HC Deb 23 July 1973 vol 860 cc1165-8
Mr. Nigel Spearing (Acton)

I beg to ask leave to move the Adjournment of the House under Standing Order No. 9 for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration, namely, the publication by Her Majesty's Government of two consultation papers concerned with transport links to and new town proposals associated with the proposed airport at Maplin. It is unusual that consultation papers should be regarded as a matter of urgency or importance, but in this case there is an important feature of one of the consultation papers, namely, that proposing a new town-and a very large one at that -in association with the Maplin development in that it has been presented after the Bill concerning the airport and seaport has not only been presented to the House but has left this House for another place. The Long Title of the Bill did not permit discussion of the principle of any such urban development. That is the main feature which I wish to draw to your attention, Mr. Speaker. The consultation paper is a matter of intent and, therefore, more a White Paper than a consultation paper.

The second important point is that this is an acknowledged national issue. The importance to London of a new town with up to 300,000 people and the importance to the rest of the country in respect of occupations and people in the South-East is beyond question. The importance of the topic is such that I understand that the Prime Minister has taken notice of it. He has said that it is important, and I understand that he has taken steps to let certain hon. Members know that he considers it to be so.

I turn to the question of urgency. The local authorities concerned in this matter have been given 11 weeks in which to reply to the Government's consultation papers-in other words, during the middle of the Summer Recess and the summer holidays for them as well as for everybody else. In that time the Greater London Council will have one meeting, the Southend Borough Council will have one meeting, and I understand that the Essex County Council has no meetings planned.

In addition, there has been no discussion in this House or, as far as I know, anywhere else about how far a new town is necessary as an adjunct to the Maplin project. The Government have given us no opportunity to discuss it, nor has there been a Green Paper or White Paper, either on the Maplin project as a whole or on this substantial urban development.

On Wednesday next the House of Lords will debate a re-committed Maplin Development Bill. Therefore, their Lordships will have the opportunity of discussing the important consultation papers which the public and this House have received today. I do not think that discussion will be ruled out of order in the House of Lords; otherwise, it would make nonsense of the matter. But we, despite having passed the Bill, have not had an opportunity of discussing it. It would be wrong for their Lordships to debate this matter when we have not had an opportunity to discuss it and they will not know our views.

It is clear that the Government are not sure about their own intentions as I have had contrary statements from two Ministers—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman is getting very close to the speech which he would make if his application were granted.

Mr. Spearing

I apologise, Mr. Speaker, for not mentioning that this would not be a matter of urgency but for the fact that the Government, having released the consultation papers, know that the House will go into recess in two days' time.

This morning the Ministers concerned gave a Press conference at their Ministry. Therefore, members of the Press have been able to question them on this matter. No statement has been volunteered to this House today and, therefore, hon. Members have not had the opportunity of questioning Ministers on these matters, including the timetable of the Government's decision and intentions. Therefore, unless we have a debate before the recess, hon. Members will have to wait two-anda-half months to question Ministers responsible for this matter, whereas members of the Press had ample opportunity to question them this morning.

Therefore, in view of the importance of this matter, its urgency and the importance of the House of Commons and the accountability of the Executive, I submit that we should debate this matter before we adjourn on Wednesday.

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Gentleman was good enough to give me notice of his intention to make his application. Also, he did something which has not, I think, been done before in my time in that he submitted notes of his speech and the points which he proposed to make. Therefore, I have had a very good chance of considering his argument and, indeed, of looking at the documents. Under a Standing Order No. 9 application I must give my decision without stating reasons. I merely suggest that hon. Members look at the documents to which reference has been made. I cannot allow the application.