§ Dr. Edmund Marshall (Goole)
I beg to move, on page 9, line 1, leave out clause 10.
Clause 10 was added to the Bill only last June in Committee, before the Committee on Unopposed Bills, so tonight is the first opportunity for the House to discuss the provisions of that clause.
The clause relates to Boothferry bridge which carries the A614 trunk road over the River Ouse about two miles north-west of Goole. It is a matter of some surprise that neither I nor the hon. Member for Howden (Sir P. Bryan), whose constituency adjoins mine at the bridge, received notification of the new clause when it was introduced.
The effect of clause 10 is to re-enact two provisions of the Boothferry Bridge Act 1925, which is otherwise listed 442 in schedule 8 as one of the Acts to be repealed in total by the Bill. In any case, the Act will lapse at the end of 1984 as an Act promoted by a county council that went out of existence in 1974.
The repeal of the Boothferry Bridge Act 1925 was provided for in this Bill when it was first introduced in another place and when it was given a Second Reading in this House, so presumably it was not thought necessary then that any part of it should be preserved, as is now provided for in the "Johnny-come-lately" clause 10. Just as there was no need for the clause last May, nothing has happened since then to make it necessary now.
The provision in the clause to which I most object on behalf of my constituents is subsection (2), which seeks to re-enact the absolute preference and priority enjoyed by vessels navigating the river Ouse over all road traffic wishing to use the bridge. In other words, if this provision remains in the Bill, the position in accordance with the Boothferry Bridge Act 1925 would be maintained after 1984. In that case, any river vessel approaching the bridge without sufficient head room to go underneath it at once causes the bridge to he swung in its favour while all road traffic must queue at the traffic lights on either side of the river. That situation, which has existed since the bridge was opened about 50 years ago, has caused great inconvenience and frustration to road users throughout the years. Many of my constituents, as well as residents across the river, have wasted much time queueing at the bridge.
It is known at times for delays at the bridge to last for more than one hour, especially when several vessels pass under the bridge in quick succession. During the years when the bridge was the road crossing over the Ouse-Humber estuary nearest to the sea, the effect on traffic congestion of delays caused by the bridge being closed to road traffic could be chaotic. It is a matter of great concern that in this modern age, with the immense dependence upon the internal combustion engine, there are times when literally hundreds of vehicles can be held up at Boothferry bridge for the sake of a small boat.
Of course, there is now an alternative crossing of the Ouse not far from Boothferry in the shape of the M62 Ouse bridge, which was opened to traffic in 1976. That bridge was constructed with sufficient height to give clearance to all river vessels, whatever the state of the tide. Consequently, whenever Boothferry bridge is closed to road traffic, there is normally an alternative means of crossing the river over the motorway bridge. That diversion, however, adds about three miles to most local journeys. It is clear that Boothferry bridge continues to provide the shortest route linking the towns of Howden and Goole, the affinity between which has been strengthened since they were both included in the same local government area of Boothferry borough in 1974.
Many residents of my constituency who wish to cross the river use Boothferry bridge daily in order to work in the Howden area. I am sure that the hon. Member for Howden can confirm that there are many more Howden residents who work in Goole and who are associated with many aspects of community life centred on Goole.
For all those local residents, the bridge is part of the local means of getting about. The possibility of half an hour's delay at Boothferry bridge when they have allowed only 10 minutes travelling time to get to Goole is a real annoyance. The is no way of knowing in advance when the bridge will be closed to traffic. Sometimes when the bridge is swung against road traffic and one is waiting in 443 the queue it is difficult to know how long the delay will last or to judge whether it would be quicker to use the longer, alternative, route via the motorway.
In any case, there are times when the motorway bridge is not used because of high winds or road accidents. For instance, on 4 May 1979, the morning on which the counting of votes in the previous general election was taking place in most constituencies in the area, black ice on the motorway bridge caused accidents which led to the closure of the motorway. The resulting traffic queuing for Boothferry bridge produced intense congestion for most of the morning over a wide area. Even some counting of votes was delayed.
All told, the Boothferry bridge remains an important road link in Humberside. When the bridge has been de-trunked, as is expected in the near future, it will become the responsibility of the local highway authority—Humberside county council—which is the promoter of this Bill. It is curious that it is in the interests of the promoter as the highway authority that no statutory impediment should be imposed on the operation of the bridge, shortly to become its bridge, as is now proposed in this clause.
The clause has been introduced in the interests of river users—the owners and operators of boats proceeding to and from the Ouse above Boothferry. Those river users are not numerous. They are much less numerous than the number of motorists who wish to use the bridge. There should not be the power that clause 10 would bestow to impose delays on hundreds of road users.
The river users on the upper Ouse could do much to put their house in order, especially by improving their standards of navigation. Shortly before Christmas 1973, a ship collided with the railway bridge at Goole and demolished one of the central spans of the bridge, which was as a consequence out of action for nine months. That caused great inconvenience to railway passengers because Goole was at the end of a branch line. It also proved expensive for British Rail. I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott) vividly recalls the great inconvenience which railway passengers experienced when the bridge was out of action.
While no general difficulty arises from the navigation on the upper Ouse of vessels that are properly supervised by experienced pilots, there is still a real need for a statutory pilotage area for that stretch of river to avoid any repetition of the mishaps that have occurred in the past. The Department of Trade would do well to concentrate its attention on speeding up the making of a pilotage order for the upper Ouse, rather than seeking to perpetuate statutory hindrances—as it is doing in clause 10—for road users in my constituency.
It may be legitimately asked what would be the position of river users if the clause 10 were not enacted. Clearly, after the end of 1984 there would no longer be absolute statutory preference for river users over road users at Boothferry bridge. That does not mean, however, that there could not be some scheme, perhaps included in byelaws drawn up by the county council—which would by then be responsible for the bridge—to regulate the times at which the bridge could be swung open for river traffic. Such a scheme would have to be drawn up by the local highway authority, in consultation with representatives of river users. I hope that such a scheme would provide that 444 Boothferry bridge should remain open to road users at the busiest times of the day—that is, between 8 am and 9.30 am and from 4 pm and 6 pm. During those periods the swinging of the bridge against road traffic causes the most inconvenience and congestion. In drawing up such a scheme, I suggest that Humberside county council, as the local highway authority, would be acting truly in the interests of the highway users whom it represents. It is the council's job to try to make things easier for everybody seeking to use the highways within Humberside.
In 1925, when these provisions were first enacted in the Boothferry Bridge Act, the volume of road traffic throughout the country, and especially in and around Boothferry and the East Riding, was tiny compared with the present day. It made more sense then for river traffic to have absolute priority at the new swing bridge being constructed at Boothferry, but we all know that the position is different today. The House is being asked, in clause 10, to perpetuate what is really an archaic statutory provision that is completely out of tune with modern society.
As clause 10 is drafted, there will be no penalty for its infringement. If the bridgemaster does not swing the bridge at the behest of an approaching vessel, no penalty will be imposed upon him through the provisions of the Bill. We are being asked to pass a provision that cannot be strictly enforced.
For all those reasons, I, on behalf of my constituents, ask the House to support the amendment. I am weighing my words carefully. If the clause is deleted, I shall have no remaining objection to the Bill.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Trade (Mr. lain Sproat)
It might be for the convenience of the House if I respond immediately to the speech of the hon. Member for Goole (Dr. Marshall).
Clause 10 of the Bill simply re-enacts part of section 34 of the Boothferry Bridge Act 1925. As the hon. Gentleman implied that Act is being repealed under part I of schedule 8 to the Humberside Bill. I consider it extremely important to retain clause 10. It will ensure two things—first, that a navigable width of 38.1 metres—125 feet—continues to be available to vessels passing under the bridge when it is being repaired or altered, and, secondly, that vessels will continue to have priority over road traffic wishing to cross over the bridge.
The Government do not consider that clause 9 alone offers sufficient help in this matter because we do not feel that its provisions go far enough to ensure the continuation of the arrangements. They would allow the Humberside county council to make a byelaw in respect of Boothferry bridge, but only when it has taken over responsibility for it from the Department of Transport. I understand that that may take place next year. Most important, the byelaw-making powers contained in clause 9 would cover only the matter of priority for vessels over road traffic—which exercises the hon. Gentleman's mind. They would not extend to the equally important question of retaining a minimum navigable span when the bridge is under repair or being altered. Therefore, to lose clause 10 and to rely on clause 9 would mean losing altogether the navigable width provision. That would also result in the lapse of the priority provision until such time as the council was in a position to restore it by making a byelaw.
445 The hon. Gentleman has frequently drawn attention over the years to the difficulties experienced by vessels in navigating that stretch of the river Ouse. Navigation is difficult because of the many bends, the silting in the river and the distorted tidal sequence which limits the time available for vessels to make the passage. I believe that we should not add to their problems by deleting the clause. It is extremely important that vessels are not further impeded by having the opening span of the Boothferry bridge closed against them in favour of motor traffic. We must remember that vessels could not safely anchor in midstream because they would tend to swing into the shallows off the main channel, and there are no berths above or below the bridge where they could await its opening.
Obviously, some motor traffic will continue to be inconvenienced by the priority given to river traffic. But the opening of the M62, which bridges the Ouse half a mile downstream, should have given some relief to all but local traffic. I note that junction 37 lies about one mile north of the river and junction 36 two miles to the south.
In 1980 some 460 sea-going vessels passed under Boothferry bridge on their way to Selby, and, of course, made the return journey. That means that the bridge would have been opened, on average, only two or three times each day. I hope that hon. Members will agree that that does not suggest any serious inconvenience to the motorists using it. Equally, I hope that they share my view that it would be wrong to add to the difficulties of vessels on the Ouse by failing to continue the long-standing practice of giving them priority at Boothferry bridge.
§ Dr. Edmund Marshall
If the difficulties of navigation on that stretch of the Ouse are so great, what is the Minister doing to obtain a pilotage order to cover that stretch of the river?
§ Mr. Sproat
That is a very good question. I shall deal with it in pitiless detail if the hon. Gentleman will give me the opportunity. I sympathise with him. The pilotage question has been around for far too long and it is certainly in the interests of everybody—the Department entirely shares this view—to get this matter settled as speedily as possible.
The hon. Gentleman has implied that he would remain opposed to the provisions of clause 10 until satisfactory pilotage arrangements were made to secure better navigation on the upper Ouse.
At present, pilotage is not compulsory above a line 100 yards downstream of the Skelton railway bridge near Goole. As the hon. Gentleman will know, this line is the upper limit of the Humber pilotage district. However, there are voluntary arrangements for the taking of a licensed pilot for sea-going vessels as far as the berths at Howdendyke, which lie about one and a half miles downstream of the Boothferry bridge. Arrangements also exist for unlicensed pilots to take vessels upstream from Howdendyke to Selby.
As the hon. Gentleman will be aware, in June 1980, the York city council, as trustee of the Ouse navigation and owner of Foss navigation, applied to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade for a pilotage order. The purpose of the order is to establish an Ouse and Foss pilotage district, within which pilotage would be compulsory on the river Ouse between Goole and York. It will provide for the council to be the pilotage authority 446 for the new district. The order was advertised in November 1980 and 18 objections to the proposals were received. These objections were put to the York city council for comment last January, and, although my Department has been pressing for a response I have had no positive reply from it so far. Last week, however, I was advised by the council that it has now entered into discussion with the British Waterways Board to explore the transfer of navigation responsibilities to that board. If agreement is reached on the transfer, it will then be necessary for the waterways board to consider whether it wishes to introduce compulsory pilotage by means of a new order.
I can assure the hon. Member for Goole that officials in my Department have remained, and will remain in close contact with York city council and other interested parties about the draft pilotage order promoted in November 1980. When the council's attitude towards the objections received to the order have been clarified, I propose to refer the matter to the Pilotage Commission, which has a statutory duty—as the hon. Gentleman will know—to advise the Secretary of State for Trade on pilotage matters. In the light of its recommendations, it will fall to me to decide if the order should be made.
Whilst I fully appreciate the concern of the hon. Member for Goole about the safety of navigation on the upper Ouse, he will understand that there is absolutely no way of hastening these procedures. They are deliberately designed to give all interested parties the opportunity to have their views properly considered. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will accept my assurances that I am doing all that I can to encourage those directly concerned to reach agreement on pilotage for this area. I hope that I have given him enough assurances for him to withdraw his objections.
§ Mr. John Prescott (Kingston upon Hull, East)
I wish to speak briefly, because I was one of the objectors to the Bill during an earlier stage in the last Session. I put on record my thanks to the Humberside county authority. After consultation—admittedly with the new Labour administration, not the old Tory administration—it readily agreed to meet my objections. There was not total satisfaction about fire cover on the river, but at least the Fire Brigades Union and the authority decided to talk to each other again and to find a solution for the problem that affects seafarers, particularly in the Humberside area. Other matters concerning bridges across the River Hull reached a satisfactory conclusion. Finally, discrimination in favour of the city of Hull as regards resources from the transport supplementary grant to Hull corporation buses was readily granted on the advent of a new Labour Administration at county hall.
Therefore, since the parties involved with the Bill are aware that I was one of the objectors, I put on record my thanks for their co-operation. I shall support the Bill. Several points have been made about navigation on the river. It has been made clear to my hon. Friend the Member for Goole (Dr. Marshall) that there is concern about vessels on the river and that there is an argument about priority vis-a-vis road users and river traffic. Obviously, as an ex-seafarer I am concerned about the safety of vessels. Traditionally, vessels under way have priority in such circumstances.
My hon. Friend the Member for Goole has deployed his case properly on behalf of his constituents. However, I must tell those interested in the river that the size of the 447 vessels that now go down the river is remarkable. A few years ago we were talking about vessels of a few hundred tonnes. We are now beginning to talk about 1,000-tonne vessels. Indeed, the constituents of the hon. Member for Howden (Sir P. Bryan) have gone to hon. Members on both sides of the House to complain about the toll bridge at Selby. When they presented their case they pointed out that one problem was that a massive ship had run into the bridge, making it difficult to open or close it.
One genuine grievance concerns limited liability. I refer to the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Goole. He said that the main London rail link across the river had been put out of action by a coaster hitting the bridge and putting it out of action for nine months. The most disturbing fact was that the vessel's limited liability meant that it did not pay more than 10 per cent. of the total cost. British Rail had to meet the major cost of repair and, as a result of the limited liability, was not able to get back the full costs. Whether the British Waterways Board or York city council is responsible, there is increasing sensitivity, particularly in my area, over the fact that millions of tonnes of traffic continue to be diverted from the Hull ports into an area in which a lot of public money has been invested, to the small wharves that are developing at a considerable rate. In the early 1970s there were considerable problems. If a pilotage order encourages that growth, particularly with the British Waterways Board, the early 1980s will see the reappearance of such sensitivities among dock workers.
I have made those comments as a warning to the Minister, as he is apparently considering the pilotage matter. I hope that the Bill will receive the blessing of the House, as required by Humberside county council.
§ Sir Patrick Wall (Haltemprice)
I have a letter from Humberside county council, and I shall quote one paragraph. it states:I have written to Mr. K. McNamara, the Member for Hull Central, and Mr. A. V. Mitchell, the Member for Grimsby, to request them to open and close the debate, respectively on behalf of the County Council.I understand that we are discussing clause 10. I should like to know, Mr. Deputy Speaker, whether we shall debate the whole of the Bill. There are many issues that I should like to raise.
The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott) said that he had blocked the Bill until the county council changed political complexion. Does that mean that the Opposition are trying to block debate on the Bill again? Will you give a ruling, Mr. Deputy Speaker?
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
We are debating the amendment, which seeks to leave out clause 10. We cannot debate the whole Bill.
§ Sir Patrick Wall
For many years I have travelled over the Boothferry bridge and I am glad that there is now an alternative route over the river Ouse. It is not in my 448 constituency and is the concern of the hon. Member for Goole (Dr. Marshall) and my hon. Friend the Member for Howden (Sir P. Bryan). Therefore I cannot contribute much to that debate. Another riverway is Beverley beck in my constituency——
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Perhaps I can help the hon. Gentleman. We are debating clause 10. Other amendments may be moved later. If they refer—I do not know whether they do—to matters in the hon. Gentleman's constituency, he will have an opportunity to debate them then, but not now.
§ Sir Patrick Wall
I am grateful to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for that ruling. I shall defer to my hon. Friend the Member for Howden, whose constituency has a particular interest in clause 10.
§ Mr. Austin Mitchell (Grimsby)
The letter to which the hon. Member for Haltemprice (Sir P. Wall) referred has been outdated by events and was written in the light of the proposalThat the Bill be considerd upon this day six months".It arose from the desire of the promoters, the county council, to expedite the Bill. I share that desire, because we in Grimsby are very concerned with some of its provisions. I hate to see legislation for lusher, plumper parts of the country, such as the Bill for Kent, speeding ahead of the Humberside Bill. The Bill has been delayed for legitimate reasons. Now we want to expedite its progress. The letter does not apply in the situation that exists this evening, because we are merely discussing clause 10.
The provisions of clause 10 were inserted, not at the desire of the promoters, but at the instance of the Department of Trade after consultation with the Department of Transport. It is right that the first part of the clause, which will be removed by the amendment, providing for a navigable width of 125 ft to be maintained during repair or alteration, should be in the Bill. The rest of the clause takes up section 34 of the 1925 Act, which is a protective provision. It would not cease to have effect at the end of 1984, because of section 262 of the Local Government Act 1972. It is reasonable for it to continue in this form, because it is usual for river traffic to have precedence over road traffic. I sympathise with the hon. Gentleman's annoyance. I, too, have been annoyed, waiting in queues by that bridge. However, it is a normal provision which prevails everywhere else. After all, rivers were there before roads.
I sympathise with the hon. Gentleman's views regarding the pilotage order. In a sense, his argument is irrelevant to the clause because the procedures for a pilotage order are now under way. They await the observations of the city of York council. From that point of view, they are irrelevant to the Bill, because nothing that happens to the Humberside Bill in relation to the amendment will have any effect on those procedures. I hope that the procedures will be expedited, but from the practical point of view they are irrelevant to the Bill. I hope, therefore, that the hon. Gentleman will not push the amendment to a Division.
§ Sir Paul Bryan (Howden)
I apologise for coming late to the debate. I am bound to say that it has taken quite a different form from the one I had expected. I had expected 449 a wide-ranging debate on items such as fire precautions, street trading, the Beverley beck, public order, appeals to the magistrates' courts, and so on, which would last some time. I intended to come in later and discuss what I know about, the Boothferry bridge, with my neighbour from the other side of the river, the hon. Member for Goole (Dr. Marshall). I regret, therefore, not having heard his speech.
However narrow the debate, when we discuss one bridge we have to discuss the others. Each of the four bridges that cross the Humber depends on and affects the others. If one is closed, the others have more traffic.
During the past two years, we have seen great changes. The biggest change is, of course, the Humber bridge, that great engineering feat that represents all the best and the worst of British achievement. I suppose that, as an engineering achievement, it is unequalled in the world. During the summer, when I was going across the Golden Gate bridge in San Francisco, it was admitted there that we had a longer one-span bridge than they had, although they made the usual crack that "That bridge goes from nowhere to nowhere". I tried to put that right. It has absolutely transformed the Boothferry bridge, and we should be proud of it and hope for the best.
I do not know whether the Minister can tell us how the Humber bridge is doing in terms of the numbers using it, in relation to the budget that we hoped for. I am an optimist about the Humber bridge, and I hope that it will be a great success.
From my own party point of view, it is as well that it should be a success, because in the reorganisation of local government, the real reason for Humberside, as opposed to East Yorkshire—which I hotly favoured—was the concept of both sides of the river being one community. If the Humber bridge is a failure and the two communities do not come together, the whole concept of Humberside will be a community failure. So I wish it good luck.
Further down the river, there is another great engineering achievement, the M62 bridge, which is just next door to Boothferry bridge. Boothferry used to bear the great burden of traffic across the river at that point. That has now been transformed. One can get on to the M62 at the Howden junction and get across in no time at all. It is a very different picture from the queues that used to build up at each side of the Boothferry bridge. That, too, has been a great engineering achievement and, frightening though it is to cross it on a windy day, it has done its job and we are proud of it.
Going further down the river, we have the most controversial bridge of all, the famous Selby toll bridge, based on an Act of 1792, which, uniquely, allows all the tolls to be tax-free. For that reason, ever since 1792, various governmental bodies have tried to buy the bridge. Whenever they have come to tot up how much the proper price would be for a tax-free toll bridge, it has always been too great.
My predecessor, Colonel Ropner, in a jocular mood, once said to me "You never want to get that problem solved because it has given me speeches for 30 years". I am bound to say that it looks as though it will do the same for me, because the problem still is not solved. On one occasion, I made a speech in the House in which I said that the bridge must be worth £1 million. At that time, that was a lot of money. I immediately received a letter from the owner. At least, I had smoked out the owner. I had thought that it was two little old ladies at Littlehampton. In fact, the owner was quite a proprietor of river crossings and he 450 asked to meet me. He gave me a very expensive lunch in London, which he could well afford. He told me that the price of £1 million that I had put on the bridge was excessive. I replied that I did not doubt for a minute that it was wrong, because I had no figures. He said "Will you get up and admit that this is the wrong figure?" I said that I would certainly do so, if he would tell me what the right figure was, but he was unwilling to do so.
We still have the Selby bridge. The tragedy has become even more extreme because, by a stroke of fate, it has become the gateway to the biggest and most modern coalfield in the world. This extraordinary, antediluvian, Heath Robinson arrangement is the way into the marvellous Selby coalfield on which £500 million or more is to be spent. Finance is a strange business under any Government. We can afford £500 million for this development. Anything that the National Coal Board does in my constituency is beautifully done. It spends £1 million on a fairly small road, but when the money comes out of another pocket, we cannot have our toll bridge. So on the story goes, and I shall give this speech until I die. We are still talking about it, and it is still too expensive. Once we get a bypass there, the Boothferry bridge, about which my neighbour the hon. Member for Goole speaks tonight, shall be well within itself, if I may put it that way.
As, unfortunately, I was not here to hear the speech of the hon. Member for Goole, I do not know what changes he wants. As far as I am concerned, considering all one's worries in life and in one's constituency, the Boothferry bridge is now less of a worry than it has ever been in the past. It was never a great toil, nor overhung my life, except from time to time when I received a courteous letter from an authority giving me long warning that the bridge would be closed for a number of weeks and stating what arrangements were being made.
I would examine the letter and think that that would be awkward for people close to the bridge, but I realised that as it was an old bridge from time to time it would need repair and something would have to be done about it. Everyone was warned and everything that could practically be done was done. It was explained to those who complained what was being done and it seemed all right. In the new circumstances with the other bridges—the Humber bridge, the M62 bridge and the same old toll bridge still going strong—the pressure on the Boothferry bridge must be less than it has been in the past.
I have no strong views on whether the priority should go to ships going up the river or to the people going over the bridge. What has happened so far seems to have worked without undue hardship and without animosity. I should have thought that now that those going over the bridges are in a slightly stronger position than they used to be, it would be best to leave the matter as it is.
Therefore, I am afraid that my speech has not been half as satisfactory as it would have been, had I been able to listen to, or been wise enough to have been here in time to listen to, the hon. Member for Goole. hope that at least I have added something to the debate.
§ Mr. Robert Banks (Harrogate)
I hesitate to intervene in the debate, but I am prompted to do so by the interesting and eloquent speech by my hon. Friend the Member for Howden (Sir P. Bryan). He referred to the Humber bridge and then to the Selby bridge. I should like to make two comments, one about the Humber bridge and the second about the proposition of toll bridges in general.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
That would not be in order. The hon. Gentleman should stick to clause 10, which would be in order. I allowed the hon. Member for Howden (Sir P. Bryan) to talk about the other bridges in relation to the Boothferry bridge, but not otherwise.
§ Mr. Banks
You are right, Mr. Deputy Speaker. There is a relationship between those bridges. I do not want to trespass against your ruling. My hon. Friend was right to say that the bridges are interconnected as they all serve traffic in the Humberside area. One bridge interrelates with the other.
The Humber bridge is the largest single-span bridge in the world. It is strange that we have not given it the recognition that it deserves. Perhaps we have been affected by the cost and by the time it took to be built. However, as an engineering feat, it is remarkable. That bridge is there not only to serve traffic under it and over it, but as a focal point for tourists who come to Humberside and who will want to have the experience of crossing it—I am sure they will want to have the experience of crossing the Boothferry bridge at the same time.
§ Mr. Austin Mitchell
I do not want to encourage the hon. Gentleman in his dissertation on the Humber bridge because he has been told that that is not relevant to the clause. Does he agree with the hon. Member for Louth (Mr. Brotherton) that the Humber bridge is a white elephant?
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
We will not pursue the question of the Humber bridge. Let us return to the subject of the Boothferry bridge.
§ Mr. Banks
I shall endeavour to do so.
The Boothferry bridge has many similarities to the Selby bridge. It is an old bridge and needs maintenance and repair, as is obvious from the clause that deals with its maintenance. It is surprising that many such toll bridges look as though they need much maintenance. We pay about 5p to cross those bridges and sometimes we wonder whether any money goes into painting and looking after them. Selby, to which my hon. Friend the Member for Howden referred, is rather like that. When one crosses it, one is aware of how old it is, as when one crosses the Boothferry bridge.
My hon. Friend referred to the problem of Governments trying to acquire that bridge. That is a matter of great importance. Whether they would be right to do so is debatable. I maintain that it is better to let private enterprise build a bridge, put up a toll booth and take the money for the cost of the bridge and its maintenance. That is a point that I know that you are anxious for me not to follow, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I can tell by your angle in your seat that it is causing difficulty.
However, I hope that the Bill will go through. I am grateful for this small opportunity to say a few words about it.
§ Mr. Michael Brown (Brigg and Scunthorpe)
The Boothferry bridge is a bridge that I and my constituents have had to use a great deal during the last few years until the opening of the Humber bridge. As you will be aware, Mr. Deputy Speaker, the Humber bridge is not relevant to the debate, but with regard to the route by which people in my constituency travel to Hull it has an important bearing in its relation to the Boothferry bridge.
452 The Boothferry bridge is situated about 15 miles to the west of Scunthorpe. In the days before the Humber bridge was built, my constituents would travel 15 miles to the west across the Boothferry bridge to go to Hull. As we have heard in the arguments in favour of the Humber bridge, many people wish to travel to Scunthorpe from Hull. Although that journey has been lessened by the opening of the Humber bridge, many of my constituents who live on the west side of Scunthorpe still use the Boothferry bridge.
Hon. Members should be aware that the toll for the Humber bridge, which is £1 for cars and £7.50 for lorries, dissuades a number of people living in the western part of my constituency from using that bridge. Therefore, the conventional means of transporting goods and passengers from Scunthorpe to Hull has always been over the Boothferry bridge.
Nowadays we are told that the great Humber bridge is the way by which people should travel. I hope and believe that people in Scunthorpe, Brigg and Barton will persuade themselves that that is a more attractive route to Hull. However, now that the motorway system links Scunthorpe to the Boothferry bridge, which leads to Hull, people are able to join the system west of Scunthorpe. They can travel over the Boothferry bridge and therefore arrive at Hull in the same time as if they had gone over the Humber bridge.
A number of my constituents will be concerned at clause 10(2) which states:Subject to any byelaws made under section 9 (Byelaws as to opening bridges) of this Act in respect of the Boothferry Bridge the opening span of that bridge shall be used maintained and worked in such a manner as to give absolute preference and priority to all vessels navigating or employed on the river Ouse".In the old days before the Humber bridge was opened, when my constituents wished to travel by car or public transport, there was no doubt that traffic queues over the Boothferry bridge could be caused. Considerable traffic jams used to occur. My hon. Friend the Member for Howden (Sir P. Bryan) has visited my constituency many times and is well aware of that traffic hazard. We accept that the flow of traffic will now be reduced because the people in my constituency may prefer the quicker but more expensive route via the Humber bridge. We accept that traffic chaos and delay will be reduced when the bridge is open to navigable vessels.
That will not be so for the people who live in East Butterwick, a village about 20 miles, as the crow flies, from the Humber bridge. If the people of that village, which is situated on the river Trent, want to go to Hull via the Humber bridge they will not be enticed by the prospect of a £1 toll. They will seriosly consider using this other bridge, and if they are delayed by navigation operations and vessels using that bridge, they may feel greatly inconvenienced.
I hope that the majority of my constituents will use the Humber bridge. I hope that they will feel that it is a community asset that should be used to the maximum. I believe that the majority of people living in Scunthorpe, and in Brigg and Broughton to the east, will use the Humber bridge instead of the Boothferry bridge, as they used to do.
The fact still remains that people living in a narrow corridor of my constituency between Scunthorpe and the river Trent will continue to use the preferred route of the Boothferry bridge. Many hon. Members, particularly the hon. Member for Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell) and myself, can 453 testify to the inconvenience that was caused to county councillors attending meetings in Beverley. They will testify to the traffic delays that will continue to occur when this bridge is opened.
If we believe in free consumer choice, we must accept that where a second route is available at much lower cost, our constituents should have the right to use that route and not feel that they will be second class citizens to the river traffic underneath the bridge which, according to the clause, will have priority. As I interpret the clause, people operating navigable vessels along the river Ouse will have priority over my constituents who live between Scunthorpe and the River Trent—that narrow corridor of villages that includes Gunness.
§ Mr. Austin Mitchell
I appreciate that the hon. Gentleman wants to expedite the passage of the Bill. To enable him to do so, it may be useful if I point out that the clause was inserted at the insistence of the Department of Trade after consultation with the Department of Transport. This is standard procedure. It is usual to give river traffic precedence over road traffic. Therefore, the hon. Gentleman's constituents are suffering no more than people in other parts of the country from the fact that rivers came before the roads.
§ Mr. Brown
I have a great personal regard for the hon. Gentleman. He continually puts the interests of his constituents in Grimsby before anything else. The hon. Gentleman does his constituency a great service by not always having regard to natural geographical factors and by treating them as secondary to the interests of his constituents.
He has pointed out that the clause has been inserted in the Bill with the approval—possibly even at the suggestion—of the Departments of Trade and Transport. I take his point that those two Departments are controlled and run very well. While I have a tremendous regard for my right hon. and hon. Friends who run those Departments, I wish to follow the fine lead of the hon. Member for Grimsby and put the interests of my constituents above the geographical factors that happen to bedevil the county of Humberside.
We are saddled with the great accident of geography called the river Humber and the river Ouse. At the end of the day, we want to make a go of the county of Humberside. It was because of that that, with one or two recent exceptions, we supported the importance of the Humber bridge. At the end of the day we must accept that, even if inconvenience is caused by a geographical factor, it is still an inconvenience. We must recognise that constituents may write to us about this important issue. I must therefore bear in mind that there is nothing more important for the people of East Butterwick than their ability to get to Hull without inconvenience.
I do not believe that those people should be inconvenienced. Is the hon. Member for Grimsby seriously suggesting that in reply to their letters I should write "Thank you very much for your representations in connection with the Humberside Bill. I am terribly sorry that I could do nothing in the House of Commons to defend your interests, but the fact is that the River Humber and the River Ouse are an accident of geography, and, I regret, you will have to put up with the inconvenience". I doubt whether any hon. Member could honestly send such a reply. I am sure that the hon. Member for Grimsby is not suggesting that I should do so.
454 Our constituents expect us to give serious consideration to the fact that throughout the years they have been able to use this bridge and that now their interests will be secondary to river traffic. The hon. Member for Grimsby says that is the way of the world, and that river traffic has always taken precedence over local people who use the roads. Let us consider what that river traffic will be.
It will be not local traffic but traffic that has come from abroad, including Europe. Obviously, we want the river utilised to the greatest extent. We want to see river traffic along the river Humber and the river Trent, because that will bring economic benefits to the Yorkshire and Humberside region. However, at all times river traffic should take second place to the interests of local people who must put up with the inconvenience time and again.
§ 8 pm
§ Mr. Richard Body (Holland and Boston)
My hon. Friend is arguing the case with great cogency on behalf of his constituents. Will he say how many constituents are involved? At one stage I thought that there might be just a few and that we should subjugate their interests to the greater interests. How many are involved? Is it a limited number? Will my hon. Friend tell us a little more about the sort of inconveniences that they are suffering? We appreciate that they may wish to go to Beverley, which is an attractive town, but there may be other places to which they will wish to go.
§ Mr. Brown
My hon. Friend has asked a valid question. The number of people who live on the western corridor of my constituency between Scunthorpe and the river Trent is fairly small. Basically, they live in the villages of Flixborough, Gunness, East Butterwick and Messingham. They are not populous villages, but the people who live there will be unlikely, if they are travelling to Hull, to use the Humber bridge because it involves a long motorway journey and a substantial toll on the bridge, when they are already half-way to Hull were they able to use the Boothferry bridge. The only disincentive to them using the Boothferry bridge is the inconvenience caused by the fact that the bridge gives priority to vessels using the river.
§ Sir Paul Bryan
To add conviction to his argument, will my hon. Friend explain why the people of East Butterwick would want to go to Hull?
§ Mr. Brown
I am in the business of persuading all my constituents to use Scunthorpe, and the constituency of the hon. Member for Grimsby, for shopping purposes. I am a loyal South Humberside supporter, as is the hon. Gentleman. In an argument, I always give preference to the concept that any of my constituents who wants to go to Hull for shopping purposes should first consider the excellent shopping facilities in Scunthorpe and, secondly, those in Grimsby. I am sure that the hon. Member for Grimsby will forgive me for putting Grimsby second. He will understand the spirit in which I say that.
If a constituent tells me that Hull is a larger city, a city where he can get a wider choice, I have a responsibility to ensure that all the routes to and from Hull and Scunthorpe are kept as open as possible. Perhaps there is a two-way traffic. It is possible that certain people in Hull want to go to Scunthorpe and East Butterwick to see the delights that the towns and villages in my constituency can offer. Perhaps they want to take a more scenic route, via 455 the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Howden and want to use the Boothferry bridge, but if they are subjected to the provisions of clause 10(2) they will feel that they are unwanted citizens in the local area. If they have to travel between Hull and Scunthorpe, they will have to put up with traffic jams as they contemplate, rather sadly, the priority that is given to vessels.
The hon. Member for Grimsby said earlier that it has always been the rule of the road or the river that vessels on the river have priority over vehicles on the roads. We should consider that more seriously. What cargo are those vessels carrying? Many of my constituents and those of the hon. Gentleman will be deeply concerned and possibly offended by the fact that some of those ships travelling up and down the river, causing inconvenience on the Boothferry bridge because it has to give priority to vessels, are bringing in goods from other countries. What sort of goods are they bringing in? Perhaps some of the commodities coming in along that river are commodities that the hon. Member for Grimsby and I would not wish to enter the country. So, we have a double problem. We have the problem of inconveniencing my constituents, and possibly the hon. Gentleman's constituents if they want to take the scenic route to Hull via Scunthorpe, and the problem of giving way to river traffic that may be bringing in goods and services from the Continent that are detrimental to the economy, not only of the Yorkshire and Humberside region, but of the country as a whole.
When we consider the clause, we must remember that we are opening the gates of the United Kingdom, via the Boothferry bridge, to cargo from abroad. The Boothferry bridge is the first bridge that opens when a ship comes in from the Continent, and when ships go under that bridge their captain and crew are confident that they have brought their raw materials from abroad into this country.
§ Sir Paul Bryan
Does my hon. Friend, like me, receive notice from the authorities when the Boothferry bridge is to be closed for repair?
§ Mr. Brown
I say with regret that in my two and a half years of membership of the House I have not received such notice. It may have been the intention of the authorities which operate the bridge to write to me, but perhaps they felt that since the hon. Member for Brigg and Scunthorpe is now concerned only with the Humber bridge they could forget about those of his constituents who might otherwise have used the Boothferry bridge, and therefore have not advised me. I cannot recollect, certainly this year, ever having received notice of repairs that have been undertaken on the Boothferry bridge. As the Member of Parliament for that constituency, I should have been advised because I might have wished to advise my constituents, through the local newspapers, of the fact that they would not be able to use the Boothferry bridge.
§ Mr. Brown
The hon. Gentleman has missed the whole point of the debate—the Boothferry bridge I suggest that he goes to the Vote Office and collects a copy of the Bill. On the advice that has been given today, we are here principally—between now and 10 o'clock—to debate the importance of the Humber bridge.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. The hon. Gentleman is not quite right. It is not the Humber bridge. It is the other bridge.
§ Mr. Gary Waller (Brighouse and Spenborough)
It has been rightly said that some of those who may wish to cross the Boothferry bridge may object that their progress is hindered because ships are coming up the river carrying goods from the Continent. Selby has one of the fastest growing populations in the United Kingdom. In future we shall see a great increase in output from that area. It is much more likely that in future ships travelling along the river and passing below the Boothferry bridge will be carrying goods to the Continent in furtherance of our export effort.
§ Mr. Brown
I accept my hon. Friend's argument. The Selby coalfield is likely to expand in the near future. We hope that that the export of coal will be given top priority by both Conservative and Labour Governments. The coal will be transported along the rivers Ouse and Humber and will pass under the Boothferry bridge. The inconvenience to which I have been addressing my remarks will increase when the bridge has to be closed to road traffic and opened for river traffic. There will be the problem of the incoming river traffic and the more difficult problem that will arise from the export effort from the Selby coalfield.
I cannot stand idly by and watch my constituents inconvenienced. I accept that it may be the same small group of constituents in East Butterwick that is inconvenienced. That group represents a small proportion of my constituents, but am Ito say "You are only a small group of my constituents and you are nearer to Hull if you use the Boothferry bridge"? Am I then to say "By using the bridge you can absolve yourself from the expense of using the Humber bridge, although I know that you will have to put up with even more inconvenience when the coal from Selby is transported along the river"? What will they say when I explain "As your constituency Member I can consider only the interests of the majority"?
Labour Members, and members of the Labour Party in my constituency, draw to my attention at all times the fact that although I was elected by a small majority I must have regard to the wider interests of all my constituents, including those who did not vote for me. I interpret that as meaning that I have to take account at all times of minority interests. In this instance it is a small minority. None the less, it will be inconvenienced. We should not accept the clause on the nod. It is right and proper that I draw attention to the inconvenience that will be caused to a small group. Its use of the Humber bridge will be 457 marginal because its members live 15 or 20 miles away from it. They might well be inconvenienced by the use of the boothferry bridge.
The clause is worthy of serious debate between now and 10 o'clock because of the implications for a narrow band of my constituency. I regret the fact that my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough (Sir M. Kimball) is unable to be present. He has commitments elsewhere. However, I am sure that if he were here he would agree that the arguments that I have deployed on behalf of the residents of East Butterwick are likely to apply to the residents of West Butterwick, who reside on the other side of the river Trent just half a mile away. I have in mind the small group of villages in that part of his constituency. My hon. Friend is an aggressive defender of the rights of minorities in his constituency, including the rights of residents along the Trent on the west bank of his constituency.
If my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough were present, I am sure that he would support my arguments. I am sure that he would agree that those on the west bank of the Trent are not likely to want to cross the Trent, travel through my constituency and subsequently cross the Humber bridge.
§ Mr. Banks
My hon. Friend is raising an important point relating to the comfort of his constituents and their travelling arrangements. It seems to me from what he is saying that there is likely to be more traffic than less traffic in future. This will mean that the bridge will be opening and shutting more often and, therefore, will need more maintenance and repair. Has he had any inkling of the number of repairs that are likely in the near future, which could perhaps help in giving a picture to his constituents as to whether it is reliable to use that bridge?
§ Mr. Brown
That is something that I had not considered. I had assumed that the Boothferry bridge would be able to operate in a technically correct manner that would not require very much maintenance and repair. My hon. Friend draws to my attention the fact that, in the event of the Selby coalfield generating more traffic under the bridge, the bridge will be used more and more. The more that any type of swinging bridge, hinged bridge or moving bridge is used, the greater the amount of maintenance required. There will be the inconvenience of shutting the bridge while traffic passes underneath it. We have to consider the inconvenience of my constituents and those of my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough when normal bridge use is taking place. Alternatively, we have to consider the argument of my hon. Friend the Member for Harrogate (Mr. Banks) that repairs will create an additional inconvenience which I had not considered.
§ Mr. Brown
My hon. Friend is fortunate in having a tunnel in his constituency and not a bridge. In fact, he has two tunnels. That means that my arguments are somewhat new for him. Clearly he has listened to the problems that might have befallen his constituency if he had had a Boothferry bridge or a Dartford bridge that swung to allow traffic to pass underneath. However, he is not bothered with those problems, although he is concerned.
§ Mr. Brown
My constituents and all those in constituencies that have boundaries on the Rivers Humber and Ouse have to consider crossing territory overland or over the river. It is so much easier if a tunnel is available. In this debate it is not for me to consider whether in place of the Boothferry bridge there should be a Boothferry tunnel. One might well speculate on the advantages of a Humber tunnel or a Boothferry tunnel. A tunnel would be the answer to all the problems. I am sure that everyone in Humberside would be prepared to consider a tunnel as an alternative if public moneys were available. However, when the nation is having to tighten its belt we cannot realistically expect a Boothferry tunnel in the near future.
It seems that we are saddled with a Boothferry bridge, much as I and all Humberside Members would like a tunnel. That option is closed to us. Therefore, we have to consider the implications of the Boothferry bridge. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Dartford (Mr. Dunn), who represents a constituency in which there are two tunnels, that a tunnel would solve the problem. However, that is an unrealistic option.
§ Mr. Banks
Is it not a fact that the advantage of a tunnel rather than a bridge is that it is not as susceptible to the weight of vehicles that pass through it? Is it not also a fact that the weight of vehicles on a bridge such as the Boothferry bridge has an important impact on the repairs and maintenance that must be undertaken to keep the bridge serviceable?
§ Mr. Brown
My hon. Friend the Member for Harrogate made a valid point in his support of tunnels. Conservative Members are deeply concerned about the importance of public expenditure. No one wants to see the bridge replaced by a tunnel more than myself, but that option is closed for the time being. I note the advantages of a tunnel over a bridge, but in solving the problems to which I have drawn attention in the debate, that is not an alternative that we can consider for the time being. If the nation were so overwhelmed with public money that the Government did not know what to do with it, or if the people of East Butterwick became so frustrated that they wished to form a private company to construct a tunnel, I should like to think that a Government Department might seriously consider allowing them to do so. I do not think that that option will be available in the near future.
I hope that I shall have the pleasure of representing my constituents for a long time, but, even if I am fortunate enough to be in the House when I am aged 65 or 70, I do not think that there will be any opportunity for considering a Boothferry tunnel private Bill. For better or worse, and for the lifetime of most hon. Members—there is now only one hon. Member younger than myself in the House—we are likely to be saddled with the present Boothferry bridge, with its inadequacies and inconveniences.
§ Mr. Body
My hon. Friend has been generous in giving way again. I appreciate that he does not wish to speak at any length, but he is making a cogent speech on his constituents' behalf, and all hon. Members appreciate the way in which he is doing it. However, does he not consider that the clause might be a little premature? The House has yet to decide whether it will permit the heavier lorries on the roads. There is some relevance in that. Hon. Members may treat it jocularly, but it is important to the Butterwick people, as we have already established to our satisfaction 459 If the Boothferry bridge is to be repaired it is important to remember the necessarily expensive repairs that will be required in the future, with much heavier lorries on the roads. However, we do not know whether the House will agree to the much heavier lorries. Has my hon. Friend made any calculations about the cost that might arise in that case? If we have the heavier lorries we shall have to have considerably larger and strengthened bridges throughout the country, which might well cost about £250 million. We all recognise that my hon. Friend is valiant in the cause of trying to restrain unnecessary public expenditure. Perhaps he will have some regard to that point before he concludes.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker(Mr. Bernard Weatherill)
I shall guide the hon. Member for Brigg and Scunthorpe (Mr. Brown) in answering that question. It would be wrong for him to refer to forthcoming legislation. We do not know whether we shall have the heavier lorries.
§ Mr. Brown
I accept your injunction, Mr. Deputy Speaker. It is not for hon. Members to anticipate legislation, but when the Secretary of State for Transport made a statement earlier this week he suggested that we could expect some legislation, and he hoped that the House would approve it within the current parliamentary Session. Therefore, within this Session, assuming that my right hon. Friend gets his way in the House—I accept that there is some doubt whether that will happen—the legislation will be on the statute book.
Since we are legislating for the future and the Bill contains powers which will go up to 1984, I presume that the assumption behind the Government's thinking—certainly the Secretary of State's thinking—is that by 1984 there will be heavier lorries crossing the Boothferry bridge.
The Bill contains powers which will go beyond this Session—indeed, possibly beyond the lifetime of this Parliament. We have to bear in mind the likelihood that there will be heavier lorries going over the Boothferry bridge. I accept that it would not be right in this debate to consider the arguments for and against heavier lorries, but we are legislating for the use of a bridge to open and close for river traffic for a period which will extend beyond this Session of Parliament.
According to the statement made by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport, there will be implications concerning the repair and maintenance of the Boothferry bridge. Therefore, with deep respect, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I think that it is right for me in passing to refer to the comments made by my hon. Friends in that respect.
I shall not go into the debate about heavier lorries but will confine myself to the effect of heavy lorries—the same lorries that my right hon. Friend will be seeking to load with more goods, more capacity, and more weight. Those lorries will be going over the Boothferry bridge. Heavy lorries, even of the size permitted today, impose a strain on the Boothferry bridge and therefore create a great problem for its future maintenance. The damage that is caused, even by today's lorries, will lead to yet more repairs, and inconvenience to the people of East Butterwick.
§ Mr. Prescott
The whole basis of the Secretary of State's argument about heavier lorries is that they will not 460 cause any extra damage to bridges. I hope that we shall see the hon. Member for Brigg and Scunthorpe (Mr. Brown) in the Lobby with us on Wednesday—or is this just empty rhetoric?
§ Mr. Brown
Earlier this year I had the pleasure of serving with the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott) on the Transport Bill. I detect possible support from an unlikely quarter in favour of the proposals announced by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport. I look forward to being in Committee again with the hon. Gentleman, who will no doubt be leading in his usual eloquent way for the official Opposition.
If I were tempted by the hon. Gentleman to move away from the Boothferry bridge, I should then be out of order. Much as I should like to debate with him my views on the Secretary of State's proposals, if I were to go down that road who knows where I might end up? I do not wish to succumb to that temptation. I wish to stay within the rules of order.
I accept the assurance of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport that an extra axle without any extra length of vehicle crossing the Boothferry bridge will cause no further damage to the bridge. But what my right hon. Friend said on Tuesday was that as a result of his statement, there would be fewer lorries. If there are to be fewer lorries, we face the prospect of less strain on the bridge. So we have here a great debate. [Interruption.] Hon. Members are probably suggesting that I am contradicting earlier arguments. That is arguable. There are two clear arguments.
Initially, I was tempted down the road that heavier lorries, because of the statement made earlier this week by the Secretary of State, would cause extra strain on the bridge.
§ Mr. Austin Mitchell
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Clause 10 deals with a measure which provides that the navigable width shall be 38.1 metres and that there shall be absolute preference for all vessels employed on the river Ouse. I fail to see that a discussion on lorry weights is of any relevance to the clause.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
I think that I warned the hon. Member for Brigg and Scunthorpe (Mr. Brown) about this matter. It would be in order to refer to the weight of lorries crossing the bridge, but I do not want any discussions of whether there should be heavier lorries, which is the subject of other legislation.
§ Mr. Brown
You put me in great difficulty, Mr. Deputy Speaker, in that I am having to anticipate the end of this Session when we shall have on the statute book a Humberside Act and perhaps a provision for heavier lorries. I accept that I may not pursue the heavier lorries aspect, as I have been so sorely tempted to do by my hon. Friend the Member for Holland with Boston (Mr. Body) and the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East. However, the latter has suggested to me that there is another side of the coin. That is that if one accepts the principles behind the statement by the Secretary of State for Transport there will be fewer lorries, which means that not so much strain may be imposed on the bridge.
However, I want to return to the central theme of the debate. [Interruption.] It appears that I have been speaking for a short time and have failed to convey to the House the 461 central theme of the debate. For those hon. Members who have been listening to the point that I have been trying to make on behalf of my constituents in East Butterwick, I should have thought that the central theme is that people from my constituency, in private cars or public transport, are being asked to put themselves in a secondary, subservient position to that of river traffic carrying either imports from the Continent or exports from the Selby coalfield.
That is the central theme of the debate. It is the inconvenience that will be caused to the people of East Butterwick when they are stopped and they learn that they are being held up because the bridge is open for river traffic. It will not be shut to river traffic in order to give priority to my constituents. The central theme is the inconvenience to those people from East Butterwick who wish to travel to Hull for shopping or business purposes.
Unless that argument can be conveyed while we debate this clause, we shall find that the arguments have all been in vain.
I suggest that we return to the question of inconvenience to constituents. If we pass the clause, should we simply accept, as the hon. Member for Grimsby suggested, that the rivers Humber and Ouse are a geographical accident, and forget about my constituents, about the people of East Butterwick, Gunness and Flixborough? Is the hon. Gentleman saying that we should simply concede the case when we pass the clause on the nod? I do not know whether any of my colleagues will wish to divide the House on this important clause. It may be that, at the end of the day, there will be some compelling arguments from the Opposition side of the House during further debate, that will persuade me.
I have tried to put the arguments on behalf of a small group of my constituents who will be inconvenienced by the passage of the clause in its present form. We should put their rights before accidents of geography and history.
§ Sir Patrick Wall
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. You will be aware that for the last hour and a half we have been debating the Boothferry bridge and we have had a brilliant speech from my hon. Friend the Member for Brigg and Scunthorpe (Mr. Brown). You will also be aware that the Boothferry bridge spans the river Ouse, which meets the river Trent and they both flow into the Humber. From the Humber flows the river Hull, into the Beverley beck.
Would I, therefore, be in order in discussing the important factors of the Beverley beck in my constituency, bearing in mind that we have discussed the port of Goole? Beverley had a charter for its market under King John in 1199, well before Goole was even thought of.
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bryant Godman Irvine)
The hon. Gentleman is very courteous in saying that I am aware of these things, when I am only aware of what has happened in the last 30 seconds or so. Any argument that the hon. Gentleman used that related to the bridge would be in order.
§ Sir Patrick Wall
I am grateful, Mr. Deputy Speaker.
If one were to take a coastal vessel under the Boothferry bridge down the Ouse or in the opposite direction, from Hull docks up the Ouse, one would find that most vessels are now going to the smaller ports on the river, as the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott) pointed out. Why are they bypassing the important Hull 462 docks? It is because they get better service and a turnround that is cheaper and quicker. That is the object of the exercise if one happens to be a shipowner.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. I understand that the hon. Gentleman has already addressed the House once on this subject.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
At the moment, I have not called the hon. Gentleman. I was under the impression that he was putting a point of order that I called him and I gave him my ruling.
§ Sir Patrick Wall
I am sorry, I became confused as I had a point of order with your predecessor in the Chair, Mr. Deputy Speaker. You have now ruled that it would be in order to discuss the matter I raised on the point of order I made to you, and I hope that I shall catch your eye later.
§ Mr. Andrew F. Bennett (Stockport, North)
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. As I recall it, the hon. Member for Haltemprice (Sir P. Wall) addressed the Chair earlier. He was not called on a point of order. Surely he cannot be called twice in the same debate?
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
I tried to draw the attention of the hon. Member for Haltemprice (Sir P. Wall) to that and he assured me that he rose only on a point of order. There is no reason why I should not now call him to make a speech.
§ Dr. Edmund Marshall
Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. When the hon. Member for Haltemprice (Sir P. Wall) first intervened he asked about what he might be allowed to say in the debate, but he did not do that on a point of order. Later what he could and could not say was pointed out to him. That was the end of the matter.
§ Sir Patrick Wall
Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. If you refer toHansard you will see that your predecessor in the Chair sked me whether I was on a point of order, and that I said that I was.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
I cannot help the hon. Gentleman because I was not in the Chamber at the time. I heard only his point of order. If the hon. Member for Haltemprice has already addressed the House, he would be out of order if he addressed the House on a second occasion. If that is so I am sure that he will not want to press the matter.
§ Mr. Wall
I do not wish to pursue the matter further, Mr. Deputy Speaker. We are getting into a muddle. I understood that the first time that I addressed the House I was on a point of order because your colleague in the 463 Chair said so. I raised another point of order with you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and you gave a ruling. I thought that you wanted me to continue. However, I have probably delayed the House long enough on this confusing issue and I shall leave it at that.
§ Question, That the Question be now put,put and agreed to.
§ Question, That the amendment be made,put accordingly and negatived.