§ Mr. David Alton (Liverpool, Edge Hill)
I beg to ask leave to move the Adjournment of the House, under 956 Standing Order No. 9, for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration, namely,the fact that the leader of the Merseyside county council has refused me permission to address his council committee about the decision to proceed with the construction of the Liverpool inner ring road, despite a standing order of the county council requiring all-party agreement at the time of the opening of tenders.In the teeth of local opposition the Merseyside county council has decided to suspend its standing orders to enable it to accept tenders for phase 4 of the Liverpool inner ring road scheme. The scheme will cost taxpayers and ratepayers a total of £150 million. The rate to be paid will total £5 million, at a time when Liverpool ratepayers are facing horrendous rate increases and when the local police force is being cut back in numbers and overtime is being reduced because of lack of funds.
This decision has been taken by a small cabal arbitrarily changing its own rules against the wishes of local opposition parties. The decision has been bulldozed through three weeks before the local elections. The decision has been taken in the almost certain knowledge that there will be a change in control of the council.
The issue is also important because £50,000 was paid in fees to the consultants, of which the chairman of the highways committee was then an employee—[Interruption.]
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I shall have something to say at the end of this application. I hope that the House will listen.
§ Mr. Alton
In recommending that the road be built, he did not declare his financial interest at any meeting of the committee. The road has more to do with corruption and vested interest than the needs of the people of Liverpool. The matter is important and urgent, because a special meeting has been called on Friday to discuss the applications for tender. I have today received a letter from the leader of the county council refusing to allow me to speak at the meeting on behalf of my constituents, who regard this expenditure as an outrageous waste of ratepayers' money. This is typical of the high-handed and undemocratic way in which the council behaves. My only response to the attempt to gag me was to raise this urgent matter in this way on the Floor of the House.
The road will result in the disappearance of a further 1,000 jobs in a city where there are already 50,000 people out of work. It will cost £150 million, when expenditure on much more important things, such as the buses, police, education and housing, is being slashed. This matter is being rushed through in a last-minute panic, in a devious and deceitful way. So frightened is it of criticism that the Conservative-controlled county council will not allow a Member of Parliament to speak against its proposal at the meeting on Friday. For that reason, I gave notice that I wished to raise that matter under Standing Order No. 9.
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. Member for Liverpool, Edge Hill (Mr. Alton) gave me notice this morning, before 12 o'clock that he would seek leave to move the Adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that he thinks should have urgent consideration, namely,the fact that the leader of the Merseyside county council has refused the hon. Member permission to address his council committee about the decision to proceed with the construction of 957 the Liverpool inner ring road, despite a standing order of the county council requiring all-party agreement at the time of the opening of tenders.I believe that our Standing Order No. 9 procedure is being abused. It is being abused today and it has been abused recently, because it enables hon. Members to make a speech to which no answer is possible. It should be directed to ensuring that there is an emergency debate. I have had the uneasy feeling in the last few days and today that the House knows that not all applications under Standing Order No. 9 are genuine. Therefore, I must rule that the hon. Gentleman's submission does not fall within the provisions of the Standing Order and I cannot submit his application to the House.
§ Mr. Barry Porter (Bebington and Ellesmere Port)
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In his undistinguished speech the hon. Member for Liverpool, Edge Hill (Mr. Alton) made a charge of corruption against a distinguished, although, I regret, deceased constituent of mine. I do not know whether that charge of corruption is in order, but if it is in order, should it not be ruled as immoral?
§ Mr. Speaker
I have said before that every hon. Member takes responsibility for his statements in the House. We have our freedom of speech and every hon. Member is responsible for what he says.