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Column 533Squire, Robin
Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)
Stewart, Andy (Sherwood)
Stewart, Rt Hon Ian (Herts N)
Stokes, Sir John
Stradling Thomas, Sir John
Tapsell, Sir Peter
Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)
Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman
Thatcher, Rt Hon Margaret
Thompson, D. (Calder Valley)
Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Townend, John (Bridlington)
Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)
Twinn, Dr Ian
Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Waddington, Rt Hon David
Wakeham, Rt Hon John
Waldegrave, Hon William
Walker, Bill (T'side North)
Walker, Rt Hon P. (W'cester)
Walters, Sir Dennis
Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Winterton, Mrs Ann
Woodcock, Dr. Mike
Young, Sir George (Acton)
Younger, Rt Hon George
Tellers for the Noes :
Mr. Alastair Goodlad and
Mr. Tony Durant.
Question accordingly negatived.
It being after Ten o'clock, the debate stood adjourned. Debate to be resumed tomorrow.
Mr. Bob Cryer (Bradford, South) : On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. The Order Paper states that the instrument has not been considered by the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments. The Opposition want to debate the order before it comes into effect, but it is quite clear that the time between laying the instrument and its coming into force prevents the Joint Committee from examining it as we are required to do under the Standing Orders. I hope that the Government will take account of that if they wish their instruments to be subjected to scrutiny by a Committee of the House which has been appointed for that task.
That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that the Severn Bridge Tolls Order 1989 (S.I. 1989, No. 1922), dated 18th October 1989, a copy of which was laid before this House on 26th October in the last Session of Parliament, be annulled.
It is perhaps best to put the order--we shall vote against it--into context. Under the Conservatives, road congestion has reached crisis proportions and the national economic situation is grim. We have massive interest rates, high inflation and a record balance of payments deficit. In 10 years of Conservative rule Britain, and especially the Principality, has lost tens of thousands of manufacturing jobs. We are now attempting to reinvigorate our economy, to make new jobs and to create a balanced economy so as never again to experience what hit us in the early 1980s as a result of the Government's economic policies.
No Opposition Member believes that the Government are helping the south Wales economy by proposing an increase in tolls. The Severn bridge is arguably the most important item of infrastructure in south Wales. I can say without a shadow of contradiction that opinion in south Wales is implacably opposed to the rise in the toll charge. County councils, district councils and small businesses in south Wales, and major and heavy industries and small businesses throughout Wales, are against the toll increase. Commuters who drive to England by car each day will have to pay up to £5 per week extra if the order is passed. [Interruption.] We in the Labour party--
Mr. Richard Holt (Langbaurgh) : On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. The only reason why I sought to draw the attention of the hon. Member for Alyn and Deeside (Mr. Jones) was because he was supposed to be addressing the House of Commons, not a television camera. He was staring at the camera all the time and not addressing his remarks to you, Mr. Speaker.
Column 535Mr. Jones : Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
The toll increase would be most untimely with inflation rising and mortgages reaching penal levels. Moreover, there is no support in south Wales for the increase.
I have with me a copy of the policy document of the Council of Welsh Districts entitled, "Land of opportunity". Welsh district councils have a plan for the reinvigoration of the Welsh economy. A series of headings relate directly to the tolls on the Severn bridge. For example :
"Maximising Common Market Support for the Economy, More Assistance for Rural Areas, Expanding Tourism, Forward Planning and Programming, Extending Co-ordination and Co-operation in Public Sector Incentives and Initiatives."
Welsh district councils are considering the renewal and development of regional policy and developing sub-regional policy. It is an effective document, but an increase in the tolls on the Severn bridge would go against the heart of those policies.
Mr. Paul Marland (Gloucestershire, West) rose--
Mr. Jones : I would rather not give way--not from discourtesy but because many hon. Members wish to contribute to this brief debate. It is no exaggeration to say that my hon. Friend the Member for Newport, East (Mr. Hughes) has fought for many years to safeguard the interests of his constituents. Since the bridge has been in existence, he has defended the interests of industry and commuters against toll increases.
There are many inconsistencies in the Government's proposals to increase the toll charge. In south Wales there is an attempt to reorder the economy. We are trying to encourage small businesses and to attract investment from countries such as West Germany, American and even Japan. Virtually all of south-east Wales has assisted area status.
The Secretary of State for Wales trumpets the advantages of the valleys programme, but it is clear to me and to the people of Wales--and specifically the people of south-east Wales--that if the tolls are increased the valleys programme will be dealt a severe blow. At the heart of the valleys programme is the attempt to encourage small businesses to locate in the valleys of south-east Wales. With high interest and mortgage rates, high inflation and a balance of payments problem, the Government's proposals for increased tolls will not be acceptable to those who wish the valleys programme every success. The inconsistencies in the proposal are an important reason for voting against the order.
County district and borough councils are heavily engaged in seeking to attract industry. The Welsh Development Agency and Mid Wales Development are similarly engaged. Those bodies and the local authorities know that in order to attract industry the need to be able to show south-east Wales as an area with maximum advantages. The Government proposal goes against that objective. People in Wales of every political persuasion are against an increase in tolls. There is still a large amount of unemployment in the Principality. The research unit in the county of mid-Glamorgan says that bigger tolls on the bridge will be
Column 536a considerable disincentive. I understand that a pharmaceutical firm is considering whether to locate a large warehouse for its finished products in Gwent. The company has said that increased tolls would be a factor in influencing its decision. Hon. Members will know that Hoover has talked about many redundancies in one of the valleys of south-east Wales.
I emphasise to the House the impact that increased charges will have on the car driver in south-east Wales who daily crosses the bridge to attend his place of work. It will mean a large increase in the amount that such a driver has to pay. Wales is seen to be on the periphery of Europe and will face a major challenge in the single market of 1992. We shall also face a major challenge when the Channel tunnel opens.
The Severn bridge and the M4 are part of a Euro-route and higher tolls would be a barrier. The Severn bridge provides an entry to Europe for the Welsh economy.
The Minister of State, Welsh Office (Mr. Wyn Roberts) : If the hon. Gentleman is against the increase in tolls, is he saying that a Labour Government would reduce them, and if so, why did the last Labour Government not do so?
Mr. Jones : It is typical of a rattled Government to ask hypothetical questions late at night when there is no possibility of debating the future rather than the proposal before the House. On that I shall rest.
I was about to say--
There are considerable inconsistencies--