforts on recycling will be welcome on both sides of the House, as will efforts to encourage the planting of trees? Will my hon. Friend join me in a campaign against the excessive use of paper by mindless lobby campaigns, oversized and unreadable Sunday newspapers, junk mail and unnecessary photocopying, the waste of paper in Whitehall and, last but not least, the waste of paper in the House of Commons?

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I endorse the points made by my hon. Friend. I think that most hon. Members and members of the Government agree that there is far too much paper in Whitehall. The only difficulty is that it has to go through Ministers' boxes on its way to being recycled by the City of Westminster. The only redeeming feature of junk mail is that if it has been through the Post Office in the last month it has at least arrived with "We love unleaded petrol" franked on it.

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Does the Minister agree that there is a shocking waste of paper? I cannot agree with her reply. The Secretary of State at her side is responsible for the environment. Why do we keep finding confidential Government documents on landfill sites? That shows clearly that the Government are wasting paper because the documents do not tell us anything. I suggest that we should recycle the Secretary of State.

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That was an uncharacteristically ungenerous remark from the hon. Gentleman about my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State who has pioneered many achievements for the environment. I shall riot respond in kind as, although I should like many Opposition Members to be recycled, I would not apply that insult to the hon. Gentleman.

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Is my hon. Friend aware that enough litter and waste paper is deposited illegally in Britain each year to reforest an area the size of Wales? Does she accept that any initiatives taken by her and the Department to encourage the recycling of paper and, therefore, saving the timber stock, are to be warmly applauded?

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I thank my hon. Friend who has done a great deal to promote activity and interest in the war on litter. Litter is offensive and needless and, as my hon. Friend well knows, the Government are determined to tackle the problem of litter once and for all. Not only is it a waste of resources, but it is unsightly and offensive and there is no place for it in a modern Britain.

River Quality

14.

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To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what percentage of rivers in the United Kingdom were in good or fair condition at the latest date for which figures are available.

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The 1985 river quality surveys for England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland indicated that about 95 per cent. of river lengths in the United Kingdom were classified as good quality or fair quality; that is the latest year for which comprehensive figures are available.

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Will my hon. and learned Friend confirm that the River Wye in my constituency is up to the mark, as it should be? Secondly, will he confirm that he is bringing the greatest possible pressure to bear on rivers in the United Kingdom which are not yet up to the top mark and that he is sustaining the greatest possible pressure on the rivers in the remainder of the European Community countries so that British industry is not disadvantaged in such an important area of trade?

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Yes. No other member state in the European Community has a higher proportion of its river length in the top two grades of river quality than the United Kingdom. The River Wye has consistently been of class I quality for a considerable time.

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Will the Minister tell us the exact class of the River Rother from which my constituency gets its name? When are we going to start cleaning up that river?

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Unfortunately the River Rother is not in either of the top two grades of river quality, but the hon. Gentleman should appreciate that its present condition is the result of activities that have continued for generations. The clean-up has started and its pace will quicken when the water industry is in the private sector.

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I entirely agree with my hon. and learned Friend's comment about the River Rother. Does he accept that the River Aire, which also suffers from excessive industrial effluent, will likewise take a considerable time to reach the proper grade? In that regard, will he confirm that the National Rivers Authority will not be slow to set up regional operations within the Yorkshire Water region so that a proper plan can be developed and adhered to in the new-found capacity of the plcs to borrow and spend money?

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My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The National Rivers Authority will take precisely the action that he has identified. The attitude of Opposition Members on this, as on so many other matters, is that things are absolutely dreadful as they are, so let us keep them exactly as they are.

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Will the Minister comment—as there has not been a statement on the subject in this House—on the decision, announced in the other place, that £5·5 billion will be written off the debt of the water authorities to make their flotation a success? Is he aware that it will not be the sale of our water industry but a daylight giveaway?

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The hon. Gentleman's comments are entirely incorrect, and I refer him to the Hansard of what my noble Friend Lord Caithness said in the other place. The write-off of the £5·5 billion refers only to the debt to the national loans fund which takes place on every privatisation. It will be replaced by securities with which each company will enter the private sector, and we shall announce our decisions on those securities at the appropriate time. If Opposition Members are really interested in these matters, I suggest that they read in Hansard precisely what was said in the other place, rather than relying on totally inaccurate reports of what was said by my noble Friend.

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How far into river estuaries is testing conducted? Is my hon. and learned Friend aware that recent tests undertaken just off the coast of south Devon displayed figures of six times the acceptable rate of viral contamination?

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I am aware that those recent tests showed results which left a good deal to be desired, and those matters are being considered by the South West water authority.

Bottle-Nosed Dolphin

15.

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To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what steps he is taking to ensure that marine nature reserves are able to provide effective protection for the two remaining resident populations of the bottle-nosed dolphin in Cardigan bay and Moray firth.

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My scientific advisers, the Nature Conservancy Council, have no proposals for the designation of Cardigan bay or the Moray firth as marine nature reserves. They have no evidence to suggest that such action would be an effective measure to conserve the bottle-nosed dolphin. This species of dolphin is, of course, already protected by virtue of its listing in schedule 5 to the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

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Is it not time that we had more than one solitary marine nature reserve in this country? Indeed, is it not time that the Nature Conservancy Council was given power to prevent toxic pollution of marine nature reserves in addition to other coastal waters? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that dolphins and other species are literally being driven to extinction in the seas around Britain because of the Government's determination to assert Britannia's right to foul the waves? Is he further aware that it is time that we surrendered some of that sovereignty to more responsible authorities in Europe?

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The hon. Gentleman must know that it is for the Nature Conservancy Council to suggest marine reserves, and I can only consider proposals put forward by that council. The hon. Gentleman is under a typical delusion in thinking that the death of the seals last year was due to pollution, whereas it is now known that it was due to virus diseases. It might help if the hon. Gentleman got his facts right, which is what I want to do before I propose any solutions concerned with dolphins.

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Is the Secretary of State aware that the highly respected organisation Greenpeace will early next month be undertaking a survey of marine life in the Moray firth? Should Greenpeace produce evidence showing that steps need to be taken to protect the dolphin, the porpoise and other species, will the right hon. Gentleman act on it?

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I am glad to say that I am not responsible for the activities of Greenpeace. The Natural Environment Research Council considers it inconceivable that there are only two remaining groups in United Kingdom waters of the bottle-nosed dolphin, which is what Greenpeace has apparently alleged.

Rural Enterprise And Development

16.

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To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment whether he will revise and reissue his Department's planning policy guidance note number seven, dated January 1988, on rural enterprise and development.

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We hope to do so later this year.

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I am glad to hear that. My hon. and learned Friend will be aware that there is great concern in rural parts of Britain about inappropriate levels of development, particularly by parish councils. Does he agree that the circular was way ahead of most planning authorities, that district councillors tend not to read circulars, that they then do not agree with the advice of their professional officers and that events end up with the matter going on appeal to the Secretary of State?

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I agree with my hon. Friend and I wish that our circulars were more widely read. Indeed, I sometimes wish that a local authority controlled by the Labour party would take action to ban some of our circulars, as that would no doubt ensure that they received much wider circulation.

Residential Property

17.

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To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what steps he takes to ensure that his Department is making the best use of its residential property.

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Where empty residential properties are not required for further Government use they are sold. If they cannot be sold because of legal restrictions, or sold within six months, they are offered first to the local housing authority and then to a housing association.

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How does the Minister explain that, at a time of record homelessness, 5·5 per cent. of residential properties owned by his Department have been empty for more than a year—twice the national average for local authorities? Instead of admonishing local authorities to put their house in order, why does the Minister not do so?

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I welcome the hon. Lady's interest in the 38 vacant residential properties which is the total number owned by my Department. I hope that she is not trying to divert attention from over 100,000 properties owned by local authorities.

Drugs (Inner Cities)

3.31 pm

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I beg to ask leave to move the Adjournment of the House, under Standing Order No. 20, for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration, namely,

"the problem of drugs in inner cities in the light of the drug-related disturbances involving crack in Wolverhampton last night".
Only last night in the Chamber I highlighted the vast improvements in the quality of life for residents in the high-rise area of Heathtown, in my constituency. Therefore, it was like waking from a nightmare this morning to hear on the radio news that, as a result of a police raid at the Traveller's Rest public house in which 20 people were arrested, large amounts of cannabis and crack had been seized. I received a full report of the disturbance from acting Chief Superintendent Jones of the Wolverhampton police early this morning and I have discussed the matter with my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department.

As a result of the vigilance of the people living at the heart of the Heathtown community in alerting the police of suspicious activities in recent weeks centering on their local public house, the police responded to their concerns, took out a warrant under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 and mounted their initiative at 9.45 pm yesterday. Initially, it involved 120 police officers and subsequently 250 riot police.

It is unfortunate that hundreds of youths saw fit to take advantage of the situation and converged on the scene. I am sure that the vast majority of law-abiding citizens will join me in praising the police for their urgency and initiative in dealing with the drugs problem. The police were well prepared in terms of clothing, training and the use of a helicopters with a night-sight facility. Their actions demonstrate their ability to control and contain what could have escalated into a highly explosive incident. The evidence of crack for the first time in Wolverhampton could have serious consequences for the Wolverhampton community. I regret to say that my worst fears have been realised.

You, Mr. Speaker, may recall that, on 17 January this year I raised this matter with my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and asked her to ensure that the Government were taking every possible step to deal with the problem of crack. I have been reassured by my right hon. Friend's actions. Crack is referred to as a drug of the under-class —[Interruption.]

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Order. The hon. Lady has had her three minutes and I have listened with concern to what she has said. She asks leave to move the Adjournment of the House, under Standing Order No. 20, for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that she believes should have urgent consideration, namely,

"the problem of drugs in inner cities in the light of the drug-related disturbances involving crack in Wolverhampton last night."
As the hon. Lady knows, my sole duty in considering an application under Standing Order No. 20 is to decide whether it should be given precedence over the business set down for this evening or tomorrow. I regret that the matter she has raised is not appropriate for discussion under Standing Order No. 20, and I therefore cannot submit her application to the House.

Anglo-Soviet Relations

3.35 pm

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I beg to ask leave to move the Adjournment of the House, under Standing Order No. 20, for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration, namely,

"the present crisis in Anglo-Soviet relations."
The matter is specific, in that the Soviet authorities have stated that the number of personnel of British institutions and missions in the Soviet Union must be reduced from 375 to 205. The latter figure is the quota allowed by the United Kingdom authorities for the personnel of Soviet institutions in this country. I would argue that the matter is important both for Anglo-Soviet relations, which have improved considerably—at least until the end of last week —and for British trade with the Soviet Union. The present crisis could cause immense damage to relations.

As Labour Members made perfectly clear in exchanges on a private notice question on Monday, we have no wish to condone actions by embassies in London, including the Soviet embassy, which would in any way undermine our national security. However, we are not convinced—I am certainly not convinced, as I pointed out on Monday—that the British Government did not have alternatives in this matter. We remain suspicious that the expulsions were carried out deliberately just before next week's NATO summit, at which the Prime Minister will press for the modernisation of short-range nuclear weapons. Would such expulsions have taken place a week before Mr. Gorbachev came to this country?

These events are occurring at an important time for the Soviet Union. Tomorrow, for example, the new Parliament is due to meet. It is probably the first Parliament of its kind for 70 years because it will not be a rubber-stamp one. That is all the more reason why we should be able to have reports from journalists in the Soviet Union, but a number of British journalists are, unfortunately, likely to be expelled. I hope that, before the recess, we shall have an opportunity to debate these matters. It is extremely important that there should be good relations between the Soviet Union and ourselves. The sooner this crisis is over, the better.

I hope that you, Mr. Speaker, will give careful and serious consideration to a debate on this subject.

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The hon. Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick) asks leave to move the Adjournment of the House, under Standing Order No. 20, for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that he believes should have urgent consideration, namely,

"the present crisis in Anglo-Soviet relations."
I regret that I have to give the hon. Gentleman the same answer as I gave the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, North-East (Mrs. Hicks). I have listened with concern to what the hon. Gentleman has said, but I regret that I do not consider that the matter he has raised is appropriate for discussion under Standing Order No. 20. I cannot, therefore, submit his application to the House.

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On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.

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Order. I will not take points of order at the moment because I must take a third application under Standing Order No. 20.

Interest Rates

3.37 pm

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I beg to ask leave to move the Adjournment of the House, under Standing Order No. 20, for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration, namely,

"the decision to raise interest rates to 14 per cent. and its implications for the economic policies of the Chancellor of the Exchequer."
Today's interest rate rise is the tenth in a year. It is of urgent and serious concern to industry, small businesses, farmers and home buyers, because, although there is to be no immediate rise in the mortgage rate, how long will it be before that follows? We are paying the price for the Chancellor's mistakes last year in both monetary policy and in stoking up demand in his Budget measures.

You may recall, Mr. Speaker, that it was the Prime Minister's remarks in the House yesterday, expressing confidence in the Chancellor, that started the run on the pound which has given rise to the interest rate increase. You may feel, therefore that a period of silence would be welcome and that if the Prime Minister were to say any more it might add to the problems of confidence.

The Prime Minister is answering to a large conference of Conservative ladies on these matters. She ought to answer to the House of Commons on them as well. She ought to answer for the mess of the Government's economic policy and for the deep disunity on fundamental economic issues which is at the heart of the Government. The House is entitled to know whether the Government are prepared to take steps to deal with the fundamental problems of inflation and the balance of payments, or whether we are to expect further interest rate rises to bolster confidence every time there is a run on the pound. The country is entitled to know, and to know now.

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The hon. Gentleman asks leave to move the Adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that he believes should have urgent consideration, namely,

"the Bank of England's announcement of a percentage point rise in interest rates."
I regret that the matter does not meet the requirements of the Standing Order, and I cannot, therefore, submit the application to the House.

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On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Without in any way questioning your ruling on the application under Standing Order No. 20 of my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick), may I put it to you, in the presence of the Leader of the House, that since the developments in Anglo-Soviet relations, which concern a considerable number of hon. Members, have taken place since the debate on the spring Adjournment when we would have had the opportunity to raise them, and in view of the fact that we have only two more days left before the spring Adjournment, it would be greatly appreciated if the Foreign Secretary were to consider making a statement on this matter before we rise for the recess.

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I am sure that that has been heard by the Leader of the House.

Points Of Order

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On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I refer to column 255 in the Official Report of 16 May in which the hon. Member for Langbaurgh (Mr. Holt) is reported as having referred to a television programme on Tyne Tees and stated:

"The cat was let out of the bag during the debate when the regional organiser of the Transport and General Workers Union, Joe Mills, said:
"Of course things are better in the north-east now. It hurts me to have to say so but begrudgingly I have to say that Margaret Thatcher has been responsible for this."—[Official Report, 16 May 1989; Vol. 153, c. 255.]
The latter paragraph is printed in the Official Report in a manner that suggests that it is an extract from the transcript of the television programme. However I have today received a copy of the transcript of the programme, and not only did Mr. Mills riot make any such statement, but in his only reference to the Prime Minister he said:
"The final point I want to make is this, I don't want to give Mrs. Thatcher any benefit at all, let's make that absolutely clear."
Is it not a gross abuse of the privilege of this House for the hon. Gentleman to have done that, and should he not apologise to the House and to Mr. Mills?

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That seems an extension of last week's debate. The hon. Gentleman knows that I cannot be responsible for what is said in the House, provided that it is in order.

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Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I was informed just a few moments before 3.30 pm that the hon. Gentleman intended to make that personal attack, which gave me no opportunity to refer to anything. Anyone who watched the programme, as I did—I do not think that the hon. Gentleman did—would have known from the tenor of the programme that there was an admission by Joe Mills that it was the Government and the Prime Minister who had improved matters in the north-east—

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Hear, hear.

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Order. We are not on television yet.

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Further to the Standing Order No. 20 application of my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick), Mr. Speaker, I wish to raise a question, which I believe is before the Select Committee on Procedure, about the way in which the House investigates difficult matters. It will be within your recollection, Mr. Speaker, that when the Foreign Secretary made his original statement on this, I asked extremely clearly and politely whether he would refer it to the Security Commission. The Foreign Secretary chose not to reply to that question, although it was pressed from the Front Bench.

Subsequently, I tabled a question yesterday at the Table Office, which I believe was in total order:
"To ask the Prime Minister if she will refer the matters which led to the recent expulsion of Soviet diplomats to the Security Commission."
As very often happens now to hon. Members of all parties, but especially to Opposition Members, we get the monosyllabic answer, "No," and no explanation of any kind such as used to be given to the House by Prime Ministers and Foreign Secretaries.

There may be good reasons why this should not be referred to the Security Commission, but if the proper channels of communication are gone through when the proper questions are politely asked, does not the House of Commons, of which you are the protector, Mr. Speaker, at least deserve some kind of explanation in matters so grave and serious? After all, why do we have Lord Griffiths of Govilon at the Security Commission, Sir Philip Allen and other distinguished people, unless it is to deal with precisely such matters? In a way, it is circumventing not the constitution—we do not have one—but the traditional bastions of British security and intelligence.

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I fully understand the point that the hon. Member has made. Again, I cannot possibly be held responsible for answers to questions—provided that they are in order, of course.

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On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. The matter that I raise involves the Official Report of yesterday. In an intervention during a speech by my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, North (Mr. Wall), I said:

"As a member of the Committee who served with the hon. Member for Rochford (Dr. Clark), will my hon. Friend ask the hon. Gentleman a question? When the hon. Gentleman spoke to the sponsors of the Bill a minute ago, did he say, 'I am totally in your pocket and I had better come across to you?".—[Official Report, 23 May 1989; Vol. 153, c. 893.]
That was a misquotation. The Editor of Hansard has checked the tape, and that passage should have read, "I am totally in your pocket and I had better come across to speak to you."

The hon. Member for Berkshire, East (Mr. MacKay) indicated that I should be present at 3.30 this afternoon because he wished to raise with you, Mr. Speaker, my conduct in this matter. As he is not here, he must now accept the Official Report and your order yesterday—

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Order. Allow me to interrupt the hon. Member at this point. I confirm that he has had a letter from the Editor of Hansard, putting his correct words on the record. Furthermore, he has written to me on this matter, drawing to my attention the fact that it is a matter of privilege. Therefore, we cannot discuss it in the Chamber now.

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rose

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rose

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In fairness, I will call the hon. Member for Rochford (Dr. Clark).

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Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Last night I was present in the House when the hon. Member for Makerfield (Mr. McCartney) made his accusation. I found his accusation so outrageous and so far from the truth that I did not believe that anyone could take it seriously. I did not rise at that time to rebut it. It is true, however, that, after one hour of accusations from Opposition Members that I had behaved improperly in Committee, I left the Chamber after I had spoken. I went out that way—[Interruption.]

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Order. The point of order is to me, not to hon. Members.

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I left the Chamber, going that way out, and I saw the sponsors of the Bill. As I said, it was after one hour of being accused of impropriety by Opposition Members. As I went past the sponsors of the Bill, I said, "Since I am being accused of being in your pocket, I had better say hello to you." That is all I said; I said nothing else. Then there was uproar in the House as Labour Members objected to my being there. I stood there with my back to the House, saying nothing further until the House settled down. That is what I said. There was nothing improper.

I have made an appointment to see the Clerk of the House at 6.15 this evening to object in the strongest possible terms to the accusation by the hon. Member for Makerfield.

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I repeat that this matter has been referred to me as a matter of privilege.

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rose

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All hon. Members are aware that, when an issue is raised with the Speaker as a matter of privilege, it may not be raised in the Chamber.

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rose

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It cannot be on this same matter.

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On a general point, Mr. Speaker. You have often reminded us that we are all hon. Members. Is it in order for an hon. Member to accuse a Chairman of a Select Committee of being in the pockets of one of the sponsors?

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rose

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I have said I cannot take points of order on this matter.

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You have taken one from the hon. Member for Gainsborough and Horncastle (Mr. Leigh).

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I am not responding to it, and I am not taking further points of order on this matter. The House well knows the rules. When an issue is raised with the Chair as a matter of privilege, it may not be raised on the Floor of the House.

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On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.

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Is it on a different matter?

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It is. It follows earlier exchanges about the point of order raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Tyne Bridge (Mr. Clelland). It is clear that a correction will have to be made, in view of the admission of the hon. Member for Langbaurgh (Mr. Holt)—

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Order. I have already dealt with that point of order.

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The hon. Member for Langbaurgh (Mr. Holt) has clearly said that it was not a verbatim report that he was quoting in the House; it was his view of what he heard on a television programme. In Hansard it is clearly recorded as being a verbatim report of what occurred on a television programme; it is in inverted commas in the usual way. Clearly it is a serious matter that the hon. Member for Langbaurgh should have had such a grossly contorted view of a television programme and one that was different from that of everyone else who watched it. However, that is more a problem for the hon. Gentleman than for the House.

What is a matter for the House is that the hon. Gentleman purported to quote verbatim from a record —in the form of a video cassette, which could be checked —but now says that it was not a verbatim report but simply his general impression of what went on. That surely must warrant a correction.

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I will cause the Editor to look into the matter in the light of what has been said about it this afternoon.

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On an entirely different point of order, Mr. Speaker. It refers to yesterday but has nothing to do with the exchanges.

You will recall, Mr. Speaker, that a large number of amendments to the Associated British Ports (No. 2) Bill were presented. I prepared most of them. I was aware of the difficult circumstances which surround the preparation or presentation of amendments to a private Bill that has not had a Report stage, which the Opposition regret. I was aware that such amendments had to be insubstantial in character, and I hope that I presented the amendments in an insubstantial way. I accept that some of them may have verged on the substantial, while others may have been too narrow or too broad, so that none of them was selected by you.

The point that I am raising, Mr. Speaker, is historically rather important, because people are asking me why those amendments were rejected. I have every confidence in your judgment, Mr. Speaker, and I would not challenge it in any way, but people interested in that Bill, in private Bill procedures now, and perhaps for the next 200 or 300 years, might benefit if you were to give the House some guidance on the nature of amendments that are likely to be accepted.

Could the Standing Orders of the House be made more precise so that hon. Members may have a way of obtaining an opportunity to debate a Bill in detail and avoid the situation that faced my hon. Friends and myself? We found it extremely difficult to oppose this dreadful Bill because of the absence of a Report stage and engaged in an unnecessary amount of work in regard to that Bill. Your advice to the House, Mr. Speaker, would be welcomed by the general public.

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I have a responsibility to the House, of course, rather than to the general public. The House will know that the question of verbal amendments to private Bills is set out at some length in "Erskine May".

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I looked at "Erskine May".

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I draw the hon. Member's attention to that. In any event, Madam Deputy Speaker gave an explanation, reported in Hansard in column 864, as to why the amendments had not been selected.

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Was the hon. Member for Rochford (Dr. Clark) in order when he raised his point of order?

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Yes; otherwise I would not have called him.

Ballot For Notices Of Motions For Friday 16 June

Members successful in the ballot were:

  • Mr. Alan Meale
  • Mr. Dick Douglas
  • Mr. Michael Stern

Statutory Instruments, &C

Ordered,

That the draft Set-Aside (Amendment) Regulations 1989 be referred to a Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, &c.—[Mr. Chapman.]

Car Telephones (Safety) Bill

3.54 pm

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I beg to move,

That leave be given to bring in a Bill to enhance safety in the use of telephones in cars.
This Bill is a road safety measure. It addresses itself to the dangerous practice of driving a car with one hand on the steering wheel and the other hand holding a car telephone. That practice is becoming much too prevalent.

We have all seen people on motorways or driving round roundabouts more engrossed in their phone calls than in the road before them. That practice reduces the driver's control over the vehicle at a time when his concentration is, in any case, likely to be distracted by the call. It increases the chances of accidents and it should be stopped.

The first provision of the Bill is to require all such telephones to be of the hands-off type. That is to say, they should have remote microphones so that it is not necessary to speak directly into the mouthpiece and remote loudspeakers so that it is not necessary to hold the receiver to the ear to hear. Many car phones already have those facilities. All car phones should have them. The Bill would make it an offence for the driver of a moving car to use a phone which is not hands free.

The second dangerous practice which my Bill tackles is the way in which drivers dial the number of an outgoing call. If the dialling mechanism is in the handset, some drivers will hold the handset in one hand and key in the digits with the other. No hand is than available for the steering wheel. Some drivers rest the handset on the lower quarter of the steering wheel and steer the car with their wrists or their elbows. Others steer with their knees, which is not easy when one is driving round a corner.

I have considered carefully whether the Bill should stipulate that outgoing calls by the driver should require a voice-activated dialling facility. The technology for that exists and is in use, but it is much more expensive, not altogether reliable and must be reprogrammed for each individual driver. To insist on that provision, it seems to me, would place an unreasonable burden on equipment manufactures and users. The alternative is to require all numbers which are not voice activated to be preprogrammed using the facility which most car telephones already possess, whereby a number can be selected by keying in only one, or at most two, digits. My Bill would make it an offence for a driver to call an outgoing number except by voice-activated or pre-programmed dialling.

The third danger which the Bill addresses is the extent to which drivers take their eyes off the road while operating telephones. That happens because phones are often located well below dashboard level on a centre console near the gear lever. To dial even a short number from a unit fixed in that position diverts the driver's eyes from the road for several seconds. My Bill therefore provides that all the controls should be fixed towards the top of the fascia so that the driver's eyes remain in the line of vision of the windscreen and the road.

All these changes relate to the design and fitting of telephones used by a driver of a car while it is in motion. The same problems do not arise when a telephone is used by a passenger or when the vehicle is stationary.

I propose two exceptions to the general rule: lorries should be exempt because the high level of noise in the driver's cabin would render remote microphones and remote loudspeakers ineffective; taxis and certain emergency vehicles should be excluded for much the same reasons that they were excluded from the seat belt legislation.

During the past year I, like other hon. Members, have asked a series of parliamentary questions to draw attention to these problems. The answers which I received were not always illuminating. In reply to a question on 20 June last year about voice-activated dialling, my hon. Friend the Minister for Roads and Traffic said:
"Our advice is clear: anyone who can afford a car phone can afford a hands-free microphone."—[Official Report, 20 June 1988; Vol. 135, c. 444.]
That answer does him less than credit. It suggests that the problem has been treated less seriously than it deserves, which is an impression confirmed by the complete absence of any reference to the subject in the recent White Paper entitled "The Road User and the Law."

It may be argued that current legislation already gives the police adequate powers to prosecute a driver who uses a car phone dangerously. Section 3 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 covers driving without due care and attention, and driving without reasonable consideration for other road users. The Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations 1986 make it an offence not to have proper control of a vehicle. However, that legislation provides the statutory basis for a prosecution once the danger has been caused. My Bill, apart from being much more specific, is preventative: it seeks to prevent what would be an offence under those provisions from taking place.

Does not the Highway Code already do that? It states:
"Do not use a hand held microphone or telephone handset while your vehicle is moving, except in an emergency. Do not stop on the hard shoulder of a motorway to answer a call, however urgent".
That is sound advice. Unfortunately, too few people read the Highway Code, and, of those, even fewer take notice of it. Furthermore, it is only advisory and failure to observe its provisions is not an offence, even though such failure may be adduced in evidence in other proceedings. What is needed, which my Bill provides, is a clear and firm framework of law, with appropriate penalties. I envisage the penalties being incorporated into the points system.

Anyone who doubts the seriousness of the problem has only to consider that the number of car telephones in use has nearly doubled in the past 18 months. The number is now in excess of 400,000. By 1991, it is likely to top 1 million. That is a very large number of drivers who are in less than full control of their vehicles. Those figures apply only to fitted cellular car phones. The totals will be considerably more, and the danger much greater, as portable telephones become more powerful and capable of in-car use.

Legislation may not look easy to enforce, but it need be no more difficult than it was for seat belts. Despite the claim that the seat belt rules would be unenforceable, the usage rate for belts rose from 30 per cent. before legislation to 90 per cent. after it. The emphasis of my Bill is on the design and fitting of the equipment. If that is right, the correct usage of it will follow.

I regard car telephones as an increasingly essential amenity of modern business life. I do not wish to restrict their freedom of use. However, I want them to be used in a way that is safe and sensible and does not spell danger to other road users. I believe that my Bill achieves that end.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Douglas French, Mr. Alan Amos, Mr. Jacques Arnold, Mr. Tim Boswell, Mr. John Bowis, Mr. James Cran, Mr. Roger Knapman, Mr. Keith Mans, Mr. David Nicholson, Mr. David Porter and Miss Ann Widdecombe.

Car Telephones (Safety)

Mr. Douglas French accordingly presented a Bill to enhance safety in the use of telephones in cars: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time upon Friday 7 July and to be printed. [Bill 148.]

Dock Work Bill (Allocation Of Time)

Ordered,

That the Report [23rd May] from the Business Committee be now considered.—[Mr. Fallon.]

Report considered accordingly.

Question, That this House doth agree with the Committee in their resolution, put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 80 (Business Committee), and agreed to.

Following is the report of the Business Committee:

That on the allotted day which under the Order [8th May] is to be given to the proceedings on Consideration and Third Reading those proceedings shall, subject to the provisions of that Order, be brought to a conclusion as follows:

TABLE

Proceedings

Time for conclusion of proceedings

New Clauses6 p.m.
Remaining proceedings on Consideration8 p.m.
Third ReadingMidnight

Orders Of The Day

Dock Work Bill

Allotted Day

Not amended (in the Standing Committee), considered.

New Clause 1

Compensation For Former Registered Dock Workers

  • `(1) Any dock worker to whom the Scheme applied shall be entitled, on leaving employment as a dock worker, to a payment of £6,000 plus £3,000 for each complete year of employment under the Scheme.
  • (2) Payments under subsection (1) shall be funded on an equal basis by the Secretary of State and former registered employers.
  • (3) This section shall lapse ten years after the passing of this Act unless renewed by affirmative resolution of both Houses of Parliament.'.—[Mr. Meacher].
  • Brought up, and read the First time.

    4.7 pm

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    I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

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    With this, it will be convenient to take amendment No. 3, in line 12, leave out clause 5.

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    New clause 1 is designed with a simple but important purpose: to offer to dock workers made redundant after the abolition of the dock labour scheme, a level of compensation which more closely matches that which is available in other industries. For dock workers made redundant in the first 18 months after abolition, the Government propose a lump sum of £5,000, plus £2,000 for every full year of work, up to a maximum of 1.35,000. Those made redundant in the following 18 months will receive £5,000, plus £1,000 for every full year of service, up to a maximum of £20,000.

    We propose a lump sum of £6,000, plus £3,000 for each complete year of employment under the scheme.

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    That is not good enough.

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    My hon. Friend says that that is not good enough. I take his point, but we shall be happy to settle for it if the Government concede it. It means that a dock worker who has served 15 years would receive £51,000 in compensation, and a dock worker who had worked 20 years would receive £66,000. Those may sound quite large figures, but they are in line with redundancy compensation currently being paid under other schemes.

    The redundant mineworkers payment scheme is, in many respects, more generous than the Government's draft proposals for dock workers. Older mineworkers who are made redundant receive a lump sum based on age, length of service and pay, plus a weekly benefit. If those figures are added together, they amount to a substantial sum.

    I have a British Coal press release, dated 7 October 1986, which quotes an average—I emphasise "average" —figure of £74,600 redundancy payment for men made redundant at the age of 50 to 54. Some will receive more than that. It is against that comparison that the Opposition have drawn up their proposals.

    It is only fair to point out that the Government scheme for mineworkers has been replaced by British Coal's own scheme. Although it is not as generous as the Government's proposals for dock workers, under the British Coal scheme, redundant mineworkers with 15 or more years, service are paid an additional lump sum of £7,500, plus £500 a year for service aged between 16 to 34, and £750 a year for service aged 35 to 65. On top of that, statutory redundancy pay can be paid, so that the maximum total is nearly £40,600 for someone with maximum service who retires before his or her 60th birthday. That figure is considerably more than the one proposed in the Government scheme for redundant dock workers, especially those who lose their jobs in the second 18-month period after the abolition, when, as I have said, they will receive a maximum of only £20,000. In other words, they will receive only half as much as is payable under the British Coal scheme, which is itself less generous than the redundant mineworkers' payment scheme.

    The level of compensation that we propose is not particularly out of line with the redundancy terms current in many parts of the private sector. I went to some trouble to obtain an Industrial Relations Service publication which reviews 22 redundancy pay agreements made in 1988. It quotes a good many examples in considerable detail. It tells us for example, that the Alliance and Leicester building society provides payments of up to £60,000 for some senior managers. It may be said that managers constitute a different layer of the work force, but another example given is Express Newspapers, which provides up to £50,000 for members of the National Graphical Association as part—not all—of the severance terms covering job losses caused by major reorganisation of the group. Those, too, are substantially more generous than what the Government proposed.

    I am not sure whether the phrase "brass handshake" has been used before, but it seems appropriate. Such handshakes are now fairly common throughout industry. I have deliberately abstained from citing the growing number of golden handshakes of which we hear fairly regularly from board rooms. Only six weeks ago, however, amid all the fuss about Blue Arrow's £25 million loan to Peter de Savary—in which the right hon. Member for Chingford (Mr. Tebbit) was involved—we were told that Mr. John Sharkey has been paid off handsomely with a golden handshake of £225,000. All I can say is that he is lucky not to have been a docker; if he had been, he would have received about one seventh of that sum.

    Again, two months ago, amid all the rumpus over the sale of three cemeteries by Lady Porter, it emerged that the lips of Westminster council's chief executive had been sealed with a £1 million golden handshake. It is a pity that the dock workers are not privy to a few more secrets. As people always say, what counts is not what a person does or how long he has been doing it, but who he knows—or, perhaps even more important, what he knows.

    The new clause proposes that dock workers who have given a lifetime's service to the ports should receive proper and just recompense for the compulsory termination of their livelihood when, if they are over 50, they have little chance of obtaining an alternative job. Unemployment is significantly higher in the scheme port travel-to-work areas. I have checked the facts: male unemployment in those areas averages 11·5 per cent., which is well above the national average. I am not saying that that figure is absolutely correct—I believe it understates the position —but, whatever the correct figure, the difference in relative terms is substantial.

    It has been calculated, moreover, that unemployed men in scheme port areas have less than a 40 per cent. chance of obtaining a job—and, of course, the older they are the smaller the chance will be. Those older men will be the most affected by the compulsory redundancies that are about to be handed out. The latest count of the ages of registered dock workers produced an average age of 46.7, largely because of the port employers' unwise decision to get rid of so many younger men. Now it is those above that age whom they are most anxious to displace. Already the average number of unemployed over-forties in scheme port areas is 24 per cent., and that number is undoubtedly set to increase significantly when the Bill is implemented.

    We simply propose that older men who are deprived of their jobs by compulsory Government-instigated reorganisation schemes, and who in many cases will probably never be able to work again, should be compensated in accordance with best practice for the loss forced on them. "In accordance with the best practice" is the crucial phrase: I am not saying that the terms are mean, but they are not best practice and we believe that they should be. The Government's proposals do not meet our criterion, and we are seeking to improve them.

    4.15 pm

    It is not as though either the National Association of Port Employers or the Government cannot meet those obligations. I need not remind the House that corporate profitability now stands at its highest for at least a decade, and the port employers in particular have not been doing too badly in recent years. The annual report of Associated British Ports, the largest employer, shows profits of £38 million in 1987, a 46 per cent. increase. In the first half of 1988, the company's profits rose by a further 59 per cent., and dividends per share by 25 per cent. Sir Keith Stuart, chairman of ABP, described it modestly as "a highly successful year"—as well he might, as he increased his own salary by 23 per cent. in 1987 to £97,000. Last year, deciding that he must keep the wolf from the door, he increased it by a further 23 per cent. to a modest £120,000.

    The Opposition say that what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. If ABP is making profits hand over fist, if its chairman can pay himself a six-figure salary and greedily award himself a 23 per cent. increase two years running, and, above all, if it is to make an extra £20 million in profits from the scheme's abolition as it claims, it can expect to pay a proper whack to those on whose backs it has made those growing profits, and whom it now intends to throw on the scrap heap so that it can increase those profits still further.

    The money is there. One side—the company, its shareholders and its managers—is receiving enormous increases; only the dock workers are not receiving that level of remuneration. It cannot be said that the Government are exactly pinched at present, with an unprecedented Budget surplus of over £15 billion. The redundancy proposals in the Bill have been costed by the Government at about £25 million. Our alternative proposals would cost about £35 million, not a great deal more.

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    Not much for a Socialist.

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    As they have £15 billion or more to dispense with, an extra £10 million for making 2,000 people redundant is something that the Government could well afford. That was a very foolish interjection.

    Our proposal constitutes a much fairer distribution of Government funds than general Exchequer Budget policy.

    According to a parliamentary answer of 17 May, last year, 100,000 people in Britain with salaries of more than £70,000 per year have, over the past 10 years of Tory Budgets, received an average cut in their income tax worth no less than £37,550. If the richest people in this country who do not need a penny in extra assistance are given largesse by the Government of £37,550 each year, those whom the Government make redundant and who may never get another job deserve a good deal more than a one-off payment of less than £37,550.

    In Committee, the only argument made by the Minister for Public Transport—not the Minister of State, Department of Employment, who is on the Government Front Bench today, but it is said that Ministers take collective responsibility—for refusing a better level of compensation for redundant dock workers was that higher compensation payments previously paid to miners were "exceptional". He stated:
    "It is true that a few years ago some miners received much higher compensation payments than will be available under the Bill. However, I emphasise that the circumstances of the industry at that time and the miners who received such payments were exceptional."
    As though the abolition of the dock labour scheme is not highly exceptional. In trying to justify his claim that nothing special is proposed in respect of the docks, the Minister added:
    "I should not imagine that the rate of loss of men from the industry would be entirely out of scale"—
    he meant, as a result of the scheme's abolition—
    "with what has happened in recent years."
    However, the Minister's own figures reveal that abolition will, not surprisingly, be both out of the ordinary and exceptional. In Committee, the Minister for Public Transport also stated:
    "The … £25 million that we have included in the explanatory and financial memorandum would cover between 1,500 and 2,000 redundancies".—[Official Report, Standing Committee A, 16 May 1989, c. 505–37.]
    That number of redundancies represents between 16 and 21 per cent. of the entire work force under the scheme. To get rid of one fifth of the work force and claim that such action is in no way exceptional is either cynical or extremely disingenuous.

    Those redundancies represent a far quicker rundown than has occurred in the past. In 1983, there were more than 14,500 registered dock workers but now there are only 9,400, which represents an average decline of 840 per year. Under the Bill, the Government intend to bring about between two and three times more redundancies than in the past decade. Why did they bring in the Bill otherwise? Of course its intention is to increase redundancies. Even the present Government, whose record of concern over unemployment does not place them in the first ranks of compassion, must acknowledge that that is an exceptional level of redundancy and one which commands an exceptional level of compensation.

    New clause 1 will go a long way to countering some of the most malign consequences of this miserable little Bill. Given that the port employers have amassed huge profits in recent years, and have stated openly that they will make an additional packet out of sacking one fifth of their work force under the Bill, it is only right and just that dock workers should enjoy redundancy terms at least as good as the current best practice in other industries. I stress that we are not asking for a bigger pay-off that they can take and run with, because dock workers will receive those redundancy payments only if their employers decide to sack them. Redundancy will not be a choice that they can make for themselves. In those circumstances, we say that decency and justice require a more reasonable and upbeat deal than the distinctly unexceptional offer provided for in the Bill.

    If the Government were as generous to dock workers and to trade unionists as they are to employers and to top-rate taxpayers, they would embrace the new clause with all the eagerness with which we press it.

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    As the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr.. Meacher) made clear, new clause 1 proposes a compensation scheme to replace that suggested by the Government. The Labour party scheme—although in fairness I should call it the Meacher scheme, because the hon. Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Ross) has already made clear his view that his hon. Friend's scheme is not generous enough—is considerably more generous, and in some cases would pay the sum of £130,000. The Opposition scheme operates on a basis different from that included in the Bill and in the draft regulations that back it up, which amendment No. 3 seeks to omit.

    The generosity of the Opposition's proposals gives an interesting insight into their view of the scheme's value to a registered dock worker. It is not only that the amounts of money differ but the entire basis is different, even though the hon. Member for Oldham, West, in his closing remarks, suggested that the basis of new clause 1 is essentially similar to that of our scheme.

    The Government's proposals in clause 5 and in the regulations provide for enhanced redundancy pay for registered dockers who lose their jobs in the changes following termination of the scheme. The proposals in new clause I involve paying every registered dock worker who leaves the industry, for whatever reason, just because he is a registered dock worker. Under both schemes, the Government will normally pay half the cost, with the employers paying the other half. However, if an employer goes out of business and cannot meet his obligations, the Government's scheme will pay the entire cost so that the former docker will receive the full amount even if his employer becomes insolvent.

    As I understand Labour's scheme, the Government would only ever pay half the cost, so if the employer cannot meet his obligation to pay the balance the docker will receive only half the sum due to him. That arrangement has some interesting consequences, to which I shall refer shortly. Perhaps it is intended to reward employees of profitable firms, for that is its effect. That is an interesting if slightly odd example of profit sharing. I certainly support the principle of profit sharing, but the Opposition's proposals are not a very sound application of it. I would rather see port companies negotiating more conventional profit-sharing schemes with their employees.

    At first glance, the Opposition's improvements may seem modest, offering as they do basic compensation of £6,000 plus £3,000 per year of employment, compared with our proposal for initial compensation of £5,000 plus £2,000 per year of employment. Under the Government scheme, there is a maximum payable of £35,000, whereas the Opposition impose no limit, except the arithmetic maximum of £132,000.

    4.30 pm

    We are proposing that payments should be paid in full only in the first 18 months and at lesser rates, as the hon. Gentleman said, for a further 18 months. The Opposition have a theoretical time of 10 years—theoretical for a reason that I shall come to—but, crucially, the Government are proposing to pay dockers made redundant whereas the new clause proposes to pay any registered docker who stops dock work.

    The Government's scheme has a taper as retirement approaches because, beyond the age of 62½, redundancy has a more short-term effect. That is one of the differences between a redundancy scheme and a scheme for paying former dockers whenever they leave dock work.

    The last difference between the two schemes has a particularly interesting consequence for the older docker. Consider the case of two dock workers aged 64 approaching retirement. Suppose that both dockers had worked all their lives in the docks and been registered dock workers ever since the scheme started in 1946. One of them, whom I shall call Mr. Meacher in order to attract the Opposition's sympathy, was a little older than his colleague, whom I shall call Alf Garnett. My theoretical Mr. Meacher's 65th birthday falls just before Royal Assent, whereas that of my theoretical Alf Garnett falls just after. Both retire on the same pension, but Alf Garnett will receive an additional £132,000—£6,000 plus £3,000 for each of the 42 years of the scheme because his birthday was a week or a month after that of his colleague. That would be his bonus for being one of the last of the registered dock workers. I imagine that the theoretical Mr. Meacher would be furious about that, but, in contrast, the hon. Member for Oldham, West has recommended the scheme to the House and we shall presumably vote on it shortly.

    That points up what I said about the different basis of the Opposition's scheme. The Opposition's scheme is a reward for having been a registered dock worker, but the Government's scheme is an enhanced redundancy scheme, which is what it sets out to be. We recognise that there may be some redundancies when the scheme ends. We cannot tell how many—nobody can. Overmanning is a consequence of the scheme. We realise that the relatively generous voluntary severance payments will stop and we aim to compensate at a suitable rate those who find themselves redundant as a consequence.

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    May I ask a simple question? A number of my colleagues have been reliably informed that Sir Jeffrey Sterling, chairman of P and 0, has been ringing the Department of Employment —perhaps even the Minister's private office—on matters relating to the Bill and the possibility of industrial action in the docks. Will the Minister tell us exactly what those telephone calls were about? Were they about the proposals before the House today? It is in the interests of the general public and the industry to know about the special relationship that exists at times such as this between major business men and Ministers in Her Majesty's Government.

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    I know of no telephone calls of that sort to my private office or to the Department. For all I know, there may have been some to the Department, but certainly not to my private office, and I am not conscious of any having been received by the Department.

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    Would the Minister automatically be informed of telephone calls on such matters by his Department's officials or by people in his private office?

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    That would depend on the content of the telephone calls, whether they were significant and what was happening. If they were significant, yes, I would be told.

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    Does my hon. Friend agree that one of the problems of making the terms of redundancy too generous is that people will decide that they want to be made redundant and will do everything possible to achieve that? I should have thought that hon. Members on both sides of the House would agree that we should be trying to encourage more employment in the docks. Therefore, to make the Government's already generous terms even more generous would be self-defeating.

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    That is one of the consequences, as I propose to explain.

    Under the new clause, any registered dock worker who leaves dock work will receive the money. Why he leaves does not matter. He may have been convicted of and sacked for stealing. Examples were given in Committee of registered dock workers convicted of stealing whose employers were, under the scheme, made to continue employing them. But that is another story. Under the new clause, a registered dock worker of 30 years' standing who was sacked for stealing would nevertheless be paid £96,000.

    Similarly, a docker with 30 years' service, sacked for persistent absenteeism—he might have got into the habit of bobbing off and not got out of it quickly—would, under the new clause, be paid £96,000, not for stopping doing the job—after all, that is why he was sacked—but for having been a registered dock worker. That is an interesting commentary on the Labour party's view of the value of the scheme to a registered dock worker.

    I wonder what other workers in the docks think about the Opposition's proposal—if they are aware of it. Registered dock workers are only one third of the employees of registered port employers. I wonder what the rest of them think about it. For that matter, I wonder what members of the Transport and General Workers Union think about the proposals. We know from something that the hon. Member for Newham, North-East (Mr. Leighton) complained about in Committee that the TGWU has not been providing its supporters in Committee with much guidance, so it may not have seen the proposals. However, if it has not, it should look at them carefully.

    As my hon. Friend the Member for Dorset, South (Mr. Bruce) said in an intervention, the Opposition's scheme will also provide registered dock workers with a considerable incentive to leave dock work. The lump sum payable is calculable at the time of Royal Assent and does not thereafter increase. A registered dock worker aged 40 with 20 years' service would immediately be paid £66,000 if his employer was solvent. If he worked on in the docks for another nine years, he would be paid £66,000 in nine years' time, again if his employer was still solvent. That demonstrates my hon. Friend's point.

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    I am relatively new to these debates, but can my hon. Friend illuminate one point? Under the new clause, would a registered dock worker be able to take some other employment for a period and then return to the docks, perhaps to a non-scheme port, having claimed the full amount of the large redundancy payment to which he had become entitled?

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    As the new clause stands, yes. In addition, such a man would be able to return to employment in the same port where he had previously been employed. He would he able to return to employment with the same employer after an interval and still qualify. I used the period of nine years in my example, but, under the new clause, after 10 years the scheme may or may not come to an end. There is provision for it to be extended, but only by leave of the House. In practice, that would not matter, since I assume that most former registered dock workers would have taken their money long before and left, even if they were to return, as my hon. Friend has said.

    I am not sure whether all the employers would last that long. Any employer who had, say, 100 dockers with an average of 20 years' service would have to provide in his accounts at once on Royal Assent for a potential liability of £3·3 million. I strongly disagree with the hon. Gentleman's estimate of the cost of his scheme; it would be far higher than he suggested. I have not worked out what effect it would have on each of the companies currently employing registered dock workers, but it would make life extremely difficult financially for some of them. I spoke of a potential liability—

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    The Minister appears to be having a great deal of fun. He is both frivolous and rather silly in his criticisms of the new clause. We are not drafting legislation —[Interruption.] It is true, and it is always the case with Oppositions. The new clause does not mean that any dock worker could simply choose to take the money and run. The payments are quite clearly to be given only after a dock worker has been made redundant by his employer. The Minister's figures are figments of his imagination.

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    The hon. Gentleman's comments are very interesting because they mean that the new clause has been tabled on a false basis. The new clause, together with amendment No. 3, removes from the Bill all provisions relating to redundancy. The Opposition could have left them in, but they did not. Yet the hon. Gentleman says that he does not support the basis of the clause. In that case, will he assure the House that he will not vote for it? The House is being treated in a rather peculiar manner. It has been presented with a new clause with which the hon. Gentleman now says he does not agree.

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    This is almost a contempt of the House. The hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher) tabled a new clause that, presumably, he hopes to persuade the House to accept. My right hon. Friend has devastatingly shown why it should not be accepted. The hon. Member for Oldham, West, obviously having been convinced by my right hon. Friend's argument, now says that he does not expect the House to agree to it. It is incredible that my right hon. Friend should be expected to respond in all seriousness, as he is doing, to the debate when the hon. Member for Oldham, West has admitted that his new clause is an absolute sham.

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    My hon. Friend is right and I find myself in some difficulty. The hon. Member for Oldham, West has given up his new clause before I have finished opposing it. I have more to say, but I do not know whether to proceed —[Interruption.] It appears that the hon. Gentleman still intends to vote for his new clause and to recommend his hon. Friends to do so. That is rather peculiar.

    It is not right to reward men simply for having been registered dock workers.

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    It is time that the Minister stopped all this frivolity and dealt with the serious question before us. His behaviour today is similar to his behaviour in Committee. The Government are treating the Bill as a joke. The Minister should deal seriously with the new clause, because men's livelihoods is a serious issue, and should be treated as such.

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    I agree that it is a serious issue, but it is not a serious new clause. It clearly provides that there should be compensation for all registered dock workers. The Labour party is not alone in proposing that idea; others have suggested the same. I am glad that, apparently, the hon. Member for Oldham, West intends to withdraw it.

    The Government's proposal provides for a maximum of £35,000, which is a fair and suitable sum in the circumstances. It compares reasonably with the voluntary severance payment now available, which is usually a maximum of £25,000, although under special arrangements some people have received as much as £35,000.

    The Labour party's proposal—even if, as the hon. Gentleman now says, it applies only to redundancy—multiplies the present usual maximum by five. That is an enormous increase. The new clause is put forward on a false basis and does not deserve the support of eNen the hon. Gentleman. It tells us a great deal about the value that the Labour party places on registered dock work. It believes that maximum compensation should be increased fivefold. The new clause is fatally flawed, and should not be accepted by the House.

    4.45 pm

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    I support the new clause because there are several hundred dock workers in my constituency and several of them are good friends of mine. Dock workers are usually sensible and sound members of the community. If they had been here today to witness the Minister's frivolous contributions they would have recognised that it was just a poor, sixth-form debating society speech and not a serious response to the points made by my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher).

    It was only today that I had the benefit of reading the new clause, and my understanding of it is rather different from that of the Minister. If the drafting is in any way defective so that the new clause does not achieve what we want—enhanced payments for dockers who will he made redundant under the Bill—I am sure that my hon. Friend would readily agree to it being redrafted by the Government's draftsmen to ensure that our aims are achieved. The House has been treated to a 20-minute discourse of banal triviality that is unworthy of the Minister and does not help those whom we seek to represent.

    My hon. Friend referred to generous payments—I prefer to describe them as further payments—to those made redundant. I want to make two points that, as yet, have received little attention. The old image of a dock worker heaving about heavy cargoes went out of the window with the mechanisation of the ports. I do not profess to be an expert, but I know from my acquaintances that dock work is now a highly skilled job. Those skills are constantly being reviewed and updated and the dock workers have to attend training courses to keep up with advances in technology. That is not uncommon. An increasing number of technical skills are required in most industries. The kind of skills that registered dock workers have cannot easily and readily be transferred to another industry. That is an important point to bear in mind when we consider compensation.

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    The hon. Gentleman is making exactly the point that was made on Second Reading and in Committee—that because the ports have become automated the old dockers' jobs have disappeared. Many of the registered dock workers do not have the new skills that they need to use technical equipment, so they sit around ghosting the people who do the work. They need to be retrained for the new skills, but they will not get the new skills by sitting around and doing nothing while other people do the work.

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    I was not a member of the Standing Committee, but it is fairly well known that employers have not provided the amount of training that is necessary for dock workers to use the new equipment.

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    They have refused to give training.

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    Yes, they have refused to provide it.

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    Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

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    Let me finish this point and then I will give way.

    Many of the dock workers that I know, as well as many of the dock workers in Liverpool, are highly skilled. They use all kinds of complicated equipment to move cargoes from one place to another and to load it on to ships.

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    It is quite extraordinary for the hon. Gentleman now to say—[Interruption.] I do not know what the hon. Member for Newport, East (Mr. Hughes) is shouting. He should try to intervene while the hon. Member for Knowsley, North (Mr. Howarth) is speaking rather than while I am intervening during the hon. Gentleman's speech. That would be more helpful.

    The hon. Member for Knowsley, North ought to be aware that in Committee his side moved amendments to replicate the training scheme that is provided under the national dock labour scheme in the non-scheme ports. He is now telling us that the employers in the scheme ports are not providing training. The hon. Gentleman cannot have it both ways. Either they are providing training or they are not. Felixstowe, which is a non-scheme port, has an excellent training scheme. We want that to be replicated after the national dock labour scheme has gone into abeyance.

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    I am not sure that that takes us any further. Our point is that there is not enough training. It is difficult to get the hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Bennett) to understand even the simplest concept, but let me explain what we want. He should watch my lips. We want the best practices to be transferred to the dock workers training system. That is not necessarily a bad thing, so we can have it both ways. We can say that there is not enough training, and we can also say that where the best training is provided we want it to be replicated throughout the industry. It is as simple as that.

    My hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West referred to the coal mining industry. It is a good comparison. It is not just a job that dock workers do. It is a way of life. A docker does not go to work for a certain number of hours a day where he carries out a certain job. A whole way of life is attached to dock work. As with the coalfields, there are whole communities of dock workers. There is a long tradition attached to dock work. A social network is based upon it. If we take away the employment of a registered dock worker, we take away not just a job for which he needs certain skills that cannot easily be transferred to another industry; we also take away a way of life that may have been in existence for several generations.

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    I should like the hon. Gentleman to explain exactly what are those skills that cannot be transferred. He talks about the automation of the ports. That means heavy cranes, forklift trucks and mechanical shovels. Most of the training for using that equipment is done in the construction industry. That would be an alternative use of dockers' skills. Forklift trucks and the mechanical handling of goods can be found in every factory and warehouse in the country. What is non-transferable about those skills? What are the greater skills that dockers claim to have?

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    First, they have a combination of skills. Secondly, I do not profess to be an expert upon it but I understand that most of the equipment—[Interruption.] I can see that there is a lifetime of experience among Conservative Members of working with their hands in the ports. I doubt whether any of them have any knowledge of it whatsoever, yet they criticise the Opposition.

    Most of the equipment is specifically designed and custom-built for work of that nature. It is not a question of dockers being able easily to transfer their skills to another industry. They have experience of using equipment for a specific purpose. That equipment is often not used in exactly the same way in other industries.

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    Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

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    No. I have given way quite enough.

    For all those reasons, the level of compensation for which my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West has argued is appropriate and fair. Despite the juvenile behaviour of many of those who sit on the Conservative Benches, I hope that the Minister will take our point seriously. Even at this late hour, and even after such frivolous responses to it, I hope that he will accept the new clause.

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    The Labour party's support today for dock workers is touching. It is a pity that the Opposition did not support the dockers yesterday. I represent the port of Immingham. Many registered dockers work in the port. I guess that they would have much more respect for the Labour party and the new clause if the Opposition had given a little more support yesterday to the dockers and had thought a little more about their future.

    The hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher), referred to Associated British Ports and its profitability and to the need to use some of its profits to compensate the dockers. The dockers of Immingham would like Associated British Ports to be able to spend its profits on investment in the port of Immingham, to the tune of £30·5 million, in order to enable the port to attract the largest vessels in the world.

    The port of Immingham was built in 1912. Its lock gates, which were installed in 1912, do not now allow the largest ships in the world to enter the port. Those ships have to go to Rotterdam. The port of Immingham—a scheme port—is trying to become competitive. It is trying to ensure the livelihood of dockers by bringing new jobs to the port, by expanding the port and by ensuring that the port can go forward into the 21st century. But what does the Labour party do?

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    Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

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    Let me finish this point and then I shall gladly give way.

    The Labour party had its chance last night to demonstrate its genuine support for the registered dock workers of Immingham, so I am not taking any lectures from the Opposition and I advise my hon. Friends not to take any lectures from them about their support for dockers. When it came to the test of whether the Opposition were prepared to support the expansion of the dock industry, we found that their support was not there last night. Whenever the Opposition have had an opportunity to show it, it has never been there. We should bear that point very much in mind before we consider accepting the new clause.

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    My hon. Friend has made a very good point. Does he not agree that last night the Labour payroll vote, sponsored by the National Union of Mineworkers, was here to sabotage our Bill? Whenever the Opposition have a chance to help dockers, where are they? They are not here this afternoon.

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    Order. I realise that the hon. Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes (Mr. Brown) was still on his preamble, but he should come to today rather than deal with what happened last night.

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    My hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, North-West (Mr. Bellingham), who represents the port of King's Lynn, is doing his utmost, in a much more practica.' way than the new clause would ever do, to provide for the future of dockers. Conservative Members, by supporting the Bill and resisting the new clause, want to ensure that there is freedom in the docks industry to employ more dockers.

    5 pm

    The new clause is nonsense. We had the admission from the hon. Member for Oldham, West that it is a joke clause; he more or less said that. He objected when my right hon. Friend the Minister went to great lengths to advise the House about why we should reject the new clause. If I had been minded to support the hon. Member for Oldham, West on the basis that it must be right to increase the amount of compensation for someone being made redundant, my right hon. Friend would have been negligent in his duty to the House if he had not drawn my attention and the attention of other hon. Members to what could happen if we voted for the new clause.

    A docker in the registered docks of Immingham could cease to be a registered docker, not through redundancy but voluntarily, because he saw an advertisement in the Grimsby Evening Telegraph for work in the non-scheme port of New Holland, four miles down the road in my constituency, or perhaps in Gunness, 14 miles down the road in the constituency of the hon. Member for Glanford and Scunthorpe (Mr. Morley). Under the proposals in the new clause, that dock worker could leave Immingham with up to £132,000 in his back pocket, and walk or take his car down the road to Scunthorpe, New Holland, Barrow or Gunness wharf and take a new job. My right hon. Friend the Minister of State was correct to draw attention to the effects of the new clause.

    Labour Members should not say, "We are the Opposition; we do not have a constructive role to play in the House." Surely it is their duty to consider the consequences of new clauses that they table. It is just possible that some foolish Conservative Members, who did not listen with the care and attention that they should to Ministers at the Dispatch Box, might be tempted to vote for this extraordinary new clause. Thankfully, the hon. Member for Oldham, West more or less told the House that he did not expect the new clause to be taken seriously. My right hon. Friend the Minister takes his duties seriously. In his response to the Opposition he rightly drew the attention of the House to the consequences of the new clause.

    The hon. Member for Oldham, West made unfair comments about Sir Keith Stuart. Sir Keith has been chairman of Associated British Ports since it became a private company. Before that he was chairman of the old British Transport Docks Board, which was a great favourite of the Labour party. Sir Keith should be congratulated on securing the future of dockers and on creating profitability for Associated British Ports, which does not want to sack every docker. It wants opportunities to create more jobs in the docks industry. The dock labour scheme and restrictive new clauses such as that proposed by the Opposition would shackle prospects for dockers and for the profitability of Associated British Ports. They would also restrict opportunities for more new jobs in my constituency.

    We must resist the new clause because it would lead to a scandalous waste of resources. The compensation proposed by the Government is fair. It strikes the right balance and ensures at the same time that dockers can look to a future based not on the restrictive practices of the past but on their ability to seize the opportunities that exist in this great industry.

    The dockers in my constituency know which political party stands up for their interests. They know what happened last night in the House, and they will be waiting to see what happens in the future. They will not be seduced by the new clause. That is not the way for the Labour party to buy the votes of dockers in my constituency. Those dockers know that only one political party will look after their interests. They know which political party safeguarded their long-term interests.

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    The hon. Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes (Mr. Brown) has dealt with development proposals for the port of Immingham. My mind goes back some years to a time when similar proposals were put forward for the port of Bristol. Very wisely, as has been borne out by events, the Labour Government turned down those proposals. Subsequently, the Conservative party realised that there were marginal seats to be won in the city of Bristol. It stated that if it were returned to power at a subsequent election, it would give the go-ahead for development in Bristol. The dock was built as a result of authorisation by the Conservative Government, but it has been a disaster. Bristol could not give it away; it has become a heavy load on the ratepayers of the city.

    I support the new clause which sets out proposals to try to combat the worst provisions of this hasty Bill. My hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher) set out the case for the new clause. Throughout the proceedings in Committee, my hon. Friend was the voice of reason, as he was this afternoon. He gave glaring examples of people who have received huge amounts of compensation, but when we ask for a little more for dockers we are ridiculed. All we hear from the Conservative side is mirth and laughter.

    Subsection (1) of the new clause says:
    "Any dock workers to whom the Scheme applied shall be entitled, on leaving employment as a dock worker, to a payment of £6,000 plus £3,000 for each complete year of employment under the Scheme."
    That is not really generous when one considers that the Bill was introduced so hastily and that the livelihood of people is at stake.

    In a press notice issued on 11 May, subsequently amplified in Committee by the Minister, the Government indicated that any dock worker made redundant within three years of the legislation receiving Royal Assent would be entitled to a special lump sum payment. For instance, if the dock worker was made redundant in the first 18 months, he would be eligible for a maximum of £35,000, based on 15 years' service. It is worth reminding the House of the provisions. The Government proposed that the payment would be made up of a lump sum of £5,000, plus £2,000 for every complete year of service. The mean side of the Government was revealed when they said that the amount of compensation will be tapered off for every registered dock worker over 62½ years old. For every three months by which he exceeds 62½ years when he is dismissed, his compensation will be reduced by 10 per cent.

    In comparing new clause 1 with the Government's provisions, it is necessary to consider the age of registered dock workers. It tends to be an aged work force. My hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West said that that is due to the stupidity of employers in the past in getting rid of their younger employees. Only 19 per cent. of registered dock workers are under 40 years of age; 41 per cent. are between 40 and 50 and more than 40 per cent. are 50 and over.

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    Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

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    Not at the moment.

    In the past decade I have witnessed many thousands of redundancies in south Wales in the coal and steel industries. This afternoon we have heard a great deal about the redundancy scheme for coal miners. It is worth reminding the House that coal had to be mined where it was found, and it was often found in the most inaccessible valleys. When a pit closes, a whole community is put in jeopardy, and, as a result of those pit closures, thousands of miners will never work again. Considering the arduous and hazardous nature of that occupation, when a miner in an isolated community is made redundant, one might say that it is an ending for him. He cannot simply cope with his new life.

    In the steel industry, there were thousands of redundancies in Newport and Cardiff. When East Moors closed in Cardiff, 5,000 jobs went at a stroke. The steel industry was wiped out in the capital city of Wales. There were 6,000 redundancies at Llanwern and jobs have been cut drastically at other steelworks.

    A few years ago, a social survey of redundant steel workers revealed the dire distress felt by many of those people. They had not found work, they had probably spent their redundancy money and many of them were likely never to work again. In Committee we were told many times that our dockers have adapted to new equipment and new working practices in the industry. But when they leave the ports industry, they are unlikely to take up unemployment in finance houses or microchip enterprises which are the nature of new industries in south Wales and elsewhere. The most likely outcome is that older workers in the ports industry will tend to stagnate, and as a result could create all sorts of social problems, particularly when they have spent their redundancy money.

    We should like far more generous provisions for dock workers who will be made redundant. The problem needs to be tackled now. Only 9,400 registered dock workers remain in the ports industry. In 1983 there were 14,631, and since the inception of the scheme the number of registered dock workers has declined from more than 80,000.

    What a farce is that old parrot cry that dockers have jobs for life. The redundancy provisions that the Government have set out do not meet the dockers' real needs.

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    Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

    5.15 pm

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    I would rather not give way. I have heard enough from the hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Bennett) in the past two years to last me a lifetime.

    Dockers are justified in their belief that they are being badly treated. As late as 20 March this year, the Government suggested that they had no proposals to legislate in respect of the dock labour scheme. Shortly afterwards, like a bombshell, they pushed a Bill through Committee with all the finesse of an ancient steamroller. Throughout the Committee stage Labour Members tried to persuade the Government to pause and think again about what should replace the clock labour scheme. We recognise that the scheme may be a little out of date and need amendment, but we feel that there is a need for a national framework. The Government were not prepared to see reason. I note that they appear to be doing so in respect of lawyers and I feel that they are on their way to doing so in respect of doctors.

    In those circumstances, bearing in mind the redundancy provisions that we are discussing, is it any wonder that, when the dockers eventually held a ballot, they voted by no less than three to one for industrial action?

    Even at this late stage I urge the Government to make more generous redundancy provisions. As my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West pointed out, employers are doing very nicely, thank you. In any case, the Government are paying half the redundancy money. If the Government were prepared to be more generous and accept new clause I, they might well avert a very damaging strike. We know the parlous nature of Britain's balance of payments at present. We know what happened today when interest rates rose by a major stroke. It is obvious that Britain is in serious economic difficulty and if there is a dock strike it will certainly he made much worse.

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    I invite my hon. Friends to resist new clause 1. It is appropriate for me to speak in the debate precisely because I represent an inland midlands constituency which is almost as far away from the docks as it is possible to go. I hope to remind the House that it is very much in the interests of all parts of Britain and British industry that the Bill is passed substantially unamended.

    We all have an interest in an effective, efficient and low-cost docks industry. I refer to my own experience, as for many years I have lived in my constituency as a practising farmer. Many right hon. and hon. Members will not be aware that Britain has moved from a traditional grain-importing role to a major grain-exporting role. We are now the fifth largest grain-exporting power in the world. That represents an amazing change, and to some extent it has come about in spite of the existing structure of our docks industry. I have had experience of sending grain on lorries from the midlands to all the major scheme ports, and to non-scheme ports, and it is clear that what we are discussing affects us all, whether or not we represent dockland constituencies.

    There is the somewhat endearing myth, that the Labour party still likes to peddle, that no Conservative Member has any experience, direct or indirect, in any of those matters over which Labour Members claim to exercise great moral concern. I do not make a great deal of it, but it is relevant to mention that my wife's grandfather was a docker in one of the scheme ports in South Wales—[Interruption.] He worked hard in that job for 30 years and I have great respect for him. I have worked for most of my life among manual workers, although not in the docks.

    I also have knowledge through my family—and in another context, to which I shall come—of the impact of redundancy on people, and I do not belittle the effect of that impact. It is sad, dramatic and shocking when a person is declared redundant. The issue is what we do about it—how we finance it and reach the right balance —and the proposals in the Bill represent the right balance.

    There are several crushing objections to the proposed new clause, one of which has been rehearsed. I refer to the situation when somebody takes the money—compensation of up to £132,000—walks out of the door, walks round the docks, comes back in through the door, takes fresh employment and starts again as if nothing has happened. As the Opposition proposal is drafted, it is totally unworkable and out of the question.

    Next, we must consider the wider question of the equity of what we are trying to do in these matters. Is it equitable that somebody should be able to receive compensation of that magnitude and then return to dock work, working alongside someone who has carried on working without receiving any compensation?

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    Is it not equally inequitable for the managing director of a company in the City of London to take £250,000 or £300,000 in compensation because his company has been taken over, and then for him the following day to go to work for perhaps a completely different company? If the hon. Gentleman says that that is inequitable, he must accept that a great many people in the City would be out of work tomorrow.

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    Many people in the City have lost their jobs recently, and not all of them have found other jobs. At least the hon. Gentleman accepts the important point —I fear that many of his hon. Friends have failed to accept it—that there are considerations of equity in these issues and that we must relate them to the economic situation of the industry. We must have in mind the dock worker who leaves and returns to dock work compared with the man who carries on working and does not receive compensation.

    Next, compare the case of somebody who leaves under Labour's proposals with somebody who took severance pay under the previous proposals. Is it fair that one should receive such a large additional amount, having carried on in employment for only a short time?

    There is also the wider question of equity in relation to other industries. Farming, for example, is not doing particularly well just now. The hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher) will recall what happened to milk quotas and how many farmers left the industry. Nor should we overlook the issues affecting farm workers at that time. Many of us who have been active in agriculture would be pleased to take upwards of £100,000 to get out of the industry. We must therefore look right across the board when setting levels. After all, it is easy to be generous with someone else's money—particularly public money.

    I referred to an interest that I had in redundancy issues. There is a proposal from the Plessey company affecting the town of Towcester in my constituency, which has a population of upwards of 6,000. The company has declared its intention to close some of its manufacturing facilities—without prejudice to whatever might happen in any takeover bid—and has said that 375 jobs will go. Although there may be some redeployment, it seems that there are likely to be about 300 redundancies.

    Those people—whether or not they return to work and irrespective of their situation—would look askance at the scale of the compensation payments which the hon. Member for Oldham, West has suggested. As with so many Socialists, he is being fair to his friends but is disregarding all those whom it does not suit him to consider at the time.

    The hon. Member for Oldham, West and his friends, inside and outside Parliament, in the unions and elsewhere, have connived at and supported a situation by which the dock labour scheme has continued to work to the disadvantage of the nation, to increase the costs of British industry and to threaten the position of the scheme ports. The hon. Gentleman is cast in the role of Samson. Not having brought the structure down by the direct method, he now awaits the conclusion of the scheme so that he can bring the whole lot crashing down around him. Redundancy payments on the scale he proposes would be the best way of achieving the destruction of the scheme ports which he claims to support.

    This debate, as it should be, is about redundancy, but it is possible to over-emphasise the redundancy issue—to strain it beyond equity and prudence—for we must remember that there is work to be done in the docks. That work should be done in scheme ports released from the present clamping and confining scheme—

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    rose

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    I hope that the hon. Gentleman will forgive me if I do not give way. I am about to conclude my remarks.

    They should be released from the confines of the scheme and be free to get on with their job of serving the nation's business.

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    I am pleased to have this opportunity—

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    On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I appreciate that it is usual for the Chair to call to speak an hon. Member from one side of the House followed by an hon. Member from the other side. I am wondering whether you consider it fair, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to call, following the hon. Member for Daventry (Mr. Boswell), who is a supporter of the Bill, the hon. Member for Gordon (Mr. Bruce), a member of the SLD, who also supports the Bill. Should not the hon. Member for Gordon be considered to be on the Government side from the point of view of debating the proposed new clause?

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    I appreciate the point that the hon. Member has made and, having made it, I trust that he will not push his luck.

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    I feel sure that those remarks of the hon. Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Ross) will come home to haunt him on other occasions.

    I support the Bill, although I find it extraordinary that it should have taken the Government 10 years to introduce it. Indeed, in the last few months they have still been actively defending the scheme. It is now a subject on which they have permitted their Back Benchers to let rip. The scheme must be phased out in such a way that it is quick and clean. As well as removing the restrictive practice, we must be fair to those who remain in the scheme at the end, and that is the nub of the debate on the new clause.

    The points of equity that have been raised are important, and I assure Labour Members that I appreciate that many of them are sponsored by the Transport and General Workers Union and have dock workers, whom they wish to protect, in their constituencies. I do not dispute their sincerity in doing that, but they must also remember that there are many working people in their constituencies who feel that the scheme has gone on for too long and that they have been disadvantaged as a result of it. In those circumstances, there is a danger that they will alienate their supporters.

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    Will the hon. Gentleman tell me which of his constituents, apart from employers, have said that the dock labour scheme has gone on too long? Why are his constituents disadvantaged?

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    In a sense, I am grateful for that intervention. As the hon. Gentleman knows, the conflict that arose within the scheme meant that we nearly lost our fish market for good. If the hon. Gentleman is suggesting that that would not have been a disaster for Aberdeen and its port as well as for his constituents and mine, I do not know what would be.

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    The hon. Gentleman has not answered the question. He said that his constituents feel that the scheme has gone on for too long and that they are being disadvantaged by it. If I am fortunate enough to catch your eye later, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I shall respond in detail on the issue of the fish market. Which of his constituents, apart from employers, have said that the scheme has gone on too long and that they are disadvantaged? None of them is covered by Aberdeen harbour board.

    5.30 pm

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    Obviously, the hon. Gentleman does not regard employers as valid constituents. I do. Employers have told me that they think the scheme has gone on too long, and I think that those employers represent an important part of the constituency. They employ people, including some of my constituents. Their inability to expand employment in circumstances in which Aberdeen, as a scheme port, is disadvantaged adversely affects the interests of my constituents.

    I am not quarrelling with the right of the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes) to take a different view. I respect him for his view. However, as constituency Members of Parliament, we are elected to make our own judgments as to what we believe, in the light of local knowledge and local circumstances, is in the best interests of our constituents and our community. As I have said, the phasing out of the scheme is desirable for the port of Aberdeen and for ancillary employment in and around the area.

    Obviously, I am speaking not only as a constituency Member. However, I have the greatest knowledge about the area I represent. We have seen the development of ports competing with Aberdeen. That is true in other parts of the country such as Montrose and Peterhead. I want the ports to expand. There is room for Aberdeen, Montrose and Peterhead to develop their business. I should like to see the day, soon, when they will be able to compete on a fair and equal footing.

    Having said that, and with due deference to the hon. Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Ross), the point which is relevant to the debate on the new clause is that it is important to complete this process fairly, justly and honourably. I think that the Government have recognised the need to do that and have proposed a scheme which, at least on the face of it, seems to be reasonable. It provides for a maximum of £35,000 and an estimated total of about £25 million. Obviously, that depends on how many people are made redundant and how many are redeployed.

    An important and relevant point needs to be made and it supports the basic reasoning behind the new clause moved by the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher). Both sides of the House admit that the average age of the remaining registered dockers is relatively high. It may be true that some of the dockers who are paid compensation will be re-employed the next day, but it is also true that some may never work again. The House should ensure that the scheme provides justice for those people. After all, they have stayed in a scheme that has given them continuity and security over a considerable period of time.

    The thrust of the new clause, which tots up redundancy payments according to length of service and, by implication, the age of the individual concerned, gets the balance right. The hon. Member for Oldham, West said that the new clause is not perfect. Indeed, it is flawed. However, the Government would do well, given that they have taken 10 years to introduce legislation to abolish the scheme, to say that the settlement of the matter should be done fairly. After all, they introduced the Bill on the same day as they introduced a White Paper, they forced the Bill into Committee and then guillotined it and they have tabled no amendments of their own. Therefore, it is not unreasonable for them to ensure that the process is carried out in a way that minimises bitterness and maximises equity to all concerned and ensures that the transition is achieved without an extremely damaging dock strike.

    I believe—I hope that I am right—that whatever utterances are made in the House, nobody wants a dock strike and nobody believes that such a strike would be desirable for the British economy or good for the ports or the workers. It would be helpful if the Government would say that, in the light of that, given that this is a final settlement and that they have taken so long to bring it about, they would tilt the balance of the scheme to ensure that those who have worked in the industry for a long time and have little prospect of being re-employed have a more generous settlement than is proposed now. However, as I have said, the general thrust of the Government's proposals are not unreasonable.

    In those circumstances, the Government could have responded with a little more grace to the principle behind the new clause. It would help to ensure that the Bill leaves the House with my support—I do not qualify that—and with the feeling that the Government have shown some sensitivity and have tried to ensure that confrontation is removed. It would also help to achieve fairness and justice while removing a debilitating and restrictive practice that has existed for too long in circumstances that compensate those affected and liberate the scheme ports to compete fairly with other ports in the country.

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    The hon. Member for Gordon, (Mr. Bruce) suffers from the fact that he was not a member of the Committee. His hon. Friend the Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Wallace) was a member of the Committee but he rarely paid a visit to it so he was not able to report what was going on. The hon. Member for Gordon may be interested to know that in Committee, the Labour party moved an amendment to increase the compensation to about £70,000. In the short time of two or three weeks since then, the Opposition have upped the ante by another £60,000. At the rate we are going, if the Bill is not on the statute book quickly, the Labour party will be prepared to offer £1 million by the end of the summer. The hon. Member for Gordon should remember that the Government are making an offer to dock workers which is considerably in excess of what has been offered to them in the past. I shall come back to the figures of the severance opportunities available under the Labour Government.

    It is important to place on record the fact that the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher) has admitted, during interventions in the speech of my right hon. Friend the Minister of State, that the new clause does not make sense and does not bear out the Opposition's intention. The hon. Member for Oldham, West has been in the House since 1970 and it is no good for him to claim that he does not have the resources or that he did not understand. He has admitted that the drafting is defective, but is still going ahead with it and intending to vote for it. He cannot then complain when my right hon. Friend the Minister points out that the new clause is defective. It would ensure that everybody made redundant or who chooses to leave the dock labour scheme for any reason would be entitled to up to £130,000 in a pay-off. Clearly, that is nonsense. People leave their jobs every day of the week and they are not able to collect £130,000 from the taxpayer or their employer. That is the purpose of the new clause, and I am surprised at the hon. Member for Oldham, West, having discovered and admitted that it is stupid and that he has made a mistake, being willing to press on with the debate and to press the new clause to a Division.

    If law making is about anything, it must be about making sensible laws. The Opposition have been caught out and have been slipshod in their drafting, but it surprises me that they insist on continuing.

    It is important to look at the issue of jobs for life. The hon. Member for Newport, East (Mr. Hughes) referred to that before leaving the Chamber. The simple fact is that the scheme did provide a job for life. It is no use pointing to the fact that the number of dockers in the scheme has diminished. It has diminished only as a result of voluntary redundancy. No docker who wishes to remain in the scheme has been forced to leave. That has been the problem. Those who like a cushy life and enjoy bobbing off to be a taxi driver or those who enjoy ghosting or want to sit in a portakabin at Grangemouth watching a colour television set to overcome the boredom that might result, have stayed within the scheme. That is why the average age of dockers in the scheme has increased over the years and that is why the scheme is described as giving jobs for life. Unless dockers choose to leave the scheme, they are in the scheme and on the gravy train for as long as they want.

    Now Labour Members suggest that the amount of money that dockers receive should be increased considerably over the amount proposed by the Government. What is interesting is that when Labour Members had the power to determine those matters, they were not that generous. In 1975, the maximum severance payment was £5,250. Since January 1987, it has been £25,000, which is an increase of 376 per cent. in 12 years, mainly under a Conservative Government. In special circumstances, it may be necessary for employers to pay up to £35,000. Already under this Government, severance payments have been increased considerably and the Bill proposes to raise the limit to £35,000. When the Opposition had it in their power to decide the limit, they put it at £5,250, so how can they consider that the Government are being ungenerous in putting the figure up to £35,000?

    It is interesting that the hon. Member for Gordon, in the usual Liberal tradition, split the difference and said we should give a bit more money. When the Lib-Lab pact was in existence for two years, there was no increase. The then Government kept the maximum severance payment at the same level. That contrasts with the Government's proposals in the Bill.

    It ill behoves dockers in the scheme to complain about receiving £35,000 and to say that it is not a good pay-off when one considers the productivity and industrial relations record of the dock labour scheme. Since 1967, more than 4 million working days have been lost because of disputes in scheme ports. Since 1967, there have been 3,569 disputes in scheme ports. The number of days lost per year by dockers in scheme ports in 1988 was 10,663, which is 1,105 days lost per 1,000 employees, compared with 164 for all industries and services. The strike record for registered dock workers is more than five times as bad as that for the rest of industry. Yet the Opposition are saying that, after the dockers have had a lifetime of bobbing off and ghosting, after an appalling strike and industrial relations record and after a time when the Labour Government themselves were prepared to pay only £5,000, compared with this Government's offer of £35,000, we should up the ante, first to £70,000 and, three weeks later, to a suggested £130,000.

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    I apologise for coming in late and hearing only the end of my hon. Friend's speech. The record is not bad everywhere. In Southampton, it has improved greatly over the past few years since the leaders of the dockers in Southampton took advantage of the very generous severance payments to which my hon. Friend referred, and ceased to be dockers in Southampton. They were therefore not eligible for re-employment as dockers anywhere else, so they took jobs on Merseyside, where they are now employed as industrial relations advisers. I can imagine nothing more guaranteed to ensure that Southampton has the edge over Liverpool when it comes to getting business henceforth.

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    Everywhere in the country has the edge over Liverpool when it comes to strike records and industrial relations. It is interesting—

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    Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

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    No. As a former dock worker, the hon. Member for Liverpool, Garston (Mr. Loyden) knows about the strike record in Liverpool better than anyone else does. He has been an agitator in Liverpool docks and the reason that Liverpool is such an appalling—

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    On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is it not unparliamentary for one hon. Member in his conceited ignorance to call another hon. Member an agitator, as has just happened?

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    I have not heard anything unparliamentary.

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    I am surprised that the hon. Member for St. Helens, South (Mr. Bermingham) believes that the term "agitator" is an insult in the Labour party. I always thought that it was an accolade there and guaranteed the reselection of Labour Members. We all know about the industrial relations record of Liverpool and the reason why Speke has gone down the plughole. We know about the appalling strike record in the car industry and the docks. I do not want lectures from the hon. Member for Garston about that.

    My hon. Friend the Member for Romsey and Waterside (Mr. Colvin) spoke about Southampton. In the past two or three weeks, negotiations have been taking place in Southampton while the ballot has been carried out. Mr. Harryman, the Transport and General Workers Union shop steward there, has been censured by his union for trying to come to a local agreement about what happens at Southampton after the scheme comes to an end. It is sensible for a trade union official to recognise that the scheme is coming to an end, by the will of Parliament, and to get round the table to talk with the employers about how the port's future can be assured.

    5.45 pm

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    I was a member of the Committee on the Bill. We have, no doubt, four or five hours ahead of us when we shall hear contributions from Conservative Members which will reflect their comments in Committee. The ministerial team has changed yet again because it was so weak, disjointed and hopeless that it has been necessary to draft in Ministers on an almost daily basis. They are incompetent and cannot handle their brief. The Chairman of the Committee had to lecture the Under-Secretary of State for Employment, the hon. Member for Teignbridge (Mr. Nicholls) because he was not doing his job.

    We should therefore not be surprised about what we have seen in this debate. This debate is a continuation of the double act that the Tories have been running throughout the Bill. The straight man leads off, then the clowns come on behind. The clown who has just spoken, the hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Bennett) was a member of the Committee. He has been joined here by other clowns who have been on other Bills, while he clowned around on this Bill.

    Another clown is the hon. Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes (Mr. Brown), who stands up and says, "I am a friend of the dockers and I am fighting for the dock industry." Last night, this clown was so concerned about the dockers that he moved the Third Reading of the Associated British Ports (No. 2) Bill formally and did not say another word. That is the extent of his concern about the docks and what has happened to them. It is just one more example of how the Conservatives have attempted to steamroller legislation on to the statute book.

    The hon. Member for Daventry (Mr. Boswell) made a point that needs to be dealt with immediately. He said that, under new clause 1, dockers could take a bonus and then immediately take a post somewhere else. That is also true under the Government's proposals. Under the Bill, there is nothing to stop a registered docker taking redundancy and then taking employment as a docker down the road or even with his previous employer. Let me put that on the record. The only difference between our proposal and the Government's is that, because we have a little bit more experience of work than the clowns have, we understand some of the problems.

    The Under-Secretary of State for Employment should ensure that people are trained properly and that they have jobs to look forward to, rather than the dole queue. I am disappointed that he did not deal with some of the points I raised. He knows that the Select Committee on Employment has identified the over-50s as a special category, yet neither he, the Secretary of State for Employment nor the Minister of State dealt with those comments in Committee. I went through the Select Committee's comments in Committee and they are relevant to this debate. The Select Committee referred to life expectancy, the fact that an increasingly large part of the population is made up of the elderly and the nature of work. It also pointed out that there are people who discriminate against the elderly.

    It is worth remembering who is discriminating against who, because the fat cats sitting on the Government Front Bench all earn more in a single year than they are proposing to pay to the dockers whom they will make redundant and send to the labour exchanges—

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    rose

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    Sit down.

    Each of those Ministers earns more in a single year than they are proposing to give to redundant dockers, but there is no way in which we shall allow them to get away with that without at least attempting to increase the sum—

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    rose

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    I should like to give way to my hon. Friend but there is not much time and we have a guillotine. I hope that we can have one more comment from the Minister in answer to some of the points that were not answered in Committee, because I should like to hear some answers tonight.

    We are expecting the Government to say a little more. Once they have given the generous handout of £35,000, what will happen to the dockers? Does it mean that they will be on the dole for the rest of their lives, because if it does, I advise the Government that £35,000 does not go very far and that we shall not let them get away with it. We want more information.

    The hon. Member for Daventry also said that there was unfairness. He is right—there is an unfairness. If my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes) had caught your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, he would have identified the unfairness that exists right now. That lot on the Conservative Benches have been conspiring with dock employers to ensure that people such as the Aberdeen fish lumpers are leaving employment now under much worse conditions than those that will apply when the Bill receives Royal Assent. There is a conspiracy among Conservative Members and a lack of concern about those people who were convinced that they should take redundancy. Because of the difference made by one day, two people who work together in Aberdeen and who have applied for redundancy will get different terms. Any worker who did not know about the Government's plans and who applied for redundancy under the old terms will not be allowed to withdraw his application so that he can take advantage of the new scheme.

    The peroration of the hon. Member for Gordon (Mr. Bruce) was about the only peroration that we have heard from his party because his hon. Friends were absolutely silent throughout the Committee stage. He reminded me, and I am sure my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, North, of a fish person gutting a cod because of the way in which he said, "Let's be quick and clean and get rid of it." We are talking about human beings. We do not want to hear about a quick, clean end to the scheme, because we know that there will be problems long after its abolition. The hon. Member for Gordon got his just and appropriate reward in the treatment given to him by the hon. Member for Pembroke, who was the resident clown on the Committee.

    If there was one thing that differentiated the Opposition and the Government sides of the Committee, it was that at least we tried. It may very well be that the wording of this new clause is not correct, but if it is not, would it not have made much more sense for the Minister to say, "I accept the intention of the new clause and if it is withdrawn, I will introduce an amendment or a new clause in another place to improve on the redundancy terms that are on offer at present so that some of the problems that the Opposition have identified can be dealt with"?

    Unless we hear tonight that the Government will do something to ensure that the so-called generous payment that the Government are giving to the 46·7-year-old dockers who will leave the industry and who may never work again is supplemented by some training programme or some other provision to ensure that the redundancy payment is not all that they will receive from this Government or from any other Government for the rest of their lives, we shall pursue the new clause to a vote. It is clear that the Government do not care. We have a responsibility to speak for the dockers who will be made redundant.

    As my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher) clearly identified, because of the intentions of those people who are at present constrained by the dock labour scheme, 2,000 dockers are now facing the sack. As soon as the Bill is given the Royal Assent, those 2,000 people will be left to the labour exchanges. We shall fight for as long and as hard as we possibly can, both here and in the other place, to ensure that those people get the maximum reward for the effort that they have put in to make our docks so successful.

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    The speech of the hon. Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Ross) was the most appalling insult to his hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks). I have heard that on the Committee the hon. Member for Newham, North-West was one of the more entertaining Labour Members. To say that my hon. Friend the Member for Pembroke (Mr. Bennett) is funnier or more peculiar than the hon. Member for Newham, North-West is an insult. I hope that those Labour Members will sort themselves out, because that sort of disagreement brings the Labour party into disrepute.

    The hon. Member for Dundee, West also referred to the fact that 650 registered dockers per year over the next three years might take severance and be made redundant. Since 1983—over the past five or six years, which is the sort of period that the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher) would use—840 registered dockers per yea- have been taking severance. Therefore, our proposals will mean a reduction in the numbers leaving the industry—or rather, leaving the registered docks work side of the industry.

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    rose

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    When I was a Minister at the Department of Employment, I remember the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes) personally trying to resolve some of the disputes that were then threatening the future of Aberdeen. I pay tribute to him for that before giving way to him.

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    After that, I am sorry to have to ask this question, but I must still put it to the Minister. What is the position of the fish market porters in Aberdeen who have no employer at the moment because, as was pointed out in Committee, the fish landing company went out of existence on 24 April? Are those people who are still working on a temporary licence with Aberdeen harbour board entitled to £35,000, or are they being pegged back to £25,000?

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    As I have been away from this subject for some time, I shall make sure that the hon. Gentleman gets an answer to his question, although I do not think that it will affect his vote on the new clause. I shall see whether an answer can be given to him during our subsequent debates this evening, because he has raised a serious point that deserves an answer.

    We are considering a ghost new clause and I suspect that, by the time we come to vote on it, no one will actually vote for it, with the possible exceptions of the hon. Member for Knowsley, North (Mr. Howarth) and his hon. Friends the Members for Newport, East (Mr. Hughes) and for Dundee, West. Indeed, the hon. Member for Oldham, West, who moved the new clause, acknowledged that it does not do what he had hoped it would do—

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    I did not say that.

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    The hon. Member for Oldham, West also acknowledged that by tabling amendment No. 3, which would get rid of existing clause 5, many of the protections that British dock workers would want to have would be swept away. I ask Opposition Members to consider what was said by my right hon. Friend the Minister of State, Department of Employment, who dealt both with the serious points and with the new clause that was tabled semi-seriously by the hon. Member for Oldham, West.

    The proposal in the new clause is that a registered dock worker with 20 years' service, who leaves the industry for any reason whatsoever, should receive £66,000. We are dealing with a suggestion that a registered dock worker who leaves the industry for any reason after 30 years' service should get £96,000 and a registered dock worker with 40 years' service should get £126,000. That is the consequence of the simple arithmetic of the new clause.

    As my hon. Friend the Member for Pembroke pointed out, when one considers the £5,000 that was available when the Labour party was last in government and the £25,000 and the other figures on offer now, one must realise that there has been a significant increase.

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    rose

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    It would probably be better if I did not give way to the hon. Gentleman, although I acknowledge that he has been present for most of the debate. I am not sure that there is time for me to give way to him, but if I run out of things to say before six o'clock—in two minutes' time—perhaps I shall give way to him.

    My hon. Friends the Members for Brigg and Cleethorpes (Mr. Brown), for Daventry (Mr. Boswell) and for Pembroke have treated the debate seriously. We want to see thriving ports that will compete equally. The proposals in clause 5 are that the ports should not compete equally for three years between the time of Royal Assent and the date on which the transitional arrangements come to an end, because the scheme ports will still have taxpayer contributions towards redundancies. That is the kind of competitive advantage that will die away at the end of the three years. It is right that there should be transitional arrangements in moving from the dock labour scheme to the post-dock labour scheme position. That is the argument for looking at the distortion that we now face.

    Some hon. Members asked whether those in the docks industry would be treated worse than those in the mining industry. Let me give some examples. A mineworker aged 27 with 11 years' service will receive a payment of £6,648. A docker in those circumstances—although, of course, there are probably no dockers that young with that length of service—would receive a payment of £27,000 if made redundant in the first 18 months after Royal Assent, or £16,000 if made redundant in the second 18-month period. Further, a miner aged 32 with 16 years' service will receive £17,468; a similar docker with similar service would receive the maximum payments of £35,000 or £20,000. It is important that we remember that the comparisons suggest that the transitional redundancy arrangements following Royal Assent are reasonably fair.

    I recognise the point that was made by the hon. Member for Gordon (Mr. Bruce), who made a reasonably constructed speech although he did not make the case for the severely increased sums which are the aim of the new clause so inadequately expressed by the Labour party. At least there is agreement throughout the House, between the Labour party, the Social and Liberal Democratic party and the Conservative party, about the way in which the new clause was drafted. Its arithmetic goes far, too far, and when taken with amendment No. 3, its consequences are totally wrong. The House knows that the new clause is unacceptable. On some points, it acts to the disadvantage of former registered dock workers. No other worker is entitled to such generous terms. The clause has no logic, merit or friends. I urge the House to reject it.

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    The Minister would not answer a simple question. If one is 55, has 10 years working life left and is getting a maximum of £35,000—

    It being Six o'clock, MR. DEPUTY SPEAKER proceeded, pursuant to the Order [8 May] and the Resolution this day, to put forthwith the Question already proposed from the Chair.

    Question put, That the clause be read a Second time:—

    The House divided: Ayes 184 Noes 258.

    Division No. 212]

    [6 pm

    AYES

    Abbott, Ms DianeArcher, Rt Hon Peter
    Allen, GrahamArmstrong, Hilary
    Anderson, DonaldAshdown, Rt Hon Paddy

    Banks, Tony (Newham NW)Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
    Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE)Howell, Rt Hon D. (S'heath)
    Barnes, Mrs Rosie (Greenwich)Howells, Geraint
    Barron, KevinHowells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd)
    Battle, JohnHughes, John (Coventry NE)
    Beckett, MargaretHughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
    Bell, StuartHughes, Roy (Newport E)
    Benn, Rt Hon TonyHughes, Simon (Southwark)
    Bennett, A. F. (D'nt'n &R'dish)Illsley, Eric
    Bermingham, GeraldIngram, Adam
    Bidwell, SydneyJanner, Greville
    Blair, TonyJones, Barry (Alyn &Deeside)
    Blunkett, DavidJones, leuan (Ynys Môn)
    Boyes, RolandJones, Martyn (Clwyd S W)
    Bradley, KeithKennedy, Charles
    Bray, Dr JeremyKinnock, Rt Hon Neil
    Brown, Gordon (D'mline E)Kirkwood, Archy
    Brown, Nicholas (Newcastle E)Lamond, James
    Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)Leadbitter, Ted
    Buckley, George J.Leighton, Ron
    Caborn, RichardLestor, Joan (Eccles)
    Callaghan, JimLewis, Terry
    Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)Litherland, Robert
    Campbell-Savours, D. N.Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)
    Canavan, DennisLofthouse, Geoffrey
    Carlile, Alex (Mont'g)Loyden, Eddie
    Cartwright, JohnMcAllion, John
    Clark, Dr David (S Shields)McAvoy, Thomas
    Clarke, Tom (Monklands W)McCartney, Ian
    Clay, BobMacdonald, Calum A.
    Clelland, DavidMcKay, Allen (Barnsley West)
    Clwyd, Mrs AnnMcKelvey, William
    Cohen, HarryMcLeish, Henry
    Coleman, DonaldMaclennan, Robert
    Cook, Frank (Stockton N)McNamara, Kevin
    Corbett, RobinMcWilliam, John
    Corbyn, JeremyMadden, Max
    Cousins, JimMarek, Dr John
    Cummings, JohnMarshall, David (Shettleston)
    Cunliffe, LawrenceMarshall, Jim (Leicester S)
    Dalyell, TamMartin, Michael J. (Springburn)
    Darling, AlistairMartlew, Eric
    Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)Meacher, Michael
    Davies, Ron (Caerphilly)Meale, Alan
    Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'I)Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)
    Dixon, DonMichie, Mrs Ray (Arg'l &Bute)
    Dobson, FrankMorgan, Rhodri
    Doran, FrankMorley, Elliott
    Douglas, DickMorris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)
    Duffy, A. E. P.Mowlam, Marjorie
    Dunwoody, Hon Mrs GwynethMullin, Chris
    Eadie, AlexanderMurphy, Paul
    Eastham, KenNellist, Dave
    Evans, John (St Helens N)Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon
    Ewing, Mrs Margaret (Moray)O'Brien, William
    Fatchett, DerekO'Neill, Martin
    Faulds, AndrewOrme, Rt Hon Stanley
    Field, Frank (Birkenhead)Owen, Rt Hon Dr David
    Fields, Terry (L'pool B G'n)Parry, Robert
    Fisher, MarkPike, Peter L.
    Flynn, PaulPowell, Ray (Ogmore)
    Foot, Rt Hon MichaelPrescott, John
    Foster, DerekPrimarolo, Dawn
    Fraser, JohnRadice, Giles
    Galloway, GeorgeRandall, Stuart
    Garrett, John (Norwich South)Redmond, Martin
    George, BruceRichardson, Jo
    Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr JohnRoberts, Allan (Bootle)
    Godman, Dr Norman A.Robertson, George
    Golding, Mrs LlinRogers, Allan
    Gordon, MildredRooker, Jeff
    Gould, BryanRoss, Ernie (Dundee W)
    Grocott, BruceRowlands, Ted
    Hardy, PeterRuddock, Joan
    Harman, Ms HarrietSedgemore, Brian
    Healey, Rt Hon DenisShore, Rt Hon Peter
    Heffer, Eric S.Skinner, Dennis
    Henderson, DougSmith, Andrew (Oxford E)
    Hogg, N. (C'nauld &Kilsyth)Smith, Rt Hon J. (Monk'ds E)
    Home Robertson, JohnSmith, J. P. (Vale of Glam)

    Soley, CliveWilliams, Alan W. (Carm'then)
    Spearing, NigelWilson, Brian
    Stott, RogerWinnick, David
    Strang, GavinWise, Mrs Audrey
    Straw, JackWorthington, Tony
    Taylor, Matthew (Truro)Wray, Jimmy
    Vaz, KeithYoung, David (Bolton SE)
    Walley, Joan
    Wareing, Robert N.Tellers for the Ayes:
    Welsh, Michael (Doncaster N)Mr. Frank Haynes, and
    Williams, Rt Hon AlanMr. Nigel Griffiths.

    NOES

    Aitken, JonathanDicks, Terry
    Alison, Rt Hon MichaelDorrell, Stephen
    Allason, RupertDouglas-Hamilton, Lord James
    Amess, DavidDover, Den
    Amos, AlanDurant, Tony
    Arbuthnot, JamesDykes, Hugh
    Arnold, Tom (Hazel Grove)Emery, Sir Peter
    Ashby, DavidEvans, David (Welwyn Hatf'd)
    Aspinwall, JackFairbairn, Sir Nicholas
    Atkinson, DavidFallon, Michael
    Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley)Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)
    Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N)Finsberg, Sir Geoffrey
    Baldry, TonyFishburn, John Dudley
    Banks, Robert (Harrogate)Forman, Nigel
    Beaumont-Dark, AnthonyForsyth, Michael (Stirling)
    Bellingham, HenryForth, Eric
    Bendall, VivianFowler, Rt Hon Norman
    Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke)Fox, Sir Marcus
    Benyon, W.Franks, Cecil
    Bevan, David GilroyFreeman, Roger
    Biffen, Rt Hon JohnFrench, Douglas
    Blackburn, Dr John G.Fry, Peter
    Blaker, Rt Hon Sir PeterGale, Roger
    Body, Sir RichardGardiner, George
    Boscawen, Hon RobertGarel-Jones, Tristan
    Boswell, TimGill, Christopher
    Bottomley, PeterGilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian
    Bottomley, Mrs VirginiaGlyn, Dr Alan
    Bowden, A (Brighton K'pto'n)Goodlad, Alastair
    Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles
    Boyson, Rt Hon Dr Sir RhodesGow, Ian
    Braine, Rt Hon Sir BernardGreenway, John (Ryedale)
    Brandon-Bravo, MartinGregory, Conal
    Brazier, JulianGriffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)
    Bright, GrahamGrist, Ian
    Brown, Michael (Brigg &Cl't's)Hamilton, Hon Archie (Epsom)
    Bruce, Ian (Dorset South)Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)
    Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon AlickHanley, Jeremy
    Buck, Sir AntonyHannam, John
    Budgen, NicholasHargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr')
    Burns, SimonHargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn)
    Burt, AlistairHarris, David
    Butler, ChrisHayes, Jerry
    Butterfill, JohnHayhoe, Rt Hon Sir Barney
    Carlisle, John, (Luton N)Hayward, Robert
    Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)Heddle, John
    Carrington, MatthewHeseltine, Rt Hon Michael
    Carttiss, MichaelHicks, Mrs Maureen (Wolv' NE)
    Chapman, SydneyHiggins, Rt Hon Terence L.
    Chope, ChristopherHill, James
    Churchill, MrHind, Kenneth
    Clark, Hon Alan (Plym'th S'n)Hordern, Sir Peter
    Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)Howard, Michael
    Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe)Howarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A)
    Colvin, MichaelHowe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
    Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest)Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W)
    Coombs, Simon (Swindon)Hunt, David (Wirral W)
    Cope, Rt Hon JohnHunt, John (Ravensboune)
    Cormack, PatrickHunter, Andrew
    Couchman, JamesIrvine, Michael
    Cran, JamesJack, Michael
    Critchley, JulianJanman, Tim
    Currie, Mrs EdwinaJohnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey
    Davies, Q. (Stamf'd &Spald'g)Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)
    Davis, David (Boothferry)Jones, Robert B (Herts W)
    Day, StephenJopling, Rt Hon Michael
    Devlin, TimKellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine

    Key, RobertSackville, Hon Tom
    Kilfedder, JamesSainsbury, Hon Tim
    King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield)Shaw, David (Dover)
    Knight, Greg (Derby North)Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)
    Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston)Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')
    Lang, IanShelton, Sir William
    Lawrence, IvanShephard, Mrs G. (Norfolk SW)
    Lester, Jim (Broxtowe)Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
    Lightbown, DavidShepherd, Richard (Aldridge)
    Lilley, PeterSims, Roger
    McCrindle, RobertSkeet, Sir Trevor
    MacKay, Andrew (E Berkshire)Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)
    Maclean, DavidSmith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
    Mans, KeithSmyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S)
    Marlow, TonySoames, Hon Nicholas
    Mates, MichaelSpeller, Tony
    Maude, Hon FrancisSpicer, Sir Jim (Dorset W)
    Maxwell-Hyslop, RobinSpicer, Michael (S Worcs)
    Meyer, Sir AnthonySquire, Robin
    Miller, Sir HalStanbrook, Ivor
    Mills, IainStanley, Rt Hon Sir John
    Miscampbell, NormanSteen, Anthony
    Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)Stern, Michael
    Mitchell, Sir DavidStewart, Andy (Sherwood)
    Moate, RogerStradling Thomas, Sir John
    Molyneaux, Rt Hon JamesSumberg, David
    Monro, Sir HectorSummerson, Hugo
    Moore, Rt Hon JohnTaylor, Ian (Esher)
    Morris, M (N'hampton S)Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)
    Morrison, Sir CharlesTebbit, Rt Hon Norman
    Morrison, Rt Hon P (Chester)Temple-Morris, Peter
    Moss, MalcolmThompson, D. (Calder Valley)
    Moynihan, Hon ColinThompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
    Neale, GerrardThorne, Neil
    Nelson, AnthonyThurnham, Peter
    Neubert, MichaelTownend, John (Bridlington)
    Newton, Rt Hon TonyTracey, Richard
    Nicholls, PatrickTrotter, Neville
    Nicholson, David (Taunton)Twinn, Dr Ian
    Norris, SteveVaughan, Sir Gerard
    Onslow, Rt Hon CranleyWaddington, Rt Hon David
    Oppenheim, PhillipWakeham, Rt Hon John
    Page, RichardWalker, Bill (T'side North)
    Paice, JamesWaller, Gary
    Patnick, IrvineWalters, Sir Dennis
    Patten, Chris (Bath)Ward, John
    Patten, John (Oxford W)Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
    Pattie, Rt Hon Sir GeoffreyWarren, Kenneth
    Pawsey, JamesWatts, John
    Peacock, Mrs ElizabethWells, Bowen
    Porter, David (Waveney)Wheeler, John
    Powell, William (Corby)Widdecombe, Ann
    Price, Sir DavidWiggin, Jerry
    Redwood, JohnWilshire, David
    Renton, TimWinterton, Mrs Ann
    Rhodes James, RobertWinterton, Nicholas
    Riddick, GrahamWolfson, Mark
    Ridley, Rt Hon NicholasWood, Timothy
    Ridsdale, Sir JulianYeo, Tim
    Roe, Mrs MarionYoung, Sir George (Acton)
    Rossi, Sir Hugh
    Rost, PeterTellers for the Noes:
    Rumbold, Mrs AngelaMr. David Heathcoat-Amory
    Ryder, Richardand Mr. John Taylor.

    Question accordingly negatived.

    Clause 2

    Dissolution Of National Dock Labour Board

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    I beg to move amendment No. 1, in page 2, line 10, at end insert

    `but no such order shall be made until a body has been established which will make provision for the training and welfare of dock workers (formerly within the Scheme) and port medical facilities'.
    The amendment seeks to establish a body which will take over the training and medical functions of the National Dock Labour Board when it is abolished under the Bill.

    The Government have repeatedly refused to elaborate on the arrangements that will follow the abolition of the board. Indeed, it is the issue of what will follow the abolition of the board and the dock labour scheme that is at the heart of the dispute between the National Association of Port Employers and the Transport and General Workers Union. The union is concerned about the threat of casualisation and wishes to secure a collective agreement that covers job security. The union has also expressed its wish to secure arrangements—again involving the union—which would cover the training and the medical facilities provided by the board. Those were among the issues raised by the general secretary of the Transport and General Workers Union at the union's meeting with the port employers on 18 April.

    It is as well to understand that, under the agreement, we are not seeking to perpetuate the dock labour scheme. It is not a device to replace the scheme with a new scheme, because the kernel of the dock labour scheme is the monopoly employment aspect, which is the element of the scheme that requires that only registered employers can be responsible for dock work at our ports and that only registered dockers can carry out the work. That monopoly will go with the Bill and the amendment will not reinstate it. That is not to say that we do not share the union's concerns about the threat of casualisation—we certainly do. It must be said that the employers' record post-Devlin, when they gave certain undertakings in relation to casual work that were not sustained, fully justifies the suspicions of the union and of the individual registered dockers.

    6.15 pm

    In the amendment we are dealing with the provision of a body to provide for training after the abolition of the board and to maintain the medical centres which are already operated by the National Dock Labour Board. It is as well to acknowledge the value of the existing training arrangements. There are two training bases, one at Liverpool and one at Tilbury, each with a chief instructor and, I believe, about six training instructors. Those instructors must be mobile, because they cover a substantial area of the country. We have always argued that the quality of training provided by the NDLB is high and that that is a resource which should not be dissipated and lost.

    We were not at all reassured by the Government's statements in Committee. The Under-Secretary, at about 11 o'clock at night, when dealing with the existing facilities, said:
    "We must be clear about what training is available in the scheme ports. In 1987, there were 21 instructors and some £500,000 a year was spent on training; this year there are 14 mobile instructors, working within the scheme ports, and there are no longer training centres. How much training does that amount to? In 1987, a total of 1,498 training weeks were given, and that provided—on average—less than half a week per trainee."
    Of course, those training centres have long since ceased to exist.

    The Under-Secretary at a later stage said:
    "Employers will need to ensure that their employees are properly trained. If they are not, the work will not get done."
    The Under-Secretary further said:
    "Employers will be unable to run their businesses as successfully by operating with untrained people.
    Therefore, I do not apologise for saying that after the scheme is repealed, it will be the employers' responsibility to ensure that proper training takes place."—[Official Report, Standing Committee A, 2 May 1989; c. 213.]
    That is the guts of the issue. The Government have repeatedly refused to give any indication of what arrangements will exist, if any, at national level following the abolition of the dock labour hoard. We believe that it would be very much against the interests of the industry if this national facility was dissipated, split up between the employers, or simply wiped out, no doubt through redundancy.

    We ask the Minister to tell us precisely where the Government stand on the issue. Is it really their intention to destroy that national training facility? I am not suggesting that the body we are seeking to establish would have responsibility only for training in the scheme ports. Of course, the logic of the Bill is that the distinction between the scheme and non-scheme ports for all practical purposes will no longer exist. I should have thought that there would be a case for building on that national training facility and making it available to all the ports.

    Some of the non-scheme ports, particularly the smaller ones, already make use of the NDLB training facilities. I admit that that accounts for only a very small proportion of the training provided by the NDLB. Nevertheless, it is significant that some of the non-scheme ports consider it to be an advantage to use the training facilities provided by the NDLB.

    The amendment is a most constructive proposal. Instead of destroying a training facility and the experience of the training organisation—and that is what is really important—the Government should be prepared to accept the principle of a new national facility and organisation to take over the responsibility for training in scheme and also non-scheme ports.

    Even this Government have accepted the principle that they have a role to play in training. It is common ground between the Labour party and the Government that this country's record on training falls a long way short of that of many of our competitors—and certainly short of that of many countries in the European Community. It should be a matter of concern for the Government, the Opposition, employers, trade unions and local authorities to try to improve the quality of training for the unemployed and, in this context, to improve the training for employed people to whom the vast bulk of the training to which I am referring is directed.

    In the context of the Government's training policies as outlined in their document "Employment for the 1990s", the establishment of the Training Agency and arrangements for the training and enterprise councils, the Government should accept the principle that the public sector should play a part in trying to ensure that training takes place. The state should act as an enabler, or catalyst, in that respect.

    It is indisputable that a national training scheme would benefit efficiency and health and safety in industry. We have had a great deal of discussion already in Committee about health and safety. We are all well aware that separate regulations apply to health and safety which cover scheme and non-scheme ports.

    Undoubtedly docks are dangerous places. An important part of training is to ensure that dockers can operate the sophisticated and expensive equipment in the docks in a way which is safe for them and for their workmates.

    It cannot be right to wipe out this training facility, which is such an asset to the industry. The same applies, although perhaps with less force, to the medical centres. I accept that there is scope for some rationalisation and for different provision. In some instances the medical facilities are some way from the ports and some of the centres have not been utilised of late to the extent that they were used in the past. However, the principle is still valid. The medical facilities should not be wiped out or handed over to the employers. They should be maintained and operated in a way that will benefit dockers and the industry generally.

    It is remarkable that not even the staff in the training and medical facilities have any idea what is in store for them. Will the training facilities be wiped out? Will the staff be made compulsorily redundant? Is that the Government's intention? We have just had a debate about the compensation arrangements which might prevail for registered dockers. What about the compensation arrangements for training staff and all the other people involved with the national dock labour scheme?

    The Government have said that we should not simply be concerned about compensation arrangements for registered dockers, but that we should also be concerned about compensation for other staff involved in the scheme. I hope that the Under-Secretary of State for Employment will tell us precisely what arrangements will apply for people involved in the training function of the NDLB. Many of those people have substantial commitments. We might argue that, because they must be mobile—some have moved from one part of the country to another and taken on large mortgages to act as training instructors—therefore they are as much in need of substantial compensation if they are to lose their jobs as any other group of workers.

    We are not advocating redundancies. The talents of those people should be deployed within the framework of a new organisation for the benefit of the port industry. There is no disagreement between the Opposition and the Government with regard to efficiency, productivity and using new investment most effectively. Training is an essential element of all that. Against a background of the Government's intransigence since the publication of the White Paper, it would be sensible and an excellent development if the Government gave some sign that they were prepared to make some provision to follow the national dock labour scheme and maintain the training functions, medical and welfare facilities provided by the NDLB.

    We have in mind a body which would involve the trade unions. We favour joint determination along the lines which exist in the NDLB, where the employers and the union are equally represented. We believe that the best can be obtained from training and from all the other functions if there is maximum representation from the work force working fully with employer representatives. That is the great strength of the present NDLB facilities. They have the support of the employers and the trade union, because the trade union is directly involved in the organisation which is ultimately responsible for the training facility, the NDLB.

    We strongly advocate that there should be a national body to take over the training and medical functions and that that national body, whatever its details, should include equal participation of the employers and the union. It is in the interests of the docks that training should involve the maximum participation of the trade union.

    There can be no dispute about the importance which trade unions attach to training. Most trade unions have separate training departments and are involved in providing training facilities to help their members obtain employment or, in other cases, to retrain and become more employable. The main responsibility lies with industry and with the Government. The trade unions have an excellent record on training and we want that to be encouraged. We should maintain the arrangements whereby there is co-determination and joint control of the training arrangements and medical facilities.

    When we read about these issues in the British press, we might almost believe that the national dock labour scheme was unique to Britain and that it was an eccentric development. That is not the case. Many other advanced countries have found it necessary to have a scheme similar to the national dock labour scheme. France, Italy and Spain have schemes. They are not necessarily identical to our schemes, but it is amazing how many of those schemes include the principle of the register. They control employment in the docks with the aim of preventing casual labour and all that goes with it, including insecurity and exploitation.

    We are not advocating something impractical or unreasonable, but simply seeking to make the best of the position that will exist post the enactment of the scheme. We, and the trade union, accept that the legislation will be enacted, and the debate is about the arrangements that will follow the national dock labour scheme. There must be national arrangements as well as local ones.

    This evening, we want an end to stalling about what is to replace the national dock labour scheme. We want an end to the nonsense that is talked about everything being broken up and the issues being decided by individual ports. There is no way that some of the smaller ports, either within or without the scheme, will be able to run proper training schemes.

    6.30 pm

    The Government have an obligation to ensure that there is a national training scheme, which will be used not only by the major ports and employers, as at present, but will be available to the smaller ports and employers, which have no chance of operating their own training schemes. It would be unreasonable to leave their training facilities to the whim of the larger employers, with whom they are in competition.

    Even under the terms of the Government's own approach to this matter and to maintaining and encouraging competition in the industry, there is an overwhelming need for a national training facility. The amendment is aimed to achieve that and I hope that the Government will see fit to accept the argument in principle.

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    In the next few minutes I shall attempt to answer the substantial points made by the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Strang). With the leave of the House, I shall attempt to catch your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, later in the debate to sum up and address hon. Members' contributions.

    The purpose of the Bill is to bring employment arrangements in scheme ports within the general legal framework which has evolved under successive Governments since the scheme's inception. Those developments include the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, which placed specific obligations on employers to make adequate provision for health, safety and welfare. The Act also provided for proper participation by trade unions, at national and local level, in ensuring adequate arrangements.

    There are now also a range of training structures which industries may choose to participate in according to their own assessment of needs. Within that framework. It is clearly for employers and employees in the industry to decide what suits them best, as is the case in any other industry.

    By contrast, the amendment would impose on former scheme ports a special national structure covering welfare, training and medical facilities. No case has been made for that structure, which does not exist in any other industry, either in Committee or today. The proposition which should be made is that what has to be done is special, not only to this industry, but to ports which were formerly within the scheme.

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    I made it clear that we believe that it would make sense for that national body to provide a training facility for all ports. However, the nature of the Bill is such that we can table an amendment that covers only ports within the scheme. If any such body were established, it should be extended to have responsibility for training throughout the industry as a whole.

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    I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for clarifying that matter. He worked on the supposition, which I do not accept, that it is only within some sort of overall national framework that the considerations with which he is concerned could be properly addressed.

    That type of structure is unnecessary and will inhibit port employers' acceptance of full responsibility for their own training, health and welfare provision. It would also extend, quite unnecessarily, the transitional period, during which the board is under a duty to wind up its affairs, and the cost of an extension would obviously have to be borne by the taxpayer.

    I do not understand the reluctance of the Opposition and the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East to accept the normal health, safety and welfare provisions that already apply to non scheme-ports, and their belief that they are inapplicable to scheme ports. The structures that already apply in non-scheme ports are particularly comprehensive. The abolition of the scheme will not change the basis of health and safety provision which applies to all ports.

    The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 places an obligation to make proper health, safety and welfare provision on individual employers generally, and not on the board—certainly not on any other body established to take its place.

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    If what the Minister says about the provision of such regulations in non-scheme ports is true, will he assist me on the re-emergence of casual dock work in my constituency of Port Glasgow? Will he instuct his officials to inspect casual dock work in the port of Port Glasgow to protect my casually employed constituents vis-a-vis their rights and regulations? Will he intervene in that way?

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    I understand the hon. Gentleman's concern about casualism. A fear of casualism has run throughout this debate. It featured strongly in Committee. From what I have seen, I have no doubt that that almost inherited fear of the evils of casualism, as it existed at the turn of the century and thereafter, which runs through—

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    It still exists.

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    I shall deal with the point raised by the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East, and if the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes) wants to make an intervention other than from the sedentary position, I shall oblige him.

    It is clear that the fear of casualism gravely concerns many dockers who protest against the abolition of this scheme.

    Often, Minister have to make forecasts about what will happen in the future if their views are correct. This case is different: we do not have to make some great leap into the dark because we do not know what will happen about casualism when the scheme is abolished because a port structure outside the scheme already exists in this country. The casualism rate there is no more than 6 per cent. Hon. Members may say that, even at 6 per cent., that is a bad business.

    I am bound to say to the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East—if I am incorrect I shall give way at once—that I know of no industrial action organised by the Transport and General Workers Union in non-scheme ports to protest at the casualism rate. Today's modern port industry has extremely valuable, expensive and sophisticated equipment that could not possibly be run on a casual basis, and well over 90 per cent. of employers who operate in scheme ports have made it clear that there will be no return to casual systems of work. Those factors mean that, for once, a Minister does not have to look into his crystal ball but can talk about what is actually happening in non-scheme ports. That should be a substantial reassurance, although I suspect that he will not think it is, to the hon. Gentleman.

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    I am grateful to the Minister for giving way a second time. I asked for his assistance in a matter concerning casual dock work, which began again in Port Glasgow before Christmas. Young unemployed men are being paid £2·50 per hour to work as casual dockers. I do not ask much from this Government, especially for my country of Scotland, and all I ask of the Minister and his colleagues is to request his officials to inspect the practice to assure me that my constituents, who have taken up the work because they are unemployed, are protected by the regulations of which he spoke about five minutes ago.

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    It may be that my memory is defective. The hon. Gentleman refers to practices that started before Christmas, and it is now summer. I cannot recall the hon. Gentleman writing to me about it. If he is telling me that scheme ports are now faced with the use of non-registered dockers, which, as the law presently stands, would be in breach of the criminal law, obviously such matters must be looked at.

    However, perhaps the hon. Gentleman is making a different point: that events in his constituency show that casualism is about to take off. I accept that his is a genuine fear, but there is no evidence to support it. If it were realistic, it would be remarkable, to put it at its lowest, that the Transport and General Workers Union has not been protesting.

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    rose

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    The hon. Gentleman is taking up his own time and that of his hon. Friends. I said that I would give way to the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North, but IL see that he is now shaking his head. It would probably be provocative of me to say that I had satisfied an Opposition Member, and I suspect that it would also be thoroughly untrue.

    The Dock Regulations 1988, made under the 1974 Act, provide comprehensive, up-to-date and detailed provision specifically for dock work. Such detailed provision is unusual for a specific industry. It was proposed by the Health and Safety Commission, which, as I am sure the House does not need to be reminded, is a tripartite body including trade union representatives. The regulations cover welfare provision—for example, sanitary facilities and protective clothing—which the board currently supervises under the Docks and Harbours Act 1966. In some respects, notably in connection with protective clothing, they are more comprehensive than the earlier provisions.

    The board's medical provision, which predates that of the National Health Service, makes special arrangements for registered dock workers which to a large extent now duplicate existing services. The present provision consists of 20 small medical centres serving 18 ports. As the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East has reminded us, they provide treatment both related and unrelated to the needs of the workplace. Since 1982, all employers have been under an obligation to make adequate provision for first aid, consistent with the risks and needs of the industry in which they operate and in accordance with first aid regulations made under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act.

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    As the Minister will know—the point was raised a number times in Committee—the docks industry has particular problems connected with both safety and the provision of medical services: for instance, the distance from the dock of the nearest hospital. Past provision has taken into account the peculiar nature of the industry, and its virtual isolation from life in the city. Requirements have been established in response to real needs. I hope that the Minister is not forgetting that.

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    I am not forgetting it at all, but, although I appreciate the hon. Gentleman's evident concern, he makes the mistake of thinking that such problems are unique. He ignores the fact that non-scheme ports often operate with the same coastal facilities as scheme ports. They have grown up because of the need for unrestricted ports. The hon. Gentleman assumes that there is no pattern from which we can learn, and that it might be in the interests of employers not to make appropriate arrangements with the work force when the scheme is finally abolished. Employers in non-scheme ports have had to make arrangements appropriate to individual ports and work forces, and there is no reason to believe that the same will not happen in former scheme ports.

    Clause 2 gives the board the opportunity to dispose of its assets, including its medical centres, in such a way as to encourage continued provision to meet the future needs of the industry and its legal requirements. It provides for local needs to be matched with local medical provision for all dock workers.

    It must not be assumed that the establishment of a single body is the best way in which to meet the industry's training needs. It is not up to me to pass judgment on what arrangements are appropriate for each port, but the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East seemed to think that a national structure would be the only option, and I do not think that that case has been made.

    Training must respond to the needs of individual firms, and it is up to employers to make arrangements for it, whether they do so individually or collectively. The work being done in a modern, capital-intensive port requires a highly skilled work force, and employers therefore have every incentive to make proper training arrangements.

    6.45 pm

    The abolition of the scheme's restrictions on the deployment of dock workers means that investment in training will produce an even greater return. Non-scheme ports manage to train to meet their skill needs without the imposition of a national body. In 1988, Felixstowe, which has its own training school, spent about £775,000 on training—rather more than the National Dock Labour Board spent on behalf of all the scheme ports put together. Many other non-scheme ports, notably those run by Sealink, have full-time training officers. The board's training activities now amount to a mobile force of about 20 training instructors, without any training centres.

    The provision in clause 2 for the disposal of the board's assets provides every opportunity for the industry to take over such useful provision as exists. There is no reason to believe, judging by the performance of non-scheme ports, that former scheme ports will not take training extremely seriously.

    The amendment gives no suggestion of where the funding of a replacement body would come from. Is it to come from a levy on the industry, once again placing a burden on employers, who would then have no control over the necessary allocation of resources? Or are financial arrangements of the transitional period to continue so that the new body is funded by sums voted by Parliament and paid by the taxpayer? Whatever the answer, the proposal is clearly unnecessary and unreasonable.

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    A point that the Minister seems to miss is that discipline is provided by the existence of the scheme ports. What worries us is that, with the removal of the national training scheme provided by the scheme ports, that discipline will go. The Minister does not appreciate the significance of training in the docks or in any other industry. He describes training costs as a burden on the employer, but they are not a burden; they are part of the investment that any respectable and self-seeking employer should be making. We want to ensure that the best employers follow the best practices.

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    It is thoroughly in keeping with the demonology of the Labour party to assume, as the hon. Gentleman has in his usual sincere and witty manner, that the only way in which employers can be obliged to train is through the use of a bit of discipline—a word that trips off the hon. Gentleman's tongue. In less formal surroundings, he would probably say that what employers need is a touch of the lash. That is what I think he has in mind.

    It is curious that the hon. Gentleman cannot accept for a moment that naked self-interest, if nothing else, would make employers train. The hon. Gentleman obviously prefers the idea of a touch of the lash in connection with naked self-interest. The idea that employers would be prepared to commit millions of pounds' worth of equipment to a casual worker—if I may refer to a point made by his hon. Friend the Member for Greenock and Port Glasgow (Dr. Godman)—or to commit it to someone with no proper training is absolute nonsense. The hon. Gentleman need not take it from me; he can look at the record. I had to remind the House a few moments ago that more training is provided by one non-scheme port—Felixstowe—than by all the non-scheme ports. That is the best assurance that the hon. Gentleman could have that, in a modern port industry, employers desperately need trained staff.

    The Bill provides for the board to wind itself up in a way that will give port employers and authorities every incentive to take over useful training and welfare facilities. The statutory requirements for health, safety and welfare which apply to all ports are comprehensive, but if there is a need for development it should be within the framework of general health and safety provisions. After abolition, scheme ports will have every incentive to make proper provision for their skill needs. There is no reason to assume that a national body would help the industry meet its training needs more effectively.

    I refer finally to the point made by the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East about possible redundancies of board staff who are not registered dock workers and who cannot look forward to the generous compensation scheme outlined in the previous debate. It would be wholly inappropriate for either the hon. Gentleman or myself to speculate on the level of redundancies, if any. However, I take his point that, logically, there could be redundancies. I understand that the board is considering proposals to enhance the voluntary severance payments that otherwise will be made on a contractual basis. Discussions on that aspect will continue.

    I cannot accept that there is a case for the type of national body that the Opposition seek. I ask Opposition Members to accept not only my words—though I am certain to do so on future occasions—but to look at the pattern of behaviour in non-scheme ports. That pattern, even more than my words and those of other Ministers, gives the lie to the Opposition's worst fears.

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    The Government have failed to remove our doubts about how seriously they approach training matters. The point was made more than once in Committee that, in only two decades, the industry's practices and cargo handling techniques have been revolutionised, so that the modern docks industry bears no resemblance to that which existed before the war, shortly after the war, and even in the early 1960s. That transformation took place under the wing, and with the direct assistance, of the National Dock Labour Board. It was responsible for providing the training that transformed dockers from men who wore hooks in their belts and pushed hand bogeys on the dock estate to skilled workers who handle equipment having a customs value of between £250,000 and £750,000 per piece.

    That training embraced the operation of everything from the forklift truck to the gantry crane, and all the other mechanical operations, which are different from those used in any other industry and probably unique. A tugmaster loading a ro-ro vessel, for example, is worth watching. It is a demanding task that dock workers have been trained to carry out to great effect, and it is to their credit that they have been able to adapt.

    Conservative Members have referred to the number of dock labour disputes. I remind the House that the record number of 427 disputes, of which 410 were official, was set before the establishment of the national dock labour scheme. Unofficial strikes were caused by the conditions prevailing in the industry before the scheme came into existence. It brought order where chaos existed. There has been a move away from traditional cargo handling methods to hi-tech operations such as containerisation, palletisation, ro-ro and bulk cargo handling. They have all been mastered by dock workers as a consequence of the good training provided by the National Dock Labour Board.

    I put to the Minister the example of the small firm—the sweetheart of the Tory party, which it views as a cherished friend—employing 60 registered dock workers. How will such a company provide adequate training? There will be no legislation, other than that of a general nature that the Minister outlined, requiring employers to provide proper training. We are concerned about the quality of training that will follow in the wake of the scheme's abolition.

    My mind is open, but I remain to be convinced that we have nothing to fear and that when the transitional period ends, the void that follows will be immediately filled by training schemes of the quality that the industry previously enjoyed. Neither am I convinced that the services needed by the industry will be retained. It is a dangerous industry in which to work. In Committee, I reported the death only a few weeks previously of a registered dock worker in the port of Liverpool; his mate was taken to hospital seriously injured after an attempt to save his comrade after a load had broken from its swing and buried the docker under a weight of timber.

    The dock industry presents many such hazards, which require specific medical provision. National Health Service facilities may be as far away as five miles. Before the present Government came to power, there was in existence almost on the dock road in Liverpool the Royal hospital, but that is now gone. The distance now between the docks and the nearest hospital is measured in miles rather than yards.

    The Minister must accept that we are not weaving a fantasy about the docks industry. During debates on the national dock labour scheme, Conservative Members showed in the most naked way that they know little or nothing about the industry. That is the great danger. They are not prepared to move their minds away from the briefs that they are given and to listen to informed comment, take it on board, and act upon it. Certainly there is no evidence that the Minister has given proper thought and consideration to the points made both in Committee and on the Floor of the House.

    I hope that even at this late stage the Minister will be able to persuade us that we are all doubting Thomases and that he has the best interests of dock workers in mind.

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    The nub of the case made by my hon. Friend the Minister is that the evidence from non-scheme ports is that a special scheme of Government intervention in training would not be advantageous. Throughout the Committee stage and today, there have been either explicit or implicit claims of superiority for the training provided under the dock labour scheme. Ironically, there were claims also of a lack of training as a way of justifying ghosting, but I put that matter to one side.

    The facts do not support either general or specific claims of superiority. The statistics show that in 1987, which is the last year for which comparative figures are available, about 33 per cent. of scheme employees underwent scheme training lasting an average of three days. In the nearest equivalent industry, transport and commercial, 40 per cent. of employees underwent 10 days of training per employee—roughly four times as much training.

    7 pm

    We have been accused of using the example of Felixstowe ad nauseam, but there was a good article on that port in the Sunday Times on 16 April this year from which I want to quote one extract. A young worker called Mark Green, who has just started work at Felixstowe, said:
    "I may not seem to have much of a job now, but the training schemes at the port arc great…You can work your way up and win whatever responsibility you want."
    He went on to speak about how he wanted to become a driver of one of the major cranes.

    We have been accused, with some substance, of using Felixstowe as an argument. However, as my hon. Friend the Minister said, there is more training going on there than in the rest of the scheme ports put together. Some members of the Committee—I am glad to say that this has not happened today—focused their attack on what they called cowboy operators. Nobody defined that term. We were left to guess whether it described a pioneering spirit of enterprise or something rather less flattering. I suspect that the latter is the case. They were put forward as an explanation of how some of the smaller ports obtained business at the expense of the larger scheme ports. The hon. Member for Great Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell), who unfortunately is not with us today, attributed the loss of trade from scheme ports to non-scheme ports to the cowboy operators—the low-cost operators—and he made specific allegations about training.

    I felt that it was incumbent on me to check the facts. Some of the work was done for us in Committee by my hon. Friend the Minister for Public Transport. He checked one of the smaller port operators, a company called Trent Wharfage. He described how that private operator took on unskilled personnel and trained them to operate major pieces of port equipment, such as those described by the hon. Member for Liverpool, Garston (Mr. Loyden), either by in-house training or through contract training outside.

    That did not seem to be enough evidence, so I telephoned small port employers in the Humber area. The market share of Humber traffic of those smaller ports grew from 15 per cent. to 21 per cent. at the expense of scheme ports in just five years. They did that against the odds. Conditions were difficult. They had difficult rivers and locations on small, poor roads, so their success was the result of something other than geographic location.

    I called two small ports at Selby and Howden to get an idea of what they did on training. I gave no warning that I intended to call but in one case a training manager was in the general manager's office when I rang. It says something that a small operation employing 30 to 40 people has a training manager.

    I was told a number of things. First, the ports were trade unionised and had TGWU representation, with proper contract terms. I asked about safety and skill training and, specifically, about training in the use of cranes, vehicles, forklifts and so on. It became apparent that they had schemes, in-house and contract, with training boards outside in the construction and road transport industries for each of those areas.

    Those ports managers were spontaneously aware of the new docks regulations. They knew that several years of training was required for the use of heavy cranes. They knew that the code of practice required forklift driver certification. That was not the response of cowboy operators, in the sense that that term was used by Opposition Members.

    The point that came across clearly was more a matter of common sense, which the hon. Member for Garston will understand. It was not in the interests of such ports to allow untrained men to use highly expensive and heavy equipment of the type commonly bought today—the sort of equipment that the hon. Gentleman described.

    I was told that a 90-tonne crane cost £500,000. For a man to use that crane he has to be sent away for two weeks' intensive training at a cost of £500, plus his salary. Damage can be done by the untrained use of such equipment. No one in his right mind would skimp £500 and risk £500,000. I am putting entirely on one side the sort of accidents that could occur from misuse, such as the hon. Gentleman described. No one with any sense of responsibility, or even self-interest, would not train such operators. I shall not waste time now, but I could give further examples, such as the £125,000 forklift truck.

    There are three components of a training decision in the docks industry. The first, rightly, is safety. Any responsible manager would put that at the top of his priorities, but even if he did not, health and safety at work regulations and the specific docks regulations of 1988 which came into effect on 1 January this year would ensure safety. Therefore, there is already a safety net. On skills, the economic argument that I have just explained is ovrwhelming from the point of view of the individual employer, whether enormous like Felixstowe or tiny link Howden.

    Finally, there is the need to have the money available. I agree with the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks). People do not need to be forced to do something that is in their own interests, but they need money for investment.

    Safety, skils and money are the three components of a training decision. The national dock labour scheme does nothing to add to the regulations on safety. It does nothing to enhance the importance of skills, because it reduces the productivity of the equipment and it positively undermines prosperity. Therefore, it is not tenable to say that the scheme in any way helps training in Britain.

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    My hon. Friends the Members for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Strang) and for Liverpool, Garston (Mr. Loyden) were simply saying that we should not throw out the baby with the bath water. That is all that the amendment is about. It is not a wrecking amendment or one that tries to continue the dock labour scheme by some other means. It merely asks that the Government, in the hiatus that they have created by rushing the Bill through the House, tell the House what will happen with regard to training and medical care.

    I am proud to say that I am sponsored by the TGWU, of which I have been a member for some 40 years. I do not have any docks of any significance in my constituency. I have a few dock workers in Runcorn and I may have a few who work in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Garston; but, like every other hon. Member, I live on an island and docks are important to us all because any difficulty with the docks or the dock workers can create a complete stranglehold on our economy.

    We are going into 1992 and we are talking about training for dock workers. I was appalled to hear the Minister ask whether the burden of training should be on the employer or on the taxpayer. Other industries—for example, ICI—do not talk about the burden of training. Training is an important investment.

    The hon. Member for Boothferry (Mr. Davis) talked about crane drivers and heavy equipment. He was right to say that no industry would let loose an unskilled hand on £500,000 worth of equipment, but I am not talking about that. I am talking about training for the ordinary, unskilled individual who needs to be trained just as much as the crane driver, because without it he could be involved in an accident or create infinite damage simply through ignorance.

    I envisage an increase in casualisation, which currently stands at only 6 per cent. because there is a dock labour scheme. Without it, casualisation would increase considerably. Unskilled people will be glad to have a job and will be willing to do anything. They will abandon the safety conditions and all the rules because they desperately want a job. They will not press for safety rules or for adequate training. That has already happened with the YTS, especially in the building industry. We are an island nation wholly dependent upon the docks.

    The Minister's complacent attitude amazes me because we are approaching 1992 and a Europe in which Germany, France, Italy, Spain and even Greece passionately believe in the importance of proper training—not just for highly skilled workers but for all workers. In Germany, someone cannot be even a shop assistant until he has received proper training. That is right, because such people do a skilled job. A docker does a dangerous job. When I take my car on a ferry when I am travelling abroad, I am amazed by the skilled jobs being carried out by dock workers. They put quarts into pint pots. No unskilled person could do that.

    I fear that the Bill will mean a dilution of training standards. The National Dock Labour Board currently sets training standards. The Minister said that it does not do enough, which may be true, but the Government should insist that it does more. If Felixstowe is so much better without the dock labour scheme, I hope that the Government, in the hiatus that they are creating, will insist that all other ports are brought up to Felixstowe's standard. Instead, I fear that the position in most ports will become considerably worse under this Bill, which has been rushed through the House, at the insistence of the port employers, almost by sleight of hand. The amendment simply asks the Government to tell us what they intend to do with training in the interim period. We do not want them to throw out the baby with the bath water.

    Clause 3 is being discussed with this proposed amendment to clause 2 under the guillotine procedure, although the connection between the two clauses is difficult to understand. Clause 3 is a gauleiter clause; it provides that, if there is any disagreement between the Secretary of State and the members of the board, the Secretary of State can sack them and appoint another person to carry out their duties. If that person then does not carry out those duties to his satisfaction, he can also be sacked. Why appoint that other person? Why does not the Secretary of State say that he will do the job, in accordance with his wishes and diktats? It is a gauleiter clause, because any person appointed under it will have to do precisely what the Secretary of State says or be sacked.

    This country will be greatly affected in 1992 by its complete lack of interest in training and the attitude that training is a burden. Training is not a burden; it is an investment, and all good industries regard it as such. It chills me to hear the Minister refer to training as a burden, whether on the taxpayer or industry.

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    I said that, if the National Dock Labour Board imposed a levy during a transitional period it would be a burden. That is one reason why we think our proposed scheme is right. The money spent by an employer on training is very much an investment, which is why I cited the example of Felixstowe. That might he a semantic point, but it is crucial. I said that a levy would be a burden, not that investment in training would be a burden.

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    The House needs to know exactly what will happen during the transitional period. We do not know what will happen and the Minister will not tell us.

    7.15 pm

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    A system of levy is not unknown to other maritime industries—for example, every stone of fish landed at a British port by a United Kingdom registered fishing vessel is subject to levy. That levy is used towards the costs of running the industry and the costs of training fishermen.

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    I know nothing about the fishing industry, but I accept what my hon. Friend has said. Indeed, it seems an eminently sensible thing to do. It is unfortunate that many industries do not invest in training. Because other European countries invest in training, they will be in a better position than Britain in the mid-1990s.

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    I am puzzled by the Minister's remark about a levy being a burden. I am sure that my right hon. Friend is aware, even if the Minister is not, that the levy pays for training. Therefore, it follows that if the levy is a burden, so is training.

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    My hon. Friend has hit on a crucial point. The Minister appears to think that spending money on training is wrong, yet the rest of Europe thinks it right. Europe is right and Britain is wrong. The Minister may say that many of our major industries show capitalism at work, but it is good sense to invest money to obtain the best safety record and the best efficiency from the work force. Even a kid of 17 or 18 should be trained, for his own safety, for that of his workmates and for the efficiency of the industry in which he works. The Bill creates a hiatus. The Government do not know what will happen about training.

    This is not a wrecking amendment. It is a sensible amendment. I ask the Minister, please, at least to consider it so that in another place the idea of providing proper training in the docks industry can be invesigated further by means of a Government amendment.

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    I listened carefully to what the right hon. Member for Halton (Mr. Oakes) said about training but I do not know whether he listened to the Minister when he referred to training and prayed in aid the port of Felixstowe, where large sums are being spent on training. The right hon. Gentleman almost seemed to imply that the only ports that do any training are scheme ports, and that the non-scheme ports do no training whatsoever. That is not the case. The Minister said that Felixstowe spends a great deal of money on training.

    The right hon. Gentleman asked us to consider what would happen in a port that recruited large numbers of so-called unskilled persons.

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    Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

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    Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will allow me to develop this point because it is crucial to the argument of the right hon. Member for Halton.

    The right hon. Gentleman told us to beware of those ports that might recruit unskilled labour. However. I pray in aid an article in the Financial Times of 28 March by Jimmy Burns. It is headed:
    "Dockers fear tide turning against closed shop."
    I read the article with interest. It refers to Felixstowe, where the Transport and General Workers Union has a single union agreement. I shall say a word or two later about the training role of trade unions. The article says that Felixstowe's recruitment
    "is predominantly local, among men with no experience in dock work."
    Felixstowe was the first port in the United Kingdom to handle more than 1 million TEUs, which are 20ft equivalent container units, in a single year. That port has built its success on the use of unskilled labour which had no previous experience of dock work.

    I have visited Felixstowe and seen the port in action. It is a quite remarkable place to visit. Its rate of expansion is very rapid. When I visited Felixstowe, the port was expanding so rapidly that, as soon as the tarmac was laid, containers were put on to it. The right hon. Gentleman did not say that the growth of Felixstowe had led to an unacceptably high level of accidents or that all the progress there had been achieved without any form of training.

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    rose

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    Does the right hon. Gentleman wish to intervene?

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    Yes. I am not attacking the port of Felixstowe. All I am asking the Government is, if the training at the port of Felixstowe is so good, why create a hiatus, which the Bill does in the Government's rush to get it through? Why do they not accept the amendment and bring every port up to the standard at Felixstowe?

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    I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman has clarified his position and said that the training procedures at Felixstowe are excellent. I do not think that under the new arrangements the port employers will say, "Now that we are non-scheme ports, we shall stop providing any training until some future date." It does not add up; it is impractical. Felixstowe shows how effective it is to devise training that suits local needs. Felixstowe is a general cargo and container port. Smaller vessels also call at Felixstowe, for which a specific type of training is required. Felixstowe has got round that problem.

    I am now prepared to give way to the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks).

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    I am grateful to the hon. Member for giving way. Will he go a little further than Felixstowe and say what standard of training is provided in some of the other non-scheme ports? We keep hearing about Felixstowe, but what about some of the others?

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    I have every reason to believe that the other non-scheme ports also provide a high level of training. Not too long ago I visited the port of Dover. I asked those who operate the ferries what new training requirements had been introduced after the Zeebrugge disaster. I was most impressed by the high levels of training and checking that had been introduced to counteract some of the previous discrepancies.

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    But it was a bit late.

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