Select Committee on Mersey Tunnels Bill Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses(Question 287-299)

Mrs Charles George and Miss Joanna Clayton

Tuesday 4 February 2003

287. CHAIRMAN: First, if it is acceptable to the Committee, I would like to report that Mr Jim Cunningham will not be joining us this week. He has suffered a very sad and tragic bereavement — his mother died — and therefore you will understand and I am sure you will forgive his absence. I have, on behalf of the Committee, written to Jim last evening to send our condolences to him and to his family and to pass on to him the Committee's sadness at his loss and our understanding at this difficult time.

288. It seems that we have a development. Mr George, would you like to make a comment?

289. MR GEORGE: Sir, what I was going to do was first of all to ask Miss Clayton to draw the Committee's attention to a very few corrections to the transcript, and then I was going to update the Committee about two developments, one concerning the Secretary of State and one concerning the Petitioner. The whole matter will only take a very short time.

290. CHAIRMAN: I think it will be most helpful, thank you, Mr George.

291. MR GEORGE: Thank you.

292. MISS CLAYTON: May I take hon Members to page 17 of the transcript first of all, paragraph 113. About six or seven lines from the bottom of the paragraph hon Members will see reference is made to "Standing Order 1422"; it should be "Standing Order 142(2)".

293. Next, if I could take hon Members to page 23 of the transcript, paragraph 149, four lines down from the paragraph, hon Members will see Mr George was saying, "One is to go to the Government and ask for the power" - it should say - "to borrow" rather than "tomorrow". Wishful thinking perhaps!

294. Page 40 of the transcript, paragraph 262, there is a reference to a paragraph in the Petition Mr George was looking at. It should say, we think, "That is in paragraph 9 of the petition."

295. Finally, page 42, paragraph 275, the second line, reference is made to "the cost of construction has been" - we think it should say "paid off" rather than "made off". On the following line, Mr George was pointing out that "under the present legislation there is no requirement to stop tolling" rather than "go stop tolling".

296. CHAIRMAN: Thank you. While we are on the corrections, could I refer the Committee to page 37, paragraph 237, the first line, where it says, "have not got that moment". It should say, "have not got at the moment". Thank you. Mr George?

297. MR GEORGE: Sir, I hope the Committee has the second report of the Secretary of State for the Department of Transport. The Committee may recall that in the bundle at A29, page 130, we had the first report. There were two outstanding concerns. One related to the EU Directive: one related to a need for further consultation. The Secretary of State says that he has now seen the filled-up Bill and that he is satisfied that the amendments in it meet his two previous concerns.

298. Sir, secondly, I am happy to report to the Committee that discussions with Mr Fleming for the outstanding Petitioner have proved extremely fruitful, and that an agreement in principle has been reached with Mr Fleming whereby it seems that it is not going to be necessary to trouble this Committee with the Bill. There is a need for a very short further period of time for those discussions to reach the point at which, so to speak, a formal announcement could be made to the Committee, and I crave the permission of the Committee to have an adjournment, either now for a period of, say, half an hour, or alternatively to come back at whatever time the Committee was minded to sit this afternoon, by which time I and Mr Fleming are extremely confident that we shall be able actually to tell you that we have reached the decisive further stage.

299. CHAIRMAN: Thank you very much, Mr George. Shall we adjourn then until 11 o'clock this morning, at which point I would invite Mr Fleming perhaps to say a few words too. As a courtesy to you, sir, I think it would be good to give you an opportunity to explain why you have arrived at this happy position. The Committee is now adjourned until 11.00 am.

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