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5. Proceedings in Committee of the whole House and any proceedings on consideration shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion one hour before the moment of interruption on the day on which those proceedings are commenced.
6. Proceedings on Third Reading shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion one hour after the commencement of those proceedings or at the moment of interruption on that day, whichever is the earlier.
Mr. Alan Duncan (Rutland and Melton) (Con): I rise to present a petition signed by more than 40 of my constituents from Melton Mowbray and nearby, who are enraged by the burden and unfairness of the council tax, and by its doubling over the past few years.
The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons votes to replace the Council Tax with a fair and equitable tax that takes into account ability to pay from disposable income. The tax should be based on a system that is free from any geographically or politically motivated discrimination, and should clearly identify the fiscal and managerial responsibilities of all involved parties.
Nick Herbert (Arundel and South Downs) (Con): I am grateful for this opportunity to raise the need to improve the A27, both in and outside my constituency. I am sorry to detain the Minister this evening, but may I first congratulate him on his recent appearance on "Top Gear", and in particular on his performance as a star in a reasonably priced car? He came 15th among the celebrities, beating Sir Cliff Richard, Jordan and Vinnie Jones, but coming a full two seconds behind Dame Ellen MacArthur. His licence would not be at risk if he were to travel on the A27 in my constituency, however, because the traffic is at a complete standstill for much of the time.
The A27 runs for 68 miles along, or just inland of, the south coast. It links Portsmouth and the M27 in the west with Pevensey and the A259 in the east. It is the only defined east-west lorry route across Sussex. It is part of the south coast lifeline, giving access to the south coast ports and the channel tunnel, and it is regarded as a strategic road in Britain's transport network. Most of the A27 in West Sussex is dualled. The only stretches that are not are in Arundel and Worthing. I shall focus on the A27 around Arundel, because that is in my constituency, but I know that many of my hon. Friends are equally concerned about the lack of improvements on sections of the road in Chichester and, in particular, in Worthing.
Peter Bottomley (Worthing, West) (Con): Just in case the Minister has not been down to the A27 recently, his advisers will tell him that it is faster to go through Chichester than to use the bypass, it is sometimes faster to go through Arundel than to use the bypass, and it is probably faster to go along the coast road than along the national road in Worthing, Shoreham and Lancing. Will the Minister please come and try it for himself?
Plans for the Arundel bypass were first formulated in 1985. Two decades later, the bypass still has not come to fruition. The bypass that exists runs between two sides of the town, cutting off one mainly residential half from the town centre. If one travels west on the A27, having eventually escaped the congestion in Worthing, one will get on to a dual carriageway for a few precious miles, but it simply runs out at Arundel. The flyover is there, and was ready for the dual carriageway to continue, but lies moribund.
That has a serious impact in several respects, the first of which is congestion. Traffic flows are continually rising on the A27. In the six years between 1994 and 2000 alone, they increased by 25 per cent. Traffic flows on the A27 are three to four times more than the designed capacity of the road, which causes long tailbacks. I became personally aware of that before I was elected as Member of Parliament for Arundel and South Downs, when I missed my grandfather's funeral as a result of extended delays, first at Arundel and then in Worthing. The traffic flow on the A27 through
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Arundela town of 4,200 inhabitantswas 27,000 vehicles a day in 2001. As the right hon. Member for North-West Durham (Hilary Armstrong), then a Transport Minister, said in 2000:
"Few can deny that the volume of traffic that passes through Arundel daily has an impact on the quality of life both of local residents and of those who must use this section of the A27 for their journey."[Official Report, Westminster Hall, 7 March 2000; Vol. 345, c. 152WH.]
There is also an impact on safety. The accident rate in Arundel is twice the national average for the type of road and four times the national average for dual carriageways. I saw that again for myself on Friday when there was yet again an accident at Burpham junction, which is a particularly dangerous section of the existing inadequate road. The Highways Agency estimates that off-line improvements to the A27 at Arundel would prevent 425 accidents and 580 casualties over the next 30 years.
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