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Private Bills (Procedure)

Motion made, and Question proposed,


--the Promoters of every Private Bill which originated in this House in the last Session and which is listed in Schedule A to this Order, or which originated in the House of Lords in the last Session and which is listed in Schedule B to this Order may, notwithstanding anything in the Standing Orders or practice of this House, proceed with the Bill in the present Session ; and the Petition for the Bill shall be deemed to have been deposited and all Standing Orders applicable thereto shall be deemed to have been complied with ; --every such Bill which originated in this House shall be presented to the House not later than the seventh day after this day ; --there shall be deposited with every Bill so presented a Declaration signed by the Agent 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 last Session ;

--every Bill so presented shall be laid by one of the Clerks in the Private Bill Office upon the Table of the House on the next meeting of the House after the day on which the Bill was presented ; --every Bill listed in Part I of Schedule A shall, after being so laid on the Table, be deemed to have been read the first, second, and third time, and shall pass ;

--every Bill listed in Part II of Schedule A shall, after being so laid on the Table, be deemed to have been read the first and second time and reported from Committee and ordered to lie upon the Table ; --when any Bill originating in the Lords, which was brought from the House of Lords in the last Session and to which this Order relates, is brought from the Lords in the present Session, the Agent for the Bill shall deposit in the Private Bill Office a Declaration, signed by him, stating that the Bill is the same, in every respect, as the Bill which was brought from the Lords in the last Session, and, 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--

(i) in the case of the Buckinghamshire County Council Bill [ Lords ], the London Local Authorities Bill [ Lords ], the South Yorkshire Light Rail Transit Bill [ Lords ] and the United Medical and Dental Schools Bill [ Lords ], to have been read the first and second time and committed and shall be committed to the Chairman of Ways and Means, who shall make such amendments thereto as have been made by the Committee in the last Session, and shall report the Bill as amended to the House forthwith, and the Bill, so amended, shall be ordered to lie upon the Table ;

(ii) in the case of the Nottingham Park Estate Bill [Lords] , to have been read the first and second time and committed ;

(iii) in the case of the Medway Tunnel Bill [Lords] and the Vale of Glamorgan (Barry Harbour) Bill [Lords] , to have been read the first time and ordered to be read a second time ;

(iv) in the case of the Greater Manchester (Light Rapid Transit System) (No. 3) Bill [Lords], to have been read the first time and referred to the Examiners of Petitions for Private Bills ; --in respect of all the Bills listed in Schedules A and B to this Order, the various stages deemed to have been taken shall be recorded in the Journal of this House as having been taken ;

--only such Petitions as were presented against any Bill brought from the Lords in the last Session which stood referred to the Committee on the Bill and which have not been withdrawn shall stand referred to the Committee on the Bill with the same title in the present Session ;

--in relation to any Bill to which this Order applies, 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 ;

--in respect of any Bill originating in the House of Lords to which this Order relates and upon which the Examiners have reported in the last Session that no Standing Order not previously inquired into was applicable thereto, the

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Examiners shall, if the Bill is brought from the Lords in the present Session, be deemed to have made the same report in the present Session ;

--no further Fees shall be charged in respect of any proceedings on any of the Bills to which this Order relates so far as Fees were incurred during the last Session ;

--this House doth concur with the Lords in their Resolution contained in their Message [22nd November] relating 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].

Schedule A

Part I

1. City of London (Spitalfields Market) Bill

2. Hythe Marina Village (Southampton) Wavescreen Bill

3. Isle of Wight Bill

4. New Southgate Cemetery and Crematorium Limited Bill

5. St. George's Hill, Weybridge, Estate Bill

6. Penzance Albert Pier Extension Bill

Part II

1. British Film Institute Southbank Bill

2. British Railways Bill

3. City of London (Various Powers) Bill

4. Redbridge London Borough Council Bill

Schedule B

1. Buckinghamshire County Council Bill [Lords]

2. London Local Authorities Bill [Lords]

3. South Yorkshire Light Rail Transit Bill [Lords]

4. United Medical and Dental Schools Bill [Lords]

5. Nottingham Park Estate Bill [Lords]

6. Medway Tunnel Bill [Lords]

7. Vale of Glamorgan (Barry Harbour) Bill [Lords]

8. Greater Manchester (Light Rapid Transit System) (No. 3) Bill [Lords] -- [The Chairman of Ways and Means.]

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Paul Dean) : I should announce to the House that Mr. Speaker has not selected the amendments.

8.11 pm

Mr. Michael Stern (Bristol, North-West) : On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I rise to seek your protection so far as it is possible for ordinary Back-Benchers to do so, whether they support or oppose the Government. Today will not be the first occasion in recent months when private business, which affects some citizens but not others, has been extended beyond 10 o'clock. It means that those of us who are keen to support the Government in the Lobby on Government business find that the hours of the House are extended by means of a motion, in this case slipped through on Friday with almost no notice. Does the Chair have powers to help us avoid extending the hours of the House even longer than they are already for public business? This morning we sat until 2.17 am, and clearly tonight we shall sit almost as long, if not longer. It is because the hours for private business are being extended. Can we avoid that in the future?

Mr. Deputy Speaker : I can make two points in answer to the hon. Gentleman. First, the three hours was agreed by the House on Friday. The motion was on the Order Paper and, because business finished early, it could have been debated before 2.30 pm, had the hon. Gentleman wished to do so. Secondly, if he is dissatisfied with the procedure, and I understand his point, his remedy is to put the matter to the Select Committee on Procedure.

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8.13 pm

Sir Peter Emery (Honiton) : I hope not to detain the House long. One should congratulate the Chairman of Ways and Means on tabling this motion. This is not an easy matter and it needs to be put in proper perspective.

Tonight we are dealing not with a carry-over motion but a resurrection motion. At the end of the previous Session these Bills were lost and consigned to the ash can. Tonight we seek to bring them back to life. The motion is unusual and retrospective, so it must be treated with considerable care.

We should understand the principle behind what is essentially private business. Private legislation enshrines the principle, surely as old as Parliament itself, that an individual, a corporation or a specific body should be able to petition Parliament and the petition should be properly considered. I do not want to go into the reasons behind what happened in the past Session, but no reasonable man on the 28 bus or, perhaps more appropriate to the motion, the light rapid transit system could say that the Bills introduced by local authorities and private companies in the past Session received their reasonable expectation of full discussion and fair treatment to bring them to the statute book. Indeed, the blocking treatment that they received had nothing whatever to do with their merits. The merits of the individual Bills were never considered.

The tactics used, although in order, could not have brought credit to the House. In one instance hon. Members set parliamentary records by forcing votes on the trot for over two and a half hours on purely technical Lords amendments to the International Westminster Bank Bill. Such tactics could be said to bring Parliament into disrepute. At the end of the Session only one Bill had succeeded in obtaining Royal Assent. No one can suggest that that is acceptable or that the Bills received anything like fair treatment. This motion tries to ensure that the past can be corrected, so that these Bills are given a second chance.

That is particularly important when one considers that petitioners have gone to considerable expense in some circumstances to bring their private Bills to Parliament. I shall not mention names. The cost of some was only £10,000 or £20,000, but I know of one instance where the costs rose to over £150,000 and another to over £375,000. It is wrong that people should be put to the same cost all over again to bring their Bills back before Parliament. This resurrection motion has been brought about by a specific and unusual instance which I hope will never recur.

I strongly believe that this must not become a precedent. Members of Parliament have a right, through proper debate and consideration, to defeat Bills and to know that at the end of a Session the Bills may be defeated and dead--

Mr. Jeremy Hanley (Richmond and Barnes) : On their merits.

Sir Peter Emery : --particularly on their merits. If a Bill falls on its merits in the future, this should not be a precedent to resurrect it. This special motion sets out to correct a problem which the House should correct.

Mr. Hughes : I anticipate that the hon. Gentleman is about to finish. Will he make it clear that, if the motion is passed, each Bill will be resumed at the beginning of this Session at exactly the same stage at which it was previously

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buried? That is important because the Bills have reached different stages and hon. Members need to know that nothing has been changed and that the Bills have not advanced without debate.

Sir Peter Emery : The hon. Gentleman is right. It is quite clear from the motion that the Bills are returned to the state they were in last Session. It is as though we were still in last Session. It is a credit to the House to be able to show that when things go wrong we can put them right in the most sensible way. I congratulate the Government and the Chairman of Ways and Means on setting out to do that.

8.19 pm

Mr. A. E. P. Duffy (Sheffield, Attercliffe) : I am grateful for the resurrection of the South Yorkshire Light Rail Transit Bill. A great deal was at stake in Sheffield and, even at this hour and with the risk of trying the patience of hon. Members, I should like to put on record the anxieties that were quite unnecessarily stirred in Sheffield because of the abuse of the private Bill procedure. A year ago Sheffield was empowered to proceed with a line to run from my constituency to the northern part of the city and through the centre. However, we required an additional line in connection with the redevelopment of the east end of Sheffield, especially of Meadowhall and adjoining areas. Powers to construct the second line in conjunction with part of the first line were urgently required to enable the South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive to provide up-to-date public transport for the world student games in Sheffield in 1991. The executive felt that the second Bill would be passed by the end of last Session and that it would be possible for the executive to proceed with the letting of contracts for work to start next month so that as much of the line as is required for the world student games could be completed and be in operation in 18 months. A substantial part of the second line would pass along or beside railways of the British Railways Board and part would make use of disused railway. On the promotion of the Bill, the PTE reached agreement with the British Railways Board and with all those who objected to the scheme. We were ready to proceed and were awaiting parliamentary sanction. The cost of the promotion to date is estimated at about £350,000. All that was put at risk by the difficulties experienced and so well described by the Chairman of the Procedure Committee, the hon. Member for Honiton (Sir P. Emery). I hope that what I have said will make hon. Members pause before they pursue their ends or betray their exasperation, which can be well known, understood and shared, but which must not be expressed at the expense of their colleagues and neighbours. [Laughter.] The hon. Member for Rother Valley (Mr. Barron) may laugh, but this is no laughing matter in Sheffield. That city badly needs regeneration and possibly all that regeneration depends upon the passage of the Bill. 8.22 pm

Mr. Barry Field (Isle of Wight) : I apologise for mentioning an hon. Member without following the convention of informing him that I would do so. I see that he is absent from the Chamber. The hon. Member for

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Denton and Reddish (Mr. Bennett) is reported in the Southern Evening Echo on Thursday 23 November to have said :

"The Isle of Wight Bill will go through the House fairly quickly." I am therefore surprised that the hon. Gentleman has put down to the motion an amendment which seeks to leave out the Isle of Wight Bill. However, I understand that none of the amendments has been selected.

I draw to the attention of the House the recommendations in the report on private Bill procedure which was published in the 1987-88 Session. Conclusion No. 22 says :

"The procedure for objecting orally to a Bill should be abolished."

We have allowed television cameras to cover our proceedings and are accountable for all our words and actions in printed form. It is quite wrong that hon. Members are able to object surreptitiously to Bills which represent thousands if not millions of pounds worth of investment by various communities and local authorities. Hon. Members can object from behind a hand or from behind an Order Paper and there is no record of who has objected. People in the Press Gallery are not able to identify objectors and a geat deal of injustice occurs. I have received letters from organisations maligning me, and a national newspaper carried a defamatory article over which, regrettably, I have had to start legal proceedings.

Whatever else emerges from this unfortunate state of affairs, I hope that we will reform that part of the procedure if no other because we do ourselves no service by objecting in such a way. When I objected to Bills after my Bill had been lost on 14 November, I stood in my place so that there could be no doubt about the courage of my convictions and actions. As my hon. Friend the Member for Honiton (Sir P. Emery) has said, I hope that when the Bills are resurrected they will be debated in the normal way.

Mr. Simon Hughes : On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Does the Leader of the House propose to intervene? There are issues about the Procedure Committee's recommendations which are his responsibility and it would be of assistance to hon. Members if they knew whether the Leader of the House intends to speak.

The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Sir Geoffrey Howe) : I was hoping to catch your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, simply to reaffirm what I have told the House already about the way in which we are addressing the recommendations of the Joint Committee. I am not anxious to stand in the way of the speedy consideration of the motion before the House, and I was judging the moment for brief intervention. I am here for a modest purpose. 8.26 pm

Mr. Harry Barnes (Derbyshire, North-East) : The House was clogged with business at the end of the last Session, not just because of activity in connection with private Bills but because of the overloading by Government. That led to the Leader of the House having to come here time and again to introduce timetable motions on the Football Spectators Bill, the Companies Bill and the Children Bill. That meant that there was not the time that there would otherwise have been for private

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Bills to be debated and the possibility, following Divisions, for Bills to be carried over. That would have been better than the omnibus provision that is before us.

Some of us object to the abuse of the private Bill procedure because we feel that many such Bills could be dealt with by way of planning agreement provisions. That would enable local bodies making representations in connection with Bills to be represented at local inquiries. That would be easier than coming to the House to face what seems to them a highly judicial procedure. In some cases the Government could take over measures and produce them as public Bills. The North Killingholme Cargo Terminal Bill has caused great consternation and many problems and is exactly in that category because it clearly had the Government's unofficial backing. We seem to be resurrecting Bills by some procedural sleight of hand and while it might be legitimate, it is procedurally uncomfortable. We are debating a Lazarus resolution in order to return from the dead measures for which time could not be found in a parliamentary Session. There are reasons for Parliament feeling that measures should go through within a Session unless there are some special arguments that need to be considered and for which a carry-over motion is necessary.

I am not sure how many times motions such as this have been resorted to in an attempt to resurrect whole wads of Bills. Reasonable, decent and necessary though many such measures are, they could be dealt with by other means : in a democracy, after all, we need to be as careful about the procedures in which we engage as we are about the substantive issues that we discuss.

There is a case for arguing that, when a Bill is objected to, the name of the hon. Member who objects should be recorded in Hansard. I should not mind that, although my name would feature sometimes. It would be particularly useful on Fridays, when wads of private Members' Bills are defeated by a lone voice, sometimes that of a Government Whip. Thus a Member of Parliament whose identity may be obscure is enabled to bury a group of measures, with no possibility of a motion such as this to bring them back from the dead--although it is sometimes possible for us to go behind the Chair and keep Bills alive in that way.

I find the development of procedures such as this uncomfortable, however. Since the last general election the Government have been ploughing piece after piece of radical legislation through the House without giving the other side a chance to consider it. Their aim has been to keep us going all the time, so that decent reflection and scrutiny are not possible.

8.31 pm

Dame Peggy Fenner (Medway) : I am delighted to have caught your eye, Mr. Speaker, as it enables me to speak for a few moments in support of the motion.

In 1981, when the constituency of Chatham lost its famous dockyard, it became clear that considerable input would be needed from both the Government who had closed it and the two energetic local authorities involved if the area was to be rejuvenated, and if lost job opportunities were to be replaced. To that end, a great regeneration has taken place in the Medway towns. The current redevelopment of the industrial part of the

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dockyard urgently necessitates improvements in our road structure so that the traffic thus generated does not make its way through the heart of the Medway towns.

In Rochester, we have a unique organisation called the Rochester Bridge trust. It was started some centuries ago by people in Kent, who contributed to a fund to provide a wooden crossing of the Medway. Since those days, thanks to a wise investment of the sum that remained, the trust has provided two beautiful modern bridges over the Medway. It was in fact the promoter of the Tunnel Bill, which suffered the same fate as the other private Bills that were objected to.

The Rochester Bridge trust--with the local authority and, I believe, with the support of the Department of Transport--is to pay for a new, modern Medway crossing in the form of a tunnel beneath the Medway, which is intended to preserve the environment of those who live in the Medway towns.

8.33 pm

Mr. Simon Hughes (Southwark and Bermondsey) : I think that I can be as brief as other hon. Members who have spoken.

In any Session a London Member will discover several private Bills of direct or indirect interest to him. I must declare a constituency interest in the United Medical and Dental Schools Bill owing to its connection with Guy's hospital, but five more of these private Bills relate to London : the City of London (Spitalfields Market) Bill, the City of London (Various Powers) Bill, the Redbridge London Borough Council Bill, the London Local Authorities Bill and--because of its general implications--the British Railways Bill.

Some of those Bills--including, certainly, the United Medical and Dental Schools Bill--are uncontroversial, and have never been objected to on their merits ; I believe that that also applies to the Medway Tunnel Bill, to which the hon. Member for Medway (Dame P. Fenner) referred. Clearly the passage of such Bills should not have been thwarted. Moreover, if another of the Bills in the list, the Nottingham Park Estate Bill, does not proceed to a conclusion this year it will be too late, because it relates to the implementation of the poll tax legislation next April, and the cost to its promoters has already been such that they will not be able to start again. As the House knows, the trouble arises from two historical consequences of the private Bill procedure. First, private Bills have been used increasingly in place of the normal planning process. My colleagues and I have traditionally objected to that on principle, as it often constitutes an unsatisfactory way of bypassing those normal and appropriate procedures. Secondly, as the Chairman of the Procedure Committee knows, the procedures governing private business have needed reforming for some time, which is why I intervened on a point of order to ask whether the Leader of the House intended to say a few words on behalf of the Government.

I do not believe that we can leave tonight's debate feeling happy about the motion unless we know that urgent attention will be given to the reform of those procedures. I look forward to hearing from the Leader of the House that time will be found and the appropriate arrangements made by the Government, the Chairman of

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Ways and Means and officers of all parties in the House to facilitate a necessary and long-delayed debate. We need to discuss the proper consideration given to the matter by the Procedure Committee, and the recommendations that it has made following much thought and the taking of much evidence.

We have not done ourselves a service in our handling of private business ; nor, often, have we done a service to the promoters of private legislation, who have quite properly used a method whereby they believed that they could ensure the passage of their legislation, in the expectation that that legislation would be debated and put to a vote on its merits. It is perfectly proper for a private Bill to fall on its merits ; it is also proper for a non-private Bill to fall because of procedural devices ; but it is not at all proper for a private Bill to fall because of procedural wrangling intended to block another private Bill in which the relevant Members of Parliament have no interest.

I anticipate that tonight's debate will result in--as it were--a restoration of the status quo, and that an unusual, perhaps unprecedented, revival motion will in a sense return us to the last Session of Parliament. I hope that that will facilitate the normal passage of these Bills. If they are objected to individually, so be it, but I hope that we can at last get round to reforming our still antiquated private business procedures. By this time next year, perhaps a long-delayed reform will have occurred.

8.37 pm

Mr. Martin M. Brandon-Bravo (Nottingham, South) : I, too, welcome the measure, although, like many of my colleagues, I regret the circumstances that have made it necessary. The Nottingham Park Estate Bill affects no one outside my constituency ; indeed, it affects only those living within that estate, and I hope that my constituents will be allowed its passage. As the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) pointed out, unless that passage is completed within the next few months the Bill will fall, which would be a tragedy for the people living in the estate.

8.38 pm

Mr. John P. Smith (Vale of Glamorgan) : I have no wish to detain the House unnecessarily, nor have I any objection to the revival motion. I would like, however, to draw attention to one of the Bills involved, the Vale of Glamorgan (Barry Harbour) Bill. Let me declare an interest immediately : I am a member of the borough council, and have been for some 10 years. Although the council promoted the Bill, however, I must make it clear that I speak as the Member of Parliament for the area. I have lodged an objection to the Bill, and I intend to put on record the reasons for my objection.

This is one of three Bills that have been presented to the House since 1956 in an attempt to develop the old harbour in the beautiful town of Barry. It seeks two powers : first, to reclaim substantial amounts of land in the old harbour ; and, secondly, to implement engineering works so that lock gates can be installed. The intention is to develop housing and leisure facilities in the area. I am afraid that such a development may endanger the far more important and significant development of the docklands in the town that are owned by Associated British Ports. There are 100 acres of derelict land crying out to be developed round the No. 1 dock, which would make an ideal marina. For the

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life of me, I cannot envisage any town needing two marinas when marinas have already been proposed at about 35 locations on the Welsh coast.

I therefore want an amendment to the Bill. I want the promoters to reduce the amount of land that they wish to reclaim by 30 per cent. They have already agreed in writing to do that. The second amendment would replace the lock gates with a half cill. There would be a salt water lake where water-based recreational activities could take place. It would not compete directly with the No. 1 dock, which is the ideal and obvious site for a marina. It would not, therfore, jeopardise the much more important development in Barry.

Barry was built on coal, on tourism at the turn of the century and on manufacturing industry at the end of the second world war. In the early 1980s we lost 85 per cent. of our manufacturing jobs. Our tourism is somewhat outdated, although I was glad to hear that Esther Rantzen and the BBC have had to pay damages for insulting our town

Mr Deputy Speaker : Order. I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman. I understand his constituency interest, but he is straying from the revival motion.

Mr. Smith : It is important that the Bill should be revived and the debate continued on the Vale of Glamorgan (Barry Harbour) Bill so that we reach the right compromise and achieve the best development of the area. We must take advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to regenerate Barry. I have no objection, therefore, to the revival motion.

8.42 pm

Mr. Neil Thorne (Ilford, South) : On behalf of my hon. Friends the Members for Ilford, North (Mr. Bendall), for Wanstead and Woodford (Mr. Arbuthnot) and myself, Members of Parliament for the London borough of Redbridge, I support the motion. We believe that it would be entirely wrong if the expenditure by our constituents on promoting the Redbridge London Borough Council Bill were to be ignored without the case for the Bill being heard by the House.

The Bill was considered in Committee. The Committee's decision may or may not be what we might have wished, but its decision should be reported to the House so that it can decide whether to support the Committee. Therefore, we support the revival motion.

8.43 pm

Mr. Tim Devlin (Stockton, South) : I support the motion. As the Member for Stockton, South I have sat here on a number of occasions and listened with frustration to the River Tees Barrage and Crossing Bill having its progress delayed by shouts of "Object."

The Bill is crucial to the economic regeneration of Teesside. It has gained the approval of the Teesside development corporation, a number of Labour- controlled local authorities and other local bodies. The various obstacles that the Bill has encountered have led to considerable surprise and consternation. It would attract investment of hundreds of millions of pounds. It would open up unparalleled employment and investment opportunities on Teesside. It is extremely galling to the people of the north-east to find that the Bill has been lost without even a modicum of discussion of its merits.

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