§ Order for consideration, as amended, read.
§ Question proposed, That the Bill be now considered.—[The Chairman of Ways and Means.]7.26 pm
§ Mr. David Gilroy Bevan (Birmingham, Yardley)
This Bill is promoted by Centro and the West Midlands passenger transport executive and authorises the extension of the network upon which they are embarked in the midlands.
§ Mr. Davis
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am sorry to have to raise this matter through you on a point of order. I had hoped that the hon. Gentleman would give way and would allow me to mention this matter to him so that he would have an opportunity to explain something to the House. Since he has refused to give way, I am sorry but I must put the matter to you as a point of order. He will hear what I am saying and he may wish to comment——
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harold Walker)
Order. I doubt that this is a matter for me. If the hon. Member wishes to dispute some point that is made in an hon. Member's speech, it is not for the Chair to arbitrate or adjudicate. Doubtless the hon. Member will get his opportunity to catch my eye to make his own arguments, including the argument of rebuttal.
§ Mr. Davis
It is not an argument and it has nothing to do with the content of the Bill. It is a matter of order which I wish to put to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am sorry that I am having to do it in this way, but it will be a point of order for the Chair.
During the debate on the carry-over motion for the Bill, the hon. Member for Birmingham, Yardley (Mr. Bevan) intervened in a speech that I was making and I gave way to him, of course. He admitted to the House that he had visited Grenoble at the expense of Centro, the promoters of the Bill. I wanted to ask the hon. Gentleman to clarify whether he has declared an interest, because overseas visits are supposed to be included in the Register of Members' Interests, and I do not think that that overseas visit has been declared.
The hon. Gentleman has introduced the Bill and has not declared a relevant overseas visit. Subsequently—not on the night that he introduced the Bill—he told the House that he went abroad at the expense of the organisation promoting the Bill. I understand that all overseas visits, other than those paid for by Parliament, should be declared. Other hon. Members have declared similar overseas visits to Grenoble at the expense of the passenger transport authority. As you will see, my hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich, East (Mr. Snape) wishes to identify that he has declared that very interest. However, I believe that the hon. Gentleman who introduced the Bill has not.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
I apologise to the hon. Gentleman; that seems to be a fair point of order. Hon. Members with a direct interest in matters that are debated 494 in the House should of course declare it, and no doubt the hon. Member for Birmingham, Yardley (Mr. Bevan) will feel obliged to do so during his speech.
§ Mr. Davis
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I hesitate to say this, but what the hon. Gentleman says is not entirely accurate. He is right in saying that he declared his interest, on 22 October, but that is not the issue in my point of order. I am saying that he introduced a Bill on 5 March 1990, seven months earlier, and, indeed, spoke again, when moving the carry-over motion, without declaring his interest. He finally admitted it during an intervention in a speech of mine.
§ Mr. Skinner
I have two points to make. First, the hon. Member for Birmingham, Yardley (Mr. Bevan) did not declare his interest here at the appropriate time on—according to my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Hodge Hill (Mr. Davis)—two separate occasions, although he has done so now. My second point is more serious: the hon. Gentleman did not declare his interest in the register.
Less than two years ago we went through quite a hazardous procedure in the House when the hon. Member for Winchester (Mr. Browne) did not declare what was almost certainly a more substantial interest. The matter went to the appropriate Committee, and the House's time was taken up by the introduction of the necessary measures.
The issue does not relate solely to whether the hon. Gentleman's interest was declared in the House. The register allows hon. Members eight paragraphs in which to declare their interests, which apparently were not filled in this instance.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. Any allegations of non-compliance with our rules relating to registration and declaration of interest should be referred to the Select Committee on Members' Interests.
§ Mr. Bevan
Of course I made the declaration to which the hon. Member for Hodge Hill refers. Let there be no innuendo suggesting that I am trying to avoid saying clearly, as I said last time we debated the matter in the House, that I have visited Grenoble—for, at the most, one or two nights; I cannot remember precisely. If I have failed to obey the rules to the letter, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I apologise humbly to you now. The position will be corrected at the first possible opportunity, and I will accept whatever suggestion you care to make to enable my interest to be registered in writing, if it was not registered at the time.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
I think that the hon. Member for Birmingham, Hodge Hill (Mr. Davis) expected me to comment on his remarks. I can only repeat that, if hon. Members feel that the rules regarding compliance with the register have not been satisfied, they should refer the matter to the Select Committee on Members' Interests. I hope that hon. Members will now feel that the hon. Member for Birmingham, Yardley (Mr. Bevan) has done the proper thing, and has explained the position adequately.
§ Mr. Bob Cryer (Bradford, South)
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. As a member of the Select Committee on Members' Interests, I feel that it might. help if the Bill's sponsor withdrew it, to avoid any unfortunate implications, and allowed someone else to sponsor it. That would remove any possible taint from the proceedings. It is possible that an hon. Member will complain to the Select Committee, as hon. Members are entitled to do; my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Hodge Hill (Mr. Davis) may do so himself. Before that, however, it would clarify the position beyond peradventure, as they say, if the hon. Member for Birmingham, Yardley (Mr. Bevan) withdrew his sponsorship of the Bill.
§ Mr. Bevan
Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I will continue to sponsor the Bill as I was asked to do; and I take note of what you have said.
What we have just heard is typical of the attempts that have frequently been made, first by one hon. Member and subsequently by others, to prevent the Bill from completing its stages. In this morning's Birmingham Post, the hon. Member for Hodge Hill is reported as having said last night that he would speak at length, and that he hoped that other hon. Members would support him. The writing is not just on the wall, but in the newspaper: the hon. Member for Hodge Hill will persist in his tactics to try to prevent the majority of the citizens of Birmingham and the midlands from securing the Bill's correct passage through the House, under the only procedure that can be afforded to it—which, currently, is the private Bill procedure.
Although many hon. Members may feel that the private Bill procedure is not adequate in all respects, it is the only procedure that is open to the Bill's promoters, Centro, at this stage. Even now, when we have come so far, I hope that democracy will be upheld and that the Bill will be allowed to proceed.
The Bill is partly the consequence of legislation enacted in February 1989. This Bill had its First Reading in March 1990. It went into Committee during June and July of that year, and was referred to an Opposed Private Bill Committee in October. A carry-over motion followed in October and November. Objections were made to the Bill, but only three of the original 35 petitions were referred to the Committee. I pay tribute to the excellent-Chairman and members of the Committee for their thorough scrutiny of the Bill over a period of 11 days.
As with the first Bill, this Bill will provide a beautiful form of rapid electric rail transport—fume-free and environment-friendly—which cannot exceed a speed of about 50 mph, and usually travels much more slowly. Wherever possible, disused railway lines and segmented roads are being used. It will join the new railway station at Five Ways, which I was able to bring into existence when 496 I chaired the West Midlands passenger transport authority, to Ashted road in Birmingham by means of an underground link. It will then continue, on the surface, to the national exhibition centre and Birmingham international airport in Solihull. It will measure 26.7 km. The Black Country route, measuring 25 km, will connect Wolverhampton, Sandwell and Dudley, passing through other areas.
Hon. Members will wish to know the capital costs involved. The money will be tied to the provision of public sector transport to bring the area up to the modern standards that obtain in other European countries and elsewhere, and will, I hope, provide us with rolling stock that will be the envy of the world. The cost will be £224 million for the Birmingham-Solihull route, and £139 million for the Black Country route. There will be about £30 million for stock on the routes and nearly £6 million for one of the diversions which the Opposed Private Bill Committee proposed and which has been accepted by the promoters of the Bill. The cost, therefore, is a substantial one, and to it must be added the cost of the land.
The network that will result from the passage of the Bill will play a most important part in reversing the decline in the use of public transport. Although it will not solve all our traffic problems, it will help them a great deal and should postpone for many more years the advent of major new highway proposals which might otherwise be required. It will certainly remove from the road a substantial number of the vehicles that contribute to the present congestion.
§ Mr. Skinner
A couple of weeks ago we had the Southampton Rapid Transit Bill. It was introduced by a Labour Member rather than a Tory Member. From what I could gather, its purpose was to do some of the things that the hon. Member for Birmingham, Yardley (Mr. Bevan) has mentioned. Certainly public expenditure was involved. I should like to know why the hon. Gentleman was one of those people who came in on a whipped vote, a payroll vote, on private business, and took part in the exercise. A War Cabinet meeting was cancelled to get members of it to come here and vote. Was it because this Bill has been introduced by a Tory Member and the last was introduced by a Labour Member?
§ Mr. Bevan
In his attempt to delay consideration of the Bill, the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) is wrong, as he usually is. I did not vote on that Bill, and had the hon. Member bothered to check the voting list before wasting the time of the House he would have found that out. If he were to listen for a change, he would realise that that was a totally different Bill, using a totally different infrastructure which constituted a grave environmental intrusion because it was both high and large by comparison with this slim-line and excellent surplus rail venture. They are totally different. Furthermore, the high-capacity rail vehicles which are envisaged for the Metro will result—he will be pleased to hear this because he is no doubt fascinated by it all—in very low noise along the route, certainly much lower than that of buses, trains and other types of transport.
§ Mr. James Hill (Southampton, Test)
To compare the Southampton Rapid Transit Bill, now defunct, with this excellent Midland Metro is farcical. Not only was the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) not here for the 497 debate that night—he came in for the vote of course—but he is wrong in trying to compare a railway transport system of three miles with this excellent long-distance Metro transit. Perhaps I shall be able to make my own speech later.
§ Mr. Bevan
I am obliged to my hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Test (Mr. Hill), who knows what an abhorrence that scheme would have been if the Bill had come to pass, and who has come here tonight specifically to demonstrate to everyone in the Chamber his willingness to vote for this Bill. I am delighted to see among those present the hon. Member for Bolsover, even though he was not present for the Southampton Rapid Transit Bill.
This system will be much less obtrusive than the old tramway system and the wires are much less obvious. [Interruption.] It is plain that certain hon. Members are attempting to harass the proceedings—not me because they could not do that—and are making as much use as they can of interruptions from a somnolent posture.
Thirty-five petitions were originally deposited against the Bill, of which only three went to the Select Committee. The Committee met on 11 occasions in May and considered all the relevant representations made by the hon. Member for Hodge Hill and his residents, from FORSE, and other objectors.
§ Mr. Terry Davis
Surely the hon. Member for Birmingham, Yardley (Mr. Bevan) is aware that my constituents were not allowed to present their petition to the Committee. So how could the Committee consider their objections?
§ Mr. Davis
The hon. Gentleman is mistaken again. He is being as careless about the facts as he was about declaring his interest. The hon. Gentleman told the House a few moments ago—and fair-minded hon. Members will agree that he said it—that the Committee met on 11 occasions and considered the objections of everybody, including my constituents. That is not correct. I suspect that he has confused a company called Foseco, which is not in my constituency, with a group of residents in my constituency known as FORSE. There is a big difference between FORSE and Foseco. Foseco is a business, and it is correct to say that an amendment to route is coming forward which will benefit Foseco. But that is not in my constituency. The hon. Gentleman is being very careless. I would respect him more if he were more careful in what he said.
§ Mr. Bevan
The hon. Member for Hodge Hill is correct in saying that the company is Foseco and the site of the deviation, which I had mentioned and which will cost the promoters £6 million, was near the hon. Member's constituency, if not in it. It was understood to be one of the factors which his supporters wanted to be considered.
§ Mr. Davis
I am hopeful that the passenger transport authority, known as Centro, will at last see sense and will discuss this Bill and the route with me as it would affect my 498 constituents. However, at the moment they have not made any offer which would benefit my constituents in the Bromford estate—and the hon. Gentleman will be fair enough to recognise that throughout our proceedings that is the area that I have talked about and they are the people I have sought to represent.
§ Mr. Bevan
I am pleased that the hon. Member for Hodge Hill has intervened yet again as it will now be unnecessary for him to develop his arguments at great length, as he has given the press to understand, because presumably he has already said everything that he needs to say.
May I compliment the Select Committee. It received r j 8–9from the promoters a number of undertakings given for the benefit of one of the petitioners. In the case of the other petitioner, the Committee asked the executive to devise a new alignment which did not pass through the petitioner's site. I hope that I have put that correctly.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. Before the hon. Gentleman intervenes, let me remind the House that we are debating whether the Bill should be considered. I hope that the debate will proceed along those lines.
§ Mr. Winnick
Is the hon. Member for Birmingham, Yardley (Mr. Bevan) aware that there is much enthusiasm in my part of the world for this new form of public transport, bearing in mind the extent to which public transport has been undermined during the lifetime of the Government? We have made clear our support for the Metro system, as have the local authorities. But is the hon. Gentleman aware that there continues to be some controversy about the proposed route as it affects my constituency?
§ Mr. Winnick
The route, as my hon. Friend says.
Such difficulties often arise. I am particularly concerned about a small area—I accept that it is a small area—of the memorial park in Willenhall, which, as I reminded the House on 5 March, commemorates those who served in the first world war. It is a great attraction in Willenhall.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. This is supposed to be an intervention. No doubt the hon. Gentleman will seek to catch my eye later if he wishes to make a speech.
§ Mr. Winnick
Perhaps I may conclude, Mr. Deputy Speaker, by asking the hon. Member for Yardley whether, even at this late stage, the promoters would be willing again to consider the objections to which I have referred.
§ Mr. Bevan
I am obliged to the hon. Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick) for his reminder about the memorial park, which he mentioned during the debate on the carry-over motion. I cannot give an undertaking now, but I shall certainly see that the matter is referred.
If the Bill is allowed to proceed, many amendments will have to be considered. I hope that that will happen and that the numerous people who support the extension of the public transport system—to whom the hon. Member for Walsall, North referred—will be afforded that opportunity.
§ Mr. Peter Snape (West Bromwich, East)
The Labour party supports the extension and promotion of this new form of public transport. Those hon. Members who have objections to raise on behalf of their constituents will do so, but as a general principle we favour this modern and updated system, which will be of great benefit to the region.
I have a personal and constituency interest in the matter. Line I would run through my constituency and through the constituencies of some of my hon. Friends who are present. I wish to put it on record that, as the Member of Parliament for West Bromwich, East, my view is that, the sooner the line is up and running—to mix my metaphors—the better.
I hope that many of the difficulties that have arisen will be resolved. I suspect that my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Hodge Hill (Mr. Davis) will wish to catch your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker. He has left us in no doubt as to the depth of feeling among his constituents about the proposals. I hope that, even at this late stage, the hon. Member for Birmingham, Yardley (Mr. Bevan), on behalf of Centro, will attempt to bring the parties together so that further discussions may take place. I am sure that, with a little give and take on both sides, the problems that my hon. Friend the Member for Hodge Hill has outlined are not insurmountable.
I have never made a secret of my views about the Bromford estate, although I do not profess to know it as intimately as my hon. Friend the Member for Hodge Hill does. I suspect that the fears of some of those on the estate are groundless, but I understand those fears and I think that if they were aired and an attempt made to find a compromise—even at this late stage—it would be more beneficial than the protracted wrangling that has taken place at each and every stage of our proceedings on the Bill so far.
I hope that the hon. Member for Yardley will take that message back to the promoters. He shakes his head. I would not wish to encourage my hon. Friend the Member for Hodge Hill or to put words into his mouth, but it does not strike me as very helpful for the hon. Gentleman merely to shake his head. Surely some attempt ought to be made to bring the parties together. It has been a frequent complaint of my hon. Friend the Member for Hodge Hill that he has had to make all the running. He has been to see Centro on various occasions, but still no satisfactory outcome has been reached.
§ Mr. Bevan
I have made appointments for the hon. Member for Hodge Hill to see the director of Centro to discuss these matters in depth. I went in person to ensure, if I could, that the discussion terminated in concrete proposals which would satisfy the hon. Gentleman. Regretfully, I concluded after that meeting—and after all the other meetings that have taken place between the hon. Gentleman and varous representatives of Centro—that the hon. Gentleman does not intend any accommodation to be reached.
§ Mr. Morgan
I have absolutely no interest in the west midlands economy or its transport system—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—in the financial or old English sense.
§ Mr. Morgan
No. I do not have that type of financial interest either.
The intransigence of the promoters of private Bills is becoming an increasing problem for all of us because they now feel that they do not have to accommodate the view of local Members whose consituents' houses, and so on, are affected. That makes the task of potential negotiators extremely difficult.
§ Mr. Snape
That may be so. Even though my hon. Friend does not have any great interest in transport matters in the west midlands, I must put it to him that compromises have been reached in respect of other petitioners. It is only the arguments advanced by my hon. Friend the Member for Hodge Hill in respect of one estate—the Bromford estate—which have not yet been settled.
I give my hon. Friend the Member for Hoge Hill the undertaking that I shall try to bring the parties together again. If my hon. Friend wants me to come to the meeting and listen, I shall be delighted to do so. I plead with him not to prevent my constituents and people throughout the west midlands from enjoying the benefits of the system—if and when the Government decide to put up some money. I hope that the Minister will stop equivocating and will cough up some cash. He well knows that we are waiting to put line 1 and the associated works out to tender. Centro has been anxious to get the go-ahead from the Department and has kept officials informed at each stage. It has also done its best to answer any queries. It would not be fair at this stage to blame my hon. Friend the Member for Hodge Hill for any delay. At least 50 per cent. of the cost will have to come from central Government, but so far we have had only elegant phrases. No doubt we shall get another dose of the same in a moment. My concluding advice is this—drop the phrases and cough up the money.
§ 8 pm
§ The Minister for Public Transport (Mr. Roger Freeman)
I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Yardley (Mr. Bevan) on his enthusiastic, eloquent, and very determined approach to the Bill. He is to be commended by the whole House for the way in which he presented it.
The hon. Member for West Bromwich, East (Mr. Snape) asked me a specific question about line 1. We are 501 here concerned with line 2; the line that runs from Birmingham Snow Hill to Wolverhampton was the subject of a previous Bill. This measure makes provision for other routes which are clearly related to and will be integrated with that one. We have said that the appraisal is under way. Centro and the Department of Transport have jointly set the middle of May as the target for completion of that work. That has been agreed with the chairman of the passenger transport authority. If the appraisal turns out to be satisfactory, and if the agreement of the Treasury is forthcoming, we shall pay development grant in the coming financial year, and then consider the line for capital funding in the year beginning 1 April 1992. I cannot be clearer or fairer than that.
§ Mr. Terry Davis
I am grateful to the Minister for giving way. He is always most fair.
Is the hon. Gentleman willing, within the next few months—before a decision is taken—to visit the site that has caused so much controversy? Only one section of the two routes is causing any trouble. His hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State visited Centro a few weeks ago, and was seen on television looking at parts of the system, but he did not come to the part that is controversial. I hope that this Minister will come with me to meet my constituents so that he may understand the strength of feeling. Those people feel neglected by the Government.
§ Mr. Freeman
The hon. Gentleman probably knows that I visited the Snow Hill—Wolverhampton line several months ago. I saw it from the air and from the ground. I shall be happy to visit the hon. Gentleman's constituency next time I am in Birmingham. This is a private Bill. It is not promoted by the Government, but the Government provide section 56 grant aid and credit approvals for qualifying light rail schemes.
I should like briefly to restate the Government's position on the Bill. It is traditional in the case of private Bills that the Government take a neutral stance, and this Bill is no exception to that rule. That was made clear to the House by my hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, Southgate (Mr. Portillo), who was then Minister for Public Transport, in the Second Reading debate last March.
The Government have considered the content of the Bill and have no objection in principle to this proposed extension of the Midland Metro network. This is one of a number of light rail schemes being brought forward in our major cities. We recognise that, in appropriate circumstances, light rail can have an important role in reducing traffic congestion and in helping to promote urban regeneration. We welcome the efforts that transport planners are making to assess what light rail has to offer. Naturally, as I think the hon. Member for West Bromwich, East would agree, it cannot be the ideal solution in all cases.
The Manchester Metrolink scheme now under construction, with some £50 million of Government cash grant, will be our first modern street-running system of the kind envisaged by this Bill.
It is, of course, for the promoters to persuade Parliament that the powers they are seeking are justified. An Opposed Private Bill Committee of this House has 502 carefully scrutinised the Bill and allowed it to proceed, with amendments. I hope, therefore, that in the conventional way the House will allow the Bill to proceed.
§ 8.6 pm
§ Mr. Terry Davis (Birmingham, Hodge Hill)
I thank my hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich, East (Mr. Snape) for his kind remarks. He has always taken a very fair and balanced view, and I appreciate that. He has a responsibility to speak for the Opposition on transport in general. As he made clear to the House, he also has a constituency point of view. His constituency is not affected by the route that concerns me, but it is affected by one of the other routes. He has always tried to take an overall view and, as he has made clear in public statements in Birmingham, he believes that local people should be consulted. After all, public transport is the people's transport, and their views must be taken into account. My hon. Friend has always been most willing to listen. I am grateful for his offer to act as some sort of go-between with a view to achieving a compromise, even at this late stage. For reasons that I will explain later, that will be very difficult because of the way in which Centro and the hon. Member for Birmingham, Yardley (Mr. Bevan) have handled the Bill. If my hon. Friend can help to achieve a reasonable settlement of the dispute, I, for one, shall be very grateful.
My hon. Friends the Members for West Bromwich, East, for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick), for Walsall, South (Mr. George) and, I think, for Wolverhampton, South-East (Mr. Turner) have made it very clear, in public and in private, that they have absolutely no complaint about my efforts to represent my constituents who would be adversely affected by this scheme. They have always made it clear that, even though they differ from me—for reasons that I understand—they respect my right to represent my constituents to the best of my ability. They have no complaint whatever about the tone, content or length of the speeches that I make. They have always made it clear that they would not wish to prevent me from doing my job as a Member of Parliament.
I am grateful to the Minister for his willingness to visit the constituency. That offer has affected my speech tonight, as I had not expected this Minister to take part in the debate. I thought that it would be the Parliamentary Under-Secretary, who recently visited the west midlands in connection with these proposals. As I said, he did not come to my constituency. That was a great pity. I assure this Minister that he will be most welcome. The residents will be grateful for the opportunity to explain why they feel so strongly. He will find that the residents of the estate have not adopted a party political point of view. In that area, this has not been a partisan matter. Indeed, the residents' association was kind enough to distribute a leaflet saying that, in its opinion, neither the local councillors nor I had sought to make political capital or to turn the issue into a partisan one. Of course, the matter will be mentioned during the election campaign. All candidates will then be able to declare their views. The residents' association made it clear that it admired the way in which the matter had been fought. Indeed, it scorned the attempt of a former Liberal, now a Conservative, to make party political capital out of the issue by misrepresenting the views of the local Labour councillors and myself. The 503 Minister can be assured that his discussions with my constituents will be conducted in a friendly, pleasant, non-partisan atmosphere.
The Bill has been in progress for 18 months. It is unfortunate that, over that time, the hon. Member for Yardley, even though he introduced the Bill, has not come to talk to the residents. I am sure that he has paid a quiet visit. I think that he has even been seen on the estate, but he has not actually talked to my constituents, despite the fact that they invited him more than once. I accept his criticism of last October—that he had been given very short notice. He was not being set up. These are ordinary working people who have to do their jobs during the day and their secretarial work in the evening. I accept that they did not post their letter as quickly as they might have done.
They were not trying to embarrass the hon. Gentleman. That honest invitation was made four months ago, but the hon. Gentleman has still not met my constituents. I can understand why he did not meet them in the few days between receiving a letter and the debate in the House, but we would have appreciated it if he had come to visit us.
§ Mr. Bevan
The hon. Gentleman seems to be saying that my visit to his constituents would have been significant with regard to the promoter's plans and intentions. Will he confirm that he and his residents' organisation known as FORSE have met the various heads of Centro on several occasions to discuss in detail many matters concerning the route and the Bill? I have minutes of those meetings with me. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that those heads of Centro are the appropriate people with whom his residents should discuss the points of impact? The promoter deals with the route submissions in conjunction with the local authority. Will he confirm that he attended a meeting on 5 February during which many details were discussed with the representatives of his organisation and the heads of Centro? There were many other meetings as well.
§ Mr. Davis
I hope that I shall be allowed to comment on all those matters. The hon. Gentleman referred to FORSE as my organisation. It is not my organisation. I did not organise or set it up. I do not control or dominate it. It is a genuine residents' group which was formed as a result of the proposals in the Bill. FORSE stands for For Other Routes Save Estates. I should have preferred it to be called the Bromford and Firs residents group, but they wanted a catchy title so they called it FORSE. The hon. Gentleman was being careless: it is not my organisation.
The hon. Member for Yardley was right that the residents' group has attended several meetings with Centro representatives. I was present at all those meetings because I made myself available to my constituents. However, I doubt whether the hon. Gentleman would have those talks as genuine discussions and consultations.
§ Mr. Davis
If the hon. Gentleman will allow me to finish, I will explain why I doubt that. I am giving the hon. Gentlemen credit, but he is rebuffing me and that is typical of all the proceedings on the Bill. If the hon. Gentleman had been present at those discussions, he would not think that my constituents had been treated fairly and that their views had been listened to. However, he was not present; 504 he is relying on the minutes. As I have already pointed out, the hon. Gentleman has not met my constituents. If he had met them, he would understand why they feel as they do.
My hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich, East will come to my constituency all the way from West Bromwich. The Minister is going to come all the way from Kettering——
§ Mr. Davis
That is even further away than Kettering. However, the hon. Member for Yardley will not even come to my constituency from Yardley.
The hon. Member for Yardley was wrong when he said that my constituents met the heads of Centro on 5 February. I know about that because they asked me to attend that meeting and it is a good job that I did so. I can bear witness to what was said. My constituents did not meet the heads of Centro: they did not meet the director-general or the head of public relations who was on holiday. My constituents met some new people whom we had not seen before.
§ Mr. Bevan
Besides Mr. Hawkins, Mrs. Hawkins and Mr. Poole from FORSE and the hon. Member for Birmingham, Hodge Hill (Mr. Davis), the following people were present at that meeting on 5 February: Mr. Ray Hughes, who is the head of Centro development; John Fallon, who is the press and public relations manager; Rod Dixon, the engineering and design manager; and Janet Kings, the principal planner. Are not they heads? Is it not a fact that the discussions included the offer to resite the football pitch to the other side of the M6, to realign the safety fencing and other issues such as park and ride, environmental impact, the extension of the Heartlands area and the Water Orton line? Many issues about infrastructure were discussed.
§ Mr. Davis
I do not agree that those people were heads. Mr. Fallon is a very nice man, but he does not head any Centro department. Obviously the hon. Member for Yardley and I disagree on the definition of "head". Mr. Robert J. Tarr is a head because he is the director-general.
The hon. Member for Yardley complained earlier about the length of my speeches, but his interventions and red herrings are delaying the completion of my speech.
At that meeting we did not meet the chairman of the passenger transport authority, any PTA members, the director or even the head of public relations who had arranged the meeting. I am not complaining about that, but the people present were not heads.
I was present at that meeting and I was told by the Centro representatives that we were discussing the environmental impact study. They said that that was what they wanted to talk to us about, not the route. Well, my constituents want to talk about the route. The location of a football pitch or play area is very important, but those issues are not central to the objections to the Metro.
I am always anxious to be fair to the hon. Member for Yardley. He asked me to accompany him to meet Mr. Tarr, who is the director-general of the PTA, which now calls itself Centro. I accompanied the hon. Gentleman willingly, and we met Mr. Tarr and one or two people 505 whom I would regard as heads, unlike the people who were present on 5 February. They included the solicitor who was handling the Bill and Mr. Parker, the head of public relations. I told those people that they had not talked properly to my constituents. As a result, Mr. Tarr said that he would arrange for discussions with my constituents about their objections to the route and about the alternative. I am sure that the hon. Member for Yardley will confirm that.
It was agreed that Centro officers would talk to my constituents about the alternative route. However, after those talks my constituents told me that they felt that those discussions had not been, to use their words, genuine. That was their opinion and they can speak for themselves. That opinion was confirmed to me by the PTA chairman who said "We are entrenched." That is the sort of phrase with which we are familiar these days, internationally. He said, "There will not be any rerouting unless Parliament does it." That is what the chairman of the PTA said in my hearing.
The hon. Member for Yardley cannot have it both ways. He cannot claim that there were genuine discussions with my constituents when the chairman, the very head of the organisation, was saying, "We are not going to change anything anyway." My constituents' suspicions were reinforced and confirmed by what the chairman himself said to them in my hearing. I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman did not attend any of those meetings. I did not expect him to, but I am sorry that, having set up those talks in what I believe was a genuine effort to achieve——
§ Mr. Bevan
The hon. Gentleman says that he spoke to the chairman of the PTA. It is upon the strategy of the passenger transport authority that Centro's plans have been made. Its directions have been followed by Centro as the promoter of the Bill. The hon. Gentleman spoke to the very head of the organisation, the chairman, who put the views clearly to him. The hon. Gentleman saw someone even greater than the director-general of Centro.
§ Mr. Davis
I did not want to say that because it could be misconstrued. I do not want to engage in personal attacks on Councillor Bateman, who is not here to answer for himself. He is at the very top of the PTA. In my hearing, he made it clear that all the 11 meetings to which the hon. Member for Yardley has just referred were pointless. That is not the attitude of my hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich, East. Even the Minister is more flexible than that. At least he is willing to talk to people and to hear what they have to say. The actual words used were, "I have invited you here to have a chat." I shall return later to what people said to the chairman and 506 what he said to them. I do not want to destroy the order of my speech because the hon. Member for Yardley might accuse me of repetition.
As I was saying, the hon. Member for Yardley has not taken the trouble to meet my constituents, and he has been careless. It is a pity that he would not give way to me at the beginning of the debate because, if he had done so, I should have been able to put to him without embarrassing him too greatly the point that I then had to make on a point of order. I was anxious to be fair to him.
After the hon. Gentleman had moved the carry-over motion on 22 October, he admitted that he had received the benefit of an overseas visit at the expense of Centro. I emphasise that that matter arose in an intervention only because the hon. Gentleman challenged me. I pointed out that I paid my own fare to Grenoble. I asked him who had paid his fare and he blurted out that it had been paid by Centro—[Interruption.] Well, the record shows it. He blurted out that his fare was paid by Centro, but he had not declared that fact before that evening or on 5 March when he introduced the Bill. He should have done so.
§ Mr. Morgan
My hon. Friend is getting to the nub of the problem of practices that verge on malpractice in terms of the way in which private Bill promoters get their Bills through the House. They set up a slush fund so that hon. Members who would like to visit a certain place can go there at public expense. It might be somewhere outside the country, in which case the visit should be declared in the Register of Members' Interests. It might be a place where the private Bill's promoters are intending to carry out works. They could invite any one of 650 Members of Parliament to visit that place, to do so repeatedly, and to stay overnight in an hotel. The House will have to address the problem of private Bill promoters and their slush funds at some stage if the private Bill procedure can ever hope to have a proper reputation of propriety. Does my hon. Friend agree?
§ Mr. Davis
I do not want to follow my hon. Friend down that route, although I have much sympathy with what he says. I do not want to cast any unnecessary aspersions on the PTA and I suspect that you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, would rule me out of order if I began to discuss the general procedure for private Bills. I want to stick to this Bill.
Some hon. Members have declared that they have been abroad at Centro's expense. I have no objection to that. I am not criticising the hon. Member for Yardley for having accepted Centro's offer, although it is a pity that it had to be done through a firm called Ian Greer Associates Ltd., as my hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich, East confirmed on an earlier occasion. Nevertheless, hon. Members will always be interested in certain private Bills because they may have a passionate interest in that subject or a constituency interest—they need not necessarily be a sponsor—and if they cannot afford to go to, say, Grenoble——
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. The hon. Gentleman was right to anticipate that if he pursued his present line the Chair would reproach him. I am reproaching him.
§ Mr. Davis
I accept your reproach, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am simply anxious to acquit hon. Members, including the hon. Member for Yardley, of any imputation of dishonesty. I suspect that the hon. Gentleman was 507 simply careless. However, it was that hon. Gentleman who impugned my honesty in our previous debate when he said in an intervention, "If I were an honest man", meaning me. I think that he regrets that now.
§ Mr. Bevan
At the moment, unchallenged, there is an imputation of slush fund creation by a public body so that there could be a very necessary visit. I should like the hon. Gentleman categorically to deny that there was a slush fund. However, it was either that slush fund or a different one that enabled the Select Committee on Transport also to visit Grenoble to study the railway which has been used as a model for Midland Metro and is regarded as a state-of-the-art light electric railway. Only the best is wanted in this Bill. Whether we shall eventually get it nobody knows, but there was no slush fund.
§ Mr. Davis
Actually, I did not suggest that there was a slush fund. The hon. Gentleman is very touchy about this. I was simply seeking to defend him. I ask my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. Morgan), "Was I or was I not defending the hon. Member for Yardley and the passenger transport authority?"
§ Mr. Davis
I do not know whether there was a slush fund. All that I know is that the invitation came from a firm with which I will not associate, which is called Ian Greer Associates Ltd.—a public relations firm which has a certain reputation. I shall say no more than that because it cannot defend itself here.
I must advise the hon. Member for Yardley that I tried to be fair to him by suggesting that he had just been careless. He should have included in the Register of Members' Interests, as many other hon. Members did, the fact that he went abroad at somebody else's expense. That is what the rules are and he forgot to do it. That is all.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. I thought that we had cleared up that matter at the commencement of this evening's proceedings. I hope that we shall not go down that road again.
§ Mr. Davis
I refer to it only because there have been interventions, Mr. Deputy Speaker, including from the hon. Member for Yardley.
I am anxious to get on because the hon. Gentleman also complained that I intended to speak at length. He quoted from The Birmingham Post, which asked me, "Are you going to speak at length, Mr. Davis?", to which I replied, "Yes, I shall speak at length and for as long as it takes to put my constituents' point of view." That is only to be 508 expected. My hon. Friends the Members for Wolverhampton, South-East and for Walsall, South recognise that. I must admit that this is taking a lot longer than I had intended. Indeed, I have not yet started my speech properly because the hon. Member for Yardley keeps interrupting to intervene. I said what I said to The Birmingham Post quite clearly and I shall, indeed, speak for as long as it takes to put my constituents' point of view. I said then that my hon. Friends have not criticised me for doing that in the past and will not do so on this occasion. I left it at that.
I turn now to why I do not think that the Bill should be considered. In both our previous debates, I have made it clear that my objection is not to the idea of light rail or rapid transit. I do not oppose that concept, nor do I oppose the Midland Metro project. Although the hon. Member for Yardley got carried away in one of his intemperate interventions in our previous debate and suggested that I was not telling the truth—a suggestion that he then retracted—my position throughout has been that, like my constituents, I do not oppose the concept. I emphasise that the residents' group, FORSE, has made it clear, to the dissatisfaction of one or two people who live on the estate, that it does not oppose the concept as such. It has said that rapid transit is a good idea, but has added, "We are not convinced that it has to have disadvantages and costs in personal terms to people living on the estate, if that can be avoided." FORSE has gone on to say, "We are not convinced that that cannot be avoided, so we want to suggest an alternative route."
My hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-East said that the Metro system was to link Birmingham with the black country. That is correct and we are not trying to stop that link. I am talking about the route from Birmingham to Solihull, which is in the opposite direction. It goes to the east, from Five Ways to the national exhibition centre in Solihull. That route runs through my constituency and through the Bromford and the adjacent Firs estates. I shall use the name of the former estate as an abbreviation for both. I oppose only that section of the route.
My constituents and the local councillors are not satisfied that the route must take a path through the Bromford estate where people would lose the amenities that they currently have. It may seem trivial to talk about the possible effects on children's play areas, football pitches, cycle tracks, social clubs and the family and sports community centre. People feel, very strongly about such things. My constituents are concerned not only about the loss of such amenities, but about the fact that the route runs through the only green area in that part of my constituency. The estate was built in the 1960s when there was, generally speaking, system building and its subsequent problems. The residents have had to deal with damp, central heating and other problems and the council has had to spend a small fortune to repair the defects over the years.
Not far from the estate, there is a motorway and a problem with aircraft from Birmingham airport. Aircraft reach the required height just over the estate before manoeuvring to the right or left, so my constituents are at a disadvantage in many ways. Now, after 25 or 30 years, the estate is beginning to look better. The ribbon of grass—as I call it—between the houses and the motorway is precious to those people. It is used not only to exercise dogs, but for children to play and for informal family 509 recreation. I am told that on hot Sunday afternoons, people picnic on the grass between the houses and the motorway. All those amenities are precious because there are so few. The estate was one of the classic cases of the rush in the 1960s to build houses. I do not criticise the local councillors because they built such estates with the best motive in the world. They had to deal with the terrible housing problems in Birmingham and they went for quantity, not quality. They made mistakes, but it is easy to criticise after the event.
Over the years, the council and especially the residents have done much to make the best of what they have. The residents are very upset at the prospect of losing that—not only the people who live in the houses immediately fronting the grass area, but the whole of the estate of several hundred people.
The residents are also concerned about the visual impact of the Metro. People feel passionately about the trees which were planted by local people and which now screen the ugliness of the motorway. Many were planted by children from the local school and, apparently, families know which is their tree and feel that it belongs to them. Although I was rather sceptical about that at first, I was convinced by the people's feelings. It is very much their wood—it is more of a copse than a wood, but it is how they see it that matters. They are depressed at the idea of losing any of those trees. A line of trees was planted to screen the motorway, Fort Dunlop and the derelict industrial area on the other side of the motorway. It can be seen through the arches because the motorway is elevated at that point, but it is now screened by growing trees. They must be 20 years old and they are tremendously important to the people who live in houses immediately adjacent to the motorway. Those houses have big picture windows, so the people are distressed about the visual impact.
When the hon. Member for Yardley spoke for the promoters of the Bill, he said that the Metro system would bring major benefits to the environment. My constituents do not agree. They believe that the section of route that passes by them will detract from their environment and make it worse rather than better. They would naturally prefer, if possible, to make arrangements for the Metro system to be re-routed slightly to reduce or eliminate its visual impact on their homes.
We should bear it in mind that Centro has not yet been able to tell us where it will put the stops on the route. That is important because the stops are rather long, unlike bus stops, and there will be platforms. Centro is also unable to say what the gantries that hold the cable to provide the power will look like, so people are naturally worried. Nobody knows whether they will have a concrete gantry which would be very visible just a few metres away from the living room window. People know that vehicles will pass by every five minutes in each direction. That means, in effect, that vehicles will run past their picture windows every two and a half minutes. That is some picture.
People are concerned not only about the visual impact, but about the noise, which is an extremely important aspect of the environment. People are becoming increasingly concerned about noise levels.
§ Mr. Cryer
As my hon. Friend knows, I take an interest in the Bill and in the way in which he has followed up his constituents' problems with the correct concern and zeal. 510 The reverse of the argument is that the development of public transport and light railways is a useful asset for any community. Are there routes which would be less intrusive, but which would benefit the community without the consequences that he has outlined so graphically?
§ Mr. Davis
Yes, is the short answer. There are several alternatives, one of which has been suggested by my constituents. I think that it was rejected too cavalierly with an explanation that I do not accept, but I shall deal with that later. I should be grateful if my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer) would stay to hear it.
My constituents are not against public transport and I emphasis that they are not against the Metro as such. They are certainly not against it running from Five Ways in the centre of Birmingham with a stop at the new convention centre, which is about to be opened in the centre of Birmingham, together with hotels. They are not trying to stop the Metro running to the NEC, to Birmingham international airport, or to Birmingham international railway station. They see the logic and know that it would be beneficial to the economy of Birmingham, but they say that the system can be built without causing them any disadvantage. That is a moderate point of view.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Paul Dean)
Order. I am very glad to hear the hon. Gentleman say that because I was thinking the same. We should have a more orderly debate if we got on to the amendments so that he can speak to them.
§ Mr. Davis
I want to put it on the record that I am not afraid to discuss these matters. It is at your request, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that I shall not answer the point. I am trying to be helpful, but I am having difficulty getting on with my speech, thanks to the hon. Member for Yardley. At the right time, I shall explain why there is nothing inconsistent in what I have said about not opposing the Metro while opposing one section of the route. My amendments were tabled in such a way on the advice of the Clerk to ensure that they were in order. I will leave it at that for the moment.
I was explaining why my constituents feel so concerned about the route proposed in the Bill. Their second concern is noise. The hon. Member for Yardley told the House that the vehicles that will be used will bequieter than the 1940s trams or even the Blackpool trams".—[Official Report, 5 March 1990; Vol. 168, c. 645.]That statement leaves a great deal to be desired because those trams were noisy. I can just about remember the 1940s trams and I have seen and been on the Blackpool trams. It is nice to go on them and it is part of going to Blackpool for the Labour party conference. However, I would not want such a tram running as close to my home as the Metro will run to the homes of some of my constituents. The noise of those trams is definitely excessive. The hon. Member for Yardley says that the 511 noise will not he as bad as that. That is little comfort to those who do not have trams running in front of their homes at present.
The hon. Member for Yardley also said that the noise of the rolling stock will be less intrusive than that of a tram because it will have a "higher frequency". I am not clear whether he meant "frequency" in the sense that it applies to sound or the frequency of vehicles. Trams will run in each direction every five minutes, which means that a vehicle will go past every two and a half minutes. One could say that there will be a constant hum. That will not please people who live in the area.
The hon. Member for Yardley then told the House that, even if people's environment was adversely affected by noise, there would be noise insulation grants. He said on 5 March 1990 that they would be payable under a scheme similar to that in operation for highways. I want to make two points about that. First, the hon. Gentleman admits that there will be noise of a level sufficiently high to merit noise insulation grants. Secondly, those of us who have experience of noise insulation grants in our constituencies will know that the level required to qualify for that grant is high. I hear constant complaints from many of my constituents who believe that they should be entitled to noise insulation grants because of Birmingham airport. That is one of the biggest problems in my constituency. I think that those people should be entitled to grants and that is why I am introducing a private Member's Bill to help not only my constituents, but people all over the country who suffer from such noise.
The existing noise insulation schemes for aircraft and highways are not good enough. The people who live on the Bromford estate have personal experience of noise insulation schemes. Nobody on that estate gets a noise insulation grant for the effect of aircraft that turn just as they reach the estates. However, many people on the estate have obtained noise insulation grants as a result of the motorway. Ten years ago, we had a tremendous problem because we discovered that because of the way in which the scheme had been introduced, people got a noise insulation grant only if the noise from the motorway qualified them for such a grant. There was no allowance for the cumulative effect.
I was not here at the time, so I can say how grateful I was to Ministers in the Labour Government in the 1970s. One of them decided that the old system was wrong and that the grants should take cumulative noise into account. It was decided that families should not be told, "You do not qualify although you have a terrible amount of noise, because the amount of noise from the motorway is not enough, even though, if we took it all together, you would qualify." People had a terrible problem, but they were being told by the council that it could not pay noise insulation grants under the law. A Minister at the Department of Transport took a sensible decision on behalf of my constituents living on the Bromford estate and decided that the scheme should take account of cumulative noise.
However, the change applied only to noise from highways. The issue now is my constituents, who will not qualify for noise insulation grants because of the Metro alone, but who will suffer because the incremental noise—that noise taken with that of local traffic—puts them above the level. They will not get the grant because the single source does not generate enough noise. They also hear noise from the railway, which is not far away. Some 512 people have asked why the Metro does not use some of the disused railway line, which is a valid point. My constituents have had bitter and disappointing experiences with noise insulation schemes. They are nervous about anything that may add to the noise.
I always try to be fair to those with whom I disagree. Councillor Bateman, the chairman of the passenger transport authority, said that he thought that my constituents had a horrendous problem at present without the Metro. Why introduce it? Why make a horrendous situation worse by putting the Metro in front of people's homes?
The hon. Member for Yardley said that the Metro would be "whisper-quiet". He said that the system in Grenoble was "whisper-quiet". That is not the opinion of the environmental services department of Birmingham city council. That department employs people whose objectivity I do not question. I have found them excellent officers who say it the way it is. They have looked at the Metro scheme—they are conscious that the council's policy is to build the Metro—and they say that on their calculations—I stress that they are calculations—118 homes on the Bromford estate would be affected to the extent to which they would qualify for noise insulation grants. One can understand the attitude of my constituents, who say, "My goodness, if 118 homes are going to qualify for noise insulation as a result of the Metro and we know that those noise levels are totally inadequate, what will it mean for those of us who do not qualify for noise insulation?" Naturally, they are nervous about it, and I do not blame them.
I have told my constituents that I have been to Grenoble and that the Metro equivalent there is quieter than some other forms of transport. I readily agree with that, and I am not trying to exaggerate the case or to give my constituents unnecessary cause for alarm. The Metro in Grenoble is called the Tram and it is not "whisper-quiet". It is certainly quieter than other forms of transport. There is no doubt that the Tram has brought about a reduction in noise. The people there live in flats above shops or, in some cases, in blocks where the ground floor does not have any flats. It is not like our system. The ground floors contain garages and other facilities. The people living on the higher floors do not suffer from worse noise because the Tram has replaced existing traffic. That is the big difference.
It is not proposed that the Metro will use a disused railway line. We are not talking about a route that will replace existing traffic on the roads. We are talking about a section of the route that will run through green grassland—an area where the loudest noise at present is from dogs. The road is an estate road and a cul-de-sac. No one goes along it except the residents, the milkman and the postman, who does not usually use a car. No bus goes along, so there is no means of transport to be replaced. The Metro will be additional transport. People say, "We are going to get a high level of noise. We are not like the residents in Grenoble. Having heard your description, Mr. Davis, we can understand why people in Grenoble would say that it was an improvement. It is not an improvement to us. It will be a deterioration. The noise will add to all the other noise and it will go close to our houses." The Metro will go about 10 metres from a block of flats and close to people who already suffer from noise from the motorway. I agree that what has been done in Grenoble is good, but, 513 contrary to the constant references by the hon. Member for Yardley to Grenoble, it is not comparable with what will happen on this section of the route.
My constituents also feel aggrieved, angry and upset about the consultation, and they are angry about the way in which they were treated. Some time ago Mr. Tan, who has already been mentioned, wrote to a local councillor who lives in my constituency but does not represent a ward in it. The councillor was worried about a previous rapid transit proposal. At the time Mr. Tarr was secretary of the passenger transport authority. He still does the same job but his title has changed and he is now director general. When he was secretary of the PTA, he wrote to the councillor, who has passed the letter on to me. Mr. Tarr promised that there would be full consultation before any further schemes which affected my constituency were introduced. That promise was not kept.
Whenever I put it to the passenger transport authority, I am told that it was the job of the city council to consult. My hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-East impressed me with his description of the thorough consultation that took place in Wolverhampton. It is important to involve people. As my hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich, East told my constituents in a letter, people should be involved and should feel that they are being consulted at an early stage. They should feel that their fears are being considered, their points taken into account and their suggestions listened to. They should feel that someone is trying to meet their objections in order to achieve a satisfactory solution without putting the scheme in jeopardy.
The residents' group in my constituency has made it clear from the beginning that its motive was to have its views taken into account. I respect it for that. The residents have made it clear that they did not seek to sabotage the project. They merely wanted their legitimate objections and interests to be taken into account. They felt that there was not consultation until a late stage, and they were right.
In my hearing, the chief executive of Birmingham city council told other Members of Parliament from Birmingham that he would ensure that it was done better next time. He now knows that it cannot be left to Centro. The chief executive was worried about the way in which the people of Birmingham were treated, even if Centro were not. On that occasion, he said to me, "You see, Mr. Davis, we have learned from that experience." I am genuinely glad that no one else in Birmingham will have problems, but I do not see why my constituents should be sacrificed. I do not see why the city council should learn the lesson—the lesson that Centro refused to learn—at the expense of my constituents.
When I talk to the PTA, it shelters behind the city council. When I talk to the chief executive of the city council, he shelters behind Centro and says that it was its job to consult. The only thing that has changed is that at least the chief executive has been big enough to say that, although it was Centro's responsibility, he accepts that it is not good enough and that it must not happen again. He gave a personal promise to Birmingham Members of Parliament that in future there would be proper consultation and he has done so. He is consulting Members of Parliament about future routes which affect Birmingham. I am pleased about that.
514 Centro did not consult and the city council did not consult my constituents. A decision was taken about the scheme and it was launched here at the House. My hon. Friends and Conservative Members were invited. The hon. Member for Yardley may have sponsored it, but I cannot remember. In a room off Westminster Hall there was a presentation and a major public relations exercise. It was not consultation. It was held to tell us how marvellous the scheme would be.
No one thought of going to the people affected and asking them what they thought of the scheme and whether they had any points to make about it so that their objections could be taken into account at an early stage. It was a fait accompli. They were told, "You can oppose it if you like, but this is what we intend to do. Your Member of Parliament, your councillors and your Members of the European Parliament may oppose it, but we intend to impose it." That was how my constituents saw the way in which they were treated.
Before the Bill was presented to the House, my constituents were told that they had a choice. The route could go down either Bromford drive or through the grassed area next to Chillingholme road, Wanderer walk and Douglas house. My constituents said, "We shall not choose. We know what you are about: you are trying to divide us and rule us. You are trying to set one group of residents against another. You are trying to make us say `Not in our backyard, impose it on the other lot, not us."
My constituents refused to be divided. They could see through it. Many of them are trade unionists who work in industry. They have more savvy than that and they can see a problem when it is coming towards them. They said, "We are going to stand together. We do not see why we should sacrifice our neighbours." The people in Bromford drive said, "We do not see why we should save ourselves at the expense of people in the other road." The people in the other road said exactly the same thing. I was delighted that they stood together throughout. The people in Bromford drive are still worried about the scheme even though they feel safe because the route will not be imposed on them. They feel that the people in the other road have a justified grievance and they are upset at the way in which their neighbours have been treated. But, as I shall explain later, Centro has exploited that position, too.
Centro tried to divide and rule, but it did not work. It gave my constituents a choice between having an arm amputated or a leg amputated. It did not work. My constituents said that they did not want either. They did not think that anyone should have the Metro passing in front of their homes. They suggested an alternative route. I shall return to that in a moment.
I give credit to Centro for undertaking what it called consultation, even though I would not call it that. The hon. Member for Yardley calls it consultation. I have read his remarks to the House carefully. Tonight he did not make a great deal about consultation but previously he has done so. He told the House that in general the project was the subject of widespread consultation several years ago in 1989. He said that 300 videos lasting six minutes each were sent to residents' associations. But they were not sent to residents' associations in my area. He said that videos were sent to community groups. I have not yet met a community group in my constituency which has had the benefit of a video. The hon. Gentleman said that videos were sent to local political parties. I can speak only for the Labour party. Neither at constituency nor branch level has 515 the Labour party received one of the videos. I do not know where they went, but they did not come to the political party which represents the people who will be affected by the scheme.
The hon. Member for Yardley told the House that 95 presentations were made. He claimed that Centro had consulted through those presentations. Who benefited from those presentations and who and what were the 95 groups? The hon. Gentleman said that they were business groups, chambers of commerce, rotary clubs—there is no rotary club on the Bromford estate—and breakfast clubs. We do not have breakfast clubs in my constituency. He left out supper clubs—we do not have many of those either. He said that presentations were made to local groups and—this is the crunch—Confederation of British Industry groups. No CBI group represents the Bromford estate. The people there live on what they earn in the factories; they are not CBI members.
The hon. Member for Yardley said that there had been 17 exhibitions at conferences and transport events. However, they did not benefit my constituents, who were not consulted. He also said that many leaflets had been distributed on the first route, but he could say only that a much smaller number of leaflets had been distributed on the route that affects my constituents. He said that 14,000 leaflets, of which 10,000 were for the area outside the city centre, had been distributed within 1 km of the proposed route. I know that that is true because I received one through my letterbox, although I do not think that I live within 1 km of the proposed route. However, those leaflets would not have allowed my own residents' group to express an opinion one way or the other because we live too far away to use the Metro.
The hon. Member for Yardley said that council officers and Centro arranged 13 consultation venues attended by 1,400 members of the public, but they were not consultation venues. People came to caravans—I did so myself—and saw part of a video. The set-up was rather like the caravan that was parked at the Palace of Westminster a few months ago in connection with the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds or the Cardiff Bay Barrage Bill.
He said that the exhibition at the Bromford neighbourhood office lasted for three and a half weeks, but its aim was to inform people, not to consult them. He was correct to say that public meetings were organised, and that 239 people attended them. I attended several of them and, at one meeting alone, counted between 300 and 400 people who were all opposed to the scheme, except for a couple of members of the passenger transport authority. I did not identify them then as they might have been subjected to verbal abuse from my constituents, and I shall not identify them now.
The hon. Member for Yardley said that there had been 26 meetings with businesses and business groups. As I have already explained, those would have concerned the route through the Bromford estate.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. I think that, by discussing routes, the hon. Gentleman is going on to the first group of amendments. I am finding it a little difficult to relate what he is now saying about routes to the consideration of the Bill.
§ Mr. Davis
Thank you for the guidance, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I was simply explaining that my constituents are 516 upset. They oppose the Bill because they were not consulted by its proposers. I shall not go into the details of one route versus another as that is the subject of detailed amendments.
My constituents were not consulted by the organisation that should have consulted them. Centro got off on the wrong foot at an early stage. It would have behaved differently, had it taken advice from my hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich, East, who sent a letter to my constituents on behalf of the Labour party saying that it believed in full consultation with local people on such matters. Centro's only defence is that the city council supported the route that was proposed after consultation. But it was opposed by every councillor in my constituency—not only Labour councillors but the Conservative one. They all criticised the lack of consultation and time, and the way in which Centro was behaving.
How can we say that the committee procedure is democratic when it all took place in secret? Not even the local councillors representing my constituents were consulted. The locally elected representatives did not even know about it until Members of Parliament were given a presentation in a room off Westminster Hall and I telephoned them to break the news that the city council had been here with Centro to present those routes. That is an incredible story, and it shows that the democratic process has not been properly observed. The die had been cast without councillors having been consulted.
As a result of that lack of consultation, all the local councillors and almost everyone who lives in the district is opposed to that section of the route. A small minority says that it does not want Metro at any price, anywhere. A poll conducted in the area—not by me, the residents' association or local councillors, but by Centro and Birmingham city council—showed that the overwhelming majority of people were opposed to the route. In a secret ballot, 10 per cent. voted for it and 90 per cent. against. The result could not be much more overwhelming. The detailed analysis of those figures was not reported even to the councillors involved in the subsequent stages, who were on those committees. Quite a few of the 10 per cent. who were in favour of it said that they would not use it. So they were in favour of it for other people—to get them off the roads—but not for themselves. Not surprisingly, it was opposed by myself, by the local Labour and Conservative councillors and by the local MEP—in other words, by all the political parties in my constituency.
The hon. Member for Yardley disagreed with me about that when we last debated the matter. He said that he had private information from the prospective Conservative parliamentary candidate to the effect that what I had said was not correct. I can only reply that, in my hearing, the Conservative councillor for the area told his constituents that he agreed with me on this issue—he was careful to say "on this issue"—that he supported me on it, that he agreed with my opposition and with my objections. Not only did he associate himself with those objections, but I believe that he seconded some of our motions on the subject at the meetings in question.
In addition, the Conservative candidate at the latest local elections declared his opposition. He tried to pretend that the local councillors and I had not opposed it, but the local people soon put him right about that.
As a result of the inadequate consultation that took place—it would be an exaggeration to say that there had been a total lack of consultation—the city council decided 517 to put the route along one of the two alternatives that it had put forward, so that it would affect the houses in the way that I have described. I have not gone into all the details of the other route involved because it would be unreasonable of me to do so.
My constituents said, "We will not be persuaded in this way. We will not sit back and have the scheme imposed on us. We have looked at it and we are not against the Metro. We do not want to oppose the project and the Bill, but the route should and could be amended in such a way as not to affect any homes." There is no question of our trying to move the route so that it will affect the homes of other people——
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. The hon. Member is now anticipating amendments standing in his name that have been selected for debate.
§ Mr. Davis
I appreciate your point, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and I shall discard that part of my speech.
My constituents say, "We accept not only the concept but the thinking behind it." My constituents are more impressed by the arguments that have been advanced by my hon. Friends than by those of the hon. Member for Yardley. After all, in the debates on the Bill the hon. Member for Yardley talked about the scheme being modern, up to date and necessary to raise the image of the passenger transport area. My constituents are more impressed by the arguments of my hon. Friends about the Metro regenerating derelict industrial areas and providing jobs. None of us wants to stand in the way of that.
When the hon. Member for Yardley concedes that it would make a major contribution to regenerating derelict and economically depressed areas, my constituents say that that is fine, and indeed that sentiment is expressed in the statement that hon. Members have received urging them to consider the Bill. I will not read the whole of that statement, issued on behalf of the promoter, in support of consideration of the Bill as amended in Committee, but it says in paragraph 6:It is also expected that the development of the metro network will make a major contribution to the regeneration of derelict or economically depressed areas and bring major benefits in the improvement of the environment.The first part of that sentence is welcome and endorsed by my constituents. But the estate that I have been describing is not a derelict or economically depressed area—certainly not in that sense, although many people there are unemployed—and it is not a derelict or industrial wasteland.
My constituents agree that the Metro should run through the Heartlands area, as it is called, in the city of Birmingham, as that is an old industrial area. I am sure that were I to ask all the councillors in my constituency about that, they would agree with the desirable aim of regenerating derelict and economically depressed areas.
But that is not what we are discussing. The section of the route with which I am concerned does not come into that category. After the city centre bit of the route, it goes through a derelict industrial area—the scheme is definitely to be welcomed there—but it then proceeds through an ordinary residential area, where it is not to be welcomed.
The promoter's statement says that the system will bring major benefits through the improvement of the environment. My constituents do not accept that and say 518 that it will bring a major—or at least a minor—deterioration in the environment. The statement says that the use of electric power should assist in the reduction of local pollution from exhaust fumes. That is not true because the system will not replace any traffic running through the estate. Part of the statement harks back to another point that I made—that the vehicles intended for the Metro will result in lower noise levels than those experienced from buses and trains. But it will not replace buses and trains on that section of the route. It may replace some buses and trains, but I am not sure that my hon. Friends would want that because that would simply be to substitute one form of public transport for another. I shall return to that. One has to make a value judgment about which form of public transport is best, and I am not convinced that the Metro is superior to buses. I emphasise again that I see advantages in light rail rapid transit systems for getting people quickly to and from the national exhibition centre, but that does not have to be done by imposing extra noise on people who live in the estate that I have described.
For all those reasons, my constituents were unhappy and wanted an alternative route. I shall not describe that in detail now because we may come to it later, although that may be difficult for technical reasons that I shall explain. My constituents submitted an alternative which met the objectives in the promoter's statement and would have benefited and helped to regenerate a derelict industrial area. That derelict area has just been added to the Heartlands. Therefore, all the arguments that apply to the Heartlands apply to the area which my constituents suggest could benefit from this modern system of transport.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman again. I know that he is speaking strongly on behalf of his constituents, but his arguments about different routes and the like would be much more relevant to the amendments that have been selected for debate later.
§ Mr. Davis
The trouble is that my amendment has not been selected for debate. I quite understand that and I would not challenge Mr. Speaker's selection. The Clerk has explained why the amendment, which is in line with what my constituents have asked for, cannot be debated. I shall not go into the merits of my amendments, which are different from what my constituents suggest. There is no identity between my amendments and the argument that I am advancing. My amendments recognise that what my constituents suggest cannot be accepted by the House at this late stage.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. We are considering a technical motion on whether the Bill should be considered. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman realises that in developing his arguments at length, as he is perfectly entitled to do, he must address himself to the fairly technical proceedings in which we are engaged.
§ Mr. Davis
My argument is that we should not consider this Bill because the alternative was rejected by the passenger transport authority. I am not allowed to promote that route in the House. The passenger transport authority did not properly and fairly consider the alternative. If it had, I would not oppose the Bill. The passenger transport authority did not reject the proposal 519 out of hand. It gave three reasons why my constituents' suggestion could not be put into effect. I will not describe those in detail because I do not want to trespass on your kindness and generosity, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The three reasons were briefly that, first, the Centro officers who were mentioned—described as heads by the hon. Member for Yardley, but who I consider to be junior, little heads—said it was not physically possible. That was disproved. They have had to drop that because when I asked the city engineer if it was physically possible he said that it was, so that argument cannot be advanced, and is knocked on the head.
The second argument which has been made——
§ Mr. Davis
I shall give way later. The hon. Gentleman has interrupted quite often and it was he who complained about the length of my speech. If this goes on I shall not have time to finish it—[ Interruption] Does the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hallam (Mr. Patnick) wish to intervene, because I would always give way to him? No, he does not.
The second reason given for rejecting my constituents' suggestion was that it was estimated to cost £16.5 million. That estimate was subsequently reduced by Centro to £12.5 million, but it then admitted under questioning that this section of the route in the Bill to which we are objecting would cost £2.7 million. If £2.7 million is deducted from £12.5 million, that, in round figures, is an extra £10 million which my constituents wanted to spend.
The hon. Member for Yardley told the House on 22 October in an intervention in my speech that I got it wrong. He said that the cost of the route, as put forward in the Bill, is £6 million. I am happy to be corrected. The Centro officers have told me that it costs £2.7 million, but the hon. Gentleman, to whom I must defer because he introduced the Bill in the House, said that it would cost £6 million. We have been told that the cost of the alternative, which I shall not describe in detail, would be £12.5 million. But the hon. Member for Yardley says that this section in the Bill would cost £6 million. It follows, does it not, that the extra cost is £6.5 million? Will you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, make a special note of that because it is important that my constituents were asking for an amendment which would cost only £6.5 million. That compares with the total cost of £273 million. That is the hon. Member for Yardley's latest figure, as of October, for the cost of the whole route, not the whole network.
§ Mr. Bevan
I must correct the hon. Gentleman, who consistently seeks to belittle the status of the heads of Centro. He has tried to downgrade them to junior heads. He has tried to say that they are not correctly represented and he is as accurate on that as he is on many other matters. He is quite wrong. Ray Hughes is the head of Metro Development—I repeat that and I should like the hon. Gentleman to acknowledge it. John Fallon is the press and public relations manager—the head, not the junior head. Ray Dixon is the engineering design manager—the head—and Janet Kings is the principal planner. They are not junior heads. They are not also-rans. They are not middle executives. They are as described—the heads of the department.
§ Mr. Davis
I thought that the hon. Member for Yardley was going to help me with more figures and tell me that the 520 cost of the alternative was even lower than we had been told before and that the cost of the Bill was higher than we had been told before. He has not denied the figures that I have given.
On the question of heads, if it will satisfy the hon. Gentleman and stop him interrupting me, I will concede that Centro is a many-headed body. It is a positive hydra. It has lots and lots of heads. They are all heads. They are all talking heads.
Unlike the hon. Gentleman, I have worked in really big organisations. I was called a manager for many years, but I never described myself as a head. The people working with me would have been amazed if I had thought that I was a head of the company. I was certainly a manager, with many of those titles, but I never presumed to call myself a head of the company. I would have accepted the description of executive. I was a company executive at one stage. That is how I described myself. Later I had "manager" after my name and described myself as a manager, a perfectly respectable title. There is nothing wrong with being a manager. I have been one. I am a member of the managers' trade union. But that does not make one a head of an organisation.
I do not know how many heads the Government have, but nobody would suggest that the very generous Minister for Public Transport is a head of the Government. I do not think that he would even describe himself as a head of the Department. Like me, he is a modest man. He is an important person, but he is not the head of the Department of Transport, any more than I was the head of any of the organisations for which I worked. At least, I do not think that I was. However, let us not pursue that diversion any further.
The hon. Member for Yardley is trying to divert us from the cost. That cannot be denied. I am quoting the figures that the hon. Gentleman gave the House. He told the House that the cost of what is popularly known as the southern route is £6 million, compared with the cost of what is known locally as the northern route of £12.5 million. I got that figure from one of the people whom the hon. Gentleman calls a head of the organisation, so it cannot be contradicted. I am happy to have that person called the head.
The difference between £12.5 million and £6 million is £6.5 million, which is a very important figure for two reasons. It is £6.5 million compared with a total estimate for the route—not just the section in my constituency, but the route from Birmingham to Solihull—of £273 million, so we are talking about a little over 2 per cent. of the total cost.
The third reason why Centro rejected the alternative, which we cannot discuss this evening but which is relevant, is that they said that there would be a lower ridership if the route suggested by my constituents were adopted. They said that fewer people would use Metro. We asked them for figures, and they said that fewer people would use it because fewer people lived near that route. That is certainly true. That is why my constituents suggested it.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. The hon. Gentleman has just said that there is a certain matter which we cannot discuss this evening. He now appears to be proceeding to discuss it.
§ Mr. Davis
It is important because of something that the hon. Member for Yardley said. I will ask you in a moment, Mr. Deputy Speaker, whether you agree.
Centro told us that between 1,900 and 2,200 people would use the route described in the Bill from Birmingham to Solihull every day. Let me explain immediately, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that I do not intend to go into detail about how I think some of my amendments would keep that ridership, because that would be wrong and would delay progress, and I do not want to do that. Centro said that the passenger total was an important figure. I ask you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to remember that, because I shall come back to it when I move the first group of amendments.
The promoters said that if we did not choose their scheme, or something close to it, ridership would be reduced to between 500 and 800 per day. We asked the promoters how the figures were made up. My constituents were told—in my hearing—that the figure of between 1,900 and 2,200 passengers a day, on the route laid down by the Bill, was made up of 75 per cent. who would transfer to the Metro from buses, 15 per cent. being new passengers who would not travel between Birmingham and Solihull if it were not for the Metro, and 10 per cent. being people who previously travelled by car. Let us take special note of those figures, which have been cited several times.
The hon. Member for Yardley said today that the route described in the Bill would take a considerable number of vehicles off the road. He nods his head, so he must agree with me. Does it not follow, therefore, that the vehicles which will be taken off the road if the Bill is enacted will be buses, because three-quarters of the people using the Metro will have transferred from buses? On previous occasions, however, the hon. Member for Yardley said that the Bill was intended to relieve traffic congestion, that it would ensure increased use of the public transport network and would bring about environmental improvements. I shall not discuss those improvements because I have already done so at length.
My hon. Friends and I want to provide better public transport. We want people to use the public transport network, and so do my constituents. They are adamant about it. There is considerable criticism in my constituency and in the west midlands about the present inadequate public transport service, so of course we are in favour of improvements to it. But that is not what the Bill is about, because 75 per cent. of the passengers will have transferred from the existing public transport network and not from cars.
Let us consider the promoter's statement in support of consideration of the Bill as amended in Committee. It says:It is expected that the Metro network will play an important role in reversing the decline in the use of public transport. It will not of itself solve all traffic problems on roads but will assist to this end. It is also likely to defer for several years the need for some highway improvements or traffic control measures for the relief of congestion on roads.The hon. Member for Yardley said something similar when he moved the motion for consideration of the Bill today, but I do not think that he is completely accurate. In my view, the promoter's statement is not correct. There are many reasons why we should have the Metro, and I shall give reasons why we are in favour of the project as a whole—I have already touched on some of them—but it is not true to say that it will reverse the decline in the use of public transport. The hon. Gentleman is right when he 522 says that the Bill will not solve all the traffic problems—I suppose that that is a concession—and will not relieve congestion on the roads, because everyone knows that that is caused by motor cars and not by buses. If passengers transfer from buses instead of cars, the impact on congestion will be slight. The hon. Member for Yardley ought to concede that argument because it is the inevitable logic of the arithmetic supplied by the people whom he describes as the "heads" of Centro.
On an earlier occasion, the hon. Member for Yardley also said that car use has increased, and asked us to support the Bill because buses and cars would be provided with free car parks, enabling passengers to use trains following the Midland Metro Act 1989. I see no logic in that argument; there is no connection between the 1989 Act and increased car use, although there is a connection between that Act and the Bill that we are discussing. The 1989 Act introduced the first of these routes, which I believe will run from Birmingham to Wolverhampton. I did not oppose it, although the hon. Member for Yardley keeps trying unfairly and inaccurately to suggest that I did. I simply cannot get it into the hon. Gentleman's head that I opposed neither the 1989 Act nor the concept that it embodied; there was no reason for me to do so. None the less, he is wrong to suggest that the Act provided benefits that it did not provide—and, indeed, has been unable to provide, as the route has not been built, and whether it is ever built will depend on the Department of Transport.
Even if it is built, the route will not help the buses. As it has not yet been built, it has provided no car parks, and there are no proposals for them in either the Act or this Bill. The hon. Gentleman has suggested that such a large network implies the existence of a free car park, but there is no such thing, as I know to my cost—or, rather, I do not, because I have been given a pass, but that is because I am a Member of Parliament. As far as I know, no one else is given free parking facilities, unless they are granted to employees of Birmingham station.
§ Mr. Bevan
I am trying to help the hon. Gentleman. I have taken advice on the matter, and I am told that the promoters of the Bill expect 10 per cent. of people to abandon their motor cars for the Metro. They expect perhaps 15 per cent. more traffic to be generated. I have also been told that between 20 per cent. and 40 per cent. eventually transfer from cars to the Metro in other parts of Europe where the system has been installed. The hon. Gentleman is making very heavy weather of all this. Fewer people will use cars, and the reduction in the number of car users will increase as time goes on.
§ Mr. Davis
What the hon. Gentleman has not told us is how long we must wait for that transfer. We have not been told before about an eventual transfer of between 20 per cent. and 40 per cent. My constituents have not heard anything about it when they have talked to the people described by the hon. Gentleman as heads of Centro. He has given us some fresh information today, but he has not told us whether the transfer will happen next year, next century, or later—and he does not look as though he intends to do so. I suspect that he will not do so because he does not know.
§ Mr. Bevan
I have made it clear that the system, once established, will prove attractive and popular enough to win over more car users than it will at the beginning. I expect the initial 10 per cent. figure to rise to the 523 continental norm of between 20 per cent. and 40 per cent., which it may do at any point after the system has been installed and allowed to mature. I do not want to be a crystal ball gazer, but perhaps the hon. Gentleman does—I certaintly wish he would look at the crystal ball rather than at the mud.
§ Mr. Davis
The hon. Gentleman invites me to look into a crystal ball. I am not sure that my hon. Friends want me to engage in such speculation, nor do I think that it would be fair to the promoter. The point is that the hon. Gentleman has been unable to give us a date. He talks of what will happen when the system has "matured". That is typical of the predictions of Conservative Members—they are always telling us that things will get better, but they never say when. Unemployment, for instance, is always going to come down, but we never hear when it will do so, and, in our experience, it generally goes up.
§ Mr. Davis
If my hon. Friend will allow me to finish what I am saying, I will give way to him a little later. He has been very patient, and I much appreciate his courtesy.
The hon. Member for Yardley introduced the Bill with plenty of dash. Clearly he did not know the statistics that I read out, which is in itself instructive. After I had read them out, he simply repeated them as though he were giving the House new information.
I told the House that the people whom the hon. Member calls the heads of Centro told my constituents that 75 per cent. of the passengers would be transferred from buses, 15 per cent. would be new traffic and 10 per cent. would be from cars. The hon. Gentleman then rushed from the Chamber, checked, came back and read out the same figures. So we have confirmed that. The only difference between us is that he says that the figure will eventually be 20 to 40 per cent. I do not know, and I am not looking into a crystal ball. Centro has said that it will be 75 per cent. from buses, 15 per cent. new traffic and 10 per cent. transferred from cars. That will happen immediately, which has not been denied, so we shall be able to monitor it. It is not a prediction for some unspecified time in the future when none of us—certainly not the hon. Member for Yardley—will be here anyway.
§ Mr. Turner
I am not anxious to intervene because I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Hodge Hill wants to make the case that he has been making, substantially on behalf of his constituents, but I wanted to ask him about the figures that we are discussing. Those of us who support the Metro firmly believe that it will make a real contribution to the relief of traffic congestion in the black country and the west midlands. My hon. Friend mentioned 10 per cent. I have just finished serving on the Committee on the Road Traffic Bill. The number of cars running across the roads of the west midlands and the black country grows year by year, causing major congestion. If we could move 10 per cent. of our car-owning population to the Metro, it would make a tremendous contribution. So even if it is no more that 10 per cent. of the hundreds of thousands of cars to begin with, it is right for us to believe that the number will grow as we get the route fully developed, and that will take even more cars off the road. If we can get 10 per cent. of car 524 owners on to the Metro, it will make a majestic contribution to solving the road traffic problems of the west midlands.
§ Mr. Davis
There is no difference between my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-East and me, he will be delighted to learn. I agree completely with him. If we could get 10 per cent. on to the Metro it would make a majestic, to use his adjective, or perhaps one should say a major improvement in congestion, but I do not think that this Bill would do it. I understand my hon. Friend's enthusiasm and I share it, but I think that he has let himself be carried away slightly. I ask him to listen again to what I said. I did not say that 10 per cent. of car owners will transfer to the Metro, as he seems to think I did. I said that 10 per cent. of the passengers on the Metro would be people who had previously used cars. There is a very big difference. I did not suggest that 75 per cent. of bus passengers would transfer to the Metro, but that 75 per cent. of predicted passengers on the Metro would be people who had previously travelled by bus.
Only 10 per cent. of passengers on the Metro, according to Centro's own figures, would be people who had previously travelled by car. If it were 10 per cent. of car owners, as my hon. Friend would like, that would be an incredible improvement; it really would bring about a major reduction in congestion in the west midlands. I wish I could see that day. There are ways, but I would not be in order if I proceeded to discuss how we could get 10 per cent. of car owners out of their cars and on to public transport. I have ideas about that, and I think that my hon. Friend has very good ideas about that, too. I have just one thing to say to him. I went—I do not think that he was able to be there, although my hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich East was and made a very good intervention—to a very interesting presentation recently. I thought more of it than my hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich, East did. I think that it would be fair to say that he was more critical than I was. I was very enthusiastic about it. The presentation was made by West Midlands Travel, whose representatives were talking about how we could increase the number of people using buses and achieve a major shift from car-driving to bus-using in the conurbation. The presentation was very exciting. I shall not pursue that subject, however, as that is not what we are discussing this evening.
I want to return to the most important reasons why we should not consider the Bill further. The most important point—I am not surprised that the hon. Member for Yardley wishes to divert us from it—arises from what the hon. Gentleman told the House nearly a year ago. The hon. Gentleman is not even listening, and that is the whole point—Centro will not listen, and its representative in the House will not listen.
A year ago, the hon. Gentleman told the House that if we gave the Bill a Second Reading, it would proceed to its Committee stage and be fully examined. As the hon. Gentleman knows, however, Centro made sure that that did not happen. Contrary to what the hon. Gentleman said today, Centro made sure that my constituents and other residents could not present their objections to the Committee. With the exception of the hon. Member for Yardley, every hon. Member who spoke in support of the Bill urged and advised Centro to act differently. My hon. Friends the Members for West Bromwich, East, for 525 Walsall, North for Walsall, South—and, I think, even my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-East—advised Centro not to use the obscure parliamentary procedure of objecting to the locus standi of residents. The hon. Member for Yardley, who I know gets carried away, misled the House when he said that all the objections were considered by the Committee whose report we are considering. He said that only three petitions went to the Committee. He is right, but of those three petitions, two were not from residents and one put only part of the case of one of the five residents' groups which originally petitioned against the Bill. That was significant, as I shall explain in a moment. The residents of Bromford estate were not allowed to put their case to the Committee, despite what had been said previously.
§ Mr. Snape
In my role as assistant or arbiter in these matters, perhaps in fairness to Centro I should explain that when my hon. Friend and I and other hon. Members criticised its decision not to allow my hon. Friend's constituents to present their petition, Centro told me that it had done so because it had received advice from the authorities of the House to the effect that it should interpret the rules as strictly as possible. I paraphrase, but that was basically the story that Centro told me after a similar exchange at an early stage in our proceedings on the Bill.
§ Mr. Davis
That is the story that Centro will have told my hon. Friend, but it is not wholly correct. I will explain what Centro meant by "the authorities of the House". The Joint Committee on Private Bill Procedure drew attention to the locus standi rules, but that does not absolve Centro. Centro told me that it was the fault of Sherwood and Company, the parliamentary agents, and that it had put the Bill in the hands of Sherwood and Company and not in the hands of the hon. Member for Yardley. According to Centro, Sherwood and Company took the decision to challenge the locus standi of my constituents. I was interested to discover, following my research, that only two bodies had used that obscure procedure—Centro and British Rail. Those are the bodies that have tried to stifle the opinions of ordinary people and used the procedure to prevent them from being heard. The implications are tremendous, and to hon. Members they are horrifying. The procedure did not have to be used. No promoter of any other private Bill has tried to stop people presenting their views to the Committee set up for that purpose.
§ Mr. George
My hon. Friend has made his case very strongly over the last hour and three quarters. He is very concerned that people should be allowed to express their views. Having listened to him patiently, I should be exceedingly grateful if he would allow other Members to have their say before the debate ends at 10 o'clock.
§ Mr. Davis
I invited my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, South to speak before me. I suspected that the hon. Member for Yardley would interrupt—[interruption.]—as indeed he has. I was anxious to give my hon. Friend a chance to speak. [Interruption.] We do not have to finish—the Bill can be carried forward to another date. If we are forced to vote on a closure motion, I shall vote to allow my hon. Friend to have his say.
526 I shall not be distracted from making the point that I have to make—that Centro prevented my constituents from presenting their case to the Committee. But that is not all. Earlier, Mr. Deputy Speaker, you asked me about routes. The alternative route suggested by my constituents cannot be considered on the Floor of the House. Centro employed Queen's counsel to prevent ordinary working people from explaining their objections. As a result, the Committee was prevented from considering those objections, and the House is prevented from considering and voting on what my constituents suggest. In addition, I am advised that, because of the actions of Centro, it will be impossible for Members of another place to consider that alternative. I shall not take up the time of the House by referring to the reasons that were given, which are very technical and complicated.
It is important to note that there has been another development. Earlier, there was a reference to Mr. Tarr, the director general of Centro. Recently, Mr. Tarr went to a meeting to discuss another route—a route in Coventry—to which people had objected. As I have no desire to interfere in other Members' constituencies, I was not present, but I am told that Mr. Tarr explained to the people of Coventry that their views could be heard by the Committee. A constituent of mine, who was present, tells me that he asked, "In that case, why did you prevent the people of Birmingham from having their views considered by the Committee?" He was not given an answer.
§ Mr. Snape
Perhaps I can help my hon. Friend. I have just been reading about the meeting to which he refers. The press cuttings describe that part of Coventry as a yuppie stronghold. I do not know whether that is true, but I am sure that such a description does not fit the portion of my right hon. Friend's constituency to which he refers.
§ Mr. Davis
Certainly not—and the constituent to whom I have referred certainly could not be regarded as a yuppie. As secretary of the residents group, he was prevented from explaining the alternative route that my constituents wished to suggest. I hope that my hon. Friend is not suggesting that the attitude adopted by Centro towards yuppies in Coventry is different from that adopted towards the people of the Bromford estate. That would be outrageous.
The Committee considered two petitions. I have here a copy of the notes that the Chairman was using when he explained the Committee's decisions. We heard that there were three petitions but one of them was withdrawn. In the case of Foseco, the Committee decided to ask the promoter to devise a new route which would not pass through the site of the factory. Foseco was a business, of course—not a group of residents—and it managed to get to the Committee to persuade it that Centro had behaved so badly that there should be a new route.
§ Mr. Bevan
For the sake of accuracy, if the hon. Gentleman has read the papers he must agree that that decision was taken because of the sensitivity of the instruments used in the process. The diversion was agreed for the special reason that it would have been very difficult to move those instruments.
§ Mr. Davis
That is an interesting intervention. The hon. Gentleman concedes that that action was taken only because of the petition to the Select Committee. Centro had not intended to do anything about Foseco's sensitive 527 instruments until the company explained to the Select Committee why its case was so important. That is the point—Centro prevented my constituents from explaining why they were sensitive.
The hon. Member for Yardley has made much of the sensitive instruments. I care, perhaps more than he does, about the sensitivity of ordinary people. Centro has prevented ordinary people, residents and people whose only investment is in their homes, from explaining their arguments to the Select Committee. Centro knew that that would prevent me from putting a detailed case on my constituents' behalf to the House at this late stage—[Interruption.] I have taken advice from the Clerks about this and they doubt whether my constituents will be able to present an alternative in the other place. That is a direct result of Centro's actions, which are endorsed by the hon. Member for Yardley—the only hon. Member to have condoned Centro's actions.
This point is important because another group managed to get to the Select Committee. The CARE residents group from Chelmsley Wood, which is not in my constituency, presented half its objections. The Chairman of the Select Committee said:So far as the CARE residents are concerned we have listened most diligently to their case. We were not, however, convinced by their argument that the route should not pass through their area. Nevertheless"—this is the key point—we hope to be able to ameliorate the effects of the Bill on the local residents and to this end we seek a number of undertakings from the Promoters".Five undertakings are then listed. As a result of CARE's presenting half its case, the people whom it represents have benefited from five undertakings from Centro. However, those undertakings had to be extracted from Centro. My constituents could not get any undertakings. Sherwood and Company is employed by Centro, and it represents Centro just as the hon. Member for Yardley represents Centro. Those people should be ashamed because they have stopped ordinary people from having their views heard by the Select Committee.
The hon. Member for Yardley referred to my earlier comments about the residents, meeting with the chairman of the PTA. I was there and I noted that he said:We have drawn our battle plans and are absolutely entrenched.
§ Mr. Davis
We certainly have. The chairman went on:There is no chance of re-routing, not since the Bill was put in Parliament.The hon. Member for Yardley has said that my constituents have had an opportunity to discuss the matter with heads of Centro. However, the chairman of Centro—the "top head"—has said that there is no chance of re-routing since the Bill entered Parliament.
I want to make a special point about the figures to which I am referring. The cost of the proposal from my constituents is £6.5 million. However, the amendment which appears in the promoter's statement today will cost £6 million. One organisation has managed to have its petition heard by the Select Committee and there is an amendment which will cost an additional £6 million. My constituents, however, were thwarted, obstructed and stifled—they could not present their petition to the Select 528 Committee for an amendment that would have cost £6.5 million. That is unfair and undemocratic, and it is why we should not allow the Bill to be considered today.
I repeat that my constituents and I are not opposed to the concept of Metro—just to one small section of the route. We believe that a compromise could have been achieved, whereby my constituents would not have been affected and the Metro would have been allowed to proceed from Birmingham to Solihull. According to the chairman, it is Centro that refused to talk to my constituents, in good faith—and it is Centro that prevented my constituents from putting their case to the Select Committee. It should therefore not be allowed to take the Bill any further today because that is not fair. Centro should be told that it has not behaved properly.
I do not want to stop the route which goes through Walsall. I understand the wish of my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, South to support that route and I shall not do anything to stop it. So far as I am concerned, that route can go ahead.
§ Mr. George
I am grateful for the chance to intervene, but I should have much preferred 15 minutes to explain my case. My hon. Friend accuses Centro of preventing free speech, but he has fallen into the trap of doing exactly the same thing.
§ Mr. Davis
No, my hon. Friend has mistaken the procedures of the House. We do not have to vote today. We can go forward and resume the debate. My hon. Friend can then have more than 15 minutes. I should like him to speak. That is why I asked him if he would like to speak before me. I offered to give way before I even started——
§ Question put, That the Question be now put:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 88, Noes 9.529
|Division No. 76]||[9.56 pm|
|Alexander, Richard||Chapman, Sydney|
|Amos, Alan||Clark, Rt Hon Sir William|
|Arbuthnot, James||Currie, Mrs Edwina|
|Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)||Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g)|
|Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N)||Davis, David (Boothferry)|
|Bellingham, Henry||Fallon, Michael|
|Bellotti, David||Fenner, Dame Peggy|
|Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke)||Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)|
|Bevan, David Gilroy||Finsberg, Sir Geoffrey|
|Blackburn, Dr John G.||Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman|
|Boswell, Tim||Freeman, Roger|
|Brazier, Julian||Gill, Christopher|
|Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's)||Goodlad, Alastair|
|Browne, John (Winchester)||Gorman, Mrs Teresa|
|Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)||Greenway, John (Ryedale)|
|Cash, William||Gregory, Conal|
|Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)||Patnick, Irvine|
|Grist, Ian||Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey|
|Hague, William||Powell. Ray (Ogmore)|
|Hamilton, Hon Archie (Epsom)||Ruddock, Joan|
|Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr')||Ryder, Rt Hon Richard|
|Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn)||Sackville, Hon Tom|
|Harris, David||Scott, Rt Hon Nicholas|
|Hawkins, Christopher||Shaw, David (Dover)|
|Haynes, Frank||Short, Clare|
|Hill, James||Snape, Peter|
|Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd)||Stern, Michael|
|Hunter, Andrew||Stevens, Lewis|
|Irvine, Michael||Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)|
|Janman, Tim||Summerson, Hugo|
|Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey||Taylor, Matthew (Truro)|
|Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)||Thorne, Neil|
|Kirkhope, Timothy||Thurnham, Peter|
|Knapman, Roger||Turner, Dennis|
|Knight, Greg (Derby North)||Waldegrave, Rt Hon William|
|Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston)||Waller, Gary|
|Lawrence, Ivan||Watts, John|
|Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas||Wells, Bowen|
|Mans, Keith||Widdecombe, Ann|
|Maples, John||Wilson, Brian|
|Marek, Dr John||Winnick, David|
|Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick||Wood, Timothy|
|Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Neubert, Sir Michael||Mr. Roger King and Mr. Bruce George.|
|Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE)||Nellist, Dave|
|Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)||Skinner, Dennis|
|Gordon, Mildred||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)||Mr. Terry Davis and Mr. Bob Cryer.|
|Hughes, John (Coventry NE)|
§ Whereupon MR. DEPUTY SPEAKER declared that the Question was not decided in the affirmative because it was not supported by the majority prescribed by Standing Order No. 36 (Majority for closure or for proposal of question.)
§ It being after Ten o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.
§ Debate to be resumed on Thursday 28 February.