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Commons Chamber

Volume 160: debated on Monday 13 November 1989

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House Of Commons

Monday 13 November 1989

The House met at half-past Two o'clock

Prayers

[MR. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Private Business

Isle Of Wight Bill (By Order)

Order read for resuming adjourned debate on Question [9 November],

That this House doth agree with the Lords in their Amendment to the Preamble, page 1, line 4, at the end, to insert the words—
'(2) By the Isle of Wight Act 1980 it was provided that the said section 5 should continue to have effect notwithstanding the provisions of section 262 of the Local Government Act 1972:'—[The Chairman of Ways and Means.]

Debate further adjourned till Tuesday 14 November.

St George's Hill, Weybridge, Estate Bill (By Order)

Hythe Marina Village (Southampton) Wavescreen Bill (By Order)

New Southgate Cemetery And Crematorium Limited Bill (By Order)

City Of London (Spitalfields Market) Bill (By Order)

Orders read for consideration of Lords amendments.

To be considered on Tuesday 14 November.

British Railways (Penalty Fares) Bill Lords (By Order)

Order for further consideration, as amended, read.

To be further considered on Tuesday 14 November.

London Regional Transport (Penalty Fares) Bill Lords (By Order)

British Railways Bill (By Order)

Bromley London Borough Council (Crystal Palace) Bill (By Order)

Buckinghamshire County Council Bill Lords (By Order)

South Yorkshire Light Transit Bill Lords (By Order)

London Local Authorities Bill Lords (By Order)

United Medical And Dental Schools Bill Lords (By Order)

Orders for consideration, as amended, read.

To be considered on Tuesday 14 November.

Vale Of Glamorgan (Barry Harbour) Bill Lords (By Order)

Order for Second Reading read.

To be read a Second time on Tuesday 14 November.

Private Bills Lords Suspension

Motion made,

That so much of the Lords Messages [2nd November, 7th November and 8th November] as relates to the River Tees Barrage and Crossing Bill [Lords], the Happisburgh Lighthouse Bill [Lords], the Great Yarmouth Port Authority Bill [Lords], the Southampton Rapid Transit Bill [Lords], the Heathrow Express Railway Bill [Lords], the London Local Authorities (No. 2) Bill [Lords] and the Greater Manchester (Light Rapid Transit System) Bill [Lords] be now considered.
That this House doth concur with the Lords in their Resolution.—[The Chairman of Ways and Means.]

To be considered on Tuesday 14 November.

Penzance Albert Pier Extension Bill

Motion made,

That so much of the Lords Message [2nd November] as relates to the Penzance Albert Pier Extension Bill be now considered.
That the Promoters of the Penzance Albert Pier Extension Bill shall have leave to suspend proceedings thereon in order to proceed with the Bill in the next Session of Parliament, provided that the Agents for the Bill give notice to the Clerks in the Private Bill Office of their intention to suspend further proceedings not later than the day before the close of the present Session and that all fees due on the Bill up to that date be paid;
That on the fifth day on which the House sits in the next Session the Bill shall be presented to the House;
That there shall be deposited with the Bill a declaration signed by the Agents for the Bill, stating that the Bill is the same, in every respect, as the Bill at the last stage of its proceedings in this House in the present Session;
That the Bill shall be laid upon the Table of the House by one of the Clerks in the Private Bill Office on the next meeting of the House after the day on which the Bill has been presented and, when so laid, shall be read the first, second and third time and shall be recorded in the Journal of this House as having been so read;
That no further Fees shall be charged in respect of any proceedings on the Bill in respect of which Fees have already been incurred during the present Session;
That these Orders be Standing Orders of the House.—[The Chairman of Ways and Means.]

To be considered on Tuesday 14 November.

Nottingham Park Estate Bill Lords

Motion made,

That the Promoters of the Nottingham Park Estate Bill [Lords] shall have leave to suspend proceedings thereon in order to proceed with the Bill, if they think fit, in the next Session of Parliament, provided that the Agents for the Bill give notice to the Clerks in the Private Bill Office no later than the day before the close of the present Session of their intention to suspend further proceedings and that all Fees due on the Bill up to that date be paid;
That, if the Bill is brought from the Lords in the next Session, the Agents for the Bill shall deposit in the Private Bill Office a declaration signed by them, stating that the Bill is the same, in every respect, as the Bill which was brought from the Lords in the present Session;
That, as soon as a certificate by one of the Clerks in the Private Bill Office, that such a declaration has been so deposited, has been laid upon the Table of the House, the Bill shall be read the first and second time and committed (and shall be recorded in the Journal of this House as having been so read and committed);
That the Petitions relating to the Bill presented in the present Session which stand referred to the Committee on the Bill shall stand referred to the Committee on the Bill in the next Session;
That no Petitioners shall be heard before the Committee on the Bill, unless their Petition has been presented within the time limited within the present Session or deposited pursuant to paragraph (b) of Standing Order 126 relating to Private Business;
That, in relation to the Bill, Standing Order 127 relating to Private Business shall have effect as if the words 'under Standing Order 126 (Reference to committee of petitions against Bill)' were omitted;
That no further Fees shall be charged in respect of any proceedings on the Bill in respect of which Fees have already been incurred during the present Session;
That these Orders be Standing Orders of the, House.—[The Chairman of Ways and Means.]

To be considered on Tuesday 14 November.

Vale Of Glamorgan (Barry Harbour) Bill Lords

Motion made,

That the Promoters of the Vale of Glamorgan (Barry Harbour) Bill [Lords] shall have leave to suspend proceedings thereon in order to proceed with the Bill, if they think fit, in the next Session of Parliament, provided that the Agents for the Bill give notice to the Clerks in the Private Bill Office of their intention to suspend further proceedings not later than the day before the close of the present Session and that all Fees due on the Bill up to that date be paid;
That if the Bill is brought from the Lords in the next Session, the Agents for the Bill shall deposit in the Private Bill Office a declaration signed by them, stating that the Bill is the same, in every respect, as the Bill which was brought from the Lords in the present Session;
That as soon as a certificate by one of the Clerks in the Private Bill Office, that such a declaration has been so deposited, has been laid upon the Table of the House, the Bill shall be deemed to have been read the first and shall be ordered to be read a second time;
That the Petitions against the Bill presented in the present Session which stand referred to the Committee on the Bill shall stand referred to the Committee on the Bill in the next Session;
That no Petitioners shall be heard before the Committee on the Bill, unless their Petition has been presented within the time limited within the present Session or deposited pursuant to paragraph (b) of Standing Order 126 relating to Private Business;
That, in relation to the Bill, Standing Order 127 relating to Private Business shall have effect as if the words 'under Standing Order 126 (Reference to committee of petitions against Bill)' were omitted;
That no further Fees shall be charged in respect of any proceedings on the Bill in respect of which Fees have already been incurred during the present Session;
That these Orders be Standing Orders of the House.—[The Chairman of Ways and Means.]

To be considered on Tuesday 14 November.

Medway Tunnel Bill Lords

Motion made,

That the Promoters of the Medway Tunnel Bill [Lords] shall have leave to suspend proceedings thereon in order to proceed with the Bill, if they think fit, in the next Session of Parliament, provided that the Agents for the Bill give notice to the Clerks in the Private Bill Office of their intention to suspend further proceedings not later than the day before the close of the present Session and that all Fees due on the Bill up to that date be paid;
That if the Bill is brought from the Lords in the next Session, the Agents for the Bill shall deposit in the Private Bill Office a declaration, signed by them, stating that the Bill is the same, in every respect, as the Bill which was brought from the Lords in the present Session;
That as soon as a certificate by one of the Clerks in the Private Bill Office, that such a declaration has been so deposited, has been laid upon the Table of the House, the Bill shall be deemed to have been read the first and shall be ordered to be read a second time;
That the Petitions against the Bill presented in the present Session which stand referred to the Committee on the Bill shall stand referred to the Committee on the Bill in the next Session;
That no Petitioners shall be heard before the Committee on the Bill, unless their Petition has been presented within the time limited within the present Session or deposited pursuant to paragraph (b) of Standing Order 126 relating to Private Business;
That, in relation to the Bill, Standing Order 127 relating to Private Business shall have effect as if the words 'under Standing Order 126 (Reference to committee of petitions against Bill)' were omitted;
That no further Fees shall be charged in respect of any proceedings on the Bill in respect of which Fees have already been incurred during the present Session;
That these Orders be Standing Orders of the House.—[The Chairman of Ways and Means.]

To be considered on Tuesday 14 November.

Greater Manchester (Light Rapid Transit System) (No 3) Bill Lords

Motion made,

That the Promoters of the Greater Manchester (Light Rapid Transit System) (No. 3) Bill [Lords] shall have leave to suspend proceedings thereon in order to proceed with the Bill, if they think fit, in the next Session of Parliament, provided that the Agents for the Bill give notice to the Clerks in the Private Bill Office of their intention to suspend further proceedings not later than the day before the close of the present Session and that all Fees due on the Bill up to that date be paid;
That if the Bill is brought from the Lords in the next Session, the Agents for the Bill shall deposit in the Private Bill Office a declaration, signed by them, stating that the Bill is the same, in every respect, as the Bill which was brought from the Lords in the present Session;
That as soon as a certificate by one of the Clerks in the Private Bill Office, that such a declaration had been so deposited, has been laid upon the Table of the House, the Bill shall be deemed to have been read the first time and referred to the Examiners of Petitions for Private Bills;
That, no petitions against the Bill having been presented within the time limited within the present Session, no Petitioners shall be heard before any committee on the Bill save those who complain of any amendment as proposed in the filled up Bill or of any matter which arises during the progress of the Bill before the committee;
That no further Fees shall be charged in respect of any proceedings on the Bill in respect of which Fees have already been incurred during the present Session;
That these Orders be Standing Orders of the House.—[The Chairman of Ways and Means.]

To be considered on Tuesday 14 November.

Birmingham City Council (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill Lords

Ordered,

That the Promoters of the Birmingham City Council (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill [Lords] shall have leave, except as provided by these orders, to suspend further proceedings thereon in order to proceed with the Bill, if they think fit, in the next Session of Parliament, provided that the Agents for the Bill give notice to the Clerks in the Private Bill Office of their intention to suspend further proceedings not later than the day before the close of the present Session and that all fees due on the Bill up to that date be paid:

Ordered,

That, if the Bill is brought from the Lords in the next Session, the Agents for the Bill shall deposit in the Private Bill Office a declaration, signed by them, stating that the Bill is the same, in every respect, as the Bill which was brought from the Lords in the present Session;

Ordered,

That, as soon as a certificate by one of the Clerks in the Private Bill Office, that such a declaration has been so deposited, has been laid upon the Table of the House, the Bill shall be read the first time and referred to the Examiners Of Petitions for Private Bills;

Ordered,

That, no petitions against the Bill having been presented within the time limited within the present Session, no Petitioners shall be heard before any committee on the Bill save those who complain of any amendment as proposed in the filled up Bill or of any matter which arises during the progress of the Bill before the committee;

Ordered,

That no further Fees shall be charged in respect of any proceedings on the Bill in respect of which Fees have already been incurred during the present Session;

Ordered,

That these Orders be Standing Orders of the House.—[The Chairman of Ways and Means.]

Message to the Lords to acquaint them therewith.

British Film Institute Southbank Bill

Motion made,

That the Promoters of the British Film Institute Southbank Bill shall have leave to suspend proceedings thereon in order to proceed with the Bill, if they think fit, in the next Session of Parliament, provided that the Agents for the Bill give notice to the Clerks in the Private Bill Office not later than the day before the close of the present Session of their intention to suspend further proceedings and that all Fees due on the Bill up to that date be paid;
That on the fifth day on which the House sits in the next Session the Bill shall be presented to the House;
That there shall be deposited with the Bill a declaration signed by the Agents for the Bill, stating that the Bill is the same, in every respect, as the Bill at the last stage of its proceedings in this House in the present Session;
That the Bill shall be laid upon the Table of the House by one of the Clerks in the Private Bill Office on the next meeting of the House after the day on which the Bill has been presented and, when so laid, shall be read the first and second time (and shall be recorded in the Journal of this House as having been so read) and, having been amended by the Committee in the present Session, shall be ordered to lie upon the Table;
That no further Fees shall be charged in respect of any proceedings on the Bill in respect of which Fees have already been incurred during the present Session;
That these Orders be Standing Orders of the House.— [The Chairman of Ways and Means.]

To be considered on Tuesday 14 November.

British Railways Bill

Motion made,

That the Promoters of the British Railways Bill shall have leave to suspend proceedings thereon in order to proceed with the Bill, if they think fit, in the next Session of Parliament, provided that the Agents for the Bill give notice to the Clerks in the Private Bill Office not later than the day before the close of the present Session of their intention to suspend further proceeding and that all Fees due on the Bill up to that date be paid;
That on the fifth day on which the House sits in the next Session the Bill shall be presented to the House;
That there shall be deposited with the Bill a declaration signed by the Agents for the Bill, stating that the Bill is the same, in every respect, as the Bill at the last stage of its proceedings in this House in the present Session;
That the Bill shall be laid upon the Table of the House by one of the Clerks in the Private Bill Office on the next meeting of the House after the day on which the Bill has been presented and, when so laid shall be read the first and second time (and shall be recorded in the Journal of this House as having been so read) and, having been amended by the Committee in the present session, shall be ordered to lie upon the Table;
That no further Fees shall be charged in respect of any proceedings on the Bill in respect of which Fees have already been incurred during the present Session;
That these Orders be Standing Orders of the House.—[The Chairman of Ways and Means.]

To be considered on Tuesday 14 November.

Bromley London Borough Council (Crystal Palace) Bill

Ordered,

That the Promoters of the Bromley London Borough Council (Crystal Palace) Bill shall have leave to suspend proceedings thereon in order to proceed with the Bill, if they think fit, in the next Session of Parliament, provided that the Agents for the Bill give notice to the Clerks in the Private Bill Office not later than the day before the close of the present Session of their intention to suspend further proceedings and that all Fees due on the Bill up to that date be paid;

Ordered,

That on the fifth day on which the House sits in the next Session the Bill shall be presented to the House;

Ordered,

That there shall be deposited with the Bill a declaration signed by the Agents for the Bill, stating that the Bill is the same, in every respect, as the Bill at the last stage of its proceedings in this House in the present Session;

Ordered,

That the Bill shall be laid upon the Table of the House by one of the Clerks in the Private Bill Office on the next meeting of the House after the day on which the Bill has been presented and, when so laid, shall be read the first and second time (and shall be recorded in the Journal of this House as having been so read) and, having been amended by the Committee in the present Session, shall be ordered to lie upon the Table;

Ordered,

That no further Fees shall be charged in respect of any proceedings on the Bill in respect of which Fees have already been incurred during the present Session;

Ordered,

That these Orders be Standing Orders of the House.—[The Chairman of Ways and Means.]

Message to the Lords to acquaint them therewith.

City Of London (Various Powers) Bill

Motion made,

That the Promoters of the City of London (Various Powers) Bill shall have leave to suspend proceedings thereon in order to proceed with the Bill, if they think fit, in the next Session of Parliament, provided that the Agents for the Bill give notice to the Clerks in the Private Bill Office not later than the day before the close of the present Session of their intention to suspend further proceedings and that all Fees due on the Bill up to that date be paid;
That on the fifth day on which the House sits in the next Session the Bill shall be presented to the House;
That there shall be deposited with the Bill a declaration signed by the Agents for the Bill, stating that the Bill is the same, in every respect, as the Bill at the last stage of its proceedings in this House in the present Session;
That the Bill shall be laid upon the Table of the House by one of the Clerks in the Private Bill Office on the next meeting of the House after the day on which the Bill has been presented and, when so laid, shall be read the first and second time (and shall be recorded in the Journal of this House as having been so read) and, having been amended by the Committee in the present Session, shall be ordered to lie upon the Table;
That no further Fees shall be charged in respect of any proceedings on the Bill in respect of which Fees have already been incurred during the present Session;
That these Orders be Standing Orders of the House.—[The Chairman of Ways and Means.]

To be considered on Tuesday 14 November.

Redbridge London Borough Council Bill

Motion made,

That the Promoters of the Redbridge London Borough Council Bill shall have leave to suspend proceedings thereon in order to proceed with the Bill, if they think fit, in the next Session of Parliament, provided that the Agents for the Bill give notice to the Clerks in the Private Bill Office not later than the day before the close of the present Session of their intention to suspend further proceedings and that all Fees due on the Bill up to that date be paid;
That on the fifth day on which the House sits in the next Session the Bill shall be presented to the House;
That there shall be deposited with the Bill a declaration signed by the Agents for the Bill, stating that the Bill is the same, in every respect, as the Bill at the last stage of its proceedings in this House in the present Session;
That the Bill shall be laid upon the Table by one of the Clerks in the Private Bill Office on the next meeting of the House after the day on which the Bill has been presented and, when so laid, shall be read the first and second time (and shall be recorded in the Journal of the House as having been so read) and, having been amended by the Committee in the present Session, shall be ordered to lie upon the Table;
That no further Fees shall be charged in respect of any proceedings on the Bill in respect of which Fees have already been incurred during the present Session;
That these Orders be Standing Orders of the House.—[The Chairman of Ways and Means.]

To be considered on Tuesday 14 November.

Oral Answers To Questions

Oral Answers To Questions

2.38 pm

Further to my point of order on Friday, Mr. Speaker. May I draw your attention to the fact that in the conduct of private——

Order. This has nothing to do with questions. I shall take the hon. Gentleman's point of order, if it is connected with private business, at the proper time.

Energy

Electricity Privatisation

1.

To ask the Secretary of State for Energy when he plans to set a date for the privatisation of the electricity industry.

18.

To ask the Secretary of State for Energy when he expects the restructuring of the electricity supply industry to be implemented; and if he will make a statement.

The Government intend to implement the new structure of the industry at the end of March 1990 and to complete its privatisation within this Parliament; the area boards will be offered for sale in autumn 1990 and the two generating companies will be offered for sale in the first half of 1991.

I congratulate the Secretary of State on his new-found enthusiasm for the mixed economy, but I warn him that he still has some way to go. Does he agree that the decision to abandon the privatisation of nuclear power should have been taken 12 months ago by his predecessor, and that if it had been, he would not have been left with this shambles?

I agree with the hon. Gentleman this far—[Interruption.] It is not very far. If the decision had been taken before I would not have been involved in dealing with the matter when I arrived. However, it was not until the late summer and the beginning of autumn that the terms which the private sector wanted for the privatisation of nuclear power became apparent and those terms, as I reported to the House on Thursday, I was unable to recommend.

Is the Secretary of State aware that the statute under which he exercises his responsibilities, which was passed by the coalition Government in April 1945, requires him to be personally responsible for promoting economy and efficiency in the supply of energy? Will he now institute a public inquiry into how it was that successive chairmen of the generating board misled successive Secretaries of State on the true costs of nuclear power, at a cost to the taxpayers and electricity consumers of many billions of pounds? In those circumstances does he think it right that Lord Marshall should be compensated when he leaves the generating board?

I do not believe that an inquiry is necessary. The principal concerns about the price of nuclear power arose because of the high capital charges and the return on investment and not so much, as some have suggested, because of the decommissioning costs and fuel service charges. I believe that those concerns arose, as I told the hon. Member for Western Isles (Mr. Macdonald) a few moments ago, in the summer of this year—that was why I was faced with a difficult decision.

I fully accept all my responsibilities as laid down under the statute—as no doubt the right hon. Gentleman did when in my position—and I do not believe that a public inquiry is necessary.

Now that nuclear power is excluded from the privatisation is there not an overwhelming case for adjusting the imbalance between National Power and PowerGen to create a more competitive climate among producers?

I recognise my hon. Friend's point, but I do not believe that that is necessary. I believe that a competitive market is developing and the proposals that I have made will ensure fair competition between the generators, whatever their size, especially the independent generators which will strongly enter the market. To change the allocation of stations at this stage would risk failing to complete privatisation in this Parliament and that would not be in the consumers' interests.

Does the Secretary of State agree that his statement last Thursday, like the 13th chime of the clock, cast doubt on all that had gone before? Is it not true that no one believes any of the figures quoted by his Department in furtherance of privatisation? Does he agree that it would be better, particularly as the Government are blaming the advisers and the generating board for those figures, if the Government published a White Paper spelling out all the advice that they have received on costs and prices and projections of costs and prices for oil, coal and nuclear power stations? Would not that permit rational discussion of what is happening and some rational decisions to be taken? In short, would it not be best if the Government came clean on figures?

One problem in the past has been that some of these costs have been hidden away and we have not fully realised what they are. We believe that by our creating an electricity generating industry that is highly competitive, the market will determine the best costs, and the Government will welcome the competition that follows.

2.

To ask the Secretary of State for Energy what progress has been made in the setting up of independent generation companies after the restructuring of the electricity supply industry.

There are approaching 20 independent projects in prospect, which will provide up to 15 per cent. of present capacity in England and Wales. The first new independent generating company to be established as a result of our privatisation proposals is Lakeland Power, which has just signed a contract with the North Western electricity board for 220 MW of gas-fired generation.

Does my hon. Friend accept that without the privatisation programme we might not have heard the true cost of nuclear power and that, therefore, good has come of it? Does he also accept that the rationale behind splitting the CEGB into only two companies—of which one, National Power, will produce 70 per cent. of the electricity—was nuclear power? As that rationale has now disappeared, does he agree that competition to keep down the cost of energy is most important and that there should be more than two generation companies, possibly four or five, so that people can see that privatisation is for the good of the consumer?

I agree with about three quarters of that. I agree entirely with my hon. Friend that competition is the force which will bring down costs. Of course, that competition is absent in the present structure in which the monopolist sets up the costs and passes them straight to the consumer. I part company with my hon. Friend when he says that to generate competition it is necessary further to sub-divide the two major companies. There will be a multiplicity of companies and company sizes and, as I said in my initial answer, we know of 20 independent projects coming to the market representing about 15 per cent. of present capacity. That means that there will be a multiplicity of competition.

Why is the Minister so confident about the cost of electricity when a document from his Department to the Cabinet said that, on privatisation, electricity prices would rise by 15 per cent. for domestic consumers and by 25 per cent. for industrial comsumers?

I shall not comment on leaked documents, and old documents at that. There is no doubt that the competitive pressures that will exist in the industry as a result of privatisation will put downward pressure on costs. As I said, a multiplicity of new projects have been proposed with cost structures considerably below those of the present industry. New types of generation, for instance gas-fired generation, are coming forward. They have much lower cost structures and that will have an effect on prices.

In view of the statement last week by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Energy on the future of the nuclear generating industry, does my hon. Friend agree that it is time to promote more strongly and quickly the environmentally friendly mini-power stations to take advantage of the cheap coal that is produced in Nottinghamshire?

I agree entirely with my hon. Friend that the Nottinghamshire UDM pits have been increasing their efficiency quite remarkably. They are now among the highest productivity pits in the country. If those pits continue to improve their present rate of productivity and increased efficiency, there will be a great future not only for Nottinghamshire but for the coal industry as a whole.

The Secretary of State will be aware that the oil industry and the gas producers have invested heavily with a view to entering the electricity generating market with a cleaner fuel—gas. Given the present shambles of electricity privatisation, what are the prospects for that investment proceeding?

That is a non-sequitur. The gas-fired generation proposals are made possible only because of privatisation and because of the competitive pressures that that will place on the industry. Far from its being a shambles, we are setting up a whole new structure that will remarkably increase the pace of competition in the industry and the downward pressure on costs. Those things will benefit the consumer.

My hon. Friend will be aware of the plan to place National Power's headquarters in Swindon and those of PowerGen in Birmingham. That will result in Europa house, a regional headquarters in Stockport, being phased out and 600 or 700 jobs being lost or relocated. When the new nuclear company is formed will my hon. Friend consider basing it in Stockport where there already is a dedicated, experienced and hard working staff—especially of women who cannot move elsewhere and who, if they were in the south, would be worth their weight in gold? The present plan is for a headquarters in the midlands and one in the south, and a headquarters in the north-west would be very welcome.

I know that my hon. Friend has been pressing me hard on behalf of his constituents, whose jobs are at risk. As to whether, under the new arrangements, a headquarters will be placed in his constituency, I cannot give him a definitive answer, but I am sure that his points have been noted.

British Coal

3.

To ask the Secretary of State for Energy when he last met the chairman of British Coal; and what matters were discussed.

I meet the chairman of British Coal regularly to discuss all aspects of the coal industry.

Did the Secretary of State recently discuss the suggestion which appears to have been put to the Cabinet, that between 12,000 and 30,000 jobs will be lost in the coal industry over the next three or four years? Will he confirm that those job losses will have to be met by compulsory redundancies?

No, I did not discuss it in those terms. Coal contracts are a matter for commercial negotiations between the parties. Those are still in progress, and it will be for British Coal to decide what manpower it will require in the light of the tonnage that it can profitably produce and sell in competition with other fuels. I hope that it will get a large slice of the market.

When my right hon. Friend next talks to the chairman of British Coal, will he point out that although his announcement last week may not have been very good news for the nuclear industry, it is potentially extremely good news for the coal industry and for the future of new coal technologies? Will he point out that the coal industry has everything to gain from increasing its competitiveness and further intensifying its productivity?

The chairman of British Coal is a wise and experienced person, and I am sure that he has already taken those points on board. I have no doubt that when I see him again shortly, I shall discuss these matters. My hon. Friend is right—there is a good future for British Coal if it can produce coal at prices that meet those of the competition. I have every reason to believe that it can produce a substantial part of our basic fuel requirements.

Is the Minister aware that it would be disadvantageous for Britain if we became dependent on foreign coal supplies? Does he accept that a number of foreign coal suppliers are already prepared to sell coal to Britain at a price cheaper than that at which it is available in Europe? Is that not an extremely dangerous position, and one which he would do well to advise the country not to accept, as dependence on foreign coal is strategically unwise, and would become enconomically foolish?

Dependence upon any form of fuel would be unwise. We require a diversity of supply. As I said in a reply to the right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) on Thursday, British Coal must make itself competitive against not only imported coal but oil and natural gas. That is the challenge for it, and I am sure that it will rise to the occasion.

As there is likely to be a shortage of electricity in the late 1990s, particularly with the elimination of the three nuclear stations in the programme, how does my right hon. Friend propose to take up the shortfall? Has he discussed this with the chairman of British Coal?

I have satisfied myself that there will not be a capacity shortfall. Already, a substantial number of independent projects are coming forward. There is potential for life extension of some plant, and I am wholly confident that our privatisation proposals will ensure that capacity demands are met.

Given that, last week, the Secretary of State announced that the Government would protect the nuclear industry via the British taxpayer, is it fair that the British coal industry, which over the past four years has cut costs by 30 per cent., improved productivity by over 90 per cent. and suffered job losses of 140,000, should lose jobs because of the importation of foreign coal?

We are not protecting the nuclear industry in the sense that it will be cash-positive from the day that it is set up. The hon. Gentleman, who knows a great deal about the industry, was less than fair in the way in which he put his supplementary question. He did not mention that the taxpayer has financed over £6·5 billion of investment and provided over £10 billion of grant since 1979. That shows an unrivalled commitment to the coal industry by the Government.

Did my right hon. Friend discuss with the chairman the environmental impact of fossil fuel power stations on our ecological system? Did he see "The Money Programme" on BBC2 last night, during which we were told that an American power station has been set up which is energy efficient and, as far as possible, emission proof? The cost of taking out the CO2 has been passed over to a South American country in the form of a grant to plant millions of trees to remove CO2 from the atmosphere. Does my right hon. Friend agree that that is a sensitive approach and one which should interest British Coal?

British Coal is well aware of the need to improve the environmental acceptability of coal as a fuel, as are the generating companies that will use the fuel. I have no doubt that British Coal will take note of what my hon. Friend said. I do not watch television very often. I feel like my right hon. and noble Friend Lord St. John of Fawsley: I seem to appear on television more than watch it these days.

East Midlands Electricity Board

8.

To ask the Secretary of State for Energy when he last met the chairman of the East Midlands electricity board; and what matters they discussed.

My right hon. Friend and I meet the chairman of the East Midlands electricity board regularly and discuss a range of issues of mutual interest.

Is the Minister aware that the chairman of the East Midlands electricity board, Mr. Harris, and the local manager for the area, Mr. Huddleston, are open, honest and above board? Why has a scandalous document been leaked from the Cabinet? It is all right for the Minister to say that everything is lovely in Nottinghamshire, but we want some honesty, not flannel. The document has the name of the right hon. Member for Hertsmere (Mr. Parkinson) written all over it. We want some honesty at the Dispatch Box. What jobs will be protected in the Nottinghamshire area—the area that I represent?

The hon. Gentleman had a good week last week and I hope that he will not push his luck by going completely over the top this week. The substance of the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question is why did the document leak. The answer is that I have no idea.

Is it not a fact that the East Midlands electricity board, under the chairmanship of Mr. Harris, is one of our most efficient electricity boards? Is that not because of its dependence primarily on coal? Can my hon. Friend reassure the board's members that it will be given every encouragement to produce a diversified electricity supply?

I agree with my hon. Friend and with the hon. Member for Ashfield (Mr. Haynes). The East Midlands electricity board is extremely efficient and a very good board. It relies largely on coal for its electricity. So far this year we have allowed £55 million worth of investment in the Nottinghamshire coal pits. Last year we allowed £73 million worth. With that investment and the increased productivity that the pits are showing, there should be a great future for coal from Nottinghamshire.

South Of Scotland Electricity Board

9.

To ask the Secretary of State for Energy when he last met the chairman the South of Scotland electricity board; and what matters were discussed.

Is the Secretary of State aware that Mr. Miller, almost single handedly, has attempted over the past two years to destroy the Scottish coal industry on the altar of buying cheap imported coal from South Africa, Colombia and elsewhere? Given his fetish for nuclear power, will the right hon. Gentleman tell us what discussions he intends to have with Mr. Miller on who is to buy expensive ring-fenced nuclear power?

These are matters for discussion with my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland. However, Mr. Miller is a very successful chairman of the South of Scotland electricity board. The nuclear industry in Scotland does not suffer from the same disadvantages of cost that were apparent in England.

While I am sure that Mr. Miller did not welcome the Secretary of State's announcement last week, I certainly welcome his rather belated rendezvous with reality. Will he be discussing with Mr. Miller and others responsible for the generation of electricity how the Government intend to plug the hole which must now appear in the Government's energy policy, having predicted 10 nuclear power stations in their 1979 manifesto? Will the right hon. Gentleman be increasing resources for the development of alternative fields, renewable resources and energy efficiency, and in particular reversing the cuts in his own energy efficiency office?

The biggest single step that any Government could take to improve energy efficiency is to complete the privatisation of the electricity supply industry because the efficient use of energy and the pressure on costs which that will produce will be the most beneficial effects of all. I am perfectly satisfied that there is sufficient capacity for the present and for the future. Substantial numbers of independent projects are coming forward and I believe that they will be highly competitive.

Energy Sources

10.

To ask the Secretary of State for Energy what incentives there will be to develop renewable sources of energy after the reconstruction of the electricity industry.

Renewables will benefit from the non-fossil fuel obligation in general and in particular from the 600 MW of capacity that we have reserved exclusively for them. There are already clear signs that the obligation has provided a considerable encouragement to the development of renewables.

What steps are my hon. Friend and his Department taking to encourage the exploitation of landfill gas?

A lot is going on with regard to landfill gas. At the moment 30 landfill gas schemes are operational and a further 30 in the pipeline. Thirteen are generating electricity with a capacity of 16 MW. We expect them to generate 50 MW by 1992 and 150 to 175 MW by the year 2000. We are spending £1 million a year, and we have just produced a video explaining the considerable economic and environmental benefits of landfill gas.

Will the Minister report progress on the plans for the construction of wind generation stations, particularly in Wales? Do the Government intend to increase the megawatt reserve for renewable sources of energy?

So far as the non-fossil fuel obligation is concerned, we consider that the 600 MW special tranche is adequate at the moment. In future, the Secretary of State will have the power to increase that, should the need arise. Research into wind generation is a major item of expenditure. We are spending £4·5 million on wind development. We expect the wind farm in south Wales to be completed by 1990. There will be one in Cornwall in 1991 and one in the north-east by 1992. Those three experimental wind farms should be operational by those dates.

Is the Minister aware that the discovery of the cost of nuclear power did not happen last week or in the past year but has been pointed out at public inquiries into Sizewell B and elsewhere by environmentalists and those who are committed to renewable energy sources for at least a decade? Will the Minister invest the same amount of money in renewable energy sources as the Government and their predecessors have invested in their obsession with nuclear energy?

The two are totally non-comparable and are two different items of expenditure on research. We have said quite categorically that we shall spend on renewable research what is appropriate to developing that programme as fast as is practicable in terms of market application. We are spending more than ever before on renewables and the budget is rising.

Does my hon. Friend agree that one of the principal reasons for the privatisation programme was to enable different sources of energy to have the freedom to raise the capital that they needed in the market? Does he agree that the greatest incentive for renewable energy sources is that as a result of last Thursday's announcement they will find it much easier to raise money in the market?

I agree with all that my hon. Friend says. He rightly says that one of the advantages of privatisation and of the structure that we have set up for the industry is that it encourages renewable and other sources of energy. We have given renewable resources special protection. As there will no longer be 3 GW of PWR capacity, it will be filled by other sources, including renewables.

Severn Barrage

11.

To ask the Secretary of State for Energy what response he will make to the general report on the Severn barrage project by the Severn barrage study group; and if he will make a statement.

Over the next two years, further work on the Severn barrage will be undertaken. This will include some site-specific environmental work and a study of the organisation and financing issues for a barrage.

Does my right hon. Friend accept that, at an estimated 5·5p per KW hour, tidal power electricity is not yet competitive, at least in the short-term, but is environmentally much more acceptable than electricity from coal, gas, oil or nuclear sources? As it has infinite life and no decommissioning costs, it could become much more competitive. Does he therefore agree that it is the sort of project that should attract public and private funds?

I half agree with my hon. Friend. I wholeheartedly agree with him about the greenhouse effect, but I hope that he will agree that further inquiries into the environmental impact of a project of this magnitude—it would be vast—should be made. An environmental impact statement, which would cost another £5 million or £10 million, would be necessary before any further decision to go ahead could be taken.

Does the Minister agree that if the CEGB and the Government had not successively deceived the public about the true cost of nuclear power we would already have a range of tidal barrages around our coast producing the cheapest electricity in the world, in the same way as the power station at La Rance in France is now doing? That distortion was described in the latest statement from National Power, which said that the only reason why it planned to invest in nuclear power was the Government's privatisation proposal and the obligations under that? Will he give an assurence that local authorities in Gwent and other areas will be compensated by the Government for the money that they spent opposing the PWRs at Hinckley point and Wylfa B, because it was entirely the Government's fault that they spent it?

No, I do not agree with the hon. Gentleman. I imagine that he heard what my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said earlier in Question Time about nuclear power.

Energy Conservation

12.

To ask the Secretary of State for Energy what plans he has to encourage further the insulation of homes, offices and factories to promote the conservation of energy.

The energy efficiency office will continue to encourage the adoption of improved insulation and other energy efficiency measures through its best practice programme and other initiatives.

The promotion of energy efficiency will remain a high priority over the coming period.

Will my right hon. Friend give fresh consideration to the need to conserve energy by better insulation of local authority housing? Will he discuss that matter with our right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment'? Is my right hon. Friend aware that many tenants living in cold, damp homes would benefit considerably from better insulation and better conservation of energy? Does he agree that this matter should be kept under review and discussed by his Department and the Department of the Environment?

I assure my hon. Friend that discussions take place between the Secretaries of State for Energy and for the Environment about precisely the point that he raises. I refer my hon. Friend to the fact that community insulation projects have managed to do precisely what my hon. Friend would like for several hundred thousands households, most of which are in the public sector.

Does the Minister agree that his reply seeks to hide the total hypocrisy of the Government on energy efficiency? Does he agree that today's news that sales of energy efficiency products have fallen by 12 per cent. in the past year compared with the previous year shows how mistaken the Government's policy is on energy efficiency? Does he agree that it is similar to the divide in the Government's policy on nuclear power, which was praised to the skies by the Prime Minister last Wednesday, buried by the Secretary of State on Thursday and resurrected by the Under-Secretary of State for the Environment on Friday in the debate on global warming? Nobody knows what the Government's policy is any more.

I think that the hon. Gentleman misunderstands the Government's position. If he had read the newspapers, he would be aware of references to energy efficiency on virtually every page of every newspaper. That is entirely thanks to the Government putting it at the top of the list of priorities some time ago. Our campaign has worked successfully. That is why hundreds of thousands of people take energy efficiency far more seriously than ever before.

The hon. Gentleman will know also, if he bothers to look at the statistics, that between 1983, when the campaign started, and 1987 some £2·4 billion has been saved, thanks to the work of the energy efficiency office in making everyone aware of energy efficiency. The Government take the matter very seriously.

Duchy Of Lancaster

Hyndburn

79.

To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster if he has any plans to pay an official visit to the constituency of Hyndburn in the county palatine.

In my capacity as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster I have no plans to visit Hyndburn at present.

That is a disappointing reply, although I realise that the last time my right hon. Friend accepted my invitation to visit Hyndburn it cost the Department for which he was then responsible a great deal of money. I ask him to reconsider his reply so that he can see how we spent the money that he allocated to us and how Government money has assisted us in creating new jobs and industry and attracting the Zeri project to Hyndburn, with 2,700 jobs in the pipeline. Will my right hon. Friend do his best to ensure that, in this new situation, services at Accrington Victoria hospital are not diminished?

As my hon. Friend well knows, I have visited Hyndburn in many capacities. I remember canvassing for him in the 1983 election, when we won the seat against the odds, and I remember supporting him in 1987. I look forward to supporting him in 1991 or 1992, when he will be returned again as the Member for Hyndburn. One reason why he will be returned is that unemployment in his constituency has fallen by some 56 per cent. over the past three years.

If the right hon. Gentleman agreed to go to Hyndburn, how would he explain to the people of Lancashire and Hyndburn the poll tax bills that they will have to pay, given that more than 70 per cent. of the people in the terraced houses in north-east Lancashire will lose considerably?

The hon. Gentleman should remember that in the first year of the community charge some £700 million will flow to those authorities in receipt of safety net money. In addition, £100 million will flow to those areas which have a low level of domestic rates and there will be £300 million in transitional relief. Many people in Lancashire will benefit from that.

Heraldry

80.

To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster whether he has any responsibility for heraldry in the duchy.

That is a great pity, because a bunch of people are wandering around the country masquerading under the red rose of Lancashire and of St. George. Should not that scandalous state of affairs be reported to the College of Arms, which could then devise a legitimate heraldic device for the group in question—a windbag rampant, perhaps?

Many people in Lancashire bitterly resent the fact that the symbol of Lancashire, the red rose, has been hijacked by the Labour party. The red rose of Lancashire is a symbol of unity, not of division, so its use in that, way is a complete charade because the Labour party has not changed its policies. Its symbol remains the red flag, as was shown by the fact that 10 days ago Labour Members stood up in the Chamber and sang it.

Duchy Land (Economic Activity)

81.

To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster when he last reviewed the level of economic activity on lands owned by the duchy.

The level of economic activity within the Duchy of Lancaster estate is under constant review.

My right hon. Friend will know from his assiduous attention to the economic activity within the county of Lancashire that that activity is under threat due to the irresponsible action by aerospace workers at the British Aerospace Strand road site in their misguided pursuit of a 35-hour week. Will my right hon. Friend join me in condemning this action, which will ruin the productivity and competitiveness of one of Lancashire's most important industries?

I completely support my hon. Friend. With wage demands of that kind, one has to be aware of what will happen to the competitiveness of British industry, which has been improved enormously in the past 10 years in Lancashire, as elsewhere. In the north-west, there has been a 10·4 per cent. increase in the number of businesses since we have been in office, which has added to the prosperity of the north-west. I hope that that will not be weakened or threatened by such irresponsible claims.

Duchy Business

83.

To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what is the average number of hours per week he spends on the business of the Duchy of Lancaster.

As Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, I spend up to one quarter of my time carrying out my duties as a member of the Government.

In view of the present turmoil of Tory politics, would it not be more appropriate for the right hon. Gentleman to spend more time on the affairs of the Duchy? Does he not consider it appropriate at this stage to pluck up the courage to stand for the leadership of the Tory party? He might even win, and thank me afterwards.

I looked carefully at all the questions asked of the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster over the past 10 years, and especially those asked of my right hon. Friend the Member for Chingford (Mr. Tebbit) when he held the Chancellorship of the Duchy of Lancaster and also the chairmanship of the Tory party. I found that the hon. Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick) asked almost exactly the same question three years ago. He was saying that that we would not win the 1987 election, but we did. Now he is saying that we shall not win the next election, but we shall—not least because the hon. Gentleman has a very small majority and I look on the constituency of Walsall, North as a Tory gain.

Public Accounts Commission

Commission Meetings

88.

To ask the Chairman of the Public Accounts Commission when the Public Accounts Commission last met; and what subjects were discussed.

The commission last met on 16 May when among the subjects discussed was a report by the National Audit Office auditors on accommodation arrangements at the NAO headquarters building.

Has the Chairman met Dr. Bill Jack, the new Comptroller and Auditor-General for Northern Ireland, and, if so, has he discussed with him the levels of staffing and remuneration for that office? Has he had a chance yet to look at the estimates from the Public Accounts Commission?

We have not yet had a chance to meet Dr. Jack since his appointment. However, we were able to meet him before then. On behalf of the House, I congratulate Dr. Jack on his appointment and also to pay tribute to his predecessor, Mr. Calvert, who bore the office of the Comptroller and Auditor-General Northern Ireland very well for nine years. The Public Accounts Commission expects to consider the estimates for next year on 12 December.

What steps is the Public Accounts Commission taking to ensure that there are no unnecessary restrictions or impediments to the National Audit Office employing the best possible staff at all levels? Is my hon. Friend satisfied that the Comptroller and Auditor General in particular and his staff generally are paid the proper rate for the job?

The commission is satisfied that the staff of the Comptroller and Auditor General are paid at competitive rates and also have the benefit of extra earnings for merit awards. I regret to say, however, that that is not the case for the Comptroller and Auditor General himself or for the Comptroller and Auditor General Northern Ireland. We have made representations on that to the Government and propose to do so again.

Duchy Of Lancaster

Engagements

84.

To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster when last he visited the county palatine; and what were his official engagements there.

I refer my hon. Friend to the answer given to the hon. Member for St. Helens, North (Mr. Evans) on 2 November.

Has my right hon. Friend been able to assist some of the residents of the county palatine? Has he found, as I have found in my constituency, that although people are clear about the Government's defence policies, they are thoroughly confused about the Opposition's defence policies and wholly ignorant of those of the Social Democrats?

When the Chancellor is next in Lancashire, will he consider the appointment of justices of the peace? Does he accept that justices of the peace in the whole of the area for which he is responsible show a preponderance of people from middle-class and Right-wing backgrounds, rather than a good balance across the community? The right hon. Gentleman's predecessor gave a clear commitment in the House to ensure that more JPs came from working-class backgrounds within the area for which he was responsible. Will the right hon. Gentleman ensure that that commitment is carried out?

I do not accept the hon. Gentleman's criticism, because it is unfair. That aspect of my responsibilities is important. I presided at a magistrates meeting in the Wirral and I am anxious that people appointed to the honourable and important role of justice of the peace represent broad bands of society. I make every effort to ensure that that is the case, as do my advisers.

Church Commissioners

Archbishop Of Canterbury (Rome Visit)

86.

To ask the right hon. Member for Selby, as representing the Church Commissioners, what was the cost to the Commissioners of the Archbishop of Canterbury's recent visit to Rome.

Mr. Michael Alison
(Second Church Estates Commissioners, Representing Church Commissioners)

The archbishop's expenses are reimbursed by the Church Commissioners on a quarterly basis. No claim has yet been made in respect of the period in question, but the archbishop's private office was kind enough to tell me informally, in advance of submitting a claim, that the cost was in the region of £8,500.

As one of the results of the archbishop's visit to Rome was to give comfort to those whose activities will cause schisms in the Church of England, will my right hon. Friend consider giving similar resources to those who oppose those activities?

My hon. Friend singles out just one of the matters that divide the Church of England and the Church of Rome. Many sections of the Church of England have expressed gratitude and received encouragement as a result of the archbishop's visit to the Pope.

House Of Commons

Televising Of Parliament

89.

To ask the Lord President of the Council if he will take steps to allow hon. Members to have the same facility as some outside organisations in receiving the televised picture of the Chamber in their own offices.

The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons
(Sir Geoffrey Howe)

No, Sir.

The Lord President will be aware that more than 40 organisations outside the House will be able to receive the live television pictures, including South African television, Israeli television and Government Departments. At this very moment, Mr. Bernard Ingham—he who must be relayed—may well be receiving the television picture live. For all we know, he may be whispering into the Lord President's ear a startling and direct reply to my question. Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman prepared to extend the facility to hon. Members in their offices?

The hon. Gentleman knows that that is essentially a matter not for me but for the House. Sound broadcasting access is accorded to several organisations outside the House and to certain Departments of State. It has been decided that the television feed should be similarly available to those organisations and people. The Select Committee on Broadcasting and subsequently the Select Committee on Televising of Proceedings of the House decided that no such facilities should be provided for hon. Members, save in the Lobbies. The reasons given were, first, that it would be expensive—perhaps not the most important reason—secondly, that it would be intrusive to hon. Members who share rooms and, thirdly and most importantly, that it would diminish the likelihood of hon. Members being present in the Chamber. The latter reason impressed the Select Committee and that is how the matter stands.

Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that the hon. Gentleman's suggestion would be a bad idea because, as my right hon. and learned Friend inferred, it would keep hon. Members away from the Chamber? The House has consistently avoided sound radio broadcasting of the proceedings in hon. Members' offices for just that reason. However, as hon. Members in various parts of the House will need to see what is happening in the Chamber, would it not be a good idea for my right hon. and learned Friend to discuss with the House authorities the provision of an adequate number of monitors in various locations?

I suspect that the provision of monitors may have the same effect, although on a smaller scale as provision in hon. Members' rooms. The Select Committee may consider the matter again in the future, but it was unanimous in recommending against provision of facilities beyond those currently available.

Will the Lord President of the Council keep an open mind on the matter? Why should we not review it at the end of the experimental period? Is it not rather curious that we are to provide the facility for people in the media and others—who, for all I know, may include press officers in Government Departments—but deny it to hon. Members? Can we not consider the matter again when the experiment is over?

Both the hon. Gentleman and I will have to keep an open mind because we serve on the Select Committee which will be reviewing developments in the months ahead. The matter was considered by the Select Committee, which reached a unanimous conclusion. The burden of proof in the opposite direction must therefore be discharged.

Will my right hon. and learned Friend confirm that if Sky Television provides full coverage of the House, as it intends to do, hon. Members will be able to provide facilities in their offices for themselves?

I am not sure that the technicalities would allow that. The matter would have to be considered by the Select Committee in the light of developments.

Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman reflect on the fact that, from next Tuesday, the many organisations that will have access to our televised proceedings, will be able to witness the trivial banter that we have just heard, which is known as questions to the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster? Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman reflect on the question rota, bearing in mind the fact that we have to go through that exercise but have no opportunity to address questions to Scottish Law Officers?

I shall certainly consider that matter with the seriousness that it deserves, but I repudiate absolutely the allegation that viewers would be unimpressed by the splendid performance of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster.

Members' Staff (Contracts)

90.

To ask the Lord President of the Council when he expects the circular reminding right hon. and hon. Members about the need to provide contracts of employment to the Fees Office in respect of staff to be issued.

The Accountant hopes to issue reminder letters to Members later this month.

Will the Lord President confirm that staff employed by hon. Members and paid by the Fees Office are supposed to have contracts of employment lodged with the Fees Office but that on 30 June this year only 709 of the 1,287 staff paid by the Fees Office and employed by hon. Members had such contracts lodged? That is simply not on. Hon. Members are not famed for being good employers and I hope that the Lord President will pursue the matter after the issue of the circular to make sure that the laggards toe the line and become decent employers.

The number of hon. Members who have complied is broadly in line with the figure given by the hon. Gentleman. He is right that the relevant resolution of the House passed on 21 July 1987 makes arrangements requiring a statement to be lodged by hon. Members who use the Fees Office to pay their staff. That followed the recommendation of the Top Salaries Review Body some time before. The fact that a reminder letter is to be issued later this month shows that the matter is being taken seriously.

The news that the Lord President has just given will be greeted with some concern. Can my right hon. and learned Friend say whether the omissions include staff employed for longer than two or three years? If so, does he agree that that is all the more scandalous?

In general terms, the documents have been lodged more regularly on behalf of newly employed staff because both employer and employee have been made familiar with the requirement at the start of the contract period, whereas the obligation has not been complied with significantly in respect of longer-serving staff who may well have been accustomed to operating in a more informal world. That is the reason for the difference in the figures.

Press And Public Relations

91.

To ask the Lord President of the Council what is the average annual expenditure of his office on press and public relations.

The Privy Council Office has no budget allocated specifically to press and public relations, and employs no press or information staff. A very small proportion of the office's staffing and administration costs arises from the handling of such matters but it could not be accurately quantified.

Does the Lord President consider that if he had more to spend on press and publicity he would be on a more equal footing with Mr. Ingham, who is increasingly being seen as the real deputy Prime Minister?

The hon. Gentleman is joining the modest band of those obsessed with that proposition. I invite him to repudiate his obsession.

Division Bells

92.

To ask the Lord President of the Council whether he will review the procedures for testing Division Bells.

No. I refer my hon. Friend to the reply that I gave him on 24 October. I am not aware of any general concern over our current Division Bell testing procedure.

Will my right hon. and learned Friend see what he can do to avoid the disturbance created by testing the Division Bells at 9 o'clock every morning when hon. Members are at their desks trying to work and make telephone calls? What is the statistical justification for testing the Division Bells every day? Could not the engineers test them just as well at 2.30 pm as at 9 am?

The habit of testing the Division Bells by this physical means has been in place for a long time. It has been found to be convenient for that relatively unadvanced piece of technology. It seems to work satisfactorily and it does not disturb as many hon. Members at 9 am as it might later in the day. My hon. Friend is among a relatively small minority of hon. Members to be found on the premises complaining about the early testing of the alarm systems.

Mr Bernard Ingham

93.

To ask the Lord President of the Council what steps he is taking to improve facilities in the House for the Prime Minister's press secretary.

As one of the House of Common's best remembered Law Officers, does the Lord President think it proper that we should give House room to a civil servant whom Leon Brittan tells us behaved totally improperly in the matter of the Law Officer's letter—unless, that is, the Prime Minister on 27 January did something which, were I to name it, would lead to my being suspended for 20 days?

The hon. Gentleman is the only hon. Member who continues to have that particular obsession, although the House may be glad that it has replaced the Belgrano in his mind. I invite him to give up this obsession as decisively as he gave up the other.

Animal Feed (Lead Contamination)

3.31 pm

(by private notice): To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement on lead in milk and meat following the discovery of lead in cattle feed.

A consignment of rice bran was contaminated during its transport from Burma. On its arrival in Belgium the unfit cargo was not destroyed, but sold on and reprocessed into animal feed. The Dutch embassy informed the Ministry's legal department on Wednesday 1 November of a specific consignment thought to be contaminated and delivered to two companies based in Teignmouth and Liverpool. By this time, our own veterinary investigation service had identified from its own investigations a connection between cattle deaths and lead contamination in animal feed.

As soon as my Department learned that contaminated animal feed had been distributed to farms in this country, it took urgent steps to trace the suppliers, merchants and compounders and used their customer lists to warn the farmers concerned. It stopped the movement from these farms of animals and foodstuffs which might have been affected and arranged with the Milk Marketing Board for the segregation of the milk. These voluntary arrangements were confirmed by order under part I of the Food and Environment Protection Act 1985.

The European Commission was also contacted to request urgent investigation of the possibility that this incident was the result of criminal activities in another member state. Throughout all this we have worked closely with the Department of Health. It confirms that, on present evidence, even in the worst case of the maximum possible intake of lead and other metals from this incident, there has been no hazard to human health.

I pay tribute to the staff of the Ministry and the Milk Marketing Board, who have handled the massive task of dealing with the 1,500 or more farms concerned and who are now involved in the testing procedure through which we can continue to protect human health and begin to de-restrict farms. I am sure we all recognise the very severe effects that these strong measures have on the farmers involved. They have shown considerable co-operation and I am sure that they will realise that these restrictions must continue to be maintained as long as is necessary to safeguard the health of the public.

We on this side of the House approve of the Government's decision to impose restrictions. First, will the Minister explain why, having been alerted by the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture on 1 November to the presence of the lead-contaminated cattle feed in Britain, he waited five days, until 6 November, before imposing restrictions? Why did the Minister not issue a precautionary notice to farmers warning them of the possibility of contamination and asking them to withhold the cattle feed, thus avoiding unnecessary cattle deaths and preventing potentially hazardous milk from entering the food chain?

Secondly, has the Minister seen the report in The Sunday Times that the Milk Marketing Board was not informed of the seriousness of the problem until 5 November—four days afterwards? Why was there that delay? Why did the Minister wait not five but 10 days before commencing the testing of meat for lead? As he knows, it is a potentially dangerous by-product.

I associate the Opposition with the sterling work done by the Ministry officials and the vets. Does the Minister recall informing me in a parliamentary answer that, in the past 10 years, the state veterinary service has been cut by 25 per cent? Will he now reverse that process as a first step to improving our ability to respond to food emergencies such as the one now on our hands?

I am sure that most hon. Members would feel that this subject should not be drawn into party political debate, and particularly by armchair critics. On the speed of response, I would prefer to listen to the views put forward by local people. One of the south-west regional chairmen of the National Farmers Union wrote to me yesterday. He said:

"I congratulate you and your staff on the superb reaction to the crisis. I know that Ministry staff and NFU staff have worked all hours since the issue broke and that there has been close co-operation throughout".
That is a fairer statement of what happened.

It will immediately appear to all hon. Members that it would be impossible to ask all farmers to withhold their cattle feed. To suggest that all cattle feed should be withheld because a specific consignment of cattle feed——

The hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) should listen to what his party says. He obviously does not listen to what the Government say.

The most important thing to do was precisely what the Ministry did. It had specific information, it followed up that specific information as fast as was humanly possible, and it made sure that a good deal of the feed did not go out. Much of the rest was recovered, and the farmers were informed so that they did not move cattle or milk from their premises.

The hon. Member for South Shields (Dr. Clark) must accept that we brought in the Milk Marketing Board at the very point at which we were able to segregate the milk, which we did on Sunday; that was perfectly proper, and that was the order in which we should have done it. I know that the hon. Gentleman does not wish to mislead people, so I am quite happy for him to go through the details. The hon. Member for Workington always tries to make party political points out of these matters, and enjoys doing so, so I will not listen to him. His hon. Friend the Member for South Shields is a much more decent person and he knows the facts in these matters.

May I explain why we did not test meat earlier? We felt that it was necessary to do things in a proper order. The milk was obviously the biggest and most important matter. Once we had stopped material moving off the farms, it seemed that the first priority was to deal with that product which is in large quantities and which causes considerable storage problems. Therefore, the first thing to do was to test it. Of course, we could not allow any to leave the farms. One must have tests over a period before it is possible to declare that the milk is fit to go back into public supply.

On the testing of meat for lead, the first thing to do is to make sure that there is a proper test to cover not only lead but anything else that might be available, because lead is an impure metal. That is the order in which scientists advised us to do it. We feel that that is the right order, and the farmers certainly feel that that is the right order. No animals are leaving the farms, so there can be no threat to public health. That is the right thing to do. I am surprised at the hon. Gentleman's argument because no one, apart from himself, thinks that that is the wong way to do it.

I gladly welcome what the hon. Gentleman said about the vets. One of the reasons they were able to do the job so well is because of the efficient reorganisation of the state veterinary service which has been carried out over the past 10 years.

May I say how glad I am that my right hon. Friend has twice visited the area concerned and, I believe, the Starcross veterinary inspection centre in my constituency, which has played a leading part in controlling this imported menace, rather than just sitting in his Department in London and waiting for other people to report to him? That is very much appreciated. May I ask him whether it is not possible to supply the actual figures to farmers who want to know the degree of lead contamination so that they and their general practitioners can make an informed judgment as to whether their families are at risk, who have been drinking the milk concerned?

I thank my hon. Friend for his comments. I had hoped to make such a visit today—indeed, I was on the train today ready to make a further visit down to the south-west but had to return to the House to respond to this important question. I am sure that my hon. Friend will remind his farmers of the statement by the chief medical officer, who said clearly that there was no need for their families to be worried, on the evidence that we have. I do not want anybody to be worried in that way.

However, I have not made that my first priority. My first priority has been to test and to re-test where early tests show that the level of lead in the milk is low. That has enabled such milk to come back into the system, and we have so far allowed 10 farms to do that. The second priority is obviously to test those farms that have not been tested before.

Greater than either of those priorities would be circumstances in which the figures suggested a particular danger on a particular farm. However, there is no such evidence at the moment and those farmers need not be concerned. Without holding up the other testing arrangements, I am making arrangements so that, as soon as is practical, we can provide those figures for each farm. I shall, of course, ensure that the confidentiality of the figures will be as one would want; otherwise, the farmers might be less than happy.

Since the lead in the animal feed was present in sufficient concentration to cause the deaths of about 30 cattle, thousands of calves and cows must have sub-lethal concentrations of lead in their meat and bones. What will the Government do about that? Will they allow and pay for the slaughter of those lead-contaminated cattle to prevent that lead-contaminated beef from getting into the food chain?

The Government will certainly prevent that material from getting into the food chain if there is any danger to the health of the public. That is first and foremost. We will make decisions about what we have to do when we have done the testing and know the extent of the problem and the issues involved. As the hon. Gentleman knows, there can be circumstances in which lead poisoning gradually diminishes, out of the animal altogether——

The hon. Gentleman may not know this, but it is the advice of the state veterinary service. That is what happens. I am in the business of using the scientific advice available to us as much as possible; and not of frightening people unnecessarily, while always warning them. On no occasion have any circumstances arisen in which the public has not had all the details, to such an extent that every test result given on all the milk during the past few days has been given out to the public so that people know exactly what is happening, and I shall continue to do that.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the wild allegations by the Opposition Members on this issue show that they are the enemy not only of the food industry but of the farming industry also, and of all who work in them?

It is important to say that the public's health comes before anything else. If I am unhappy about one or two of the wilder statements that have been made, it is simply because, by suggesting things that are not true, those doing so are worrying people in circumstances in which they need not be worried, and those who have worked so hard to protect the public may feel that they are being snubbed by some hon. Members.

Given the existing pressures on farm incomes in many sectors of the agricultural community, does the Minister think that, as a result of this latest problem, the Government might take any steps to compensate those farmers who will incur financial loss as a result of the very necessary restrictions that his Department has sought to impose in this case? The Minister referred to the possibility of the involvement of some criminal organisation in Europe, and as there was press speculation over the weekend, perhaps completely unfair to the Minister, which said that that might have been a smokescreen, has the right hon. Gentleman received any further information from the Commission about its investigations?

On the first question, I have been in touch with the National Farmers Union and I know that Sir Simon Gourlay takes exactly the same view as I have stated publicly—that this is a matter for the courts and not one for compensation. I want to help the farmers as much as possible and, through our legal department and with the NFU and others, I am trying to see how best this matter can be dealt with. We shall, of course, keep farmers in touch with what is happening in Holland and the rest of Europe.

I believe that the only press speculation to which the hon. Member for Ross, Cromarty and Skye (Mr. Kennedy) refers was a comment by the hon. Member for South Shields, the spokesman on agriculture for the Labour party. He suggested—I thought unfortunately, as the facts are exactly opposite—that there was a smokescreen. It is extremely difficult to believe that someone could accidentally turn into cattle feed a substance that was so badly contaminated that it was of a different colour from what it should have been. If that is the case, I cannot believe that it was done by, as someone suggested, a silly accident. That would take a great deal of believing.

From the court transcripts of the first case that has taken place in Holland, I understand that the firm that originally bought this feed and brought it into Antwerp has stated that, on no less than three occasions, it telexed the firm that had been paid to take the feed away and to destroy it to say that that feed was contaminated and had to be destroyed.

There is hardly a question mark as to whether the act was done criminally; the question is who did it, when, and how soon there will be a prosecution.

Order. I remind the House that this is an Opposition half day. I shall allow two more questions to be put from each side and then we must move on.

My right hon. Friend will know that my constituency has been affected by the sales of the contaminated foodstuff. My constituents have asked me to pass on to my right hon. Friend their appreciation and thanks for the prompt action that he took and for the courtesy and thoroughness of his officials, with which I am glad to concur. We have a problem in south Derbyshire about contaminated meat. Will my right hon. Friend reassure us about how the carcases will be disposed of so that they cannot enter the human food chain inadvertently?

Those animals that have died from lead poisoning and those that tests are likely to reveal have died from such poisoning will either be buried or incinerated. There is no question of that meat getting into the human food chain. I thank my hon. Friend for her kind words on this matter; she, of all people, knows how important it is.

Does the Minister agree with the policy adviser to the NFU who has said that there is already an established trade in contaminated feed? When the right hon. Gentleman says that I am being political, does he understand that I have sat here on four occasions in recent years and today, when we discussed Chernobyl, bovine spongiform encephalopathy and listeria, and have witnessed clear delay from Departments when dealing with those matters? That was especially true of Chernobyl, when I was told at the Dispatch Box——

As the hon. Gentleman uses those three examples, which are not directly involved with this matter, he might know that we were the first Government to warn people about listeria. How that can be described as delay I do not know. As I understand it, we are still the only Government in western Europe who have warned people about that disease.

Our record stands supreme on Chernobyl. As I said to the hon. Gentleman before, I was happy for my wife, who was then carrying one of our children, to eat that lamb and I am still happy that I said that it was safe, because it was. I continue to believe that that is so. I have taken measures on BSE that are tougher than those recommended by scientists. No Government would have taken measures as tough as our own, because we put food safety first. The hon. Gentleman is wrong on those three examples, and he is wrong in this case. We take the view that feed should not be contaminated; that is why we have taken measures as tough as this. If the hon. Gentleman cared about food safety, instead of being interested only in party politics, he would be quiet a bit more often.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the speed with which his officials met the danger shows that there is absolutely no need for an independent body to be set up to consider food safety, and that the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food has discharged its responsibilities in an excellent way?

I disagree with my hon. Friend, because I think that we are the independent body on food safety. That must be so, because our first and primary interest is the protection of the public. Nobody could have moved as fast as we were able to move except a Ministry which was responsible for both food and farming.

What are the levels of lead in the British food chain? When does the Minister expect to get rid of those levels?

I do not think the hon. Gentleman can have thought of his question before he got up to speak, because the average level of lead in the food chain is so small as not to be measurable. The question we are interested in is whether the level of lead at any part of the food chain is dangerous to public health. The Department of Health has made it clear that no one need have any worry on that account.

East Germany

3.51 pm

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 implications of this weekend's events in East Germany for Britain's foreign and European policy."

I know that these are dull words, particularly when it has been a weekend of such extraordinary hope and excitement. To watch on one's television screens great engines tearing holes in the Berlin wall was for me an extraordinary experience. For me it was a wondrous sight to watch people flooding through the gaps where previously they would have feared a bullet in the back. We cannot let such an event pass and not respond to it.

I did my national service in Berlin long ago, before the wall was built. I have visited the city many times since and I identify—as we all should in this free Parliament—with what has been the most dramatic and marvellous demonstration of the power of free thought that we have seen since the war.

Yesterday, like most hon. Members—and like you Mr. Speaker—I marched in a Remembrance day parade. I remembered my father telling me about the bloody days in the trenches in Flanders. I recalled the doctor from the wee village on Skye in which I was brought up, whose job it was to attend Heinrich Himmler after his suicide. I remembered also my friends in Berlin and the troubles that they had had. I remembered that they were throwing off a new tyranny and that we were seeing the birth of an optimism that I—and I am sure many other hon. Members—have never known.

We all make banal speeches about historic moments but this is a real, tangible and marvellous historical moment and we should not let it pass. We should debate the matter and celebrate with our German friends the possibility of a new and far better future. That is my case.

The hon. Member for Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber (Sir R. Johnston) 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 should have urgent consideration, namely,

"The implications of this weekend's events in East Germany for Britain's foreign and European policy."

I do not in any way under-estimate the importance of what the hon. Gentleman has said or of the momentous events unfolding in Europe. However, as he knows, I have to decide whether his application comes within the terms of the Standing Order and, if so, whether a debate should be given priority over the business already set down for this evening or tomorrow. In this case, the matter he has raised does not meet the requirements of the Standing Order and I regret that I cannot submit his application to the House.

Points Of Order

3.54 pm

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I am looking for your assistance. At a time when the Berlin wall is being reduced to rubble, the iron curtain is melting before our eyes and the most momentous events for over 40 years are taking place in our continent, it appears that the Opposition believe that the most important action for the House to take is to debate events in Cambodia. Every newspaper and television channel in this country is debating these momentous events, yet we——

The point of order for you, Mr. Speaker, is that we in this democratic assembly in the United Kingdom are being asked by the Opposition to debate events in Cambodia when the European Commission and everybody else in this country are debating the momentous events in eastern Europe, central Europe and our continent. I call upon you, Mr. Speaker, as a representative of this House, to use what influence you have to ensure that we debate the real and important issues which face the future of our continent and our country rather than faraway issues of half a continent away.

Perhaps I can help the hon. Gentleman. I fully appreciate what he has said about the great importance of these events. There will, perhaps, be an opportunity to dwell on them in next Wednesday's debate on developments in the European Community.

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I wish to put this on record firmly and squarely, because what has just been said is a disgrace to your office. Would you confirm that, while the map of Europe is being redrawn this weekend—I concur wholly with what was said earlier by the representative of the Liberal party, the hon. Member for Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber (Sir R. Johnston)—nevertheless, it is open to the Government to move to suspend the debate between 7 and 10 pm tonight? Therefore, instead of debating £500,000 of ratepayers' money which is to be spent on a road race Bill, we could debate the momentous events in eastern Europe.

Order. That is a matter for the Chairman of Ways and Means who put it down.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I seek your guidance on events which took place over the weekend. You may well have read a series of newspaper articles involving the brother of the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner)——

Order. I hope that in this Chamber we do not need to involve individuals in arguments of that kind. This is unworthy of the hon. Gentleman.

I hope that you, Mr. Speaker, are mistaken. I was going on to say that I thought that those articles were full of unworthy innuendoes towards the hon. Member for Bolsover. In order to clear his name, I sought your guidance as to whether the articles constituted a breach of privilege and should be referred to the Select Committee.

If the hon. Gentleman alleges that, he should write to me in the usual way.

Further to my point of order of Friday morning, Mr. Speaker, I wish to seek your guidance. As the champion of the rights of Back Benchers, for which you are justifiably revered, could you advise the House how it was possible for discussions to take place on the private business of this House—the Isle of Wight Bill—on the Adjournment of the House without involving me? The Social and Liberal Democrats were not present throughout the whole of that debate, despite the fact that they control the Isle of Wight county council. Could you say whether, if they had been present, they would have been entitled, as a minority party, to participate in the negotiations, and possibly have saved the Bill?

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker.

Order. I am not in any way responsible for what may go on in private discussions outside the Chamber. I share the hon. Gentleman's concern that a large number of private Bills are currently held up. In procedural terms, nothing out of order has taken place.

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Can you confirm that a perfectly good report by the Joint Committee on Private Bill Procedure is before the House and that, if the House implemented it quickly, many problems to do with private business could be resolved?

I can confirm that. I also heard—I hope the hon. Gentleman and the House heard it too—the Leader of the House say at business questions last Thursday that he intended to look into the matter urgently and would seek to deal with it.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. As the guardian of the liberties and privileges of the House, you have often made it clear that it is precisely because those privileges have been so long fought for that they should be used rarely and for good reason. I was therefore delighted by what you said earlier this afternoon, and I take it that when hon. Members, particularly the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner), try to smear people outside the House under the power of privilege, you will call them up short. The point that my hon. Friend the Member for Berkshire, East (Mr. MacKay) made was fair——

Order. I do not think that the reputation of the House is in any way enhanced by drawing attention to matters of that kind.

Opposition Day

[2ND ALLOTTED DAY] [SECOND PART]

Cambodia

I must announce that I have selected the amendment in the name of the Prime Minister.

4.1 pm

I beg to move,

That this House records its profound concern at the continuing tragedy of Cambodia; calls on Her Majesty's Government not to sponsor any resolution at the United Nations which directly or indirectly gives support or comfort to the Khmer Rouge or its allies, and in the debate in the General Assembly on Wednesday to repudiate specifically Thiounn Prasith of the Khmer Rouge as delegate of Cambodia; insists that the Government provides clear answers to allegations that British military personnel have been providing training for forces fighting alongside Khmer Rouge forces, and ends forthwith any such training; believes that no aid other than humanitarian aid should be provided for any group or objective in Cambodia; and asks that such aid be increased substantially.

The intervention earlier by the hon. Member for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow), who I notice has sloped off after making it, brought great discredit on him and on anyone who agreed with him. I am second to none in my praise for and excitement about what is taking place in East Germany and Berlin today. I was there yesterday and was able to see something of it for myself. But the tragedy of Cambodia, a country in which up to 2 million people were slaughtered in the most appalling way by a regime of profound inhumanity, is a matter which the House is right to debate—especially since, on Wednesday this week, the United Nations General Assembly is to debate Cambodia. The Opposition have used the time available to them so that the House can state its views on this agonising issue before the United Nations debate.

I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman is not saying that I was trying to change the debate on Cambodia—we could well have debated East Germany tomorrow.

I fully accept that. I know, from his presence here, that the hon. Gentleman cares about this issue.

Not only do we believe that two days before the United Nations debates Cambodia the House should discuss it, but we believe that the time has come for the United Kingdom Government to reassess and fundamentally to change their policy towards Cambodia. Throughout the world Cambodia has become a symbol of all that is most savage and unacceptable in the conduct of political relations and military activity; it is now a synonym for the depths of inhumanity to which those who wield power can descend in their maltreatment of the people whose lives they control.

The murder, torture and suppression of human rights and freedom associated with the name of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge can be compared in scale and horror only to Adolf Hitler's holocaust. It is easy for everyone, including the British Government, to say that the Khmer Rouge must never return to power in Cambodia, but unless there is a total change in policy towards Cambodia by our Government and by other nations there is a real danger that the Khmer Rouge will return to power there. Those armies are dominated by the Khmer Rouge and are fighting their way into Cambodia. Unless they are halted, they may overturn the Government of Cambodia, the Government of Hun Sen.

The allegedly acceptable face of those armies is Prince Sihanouk, the perpetual prince over the water of Cambodia. The largest part of those armies belongs to the Khmer Rouge. Sihanouk's so-called Democratic Coalition is dominated by the Khmer Rouge. Last month The Independent said:
"All the CGDK declarations, including Prince Sihanouk's recent five-point peace plan, are written by the Khmer Rouge, and simply presented to Sihanouk and the KPNLF leader Son Sann, to sign."
The coalition Government of Democratic Kampuchea— so-called—has as its diplomatic representatives people who in number and importance are dominated by the Khmer Rouge. For example, the so-called Foreign Minister of that coalition was Head of State during Pol Pot's rule in Cambodia.

The British Government are playing an active part in assisting the armies that are dominated by the Khmer Rouge and in seeking to remove from power in Cambodia the Hun Sen regime that is today that country's legal and de facto Government. The rationale of those policies is that Hun Sen was placed in power by Vietnamese forces. There is truth in that, but whatever may be said against the Vietnamese it must be said in their favour that they drove out Pol Pot. It must also be said that the removal of Pol Pot by the Vietnamese has counted less with the United States Administration than the fact that it was the Vietnamese who removed him.

Because Vietnam inflicted on the United States the most humiliating defeat on the battlefield that the Americans had ever suffered, United States policy has been dominated by the compulsion to oppose anything with which the Vietnamese are associated. That is a foolish and dangerous motivation to govern the foreign policy of any great power. It is especially regrettable in the case of the United States which, under President Bush, has in many areas made changes in foreign policy that are beneficial and admirable. One can cite the change in policy towards the middle east and in arming the Contras and the way in which the Americans are enhancing the Reagan initiatives in negotiation with the Soviet Union on nuclear disarmament. It is particularly regrettable that on this issue the Bush Administration are continuing the vindictive policies of the Reagan Administration towards Cambodia.

In the case of Cambodia, the United States motivation has led to a profoundly wrong policy, not only on the part of the Americans but by other countries. Taking into account the situation since the Tiananmen square massacre, it is deplorable and even ugly that the policy of the United States and that of China towards Cambodia should be the same. It is an unholy alliance because of the shared loathing by both countries of Vietnam.

Has my right hon. Friend seen the absolutely amazing and excellent article by the former Prime Minister, the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath)? It states:

"The main difference is that the Americans killed thousands of Cambodian civilians in their attempts to destroy North Vietnamese supply lines whereas the Vietnamese invasion ended the systematic murder of Cambodians by their own 'government'."

Yes, I have seen that article. I thought that it was an outstanding contribution to the discussion, and I am only sorry that the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath), no doubt because of other pressing engagements, cannot be here to express the same sentiments.

That would be particularly valuable because while the United States and China are at one in opposing a sensible solution for Cambodia, other Governments have allowed themselves to be dragged along by the White House and the State Department. I am sorry to say that the British Government are one of those Governments.

The extent to which British Government policy is dictated by the State Department can best be gauged from a speech on Cambodia made in the House on 21 January last year by the former Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, the hon. Member for Enfield, North (Mr. Eggar). I reread that speech at the weekend. After nearly two years and in the light of changing events, I found it deeply obnoxious. Speaking of the Hun Sen regime, he said:
"Without the presence of massive Vietnamese forces, the regime simply would not exist."
The Vietnamese forces have been withdrawn from Cambodia and the regime still exists. The hon. Gentleman continued, in squalid and sneering language:
"We cannot accept that at this time we should give development assistance to a regime which depends for its very existence on Vietnamese occupying forces. We cannot allow Vietnam to bankroll its oppression of Cambodia with western aid."—[Official Report, 21 January 1988; Vol. 125, col. 1225.]

The Vietnamese forces are gone, but for Cambodia there is still no British development assistance and still no western aid. To justify this, the Government have now changed their rationale. Last month, the Minister for Overseas Development said:
"We remain convinced that our policy of not offering direct Government to Government aid to the Heng Samrin regime in Phnom Penh is right in present circumstances. We have no wish to sustain an unrepresentative regime spawned by the illegal Vietnemese occupation."
Once again, Vietnam, rather than the needs and the plight of Cambodia, is dominating Government policy.

Let us be clear. The suffering people of Cambodia are being punished for the American defeat in Vietnam. Led by the United States, with Britain as a compliant follower, the world community has blacklisted Cambodia. The result for that poverty-stricken land has been not only terrible suffering but a reverse in the progress that was being made in combating disease and deprivation. Children are dying in Cambodia from diarrhoea and other diseases in terrifying numbers. They die, among other reasons, because of the dreadful state of the water supply. Aid could help to improve the water supply yet, inexcusably, Cambodia is the only country in the world to be denied United Nations development aid.

In a recent leading article, The Times said:
"Now that that invasion"——
the Vietnamese invasion—
"is at an end—so long as it is not perpetuated by proxy—there is no reason why generous aid for humanitarian projects or to assist Vietnam's incipient economic reform should not begin."
The Times is right in its argument, but mistaken in its conclusion, because there is, unfortunately, a valid reason why such aid is not provided by the United Nations. It is because Cambodia is represented at the United Nations not by the Government who hold power but by the exiled opposition, the so-called coalition Government of Democratic Kampuchea. The United Nations delegate of that bogus organisation, Thiounn Prasith, was a close adviser of Pol Pot during his years in Government, and is still a crony of Pol Pot's.

An avowed representative of the Khmer Rouge has been put into the United Nations by other countries as the representative of Cambodia, when he does not represent Cambodia at all. His presence at the United Nations misrepresents Cambodia but gives an international validity to the Khmer Rouge and allows it to influence United Nations policy and international attitudes to Cambodia.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that, in addition to his being a member of the Khmer Rouge, three of Thiounn Prasith's brothers held three of the 10 posts in the Pol Pot regime's Government between 1975 and 1979? That family above all is connected with what happened at that time.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for placing that on the record. He, like others of my right hon. and hon. Friends, has a long, honourable and constructive record of fighting on this issue.

In a curious and opaque written answer to a question tabled by the hon. Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Lester) last week, the Foreign Secretary—the right hon. Gentleman has explained to me why he cannot be here today—stated:
"The report of the UN credentials committee again recommended acceptance of credentials of Democratic Kampuchea for the Cambodian seat and was approved without a vote."—[Official Report, 8 November 1989; Vol. 159, c. 645.]
The Foreign Secretary did not explain why there was no vote. He did not explain why the British Government did not vote against the seating of a Pol Pot crony as a representative of Cambodia at the United Nations. I regret to say that the Government have an odd and equivocal attitude towards the Khmer Rouge. The Prime Minister and others assert that they never wish to see Pol Pot back in power in Cambodia, but it is deplorable that the Government are shifting in their attitude towards the Khmer Rouge.

Last year, during a television interview, the Prime Minister was asked about the Khmer Rouge. The right hon. Lady stated:
"There is a much more reasonable grouping within the Khmer Rouge."
When asked to amplify that statement, she said:
"That is what I am assured by people who know, so that you will find that the more reasonable ones in the Khmer Rouge will have to play some part in a future Government."
It is a matter for concern to us all to discover who these "reasonable" ones in the Khmer Rouge, as cited by the Prime Minister, may be.

In a television programme two weeks ago—a programme which produced an enormous response from the public, as every hon. Member knows from his or her postbag—John Pilger tried to find the answer to the question that must follow the Prime Minister's statement. He put the question to the responsible Minister from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Lord Brabazon of Tara. In a singular and bizarre interview, Lord Brabazon replied,
"I don't know their names."
He continued:
"Well, there are obviously some more reasonable than others."
He could not say who they are. All the same, the Government continued to recommend that the Khmer Rouge should be included in the Cambodian Government.

A Foreign and Commonwealth Office briefing document reads:
"To exclude the Khmer Rouge completely from the transitional process could have the effect that we all want to avoid. It might drive their still powerful army into guerrrilla warfare."
Where are these people living? The "still powerful army" of the Khmer Rouge is involved in guerrilla warfare. It is involved in the invasion of Cambodia from Thailand. It dominates the armies that are invading Cambodia. The Government continue to say, however, that the Khmer Rouge should be part of Cambodia's Government.

My right hon. Friend presents a powerful indictment of the Government. Does he recall that last week I asked the Prime Minister whether she felt happy that the Foreign Secretary was sitting next to Pol Pot representatives, and that the right hon. Lady refused to answer?

I well recall that intervention by my hon. Friend, because I thought that the Prime Minister would try to respond to the valid and important point he raised. But instead, she made a cheap joke which demonstrated once again, as did the intervention by the hon. Member for Northampton, North before today's debate began, that the killing, suffering, ordeal and plight of Cambodia matter little to some members of the Government and to the Conservative party.

The latest pronouncement on the subject was made on 1 November by the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the hon. Member for Bristol, West (Mr. Waldegrave), who I understand is to speak next, when he replied to an Adjournment debate initiated by the hon. Member for Broxtowe. In that notorious speech, the Minister announced:
"I have only two minutes to devote to Cambodia."

Before this becomes a legend—the hon. Member for Cynon Valley, (Mrs. Clwyd) will remember this—the right hon. Gentleman will recall that there are 30 minutes for Adjournment debates. My hon. Friend the member for Broxtowe (Mr. Lester) spoke for his full time and then there was an intervention from the hon. Member for Cynon Valley leaving me only four minutes in which to reply.

I read the debate in full. I recognise that the Minister had little enough time to reply, but instead of reading from his brief, he might have rejigged his speech to deal with what is a paramount issue in the House.

It is very unfair for the right hon. Gentleman to charge my hon. Friend the Minister with any discourtesy. He tried enormously hard in a very short time to fulfil his requirement. My hon. Friend had flown in from Washington the night before. In those circumstances, the hon. Member for Cynon Valley (Mrs. Clwyd) and I felt that it was more important to get on record our concerns than to get a reply which I hope we shall get today.

Obviously I accept what the hon. Gentleman says, but I quote what the Minister said in the two minutes that he was able to devote to the subject. He said:

"Absorption of some part of the Khmer Rouge movement might diminish the power of the rest of the movement".
He went on to advocate
"the attempt to include some part of the Khmer Rouge movement—but not the Pol Pot supporters—in a future Government."—[Official Report, 1 November 1989; Vol. 159, c. 444.]
So in his two minutes the Minister managed to cram in a recommendation that the Khmer Rouge should be part of the Cambodian Government.

What it all comes back to is that the Government, without the Prime Minister or any other Minister being able to specify or name those reasonable members of the Khmer Rouge, are ready to advocate Khmer Rouge membership of a Cambodian Government. Let us be clear that their objective is to get rid of the present Cambodian Government. Their explanation is simple—they claim that that Government are in power only because they are propped up by Vietnamese forces. There are no Vietnamese troops in Cambodia, yet there are Khmer Rouge troops, who the Foreign and Commonwealth Office readily admits are a powerful army and whose flag flies at the United Nations because no country opposes the Khmer Rouge delegate there and because each year Britain and other countries support the continued efforts of the Khmer Rouge and its allies to take over power in Cambodia.

In a speech in the House last year, the hon. Member for Enfield, North described the Government's stance as
"a ringing endorsement of the rights of the Cambodian people."—[Official Report, 21 January 1988; Vol. 125, c. 1225.]
That was his description of the United Nations' annual debate on Cambodia, but every year the United Nations once again endorsed the Khmer Rouge representative as the alleged representative of Cambodia.

If Jane's Defence Weekly is anything to go by, another ringing endorsement of the rights of the Cambodian people by the Government is the provision of training by British forces for troops fighting alongside the Khmer Rouge to overturn the present Government of Cambodia. Jane's Defence Weekly says that that has been going on for four years. When the Prime Minister and the deputy Prime Minister were asked about that on Thursday 2 November in the House of Commons, they dodged the question eight times. The deputy Prime Minister said that it was not the practice to give details of training by British special forces of foreign troops.

The Government cannot hide behind that formula any longer. Only last year, the Prime Minister boasted about British forces training Zimbabwean troops. On 19 July, she said that such training was "greatly appreciated." If that information can be given about training Zimbabwean troops, it must be given about training Cambodian troops. Unless the Minister states unequivocally this afternoon that British service men have not been training Cambodian forces, we shall take it, by his silence or lack of response, that those authoritative allegations are true. We shall have to proceed in the knowledge that the Government are taking positive steps to subvert by force the present regime in Cambodia by assisting fighting men who are part of an army dominated by what the Foreign and Commonwealth Office calls the
"powerful army of the Khmer Rouge."
As the Financial Times stated recently in a leading article,
"the Khmer Rouge remains a force to be reckoned with in Cambodia—and one even given a kind of legitimacy by Western Governments."
The Government provide that legitimacy by training troops allied to the Khmer Rouge and by co-sponsoring at the United Nations a resolution which, unless it is changed radically as a result of the Foreign Secretary's announcement last week, speaks of the
"continued and effective struggle of the Kampuchean forces under the leadership of Samdech Norodom Sihanouk to achieve the independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity and neutral and non-aligned status of Kampuchea."
That is to be attained by legitimising forces dominated by the Khmer Rouge.

As The Times stated in a leading article this month,
"power sharing is simply not in the Khmer Rouge vocabulary, except as a back door route to ultimate and absolute control."
The Government are conniving in the ultimate and absolute control of Cambodia by Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge.

The Labour party advocates a complete change of policy by the British Government. We believe that they should not continue to co-sponsor the resolution that is before the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday. I have been notified of a change to the draft resolution. The great alteration that the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs announced to the House in answer to the hon. Member for Broxtowe amounts to the changing of two or three odd words. The phrase
"continued and effective struggle of the Kampuchean forces"
is changed to
"the continued and effective struggle of the Kampuchean people."
What is that cosmetic alteration meant to prove? What struggle is there against the present Cambodian Government other than the armed struggle by the Khmer Rouge? It is a piece of sophistry by the Government to believe that, by changing that word, or one or two others, in the resolution, they can delude us into believing that they are changing their policy.

The Government should abandon their sponsorship of that resolution. I understand that the Swedish Government have done so, and I hope that other Governments are considering doing so.

What is more, we believe that the British Government's support should be withdrawn from the Coalition Government of Democratic Kampuchea and from Prince Sihanouk unless he repudiates any connection with the Khmer Rouge and rids his so-called coalition of the Khmer Rouge. We believe, with The Times, that the Government should consider recognising the Hun Sen Government. On 2 November, The Times said:
"There is a case for shortcircuiting the niceties of diplomacy, and recognising the Phnom Penh regime without waiting for a comprehensive political solution. Mr. Hun Sen's government is not a pleasant one. It holds political prisoners and has little time for free speech and multi party-politics. But it has begun religious and economic reforms, encouraging private businesses and allowing farmers to own their land. It has adopted a policy of non-alignment, and it would no longer be accurate to dismiss Mr. Hun Sen as Hanoi's puppet."
The right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup made precisely the same point in his important article in TheGuardian today. It is about time that the Government stopped being a victim of the United States' delusion about Vietnam and acted for themselves properly and sensibly on this issue.

We believe that, from the starting point of recognition today of the existing Government in Phnom Penh, Britain should end its part in the inexcusable aid boycott of Cambodia. There is reason to believe that, despite the Foreign Secretary's claim last week in answer to the hon. Member for Broxtowe—
"We stipulate that none of our aid should reach the Khmer Rouge."—[Official Report, 8 November 1989, Vol. 159, c. 645.]—
such aid as is at present intended for Cambodians living in the camps along the Thai-Cambodian border may get into the hands of the Khmer Rouge. The Foreign Secretary announced in his answer that there would be some direct aid to Cambodia, but we believe that British aid for Cambodia should be substantially increased and should go into Cambodia on a large scale to alleviate the terrible suffering of the people of that country. What the Foreign Secretary offered last week is completely inadequate to meet the scale of the need. Once again, it is governed by an obsession with the nature of the Government in Phnom Penh compared with that which is to replace them, and which the Government are assisting.

In an otherwise powerful speech, which I very much respect, the right hon. Gentleman has not yet touched on the Paris conference, where all these matters were discussed at great length, nor has he attempted to say where responsibility lies for the failure of that conference.

As the right hon. Gentleman properly points out, the Paris conference was a failure. It was a failure because many of the main parties to it started from the clear assumption that they could not accept the Government in Phnom Penh and somehow had to get involved with the ragbag coalition behind Prince Sihanouk. Until we move away from that posture, which is invalid and unacceptable, there will be no progress towards settlement in Cambodia.

We believe that the Government should start the process which we have recommended the day after tomorrow in New York, when the United Nations debates Cambodia. The Government cannot attempt to convince anybody in the House who has studied these matters carefully that the cosmetic alteration to the resolution will begin to meet the needs of the situation. The Government should even now challenge the presence at the United Nations of the Khmer Rouge delegate. It is open to them to do so if they wish. They can, if they wish, call for a vote on the seating of the Cambodian delegate. They can, if they wish, demand that any resolution that they co-sponsor should call for the seating of the Khmer Rouge representative to be reviewed in the light of the Vietnamese withdrawal from Cambodia.

The Times, in its leading article on 2 November, said that, directly and indirectly, the British Government, with other Governments, were helping to make possible the return to power in Cambodia of the Khmer Rouge. It pointed out:
"The Khmer Rouge when in power depopulated the towns, and systematically starved and murdered thier countrymen. The absolute priority is to deprive them of a second opportunity."

Let us make no mistake: any country that directly or indirectly helps to make possible the return of the Khmer Rouge to power in Cambodia is colluding in a repetition of the atrocities in Cambodia which have added new words to the world's political dictionary and which are branded on the minds and consciences of millions throughout the world, including many British people. We speak this evening for those millions in urging a change of British Government policy on Cambodia. If the Minister does not announce such a change, we shall tonight not only speak for the millions who care, but register our votes for them.

4.35 pm

I beg to move, to leave out from "House" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof:

'welcomes the Government's consistent refusal to give support to either the PRK or the murderous Khmer Rouge; commends its commitment to finding a peaceful and comprehensive settlement endorsed by the Cambodian people; and welcomes the increased assistance which the Government is providing for the innocent victims of this tragic conflict.'.

The speech of the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) was eloquent, and no one doubts the genuine care and passion that have gone into it.

I genuinely welcome this debate, because this is a difficult and important subject. It is a welcome opportunity to describe in detail the consistency of British Government policy, both under the present and the preceding Labour Administrations, in condemning the Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia in 1978, in refusing to have dealings with the Phnom Penh regime or to support the Khmer Rouge in any way and in a steady commitment to a sovereign, independent, neutral Cambodia, with the Cambodian people deciding their own future through free and fair elections.

We are witnessing the collapse of worldwide Communism. Regional conflicts, such as Cambodia and Afghanistan, should be soluble on the basis that the long-suffering people themselves decide under which form of government they want to live. That is our policy, and doubtless that of the Opposition as well.

The Opposition motion concentrates heavily and rightly on the paramount need——

I will give way to the hon. Gentleman, but I then want to develop my argument.

This is an important point. The Minister said that the Government had never given support to the Khmer Rouge, but have the Government ever challenged the credentials of those who sit in the United Nations and who are known to be Khmer Rouge?

I shall come to that very point in the central part of my speech, so I ask the hon. Gentlemen to be patient for a short time.

If the motion had said simply that it was intolerable to support the Khmer Rouge, there would have been no problem about accepting it. Let us be clear at the outset that the Khmer Rouge is a particularly evil mutation of Communism and Pol Pot a particularly evil man.

The Khmer Rouge was helped to power in 1975 by the then North Vietnam. From 1975 to 1978, the Vietnamese leadership repeatedly praised the Khmer Rouge and its
"precious assistance to the revolutionary cause",
and attacked the West and the United States for slandering the regime. That was done while mass murder was being committed. Also during that terrible period, there were those in the West who chose to be silent about what was going on inside Cambodia and who denounced atrocity reports as American fabrications, aimed at ex post facto justification of United States involvement in the Vietnam war. One such was the ineffable Professor Noam Chomsky. Such people, including journalists, are not well placed to lead moral crusades, least of all against the West, when it might stimulate us to look back at what they were writing at the time.

The attitude of the then Labour Government to the murderous Pol Pot regime was stated by the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Mr. Evan Luard, on 30 March 1977 in reply to a Conservative Member's request that the large-scale slaughter in Cambodia should be raised in the Security Council. Mr. Luard replied:
"With regard to Cambodia, however much we may deplore the situation there, it is clear that till is primarily a domestic matter, and, therefore, not a matter for the United Nations."—[Official Report, 30 March 1977: Vol. 929, c. 379.]
Nevertheless, that attitude, happily, soon changed. In 1978, the British Government took the lead in raising the situation in Cambodia at the United Nations Commission on Human Rights and called for an inquiry.

At the end of 1978, following an increasingly anti-Vietnamese line by the Pol Pot regime, the Vietnamese invaded. The Soviet Union vetoed a United Nations Security Council resolution calling for a ceasefire and the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Cambodia in the wake of that invasion.

The Minister missed out a small matter in his history of the conflict. The Vietnamese invasion was not unprovoked. It followed attacks by Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge on border provinces, in which perhaps 20,000 men, women and children were horribly butchered. There were similar attacks on and around the border of Thailand, but we choose to forget that. In addition, several hundred thousand refugees fled Cambodia under the Pol Pot regime, so terrible was life there. Whether the Vietnamese invasion was right or wrong, we should not ignore the reasons for it.

Mr. Waldegrave