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House of Commons

Friday 7 April 1989

The House met at half-past Nine o'clock


[Mr. Speaker-- in the Chair ]


Football Membership Scheme

9.34 am

Mr. Eric S. Heffer (Liverpool, Walton) : I wish to present, under Standing Orders Nos. 132 to 136, a petition, which carries 26,411 names. The petition was organised by the supporters of Liverpool football club and by members of the Football Supporters Association in the area. It was handed to me at Anfield, the Liverpool football club ground, at half time on the occasion of the Liverpool versus Derby County league match, which was attended by 40,000 people. The petition says :

To the Honourable the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland assembled. The Humble Petition of supporters of Liverpool Football Club and members of the Football Supporters Association sheweth.

That we condemn the proposed legislation to force football supporters to carry identification cards, and we believe that a system of identity cards will have little impact on the problem of football-related violence, will hinder football's attempt to attract a new generation of supporters and will lead to the eventual demise of the game as a spectator sport.

Wherefore your Petitioners pray that your honourable House will urge the Government to bring forward proposals which have the support of genuine football supporters.

And your Petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray.

To lie upon the Table.

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Points of Order

9.36 am

Mr. Nigel Spearing (Newham, South) : On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. As you will be aware, points of order were raised at the end of business questions yesterday. I have two related points of order which are strictly procedural. In reply to a question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Falkirk, East (Mr. Ewing), the Leader of the House said :

"nothing new has emerged in recent times."--[ Official Report, 6 April 1989 ; Vol. 150, c. 364.]

He was referring, of course, to Sir Leon Brittan's broadcast and matters relating to the Westland affair three years ago.

As I understand it, the submission of oral questions or questions for written answer that relate to historic matters is sometimes not possible. I do not share the view of some that the procedures of the House are arcane, traditional and obstructive. On the contrary, I believe that, if properly followed, they can be used to call the Executive to account, although only on reasonably current matters. May I confirm with you, Mr. Speaker, that it would be possible for the Leader of the House, if he so wished, to specify where a record of the approval of two gentlemen in the Prime Minister's Office was recorded--in debates at the time or in reports of Select Committees? I have tabled a written question--written question No. 139--and although I shall not push the right hon. Gentleman on it now, may I confirm with you, Mr. Speaker, that it would be open for him to reply to it now if he so wished? If he does not, no doubt he will answer the question fully in writing on Monday, with his customary courtesy. My second point of order is related to my first. The position is now related to what Sir Leon Brittan and others may already have said in trailers to the broadcast. I understand, however, that there is to be a further broadcast tonight, and either Sir Leon, or others concerned in the matter, may say other things which, prima facie, are in conflict with, or additional to, the evidence given to the Select Committee on Defence or speeches or other documents that are considered official. In that case, Mr. Speaker, may I confirm that the scope for the submission of questions to the Table or to you yourself in written form is related to any apparent discrepancy that may arise and that they will therefore be in order and those matters will cease to be historic?

That is the position as I understand it, but, in view of the intense interest in this matter on both sides of the House and among the media, and as it might be thought that the procedures of the House are obstructive rather than permissive, I thought that it might be helpful to get your ruling on these matters.

Mr. Speaker : I thank the hon. Gentleman for putting his point of order in that way. His first question was not really to me but to the Leader of the House. I am sure that the Leader of the House will answer in whatever way he feels appropriate.

As to the second question, the programme has yet to be seen, so the matter is hypothetical at the moment. I have noted what the hon. Member has said. I have mentioned to the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) that I have a constituency surgery tonight, so I

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shall not be able to watch the programme, but personally I will ensure that it is carefully watched by those who advise me.

Mr. Alan Williams (Swansea, West) : Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. As the Leader of the House is present, it might be helpful if he would respond now ; it would save time at 11 o'clock. Yesterday, he categorically told my right hon. Friend the Member for Morley and Leeds, South (Mr. Rees) :

"If the right hon. Gentleman is interested in names he should look at the Select Committee's report".--[ Official Report, 6 April 1989 ; Vol. 150, c. 359.]

Yesterday, he was specifically asked twice whether he would say where that information was available. In view of the broadcast which we all know is to take place tonight and which we have seen trailed, it is clear that there will be great speculation over the weekend. Perhaps the Leader of the House could defuse it for the Prime Minister and avoid aggravation for her next week, which I am sure is his greatest wish, by giving us the information today, instead of forcing us to take further action next week.

Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will think about the matter between now and 11 o'clock and consult his notes. He said yesterday that he had read all the proceedings to refresh his memory. As his memory is probably the freshest of all, perhaps he will look at them again between now and 11 o'clock and give us clarification at 11 o'clock.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow) : Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. What is not hypothetical is that the most senior appointee that this country has in Europe, the Vice-President of the Commission, has already gone on record many times on television in the past two days saying that two of the most intimate and powerful civil servants of the Prime Minister have indulged in something that they should not have done. They gave approval to something which they knew was wrong. It does the House of Commons no credit whatsoever for the Leader of the House to sit in the House relaxed and laughing at the serious points made by my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing).

I sat and listened, as did some of my colleagues, to Lord Armstrong of Ilminster on that memorable occasion when he gave evidence to the Select Committee on Defence. Yesterday, the Leader of the House said to my right hon. Friend for Morley and Leeds, South (Mr. Rees) at column 359, to myself at column 361 of Hansard, and later to my hon. Friend the Member for Falkirk, East (Mr. Ewing) that nothing had changed. The Armstrong inquiry was based on differences in understanding between No. 10 and the Department of Trade and Industry. What the Leader of the House says is a travesty--

Mr. Speaker : Order. This is a matter for debate, not a point of order. I cannot be held responsible for what the Leader of the House said. I have heard nothing out of order so far. The hon. Gentleman is now seeking to pre-empt a programme which some of us are looking forward to seeing this evening. It would be more appropriate for him to see that programme and then, if there is anything in his point of order, pursue it again on Monday, but not today.

Mr. Dalyell : The key statement has been made and trailed many times. We are expected to believe that four

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highly trained civil servants--Mr. Mogg, Miss Bowe, Mr. Ingham and Mr. Powell--had a double misunderstanding on the same subject. That is what the Select Committee was asked to believe. Some hon. Members have gone to the trouble of checking with members of that Select Committee. That is exactly the impression that they had. Lord Armstrong should be--

Mr. Speaker : Order. This is a private Members' day. It is not appropriate for the hon. Member to raise these matters now because there is nothing that I can do about them. They are matters of concern that the hon. Gentleman has with the Government. They are not points of order for the Chair.

Mr. Dalyell rose --

Mr. Speaker : What is the point of order for me?

Mr. Dalyell : The point of order is that the reputation of the House of Commons is at stake. If the Leader of the House thinks that it is all right for senior civil servants to leak a Law Officer's letter--because that was the implication--

Mr. Speaker : That is not a point of order.

Mr. Dalyell rose --

Mr. Speaker : Order. If the hon. Member had a private Member's Bill, he would be concerned if points of order of this kind were being raised during private Members' time. This is not an appropriate moment to raise it. If it is a point of order which I can answer, I will gladly do so, but I have heard nothing so far that has the remotest concern for me as Speaker.

Mr. Dalyell : If I had a private Member's Bill, whether I were an Opposition Member or a Conservative Member, I should be concerned that the leaders of my party and the leaders of the British Government thought that it was all right for Mr. Powell and Mr. Ingham, on their own admission, to leak a Law Officer's--

Mr. Speaker : Order. The hon. Gentleman is kicking in his own goal. It is not a point of order for me. He keeps on saying that it is a matter for the Government. It is a matter for the Government, not for me. It is not a point of order.

Mr. Robert Adley (Christchurch) : Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I would like clarification. Can you confirm that it is your ruling that you are not responsible for the contents of Ministers' speeches in this House? In view of what you said a few moments ago, will you further confirm that points of order cannot be based on what is heard on television? If television programmes are to be the basis, not for debate but for points of order, we shall be here for ever.

Mr. Speaker : Order. It is possible that new facts could emerge. None of us has seen the programme yet.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover) : Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. One thing is pretty certain, and that is that you would do well, even though you have your surgery tonight, to get the video working and make sure that the programme is recorded. It is clear that one matter of order that concerns you is that you need to be abreast

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of events. In this ever-changing period, relating in particular to the long-standing Westland affair, it would be as well for you to be fully aware of what is happening.

If it so happens that two non-elected people such as Bernard Ingham and Charles Powell are involved and now, it is said, an ex-Member of this House, Leon Brittan, who is on £97,000 a year and in relative safety, economically speaking, has made statements which he seemingly was unable to make when he was a Member of the House, it means that the matter is changing. In view of the fact that you must occupy the Chair for a considerable time, it is necessary for you to be able to conduct the proceedings in such a way as to be able to take account of all matters as they affect Opposition and Conservative Back Benchers.

The Leader of the House is here ; he has made himself available. I suggest that he should make himself even more available and go to the Dispatch Box and tell us what he intends to do. It will be a problem for you, Mr. Speaker, as this sad, sorry story unfolds over the next few days and months.

One thing is certain. My hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) stands taller today than he did when he raised this matter against a background of hostility from many parts of the House. As the story unfolds, and as Leon Brittan starts to reveal the truth, Mr. Speaker, you may have to take account of many points of order arising out of what is happening against this sorry background.

Mr. Speaker : I fear that that may well be so, and I shall prepare myself. I am not very good at operating the video, so if the hon. Gentleman could act as a back-up for me, that would be helpful. Mr. Dalyell rose --

Mr. Speaker : No further point of order can arise on this matter. Mr. Dalyell rose --

Mr. Speaker : Please sit down. We have all admired the hon. Gentleman's perseverance, but I do not think that it is a matter for today. We must now move on--

Mr. Dalyell rose --

Mr. Speaker : It is not a matter for today.

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Mr. Dalyell : Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker : I cannot add further to what I have said, but if it is a new point of order, I shall have to hear it.

Mr. Dalyell : What is at stake is the great traditions of the British civil servants. It is absolutely corrupt that two civil servants positively approved a leak and disclosure of a Law Officer's letter. It is absolutely and totally corrupt and wrong, yet here they remain--

Mr. Speaker : Order. This is a speech that the hon. Gentleman might have an opportunity of making at another time, but not on a point of order.

Mr. Dalyell rose --

Mr. Speaker : No, I am not hearing any more today

Mr. Dalyell rose --

Mr. Speaker : No. I must ask the hon. Gentleman not to prejudice his chances on Monday--

Mr. Dalyell : There is nothing more important than the integrity of this House.

Mr. Speaker : Order. I order the hon. Gentleman to resume his seat.

Mr. Dalyell : There is nothing more important--

Mr. Speaker : Order. I warn the hon. Member that I shall have to take further action, and I would be reluctant to do that.


Dock Work

Mr. Secretary Fowler, supported by the Prime Minister, Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr. Secretary Hurd, Mr. Secretary Walker, Mr. Secretary Rifkind, Mr. Secretary Channon, Mr. Tony Newton, Mr. John Cope and Mr. Patrick Nicholls, presented a Bill to abolish the Dock Workers Employment Scheme 1967 and repeal the Dock Workers (Regulation of Employment) Act 1946 ; to make provision for the dissolution of the National Dock Labour Board ; and for connected purposes : And the same was read the First time ; and ordered to be read a Second time on Monday 10 April and to be printed. [Bill 113.]

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Orders of the Day

Parking Bill

As amended (in the Standing Committee), considered.

New Clause 1

Amendment of Road Traffic Act 1984 (No. 1)

S.45 Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 shall be amended as follows :--

After sub-section (5) insert a new sub-section :

"No Local Authority may issue an order under sub-section (1) which designates any parking place on a highway for use by buses or coaches capable of carrying more than twelve passengers.".'.-- [Mr. Maples.] Brought up, and read the First time.

9.52 am

Mr. John Maples (Lewisham, West) : I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

Mr. Speaker : With this we may also discuss the following: New Clause 3-- Amendment of Road Traffic Act 1984 (No. 3) -- S.45 Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 shall be amended as follows :--

After sub-section (7) insert a new sub-section :

"Where any designated Residents Parking Scheme is in operation the relevant local authority may refuse to issue Residents' permits in respect of vehicles other than cars.".'.

New clause 4-- Amendment of Road Traffic Act 1984 (No. 4)-- S.45 Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 add a new clause : "Where parking in a public street is considered to seriously restrict the flow of traffic, the relevant Local Authority may make orders prohibiting parking for the purpose of commercial deliveries at specified times.".'.

New clause 5-- Amendment of Road Traffic Act 1984 (No. 5)-- S.42 Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 shall be amended by adding a new sub-section (5) :--

"(5) Local Authority shall provide off-street parking facilities for buses and coaches.".'.

New clause 7-- Coach parking places--

The following section shall be inserted after section 63 "Coach parking places 63A.--(1) Any parking place within the meaning of this part of this act may be designated as a coach parking place, after consultation between the local authority and the police, and it shall be an offence to park a coach otherwise than at a place so designated.

(2) Any offence under this section shall be punishable by a fine on level 5 of the standard scale and by the forfeiture of the vehicle's licence for such period as a court may determine or by both such fine and such forfeiture.".'.

Mr. Maples : It is a long time since I spoke in the House on a Friday morning. In fact, I think that the last time was when I made my maiden speech. Friday morning is a good time to make a maiden speech because one can have a good lunch afterwards rather than skipping lunch before.

As I was coming here this morning, I could not help reflecting that while Mr. Gorbachev will, I expect, be addressing the world in his Guildhall speech in an hour or so, the House of Commons has chosen to debate parking. I suppose that there are cavillers who would say that that is appropriate for the role that the House of Commons has chosen for itself, but I choose to believe that there are days

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on which those roles will be reversed, when we shall be discussing international events and world statesmen will discuss parking. Although parking is a mundane problem, it is far from being unimportant. It is intimately tied up with many of the transport problems that many cities and especially London face.

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, North-East (Mr. Kirkhope) on getting his Bill this far. I suspect that this must be the fastest time on record for getting a Bill to Report. He had a formal Second Reading and an uncontroversial hour and a quarter in Committee. Perhaps he expected to get his Third Reading by 10 o'clock. I am sorry to disappoint him on that, but this is a serious matter and other matters should be considered with it.

My hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, North-East described the Bill in Committee as a modest measure. I suspect that his reluctance to incorporate more controversial provisions in it may have had something to do with the timetable with which he was faced, but nevertheless those matters should be discussed. As I said, my hon. Friend is to be congratulated on having got his Bill this far this quickly. To get a Bill to Report with an hour and a quarter of debate is pretty good. Perhaps the Government should have put my hon. Friend in charge of the Water Bill--it might have taken rather less than the 200 hours that it has taken.

The Parking Bill allows for charging by non-cash means in local authority car parks. That is obviously a laudable objective and I am amazed that primary legislation is needed to achieve it. I understand that a similar Bill was introduced a couple of years ago which did the same for on-street parking although I have not noticed the benefits of that in practice. Perhaps that is one of the few instances where technology has not caught up with Parliament, rather than the other way round.

My hon. Friend the Minister for Roads and Traffic said in Committee that this is a Benthamite Bill in that there are no losers, only gainers. While that may be true in respect of the limited effect of the Bill, it is certainly not true of parking in general. It is worth spending a little time looking at the problem of parking in the context of transport policy as a whole and that is the end to which my new clauses are directed.

I shall speak primarily about London because it is the area that I know best and I have a London constituency. I suspect that without being unduly parochial it is true to say that London is where most of the problems are at their most obvious. We clearly have problems with commuter transport by train into London, with the Tube and buses and, of course, with cars getting around London.

My hon. Friend the Minister and his colleagues in the Department of Transport have produced some interesting studies recently. There has been the central London rail study and the Department's statement on transport plans for London. I believe that the Department is soon to produce an east London rail study, which will be of considerable interest to myself and my constituents in Lewisham. I understand also that it is in the process of conducting four London assessment studies and two others, one on the Heathrow area and one on the western environmental improvement route. One of those is extremely relevant to Lewisham as it concerns part of the

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south circular road which goes through the constituency. London Regional Transport is also engaged on a fairly major programme to improve the Tube.

The relevance of parking is recognised in the "Transport in London" statement issued by the Department of Transport. The section on London's roads states :

"Increasing the capacity of the road network means making better use of existing roads--dealing with bottlenecks caused by narrow stretches of road or awkward junctions, using new technology to improve the flow of traffic, and tackling the problems caused by anti-social parking."

That last point is crucial. The report then discusses parking in rather more detail, stating :

"Sensible parking policies can make a significant contribution to tackling the problem of congestion. A single badly parked vehicle can halve the capacity of a road junction, reduce a dual carriageway to a single lane, or even block a road completely. London, particularly central London, cannot afford to see scarce road space squandered in this way There is more to sensible parking policies than enforcing the law. It is also important to make the right provision of parking facilities. There is seldom a case for subsidising parking". That passage put the relevance of parking rather well. If one looks at the transport problems that London faces, one finds that parking is relevant to many of them.

I suspect that the major problem is commuter traffic coming into London. We should encourage the use of public transport and discourage the use of cars. To some extent we are seeing that trend established ; commuting into central London by car accounts for only 170,000 journeys on the average day, whereas rail transport accounts for 390,000 and the Underground for 340,000. The percentage of commuters coming into London by rail and Underground has risen while the use of other modes of transport--primarily cars--has fallen. However, although we are starting to see that trend, we need to reinforce it. Many of us who use London's roads during the rush hour are fully aware of the problems and of the fact that reinforcing the trend towards the use of public transport is important.

Mr. Ian Gow (Eastbourne) : My hon. Friend read out some statistics about the ways in which people make their journeys into work in the capital. Will he remind the House of the date on which those statistics were compiled? How confident is he that those statistics are more accurate than the statistics that we receive relating to, for example, the balance of trade? The Chancellor told the House yesterday that those figures were subject to a dramatic margin of error. What is the margin of error in my hon. Friend's figures?

Mr. Maples : I have, unfortunately, no reason to say that the statistics are more accurate. However, I am sure that, if my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer were put in charge of those too, we could rely on their accuracy to a far greater extent. The first statistic on modes of travel into central London is eight years out of date. I imagine that it is the most recent or the Department would not have used it. The second figure, on the percentage of people coming in and out of London, was a trend from 1982 to 1987. I believe that that firmly shows that the proportion using British Rail has risen from 38 to 40 per cent., and the proportion using the Underground has risen from 28 to 36 per cent.

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The use of other modes of transport has fallen from 33 to 24 per cent. The more up-to-date statistic, in fact, reflects the same trend.

10 am

The Minister for Roads and Traffic (Mr. Peter Bottomley) : I confirm the source that my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. Maples) has given for the statistics, but my hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Gow) has raised an interesting point. Perhaps I could advertise that the Bottomley cup has still not been claimed. It is available to any academic, journalist or politician who in 1982 gave anything like a reasonably accurate forecast of how the use of the different modes of transport in London would change between 1982 and 1987. The facts are now available and are reasonably accepted, give or take the Chancellor's influence on them. Although the advertisement has been out in the open for months, so far no politician, academic or journalist has claimed the prize. Therefore, the cup is tarnished. If my hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne could show that he made a reasonably accurate prediction in 1982, he may be the first person to be considered for the cup.

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