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23 Oct 2002 : Column 358—continued

Mr. Wareing: I am grateful for my hon. Friend's intervention, but I was referring to the Merseyside TUC and all the trade unions mentioned in the Liverpool Echo article, which showed that the information given to the House on the Bill's Second Reading was misleading.

The promoters have asked us to consider the Bill during the next Session of Parliament without another Second Reading. If we oppose the motion this evening, they will still have the right to petition for a private Bill during the next Session of Parliament. So what are they afraid of? Many arguments have been put forward in the press and elsewhere since the last Second Reading.

Dr. Pugh: The hon. Gentleman began his speech by saying that the proponents of the Bill had delayed it and

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wasted time. He now appears to be recommending that the people who support the Bill put up with another delay by going away today and coming back another time. What is he saying? Is he in favour of delaying the Bill or not?

Mr. Wareing: I am in favour of delaying the Bill now for a very simple reason: I believe that enough time has been taken up in considering the matter since the election. The House will have important issues to deal with during the next Session of Parliament. Giving the Bill more time in the next Session will preclude debate on other important issues. That is bound to happen. There is no reason why this private Bill should be given a preference that is not given to a public Bill. It is not that important, simply because the Mersey tunnels are not in deficit. They are in profit at the moment, and are likely to be for some considerable time. I acknowledge the possibility that things might change by 2050, but I suggest that neither my hon. Friend the Member for Knowsley, North and Sefton, East (Mr. Howarth) nor I will be in this House by then, although we might be in the other place—and I do not mean the other place in the Houses of Parliament.

It is ludicrous that we are being asked to consider the Bill yet again on a preferential basis. Let the Bill's promoters consider what has been said over the past months and, if they want, they can come back with another private Bill. I believe that around 22 November, people will be allowed to petition for a private Bill. Let them do so. I do not think that the people of Merseyside will be put out by that because, frankly, all the correspondence that I have had suggests that I should oppose tonight's motion to allow the Bill to make further progress on a preferential basis.

The current Session, which will finish on 6 November, began just after the general election in June 2001, so there has been adequate time for discussion of, and consultation about, the proposed legislation. After such a long Session, there is no reason why the Bill's promoters should have the privilege of taking the measure into Committee in the next Session without depositing another Bill. I urge them not to introduce another Bill, however, as the present Bill has already cost the taxpayers of Merseyside enough, and I do not believe that they think it is useful expenditure. Such expenditure is certainly not urgent; that is why the motion should be opposed.

After all, under XFuture Business" in the Order Paper, we can see streams of private Members' Bills, many of which deal with serious issues, but they fall at Prorogation. There is no reason whatever—

Madam Deputy Speaker: Order. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will not continue down that route. He is straying rather wide of the motion under discussion.

Mr. Wareing: I accept your guidance, Madam Deputy Speaker, but the House should consider what will be displaced if we allow the motion to proceed and the Bill is carried over to the next Session. As you know, Madam Deputy Speaker, we have little enough time to discuss many things, such as private Members' Bills or the

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reports of Select Committees, so why on earth should this ludicrous Bill, which does not have support in Merseyside, let alone the rest of the country, go ahead of all those other matters?

Early-day motions go undebated. My hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, North (Mr. Allen) has tabled one on the parliamentary approval—

Madam Deputy Speaker: Order. Again, may I bring the hon. Gentleman to order and remind him to confine his remarks to the motion before the House?

Mr. Wareing: I take your guidance again, Madam Deputy Speaker. However, I was explaining what would be precluded by allowing this private Bill to be carried over into the next Session. It would displace much more serious measures, which may be of national relevance.

Dr. Pugh: Earlier in the hon. Gentleman's speech, he recommended that if the proponents of the Bill are beaten today, they should return with another measure in the future. I am at a loss to understand how, if they followed his good advice, they would not displace even more measures than if they had carried on with the present Bill.

Mr. Wareing: I have faith in the good sense of hon. Members. When the House has considered the arguments and realised that many misleading comments were made on Second Reading, I am confident that if another private Bill were introduced, we would have the sense to defeat it on Second Reading. We should not have to set up a Committee of four. We should not have to discuss the measure on Report. There would not be a Third Reading debate. If we accept the motion, however, the next stage of the Bill will take place in the next Session and it will be the Committee stage. The Committee will then report to the House. I assure hon. Members that the Report stage will not be made easy for the promoters of the Bill because a considerable number of amendments will be moved. The chances are that, on Third Reading, the Bill will be very different from what the promoters want.

Mrs. Dunwoody: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for making that point. In other words, there is no reason why the Bill should not be allowed to continue, because it can be amended at any stage. On Third Reading, the Bill may be totally different, and agreeing to the motion tonight would not change that.

Mr. Wareing: I am grateful for that comment from my hon. Friend, who is well respected in the House, but I am trying to save time. We shall have enough important work to do. We do not know what the Queen's Speech will contain, but we can guarantee that it will contain a considerable amount of legislation. That will be far more important for my constituents, and people generally, than this miserable Bill, which is so unpopular that the people of Merseyside expect their representatives to oppose it. Only a minority would concede the case for pursuing the Bill through the next Session. I hope that it will receive even greater opposition than on Second Reading, so that we may prevent this measure from wasting our time further in the next Session.

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9.6 pm

Mr. Christopher Chope (Christchurch): It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Wareing), who told us on Second Reading that he was a pedestrian in 1934 when the Queensway tunnel was opened and he walked right through it. He has considerable knowledge of the issue.

I am concerned that the statement by the promoters in support of the motion to carry over is inaccurate, as I pointed out in my intervention in the speech by the hon. Member for Crosby (Mrs. Curtis-Thomas). Paragraph 12 states:

It does not. It does not have the support of the Conservatives on Merseytravel and, on 25 July at the Merseytravel PTA meeting, Jacquie McKelvie spoke and voted against the proposal. The promoters might think that that is an irrelevance, but I suggest that that is indicative of a somewhat casual approach to accuracy, which has been apparent from several of the speeches that we have heard tonight. The hon. Lady said that we could sort that problem out after tonight's debate, but that will be a bit late. The promoters have made that statement and expect us to vote tonight on the basis of its accuracy. It is certainly inaccurate in respect of paragraph 12.

The hon. Member for Liverpool, West Derby made the point that a carry-over is not routine, but a privilege. I submit that special circumstances are needed to justify a carry-over.

Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: I understand that no vote was held at the meeting on 25 July, so while the hon Gentleman's colleague may have dissented, there was no formal procedure by which that dissent could have been recorded.

Mr. Chope: Notwithstanding what the hon. Lady says, I am sure that if the councillor in question dissented, it is inaccurate to suggest that she supports the Bill. The fact that no formal vote was held does not mean that everyone supported it, especially as one councillor spoke against it. I am not sure that the hon. Lady's intervention alters the principle.

Mr. Ben Chapman: Given the suggestion that the Bill passed its Second Reading because of misinformation about the support of the unions and the number of hon. Members who support it, it is especially important that we are provided with accurate information. Is the hon. Gentleman disturbed that a letter from the chairman states that it has all-party support when—however it is expressed—it patently has not?

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