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Mr. Field: I want to give way to as many hon. Members as possible, although I know the dangers of doing so. I give way to my hon. Friend.

Mr. Chapman: Does my right hon. Friend accept that the economies of the tunnel do not relate to the users of the tunnel alone? The economies of the tunnel affect people throughout Merseyside and far beyond—people in north Wales, east Lancashire and, in some circumstances, Cheshire—[Interruption]—and Sefton. Adding charges to the tunnels would be detrimental to them.

Mr. Field: Of course it would. I am sorry that, because of my hon. Friend's urgency in completing his contribution, he did not have a chance to develop that.

I again appeal to hon. Members to put aside their partial views on the measure and the immediate advantages in favour of the longer-term advantage. In that intervention, my hon. Friend the Member for Wirral, South was rightly hinting at the fact that in trying to represent the views of our constituents, all of us have a vital interest in seeing our region do as well as possible. If there is a measure that would make our region less attractive and pull away from Liverpool the huge spin-off of regeneration that came from Glasgow, and the cultural effects of that right down to the north Wales border, it will be to the detriment of all our

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constituents if it takes effect. We should put aside the partial interests represented in the Bill and concentrate on the major issues.

Several hon. Members rose—

Mr. Field: I shall give way in the order in which I saw hon. Members seeking to intervene.

Mr. Kilfoyle: It is high-minded of my right hon. Friend to appeal to objectivity and resolve, but none of us is perfect. Will he explain how he thinks I should react, given that of the regular users of the Mersey tunnel—private car owners—23 per cent. come from the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Wirral, South (Mr. Chapman)? I understand my hon. Friend arguing on behalf of those people, but only a small proportion—13 per cent.—come from the entire city of Liverpool, and a very small proportion of those come from my constituency. Does not my right hon. Friend think that it is reasonable to feel partial towards those people who get nothing out of the tunnel?

Mr. Field rose—

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. Before the right hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Field) replies to that, I am sure he will appreciate that the argument is starting to widen out again. I know he did not intend that, but I should be grateful if he would gently return to the amendments before the House.

Mr. Field: I was going to resist answering that question, on the basis that it has nothing to do with the measures before us. If my hon. Friend was saying that all the major local authorities bailed out the two tunnels in the past and that, when it comes to paying back the debts, they should get their money back, I totally support him. When my hon. Friends allow me to get on to amendment No. 18, I shall make that plain. I am not asking hon. Members representing constituents with a vested interest in terms of the money that they sank into the tunnels in order to keep them open, largely for the benefit of constituents on the Wirral—although of course, there is also a general benefit to the economy and culture of our region as a whole—not to take such a position. I have no wish to table amendments to try to rob constituents in other parts of Liverpool of their proper due in repayment of the money that they gave to bail out and keep open the tunnels, which are a primary concern to our side in the Wirral, as a lot of employment used to be over in Liverpool, although that is becoming less so as employment is developed in north Wales. Of course the issue is more important to us. None the less, previous debts have to be met, and that should happen without the imposition on us of a tax for ever and a day until we get around to removing the Bill, should it appear on the statute book.

Bob Spink: The right hon. Gentleman is advancing his arguments very carefully, as he always does. Does he not regret that amendment No. 18, which seeks to give the MPTA the ability to freeze tolls, was not properly

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discussed by my Committee? Those who opposed the Bill, so that it went to an Opposed Private Bill Committee—

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. The hon. Gentleman is referring to previous proceedings. We now have the opportunity to debate the amendment, and that is precisely what we are doing.

Mr. Field: I know that you understand, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that the reason why some of us, in our excitement and the urgency of our wish to discuss the issues, might stray a little beyond any amendment—I have been very careful to resist my hon. Friends' efforts to bring me out of order—is that there was no proper Committee stage. If I had not, in my naive way, thought that those who puffed up their chests and told us that the provisions would be ruthlessly examined in Committee were serious, I would have made some objections to ensure that we had a proper Committee stage.

Bob Spink: Returning to amendment No. 18, surely the ability to freeze tolls would help businesses in the general locality and region, and thereby enable that region to generate more jobs and economic activity. That was the very point that the right hon. Gentleman was making before I so rudely and improperly interrupted him previously.

Mr. Field: When I get around to speaking to amendment No. 18, I hope to deal with those points and to reassure my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton and others that my amendment does not seek to rat on the tunnels authority's historic debt to the surrounding authorities. The money was given and it was most beneficial to constituencies on the other side of the river, and it should be repaid handsomely and with interest to those authorities. However, that is a separate issue from the suggestion that our constituents should be taxed for ever and a day to pay for some good things in Crosby, Southport or even Walton.

Stephen Hesford: My right hon. Friend mentioned the benefits that could accrue across Merseyside and referred to cultural and business activities. Does he agree that sporting activities could also benefit? One particular sporting activity that we want to succeed is the open championship that is coming to Hoylake in 2006.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. The right hon. Member for Birkenhead must resist these interventions. When he says that he intends to resist them, he must genuinely do so.

Mr. Field: I shall resist responding to the intervention, although I had rather a good way in which to link it to the figures on movements through the tunnels that were given to us by my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton.

I have so far spoken in support of amendment No. 35, which is in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Wirral, South, and supported the very important point on taxation that was made by the Chairman of the Committee on the Bill, which would have been probed

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properly had we had a proper Committee stage. We would then have had the Committee's report for the House to consider at this stage of the Bill's proceedings, but we have been denied that. I am therefore immensely grateful for the seriousness of the Chairman's intervention on the whole tenor of the Bill.

Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: My right hon. Friend will be aware that it was not possible to have a Committee, as hon. Members would understand it, on the Bill—in fact, a Committee on Opposed Bills sat, but a number of petitioners to that Committee withdrew their objections prior to its taking evidence. Moreover, my right hon. Friend had the opportunity, as we all did—

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. I have already ruled that we are not here to debate previous proceedings. The hon. Lady's comments are quite out of order.

Mr. Field: I will again resist any temptation to answer my hon. Friend's points directly or indirectly.

I wish to move proceedings forward by speaking to amendment No. 18, which stands in my name and that of my hon. Friend the Member for Wirral, West. I tabled the amendment because we did not have the consideration in Committee that I would have hoped for, and because of the intransigence of the people who are promoting the Bill. We were denied a proper Committee stage because people withdrew their objections.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: I say to the right hon. Gentleman very directly that he now has the opportunity to debate the amendments that are before the House, one of which is in his name, and I think that he should do precisely that.

Mr. Field: I am desperately trying to do that, Mr. Deputy Speaker, by speaking to amendment No. 18.

Because of the intransigence of those who are promoting the measure and are not prepared to consider reasonable argument outside this Chamber, and because we were denied a report from the Committee stage that might have helped our deliberations, I tabled several amendments, one of which is amendment No. 18. It relates to schedule 1(1) and (3).

Stephen Hesford: My right hon. Friend said that there was no opportunity to debate the measures. Can he tell me how many meetings have been made available between him—

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