Examinations of Witnesses (Questions 1-19)
MR CHARLES GEORGE QC and MISS JOANNA CLAYTON, BIRCHAM
The Petition of David Loudon, John McGoldrick and
MR JOHN McGOLDRICK examined
1. CHAIRMAN: Gentlemen, good morning. You
are at an advantage over the members of the Committee in that
our names are in front of us and your names are not. I think
it would be helpful if perhaps Mr George would identify himself.
2. MR GEORGE: I am Charles George and this
is Joanna Clayton on my left who is appearing with me. Sir, in
due course, I am going to be calling as two witnesses Mr Wilkinson,
the Director of Resources who is sitting there and, in the back
row, Mr Phil Bates from Steer Davies Gleave.
3. CHAIRMAN: Would the Petitioners identify
4. MR McGOLDRICK: I am John McGoldrick;
I am the agent for the Petitioners and a Petitioner. This is David
Louden who is also a Petitioner and this is Brian Kendall who
may also be speaking. We intend at this stage to just call one
witness who is Frank Field MP.
5. CHAIRMAN: Mr McGoldrick, you are both
a Petitioner and an Agent?
6. MR McGOLDRICK: Yes.
7. CHAIRMAN: You are wearing a double hat.
I do not intend to introduce the members of the Committee because
our names are in front of us. Firstly, we have two bits of housekeeping.
One on timings. I am advised that such committees sit normally
from 10.30 until 4.00 with a one hour break for lunch. I have
already established that that is suitable for the members of the
Committee and may I take it that that is suitable for the Promoters
and Petitioners? (Agreed)
8. Secondly, the overall timing. The last thing,
as Chairman, that I want to do is to truncate any discussion but
could I lead you as gently as possible that it would be very convenient
if we were to finish by the end of tomorrow. One of the reasons
for saying that is that one member of the Committee would have
difficulty on Wednesday morning and the second member of the Committee
would have difficulty from Wednesday midday-ish onwards. So,
it is desirable, not essential, that we try and finish by tomorrow
night. I merely put that as guidance.
9. No member of the Committee has any interest in
the Bill or any interest to declare in the Bill. I hope that
is acceptable to both parties. (Agreed) I understand, Mr George,
that there is no question of challenging the locus standi,
is that right?
10. MR GEORGE: That is correct.
11. CHAIRMAN: I think that is the total
of my housekeeping points. Mr George, would you like to present
the case for the promoters.
12. MR GEORGE: Your Lordships should have
a bundle of documents entitled, "A: General Exhibits for
the House of Lords Select Committee" and, in the course of
my opening, I will be referring to some of those documents and,
when I call my two witnesses, they will be producing some further
exhibits and I can indicate to your Lordships that we have supplied
all the exhibits to the Petitioners last week, so they have seen
all this documentation in advance.
13. CHAIRMAN: I am sorry, I am interrupting
already and this is something I am urging members of the Committee
not to do. Could I just have confirmation from the Petitioners
that that is so.
14. MR McGOLDRICK: That is correct.
15. MR GEORGE: My Lords, if I turn first
to the Promoters, the Promoters are the Merseyside Passenger Transport
Authority and, as your Lordships are probably aware, passenger
transport authorities consist of elected local authority members
and they operate through officers who make up the passenger transport
executive and, in Merseyside, both the PTA, that is the authority,
and the PTE, the executive, operate under the collective name
of Merseytravel. So, when one speaks of Merseytravel that is
the name I shall use for the promoters.
16. There are of course five local authority areas
on Merseyside and if I could just refer your Lordships to A2 in
the bundle, your Lordships will be able to see Sefton to the north
and St Helens and Knowsley to the East. The focus of this Bill
is on the remaining two districts, the Liverpool City area and
the Wirral, separated as they are by the mouth of the River Mersey.
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 that they represent
and we regard it as important that the PTA is a democratically
elected body because control over all its decisions lies in the
hands of the councillors from the five elected local authorities.
When this Bill was on the floor of your Lordships' House at Second
Reading, concern was expressed as to whether the Bill adequately
provided for the views of the five local authorities to be taken
into account. My Lords, we simply say that the PTA is itself
representative of the five local authorities. In its way, it
is simply a manifestation of those five local authorities and
the local authorities have total control over the PTA's decisions.
The accounts of the authority are all subject to district audit
and, each year, the district auditor has to look at those accounts
and provide a certificate. There is a procedure for objections
and the situation is that, for the last years, there have been
18. My Lords, since this Bill seeks to make available
and use some of the surplus tolls for public transport purposes,
it is right that I remind you of Merseytravel's statutory obligation.
Its obligation is to secure the provision of such public passenger
transport services as the authority considers it appropriate for
the Executive to secure for meeting any public transport requirements
within the area which would not be met apart from any action taken
for that purpose. That is all set out in section 9(A)(3) of the
Transport Act 1968. So that Merseytravel is a public transport
19. This Bill of course is concerned with the two
Mersey tunnels and if I could ask your Lordships to turn to A3,
your Lordships will see the two tunnels. The older is that to
the south which is the Birkenhead tunnel, what is sometimes called
the Queensway tunnel. The more recent tunnel is the Wallasey
tunnel which is sometimes called the Kingsway tunnel because that
is what Queen Elizabeth named it when it was opened. These two
tunnels fit rather oddly into the authority's statutory responsibilities,
ownership having been passed to them in 1986 from the County Council
of Merseyside, along with all the tunnels' debts at the time when
the metropolitan county councils were abolished in 1986. The
tunnels are not the authority's sole responsibility in relation
to crossing the River Mersey since the authority also owns and
operates the Mersey ferries.