I think I have raised all the issues and the Deputy Leader of the House and Mr Speaker are aware of our concerns. I am delighted that the motion has attracted

19 Jan 2012 : Column 946

cross-party support, and I hope the Committee can have significant leeway in the timetable accorded to it to enable us to undertake our proper function of holding the Department to account on the draft orders.

2.57 pm

Jonathan Edwards (Carmarthen East and Dinefwr) (PC): I am pleased to participate in this debate on the scrutiny of draft orders on public bodies, having spoken on Second Reading of the Public Bodies Act 2011. I was unfortunately unable to make as significant a contribution as I had wished to the progression of the Act because amendments that I tabled on Report were not selected, and because amendments in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Arfon (Hywel Williams) that were selected were not reached before the guillotine.

Our purpose today is to discuss the scrutiny of draft orders on public bodies listed in schedules 1 to 5 to the 2011 Act in accordance with sections 11(5) and (6). The intention of introducing such scrutiny is that Select Committees will be charged with making recommendations and reporting on draft orders. That appears to have been agreed in correspondence between the right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Sir Alan Beith), in his position as Chair of the Liaison Committee, and the Deputy Leader of the House, who was responsible for the progression of the Act.

The argument is that those public bodies are under the control of specific Departments, and that the Select Committees that scrutinise those Departments contain experts on their operation, and should be tasked with the examination of the proposals. That appears to be a sensible course.

The subsequent suggestion is that members of the Select Committee charged with reporting on the draft proposals will be included in any Delegated Legislation Committee convened to consider them. Again, ensuring a level of expertise appears to be a sensible course, but I would like to raise the issue of territoriality. Inside a single unitary state in which there is a single point of responsibility and accountability, the proposed mechanisms would make a great deal of sense, but I contend, and I am sure the hon. Member for Ceredigion (Mr Williams) would agree, that the practical elements of devolution mean that we must also consider alternative options when we deal with the potential impact of such draft orders. I welcome the opening remarks of the Deputy Leader of the House—he said that he has an open mind on that.

For example, the National Consumer Council, which is also known as Consumer Focus, is included in schedule 1 of the Act. As hon. Members might be aware, the Welsh Affairs Committee, of which I am a proud member—as is the hon. Member for Ceredigion—published a report as recently as last week on its inquiry into the representation of consumer interests in Wales. I have no problem whatever with the UK Government’s aims in giving enhanced roles to the citizens advice service following the scrapping of the National Consumer Council, and there are many clear, tangible benefits to combining advice and advocacy functions. However, I am concerned that the level of consumer advocacy functions currently provided to the people of Wales will be lost.

As I said, this is a territorial argument, which is based on the fact that devolution means that we do not have a single jurisdiction, but several. As a Welsh nationalist, I

19 Jan 2012 : Column 947

believe it should be for the Welsh Government, rather than the UK Government, to determine what consumer advice and advocacy structures they want, particularly if the current structures are to be abolished. The lack of consideration we have witnessed from UK Ministers regarding the Act’s impact on Wales further strengthens my convictions.

It is interesting that the UK Government’s preferred structure does not impact on Scotland and Northern Ireland, which have separate citizens advice bodies because responsibility for such functions is devolved for our Celtic cousins. The fact that we in Wales find ourselves in our current position as a result of the Act is a further reminder of the hotch-potch nature of the devolution settlement across the British state and of the dangers that Wales confronts when faced with an inferior settlement. That is why scrutiny of any changes proposed in the draft orders is so important.

Given the reality of a distinct Welsh political agenda, Citizens Advice Cymru has, remarkably, punched above its weight over the years, but it is a fact that Citizens Advice as a whole regards the Welsh context as an afterthought. That is hardly surprising, considering that the key policy levers remain reserved down here in Westminster.

Consumer Focus Wales, on the other hand, has a tremendous research capacity, with some incredibly gifted staff, but it is nearly wholly dependent on other bodies and on commissioned research for the evidence on which it bases its reports. Consumer Focus Wales is very much an equal partner, and it has a more federal approach to England and Wales relations.

There are many benefits, therefore, to empowering Citizens Advice with the functions of Consumer Focus Wales, if all Consumer Focus Wales functions and resources are transferred to Citizens Advice Cymru. Indeed, on Second Reading of the Act, I impressed on Ministers the fact that there was strong support in Wales for advice and advocacy functions to be brought within one body, and I hope that that will be reflected in the draft orders, when they are brought forward for scrutiny.

With the devolution of large areas of consumer policy already having taken place, and the likelihood of more in the years to come, the natural conclusion would be an independent Citizens Advice Cymru, but who will make that argument or question it in scrutiny of the UK Government’s proposals? That is the point I am trying to make.

Proposals for the National Consumer Council’s abolition will go to the Select Committee on Business, Innovation and Skills, on which there is not a single Welsh MP. The same is true in the case of S4C, whose management organisation will be changed as a result of being included in schedule 3 to the Act. Following agreements between the BBC and S4C, those changes are expected to be agreed.

Mr Mark Williams: Does that not point to the issue I raised with my hon. Friend the Deputy Leader of the House about joint scrutiny and joint working between Committees? The hon. Gentleman has made a compelling case regarding the independence of advocacy services in

19 Jan 2012 : Column 948

Wales—the kind of case some of us, as he rightly said, would have liked to make in the Public Bodies Bill Committee had we had more time. There would, however, be an opportunity for those of us on the Welsh Affairs Committee, working with the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee, to make such points. Surely that is the way forward.

Jonathan Edwards: I thank the hon. Gentleman for that constructive intervention, and I fully agree. I will go on to make the same point. I often find myself in complete agreement with him, and I remind him that there is plenty of room on these Benches if he wants to cross the Floor.

There remains a real need for scrutiny. Like the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee, the Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport does not feature a single Member representing a seat in Wales. Given the importance of S4C to Wales, which members of the Public Bodies Bill Committee will know of, there really must be more scrutiny in this place than just that provided by a Public Bill Committee.

In the Public Bodies Bill Committee, the Minister agreed that S4C governance changes

“will be subject to consultation with absolutely everybody who has a legitimate interest in it, and I am happy to reiterate that that will include the Welsh Government.”––[Official Report, Public Bodies Public Bill Committee, 15 September 2011; c. 195.]

I welcome that commitment. I do not wish to go through the whole list of public bodies and make suggestions—[Interruption.] I know that hon. Members want to make the journey back to their constituencies. I am not going to suggest how all these matters might be perceived differently through the prism of devolution, but what, for example, would happen to the excess land of BRB (Residuary) Ltd? Should that be at the disposal of the Welsh Transport Minister?

Although I fully understand the reasons behind the proposed means of scrutinising draft orders, I request that issues of territoriality and devolution be taken into consideration. I do not pretend to have the solution and neither do I wish to encumber ourselves with more work, but perhaps a settlement could be found in which Select Committees scrutinise draft orders if they are considered relevant to their work, and subsequently, perhaps, their members could be made members of any Delegated Legislation Committees. I can certainly imagine that members of the Welsh Affairs Committee would show a particular interest in the case of S4C and Consumer Focus Wales.

3.5 pm

Mr Heath: With the leave of the House, I should like to thank Members for that short debate.

I shall deal with the points made in reverse order, and turn first to the hon. Member for Carmarthen East and Dinefwr (Jonathan Edwards). He will be aware that the Committee discussed the Welsh aspects of these bodies an awful lot—I remember detailed discussions of the merits, or otherwise, of Pobol y Cwm and so on. I absolutely understand the locus that regionality has in some of the bodies. The suggestion is that the departmental Select Committees have that trigger—I think that he understands that—but he made a perfectly valid point:

19 Jan 2012 : Column 949

where there is a strong territorial element in the body in question, the trigger should be exercised in the knowledge of the effect it would have in an area.

I would expect the Welsh Affairs Committee to play a part in matters relating directly to Wales and to make early representations to the relevant Select Committee, encouraging it to pull the trigger for the 60-day process. Once that process was in place and the scrutiny period under way, however, I would expect the Committee to produce a short report, particularly on matters relating to Sianel Pedwar Cymru but also on other things in which it has an interest. The report would be treated as a representation under section 11(6)(a) of the Public Bodies Act, and the Minister would have to have regard to it.

I think I can assure the hon. Gentleman, therefore, that the Welsh Affairs Committee would have a direct locus in intervening to make the House aware of its concerns. Although the Public Bodies Act stipulates that there may be a delegated powers Committee, we have made it abundantly clear that if a request was made for the matter to be dealt with on the Floor of the House it would normally be acceded to. In that case, all Members with an interest would have an opportunity to participate and make their views known before the House finally reached a decision. I hope that that goes some way to assuaging his concerns and those of my hon. Friend the Member for Ceredigion (Mr Williams), who is an utterly reasonable chap. I am not surprised that the hon. Gentleman agrees with him so often.

The hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Miss McIntosh) expressed a number of concerns on behalf of her Committee, the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, which, again, I well understand. It so happens that her Committee has an early rush, as it were, on the provisions in the legislation, because the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs plans to make early proposals, as she said, on British Waterways, the Inland Waterways Advisory Council and the Advisory Committee on Hazardous Substances.

Let me say first that, yes, if the House accepts this Standing Order today, the hon. Lady’s Committee will be the relevant Committee. Therefore, she has that trigger in her hands—or the hands of her Committee—for extended scrutiny. I understand that that will involve a reasonable work load for her Committee. I sympathise with her about that, but I believe it is better for her Committee to do that work rather than somebody else, elsewhere in the House, who knows nothing about the subject. There is no limitation on what Committees can scrutinise in their role as departmental Select Committees. That extends not just to bodies that are listed in schedules, but to those where there are no changes. If there are no changes, she will not be acting under this procedure, but her Committee will still have the capacity to consider the matter.

I understand the hon. Lady’s point about the House of Lords having its arrangements in place earlier than the House of Commons. I would have liked to introduce things earlier, but it was important to have the conversation and dialogue with the Select Committees of this House, through the Liaison Committee and the Procedure Committee, to ensure that we got it right. This House has a much more complex Committee structure than the Lords—we have departmental Committees—so a

19 Jan 2012 : Column 950

slight asymmetry in the way we did that was inevitable. However, I hope that I can persuade her that what we are doing in this case is probably the best way forward.

As far as the hon. Member for Penistone and Stockbridge (Angela Smith) is concerned—

Angela Smith: Stocksbridge.

Mr Heath: Is that not what I said? I do apologise: Stocksbridge. Speaking as someone whose constituency name is almost always mispronounced, I have the greatest sympathy if the hon. Lady has the same problem.

I was disappointed by what the hon. Lady said. She seems to be taking up the concerns of the Liaison Committee, even though I have satisfied the Liaison Committee. The fact that it is content with my proposals is not good enough for her. She still thinks that the Liaison Committee ought to be more upset than it is. Well it is not: the Liaison Committee is satisfied with our proposals. She adduced the “mystery” of why the matter was not put before the House in December, but I made it perfectly plain that the reason was a problem with the motion, which was down to an administrative error. However, given that we could not propose the motion on that day, I aimed to derive what I hoped would be some benefit from the delay by saying that it gave us more time to explore and satisfy the concerns of the Liaison Committee and the Procedure Committee, and that is exactly what we did.

I have given clear indications about the procedures that we will adopt to ensure that Committees are not disadvantaged, but have the opportunity to make their cases properly. However, at the end of the day, I cannot go against the legislation. I cannot rip up legislation that this House and the other House passed so recently and say, “Right, we’ll now have a completely different procedure.” However, I can work within the legislation to maximise scrutiny by the Committees of this House and the wider House and ensure that every Member has the opportunity to have their say. I believe that that is what we have put before the House today, after consultation with the Committees, and I urge the House to support the motion.

Question put.

The House divided:

Ayes 257, Noes 176.

Division No. 428]

[3.13 pm


Aldous, Peter

Arbuthnot, rh Mr James

Bacon, Mr Richard

Baker, Steve

Baldry, Tony

Baldwin, Harriett

Barclay, Stephen

Barker, Gregory

Baron, Mr John

Barwell, Gavin

Beith, rh Sir Alan

Bellingham, Mr Henry

Benyon, Richard

Berry, Jake

Bingham, Andrew

Binley, Mr Brian

Blackman, Bob

Blunt, Mr Crispin

Boles, Nick

Bone, Mr Peter

Bradley, Karen

Brady, Mr Graham

Brake, rh Tom

Bray, Angie

Brine, Steve

Brooke, Annette

Bruce, Fiona

Buckland, Mr Robert

Burns, Conor

Burns, rh Mr Simon

Burstow, Paul

Burt, Lorely

Byles, Dan

Campbell, rh Sir Menzies

Carmichael, rh Mr Alistair

Carmichael, Neil

Carswell, Mr Douglas

Cash, Mr William

Chishti, Rehman

Chope, Mr Christopher

Clappison, Mr James

Clark, rh Greg

Clarke, rh Mr Kenneth

Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey

Coffey, Dr Thérèse

Collins, Damian

Colvile, Oliver

Cox, Mr Geoffrey

Crabb, Stephen

Crouch, Tracey

Davies, Glyn

Davies, Philip

Davis, rh Mr David

de Bois, Nick

Dinenage, Caroline

Djanogly, Mr Jonathan

Dorries, Nadine

Doyle-Price, Jackie

Duddridge, James

Duncan, rh Mr Alan

Dunne, Mr Philip

Ellis, Michael

Ellison, Jane

Ellwood, Mr Tobias

Elphicke, Charlie

Eustice, George

Evans, Graham

Evans, Jonathan

Evennett, Mr David

Fabricant, Michael

Fallon, Michael

Featherstone, Lynne

Foster, rh Mr Don

Fox, rh Dr Liam

Francois, rh Mr Mark

Fuller, Richard

Gale, Sir Roger

Garnier, Mr Edward

Garnier, Mark

Gauke, Mr David

Gilbert, Stephen

Gillan, rh Mrs Cheryl

Glen, John

Goldsmith, Zac

Goodwill, Mr Robert

Graham, Richard

Grant, Mrs Helen

Gray, Mr James

Grayling, rh Chris

Green, Damian

Greening, rh Justine

Griffiths, Andrew

Gyimah, Mr Sam

Hammond, Stephen

Hancock, Matthew

Hancock, Mr Mike

Hands, Greg

Harper, Mr Mark

Harrington, Richard

Harris, Rebecca

Haselhurst, rh Sir Alan

Heald, Oliver

Heath, Mr David

Heaton-Harris, Chris

Hemming, John

Henderson, Gordon

Hendry, Charles

Herbert, rh Nick

Hinds, Damian

Hollobone, Mr Philip

Hopkins, Kris

Horwood, Martin

Howarth, Mr Gerald

Howell, John

Hughes, rh Simon

Hunter, Mark

Hurd, Mr Nick

Jackson, Mr Stewart

Javid, Sajid

Jenkin, Mr Bernard

Johnson, Gareth

Johnson, Joseph

Jones, Andrew

Jones, Mr Marcus

Kawczynski, Daniel

Kelly, Chris

Kirby, Simon

Knight, rh Mr Greg

Kwarteng, Kwasi

Laing, Mrs Eleanor

Lamb, Norman

Lancaster, Mark

Lansley, rh Mr Andrew

Latham, Pauline

Leadsom, Andrea

Lee, Dr Phillip

Lefroy, Jeremy

Leigh, Mr Edward

Leslie, Charlotte

Lewis, Brandon

Lilley, rh Mr Peter

Lloyd, Stephen

Lopresti, Jack

Lord, Jonathan

Luff, Peter

Lumley, Karen

Macleod, Mary

Maude, rh Mr Francis

May, rh Mrs Theresa

Maynard, Paul

McIntosh, Miss Anne

McLoughlin, rh Mr Patrick

McVey, Esther

Menzies, Mark

Mercer, Patrick

Metcalfe, Stephen

Miller, Maria

Mills, Nigel

Milton, Anne

Mordaunt, Penny

Morgan, Nicky

Morris, David

Morris, James

Mosley, Stephen

Mowat, David

Munt, Tessa

Murray, Sheryll

Murrison, Dr Andrew

Newton, Sarah

Nokes, Caroline

Nuttall, Mr David

Offord, Mr Matthew

Ollerenshaw, Eric

Ottaway, Richard

Paice, rh Mr James

Parish, Neil

Patel, Priti

Penning, Mike

Penrose, John

Percy, Andrew

Perry, Claire

Phillips, Stephen

Pincher, Christopher

Poulter, Dr Daniel

Prisk, Mr Mark

Pritchard, Mark

Pugh, John

Raab, Mr Dominic

Randall, rh Mr John

Reckless, Mark

Rees-Mogg, Jacob

Reid, Mr Alan

Rifkind, rh Sir Malcolm

Robathan, rh Mr Andrew

Robertson, Hugh

Robertson, Mr Laurence

Rogerson, Dan

Rosindell, Andrew

Rudd, Amber

Ruffley, Mr David

Russell, Sir Bob

Rutley, David

Sanders, Mr Adrian

Sandys, Laura

Scott, Mr Lee

Selous, Andrew

Sharma, Alok

Shelbrooke, Alec

Skidmore, Chris

Smith, Miss Chloe

Smith, Henry

Smith, Julian

Smith, Sir Robert

Spelman, rh Mrs Caroline

Spencer, Mr Mark

Stephenson, Andrew

Stevenson, John

Stewart, Bob

Stewart, Iain

Stewart, Rory

Stride, Mel

Stunell, Andrew

Sturdy, Julian

Swayne, rh Mr Desmond

Swire, rh Mr Hugo

Syms, Mr Robert

Teather, Sarah

Thurso, John

Timpson, Mr Edward

Tomlinson, Justin

Tredinnick, David

Truss, Elizabeth

Turner, Mr Andrew

Tyrie, Mr Andrew

Uppal, Paul

Vara, Mr Shailesh

Vickers, Martin

Villiers, rh Mrs Theresa

Walker, Mr Robin

Wallace, Mr Ben

Walter, Mr Robert

Watkinson, Angela

Weatherley, Mike

Webb, Steve

Wharton, James

Wheeler, Heather

White, Chris

Whittingdale, Mr John

Willetts, rh Mr David

Williams, Mr Mark

Williams, Roger

Williamson, Gavin

Willott, Jenny

Wilson, Mr Rob

Wright, Jeremy

Yeo, Mr Tim

Young, rh Sir George

Tellers for the Ayes:

Bill Wiggin and

Mr Brooks Newmark


Alexander, rh Mr Douglas

Alexander, Heidi

Ali, Rushanara

Austin, Ian

Bailey, Mr Adrian

Bain, Mr William

Balls, rh Ed

Barron, rh Mr Kevin

Bayley, Hugh

Beckett, rh Margaret

Begg, Dame Anne

Benn, rh Hilary

Benton, Mr Joe

Berger, Luciana

Betts, Mr Clive

Blears, rh Hazel

Blenkinsop, Tom

Blomfield, Paul

Blunkett, rh Mr David

Bradshaw, rh Mr Ben

Brennan, Kevin

Brown, rh Mr Gordon

Brown, Lyn

Brown, rh Mr Nicholas

Buck, Ms Karen

Burden, Richard

Campbell, Mr Alan

Caton, Martin

Clark, Katy

Clarke, rh Mr Tom

Coaker, Vernon

Coffey, Ann

Cooper, rh Yvette

Corbyn, Jeremy

Crausby, Mr David

Creagh, Mary

Creasy, Stella

Cruddas, Jon

Cunningham, Mr Jim

Danczuk, Simon

David, Mr Wayne

De Piero, Gloria

Dobbin, Jim

Dobson, rh Frank

Docherty, Thomas

Dowd, Jim

Doyle, Gemma

Dromey, Jack

Dugher, Michael

Eagle, Ms Angela

Edwards, Jonathan

Efford, Clive

Elliott, Julie

Ellman, Mrs Louise

Farrelly, Paul

Fitzpatrick, Jim

Flello, Robert

Flint, rh Caroline

Flynn, Paul

Fovargue, Yvonne

Gapes, Mike

Gardiner, Barry

Gilmore, Sheila

Glass, Pat

Glindon, Mrs Mary

Godsiff, Mr Roger

Goggins, rh Paul

Goodman, Helen

Greatrex, Tom

Green, Kate

Greenwood, Lilian

Griffith, Nia

Hamilton, Mr David

Hamilton, Fabian

Hanson, rh Mr David

Harman, rh Ms Harriet

Harris, Mr Tom

Havard, Mr Dai

Heyes, David

Hillier, Meg

Hilling, Julie

Hodge, rh Margaret

Hodgson, Mrs Sharon

Hood, Mr Jim

Hopkins, Kelvin

Howarth, rh Mr George

Hunt, Tristram

Jackson, Glenda

James, Mrs Siân C.

Jarvis, Dan

Johnson, Diana

Jones, Graham

Jones, Mr Kevan

Jones, Susan Elan

Jowell, rh Tessa

Joyce, Eric

Kaufman, rh Sir Gerald

Khan, rh Sadiq

Lammy, rh Mr David

Lavery, Ian

Lazarowicz, Mark

Leslie, Chris

Lewis, Mr Ivan

Lloyd, Tony

Love, Mr Andrew

Lucas, Ian

Mactaggart, Fiona

Mahmood, Shabana

Mann, John

McCabe, Steve

McCann, Mr Michael

McCarthy, Kerry

McClymont, Gregg

McDonagh, Siobhain

McFadden, rh Mr Pat

McGuire, rh Mrs Anne

McKechin, Ann

McKenzie, Mr Iain

McKinnell, Catherine

Meale, Sir Alan

Michael, rh Alun

Miller, Andrew

Morrice, Graeme


Morris, Grahame M.


Munn, Meg

Murphy, rh Mr Jim

Murphy, rh Paul

Murray, Ian

Nandy, Lisa

Nash, Pamela

O'Donnell, Fiona

Onwurah, Chi

Osborne, Sandra

Owen, Albert

Perkins, Toby

Pound, Stephen

Qureshi, Yasmin

Raynsford, rh Mr Nick

Reed, Mr Jamie

Reynolds, Emma

Reynolds, Jonathan

Riordan, Mrs Linda

Rotheram, Steve

Roy, Mr Frank

Roy, Lindsay

Ruddock, rh Dame Joan

Sharma, Mr Virendra

Sheridan, Jim

Shuker, Gavin

Skinner, Mr Dennis

Slaughter, Mr Andy

Smith, rh Mr Andrew

Smith, Angela

Smith, Nick

Spellar, rh Mr John

Stringer, Graham

Sutcliffe, Mr Gerry

Tami, Mark

Thomas, Mr Gareth

Thornberry, Emily

Timms, rh Stephen

Trickett, Jon

Turner, Karl

Twigg, Derek

Twigg, Stephen

Umunna, Mr Chuka

Vaz, rh Keith

Vaz, Valerie

Walley, Joan

Watson, Mr Tom

Whitehead, Dr Alan

Wilson, Phil

Winnick, Mr David

Winterton, rh Ms Rosie

Woodcock, John

Wright, David

Tellers for the Noes:

Jonathan Ashworth and

Chris Ruane

Question accordingly agreed to.

19 Jan 2012 : Column 951

19 Jan 2012 : Column 952

19 Jan 2012 : Column 953

19 Jan 2012 : Column 954

National Policy Statement for Ports

[Relevant documents: The Fifth Report from the Transport Committee, Session 2009-10, on t he proposal for a National Policy Statement on Ports, HC 217, and the Government’ s response thereto.]

Debate resumed.

Question (29 November) again proposed,

That this House takes note of and approves the National Policy Statement for Ports, which was laid before this House on 24 October 2011.

3.28 pm

Dr Thérèse Coffey (Suffolk Coastal) (Con): I am pleased to be able to contribute briefly to the final part of a debate on which the House embarked back in November. There could be no better port with which to end it than the port of Felixstowe, which is in my constituency.

I support the Government’s market-based approach to ports, but I want them to receive one message loud and clear, namely that ports should be treated consistently and allowed a level playing field. I believe that the Minister supports that view. Liverpool recently secured £30 million of regional growth funds for help with dredging. I do not resent the recognition that my home city, where I grew up, needs a bit of support to bring about regeneration and create jobs. We must make sure, however, that such—how can I put this?—gifts are targeted so that they do not discourage private investors at other ports around the country.

It is also important that we have joined-up thinking with other policy statements on rail and road. We have some great ports in our country, but we need to ensure that once the containers and so on come off the boats, we have great networks to move the containers around the country.

Jim Fitzpatrick (Poplar and Limehouse) (Lab): I am very grateful to the hon. Lady for giving way. She raised similar points yesterday in Westminster Hall in a debate on the port of Southampton and I was very reassured by the Minister’s comments in response. Was she also reassured?

Dr Thérèse Coffey: I was very reassured, but I am merely trying to re-emphasise that we must ensure that Departments work together, whether that means that the Department for Transport works with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs or with the Department for Communities and Local Government, to ensure that the UK economy as a whole can benefit from fantastic ports. I also support the coastal shipping initiative, which I know my hon. Friend the Minister is championing.

In the adjourned debate, my hon. Friends the Members for Thurrock (Jackie Doyle-Price) and for Dover (Charlie Elphicke) mentioned nature issues and habitat directives. I share many of their sentiments, as we need to have an appropriate balance, but that does not mean that everything should be swept aside. Just next door to my own port is an area of outstanding natural beauty: 1% of the world’s sea pea happens to be right there alongside a heritage asset, a Napoleonic fort. Although we must be mindful of the need to ensure that such things do not get in the way of port development, successful ports can have

19 Jan 2012 : Column 955

both. In fact, birds are attracted to the cranes and so on, so the area has become a rather distinguished twitching zone where people can go and spot rare birds.

I want to emphasise today the significant concerns about the implementation of marine conservation zones and reference areas. Those are new ventures for our country and although I am not against them at all, we hear that DEFRA and Natural England want to work with existing businesses but are very quiet when it comes to talking about new business and replacement activities.

We have great champions for shipping in the Minister and in the shadow Minister, as I know from his previous service. Long may that continue, because ports are what keep this country going.

3.32 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Mike Penning): With permission, Mr Deputy Speaker, I will conclude the debate that started on 29 November, speak about some of the issues raised in that debate and respond to my hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk Coastal (Dr Coffey), who has one of the country’s great ports in her constituency.

Ports are such a significant part of the economy of this country that it was right and proper that so many Members of this House took the debate so seriously. I understand why some colleagues are not present this afternoon, as they made their contributions on the day. The Select Committee on Transport and its Chair, the hon. Member for Liverpool, Riverside (Mrs Ellman), have also taken ports particularly seriously in this Parliament and the documents and strategy under consideration today show the significance that the new coalition Government attach to ports.

The huge ports, such as that mentioned by my hon. Friend and the great port of Dover—I could mention all the great ports throughout the country, as they are hugely significant and we are a great maritime nation—and the small ports are very significant to our constituencies around the country. By weight, 96% of all products brought into the country come in through our ports.

We are a great maritime nation and I am very proud, as the shipping Minister, to be responsible for dealing with the red ensign, the shipping industry and the problems of piracy on the high seas, which is one of the most significant issues that I have dealt with in the past 18 months. I have worked on that with the International Maritime Organisation, and I want to take this opportunity to welcome the new secretary-general of the IMO to his extremely important post. I became a good friend of the outgoing secretary-general and we will host a dinner for him here in the House of Commons. I hope the shadow Minister will be here for that—if the invitation has not yet arrived, it is in the post.

Our previous debate served to demonstrate the importance of ports not only in economic terms, but for leisure. As highlighted in a Westminster Hall debate yesterday, there is often controversy about changes to ports, such as harbour revision orders. However, we need growth to get out of the economic mire the coalition Government inherited, and for that to happen we must use the best modes of transport.

19 Jan 2012 : Column 956

We will always need our roads, and significant investment is going into our road system—almost £3 billion in the next three years. We also need to carry more freight on rail, and we are achieving that, too. However, there is a capacity issue, particularly on the west coast main line. That is one of the reasons why High Speed 2 is so important; it will free up capacity.

We also need to think again about our ports. The ships coming into our ports are getting ever bigger, and we must work out how we can get their vast cargos around our country, as our transport networks will struggle to cope. Some goods will be carried by rail, but most will go by road. We must also use coastal shipping, however, and we should use the ports in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk Coastal and the new Gateway port on the Thames as hubs to promote a renaissance in coastal shipping in this country.

Happily, that has already started, but we must remain united in Parliament and continue to promote this move. It is the environmentally friendly way of regenerating the economy and bringing jobs to port areas where previously, perhaps, many were employed but which have recently struggled economically.

When ports are altered and harbour revision orders are made, environmental issues must always be addressed. The Marine Management Organisation has a vital role to play in that. We must not, of course, just bulldoze in, but the habitats directive has been a problem in respect of developing our ports. The directive is therefore being reviewed. The findings will be reported in March, and they will be significant for the future of the ports of our country.

The Chair of the Transport Committee, the hon. Member for Liverpool, Riverside, has just entered the Chamber, and I welcome her. She will not have heard this, but I have already praised her Committee extensively. I probably will not have time to do so again.

Sarah Newton (Truro and Falmouth) (Con): I represent the small ports of Falmouth and Truro, and they have terrific potential to deliver on the agenda the Minister is articulating so well. Will he let us have the names and addresses of the people involved in the review of the UK interpretation of the EU habitats directive being undertaken by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, as Members are struggling to find that information and we want to make representations to those people?

Mike Penning: I will certainly make that point to DEFRA. I have had the privilege of visiting Falmouth and listening to the issues and concerns there. It is a smallish—although not very small—port, but it is hugely significant, especially in my hon. Friend’s part of the country, and it can clearly contribute a lot. I pay tribute to the work being done there.

I will not rehearse all the points that were made in our earlier debate, but before I close this debate I want to say that this Government are taking the future of our ports, both large and small, very seriously. We have big decisions to make over the next few months and years on matters that can greatly help the growth of the economy and help us get out of the mess we inherited 18 months ago.

Question put and agreed to.

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Business of the House


That, at the sitting on Wednesday 25 January, notwithstanding the provisions of Standing Order No. 20 (Time for taking private business), the Private Business set down by the Chairman of Ways and Means shall be entered upon (whether before, at or after 4.00 pm), and may then be proceeded with, though opposed, for three hours, after which the Speaker shall interrupt the business.—(Stephen Crabb.)

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Thames River Crossings

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—(Stephen Crabb.)

3.40 pm

Jackie Doyle-Price (Thurrock) (Con): I am delighted to have so much available time to discuss future Thames crossings, but perhaps in deference to you, Mr Deputy Speaker, I shall not use all of it.

Clearly, this is an extremely important issue for London, and for south Essex, north Kent and beyond, because the proposed crossings will add significantly to the nation’s infrastructure. The proposals generate a number of issues of particular pertinence to my constituents. I wish to raise those issues in the House today and to make some representations to the Minister. For many years there has been a need for additional capacity and more river crossings across the Thames, and, as with buses, two end up coming along at once.

I welcome the Government’s commitment to these additional crossings, and I am particularly supportive of the east London river crossing, a proposal being led by the Mayor of London and to which the Chancellor gave his backing in the autumn statement. However, perhaps of more relevance to my constituents are the proposals for a new crossing in the lower Thames, with the objective of alleviating congestion at Dartford. Achieving that objective has been long overdue, but the crossing proposals being examined are at present little more than lines on a map and I wish to put on the record some points that I would like the Minister and the Department to examine as they develop the options.

People in Thurrock are particularly worried about the impact that any new proposals will have on our road network. I am well aware that although the Department for Transport will be looking at the new crossing as part of the national road infrastructure, its impact will be local and will be felt by my constituents, so it is extremely important that the impact be fully considered. As the Member representing the constituency that sits on the north bank of the Dartford crossing, I have to say that this issue generates more correspondence in my postbag than any other, and I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Dartford (Gareth Johnson) has a similar experience. My constituents have to deal daily with the consequences of congestion generated by the Dartford crossing, and by the M25 and the A13. I am delighted to see the hon. Member for Poplar and Limehouse (Jim Fitzpatrick) in his place, and I know that he shares my frustrations with the A13 as much as anyone.

The existing Thames crossings are clearly not going to be adequate in the long term, particularly given the potential for economic growth in the locality—in east London and throughout the Thames Gateway—and given the projected increases in traffic volumes more generally. The constraints imposed by the road network in Thurrock and the volumes of traffic using the Dartford crossing are putting real economic opportunities in Thurrock at risk. Although some of the congestion generated by the Dartford crossing, which we are experiencing on a daily basis, ought to be mitigated by the proposal for a new lower Thames crossing, this rather depends on where the new crossing is sited and how it will connect with the existing road network. Given that the three options under consideration pass

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through Thurrock, this is an issue of very real concern and it is causing considerable disquiet among my constituents. We seek reassurance from the Minister that he will ensure not only that the new crossing will alleviate congestion at Dartford, but that it will not cause us additional problems on the road network in Thurrock.

On the case for more crossings generally, the Government have articulated the importance of appropriate transport infrastructure as a foundation for economic growth and that proposition has to be unarguable. I have no doubt that the inadequacy of current provision is holding back economic development. There are simply insufficient crossings east of Tower bridge; that is shown starkly if one looks at an aerial photograph of London. It is clear that that is holding back the capability of east London and the Thames Gateway to realise their full potential for economic growth. If we have any real ambitions for economic development to shift east, it is crucial that we put in decent road infrastructure.

Looking at current provision, one sees that the Blackwall tunnel and the Dartford crossing are at capacity and that the capacity provided by the Rotherhithe tunnel and the Woolwich ferry are inadequate to provide resilience to the road network. As a result, when either Blackwall or Dartford is closed, as happens all too frequently either because of maintenance or owing to an incident, the consequent congestion causes misery to motorists.

Gareth Johnson (Dartford) (Con): My hon. Friend knows more than most just how severe the congestion is at both Dartford and Thurrock, and she and I both welcome the fact that the Department for Transport is prioritising tackling the congestion at the Dartford-Thurrock crossing. Does she agree that Dartford and Thurrock residents have had more than their fair share of Thames crossings and that if there is to be a further bridge over the river Thames, we should look elsewhere for its location?

Jackie Doyle-Price: I do agree. That is why I am so keen to see another crossing in east London. It has always been my view that many of the journeys across the Dartford crossing take place because there is no other crossing between Blackwall and Dartford. A new crossing would alleviate some of the congestion at Dartford, because it would no longer be the only show in town for London orbital journeys. We need to look at where demand comes from. A big user category is HGV traffic from Dover and we need to look creatively at how we can divert some of that traffic away from Dartford and alleviate congestion there.

As I was saying, the congestion that is caused when one of the crossings is closed is causing misery for motorists, but more importantly it results in significant costs for businesses; they count the costs of the consequences of congestion. That is a particular concern in Thurrock, which is becoming a major logistics hub. It is interesting that this debate follows one on ports, because the growth of the port sector in Thurrock is phenomenal and hugely exciting. In addition to the new port at London Gateway, we have the port of Tilbury, which has gone through 125 years and is expanding, and the Cobelfret port at Purfleet, which has a roll-on/roll-off facility that

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is expanding. That is supporting a massive increase in job opportunities in the logistics sector and highlights the importance of getting Thurrock’s road network moving.

Jim Fitzpatrick (Poplar and Limehouse) (Lab): I congratulate the hon. Lady on securing this important debate. There is consensus across the House that there are not enough crossings east of Tower bridge. Given what she has just said about the London Gateway port mentioned by the Minister in the previous debate, as well as the idea for a Thames estuary airport, which is all over the papers this morning because of Boris Johnson’s comments in The Daily Telegraph, and given that the centre of gravity in London has been moving east for the past 20 years and will continue to do so, does she think that, if we have the money, two crossings just would not cut it and that we would need four or even six?

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Nigel Evans): Order. Before the hon. Lady responds may I remind the shadow Minister that any interventions in an Adjournment debate should be made from the Back Benches?

Jim Fitzpatrick: My apologies, Mr Deputy Speaker.

Jackie Doyle-Price: I am grateful for the opportunity to address that point. I have been less than compromising in my attitude towards the Thames estuary airport, but I think the hon. Gentleman's point about more crossings is that we need a much more long-term approach to our national road infrastructure. I remind him that his Government looked at this issue in 2009 but parked it because it was too difficult. When we consider road infrastructure issues, there is often a natural nimby tendency. We all want to represent our voters’ interests, but we need the courage to have the debate and think about what is really important for the long term. If we do not have that, we will be putting much-needed jobs at risk, and we cannot afford to do that right now. Generally, I accept the hon. Gentleman’s point that we must look at where the traffic need is likely to be in the long term.

However, as my hon. Friend the Minister said in his statement on ports policy, taking into account where shipping will arrive in the future can open up opportunities to reduce road journeys. We need to look creatively at how we move things around, taking a joined-up approach. The issue of the airport is interesting because, if truth be known, that debate has been taking place, championed by its enthusiasts, without any thought as to the impact on shipping and wider infrastructure outside London.

Mark Reckless (Rochester and Strood) (Con): We heard yesterday very little support for the Thames estuary airport proposition, but one proposal has been floated, with very little detail to it, by Lord Foster, which would cost at least £50 billion. He is looking to include a bridge, a barrage and various other things. Can my hon. Friend confirm that that is an absolutely preposterous proposal?

Jackie Doyle-Price: I am on record as describing that proposal as pie in the sky, and I have not seen anything to change that opinion.

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Getting back to the issue of crossings rather than airports, we clearly need more crossings east of Blackwall, and I am delighted that the Minister is not going to duck the issue for a moment longer and that firm proposals will be made. I am not quite sure that I will entirely like what he has to propose, but we have already had a number of robust exchanges on this and I am sure there will be many more.

As I mentioned, the priority must be a new crossing in east London. One can see, just by driving through it, as the hon. Member for Poplar and Limehouse would confirm, that what has really been missing is a link between the north and south circulars. That will unlock opportunities in east London. The area between the ExCeL centre and London city airport is within minutes of central London and it is staggering that it has not really benefited from more development. I am therefore delighted that the Government have put their support behind the Mayor of London’s proposal for the new crossing linking Greenwich and Silvertown. I gather that the tunnel will have the capacity to carry up to 2,500 vehicles an hour—a significant increase in capacity, but not enough. As I said, I believe the crossing will divert some of the congestion from Dartford, and since the Mayor of London is determined to complete the crossing within a decade, it is obviously an extremely positive development for the capital and for road users within the M25.

I know, however, that the Minister’s main priority is the new crossing in the lower Thames. The previous Government also concluded that such a crossing was necessary. I gather that on every working day the Dartford crossing is operating at capacity, and because of those volumes, even with the removal of toll barriers and the introduction of free flow and the consequent increase in capacity that that will deliver, by 2031 the crossing will be at capacity again. Given how long it takes for this country to build major infrastructure projects, clearly we must make a decision now if we are to be ready to meet those future demands.

As I said, although I welcome the crossing, its ultimate location is of central importance to my constituents in Thurrock. Although, as far as the Department is concerned, the Dartford crossing is part of the national road infrastructure, its impact is local. It has air quality consequences for my constituents. It causes congestion, particularly when there are queues to access the crossing at junction 30/31 of the M25, and I take the opportunity to remind the Minister that improvements to that junction are extremely necessary to maximise the efficiency of the existing road network. That is also felt by the business community, given the importance of the logistics industry and the opportunities for job creation in that sector. The need to ensure that traffic moves will determine the degree to which the local economy can grow.

I shall run through some of the options, to get on record some of the concerns that my constituents have. One option is to link Gravesend and East Tilbury; I believe it is being championed by Kent county council. That option has aroused considerable opposition from my constituents. It would require the destruction of huge swathes of green belt in Thurrock to make way for a new motorway. As Thurrock already hosts the M25, the Dartford crossing and the A13, residents are extremely unhappy at the prospect of more green belt being dug up to build new roads, and the Thurrock Gazette recently

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collected many thousands of signatures for a petition to that effect which I presented to the House last year. I recall that when the previous Government looked at that option it had the weakest business case for alleviating congestion at Dartford.

Another option is for a crossing between Swanscombe and Tilbury. This would have the advantage of joining an existing road that has some spare capacity, but there is a serious question over whether it could cope with the capacity generated by a new crossing. The third option is for an additional crossing at Dartford. This is perhaps the one that generates the most concern, given the volume of traffic we currently struggle with. Given that the M25 is being widened to five lanes in each direction, it is clear that the traffic will bottleneck at Dartford, where the provision is only four lanes in each direction.

We desperately need the improvements that the changes at junction 30 will deliver to deal with the current situation, as the existing road infrastructure cannot support current volumes, let alone an additional crossing adjacent to the existing one. We need an assurance from the Minister that the consequences for Thurrock will be fully considered as the Government review the options. Given Thurrock’s position as a logistics hub, the road infrastructure simply must function adequately so that our traffic can get around.

There will of course be massive benefits if new infrastructure can be achieved, but I would like to put on the record three criteria that I would like the Minister to take on board when considering the options. We want assurances: first, that the new crossing will not result in the destruction of Thurrock’s green belt for the purpose of constructing new motorways; secondly, that it will not add additional traffic volumes to our already overcrowded road network; and thirdly, that it will alleviate congestion at the Dartford crossing. Clearly, the degree to which the new crossing interacts with the existing road network will determine the degree to which congestion is alleviated. Without these assurances, there will be extremely strong opposition in Thurrock to a new crossing.

There are a number of other issues, and perhaps myths, that the Minister needs to address as the debate moves forward. Many of my constituents believe that the new crossing should be further east, effectively creating a new outer circular. It is difficult to see where such a crossing could be constructed, given the width of the Thames further along the estuary and the cost implications that that would have for a new crossing, be it a tunnel or bridge, but it is important that those options are considered before they are rejected or accepted. I have also mentioned that much of the demand is generated by the volume of heavy goods vehicle traffic from Dover, so we need to be imaginative about how we can divert some of that away from the crossing, not only by having a new crossing, but perhaps by transporting more by ship.

Finally, my constituents often tell me that there would be no need for an additional crossing if the tolls were removed. They believe that the toll barriers are the principal source of congestion. I do not believe that their removal is a solution for the long term, but the Government need to make the case for why expansion is necessary so that we take everyone with us on the need to invest in this road infrastructure. I look forward to the Minister’s comments. I am sure that this will not be

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the last time we debate the matter, but having the debate is important because, ultimately, it will lead to a better final decision on where the crossing will be.

3.58 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Mike Penning): It is a privilege to respond to this important debate that my hon. Friend the Member for Thurrock (Jackie Doyle-Price) has secured. She is absolutely right that we have had many robust discussions on this in the House and when I visited Thurrock, and similar discussions on the other side of the river when I visited Dartford. As she knows, I am acutely aware of the situation in Thurrock, not least because I was a parliamentary candidate for the constituency in 2001 and a fireman in that part of the world for many years. Although I probably do not know the situation quite as well as she does, I did spend my teenage years in that part of the world and so understand the issues there. Many of the concerns raised with me when I was a parliamentary candidate have been raised with me on my more recent visits to Thurrock and Dartford, which is why we desperately need to have this debate and this review. My hon. Friend—he is my friend—the Member for Poplar and Limehouse (Jim Fitzpatrick), the shadow Minister, is sitting opposite me, and he knows that I hardly ever do party political stuff, but the previous Government did duck this issue, and they know that they did.

There is a capacity issue at the crossing. We always talk about the bridge, but going north there are two tunnels, one of which is the original. I remember going through when there was only one tunnel, that is how old I am, but going north the inner tunnel is a smaller bore, which causes problems for high-sided vehicles, and that is one reason why the Government have committed themselves to looking at another crossing, either by tunnel or by bridge.

The existing tunnels and bridge were designed for a capacity of 135,000 vehicles per day, but usage has hit 180,000, and one reason why it is not even higher—businesses tell me this, as I am sure the businesses in my hon. Friend’s constituency tell her—is that some businesses shy away from using the bridge. They can work in the cost of the tolls, but not the cost of the delays. For many businesses and many people, however, there is no other option.

I listened carefully to what my hon. Friend said about Dover, and Dover is interesting, because it is predominantly a roll-on, roll-off port. It is not like the port of Tilbury, or like DP World’s new port—incidentally, it is about to finish the first phase of that project, and I had the privilege of being at its launch. At Dover, however, the lorries are driven on and driven off. Some are on skids, but at the end of the day the freight is on wheels, which are going to roll, and if they are going to go north from Dover there is only one way they can go.

The crossing is significant, with Thurrock to the north, and, to digress for a second, everybody talks about it being the Dartford crossing, but that is only one side. The other side, the northern side, is clearly in Thurrock, but no one talks about the Thurrock crossing very much, apart from those who live in Thurrock, and that is something I have always picked up.

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The crossing is of national significance, however. It is part of our national motorway network, and, even though I fully understand that the Mayor of London’s proposals, which we support, will take on some capacity, I do not want to divert larger HGVs and through traffic off the motorways. That is what the motorways were designed for, why they are so successful and why they are the safest roads in the country—because they were designed for their current use. The issue is that they are very successful, so we are expanding them and sweating their assets.

My hon. Friend is absolutely right to say that both sides of the motorway are being expanded, albeit without hard-shoulder running, which is what I would have liked to see. The orders were signed off long before I became a Minister, and the Audit Commission said that there was a massive overspend on the project because we were not able to use the asset as we should have—either by widening the motorway and using the hard shoulder, or by using just the hard shoulder. We did not need to do both, but we could have saved an awful lot of money and spent it more wisely elsewhere.

I am not going to be drawn into a debate about where the crossing should be, because further down the line some bright lawyer will drag me through a judicial review, stating that I have expressed a view too early on, but the business case will be significant. The infrastructure to which there is a connection, and the cost of developing it, will be hugely significant, and the effects on the environment—I am acutely aware of the green belt and the pressures on it each side of the river—will be taken into consideration.

What will also be taken into consideration is the effect on the local communities each side of the river and, particularly, on their local road network, because if we do not do so there will be no point in moving on from where we are today. The reason why we managed to secure significant investment from the Chancellor during the spending round was by, first, having a short-term look, today, at what we can do to alleviate the concerns of my hon. Friend’s constituents regarding pollution, in particular, and congestion. One of the biggest things on which MPs and colleagues throughout the country write to me is congestion, its environmental aspects and its knock-on effects on business .

Gareth Johnson: The Minister mentions pollution in the area around the Dartford crossing, but may I press him on noise pollution in particular? When he reviews the situation along the east Thames corridor, will he look at the surfaces on the M25 to see whether there is a way of minimising the noise pollution that emanates from those surfaces near the Dartford crossing?

Mike Penning: I was going to move on to other sorts of pollution, including light and noise. I give hon. Members an assurance that when the tarmac needs to be replaced, or the soft surface, as some people like to call it, it will be replaced with low-noise tarmac. That commitment was given by the previous Government and we have continued with it. It is fractionally more expensive, but it removes a huge blight. It is not silent, but it generates about 50% less noise than normal tarmac. The noise is an enormous amount lower than that on concrete surfaces, but the sad news is that

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concrete surfaces last much longer. They are a huge success, but the road noise from them is hugely significant.

As I was saying, if we get this right, initially by removing the barriers and then by realigning the motorway going south where there is the dog-leg at junction 1A, people will be able to cross the river with confidence, particularly going south—I will return to the problems going north later—without having to search around for change, throw money into a pot and worry about whether the machine has counted it properly. There is currently the smart facility to go through with a DART card, which I encourage people to use. If we can get rid of the barriers, it will significantly free up time for people going through, particularly as different vehicles currently have to pay different fees. There is a debate about how much time it will save. However, that will not alleviate the problem in the long term.

Interestingly, hauliers tell me that the better I make the Dartford crossing, the more they are likely to use it. People would also be likely to invest in the area. There is a significant ferry employer in Thurrock which owns a significant amount of land on the other side of the river in Dartford that it does not use because of the congestion on the bridge. I am not going to say that investment would immediately go up, but the indication that I have is that the congestion going north and south is inhibiting investment in that part of the world. We can alleviate the congestion, and if we do not alleviate the congestion locally, there is frankly no point in doing this. We can build into what we are doing with the removal of the barriers, thus freeing up more capacity.

As I said, the Chancellor has given us the money to look carefully at where a new crossing could be sited. We are rightly supporting the Mayor’s new crossing, which will be excellent news for east London. However, a lot of the traffic that we are considering, particularly the growth in HGV traffic on the M25 through Dartford and Thurrock, will not go that way. That crossing will alleviate the amount of traffic to some extent, but by nowhere near enough.

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Members who were here for the previous debate know that I passionately believe that we need to grow ourselves out of the economic situation that we are in. It is right that I need to get as much traffic off the roads as possible, but there is no point in making our motorways wider and wider, managing them and getting them to flow all around the country if, in the most significant spot in the country, with HGVs unable to go anywhere else, there are barriers, toll booths and a northbound crossing that does not have anywhere near the capacity of the southbound one.

We will consider very carefully where the new crossing should go, and we will ensure that any effects on the local infrastructure, particularly junctions 30 and 31, are addressed in the early plans. As my hon. Friend the Member for Thurrock knows, we have looked very carefully at the protracted, but in the end successful, negotiations with DP World over those junctions. I thank DP World for its investment in UK plc. Creating 36,000 jobs in that part of the world is a massively significant boost to the economy, and if we get the crossing right it will be a boost for the economy on both sides of the bridge because a lot of people living south of the river will probably come north to work.

If we can get the crossing right, it will be great for communities on both sides of the river environmentally and in terms of lifestyle, because they will be able to commute and do more things. It will be even better for UK plc, and if we can get it right I am determined to do so as early as possible. We need no more delays, and we have the money to do the early work. We will have long discussions with hon. Members about how the project is structured and how it can work, but UK plc needs a new crossing on the lower Thames and that is what it will get.

Question put and agreed to.

4.10 pm

House adjourned.