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23 Oct 2002 : Column 333continued
That on the fifth sitting day in the next session the bill shall be presented to the House by deposit in the Private Bill Office;
That a declaration signed by the agent shall be annexed to the bill, stating that it is the same in every respect as the bill presented in this House in the present session;
That on the next sitting day following presentation, the Clerk in the Private Bill Office shall lay the bill on the Table of the House;
That in the next session the bill shall be deemed to have passed through every stage through which it has passed in the present session, and shall be recorded in the Journal of the House as having passed those stages;
That no further fees shall be charged to such stages;
That all petitions relating to the bill which stand referred to the committee on the bill, shall stand referred to the committee on the bill in the next session;
That no petitioners shall be heard before the committee unless their petition has been presented within the time provided for petitioning or has been deposited pursuant to Private Business Standing Order 126(b);
That, in relation to the bill, Private Business Standing Order 127 shall have effect as if the words Xunder Standing Order 126 (Reference to committee of petitions against bill)" were omitted.[The First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means.]
The Bill is promoted by the Merseyside Passenger Transport Authority, which together with its passenger transport executive is known as Merseytravel. The PTA comprises councillors from the five local authorities on Merseyside: Knowsley, Liverpool city, Sefton
Mr. Peter Pike (Burnley): On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The sound system does not seem to be workingnone of us at this end can hear a word my hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mrs. Curtis-Thomas) is saying.
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Alan Haselhurst): I will ask for that to be investigated. I could hear the hon. Lady perfectly well, but perhaps that could be examined. May I appeal to the hon. Lady to raise her voice in the meantime?
Mr. Robert N. Wareing (Liverpool, West Derby): On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. It is a matter of clarification. If the motion were passed this evening, would there be no further Second Reading of the Bill in the next Session of Parliament?
Mrs. Gwyneth Dunwoody (Crewe and Nantwich): Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is it not clear that this is part of a perfectly proper procedure? There has been a very long debate about the Bill, which has implications for a lot of local authorities. We are not doing anything revolutionary. Is this not the same procedure as normally happens under carry-over procedure?
Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: The passenger transport authority comprises councillors from the five local authorities on Merseyside: Knowsley, Liverpool city, Sefton, my own authority, St. Helens and Wirral. All those authorities support the Bill, as does Halton borough council, which is responsible for the Runcorn crossing of the Mersey.
The promoters have placed a statement in support of the motion in the Vote Office. As we are debating a procedural motion, this is not the occasion on which to discuss the Bill in detail. However, it may be helpful to remind hon. Members about the purpose of the Bill and its progress through the House.
The Bill was introduced in January and received its Second Reading on 9 July, after which it was committed to an Opposed Bill Committee. That Committee was due to consider the Bill earlier this month, but it had to be cancelled because one of the petitioners could not attend, unfortunately.
The Bill would amend the County of Merseyside Act 1980. First, it would replace the present tunnels' toll revision procedure, which is complex, lengthy, costly and always involves a public inquiry, with an index-linking mechanism, which would end the need for
Stephen Hesford (Wirral, West): My hon. Friend is doing her best to put her case before the House, but does she accept that, in fact, the current figures do not show a deficit? The toll produces a break-even state of affairs and has done so for some years.
Stephen Hesford: On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I adhere to the ruling that the motion is narrow, but surely, if an hon. Member raises a matterthe hon. Lady raised the substantive issue of the toll deficitother hon. Members can respond.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: I do not wish to hear a detailed debate about the substance of the Bill. If the motion is carried and there are further debates on the Bill, there will be opportunities for the House to consider detail. I am allowing the hon. Lady, in support of the motion that she is moving, to make a summation of the general purport of the motion to advance the Bill, but I shall not expect her to dilate too much on that either.
The Bill would allow any surplus income to be used for local public transport services on Merseyside. It would remove the requirement for tolls to be reduced when the tunnel debts have been repaid. Lastly, it would permit Merseytravel to carry out noise insulation work on the properties near the tunnel approach roads on the Wirral.
Mrs. Dunwoody: It is important to make it clear that we are not debating the Bill's content, the charges, or the rights and wrongs of who does and does not support it; we are talking about whether it should be allowed to proceed, which would give hon. Members of all political persuasions the opportunity to comment on many of those matters later. Attempts to stop the right to discuss that procedure would be unhelpful.
Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: I thank my hon. Friend for that significant contribution. She is a distinguished hon. Member, and she has adequately and generously identified the reason why we are here this evening, which is to discuss not the Bill's merits, but a procedural motion.
The House has already committed the Bill to an Opposed Bill Committee, and the motion will allow proper scrutiny of the Bill to take place in that Committee. As a precursor to that scrutiny, the Government have reported on the Bill and made it clear that they have no objection to its key provisions. Promoters and petitioners are entitled to expect Parliament to give careful and reasoned consideration to private Bills on their merits and, by convention, the