Select Committee on Mersey Tunnels Bill Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses(Question 1-19)

Mrs Charles George and Miss Joanna Clayton

Thursday 30 January 2003

1. CHAIRMAN: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to this hearing. My name is Bob Spink and I will be chairing these proceedings. My colleagues here are Mr Mark Field, Jim Cunningham and Brian Jenkins.

2. It may be of assistance if I confirm that the Committee will be sitting today until 11.25 am and from 2.15 pm until 4.30 this afternoon. Next week we plan to sit on Tuesday, Wednesday and if necessary on Thursday from 10.00 in the morning until 11.25 and from 1.30 until 4.30 in the afternoon, except that on Tuesday we will sit from 2.30 in the afternoon.

3. There might be some flexibility, of course, in these timings, depending on the business of the House and depending on how proceedings are going on here. We may wish to finish a little earlier or a little later to be convenient for all. Of course we will need to suspend proceedings if there are any votes and that is likely to happen later on Tuesday afternoon I suspect.

4. We will hear firstly from the Promoters and then we will hear from the Petitioner. The Promoters may then have an opportunity to respond before we make our decision.

5. We have given permission for the Promoters to show a video about the Mersey Tunnels as part of their opening presentation. The video will not be formally entered on to the record and the Committee will adjourn while the video is shown.

6. Mr George, would you like to introduce the case for the Bill.

7. MR GEORGE: Thank you, Sir. I appear with Miss Clayton, who is on my left, for the Promoters. As the Committee are well aware, Private Bills and more particularly Opposed Bill Committee proceedings are increasingly rare, they used to be very common but now they are a great rarity. The great advantage of such a hearing is that the proposed legislation is subjected to rigorous scrutiny. That has two particular benefits, it acts as a deterrent to Promoters who know that they will be put to proof, not merely in debate on the floor of the House but to the investigative and interrogatory proceedings of the Select Committee and it also ought to distil the good from the bad ensuring that what survives - and we hope it will be the entire Bill - does so because it has got logic and cogency.

8. Now, Hon. Members should each have a bundle consisting of a large lever arch file entitled "Exhibits". It contains not merely plans and photographs and numerous tables but also various pieces of legislation and reports to which the Committee will in due course be referred either by myself in opening or by my witnesses. I apologise to the Committee for the bulk. That is largely because of the decision to include the Hansard records of the two debates which have been on the floor of the House on the second reading on 9 July and on the carry over motion on 23 October. We have included, also, copies of the petitions.

9. Can I ask at this stage that there be handed to the Committee three replacement pages which correct errors. If I could ask the Committee simply to substitute those in the relevant place in the bundle and to destroy the previous document.

10. The Committee will find that the bundle falls into a Section A, B, C and D. There is a replacement B7, a replacement B17 and a replacement C21. When that has been done could I ask the Committee please to turn to an exhibit which is numbered C26 and it has on it on the same page a table which is numbered also 26.

11. CHAIRMAN: (After a short pause) Could you repeat your instruction please, Mr George?

12. MR GEORGE: When the three pages have been inserted could the Committee go to the table which is marked Exhibit C26 with on the same page a reference to table C26. That is a table which has got a series of columns in. If I could simply ask the Committee in manuscript to alter that to C25 and the table to C25. It stays in the same place in the bundle but in case there be confusion later on that is a mistake which we only discovered very recently.

13. CHAIRMAN: That is very kind. Thank you.

14. MR GEORGE: It is the table which is headed Exhibit C26 and which has on it, the same page, a table C26 and in both cases it becomes C25.

15. CHAIRMAN: Thank you. That is very clear. These things happen even in the House of Commons.

16. MR GEORGE: If I turn firstly to the Promoters. The Promoters are the Merseyside Passenger Transport Authority, I shall call it PTA. PTAs consist of elected members operating through officers who make up the PTE, that is the Passenger Transport Executive. Together they are responsible for securing the provision of public transport in the United Kingdom's principal cities outside London, namely Greater Manchester, South Yorkshire, Strathclyde, Tyne and Wear, West Midlands, West Yorkshire and of course Merseyside. To those of us who are southerners they seem sometimes to be a slightly foreign creature but move to the Midlands and the north and they play a very important strategic statutory role.

17. The PTA consists of 18 elected councillors who are nominated annually by the five district councils in accordance with the proportion of Merseyside's population they represent. Merseytravel is the common name for both the PTA and the PTE and there is a staff of over 800 tasked to secure the provision - and I quote from the Act - of such "...public passenger transport services as the Passenger Transport Authority considers it appropriate for the Executive to secure for meeting any public transport requirements within the area which in the Authority's view would not be met apart from any action taken by the Executive for that purpose".

18. Now that is all set out in section 9A(3) of the Transport Act 1968 as amended and in due course, if the Committee wish to look it up, it is at A34 page 197 of your bundle, but I do not think it is necessary to take you to it at this point.

19. Thus the Executive ensures the provision, for example, of bus services where those are socially necessary but are not provided commercially by the private sector. It supervises and funds a network of local rail services provided by franchisees and those rail services include the rail service which runs underneath the River Mersey through the first tunnel which was constructed. Merseytravel also provide a comprehensive passenger information service and the infrastructure for bus services, for example stops, shelters and bus stations.

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