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2.8 am

Mr. Timms: I have rarely felt such pride in the stamina and commitment of my hon. Friends. We have had a thorough discussion, although I am not sure that thoroughness has always been matched by illumination.

I am grateful to the hon. Member for West Dorset (Mr. Letwin) for reiterating his party's support for the changes, which might otherwise have been in some doubt, and for his kind remarks. I am also grateful to the hon. Member for Kingston and Surbiton (Mr. Davey) for his expert comments--he was able to shed important light on what had been said. I will certainly take up the concerns expressed by the hon. Member for West Dorset about the reconciliations.

As the debate has made clear, it has been said for the past three years that--for reasons I explained earlier--we need to take the vote on the account in March 2001. The procedure we adopted is entirely conventional; changes in Standing Orders are very common. I understand that the motion affects this year only, although it may well be necessary in future to change Standing Orders so that we can handle resource accounting and budgeting expeditiously.

Mr. Fallon: Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Timms: I will give way once more.

Mr. Fallon: The Minister has honestly and honourably conceded that the motion may apply only for this particular year. Where does it say that in the motion?

Mr. Timms: It is, of course, a matter for the occupant of the Chair if the question is one of order, but my advice is that the form of words that has been adopted is to have effect for this occasion only. However, as I say, a change in Standing Orders in future may be necessary to ensure that the House handles resource accounting and budgeting expeditiously. There was some discussion about when the Standing Orders were most recently printed. The Government are not consulted about when Standing Orders are printed; that is a matter for the House.

The change that we are considering has been referred to repeatedly in discussions of resource accounting and budgeting over the past three years. It was set out again, for example, in the Treasury memorandum of January 2000 to the parliamentary Committees dealing with

27 Feb 2001 : Column 876

resource accounting and budgeting. It is in the interests of the House that the motion be agreed. On that basis, I commend it to the House.

Question put and agreed to.



Motion made,

(1) the matter of the Budget Statement and its implications for Wales, being a matter relating exclusively to Wales, be referred to the Welsh Grand Committee for its consideration.
(2) the Welsh Grand Committee shall meet at the County Hall, Cwmbran, on Monday 12th March at half past Ten o'clock and between Two o'clock and Four o'clock to take questions under Standing Order No. 103 (Welsh Grand Committee (questions for oral answer)), and to consider the matter of the Budget Statement and its implications for Wales under Standing Order No. 107 (Welsh Grand Committee (matters relating exclusively to Wales)).-- [Mr. Pope.]

Hon. Members: Object.


Motion made,

Line 31, at end add--
'( ) The committee shall have power to appoint a sub-committee, which shall have power to send for persons, papers and records, to sit notwithstanding any adjournment of the House, and to report to the committee from time to time.--[Mr. Pope.]

Hon. Members: Object.


Order read for resuming adjourned debate on Question [31 January],

Hon. Members: Object.

27 Feb 2001 : Column 877


Order read for resuming adjourned debate on Question [23 January],

Hon. Members: Object.


Motion made,

Line 40, before the word 'European' insert the words 'Environmental Audit Committee or with the'.
Line 50, before the word 'European' insert the words 'Environmental Audit Committee or with the'.
Line 52, at the end insert the words:--
'(4A) notwithstanding paragraphs (2) and (4) above, where more than two committees or sub-committees appointed under this order meet concurrently in accordance with paragraph (4)(e) above, the quorum of each such committee or sub-committee shall be two.'--[Mr. Pope.]

Hon. Members: Object.


Motion made,

(1) this House approves the First Report from the Procedure Committee, Session 2000-01 (HC 47); and
(2) the Resolution of 5th June 1996 on the Language of Parliamentary Proceedings be amended accordingly by inserting, after the word 'Wales,', the words 'and at Westminster in respect of Select Committees'.--[Mr. Pope.]

Hon. Members: Object.

27 Feb 2001 : Column 878

Rail Commuters (Castle Point)

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.--[Mr. Pope.]

2.12 am

Mrs. Christine Butler (Castle Point): I feel that we have come on a long, wearisome and tedious journey tonight. I take the unusual step of apologising to my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State, who has borne it out so well. Although I know that he has visited some of the subject matter of the debate previously this year, I have about 4,500 daily reasons to be here. Those are my travelling constituents, the poor commuters who have to make these journeys daily on the train to get to work and back. My focus will be on the peak hours when commuters have to travel.

Castle Point has one of the highest out-commuting rates that I know of. Practically two thirds of its work force leave the borough daily to go to work. Some of them go just over the border to Basildon or Southend, some go a little further to Chelmsford, some go to parts of north and east London. Many of them work in the City. Approximately 3,000--I am going on bald figures--take the whole journey to Fenchurch Street and back on the train.

Because we have such a large commuting outflow, we are not just engaged with railways. If we look at the patterns, we will see that roads, too, figure largely. I know that the Under-Secretary of State went to Castle Point briefly last year and saw for himself some of the problems of congestion there. In my constituency, we have some traffic hot spots of which he is aware and which I hope he will revisit soon. One of them is the Sadler's Farm roundabout system, which I believe should become a grade-separated junction, especially in view of its strategic location in the south-east Essex economy and in the overall Essex economy.

In my maiden speech, I dealt with another hot spot--Canvey way. I distinctly remember describing in that speech the slowly moving convoys of traffic coming on to and leaving the island in the morning. I do not think that I have left that subject for very long at any time in this Parliament.

Access to Canvey island is perhaps an even more contentious and important issue. I was delighted when Castle Point was included in the Thames Gateway regeneration project, making it a regeneration area. As such, last summer, its name shone out of a Government document stating that the Government wished to examine the potential for improved access to Canvey island.

All that is very relevant. Traditionally, we have been a low-employment area. I am sure that hon. Members will agree that our long-term objective must be to ensure the creation of more quality jobs within the borough to help to mitigate the effects of excessive out-commuting, which has become so necessary in the post-war period as the community of Castle Point has built up.

It is therefore essential that the journeys that people have to make by train should be comfortable, pleasant and reliable. Sadly, that has not been the case. Traditionally--

27 Feb 2001 : Column 879

even in the good old days of British Rail--the line between Southend and Fenchurch Street has been known as the misery line.

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