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It is always a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for North Shropshire (Mr. Paterson). If he will forgive me for saying so, his speech does not improve with repetition. He made it several times over the months in Committee. I know that he does not like the charges, but I wish that he would try to understand them. No one will force Telford or any other authority to implement these charges. The legislation gives them the right to do so. The hon. Gentleman avoided speaking to the new clause, although I do not want to go too far down that road in case I am accused of doing your job, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and I could not possibly aspire to that.
I had the measure of the hon. Gentleman fairly early on in the Committee. His greatest wish is that Eddie Stobart will name a lorry after him. Time after time, he expressed his view that road hauliers are wonderful.
The hon. Member for North Shropshire made the same speech time and again in Committee, completely misunderstanding the purpose of the legislation. He trots out the old figures about so much raised from motorists and so little spent on roads. We have done that issue to death, and none of it has gone in. The hon. Gentleman gives the impression that every morning he goes down to his local road hauliers, has a load of pre-mixed concrete injected in one ear, is given a brief and turned loose on the rest of us. I wish that he would listen occasionally and consider the legislation--even the new clause that his own party is proposing.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: The amendments and new clauses before us have been selected by Madam Speaker. The hon. Member for West Bromwich, East (Mr. Snape) is speaking within the terms of the new clause, and I am happy to listen to him.
Mr. Snape: I suspect that, in his heart of hearts, the hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Bercow) is happy to listen to me as well. At least I promise him the odd new phrase, which, it appears, is more than the hon. Member for North Shropshire can deliver.
A much more interesting speech was made by the hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Foster), who--again, not for the first time--makes me wish that he would renounce the false doctrines of the Liberal Democrats and, as they used to say, come home to Labour. His was a speech that I would be proud to have made, had I the ability to be as lucid and well informed.
Mr. Snape: We are all old Labour--apart from my hon. Friend, who may have moved on a bit. Anyway, given his speech, the hon. Member for Bath would have fitted quite well in the old Labour party alongside me. He correctly drew attention to the weaknesses in the new clause, and the thinking behind the Government's original proposal to introduce workplace charges, despite their obvious unpopularity.
Mr. Paterson: The hon. Gentleman and I enjoyed our exchanges in Committee, when he rejoiced in the nickname "Bertie Bus". He was always cheerful, and always gave a roly-poly response. I heard that response many times. This is the hon. Gentleman's last chance to prove that the Government's proposal will not make businesses less competitive in areas such as Shropshire. We are always given the roly-poly response; we are never presented with any specific arguments.
Mr. Snape: I do respond to the hon. Gentleman, but unfortunately he does not listen, or else he does not understand. I realise that he had the doubtful benefit of going to one of those posh schools, but he does not appear to be capable of listening. I am concerned about that, but I will try again.
Mr. Snape: I have just presented it. It is necessary for local authorities to seek these powers. The Bill, and the new clause to which we should be addressing our remarks--I, at least, am doing so--mean that if local authorities such as those mentioned by the hon. Gentleman wish to implement the legislation, they are free to do so. If they do not, there is no element of compulsion. Do I take the hon. Gentleman with me thus far?
Mr. Paterson: Yes. But if, as is feared, central Government do not provide the funds for transport schemes, authorities will be forced to introduce charges that are quite inappropriate for rural areas.
I will say this for the last time. The purpose of the Bill and the new clause is to give powers to local authorities, if they desire to use them. The hon. Gentleman keeps going off on that barmy tangent of his, saying that a Labour Government will starve authorities of capital and they will have to use those powers. There is not a shred of evidence for that; as far as we can see, it is just assertion. Indeed, the hon. Gentleman was long on assertion and pretty short on facts for the eight weeks--or 80 weeks, or however long it was--of the Committee stage.
Mr. Syms: Let me reinforce the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for North Shropshire (Mr. Paterson). This year, the Government gave a borrowing figure of some £754 million in relation to grant to local authorities, but only about £13 million of that consisted of grant. There is a danger that the Government will say to local authorities, "You can raise money; it is up to you whether you do it, but we are not giving you anything." That will force local authorities to make decisions, whether they want to or not.
Mr. Bercow: The hon. Gentleman referred disparagingly to Radley, the school attended by my hon. Friend the Member for North Shropshire (Mr. Paterson). Does he honestly believe that it would be acceptable for workplace charges to be imposed on teachers parking their cars--as they would have--at my former state comprehensive school, Finchley Manorhill, in the Finchley and Golders Green constituency? It would be a monstrous imposition on people of modest means. Does the hon. Gentleman not see that?
I meant no disrespect to the school of the hon. Member for North Shropshire. I am sure that it is a good school, and I am sure that somewhere behind that bluff veneer is quite a bright chap, but he concealed that very well for the eight or nine weeks of the Committee stage, which worries me.
Conservative Members continue to give hypothetical instances, which disguise their total opposition to the principle of the charges. I understand that--it is a perfectly tenable view--but I wish they would not try to obscure their view behind the smokescreen so elegantly woven by the hon. Member for Buckingham, and the one not so elegantly woven by the hon. Member for North Shropshire.