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23 Oct 2002 : Column 371continued
Mr. Miller: It would put the minority at a great disadvantage. My 70,000 constituents also have rights, and I appeal to the House to protect those rights.
Mr. Colin Pickthall (West Lancashire): Does my hon. Friend accept that West Lancashire's citizens are in precisely the same position? Although I concede that not
Mr. Miller: But minorities are not considered in the context of the Bill. If we add all the minorities together, it surely becomes clear that the argument that the great Merseyside interests should take precedence over those of the rest of the people in the greater Merseyside area is grossly unfair.
Mr. Don Foster: My local authority, Bath and North East Somerset council, recently introduced a highly controversial priority access point that has restricted the movement of vehicles through certain parts of the city. No doubt many of the hon. Gentleman's constituents visit Bath from time to time. Does he believe that they should have been consulted about that decision?
Mr. Miller: I visited Bath the other day
Madam Deputy Speaker: Order. Once again we are in danger of wandering wide of the scope of the debate.
Mr. Miller: I appreciate that, Madam Deputy Speaker, and I was going to confine myself to a quip about Bath. Your interventions, however, underline the concern felt by my constituents. We have no opportunity to set out, in a structured way, arguments relating to the Bill, as we would if the Bill were re-presented in the normal way, oras my hon. Friend the Member for Wirral, West (Stephen Hesford) suggestedif a revival motion were introduced in the new session.
Stephen Hesford: Or a resurrection motion.
Mr. Miller: I think Xrevival motion" is the appropriate term. I understand that that would, by definition, incorporate stages that are missing as a result of the motion.
I am open to suggestions about solutions to the problems of the passenger transport authority, but I cannot become involved in discussion of that tonight. I strongly urge the House to reconsider its position, and support those of us who oppose the motion.
Mr. George Howarth: Between Second Reading and now, has my hon. Friend made any approach to the passenger transport authority to discuss the matters that he has raised?
Mr. Miller: That is interesting because a letter was sent to hon. Members. I accept that my office occasionally makes an error, and so do I, but to the best of my knowledge the letter of 17 October that was sent to all hon. Members was not sent to my office. That letter sets out some important considerations in respect of tonight's proceedings.
Mr. Howarth: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving way, but that was not the question that I asked him. Has he personally made any efforts to contact Merseytravel to raise these concerns?
Mr. Miller: Not since the Bill received its Second Reading as I was unaware of tonight's motion,
Mrs. Dunwoody: If my hon. Friend will allow me, I shall put the same question to him as I put to the hon. Member for Eddisbury (Mr. O'Brien). Is he likely to suggest to his constituents that they fund some of the expense of running the Mersey tunnel?
Mr. Miller: My hon. Friend, who is also a dear friend, knows full well that my constituents do fund it. They contribute huge sums of money. We heard from the passenger transport authority that non-Merseysiders put in 97 per cent. of the income. I suspect that a lot of that comes from my constituents who are locked into proceedings covered by the tonight's order in which the phrase Xthey think fit" refers entirely to one part of the equation. The other part refers to people who pay tolls on a regular basis and who must also be considered.
Stephen Hesford: Can I run down a hare that has been constantly set running tonight? My hon. Friend the Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody) repeatedly asks my hon. Friend the Member for Ellesmere Port and Neston (Mr. Miller) and others to put it to their constituents that they should pay the deficit. There is no deficit. Does my hon. Friend
Madam Deputy Speaker: Order. I repeat that we are now getting into the detail of the Bill rather than the motion on the Order Paper.
Mr. Miller: That is why I shall not answer my hon. Friend's question, which underlines my point about the unfairness of the procedure that we are considering whereby my constituents, among others, will not have the right to have their point of view aired in this House on such a controversial matter[Interruption.] The hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Foster) says from a sedentary position that I am doing it, but that could not be the case as I would certainly be ruled out of order.
My second principal reason for opposing the motion relates to changing circumstances. As has already been said, this is the second attempt at a Mersey Tunnels Bill. Changing circumstances were referred to in the Second Reading debate, but they have not been developed fully and the Bill does not cover their full financial implications. My hon. Friend the Member for Crewe and Nantwich would no doubt jump up and say that that could be dealt with by amendment. The changing circumstances are referred to in the statement presented by the passenger transport authority. I believe that those changing circumstances, together with the interests of my constituents, cannot be met by amendments to the Bill. I suspect that that would be extremely difficult to achieve. Reference is made to the additional burden that will fall on the authority, stemming from changing fire safety regulations after some tragic tunnel incidents throughout Europe. These substantial changes have altered the way in which the House should view the matter and, on that basis, we need to find an alternate mechanism.
My constituents fully recognise that, one way or another, they will contribute to the costs of the tunnel, and that is right. But the mechanism in the Bill that we are being asked to carry over is wrong and excludes the rights of my constituents.
I would question some of the technical procedures set out in the motionfor example, that
Mr. George Howarth: On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Could you again confirm, first, that if the Bill proceeds tonight, it is amendable, and secondly, that the procedures for amending the Bill are those that have been used in the past and will be perfectly open to my hon. Friend and others to use?
Madam Deputy Speaker: I am certainly prepared to confirm that that is absolutely right.
Mr. Miller: I do not doubt that point.
Mr. Howarth: Can I take it then that my hon. Friend feels so inadequate that he would not feel capable of using the procedures of the House to table suitable amendments?
Mr. Miller: My hon. Friend's sarcasm does not do him any justice; he usually makes far more intelligent comments than that. I have said that the provision would preclude a contribution at Second Reading and because of the costs that
Madam Deputy Speaker: Order. The hon. Gentleman is repeating some of the arguments that he has already made. Is he able to move on with regard to the motion?
Mr. Miller: My hon. Friend the Member for Wirral, South (Mr. Chapman) referred to the costs involved. Because of those costs, there is a need for sensible negotiations on whether a resolution can be found. That is not possible within the time available to us.
My arguments in summary[Interruption.] My arguments in summary are that my constituents' rights are being abused by the motion.
John Robertson (Glasgow, Anniesland): Aww!
Mr. Miller: I believe that we are here to represent our constituents and I hope that the House will give my constituents their rights when dealing with the matter. My second point concerns the changing circumstances and my third is that, as a result of the need for a sensible way forward, it would be inappropriate to squeeze the time for any potential negotiations on the content of the Bill into the tight time between now and the fifth sitting day.
The House divided: Ayes 164, Noes 64.
Ainsworth, Bob (Cov'try NE)
Armstrong, rh Ms Hilary
Beckett, rh Margaret
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)
Brake, Tom (Carshalton)
Brown, Russell (Dumfries)
Cable, Dr. Vincent
Calton, Mrs Patsy
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)
Campbell, rh Menzies (NE Fife)
Cawsey, Ian (Brigg)
Clark, hon. Dr. Lynda (Edinburgh Pentlands)
Coffey, Ms Ann
Cook, rh Robin (Livingston)
Cunningham, Jim (Coventry S)
Curtis-Thomas, Mrs Claire
Dobbin, Jim (Heywood)
Dobson, rh Frank
Donohoe, Brian H.
Dowd, Jim (Lewisham W)
Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth
Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)
Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)
Foster, Don (Bath)
Foster, Michael (Worcester)
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings & Rye)
George, Andrew (St. Ives)
Green, Matthew (Ludlow)
Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Hain, rh Peter
Hamilton, David (Midlothian)
Harris, Dr. Evan (Oxford W & Abingdon)
Harris, Tom (Glasgow Cathcart)
Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)
Hill, Keith (Streatham)
Hood, Jimmy (Clydesdale)
Hope, Phil (Corby)
Howarth, George (Knowsley N & Sefton E)
Howells, Dr. Kim
Hughes, Beverley (Stretford & Urmston)
Hughes, Simon (Southwark N)
Ingram, rh Adam
Johnson, Alan (Hull W)
Jones, Kevan (N Durham)
Jones, Lynne (Selly Oak)
King, Andy (Rugby)
Laws, David (Yeovil)
Laxton, Bob (Derby N)
Levitt, Tom (High Peak)
Lewis, Ivan (Bury S)
Lyons, John (Strathkelvin)
McGuire, Mrs Anne
Marsden, Paul (Shrewsbury & Atcham)
Michael, rh Alun
Moonie, Dr. Lewis
Munn, Ms Meg
Murphy, Jim (Eastwood)
Murphy, rh Paul (Torfaen)
Norris, Dan (Wansdyke)
Pike, Peter (Burnley)
Pond, Chris (Gravesham)
Portillo, rh Michael
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)
Prescott, rh John
Pugh, Dr. John
Reid, Alan (Argyll & Bute)
Robertson, John (Glasgow Anniesland)
Russell, Bob (Colchester)
Ryan, Joan (Enfield N)
Smith, Angela (Basildon)
Smith, rh Chris (Islington S & Finsbury)
Smith, Geraldine (Morecambe & Lunesdale)
Smith, Jacqui (Redditch)
Smith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns & Kincardine)
Starkey, Dr. Phyllis
Stoate, Dr. Howard
Taylor, Dari (Stockton S)
Thomas, Gareth (Harrow W)
Tonge, Dr. Jenny
Touhig, Don (Islwyn)
Turner, Neil (Wigan)
Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)
Tyler, Paul (N Cornwall)
Tynan, Bill (Hamilton S)
Vaz, Keith (Leicester E)
Watson, Tom (W Bromwich E)
Webb, Steve (Northavon)
Williams, Roger (Brecon)
Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Wright, Anthony D. (Gt Yarmouth)
Tellers for the Ayes:
Mr. Joe Benton and
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)
Beggs, Roy (E Antrim)
Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)
Drew, David (Stroud)
Field, rh Frank (Birkenhead)
Forth, rh Eric
Fox, Dr. Liam
Gibson, Dr. Ian
Gillan, Mrs Cheryl
Gray, James (N Wilts)
Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)
Hayes, John (S Holland)
Iddon, Dr. Brian
Laing, Mrs Eleanor
Lait, Mrs Jacqui
McIntosh, Miss Anne
Mahon, Mrs Alice
Mann, John (Bassetlaw)
O'Brien, Mike (N Warks)
O'Brien, Stephen (Eddisbury)
Rapson, Syd (Portsmouth N)
Robertson, Laurence (Tewk'b'ry)
Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)
Spink, Bob (Castle Point)
Stewart, Ian (Eccles)
Tami, Mark (Alyn)
Turner, Andrew (Isle of Wight)
Wareing, Robert N.
Widdecombe, rh Miss Ann
Williams, Hywel (Caernarfon)
Young, rh Sir George
Tellers for the Noes:
Mr. Andrew Miller and
Question accordingly agreed to.
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.