HC Deb 22 October 1990 vol 178 cc71-105

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Promoters of the Midland Metro Bill shall have leave to suspend proceedings thereon in order to proceed with the Bill, if they think fit, in the next Session of Parliament, provided that the Agents for the Bill give notice to the Clerks in the Private Bill Office not later than the day before the close of the present Session of their intention to suspend further proceedings and that all Fees due on the Bill up to that date be paid; That on the fifth day on which the House sits in the next Session the Bill shall be presented to the House; That there shall be deposited with the Bill a declaration signed by the Agents for the Bill, stating that the Bill is the same, in every respect, as the Bill at the last stage of its proceedings in this House in the present Session; That the Bill shall be laid upon the Table of the House by one of the Clerks in the Private Bill Office on the next meeting of the House after the day on which the Bill has been presented and, when so laid, shall be read the first and second time and committed (and shall be recorded in the Journal of this House as having been so read and committed); That all Petitions relating to the Bill presented in the present Session which stand referred to the Committee on the Bill, together with any minutes of evidence taken before the Committee on the Bill, shall stand referred to the Committee on the Bill in the next Session; That no Petitioners shall be heard before the Committee on the Bill, unless their Petition has been presented within the time limited within the present Session or deposited pursuant to paragraph (b) of Standing Order 126 relating to Private Business; That in relation to the Bill, Standing Order 127 relating to Private Business shall have effect as if the words 'under Standing Order 126 (Reference to committee of petitions against Bill)' were omitted; That no further Fees shall be charged in respect of any proceedings on the Bill in respect of which Fees have already been incurred during the present Session; That these Orders be Standing Orders of the House.—[The Chairman of Ways and Means.]

7 pm

Mr. David Gilroy Bevan (Birmingham, Yardley)

Madam Deputy Speaker, thank you for presenting us with this chance to continue with the debate on a carry-over motion of this Bill to the next Session of Parliament.

I remind the House that the scheme was originally proposed by the West Midlands county council, after being proposed beforehand by the passenger transport authority of the West Midlands, of which I was the second chairman.

A previous Bill failed in 1984 as too much demolition was required, it had bad public relations and insufficient district council support. This Bill provides for lines 2 and 3. The Midland Metro Act 1989 will progress substantially public transportation in the west midlands. At the moment we are awaiting a Government announcement regarding funding of that Act.

Lines 2 and 3, which will run through Birmingham and in the Black Country, will have all-party support, apart from a small minority of hon. Members. The Bill was launched by the passenger executive in the west midlands in 1987—now known as Centro. The object of the Bill is to relieve congestion, to bring about economic regeneration, to ensure the increased use of public transport and to ensure an improvement to the environment.

Light rail transit is usually quiet, ecologically attractive and blends in well with the environment. In places where light rail transit systems are operating, for example in Grenoble, it has been heralded as a successful system by all who have seen it. The Grenoble system is the type that this scheme will emulate. I am told that my hon. Friend the Member for Meriden (Mr. Mills) was very impressed by the Grenoble system when he made a recent visit there and thought that it would make a great contribution to the cause of public transport. We are much obliged to him for those remarks because I know that he had some reservations about the project.

The trains will be between 28m and 30m long and as light as 26 tonnes. The overhead supports will not be higher than 18ft 6 in, and trains will carry about 75 people seated and 175 people standing. The train will increase people's mobility and will have a low floor level—almost parallel with the loading area—making it easy for people to alight. In modern parlance, it is environmentally friendly, fume-free and reliable, and compares favourably with other forms of transport, especially road transport, as it is safer, costs less and has less environmental impact.

Hon. Members who vote in favour of the carry-over motion today will remember that in many studies recently roads have not been proposed as the solution to the transport needs of urban areas. In the London area a vast road building programme was not chosen by the Secretary of State in favour of "a redline system" of alleviating traffic parking.

The system will cost less than heavy rail and will have less environmental impact. It will be more flexible and will share the roads with other traffic. There can be a greater penetration into the centre of cities. The trains will be more reliable than buses. They will be cleaner and fume-free. They will have a greater passenger capacity and will be faster. The light rail system has a more modern image, as up-market transport. Rightly or wrongly, buses do not enjoy the same image. The system has much to recommend it and the carry-over motion has much to commend it.

Line 2 will go from Birmingham Five Ways through the city centre to a vast new Heartlands development area of more than 2,000 acres in Bromford and then on to Castle Bromwich, Chelmsley Wood, Arlington business park, the national exhibition centre—I am sorry if I sound a little like a conductor—Birmingham International railway station and Birmingham International airport, all of which are important destinations. The line will be 26 km long with 34 stops. The new underground section will serve the new international convention centre in the centre of Birmingham, making Birmingham one of Europe's most strategically placed cities, the town hall, New street and Corporation street. It will come to the surface in Birmingham's second university area—Aston university—and will cost £100 million.

Mr. Peter Snape (West Bromwich, East)

I am following the hon. Gentleman's speech with great interest. I wonder if he has been as persuasive with the Department of Transport as he has with the House. As he has come to the financing of this worthwhile project, can he tell us whether there is any likelihood of that Department coughing up some section 56 grant so that we can get the line built and stop talking about it?

Mr. Bevan

The hon. Gentleman is trying, in the nicest possible way, to put the cart before the horse. It is no use trying to get any pronouncements on financing unless there is a Bill to be financed. That is the motion before us tonight.

As I said earlier, we are awaiting an imminent decision on financing for line 1.

Line 3 will do a very important job, joining Wolverhampton and Dudley town centres, passing through Wednesfield, Walsall, Darlaston and Wednesbury. It will cross line 1 at the Sandwell 2000 development in Tipton and will be 26 km long with 32 stops. There will be 11 vehicles with a 10-minute frequency and the hon. Member for West Bromwich, East (Mr. Snape) will be interested to know that it will cost about £136 million.

Feasibility studies were made to enable a route to be chosen, and high scoring corridors have been chosen. District councils selected the routes on the basis of minimal effect upon residential property, of potential ridership, of cost and of environment effect. Future development proposals were considered together with the practicability of construction.

All construction matters have been taken into account by the local authority. The hon. Member for West Bromwich, East ought to be aware, if he is not already aware, though he seems to be celebrating his awareness with laughter and happiness, that all seven district councils, on every side of the political spectrum, are totally behind the project. I am told that the one Liberal councillor from Birmingham who is on the passenger transport authority is also in favour of it.

Intensive market research is being carried out. In July 1990 a ratio of 4:1 west midlands residents were in favour of the project. That is a new figure. The previous ratio was 3:1. It appears that 47 per cent. favour the project. Vast numbers of leaflets have been circulated. Numerous meetings have been held in all the affected areas. A huge public consultation exercise took place with many authorities, including Birmingham, Solihull, Walsall, Wolverhampton, Sandwell and Dudley. Public consultation has not been skimped.

The public are rightly concerned about noise, but these trams will be almost noise free. They are nothing like the old Brummie or Blackpool trams that were operational in the 1940s and 1950s. I assure my hon. Friend the Member for Meriden that the tracks will be bedded in rubberised compound and ballasted, wherever feasible. Furthermore, noise insulation grants should be payable under schemes similar to that operated for highways, in appropriate circumstances.

We are determined to increase the quality of life by improving public transport. The lines will be among the finest ever introduced anywhere in the world. They will be far safer than cars and there will be far fewer pedestrian accidents. As the vehicles will be on rails, they can be controlled far more easily than cars or buses. The driver, who will have to be trained to a high level, will not have to steer the vehicle. The system has been approved by the railways inspectorate, according to extraordinarily strict criteria. It will bring a completely new look to public transport.

In 1989 a scheme was introduced to purchase properties that are directly affected by the proposals, if the owners wish to sell. However, no residential property is affected by demolition on line 2. Only slum clearance property is affected on line 3. There is conclusive evidence, nevertheless, that in areas where light electric rail has been introduced property values have increased much faster than normal when new public transport infrastructure is provided. Under the scheme, 12 properties were purchased on line 2. There are no current applications on line 2.

There have been many references to the environmental effects. The lines allow for the introduction of much more pedestrianisation, especially as they will be accompanied by traffic management measures. They take up much less space than highways. Noise levels are much less intrusive than those connected with buses or trucks. Moreover, they are pollution free and are accompanied by extensive landscaping. They will therefore contribute to the greening of the areas that they will serve. They will result in economic and landscape regeneration.

The colours of the tie that I am wearing happen to be the colours of Centro, the body that is promoting the Bill. I hope that it reflects the fact that a substantial amount of green is included among the attractive blue. I hope that it will harmonise with the blue and result in an excellent turquoise-type environment.

The consultation exercise began in March. There was widespread publicity in the local press—the Birmingham Evening Mail and the Birmingham Express and Star. Leaflets were distributed in civic centres. Fares generally will react to market forces and may be slightly higher than bus fares, although we hope that they will be as low as possible. I introduced the travel card scheme when I was chairman of the authority. I hope that it will include the metro. I hope, too, that concessionary passes will be 'valid on the lines.

The area has a good record on concessionary passes. When I was a member of an all-party transport committee in the 1950s, we introduced free bus travel for pensioners. I was also able to introduce free travel for pensioners on the railways except at peak times. I hope that that good record will be continued.

The scheme is intended not to replace but to complement bus services. The operator will probably run feeder services and there will be park-and-ride facilities.

We trust that the private sector will be involved in the funding. We understand that the EEC is to provide about 30 per cent. of the cost. The United Kingdom will provide a similar figure. The local authority will also be involved in the funding, through its passenger transport authority. The passenger transport authority is likely to receive substantial funds if it goes ahead with other proposals that are currently before it. It will amount to many millions of pounds.

At 1990 prices, the cost amounts to £81 million for line 1. At 1989 prices, the cost is £273 million for line 2, for 26 km, and £136 million for line 3, again for 26 km. The cost of vehicles amounts to £30 million. It is interesting to compare these costs with equivalent road costs. Line 3, costing £136 million, can be compared with the Heartlands spine road, costing £85 million. As I have said, the length of line 3 is 26 km, whereas the Heartlands spine road is only 4.1 km in length. The cost of line 3 per kilometre is therefore £5.36 million, compared with a road cost of £20.66 million. It is about a quarter of the road cost. The maximum number of passengers who can be carried both ways per hour by the light railway is 30,000, whereas the maximum capacity of the Heartlands spine road is 14,500, so the light electric railway is equivalent to two dual carriageways.

The council has offered its unanimous support. Local groups have given substantial support, including Aston Villa football club, the Automobile Association, urban wild life groups and the west midlands CBI.

Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North)

As the hon. Gentleman knows, I support the Bill and voted accordingly on 5 March. However, I have some constituency reservations, which I have set out and will not repeat tonight because there will be other opportunities to do so, such as on Report. Is the hon. Gentleman aware that in my constituency the Bill is supported not only by the local authority and the majority of the people in the borough but in Willenhall? I do not think that there is any doubt about that, and my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, South (Mr. George) will probably agree with me. In addition to the reservations that I mentioned on 5 March, some anxiety has been expressed about the memorial park. It is argued that only a small part of it will be used, but as we so desperately need green space one is obviously reluctant to see any of it sacrificed. If I did not support the Bill I would make my position clear, as I always do on the Floor of the House, but it is important that the promoters reconsider that aspect. If the Bill is to receive the support of my constituents, as the hon. Gentleman would wish, those reservations should be reconsidered. I am not satisfied that there are not alternatives.

Mr. Bevan

I am obliged to the hon. Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick) for the point that he makes, for the support that he gave on Second Reading and for his implied support today. The promoters are determined to preserve as much as possible of the landscape and beauty of the areas through which the line will pass. I cannot speak to this specific matter, but it is a detail that is causing concern. Although a small part of that park might be used, I hope that the hon. Gentleman will bear in mind the green benefits of the line.

It is interesting to note public reaction in Grenoble, where originally only about 53 per cent. of its people were in favour of a tram system—slightly higher than the percentage of people who have expressed themselves in favour of the system in the west midlands. Two years after the system had been in operation, almost 94 per cent. of its population were in favour of it. I am certain that there will be a similar reaction from our citizens.

The Opposed Private Bill Committee spent 12 working days considering 35 objections in detail. Five objections were from a residents' group, four of which were rejected under the locus standi provisions, which do not encourage applications by corporate bodies other than individuals who might have a land holding interest. There were 27 commercial interests and British Rail, the Black Country development corporation and the university of Aston.

Only two petitioners attended the Committee. Centro objected to the residents' petitions and was aided by recommendations from the Joint Select Committee on Private Bill Procedure. That did not prevent residents' views from being put, as they have been forcefully put in debates in the House and through newspapers and other media.

Mr. Ronnie Fearn (Southport)

Do those objections include the 2,000-signature petition centred around Belinda close?

Mr. Bevan

I am not sure whether that petition was included in the objections, but most of the petitions must have been considered. However, I shall try to clarify that point and answer the hon. Gentleman later.

Two petitions were heard. The Committee asked Centro to devise a new route avoiding the site of Foseco, which was an industrial complex in Nechells. That route will be the subject of an additional submission, which has been laid before the Committee today. There was a petition from Chelmsley Wood residents, who were represented by my hon. Friend the Member for Meriden. The Committee was not convinced by the arguments for changing the route, but it sought undertakings regarding landscaping and the resilience of the track, to which I have already referred.

There has been liaison with residents on operating details such as car parking provision and the design of stops. The promoters are happy to comply with those details. Although I am taking a long time to deal with this, it is important that the House knows that it has been considered meticulously.

Madam Deputy Speaker (Miss Betty Boothroyd)

Although detail is important, the motion before us is very narrow; it is only a procedural carry-over motion. The hon. Gentleman has gone into much detail. I remind him and other hon. Members that we are debating a narrow procedural motion.

Mr. Bevan

I take careful note of what you say, Madam Deputy Speaker, and I should not wish to detain the House with matters that might not be relevant to the motion.

It is important that the motion is carried, because refusing to do so could cost the community charge payers of the area concerned at least £1 million and add at least two years of procedural administration. It is my heart-felt wish, having held a long-term interest in the Bill, that it be carried.

I was born in a taxi. That was not an elitist decision by my mother but an accident of transport. Had I been born in a bus or even a light electric tram, I should have been much more highly delighted. In transport terms, I have been trying to catch up ever since. I hope that the House will pass the motion to carry over consideration of the Bill to the next Session.

7.28 pm
Mr. Iain Mills (Meriden)

I shall not detain the House long. As you have rightly reminded us, Madam Deputy Speaker, this is a carry-over motion. Although I have not decided whether to oppose the motion, I seek a guarantee on behalf of my constituents that certain matters will be considered.

I should declare that I visited Grenoble to inspect its system, by which I was impressed. The trams are quiet and the design of the stops and shelters good and unobtrusive. Since then, I have received a guarantee that shared carriageways will not be a hazard—for example, in Moorend avenue, which is used by 5,000 vehicles a day or in Helmswood drive, which is used by about 1,800.

The first guarantee that I seek—before I decide my position on the carry-on motion—

Mr. Snape

Carry on!

Mr. Mills

I thank the hon. Gentleman for doing me such credit, although he will be aware that I meant "carry-over motion".

I seek a further guarantee that shared carriageways will not constitute a hazard in areas where there is a large number of vehicles. The system apparently works in at least two cities in France, and elsewhere, but I seek guarantees, too, that existing light standards will be used as the supports for the power supplies to the metro.

It is important that the decisions of the Opposed Private Bill Committee should be enshrined in the Bill. They should be a matter of law, and not merely a matter of choice by Centro. The statements to which I refer are to be found on page 2 of the Opposed Private Bill Committee's decisions. The first is that the promoters should deploy resilient track, and I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Yardley (Mr. Bevan) for his assurances—I hope that they are guarantees—on that matter. The Committee also sought the undertaking that there would be liaison with local parties. To overcome my criticism of the consultation process I would further ask that a meeting be arranged shortly between CARE, Centro, the Solihull council working party and the other bodies, to discuss, detail by detail, the position of stops, the posts to carry the power supply, car parking and all the other matters outlined.

The Opposed Private Bill Committee further asked that there should be no less car parking space and that the metro stops should be of a similarly attractive design to the artist's impressions. If the stops are as good as those in Grenoble, I shall be impressed; they will beat the bus shelters in Chelmsley Wood hands down. I would add to that list the requirement that our vehicles should be built to the same high standard of engineering as those in Grenoble.

I have brought these matters to the attention of the House to ensure that they are properly registered before I make up my mind whether to support the carry-over motion.

7.32 pm
Mr. Bruce George (Walsall, South)

Madam Deputy Speaker, you politely admonished the hon. Member for Birmingham, Yardley (Mr. Bevan) for talking generally. I shall seek to avoid such admonition: I shall speak partly in general terms, if I may, but I shall also be specific, to meet any potential criticism from the Chair.

Why should we support the motion? Everyone—whether a student, at whatever level, of the British constitution, a journalist or whatever—is aware that if legislation is not passed in one Parliament, it lapses. The work done on it passes into history and, in most cases, is regarded as wasted. Given the effort that has been put into this Bill so far, a decision not to allow Parliament to make further decisions and not to allow the promoters to proceed further would mean that there had been an appalling waste of time of the House and its Committees. It would also have been an appalling waste of time for those in Centro and the West Midlands passenger transport authority who have put in so much effort. It would mean that there had been a total waste of effort by those who have conducted surveys into public opinion and by the local authorities, which have consulted and redrawn routes and have expended a huge amount of intellectual and physical effort in providing the necessary information.

If we decide that the House should not proceed with the Bill next Session, an enormous amount of money will have been wasted: I understand that it has already cost Centro £1 million to promote the Bill.

If the carry-over motion is defeated, the metro project will suffer a severe setback. There have been setbacks before. We are all aware that the idea of the midland metro was first generated in the early 1980s. The proposals were stillborn and there was a delay of four or five years before they were reactivated. The present Bill has received an enormous amount of support. Should it suffer such a setback, a great deal of effort will have gone down the drain. I acknowledge the right of any Member of Parliament to oppose something to which he or his constituents object, but I hope that the majority of those who are here to listen to our proceedings will support the motion, and thus allow the promoters to continue, as well as giving some hope to those outside the House who look forward to the enactment of the Bill.

Of course, there have been objections. Even hon. Members who, like me, are very much in favour of the Bill and hope that work will soon commence, have had representations made to them by constituents. Some—very few—have expressed their absolute opposition. Most of those who object are in favour of the concept. but, for a variety of perfectly understandable reasons, would prefer the route not to run so close to their homes. But the great virtue of the metro is its accessibility. People should not have to walk one and a half miles to a railway station—or get a bus or taxi if it is raining—to pick up a light transit system. The route must be constructed to achieve a number of conflicting goals. It must not go so near to people's houses that it is detrimental to their environment, but it must be sufficiently close to allow them a degree of mobility that they do not enjoy at present. We have all received objections, but, although those objections are not marginal or insignificant, they have not been sufficient—in my constituency and in adjacent constituencies—to convince me that the midland metro is anything other than highly desirable.

We do not want the metro in 10 years' time; we want it tomorrow. The British are not renowned for their impetuosity. The decision-making process can be, and usually is, protracted, and more often than not the end product is wrong. In planning matters we have an almost obsessive attitude to consultation. The French do not suffer from the same hangups and I want to draw a parallel between the construction of Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris and the construction of London's third airport at Stansted. Many years ago I wrote my MA thesis on environmental pressure groups and one chapter was about the case for a third London airport which began in the late 1950s. I have now seen on television an advert announcing that after some slight delay—since the late 1950s—that airport is now operational. That is wonderful, but Charles de Gaulle airport is almost an historic construction in comparison.

We are obsessed with consultation and we do not want to proceed. We criticise the Japanese for their desire to reach a degree of homogeneity and support, but in some ways we share their attitude. The parliamentary process has imposed time constraints on those who want to use the Bill to create a light rail network in the midlands. That is perfectly correct. The process affords ample opportunity for individuals and groups to object and express their views. Any system, even a dictatorship, might in theory permit people to express views. However, under a democratic process if those views are expressed by enough people, they are acted upon. In fairness to the Bill's promoter, there has been an obsessive interest in consultation. I know that the Opposed Private Bill Committee rapped the promoter over the knuckles with regard to inadequate consultation for one commercial enterprise, but it would be unfair to castigate the Bill's promoter for lack of consultation.

When people had reservations in my area, Councillor Warrell jumped on his bike within minutes and went to listen to the objections. He pored over maps with potential critics and he made constructive proposals which met many of the criticisms. Each local authority in the region embarked on a leafleting programme and a series of public consultations. No one can criticise the consultative process.

However, at the end of the day, we must accept the old utilitarian theory of political action expounded by John Stuart Mill and work on the principle of the greatest happiness to the greatest number. Some fundamental criticisms may remain unresolved and some people may not be placated because the promoter cannot provide adequate rerouting or environmental activities which would minimise the effects of the proposal. However, I understand that Centro has purchased 12 houses in advance of any legal requirement. The Committee has not yet published a report because it has yet to receive all objections. However, of 55 km of track there is dispute over only 150 m.

Mr. Terry Davis (Birmingham, Hodge Hill)

Is not that precisely because the Committee was not allowed to hear objections from the residents?

Mr. George

If Centro had decided not to listen to certain objections, my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Hodge Hill (Mr. Davis) would have ample excuse for his criticism. However, it was a parliamentary body that decided that the groups in my hon. Friend's constituency did not fall within the rules which made it a responsibility of the Committee to hear those complaints.

If my hon. Friend the Member for Hodge Hill had taken the time to reread the speech that I made on 5 March in the same way that I have reread his, he would recall that I concluded by hoping that if the sponsors were successful, they would be magnanimous in victory. Even though my hon. Friend's constituents' objections were not heard by the appropriate Committee, I understand that they have had a continuing opportunity to express their views. If all the procedures are completed in this House this Session and next Session, I hope that every opportunity will be taken to meet those objections.

I have been informed that, had TRAM's objections in part of my constituency and in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick) been met, half the people would have received access to the route and the costs would have doubled. I hope that the Opposed Private Bill Committee will make recommendations that will meet the objections. Even though the constituents of my hon. Friend the Member for Hodge Hill were not able to make a formal presentation of their views, I hope that the sponsors will make a legitimate response and that some, if not all, of the objections can be met.

Mr. Terry Davis

I hope that my hon. Friend will accept that the Official Report will show that he has not answered the point that I put to him. My constituents and other residents—although I am concerned only with my constituents—could not explain their case to the Committee. For my hon. Friend's information, that decision was taken by the Court of Referees, not by the Opposed Private Bill Committee. The Court of Referees heard a technical and legal objection from Centro. I have read the previous speech made by my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, South (Mr. George) as he has read mine. When he reads the speech that he had made tonight and he looks again at my intervention, he will see that he has avoided my point and not very successfully. Obviously he has been told that there was some kind of consultation with my constituents subsequent to Second Reading. Perhaps he can outline that now.

Mr. George

I do not speak from direct experience about this, but I understand that there were exhibitions and a public meeting. My hon. Friend actually had meetings with Centro and many people wrote letters or telephoned. Centro has been willing to listen to the objections.

I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Hodge Hill will reread my speech again. I felt a certain lack of affinity with those who argued that, on technical grounds, objectors should not be permitted to present their case. However, it was up to the relevant parliamentary authority to decide on that. I do not, and my hon. Friend the Member for Hodge Hill does not, decide on the rules. The rules were enforced and that might have caused my hon. Friend some anxiety. The decision was taken by the Court of Referees and we must accept that. However, I believe that objections should be heard. If the motion is successful, there will still be opportunities for the objectors to try to influence the eventual outcome.

The local authority in Walsall wants to negotiate with Centro about a number of criteria over the next few months. There is still an opportunity for those who object through the local authority to press Centro to make the requisite alterations and try to minimise what may be perceived as negative impacts on what is overall a small number of objectors.

Mr. Terry Davis

My hon. Friend must not try to evade the point—I am sure that he is doing it unwittingly. He referred to his speech on Second Reading. He is quite correct; he appealed for magnanimity—that was the word that he used—by Centro. What consultations took place after that speech, after his suggestion that there should be magnanimity, and after his plea that there be consultations with my constitutents? I ask him again, because everything that he mentioned took place before that speech: what was Centro's response to my hon. Friend's plea for magnanimity?

Mr. George

I do not speak with any authority on behalf of the sponsors, so I trust that my hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich, East (Mr. Snape) will be able to respond to that question. I certainly reiterate what I said on 5 March. When legitimate objections can be met without sacrificing the overall objectives of the Bill, I very much hope that, even at this late but no means completed stage of the process, those objections will be met as far as humanly possible. I hope that, without jeopardising the process, my hon. Friend's constituents will be satisfied.

Mr. Winnick

I entirely endorsed the remarks that my hon. Friend made on 5 March. He may be aware that I also argued that there needs to be a certain amount of flexibility by Centro in this matter. It would be unfortunate if it came to the view that, because there is a large parliamentary majority—like my hon. Friend, I am pleased that there is—in favour of what is proposed, there is no need for flexibility. It may be argued that some of the points that have been made by residents are unrealistic. I am not convinced, however, that some of the criticisms should be dismissed out of hand—they need to be looked at again from a narrow, constituency point of view. Some residents have a point. My hon. Friend may have heard my intervention about the memorial park in Willenhall with which he is familiar.

Mr. George

I am almost taking on the role of officially responding, and I am not authorised to do that. In Walsall there were 36,000 leaflets in three different versions. Eleven consultation meetings were organised, and were attended by Centro and council officers. There appeared to be a great opportunity for people to express their opposition. My hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, North and I have made statements in the local press and written letters. I understand indirectly that TRAM was revealed at one stage to have 11 paid-up members. That was one reason why the appropriate parliamentary Committee did not allow it an opportunity to express its views directly to the Committee.

I also understand via second-hand sources that there has been no communication between TRAM and Centro over the past few months. It is perfectly acceptable that, at some stage, TRAM may wish further to express its views. Again, I repeat what I said to my hon. Friend the Member for Hodge Hill. Objections must be met as far as possible, without prejudicing the overall concept. If, to placate a certain number of people, a new route is chosen at high cost, which would then make access to a larger group more difficult, one may regard the process of capitulating to pressure to be unfair and a folly.

I shall refer later to potential criticisms of proposals that Walsall council is making. I hope that hon. Members will appreciate that there are still opportunities for objections to be made and to be met in Walsall.

Mr. Mills

Do I gather that the hon. Gentleman approves of the locus standi rule? Four out of five organisations in my constituency could not give any evidence at all and could put their case to Centro only at public meetings. The distribution of leaflets is fine provided that they reach the people concerned. Is not the hon. Gentleman in favour of something a bit more democratic than the locus standi rule?

Mr. George

Having been an hon. Member for 15 years, I am certainly aware that what is procedurally correct and what is democratic in the House are not always one and the same. I would certainly have wished for as wide a group of objectors as possible to be heard—indeed, not simply for them to be heard but, where possible, for views to be reconciled. The decision was neither mine nor Centro's, and it was taken according to parliamentary procedure and rule. Regrettably, opportunities were not afforded. The hon. Gentleman and my hon. Friend the Member for Hodge Hill have been strenuous in representing the views of those in their constituencies who are affected. Therefore, even though the objectors were not able directly to express their views before the Committee, Centro has been made more than aware of collective objections. In some cases, objections have been met.

Having listened to what I have been told about remarks in Committee, I gained the impression that not all the hon. Gentleman's constituents' objections were considered to be valid. I was not at the Committee hearing, sot do not wish to elaborate on that matter. At the risk of incurring your rightful wrath, Madam Deputy Speaker, I add my voice to those who say that, in the interests of efficiency and of justice, objections must still be met. Having listened to my hon. Friend the Member for Hodge Hill and the hon. Member for Meriden (Mr. Mills), one would have the impression that there is at least vociferous minority criticism about the route that has been taken. In fairness, I have not heard any criticism of the overall concept.

I understand that Centro uses a market research firm to conduct public opinion research into the attitudes in the west midlands as a whole. In listening to the views of a certain area, one must not forget the requirements of the region as a whole. One thousand people were consulted. We must bear in mind that public opinion pollsters reach a national opinion on political parties on the basis of smaller samples than that. Out of that sample of 1,000 people, support for the concept of the metro was 4:1, and in Walsall support was 8:1. That point must be borne in mind and set against those who may have objections for a specific area. Therefore, one should conclude that the metro is desired and required.

I shall now briefly recapitulate what was said about why the motion should be passed. It is to keep alive the supporters' idea that a system of transport will be provided for our region and will be commensurate to the needs of that region in the decades ahead. I spoke earlier of a national trait of the British. We are not usually forthcoming or impetuous in our decision making. Another national failing is our almost total inability to see beyond the end of our noses or to make decisions a year, month or week in advance. It is difficult for us to comprehend or to act upon decisions.

I am reluctant to use the word "visionary" when describing Centro because what it is doing in the west midlands has been done elsewhere by others who are quicker off the mark or who are working in conditions that are more conducive to swift decision making. Other authorities in other parts of the country are further ahead in the game or have reached a point that is parallel to that reached by Centro in the west midlands. I can hardly use the word "visionary" when describing something that is now almost commonplace. However, it is visionary in a regional context.

Centro is perfectly competent to do what it has to do because it is the authority which is responsible for bus transport. It has recognised that our region is progressively clogging up and, like us all, has recognised that the country has an inadequate transport policy. I am not fixing blame because I am seeking to be as non-partisan as possible. However, the failure to make decisions has resulted in what can be described either as a crisis now in our transport or as a state of affairs that will increasingly reach crisis proportions, and which will have enormous economic, political and social consequences.

Using the estimated figures for car ownership at the turn of the century, Centro has concluded that unless something substantial is done swiftly, our region will grind to a halt because the number of motor vehicles on our roads greatly exceeds the space available to them. That state of affairs will not inconvenience the casual motorist alone.

I attended a branch presentation by the Confederation of British Industry last week in Wolverhampton. A well-documented report has highlighted the infrastructure weaknesses in the black country. Unless we have a proper road and rail network, we shall fail to capitalise on the opportunities that are potentially available to us. A rapid transit system such as is envisaged will not be only a marginal improvement for the transport and industrial development of the west midlands and the black country, it will be an imperative.

Last week's survey by the CBI concluded that a major problem was the lack of trained and qualified personnel in the area. That is not only the responsibility of the Department of Education and Science and the Department of Employment; it is partly a function of the transport infrastructure. An adequate transport system would mean that people who possess a motor vehicle would not only have the ability to move from the periphery into Birmingham but, thankfully as a result of line 3, for the first time such people would be able to move laterally from Wolverhampton to Walsall, Darlaston and to the western part of the black country and the west midlands.

The economic need for the route is of enormous consequence. It is imperative that we give the endorsement that the majority of people want and allow this Bill to carry over into the next Session.

We have become a nation much concerned with environmental problems. I have read the Government's response to the impending environmental crisis, but I shall not comment on it now. As someone once said, the desire to create a Jerusalem of economic growth in England's green and pleasant land has so far resulted in a conspicuous lack of both greenness and pleasantness. That is nowhere more apparent than in the general area that I represent.

I find it amusing that the word "black" is pejorative in the phrase "the black country" because, as the CBI pointed out, "black" is far from pejorative in the phrase "black forest gateaux". I hope that people who live in the black country will have a more positive perception of themselves in the future than they have now. Their self-perception is less than positive now. Although the CBI survey proved more positive, ironically that perception was less positive than external perceptions of the black country.

One way of trying to resolve that is to improve the environment. A major source of environmental pollution in the black country and the west midlands is the pollution that is caused by the motor vehicle, which is ironic because that is what we manufacture and process.

I do not wish to suggest that the metro will cause many people to scrap or abandon their cars entirely, or that it will provide the panacea for resolving the environmental crisis in the west midlands and the black country. However, if the aspirations of the promoters are realised and it is possible to entice people into using a form of public transport that is relatively swift, relatively cheap, convenient and environmentally sound, the line will go at least some way towards minimising the growing degradation of the environment as a result of the pollution that is generated by the motor vehicle.

That is why it is so important to support the carry-over motion. The metro is not only desirable, it is essential, because it will play a major role in regenerating a region that is represented by many of the hon. Members now present in the Chamber. We have seen the west midlands slip from its position of industrial pre-eminence in the 1960s. I am not seeking to minimise or to be critical of the efforts made by the local authorities and the industrialists who are not seeking to reverse that decline. However, I believe that that process of economic regeneration will be greatly enhanced by improving the infrastructure. It is essential that the Government should cough up some money, but providing money for Centro will not relieve the Government from the obligation of improving other aspects of public transport in the region by improving our roads and providing a better rail network. However, I am not saying that, by itself, the metro will resolve all the critical problems or weaknesses of the region's transport system.

We must support the motion because the metro will help to relieve traffic congestion. It will be of enormous environmental advantage. It will considerably improve our infrastructure which, as we are all aware, is inadequate. I served on the Standing Committee considering the London Regional Transport Bill in 1984 when there was considerable agitation among Opposition Members who felt that by allegedly freeing public transport we would be permitting private operators to provide a service without the controls which, until then, had been effected by the traffic commissioners under the terms of the previous legislation. One area of anxiety was that private contractors would buy old buses which would be inaccessible to the disabled. We can all remember those old buses, some of which still run. It was virtually impossible to put a wheelchair on them. One of the great advantages of the metro is that the proposed vehicles have low access suitable for wheelchairs. Mobility should be provided for work purposes and recreation. The disabled should be given a mobility which hitherto they have lacked.

Mr. Mills

In view of the shortness of the hon. Gentleman's speech, has he considered going to Grenoble to see just how good the system is for the disabled? It is an excellent system for the disabled and perhaps he should go there.

Mr. George

The Whips are critical enough of my occasional visits abroad. I have no immediate intention of going to the Chief Whip and suggesting a trip to Grenoble. I was in Alsace-Lorraine a few weeks ago and that is the limit of my desire to travel to France. I have seen the video of the system in Grenoble and I have read virtually everything that has been written about it. Although people eulogise that system, it is hoped that the vehicles designed by whoever wins the contract to provide them will be almost a generation in advance of the vehicles currently operating in Grenoble.

There is a great demand for vehicles for the metro but it is less than one would have imagined. Other authorities will place orders in the future. According to contracting and purchasing policy, companies outside the United Kingdom will surely be given the opportunity to bid. So any British bids will have to be competitive. The vehicles will have to meet Centro's requirements that the vehicles be light, cheap and roomy. I hope that sufficient British companies, or at least one substantial British company, can meet the high requirements of Centro and other authorities who seek bids in the years ahead. I very much hope that a British company will win the contract.

I mentioned earlier that my local authority in Walsall intends to make several proposals to Centro. The authority has been very supportive from the outset. It has been put to me that its proposals could be designated a shopping list of safeguards. They have been put forward and will be discussed in the months ahead. I shall not abuse Madam Deputy Speaker's already great tolerance by reading out the proposals. I simply wish to say—this will take only one minute—that the authority's proposals relate to open spaces, highways, safety, and the community impact. They also draw Centro's attention to several operational aspects including maintenance, drainage, pollution and alignment. If I sought to speak longer, my colleagues would believe that I was engaged in some form of obstructionism. I wish to make one point forcibly. The local authority supports the concept of the metro. Several matters relating to the route, the structure and the environmental impact remain to be resolved, but I am absolutely confident that such is the good will between Centro and the local authority that the authority's proposals will be met.

Although Walsall council perceives itself as being under an obligation to support the metro, it also has an obligation to meet other criteria where possible. Environmental impact is important, and I shall watch developments closely. If the motion is passed, as I hope that it will be, and if the legislation is reactivated next Session, hon. Members must continue to follow the negotiations and the progress to ensure that conflicting interests are properly reconciled.

I hope that you are under no illusions, Madam Deputy Speaker. I strongly support what is at hand. I hope that the House will say to the sponsors of the Bill, "Please carry on. We shall not scupper your proposals by refusing to endorse the measures this evening. However, in endorsing the measures we do not give you carte blanche to do exactly as you wish." In my experience of Centro, those remarks would be superfluous. It recognises the need not only to consult but to meet objections, not simply because it is a great democrat but because it recognises that it is more efficient to meet objections than to have to—I was about to say "railroad"——

Mr. Snape

My hon. Friend said that he would take only a minute.

Mr. George

My hon. Friend's timescale is more accurate than mine.

In conclusion, I hope that we shall endorse the proposals and that we can return on a future occasion to ensure that our wishes have been complied with.

8.16 pm
The Minister for Aviation and Shipping (Mr. Patrick McLoughlin)

I intervene briefly in the debate because, as you rightly reminded us earlier, Madam Deputy Speaker, the motion is strictly procedural. I rise simply to advise the House of the Government's view. It is the tradition that the Government take a neutral stance on private Bills. This Bill is no exception to that rule. That was made clear by the speech that my hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, Southgate (Mr. Portillo), the then Minister for Public Transport, gave on Second Reading in March. By convention, he recommended that the House give the Bill a Second Reading so that the Bill could be considered in detail by the Opposed Private Bill Committee. It is consistent with that approach that the Government support the carry-over motion.

In principle the Bill is acceptable to the Department. Light rail schemes of the type promoted by the Bill remain a novelty in this country. The docklands light railway is a fully segregated system. It has shown the success which light rail can achieve in the right places. But the Manchester metro link is now being built with some £50 million of Government grant and revenue support. It will be the first modern street-running system of the type envisaged by the Bill.

I know that many towns and cities would like to emulate the Manchester example. We recognise that in the appropriate circumstances light rail can have an important role to play in reducing traffic congestion and helping to promote urban regeneration. We shall consider financial support for worthwhile proposals which are put to us. However, naturally we must always see whether there are cheaper ways of obtaining the same result with the resources available. It is too early to say whether the scheme proposed in the Bill would be eligible for grant. The Bill is presently being considered by the Opposed Private Bill Committee. It is right to allow the proceedings to continue and reach a conclusion on both the Bill and he detailed provisions therein.

If the motion is carried, the House and another place will have further opportunities to consider the arguments for and against. We have heard some of the arguments for it already this evening and I know that we shall hear more speeches later. It would be unfortunate not to agree to the motion in the name of the Chairman of Ways and Means and therefore I urge the House to allow the Bill to be carried over by accepting the motion.

8.19 pm
Mr. Peter Snape (West Bromwich, East)

As the Minister has said, such matters are not normally dealt with by Front-Bench speakers but are left for the House to decide. We are discussing a procedural motion and not the principle of the Bill, although I had some difficulty in realising that that was the case. I listened with interest to the hon. Member for Birmingham, Yardley (Mr. Bevan) who took us on a rattling ride through the suburbs of the west midlands. I felt queasy at one stage and thought that I had gone past my stop on at least two occasions. I was on the point of altering the hon. Gentleman's destination blind so that it read "depot only" so that he could be returned to the tram depot at a reasonable hour. He realised that, for those hon. Members for whom this new method of transport is welcome, a break was necessary.

The hon. Member for Yardley and my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, South (Mr. George) spoke about finance. We listened carefully as the Minister read from his brief, but, regrettably, he had little to say on that matter. He reminded us that the midland metro is being considered for section 56 grant. His speech, which was presumably drafted by his civil servants, contained the caveat that we must evaluate carefully the different modes of transport. I am not sure how much evaluation the Government need, but I strongly suspect that they desperately need to keep evaluating until the general election because I fear that it is hardly likely that section 56 money will be found to fund this or the other two worthy metro projects in the west midlands.

For most Opposition Members representing west midlands constituencies, the sooner the project gets under way and is completed, the better. That applies to all our constituencies in Birmingham and throughout the black country and indeed in Wolverhampton. In a recent television programme there were claims that Wolverhampton was now in the black country while those in that great city said it was not.

Everyone in the west midlands suffers from the same problem of chronic traffic congestion and this modern variation on an old mode of transport is long overdue. The hon. Member for Yardley promoted previous Bills and is is charge of this one. I hope that he will be successful in persuading not just the Minister, but his two immediate bosses that all hon. Members, regardless of party, and all the district councils in the west midlands are as much in favour of the present motion as they were of the two previous motions. A little less talk from the Department and a little more cash would be greatly appreciated.

8.22 pm
Mr. Terry Davis (Birmingham, Hodge Hill)

I oppose the motion in view of the Bill's effects on my constituents who live in the Bromford and Firs estates and because of the way in which they have been treated by the West Midlands passenger transport authority which now calls itself Centro. My hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, South (Mr. George) argued that if the House refused to carry over the Bill to the next Session, it would be an appalling waste of time and effort for Centro and the Bill's supporters. However, I will argue that if the Bill is carried over, it will be regarded by my constituents as an appalling act of contempt towards them.

My hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, South is right about the expense that has been incurred to date, but justice is expensive. It is the job of the House to ensure that justice is done, and an injustice has been done to my constituents.

My hon. Friend was certainly mistaken when he spoke at length about the concept of rapid transit, light rail, the metro, or whatever it is called. He spent much of his speech explaining the advantages of that form of transport compared with other forms. The hon. Member for Birmingham, Yardley (Mr. Bevan) also followed that line.

The Bill is not about the concept of metro or rapid transit. It is about two specific routes, one of which I oppose. I make no comment on the route affecting Walsall and the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, South. However, I am entitled to talk about its effect on my constituency and on my constituents and to oppose the Bill in the interests of my constituents who have a justifiable grievance about the way in which they have been treated by Centro.

I emphasise that the Bill is not about the concept of the metro. I did not oppose the previous Bill which became an Act. It was to build the metro from Birmingham to Wolverhampton. My hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-East (Mr. Turner) asked me to waive any objections that I had to that Bill. I told him that I had no objection to it. He asked me to refrain from opposing the Bill, and I did. I told him that I did not object to the concept. My only concern was about the way in which it might affect my constituents.

The hon. Member for Yardley spoke about all-party suppport for the Bill. There is all-party opposition in my constituency to the route. It is opposed by all political parties there. The hon. Member for Yardley shakes his head. Why does he disagree that there is all-party opposition in my constituency? I challenge him to tell the House why he disagrees with that statement.

Mr. Bevan

I do not agree that there is all-party dissent about the route. That is not what I understand from the Conservative who will oppose the hon. Gentleman at the next general election. I would have liked to accept the invitation issued by the residents to see the route, which I have already seen. The letter was dated 15 September, the postmark was 19 October, and the letter did not reach me until yesterday. I do not know why the residents should deliberately ensure that a letter dated 15 September should be posted at such a late date. It is hardly the kind of invitation that is desirous of gaining all-party support.

Mr. Davis

I do not represent the residents association and I am not responsible for when it posts its letters. I accept what the hon. Gentleman says but remind him that it is not the first time that he has been invited by my constituents to visit the estate and meet the residents. He is sponsoring the Bill. Many months ago, the residents on the estate invited him to go there. The letter that he mentions is the latest that he has received, but there have been others inviting him to meet residents. The residents have written to many hon. Members, and I am glad to say that some have met them, have understood their concern and have expressed sympathy for their case.

I am interested to know that the prospective Conservative candidate in my constituency at the next general election supports this route. The last Liberal candidate in my constituency opposed the route. That is significant because that Liberal, like many others, has now become a Conservative. He was a Conservative candidate at the local elections in my constituency in May and had the temerity to attack local Labour councillors and me for not opposing the route vigorously enough. Apparently the Conservative party talks in different voices in different places. The Conservative candidate for a council seat in an area in which the route will run attacked the metro route and at an open air meeting tried to pretend that I had not opposed it. Hon. Members on both sides of the House will recognise that that was a grotesque distortion of the truth, and I am glad to say that so did my constituents. The residents on that estate put out their own leaflet, which was nothing to do with me or the local Labour councillor, who had opposed the route from the beginning. That leaflet distributed by the residents poured scorn on the Conservatives for introducing party politics into the campaign against the metro route and condemned the attempts of the Conservative candidates to extract political advantage, something that neither I nor Labour councillors had tried to do.

There are nine councillors in my constituency. Eight of them are Labour, two of whom represent the ward affected by the route. The sole Conservative also represents that ward and at a public meeting he said that he agreed with what I was saying. Clearly there is all-party opposition, but it is also clear that the support for this route comes from Conservative Members of Parliament and the aspiring Conservative Member of Parliament in my constituency.

My hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, South made a much more thoughtful and considered speech. As I have explained, there is all-party opposition to the route in my constituency. My hon. Friend said that he thought that the opposition might come from a vociferous minority. He was talking generally, not specifically. The only statistics I have seen are those produced by the Birmingham city council and Centro from the survey that they did. The route was opposed by 90 pet cent. of the people who responded in that part of my constituency. Therefore, it is not fair to say that opposition comes simply from a vociferous minority. An overwhelming majority of the people who live in the Bromford estate are vigorously opposed to the route.

On Second Reading I explained the reasons for the opposition. I explained in some detail the fears and concerns of my constituents, so it is not necessary for me to go into so much detail this evening. However, nothing has changed. Centro has done nothing since the Second Reading debate in March to deal with my constituents' objections on the ground of the loss of amenity, bearing in mind that the route would run through the only open space in the estate, across a grassed area—the only one that my constituents have—a green ribbon between the houses and the motorway. The metro route would desecrate it. Other amenities affected are football pitches and playgrounds.

Secondly, people are concerned about the visual impact that the metro will have. It will run within 40 yards of some of the houses. Between these houses, which have big picture windows, and the metro will be a narrow estate road and their short front gardens. The people in them will look at the wires and see the vehicles going past every two and a half minutes. We are told that they have no grounds for objections. They have no locus standi to complain. They cannot present their case to Members of Parliament because they have been ruled out by the Court of Referees, on the initiative of Centro. We are told that it does not matter.

Mr. Bevan

It must have been made clear that these people would have had the right to object as individuals living in the area where the project is to be carried out. They could have individually appealed and attended the Committee. The locus standi ruling would not have pertained.

Mr. Davis

We have different views about that. People who live even closer to the route than those in the houses that I have just described, in a block of flats called Douglas house—those living closest to the route—signed individual letters explaining that they wanted to be represented by the local residents' association. That is not unreasonable. However, the association was not allowed to be heard. Therefore, the residents lost their right to have their views heard.

Residents are also concerned about the effect of noise. As is well known in Birmingham, noise is a major problem. These residents suffer from motorway, railway and air traffic noise. Even the chairman of the passenger transport authority has said that this is a horrendous situation. Naturally, the residents are concerned about anything that will add to that volume of noise. The environmental services department of the city council, at my request and that of the local councillors, did a survey and said that, in its opinion, even on the inadequate criteria that we have now, 118 homes will be entitled to noise insulation if this route is used. Naturally, my constituents are extremely anxious.

My hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, South said that we need to balance the need to preserve accessibility against the need not to cause detriment to people's homes. He is right about that, but the case put unanimously by me, my constituents, local councillors of all parties and the local Member of the European Parliament is that that is not what has happened. We have all supported an alternative route which would run to the north of the M6 and would not affect my constituents or the constituents of any other Member of Parliament. It is not the case, as Mr. Michael Parker, the spokesman for Centro, has said, that my constituents are saying, "Not in my back yard" and want to move the route so that it affects somebody else's home. That is a slur on their moderate and reasonable attitude and a distortion of their point of view. They have consistently said that they do not want to save themselves at the expense of someone else. They have argued only that there is an alternative route that would not affect anybody else's home, and that route should be used.

The hon. Member for Yardley said that the metro would be environmentally beneficial and ecologically friendly and that the promoters want to preserve the landscape. Those words will be read with incredulity by my constituents because that is what will not happen for them if this route is used. It will not be beneficial to their environment, nor ecologically friendly, and it will certainly not preserve the landscape if it runs across the only open bit of land, the only grassed area that they have for recreation and their only facilities for play and recreation.

The hon. Member for Yardley keeps talking about Grenoble, but that is not relevant to the scheme promoted by the West Midlands passenger transport authority. Grenoble is a different city—it is not Birmingham.

Mr. Bevan

Has the hon. Member visited Grenoble and inspected the scheme there? He told me that he would do so but that he would prefer to do it on his own, although there was an opportunity for him to go with a group.

Mr. Davis

Yes, I went privately. I paid my expenses. Who paid the hon. Gentleman's fare?

Mr. Bevan

The hon. Gentleman may have gone, but he did not wish to say that he had. My fare was paid for by Centro, but that has no bearing on the case. The hon. Gentleman claims that the Grenoble system has no similarities with the Birmingham or black country schemes, but that is nonsense. The hon. Gentleman must agree that the Grenoble scheme is an example of our schemes. The midlands scheme is based upon the Grenoble example, and it will be like it. If the hon. Gentleman is honest, I am certain that he will say that he was mightily impressed with the Grenoble system as a means of light electric transport.

Mr. Davis

The hon. Gentleman's final remark was out of order and out of place in this debate. I must also remind him that I am not responsible to the hon. Gentleman, the Government or the Conservative party. I make up my own mind. I went to Grenoble without fuss and I paid my own fare, unlike the hon. Gentleman. I went to Grenoble and looked at the system for myself. I was not shown what others wanted to show me. I travelled the entire length of the tramway—that is what they call the system in Grenoble. I travelled along it twice and I walked a good part of it as well. I got off the tram at the stops, and I listened to the noise. I carried out a thorough examination. I do not need the hon. Gentleman to tell me how to do my job.

As I have said, I was not shown the system by others. I did not see only what others wanted to show me. I went to Grenoble with my wife, we talked to local people on and off the tramway. I think that I saw rather more than that which was shown to the hon. Gentleman. As I have explained, I went under my own auspices. I do not need Centro to pay my fare to enable me to do my job. I paid for myself.

I shall tell the House about Grenoble. Before I do that—

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harold Walker)

Order. We are discussing a procedural motion and not the merits of a transport system in a foreign city. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will confine himself to the motion before the House.

Mr. Davis

I seek your indulgence, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I did not introduce the merits of the Grenoble system. The hon. Member for Yardley said that it is a model for the route which would affect my constituency. I am seeking to explain why that is a misleading statement. I think that I should be allowed to explain why what the hon. Gentleman said in an intervention is grossly misleading.

As I have said, the system that is operating in Grenoble is called a tramway. We have been told that it is very quiet, but, in my opinion, the trams are as noisy as buses. In addition, there is the use of a bell in some places. It clangs like the noise that accompanied the song with the line "Clang, clang, clang went the trolley". There is a clang every time a tram sets off from a stop. If people have a tram stop near their home, they have the noise of a bus and the clang of a bell.

The Grenoble system is much shorter than the operation that is proposed for the west midlands. It is much shorter than the proposed route that is set out in this Bill.

It is also a route that would be different in character from that which is operating in Grenoble.

The hon. Member for Yardley may not like to hear these comments, but he introduced the Grenoble system into the debate.

I shall describe why the two routes are different in character. At Fontaine La Poya, the Grenoble system terminates in a sort of square near the town hall. It is not a residential area. I am not surprised because the left-wing council would not allow that to happen. The route does not enter an area in which people live. The public travel to the tramway by bus.

The west midlands system will pass through estates. In effect, there will be a big loop. The route will pass through the Bromford estate, the Firs estate and Chelmsley Wood and back along the Coventry road. It will pass through areas where people live, unlike the Grenoble system.

As I have said, the people of Grenoble travel to the Fontaine La Poya terminus by bus.

It is true that people do live in the centre of Grenoble, but they occupy flats which are above shops. The design of the system must be an environmental improvement for those living in the centre of Grenoble. It has replaced ordinary street traffic.

The tramway does pass through a residential area on its way to Alpexpo. Near the Arlequin stop, all the other traffic has been re-routed. Instead of having all the noise that is generated by cars, vans and lorries, there is only the noise that is produced by the tramway. The trams pass every few minutes, but the noise is much less than it was. Also, there is no residential property at ground floor level. That level is dedicated to garages and other services. No one has to look at the tramway from a ground floor flat. Above all, the street noise is much less than it was.

That is very different from the proposal that the west midlands scheme should pass through the Bromford estate. This system will not replace buses and other traffic. Instead, it will run through a grassed area in front of windows in living rooms. Residents on the Bromford estate look out at open land across which the metro system will run. No existing traffic will be replaced. That is very different from the situation in Grenoble. The hon. Member for Yardley may not have understood it, but that is the fact.

There is another difference. The mayor of Grenoble decided that one route should be introduced and not an entire network or system. I admire the way in which he approached the introduction of the tramway. There is only one route, which runs from Fontaine La Poya to Alpexpo. One route having been built, the mayor is extending the system so that it runs through the centre to the university. That is a sensible way to proceed. It is very different from the way in which the West Midlands passenger transport authority wants to proceed. The authority seeks to impose routes on people. I advised the authority years ago that the most effective way to gain public support for its ideas would be to construct one route so that residents could see it and hear it for themselves. Of course, the authority rejected that advice.

On Second Reading, I described the failure of Centro to consult my constituents. My hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, South has said that we in Britain are obsessed with consultation. That statement will be greeted with ridicule by my constituents. Indeed, the Select Committee criticised the lack of consultation. It was not allowed to criticise the lack of consultation with my constituents, however, because it was not allowed to hear them, but there was no prior consultation.

A letter has recently come to light which was written by Robert J. Tarr, who was at the time the secretary of the West Midlands passenger transport authority. Four years ago he sent the letter to a councillor in my constituency. That was at the time of the abandonment of the previous scheme. He told the councillor that a decision had been made to abandon the scheme, and then he wrote: The Authority has further resolved that any future scheme for Rapid Transit will be subject to full consultation. As I said during our previous debate, that did not happen. I should add, however, that Centro has sought frequently to avoid the blame for lack of consultation. It shelters behind the skirts of Birmingham city council. When I asked the city council why it did not consult my constituents, it said that that was Centro's job and not its, the council's, responsibility. Centro and the city council keep on passing the buck from one to the other. The fact is that neither of them sought to consult my constituents before the proposals were published.

A senior local government officer in the city council has told some of my hon. Friends who represent Birmingham constituencies—this was in my hearing—that in future the council will ensure that they are consulted on metro routes. After making that statement he turned to me and said, "You see, Mr. Davis, the council learns from experience." I am glad of that. The council will ensure that there is consultation in future, and it has decided that it cannot rely on Centro. It seems, however, that the lesson has been learnt at the expense of my constituents, who were not consulted.

In March, shortly before Second Reading, the hon. Member for Yardley arranged a meeting between himself, myself and Mr. Tarr, who is now the director general of the passenger transport authority. As a result of that, a meeting took place with representatives of local residents in the Bromford and Firs estates. I described the results of that meeting on Second Reading. The meeting discussed the wishes of my constituents, their objections to the present route, and their suggestion for an alternative route north of the M6 which would not affect anyone. That route is supported by me, by councillors of all parties, by the local Member of the European Parliament and by my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Erdington (Mr. Corbett), through whose constituency the route would run.

The response to the alternative route was totally inadequate. Centro gave three reasons for rejecting it. First, it said that it was not physically possible because a spine road was planned for the northern side of the motorway, and it was impossible to find room for both a spine road and the metro. We knocked that argument on the head because both the chairman of Birmingham Heartlands and the city engineer's department said that it was possible. Secondly, Centro said that it would be too expensive as it would cost an additional £16.5 million, of which £12 million would be for a tunnel. Thirdly, Centro said that it would affect ridership figures because fewer people would use it if it was north of the motorway. That contradicts what the hon. Member for Yardley said earlier when he described how the route would link the airport, Birmingham international railway station and the national exhibition centre at one end to, at the other end, the international convention centre, Five Ways and the city centre. My constituents do not object to that link, but it should be routed along the other side of the motorway where it would not affect their homes.

Centro now says that the route is not about linking the national exhibition centre, the international convention centre, the airport and the railway station; it is about serving the people on the Bromford estate. It wants the metro to run in front of the windows of residents so that it can serve the residents. Centro claims that if the route were changed fewer people would use the metro. It says that if the line runs to the south of the motorway, it would carry between 1,900 and 2,200 passengers a day, but that if it ran to the north of the motorway, it would carry only 500 to 800 passengers a day.

We have held two more meetings with Centro since Second Reading, which is why I earlier asked hon. Members what they knew about the consultation that was supposed to take place.

Our actual discussions with Centro told a very different story from that told by the hon. Member for Yardley. He said that the metro is not intended to replace buses. He is wrong because Centro estimates that 75 per cent. of the ridership on the metro will be transferred from buses. It calculated the ridership by using a computer to work out how many passenger journeys on existing passenger transport would change to the metro if it were built where it wants it to be built. It estimated the number of people living within the radius of the route who would transfer from buses to the metro, and then added a third for new passengers and people transferring from cars. Contrary to what my hon. Friend the hon. Member for Walsall. South has been told—it may have been only in the context of his route, but I doubt that—Centro told my constituents that the metro is intended to take passengers from buses, not from cars. The proportion is 75 per cent. from buses and only 10 per cent. from cars. It is well known that congestion is caused by cars, not buses. It is not true to say that the metro is not intended to replace buses. I asked Centro what the effect would be on bus routes, but it said that, because it used a general rule of thumb, it could not estimate the effect on individual bus routes, but it estimated that 75 per cent. of the estimated 1,900 to 2,200 passengers a day would have transferred from buses.

Again contrary to what has been said in the debate, those calculations were based on the fares on the metro being the same as the fares on buses. In fact, we have now been told that the fares on the metro will be slightly higher than those on buses, so all the calculations are brought into question. The estimates of ridership, with which Centro sought to impress and confuse us, are bogus.

Mr. Michael Parker, the head of communications for Centro, eventually told us in May that, at our request, Centro had again studied the costs and, instead of costing £16.5 million to put the metro on the other side of the motorway, it would cost only £12.5 million—a reduction of one quarter—mainly because the cost of a tunnel had been reduced from £12 million to £6 million. Its previous estimates were way out. That £12.5 million is not an additional cost, as was suggested by the hon. Member for Yardley in our previous debate. The estimated cost for the route that would affect my constituents is £2.7 million, so the additional cost is only £10 million.

Mr. Bevan

As questions about the cost of moving the route from one side of the M6 to the other are continually being posed, I can tell the House that should that happen, besides the fact that only one third of the number of passengers would use the metro than would use it if it were built on the proposed route, the cost would be £12.5 million as against £6 million for the existing route.

The arguments are quite extraordinary. The hon. Gentleman continually protests, so I must ask him whether he supports the principle of the metro, or whether he is rubbishing the whole idea. Does he agree with the view of the majority of his party and that of the House, which supports the metro? If so, why does he attack it on every point?

Mr. Davis

I shall run through the figures again, slowly, so that the hon. Gentleman understands them, but first I must tell him that it is a sign of weakness that the promoters of the Bill need to attack the motives of their opponents. I have said several times that both I and my constituents do not oppose the concept of a metro. The residents' association has made it clear to me, to Centro and to everyone who will listen that it is not attacking the concept; it is simply arguing that Centro has the wrong route and that it should adopt a different route, which would serve all of its purposes without affecting my constituents' homes. I am sure that at least my hon. Friends recognise that view and will not join the hon. Member for Yardley in his incredible attack on our integrity. The hon. Gentleman makes such an attack only because he knows that he is losing the argument.

In a letter dated 14 May 1990, Mr. Michael Parker said that the cost of the alternative route would be £12.5 million—a significant reduction on the previous estimate. I have always been told that the cost of the southern route, which would affect my constituency, would be £2.7 million. The hon. Member for Yardley is shaking his head. In fact, he makes my case for me. It appears that Centro has given him more up-to-date figures, because he just said that the cost of the southern route would be £6 million. My case is even stronger than I thought. It is a pity that we had to elicit those figures in the course of the debate, rather than Centro making them readily available; but, as a result of the intervention of the hon. Member for Yardley, we now know that the cost of the northern route is £12.5 million and that of the southern route £6 million. The difference is £6.5 million: even the hon. Member for Yardley cannot argue with that arithmetic.

The original estimate of the cost was £224 million; the hon. Member for Yardley has told us this evening that that figure has now been increased to £273 million. My constituents want to protect their environment—they want an ecologically friendly route. They want Centro to increase the £273 million figure by £6.5 million. That sounds like a lot of money until we place it in context: we should consider not only the £273 million, but the amount that Centro is to pay for tunnels elsewhere on the route.

In Birmingham's city centre, it is to spend £100 million on tunnels to avoid the problems that might result from running the metro through the city centre.

It is also to spend £7.5 million on a tunnel to take the metro from my constituency to that of the hon. Member for Meriden (Mr. Mills)—but it cannot afford £6.5 million for my constituents.

Centro also proposes to spend £12.5 million on tunnels to protect the environment in Solihull. It is not prepared to spend £6.5 million to protect the environment of my constituents. Naturally, my constituents want to know why their homes are less important than those of people living in Solihull, Meriden or the centre of Birmingham. They are entitled to an answer, but it has never been forthcoming. The constant refrain from Centro is that it cannot afford such an amount—but it can afford many times as much to carry out work elsewhere on the same route, and feels able to spend nearly twice as much to benefit the inhabitants of Solihull.

In fact, I suspect that the total cost of the alternative route is less than £12.5 million. In the last month, Centro has announced an amendment to its own route, part of which is being moved from the south to the north—as suggested by my constituents. Unfortunately, only part of the route is affected, and that part lies to the west of my constituency. In any event, the action is not being taken as a result of representations by my constituents, or out of consideration for their interests; the aim is to take account of the difficulties caused by the new Heartlands spine road, and we do not know how much that amendment will cost. All that we know is that it is possible, suddenly and with ease, to move the route slightly northwards to benefit a new road, but impossible to move it slightly northwards further along to benefit the existing residents of the Bromford estate. Where there is a will there is a way; Centro will not change the route to benefit people.

I am sorry to refer so often to my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, South, but he made a long and interesting speech. He spoke of the need for flexibility, and said that everything possible should be done to meet the objections of residents on all the metro routes. He and I see eye to eye in that regard; indeed, it is the central issue. The so-called consultation that has taken place since Second Reading is regarded by residents' representatives as a farce: to put it bluntly, the officers of Centro gave the impression that they were simply going through the motions. Following the two meetingts that have been held since Second Reading, my constituents are bitterly disappointed by the officers' attitude.

I wish to be fair: Mr. Tarr was not present, although he had set up the consultation, along with the hon. Member for Yardley. We never saw him again; he left the business to others to whom he delegated, and it is those others whom my constituents have criticised. But we cannot simply blame officers.

My constituents were also invited to "have a chat"—in his words—with the chairman of the Centro passenger transport authority, and they asked me to accompany them so that I could hear what was said. They told the chairman that they had not had much joy from his officers. It is with great regret that I must tell the House—this is very important in the light of what my hon. Friends have said—that the chairman told my constituents, in my hearing—I wrote down his words at the time—"We have drawn our battle plans and are absolutely entrenched." That is not a sign of flexibility or magnanimity. He went on to say, "There is no chance of rerouting—not since the Bill was put in Parliament." So much for magnanimity, flexibility, consultation, and a willingness to talk about the effects of the development.

Mr. George

If my hon. Friend were a student of military history, he might reach the conclusion that the most resolute statements are sometimes followed by a quite different course of action. Therefore, he should not take such a rebuff as necessarily a demonstration of intolerance. In a survey, the system that my hon. Friend himself paid to inspect had the support of 93 per cent. of the residents of Grenoble. So, although it may not have met his requirements, surely that indicates reasonable acceptance by the people of Grenoble of the system that they had the wisdom to establish.

Mr. Davis

Having visited that system, I would expect such a result. I am not sure that my hon. Friend has visited Grenoble, and it may not be necessary for him to do so. Nevertheless, I am not at all surprised that 93 per cent. of the residents there think that the system is a good thing—as I would do if I were a resident of Grenoble. I would be amazed if less than 93 per cent. of the people living along the route thought it a good thing. That would be a much tougher test, and I am only surprised that 7 per cent. of those polled did not think that it was a good thing.

The reason for that belief is that Grenoble has a very different kind of route. Where it runs along streets where people live, it has replaced city centre traffic—cars, buses, vans, lorries, and heavy goods vehicles. The local residents have witnessed a tremendous improvement in their environment. However, one cannot translate the Grenoble experience to the proposal for the route through my constituency. If my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, South can find the time to visit the location, I believe that he will reach the same conclusion.

Where the route in Grenoble would have affected residents, it has been ended, and buses take passengers to the terminals. It is very impressive. That is done in the socialist part—the suburb across the river, which comes under a different local authority. Passengers on the trams told me that the system was an improvement on what they had before. Of course they would think that, because it has taken a great deal of traffic off the streets. That will not happen in the case of the metro route in my constituency because it will bring incremental nuisance to people's very doorsteps.

To refer again to my hon. Friend's mention of military history, I recall that the words, "They shall not pass" went unheeded, but it is clear to me that Centro will not concede any amendments unless they are forced to do so. Centro will not be flexible. Centro's own chairman said: The route will only change if the Bill comes out of the sausage machine. By the sausage machine, he meant this House. It is our job to change the route, because Centro will not do that. Centro's chairman also said that there was no chance of negotiations because the Bill was already before Parliament.

If my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, South thinks that there is any flexibility or willingness to consult, negotiate and subsequently to amend or change the route on Centro's part, he has been misled and will be bitterly disappointed. It may be a different story in respect of route 3, but I can comment only on route 2—and then only in so far as it affects my constituents.

I turn to the shabbiest aspect of the whole affair—Centro's decision to challenge the locus standi of my constituents to petition against the Bill and thus their right to be heard by a Committee of this House. In the Second Reading debate, the hon. Member for Yardley said: Granting a Second Reading will merely allow the Bill to proceed to Committee where it will be fully examined". Centro made sure that it was not fully examined.

The Minister for Public Transport told the House: there will be the opportunity to present objections to the Select Committee."—[Official Report, 5 March 1990; Vol. 168, c. 642 and 650.] There was no opportunity for my constituents to present their objections to the Select Committee.

Centro appealed to the Court of Referees. There were 35 petitions against the Bill from banks, property developers, businesses, education institutions, statutory undertakings of British Rail and many other organisations, including Foseco. Centro only objected to the five residents groups and it persisted in objecting to my constituents from the Bromford estate and the Firs estate. That decision by Centro was widely criticised during the Second Reading debate by supporters and opponents of the Bill. Centro's friends urged it to think again. My hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich, East (Mr. Snape) said: I am convinced of the relevance of some of their objections. However, to deny objectors the right to put a case before a Committee of the House is scarcely good public relations. I am aware of the recommendations of the Select Committee, behind which Centro seeks to shield itself from criticism. It has nothing to fear from criticism and I wish that it had not taken the action that it took."—[Official Report, 5 March 1990; Vol. 168, c. 652.] He said later that the objectors should have been allowed to put their fears to the appropriate Committee of the House without being challenged.

Hon. Members who voted for the Bill urged Centro to drop its technical and legal objections, which would prevent ordinary people from being heard by the Committee and by Members of Parliament. I am sorry to have to tell the House that all those pleas fell on deaf ears. Centro refused to listen to their friends any more than to their opponents.

The hon. Member for Yardley said that 35 objections were considered by the Committee. He is wrong. I am sure that he did not intend to mislead the House, but 35 objections were not considered by the Committee. The objections from four residents groups—the most important as far as I am concerned being the petition from people in my constituency—were not considered by the Committee and could not be considered because of Centro's deliberate action.

The hon. Member for Yardley said that anyone with a land-holding interest can have his objections considered. A land-holding interest means that one owns the house, garden or land on which the route will run. That is not the case, as Centro will run a line not across gardens but just in front of houses and gardens belonging to my constituents and so they do not have a land-holding interest. Apparently, we have laws which protect land holders and owners, but we do not have laws to protect residents.

My hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, South mentioned the Court of Referees, but it was called on to rule only because Centro appealed to it. If one discusses the issue with Centro, it blames Sherwood—the parliamentary agent—and says that it is in the hands of its parliamentary agent. Alternatively, Centro blames the Joint Committee on Private Bill Procedure, and it refers to that Committee's recommendation that: Promoters should be encouraged to police the rules of locus standi, and private bill committees should not treat a reasonable but unsuccessful challenge as a point of prejudice. That is quite true. The Joint Committee on Private Bill Procedure recommended that promoters should be encouraged to police the rules of locus standi, but I doubt whether that Committee ever envisaged that someone would behave in the way that Centro has behaved by objecting to the right of people who are going to lose the benefits of their homes to be heard by a Select Committee of the House.

Since Centro is so fond of quoting the reports of the Joint Committee on Private Bill Procedure, I remind the House that one of the early recommendations of the Joint Committee was: Private bill committees should treat a wilful failure by any party to consult or negotiate as a point of prejudice. Centro neglected to consult or negotiate. I am not surprised that it had to stop my constituents from saying so to the Select Committee which considered the Bill.

The representatives of my constituents say, and I believe them, that if they had been allowed to put their case to an independent body, a Committee of Members of Parliament, and to be subjected to questioning by the Committee and Centro, and that if the Committee had then found against them, they would have accepted the decision, even though they would have been very disappointed. They would have felt that they had had their opportunity to explain why they objected to the route and preferred a different one. However, they were denied that opportunity. They were denied that hearing by Centro, which used their poll tax and their rates to employ barristers and parliamentary agents to argue before the Court of Referees that they should be denied a hearing.

Centro blocked the right of my constituents to be heard. Their voices have been stifled. One is bound to ask, what was Centro afraid of? Why did it want to stop residents in my constituency and in other constituencies explaining their point of view? Is Centro scared that its case will not stand up to cross-examination by ordinary residents with their ordinary logic, feelings and skills? Centro knows that its case is weak, otherwise it would not have behaved so undemocratically.

If the carry-over motion does not succeed, we shall be telling Centro to go back and do its job properly by consulting people properly. We shall also be telling it that if people are dissatisfied they should be allowed to put their case to a Committee of Members of Parliament. In a democracy, people are surely entitled to nothing less.

9.16 pm
Mr. Dennis Turner (Wolverhampton, South-East)

I shall seek to follow your edict, Mr. Deputy Speaker, because of the procedural nature of the motion.

The hon. Member for Birmingham, Yardley (Mr. Bevan) gave a historical account of the metro. As he said, it is supported by the seven authorities that make up the west midlands conurbation. The first Bill, in 1989, was unopposed. This Bill would empower the creation of two lines—the first from Birmingham to the international airport, the second from Wolverhampton to Walsall and then through the black country to Dudley.

I welcome the Minister's statement that the Government support the carry-over motion. My hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich, East (Mr. Snape) said that the Government ought soon to make known their intentions regarding finance so that the metro lines can be developed. I hope that the autumn statement will contain a positive contribution to the scheme. The hon. Member for Yardley made it clear that the carry-over motion is needed so that advantage can be taken of Government finance. A clear Government commitment to the scheme is needed.

The hon. Member for Meriden (Mr. Mills) said that he had considered various aspects of the project. On Second Reading he rightly made an impassioned plea on behalf of his constituents. We appreciate the fact that he has now taken a fresh look at the carry-over motion.

I shall try to ensure that the hon. Gentleman gives us his support by responding to the questions that he asked. He wanted a guarantee that the shared carriageway would not be a hazard. I understand that Solihull's highways department, the custodian of highway safety, has already given that guarantee. The hon. Gentleman said that the representations made by CARE and the recommendations of the Opposed Private Bill Committee should be honoured and enshrined in law. I understand that Centro is prepared to give that legal undertaking. Likewise, it is happy to give undertakings on traffic lights and stop locations.

My hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, South (Mr. George) made an excellent and comprehensive speech. His positive remarks highlighted his belief in the light rail system and the contribution that it can make to our lives in the next century.

Mr. Anthony Beaumont-Dark (Birmingham, Selly Oak)

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that one of the most inspiring features of today's debate has been that all of the seven authorities agree? We are here to represent those who represent the local people. If seven authorities agree, is it not better, instead of continuing to praise their worth, to show our worth by voting on the issue so that we can forward what those seven authorities—which are not all Labour, however unusual that may sometimes seem—think is right? May we vote on this matter to show that, as the hon. Gentleman said, we all agree with them? Is this not the time for action, not just for words?

Mr. Turner

I very much appreciate the hon. Gentleman's comments; in so many of his comments, he shows wisdom. I endorse entirely what he says. The democratic process has been at work and it is of great importance that local authorities in the west midlands speak with one voice and say that they want this metro to proceed into the 21st century.

My hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, South succinctly mentioned how much investment has already been made in the project. If the motion were not passed, that money would be wasted and the opportunity that we have now for speedy development—we hope with Government finance—would be lost. My hon. Friend made several germane points and I appreciated his contribution to the debate.

I think that my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Hodge Hill (Mr. Davis) would agree that most of his speech tonight was from Second Reading. We expected that he would rehearse the arguments that he made on behalf of his constituency with integrity and tenacity. He has battled courageously on his constituents' behalf. The House should respect him for what he has done and his constituents should be proud of his contribution. I mean that sincerely although I am sad to say that, on this occasion, I disagree with him.

I understand the reasons why my hon. Friend has advanced such arguments. He has quoted what different people have said, but I am sure that he understands that what has happened goes back to the first principles of democratic accountability. Whatever my hon. Friend says, the fact remains that Birmingham city council has approved the line of route in accordance with the democratic process and the committee structure. My hon. Friend referred to a city officer saying, "We may have learnt the lesson." But the elected members of Birmingham city council—with the exception, as my hon. Friend rightly said, of his ward councillors—have taken a different view.

Mr. Terry Davis

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his remarks, but he is slightly mistaken. I was talking not only about the councillors in that ward but about all the councillors in my constituency—a far greater number.

Mr. Turner

I am sorry. I accept that a number of councillors in my hon. Friend's constituency oppose the line of route.

Mr. Davis

All of them.

Mr. Turner

I accept that my hon. Friend was talking about all of them, including the MEP.

I repeat, however, that, even before going out to consultation, the local authority had taken a democratic look at the proposals. My hon. Friend will accept that the starting point for the planning that went into that part of the route—like every other part—was set by the local authority and involved members and officers of that authority.

Mr. Davis

My hon. Friend makes a fair point. He is absolutely right that officers of the city council and some city councillors considered routes in secrecy, behind closed doors. But they never discussed their proposals with the local councillors representing my ward or, indeed, nearby wards. The chief executive of the city council has told me that he regarded it as Centro's responsibility, rather than that of the city council, to consult the local people and local councillors. Centro says that it was regarded as the city council's responsibility. That is little comfort; I am not bothered about that. They are both to blame and they have learnt their lesson. The trouble is that they are not willing to repair the damage that they have done to my constituents.

Mr. Turner

I hear what my hon. Friend says, but I rest my case. Wolverhampton, which dealt with the first phase and the original Bill, was certainly involved right from the outset. Elected representatives were fully involved in the process.

We know the arguments advanced by Centro and we know that my hon. Friend opposes them. The first concerns cost. We can reasonably accept the argument that there is a difference in cost between the route proposed by the residents and the route proposed in the Bill. The second concerns the movement of people, and the promoters' route would touch far more people than would the alternative FORCE proposal for a route further north of the M6. Strong arguments have been advanced, but not one of them has been accepted by my hon. Friend the Member for Hodge Hill or, as he rightly says, by the residents of his area who feel that there is a preferable route available.

I understand my hon. Friend's argument about his constituency and those who are directly affected on that relatively small piece of track which is the bone of contention. However, when we consider that we are talking about 150 miles of track, it must be common sense that within the whole of that area some people will be unhappy and dissatisfied by the proposed route. Although I accept my hon. Friend's argument and that he is concerned about the route, we must decide in favour of this carry-over motion. I know that hon. Members are anxious to get into the Lobby and vote for this majestic concept.

The people in the black country and in Birmingham have had 200 years of industrial revolution. So far, before today, we have failed to develop the proper links which should be developed between the black country, Birmingham and the west midlands. I want to share with hon. Members a homily and a simple truth about the black country. If a courting couple travel from Tividale to Bradley, people still come out of their homes to look at them. That is how our people have been divided for 200 years between the black country, Birmingham and the west midlands as a whole.

The canal network in the black country was designed for goods, not people. The local train service was demolished by Mr. Beeching. Now the buses churn out pollution. This new metro can take us into the 21st century. For social, environmental and transport developments, let us go metro tonight. Let us pass the motion and consider the Bill in the next Session. We can then give the people in our conurbation the kind of transport that they will need as we move into the 21st century.

9.32 pm
Mr. Anthony Beaumont-Dark (Birmingham, Selly Oak)

I understand some of the things which have been said, particularly by the hon. Member for Birmingham, Hodge Hill (Mr. Davis). If there are changes, we experience the NIMBY principle—not in my bloody back yard, you don't—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. That is coarse language which is uncharacteristic of the hon. Gentleman. I hope that he will not use it again.

Mr. Beaumont-Dark

I will not use it again. However, perhaps I should refer to the FLIMBY principle which I take to mean, "Not in my flipping back yard, you don't."

We all agree that there should be change. On occasions we all agree that a road is needed here, an airport or a railway there. I will not repeat what I said earlier because of your sensitivities, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but when those needs arise people say, "Not in our flipping back yard, you don't." That is what change involves. Someone's flipping back yard is going to be affected.

It is a little like sacrifice. People often say that we must all make sacrifices. I agree with sacrifice, so long as it starts from the chap next door but one. The hon. Member for Hodge Hill rightly said that the proposal may well be good for greater Birmingham or the greater west midlands, but like the rest of us he is elected to represent his constituency. The hon. Gentleman must accept, however, that in our own individual patches unpleasant things sometimes have to happen for the greater good of our constituencies or our areas.

Mr. Terry Davis

Will the hon. Gentleman explain who would be adversely affected by the alternative route put forward by my constituents?

Mr. Beaumont-Dark

Somebody is always adversely affected by any change in anything.

Mr. Davis

The hon. Gentleman has come into the debate late and has therefore not had the benefit of a full exposition of the matter. Will he now anwer the question that I put to him directly? He has accused my constituents of taking the NIMBY attitude. That has been said by Mr. Parker, the spokesman for Centro, but it has been denied by my constituents many times. I am not seeking to move this into someone else's backyard—I am seeking to move it where there are no backyards.

Mr. Beaumont-Dark

Of course that point will be dealt with, as all such things are, by every so-called expert. I state a general principle. All hon. Members have seen such things happen. I saw it happen in Selly Oak with the Bristol rail. Somebody sometimes wants to widen one side instead of the other. One side says, "Great," and the other side says, "No."

As a general agreement has been obtained, can the House decide on the broad principle that nothing in this life will satisfy everyone? As my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Yardley (Mr. Bevan) and others have said, we must make progress. If we do not make progress now, all progress will come to an end. I hope that the hon. Member for Hodge Hill will agree with that view.

Question put:

The House divided: Ayes 183, Noes 8.

Division No. 326] [9.36 pm
Arbuthnot, James Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Dykes, Hugh
Aspinwall, Jack Fallon, Michael
Atkins, Robert Faulds, Andrew
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N) Fearn, Ronald
Baldry, Tony Fishburn, John Dudley
Beaumont-Dark, Anthony Fookes, Dame Janet
Beggs, Roy Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)
Beith, A. J. Forth, Eric
Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke) Foster, Derek
Benyon, W. Freeman, Roger
Bevan, David Gilroy Fry, Peter
Blackburn, Dr John G. Galbraith, Sam
Body, Sir Richard Gale, Roger
Boswell, Tim George, Bruce
Bottomley, Mrs Virginia Glyn, Dr Sir Alan
Bowden, A (Brighton K'pto'n) Goodlad, Alastair
Bowis, John Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles
Braine, Rt Hon Sir Bernard Gordon, Mildred
Brazier, Julian Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)
Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's) Grist, Ian
Browne, John (Winchester) Hague, William
Buckley, George J. Hamilton, Hon Archie (Epsom)
Budgen, Nicholas Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr')
Burns, Simon Harris, David
Burt, Alistair Hayward, Robert
Butcher, John Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)
Butler, Chris Holt, Richard
Butterfill, John Howard, Rt Hon Michael
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE) Howarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A)
Carrington, Matthew Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd)
Chalker, Rt Hon Mrs Lynda Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Chapman, Sydney Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk)
Chope, Christopher Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Clark, Hon Alan (Plym'th S'n) Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W)
Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S) Ingram, Adam
Conway, Derek Jack, Michael
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest) Jackson, Robert
Coombs, Simon (Swindon) Jessel, Toby
Cope, Rt Hon John Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)
Cormack, Patrick Key, Robert
Couchman, James King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater)
Crowther, Stan Kirkhope, Timothy
Cummings, John Kirkwood, Archy
Dalyell, Tam Knapman, Roger
Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g) Knight, Greg (Derby North)
Davis, David (Boothferry) Knox, David
Day, Stephen Lambie, David
Devlin, Tim Lamont, Rt Hon Norman
Dixon, Don Lang, Ian
Lawrence, Ivan Roberts, Sir Wyn (Conwy)
Leadbitter, Ted Ruddock, Joan
Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh) Rumbold, Mrs Angela
Lightbown, David Sackville, Hon Tom
Lloyd, Tony (Stretford) Sainsbury, Hon Tim
McCartney, Ian Scott, Rt Hon Nicholas
MacGregor, Rt Hon John Shaw, David (Dover)
McKay, Allen (Barnsley West) Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)
MacKay, Andrew (E Berkshire) Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')
Maclean, David Short, Clare
McLoughlin, Patrick Smith, J. P. (Vale of Glam)
McNamara, Kevin Snape, Peter
McWilliam, John Speller, Tony
Major, Rt Hon John Spicer, Sir Jim (Dorset W)
Malins, Humfrey Steen, Anthony
Mans, Keith Stern, Michael
Marek, Dr John Stevens, Lewis
Marshall, John (Hendon S) Stewart, Andy (Sherwood)
Martin, David (Portsmouth S) Stott, Roger
Maude, Hon Francis Summerson, Hugo
Mawhinney, Dr Brian Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Mellor, David Thompson, D. (Calder Valley)
Michael, Alun Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Montgomery, Sir Fergus Thurnham, Peter
Morrison, Sir Charles Trippier, David
Moynihan, Hon Colin Twinn, Dr Ian
Needham, Richard Vaz, Keith
Newton, Rt Hon Tony Waddington, Rt Hon David
Nicholson, David (Taunton) Waller, Gary
Oppenheim, Phillip Wardell, Gareth (Gower)
Page, Richard Watts, John
Paice, James Wheeler, Sir John
Patnick, Irvine Widdecombe, Ann
Patten, Rt Hon Chris (Bath) Winnick, David
Patten, Rt Hon John Winterton, Nicholas
Pike, Peter L. Wood, Timothy
Porter, David (Waveney) Yeo, Tim
Portillo, Michael Young, Sir George (Acton)
Powell, Ray (Ogmore)
Prescott, John Tellers for the Ayes:
Redwood, John Mrs. Maureen Hicks, and
Rhodes James, Robert Mr. Roger King.
Riddick, Graham
Campbell-Savours, D. N. Skinner, Dennis
Cryer, Bob Wise, Mrs Audrey
Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'I)
Garrett, Ted (Wallsend) Tellers for the Noes:
Hardy, Peter Mr. Harry Barnes and
Mahon, Mrs Alice Mrs. Llin Golding.

Question accordingly agreed to.

Ordered That the Promoters of the Midland Metro Bill shall have leave to suspend proceedings thereon in order to proceed with the Bill, if they think fit, in the next Session of Parliament, provided that the Agents for the Bill give notice to the Clerks in the Private Bill Office not later than the day before the close of the present Session of their intention to suspend further proceedings and that all Fees due on the Bill up to that date be paid;

Ordered, That on the fifth day on which the House sits in the next Session the Bill shall be presented to the House;

Ordered, That there shall be deposited with the Bill a declaration signed by the Agents for the Bill, stating that the Bill is the same, in every respect, as the Bill at the last stage of its proceedings in this House in the present Session;

Ordered, That the Bill shall be laid upon the Table of the House by one of the Clerks in the Private Bill Office on the next meeting of the House after the day on which the Bill has been presented and, when so laid, shall be read the first and second time and committed (and shall be recorded in the Journal of this House as having been so read and committed);

Ordered, That all Petitions relating to the Bill presented in the present Session which stand referred to the Committee on the Bill, together with any minutes of evidence taken before the Committee on the Bill, shall stand referred to the Committee on the Bill in the next Session;

Ordered, That no Petitioners shall be heard before the Committee on the Bill, unless their Petition has been presented within the time limited within the present Session or deposited pursuant to paragraph (b) of Standing Order 126 relating to Private Business;

Ordered, That in relation to the Bill, Standing Order 127 relating to Private Business shall have effect as if the words 'under Standing Order 126 (Reference to committee of petitions against Bill)' were omitted;

Ordered, That no further Fees shall be charged in respect of any proceedings on the Bill in respect of which Fees have already been incurred during the present Session;

Ordered, That these Orders be Standing Orders of the House.