Examination of Witnesses (Questions 340-359)
MR CHARLES GEORGE QC and MISS JOANNA CLAYTON.
BIRCHAM DYSON BELL and MR JOHN McGOLDRICK examined
340. CHAIRMAN: Mr George?
341. MR GEORGE: I do not want to say anything
more about that, my Lord. That is my submission and there is
the law. The law may need changing and some may feel it is unsatisfactory,
but that is the law and that is the law which I invite the Committee
342. CHAIRMAN: Any comments from my colleagues?
No. Please carry on.
343. MR GEORGE:While I am on my feet, the
transcript writers have done an absolutely excellent job of work.
Inevitably, there are a few corrections. My Lord, in the old
days one used to take a lot of time reading them, but can I simply
suggest that we will put them on a piece of paper and circulate
it to Mr McGoldrick and hand it to the Committee and to the transcript
writer, which is the various minor corrections which we have spotted
in the transcript and then in case anyone at a later stage seeks
to rely on the transcript, they will have a version which the
parties have agreed on, a corrected version.
344. CHAIRMAN: That is very helpful, thank
345. MR GEORGE: My Lord, there is only one
matter which I think I perhaps ought to draw attention to. It
is page 48 at paragraph 284. In the third line, Mr Wilkinson
answers and he says, "My Lords, the powers sought in the
Bill will have a doubling effect", and it should be a "double
effect" when one reads on. I simply mention it because I
would not want it thought that we are suggesting that the Bill
is going to double traffic levels, so it should be the "double
effect" rather than "a doubling effect". As I
say, there are other matters, but I do not think I am going to
take the time of the Committee with any of the other changes,
and in that everyone has been encouraged to speak up today, I
am sure we will do even better tomorrow.
346. Can I also apologise that my junior, who is
Joanna Clayton and who is recorded as Amanda Clayton on page 1,
is not here this morning. I hope she will be joining us again
later on this afternoon and I apologise for her absence.
347. CHAIRMAN: Mr George, you have sent
a warning shot across our bows on that, which did not go too well
to my ears, about tomorrow.
348. MR GEORGE: I said "this afternoon".
I said I hope that she would appear "this afternoon"
349. CHAIRMAN: I thought you said before
that something about tomorrow.
350. MR GEORGE: Well, let's hope not.My
Lord, the other matter is that I handed your Lordships the Noise
Insulation Regulations yesterday. I do not expect that the Committee
have had time to examine them in any great detail. There is one
matter which I perhaps ought to have drawn attention to yesterday.
It is Article 7(1) of the Noise Insulation Regulations which
specify a maximum distance away from the highway of 300 metres.
Your Lordships will recall that I handed in a copy of the Noise
Insulation Regulations and 7(1) sets a 300-metre limit, although
that limit can be exceeded under Article 4(4) where one has got
a case of a terrace. If you have got contiguous façades,
you can go just over the 300 metres. As I indicated yesterday,
we are going to apply the Regulations. These properties are going
to be as if the Noise Insulation Regulations applied and, therefore,
there will be a cut-off at that point in accordance with the Noise
Insulation Regulations. I doubt there will be any property at
the very edge, but I felt that possibly what I said yesterday
was misleading, that I had not drawn your Lordships' attention
to that 300-metre cut-off, which is in the Noise Insulation Regulations.
351. CHAIRMAN: Noted, thank you.
352. MR GEORGE: It is Schedule 2 of the
Bill which in clause 109A(4) provides that the Noise Insulation
Regulations are to apply unless inappropriate in all the circumstances.
353. CHAIRMAN: Now, Mr McGoldrick, would
you like to carry on with your cross-examination?
MR JOHN WILKINSON, recalled
Cross-examination by MR McGOLDRICK, continued
354. MR McGOLDRICK: Thank you, my Lord.
Yesterday we were looking at Table 20 on page 73. We touched
yesterday on the question of the acceleration of the debt. One
further question in relation to that is that when it was decided
to accelerate the debt redemption, why was it not the debt, which
is described as MDC's, which was accelerated?
(Mr Wilkinson) My Lord, the process,
which I thought I had described, was that rather than actually
repay any lender and incur interest penalties, I reallocated debt
between the Mersey tunnels and the public transport functions
of Merseyside Passenger Transport Authority. Now, the debt due
to Merseyside district councils was very specifically entirely
and solely for Mersey tunnels. The debt owed to the Public Works
Loans Board is for a mixture of purposes. It was, therefore, thought,
I felt, that it would be more appropriate to use this reshuffling
of debt only for Public Works Lands Board's debts.
355. But is not the MDC's debt in fact an internal
transaction within the Authority and, therefore, it is assumed
would be the easiest one to change and in the interests of the
tunnels, it carries a 9 percent interest rate, the one which would
be most beneficial to the tunnels as well as to Merseytravel?
My Lord, I did try and explain yesterday the workings of the Government
restriction, known as the minimum provision. I did try to set
out in paragraph 4(3) of this exhibit the reasons for benefit
to council tax payers by adopting this methodology.That benefit
would not accrue had I to reallocate debt due to Merseyside district
councils because the minimum revenue provision simply does not
apply to that tranche of debt.
356. But that is something which would not be of
either benefit or disbenefit to the tunnels. What you are doing
is basically of benefit to Merseytravel and not the tunnels?
My Lord, I reject that point. My aim was to provide benefit to
Mersey tunnels by accelerating the repayment of the debt. I do
not think it matters quite frankly which tranche of debt was accelerated
in terms of its redemption. The point was that the Mersey tunnels
benefited by having a lower level of debt owed by them by means
of this transaction.
357. But would they not have benefited even more
if it was the 9 per cent debt which was cancelled rather than
the 4 per cent debt?
In theory, my Lord, that is the case. There would have been a
marginal difference in the debt charges, but there would have
been no benefit whatsoever to the council tax payers of Merseyside.
358. I was speaking on the basis of the benefit
of the tunnels. Can I turn to another point given on the same
Schedule. One of the points which was made yesterday in relation
to the Bill, clause 91(3)(e), which is page 106, at the bottom
of the page, one of the purposes that is authorised by the Bill
for the use of tolls is, "in making payments to the Authority's
general fund for the purpose of directly or indirectly facilitating
the achievement of policies relating to public transport in its
local transport plan, or for other purposes". If I understood
what was said correctly, it was stated that that phrase, "or
for other purposes", was there so that the payments which
were being made in relation to this MDC debt would be legal.
Did I misunderstand that?
My Lord, that is, quite correctly, what was said yesterday. Effectively
the debt being referred to is not specifically covered in section
91 (3)(b) but is covered in section 91(3)(e) of the Bill.
359. Does that not imply that at the moment the
authority may be acting illegally if it requires to add this provision
into the Bill that is not in the present Act?
I do not believe, my Lord, that that is an inference that can
be drawn. In seeking advice on the drafting of the Bill I felt
that we needed those words inserted to make it absolutely clear
of the basis for making repayment to the district councils for