HC Deb 04 December 1990 vol 182 cc229-63

Motion made, and Question proposed, That so much of the Lords Message [12 November] as relates to the Clyde Port Authority Bill, the London Underground (Victoria) Bill, the Tees and Hartlepool Port Authority Bill and the Shard Bridge Bill be now considered.—[The Chairman of Ways and Means.]

7.12 pm
Mr. Stuart Bell (Middlesbrough)

I am grateful to have been called so early in the debate, although I suppose that it reflects the great concern that the Chair, like the Government and the Opposition, has had about the way in which the private Bills that we are debating have come before the House. I shall not rehearse again the variety of arguments that have been adduced in the past—[Interruption.]

Mr. Bob Cryer (Bradford, South)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I should be grateful if you would ask hon. Members who are engaged in conversation to come to order. We are concerned with important measures. I am trying to hear what my hon. Friend the Member for Middlesbrough (Mr. Bell) is saying, and I would like to hear him in reasonable silence.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Paul Dean)

I am grateful to the hon. Member for that helpful intervention, which I feel sure the whole House will take.

Mr. Bell

I will explain briefly why the revival motion on the four Bills with which we are concerned should not be approved. Hon. Members will know that my main concern is the Tees and Hartlepool Port Authority Bill, although I am sure that other Opposition Members will speak about the other measures that we are debating. There are many reasons why the revival motion should be rejected, one of the main being that we have always argued that the use of the private Bill procedure in this way is a corruption of public Government policy. In other words, because the Government could not find time for the privatisation of the trust ports—because of their crowded programme involving public legislation—they have used the private Bill procedure.

Indeed, they advised the Tees and Hartlepool port authority to take the private Bill route. That advice was given by a former Secretary of State for Transport. the right hon. Member for Southend, West (Mr. Channon). I cannot recall how many Secretaries of State for Transport we have had since that right hon. Gentleman left office, but he originally asked the Tees and Hartlepool port authority to adopt the private Bill procedure and promised that it would be supported in the House. I have no doubt that, to ensure that the revival motion is approved, the payroll vote is hovering in the corridors and tea rooms waiting for the vote to be called.

The Under-Secretary of State for Transport was honest when speaking at earlier stages of the Tees and Hartlepool Port Authority Bill. He accepted from the Dispatch Box that the Government did not have time for a public Bill, that a private Bill was the answer and that, for that reason alone, the private Bill route had been chosen. My hon. Friends and I have argued that that procedure is a corruption of our proceedings. Over the years we have seen that corruption entering our proceedings in a sinister way, permitting them to fit in with the Government's programme. That happened with the Associated British Ports Act 1990 and it is happening with the Bills with which we are dealing today.

Such a procedure concerns us greatly, and that is why we are opposing the revival motion. Our opposition is based on our belief that the proceedings of this legislature are being corrupted by the Executive. We are confirmed in that belief by the passage in the recent Queen's Speech saying: Legislation will be introduced to privately finance roads; to reform procedures for streetworks; to improve road traffic; to convert trust ports into private companies". Tonight we are faced with a private Bill the purpose of which is to privatise a port, and the Government have given a legislative commitment in the Queen's Speech to privatise trust ports and convert them into private companies.

Dr. Norman A. Godman (Greenock and Port Glasgow)

How many trust ports are there, other than the Clyde port authority and the Tees and Hartlepool port authority?

Mr. Bell

I believe that throughout the country there are 36 trust ports. The Government will face the difficulty that when they try to privatise them, they will find that many of them do not have the assets that are available to the Tees and Hartlepool port authority. Like all the other ideological commitments of the Conservatives, when the Government discovered that the trust ports had massive assets—the Tees and Hartlepool port authority's assets total about £58 million—they started by wanting to take 50 per cent. of the assets, with a further percentage being taken by way of capital gains. That is why we must oppose the revival motion.

As I said, I shall not rehearse all the arguments that have been adduced at other stages. This is neither the time nor the place to do that, and while my hon. Friends and I do not cast any aspersions on the Chair, we suggest that the Select Committee on Procedure should examine how we can be debating on the Floor of the House a private Bill when we are faced with a Government commitment in the Queen's Speech to privatise all the trust ports in the land. Considering the way in which our proceedings are being corrupted, we are left hoping that when the new Conservative leadership settles down——

Mr. Cryer

My hon. Friend says that he will not go over the arguments that have been rehearsed before on this issue. He should not be too reticent about arguing the full case on what is, after all, a fresh motion. It would do no harm to re-state some of the arguments that he used in previous debates. As he said, an important innovation is the reference to the matter in the Queen's Speech. That is relevant to the motion in view of the important step that the Government propose to take through the private Bill procedure. There have been complaints about Government legislation being undertaken through the private Bill procedure. I thought when I read the Queen's Speech that the Government had heeded the representations that had been made repeatedly and at length by Opposition Members. I urge my hon. Friend to examine the issues involved tonight with great care.

Mr. Bell

My hon. Friend is right. When I read the Queen's Speech, I thought that Opposition Members, and perhaps the Minister, had had some influence on the Government. The Minister has survived a variety of changes in Government and in leadership. Perhaps he had a modest role in ensuring that the private Bill procedure would be set aside for an appropriate procedure.

When the subject was raised on 22 October 1990, I drew attention to the contradictions in the methods of floating the Tees and Hartlepool port authority. Mr. Charles Wellington had consistently said that there would be no stock market flotation and that shares would be offered to local pension funds and to the local work force. Opposition Members pointed out that, as the dock labour scheme has been abolished, the work force, sadly, has been diminished. The skills and jobs of many workers who had devoted their lives to the docks have been lost.

Mr. Harry Barnes (Derbyshire, North-East)

The Tees and Hartlepool Port Authority Bill makes no provision for shares for workers. It was agreed in Committee that an appropriate amendment will be moved in the other place, but no figure has been given. The Act to privatise trust ports may contain more generous provisions than the Tees and Hartlepool Port Authority Bill.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I am sure that in responding to that intervention, the hon. Member for Middlesbrough (Mr. Bell) will bear in mind the fact that we are dealing with a procedural motion. It would not be in order to go into detail on the merits of the Bills that are the subject of the motion.

Mr. Bell

I am trying to stay within the terms of the motion and to resist the blandishments of my hon. Friends to rehearse arguments.

My hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, North-East (Mr. Barnes), who sat on the Committee which considered the Bill, makes an important and valid point—that hon. Members have not been able to debate an amendment that was made in Committee because it goes directly to the other place.

Mr. Barnes

The point that I am making is that another measure will be brought before the House for the privatisation of trust ports generally. That could contain more generous provisions for workers' shares. That is why I thought that the point was relevant to our debate.

Mr. Bell

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I am sorry to see that the hon. Member for Langbaurgh (Mr. Holt) is in some difficulty, but I hope that it is temporary.

Mr. Barnes

He does not have a leg to stand on.

Mr. Bell

He has a leg to stand on, but that has nothing to do with his support for the Tees and Hartlepool Port Authority Bill.

Opposition Members have not received an answer to their question about shares for the work force. We have not received an answer to the contradiction in the statements made by Mr. Charles Wellington, the secretary of the authority, and Mr. Hackney, its chief executive, on what will happen to the shares. We cannot pass the motion until we have received answers to those questions.

The Tees and Hartlepool port authority is spending the community's money on a massive publicity campaign to persuade local people that privatisation is in the interests of the local community. That must have cost about £750,000, and I am sure that it will be quaking in its shoes about the possibility of an early election being called and the privatisation being set aside.

We oppose the motion because we have not received answers to our questions. We argued that the Tees and Hartlepool port authority has ample provision in its articles of association to invest locally. Since the Bill's First Reading, the authority has made a series of local investments not in the port but in property. That exercise was futile because under its articles of association it was entitled to make such investment. The private Bill was also a futile exercise. It was a gleam in the eyes of the chief executive and the secretary of the authority, to the detriment of port workers.

I briefly mentioned the possibility of shares being issued to the work force, which has radically altered and reduced as a consequence of the dock labour scheme being abolished. It is not for me to rehearse the arguments, but we have fallen victim of the ideology of the Government, who got rid of the dock labour scheme and who put skilled men on the dole and replaced them with less skilled workers.

Mr. Alan Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed)

The hon. Gentleman will know that I have criticised this privatisation and the port levy. Is his opposition to the motion based on the belief that no form of privatisation of the port authority is acceptable, however much improved and however much revised it is?

Mr. Bell

The trust port principle goes back 200 years. Its purpose was to serve the local community and strengthen the local port. It is the third largest port in the country. The port authority has invested in aviation and property. We have consistently said that its powers are adequate not only for local investment—Nissan uses the port for its exports and imports-but for it to invest elsewhere in the country if that is what it wishes. We cannot see why there should be any privatisation of the port.

Mr. Richard Holt (Langbaurgh)

I am sure that I do not need to remind the hon. Gentleman, with his knowledge of the City of London, that insufficient money can be raised from income obtained from dues. Money must be raised from the City to invest further and to develop properly, but the Tees and Hartlepool port is prevented from doing so. The only income—it is not allowed to borrow—is its daily income and revenue. That does not give it the scope to develop, as it will, and to bring economic well-being to the Teesside area.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I am sure that the the hon. Member for Middlesbrough will link his remarks to the motion before us.

Mr. Bell

I will ensure, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that I take your advice to stay on the subject of the motion and the reasons why the House should not vote for it. I do not wish to be led unduly down the path suggested by the hon. Member for Langbaurgh. However, with your permission, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I shall answer his question.

The hon. Member for Langbaurgh has taken the argument of the Tees and Hartlepool port authority and turned it round the other way. The authority has said until now that it wants the Bill to be enacted because it has cash of £25 million in the bank which it cannot spend because it cannot find ways of investing that money. The authority did not need to go to the City of London and it did not need to raise capital on the capital market because it had its own cash mountain. The authority said that it could not invest its money elsewhere because that would be ultra vires. I and my hon. Friend the Member for Stockton, North (Mr. Cook), who is not with us tonight, proved beyond doubt on Second Reading that the authority had ample powers to enable it to invest, so the argument was spurious.

The real reason for the Bill is that the authority originally envisaged a glorified management buy-out. Those at the top of the tree in the authority saw reasons for that. If the debates have done anything, they have removed that concept. We have obliged the authority to expand its so-called "share ownership" to a wider group of people than it had thought necessary. The argument of the hon. Member for Langbaurgh is wrong and, until now, the authority has not put it forward.

Mr. Tony Worthington (Clydebank and Milngavie)

Will my hon. Friend clarify whether the practice of the Tees and Hartlepool port authority is different from that of the Clyde port authority? I originally thought that there would be a public flotation along the lines proposed by the hon. Member for Langbaurgh (Mr. Holt). After questioning, I realise that there will be no such flotation. The company is private and the members of the authority will decide who can buy the shares, so people can buy them only by invitation. There will be no question of seeking capital from the City of London; there will be a private invitation for people to have access to the shares. Does my hon. Friend agree that that is what is happening?

Mr. Bell

To use an ancient metaphor, my hon. Friend has hit the nail on the head. The Tees and Hartlepool authority had £50 million of assets. Who would value the shares? Mr. Wellington, the secretary, said that a consortium would be set up to buy the port from a trust being formed on privatisation and that it would be a mixture of staff, of management, of local pension funds and of City institutions. He said that the authority would be advised by Rothschild financial advisers. The hon. Member for Langbaurgh wanted the City of London to be involved; it has already been involved through N. V. Rothschild. Later, Mr. Hackney, the chief executive, made it clear that there would be a flotation on the stock market two to three years later.

We are seeking to oppose the motion, yet we still do not know who the shareholders will be, how the shares will be dispensed, who the beneficiaries will be, how much will go to the work force and how much will end up in the City of London. The hon. Member for Langbaurgh seemed to confirm that there is a hidden agenda and that the Tees and Hartlepool authority will get into the hands of the City of London as quickly as it can. It seems that the authority will use the shares to raise money in the City and will then seek to increase its borrowing powers. Why anyone would want to borrow money when we have the Conservatives' high interest rates of 15 per cent., 16 per cent. and even, perhaps, 19 per cent., is beyond me. However, that is the scenario that the hon. Member for Langbaurgh has painted for us.

Mr. Cryer

Does my hon. Friend agree that Labour's ideology is not our driving force in this matter? Does my hon. Friend agree that we should welcome the motion if the Tees and Hartlepool Port Authority Bill was intended simply to allow the trust ports extra powers to carry out their business as trust ports? As a result of the lack of certainty over the issue of shares, it is believed that the trust ports will be subject to a number of high charges. As the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith) said in a previous debate, the Government have seen the authority as a lucrative source. That is why we oppose the motion on which my hon. Friend the Member for Middlesbrough (Mr. Bell) has outlined his arguments in such relevant detail.

Mr. Bell

My hon. Friend referred to extra powers. The former Secretary of State for Transport, the right hon. Member for Southend, West told the Tees and Hartlepool port authority that he would not allow legislation to come to the House under which the authority could be given those extra powers. Indeed, he argued that the authority did not need them. He said—and it was all written down—that, as he would not allow such legislation, the authority would have to take the route of privatisation arid of the private Bill. That is why we have the motion today. The right hon. Gentleman implied that there would be a Government payroll vote to get a private Bill through the House. The payroll vote, which may have changed slightly over the past few days, is lurking in the corridors of power, waiting to spring when there is a vote on the motion so that the Tees and Hartlepool Port Authority Bill can continue in the other place.

My hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, South has mentioned the variety of ways that the Government have discovered of taking money out of the trust ports. We debated that point when we discussed the Bill previously, so I will not repeat the arguments now. However, once the Government saw that there were assets of £50 million and that there had been grant money to the trust ports in the 1960s, they said in Committee, as my hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, North-East (Mr. Barnes) will remember, that they would take 50 per cent. of those assets—£25 million—and would modify the Finance Bill to do so.

In addition, the Government said that, after the 50 per cent. had gone, 27.5 per cent. of the remainder would be taken in capital gains tax, as the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed will remember. In that way, the £50 million of assets of the authority were reduced by some 63.75 per cent. The Government got their hands on more money for the Treasury, but it was, of course, to the detriment of the Tees and Hartlepool area and to those who had invested their lives on the quaysides and at the harbours. That is another reason why we oppose the motion.

The motion is an omnibus edition, which covers the Clyde Port Authority Bill, the Shard Bridge Bill and the London Underground (Victoria) Bill as well as the Tees and Hartlepool Port Authority Bill. I have no comment to make on the first three Bills but have directed my attention to the fourth.

Mr. Harry Barnes

I presume that my hon. Friend's arguments on the Tees and Hartlepool Port Authority Bill also apply to the Clyde Port Authority Bill, which proceeded ahead of the Tees and Hartlepool Port Authority Bill. Surely the argument that the Tees and Hartlepool Port Authority Bill should not be passed because the Government intend to introduce enabling legislation applies equally to the Clyde Port Authority Bill.

Mr. Bell

My hon. Friends will put the arguments on the Clyde Port Authority Bill later in the debate. One reason why we are opposed to the motion is that we do not have the answers to our earlier questions. We have shown clearly that the Tees and Hartlepool port authority had the power to create a host of jobs in construction, in transport, in leisure and in other industries. The motion is simply an extravaganza in the framework of the Government's overall policy. The Government are now contradicting themselves by their own public legislation. We have not had answers to any of our questions and, unless we persist in our opposition, we shall never get the answers. My hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, North-East heard in Committee that commitments were made for the other place, but those are not of great assistance to us. We must concentrate on the motion tonight.

There has been an election for the leadership of the Conservative party. At least two of the candidates said that there should be a reform of parliamentary procedures. This Government have brought the private Bill procedure into severe disrepute by allowing the Associated British Ports Bill to take the private Bill route, and by doing the same for the Tees and Hartlepool Port Authority Bill and for the Clyde Port Authority Bill. The sooner we revise our procedures, the better. We shall not then have to use the private Bill procedure to deal with matters that are properly the subject of pubic Bills. We shall not have to debate revival motions such as this, and the House will be a better place, introducing better legislation for the benefit of the public.

7.40 pm
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Mr. Patrick McLoughlin)

I shall intervene but briefly because the motion before us is strictly procedural and my object is therefore simply to advise the House of the Government's view. It is not uncommon for private Bills not to complete all their stages in one Session. I believe that the promoters of such Bills have the right to expect the House to reach a decision on the merits of their proposals and not to have them discounted because of a procedural hazard. The private Bill procedure allows for carry-over and revival motions. The fact that the motion stands in the name of the Chairman of Ways and Means shows that he is satisfied that all is in order——

Mr. Worthington

May I ask the Minister about one of the factors that will influence my decision whether to vote for the revival motion? Will the trust ports Bill that the Government are to introduce differ in any way from the Clyde Port Authority Bill and the Tees and Hartlepool Port Authority Bill? The Government have changed direction and are to make time available for the privatisation of the trust ports. It is therefore right to ask whether the proposals in their Bill will be similar to those in the private Bills.

Mr. McLoughlin

I am sure that you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, will understand that it would be inappropriate for me to discuss proposals that may come before the House at a later stage. The Government's Bill has not yet been published, so I am not in a position to give the hon. Gentleman a response. He must wait and see.

Mr. Harry Barnes

But there is a problem. We have been told all along that the Tees and Hartlepool Port Authority Bill is a pioneering measure. Those who promoted it argued to the Committee that they were at the forefront of developments and that their example would be followed by other trust ports. If the Bill is really a pioneering measure, it will presumably form the framework for the public Bill that is to be introduced.

Mr. McLoughlin

Our object tonight is to reach a decision on a procedural motion in the name of the Chairman of Ways and Means. What the House decides in future is a matter for the House. I cannot say whether the public Bill will go through all its stages; the House will have to decide, although I hope that the Bill will receive the support that it so richly deserves.

Dr. Godman

Clause 4(3) of the Clyde Port Authority Bill refers to the privatised company taking on board the obligations of the authority. Will a similar provision be included in the forthcoming public Bill? Will the responsibilities now carried out by the 30 or so trust ports appear in the public Bill? Will the private companies have to fulfil those responsibilities and honour those obligations?

Mr. McLoughlin

I cannot help the hon. Gentleman because we are not discussing what may be in a Bill that we may introduce in due course. The public Bill will go through its Second Reading, Committee and Report stages and the House will then be able to question its contents and the powers contained in it. I repeat that we are here tonight to discuss a procedural motion tabled by the Chairman of Ways and Means.

I should perhaps remind the House that all four Bills were passed by this House before the end of the previous Session.

Mr. Worthington

The matter is most important to the Clyde port authority and, I am sure, to the Tees and Hartlepool port authority. Some Opposition Members are most concerned about the lack of safeguards. My hon. Friend the Member for Greenock and Port Glasgow (Dr. Godman) referred to the powers of the port authorities. I am concerned about the lack of control in respect of the issue and sale of shares under the Clyde Port Authority Bill.

Can the Minister give us an assurance that any safeguards in the Bill that his Department is to introduce will apply to all the port authorities and that safeguards in respect of the ownership of shares will be written into the Tees and Hartlepool Port Authority Bill and the Clyde Port Authority Bill? If they are not, the private Bills will be inferior to the public Bill.

Mr. McLoughlin

The private Bills have been through all their stages in the House of Commons. It is up to the House to reach a conclusion on the Bills before it. The hon. Gentleman is asking whether there will be retrospective legislation if a public Bill is passed. He must wait and see. I am not in a position to say one way or the other. I repeat that we must consider the procedural motion before us. If the Bills return from the other place with amendments, the House will have to consider them. That will be the appropriate time at which to discuss those matters.

In principle, the Bills are acceptable to the Department. The London Underground (Victoria) Bill, promoted by London Underground to enable essential safety work to be carried out at Victoria underground station to relieve congestion, has the Government's support. We therefore support the revival motion. The promoters of the Bills are entitled to a decision based on the Bills' merits rather than having that decision frustrated by procedure. All the Bills are to go to the other place and it is quite right that they should be allowed to be considered further. If the Bills are passed in the other place, we shall have further opportunities to consider them on their merits.

Mr. Ted Leadbitter (Hartlepool)

The Minister said that it was right for the Bills to go to the other place. The Tees and Hartlepool Port Authority Bill was introduced following a decision by three men representing the authority. The casting vote of the Chairman decided the matter. Is it right that such a Bill should go to the House of Lords when, as good parliamentarians, we know full well that, in the event of a tie on a serious matter such as this, custom has it that the Chairman should give his casting vote in favour of the status quo?

Mr. McLoughlin

The hon. Gentleman has been assiduous in his attendance of our debates on the Bills and I have listened to his contributions with interest.

Mr. Leadbitter

But what is the answer?

Mr. McLoughlin

The hon. Gentleman has raised an interesting point, but he knows that a majority is a majority, whether it be a majority of one or a majority of 100.

Mr. Leadbitter

I am merely seeking clarification. The Minister has always responded with reasonable concern for the questioner. Do we really want to set a precedent when we know—as a matter not of opinion but of evidence—that the decision to privatise was made by three people, and only three, with the Chairman's vote cast in favour of the Bill. The normal practice in the House is for the Chairman to cast his vote in favour of the status quo. When I first became a Chairman, my inexperience led me to vote against the status quo. I got my knuckles rapped. Does the Minister now say that it is all right and that the matter can go to the other place? In fairness, is it not inevitable that the Bill will go to the other place? Surely it is against parliamentary practice for him to say that that is right.

Mr. McLoughlin

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. It is not a Government motion; it is a motion in the name of the Chairman of Ways and Means. I am merely expressing the Government's point of view. The Chairman of Ways and Means must have been satisfied that all was in order for him to come forward with such a motion. On the hon. Gentleman's wider point—it is a genuine point—about the unsatisfactory way in which trust ports work and operate, I agree with him. Present accountability is not perhaps what one would desire.

Last December,in one of the first Adjournment debates to which I replied, the hon. Member for Middlesbrough (Mr. Bell) and I discussed the old concept of trust ports. I said that, in some ways, accountability was not the most acceptable method. The hon. Gentleman pointed out all the problems in the current set-up of trust ports. hope that by following this route, trust ports will be free to do certain other things and also be more accountable. That is an important point. I am sometimes surprised by the hon. Member for Hartlepool (Mr. Leadbitter). Although he attacks the Tees and Hartlepool port authority with some vigour, he goes on to say what an excellent company it is and how well it is doing. We all share that view. We want it to be prosperous and successful.

Mr. Harry Barnes

I do not think that the Government can wash their hands of the affair, pass it to the Chairman of Ways and Means and say that it is in the House merely to recommend a technical measure to enable us to move forward. It has always been involved with the Tees and Hartlepool Bill. The measure was introduced so that 50 per cent. of finance would be transferred to the Treasury. If that had been written into the Tees and Hartlepool Bill, it would no longer have been a private Bill, it would have been a public Bill, and we should have found a way around it. At this stage matters have been superseded by other Government legislation. The Minister's Department initially encouraged Tees and Hartlepool to take exactly the line that it took to introduce the private measure. The Government are up to their neck in the provisions. They cannot simply say that the matter is technical—they must argue a political case in support.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Not on this occasion, though. At the risk of tedious repetition, I remind the House that we are discussing a procedural motion. The four Bills have completed all their stages in the House of Commons, and we are considering the procedural motion relating to whether they should now be considered by the House of Lords. I fully acknowledge that there is a certain relevance to legislation that the Government may bring forward later. I understand that that can be an argument for or against the revival motion, but we cannot discuss the merits of the Bills on this occasion.

Mr. Barnes

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. What I meant was that, to support a procedural motion, there were political arguments about the right and wrongs of the case, which the Government needed to present to us to influence the situation. I grant that the decision that is then to be made is procedural and that procedural elements are important to it, but in backing up the procedural points, the matter is stretched further.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I understand that point. I am being as helpful as I can to the House. As long as the arguments are for or against the revival motion, the debate will be in order.

Dr. Godman

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I seek your guidance on what you said a couple of minutes ago. If the procedural motion is passed, where stand the rights of petitioners? If it is successful, will it mean that petitioners will be able to place petitions with the other place? Where are the rights of petitioners with regard to the motion?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

The rights of petitioners are not a matter for me, of course. The Bill has passed its stages in this House. If the motion is passed, the Bill will proceed to the Lords. The House of Lords has its own procedures for petitioning, and I have no authority to say what the procedures are in that regard.

Dr. Godman

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. If the motion is passed, will petitioners have the right to put down petitions of objection to the Bill in the House of Commons?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

No. The procedure in this House on these Bills has been completed. All the stages have been gone through, so there are no further procedures other than the revival motion. Any further procedures will relate to the other place.

Mr. McLoughlin

It would be unfortunate not to agree to the motion in the name of the Chairman of Ways and Means. I therefore urge the House to allow the Bills to be revived and to agree the motion. That would then allow full and proper consideration in the other place and for matters that may subsequently arise to be fully considered in the other place.

7.55 pm
Ms. Joan Walley (Stoke-on-Trent, North)

I shall be brief, as many of my hon. Friends wish to make important points.

It is extraordinary that we are debating this revival motion. We are told by the Under-Secretary of State for Transport that it is not a Government motion and that he is present technically on behalf of the Chairman of Ways and Means to assist further consideration of the four private Bills when our major concern in respect of each of the Bills should be some way of introducing an integrated transport system. Procedurally there is no way in which the thrust of the four Bills can achieve an integrated transport system. That point must be considered in conjunction with the procedural motion.

Mr. McLoughlin

I am not here in preference to the Chairman of Ways and Means. I am here to point out the Government's position on the motion.

Ms. Walley

I am grateful for the Minister's intervention, but it does not clarify the matter. It shows the confusion that there is about how to proceed with the four private Bills. It is a sharp practice. We have four private Bills, each of which should have a separate debate in its own right, which would give hon. Members an opportunity to vote on the issues involved in each of them. Of course, we shall not have an opportunity to do that. We may have one view on one private Bill and we may wish to see it proceed, but we may have valid reasons, as we have on port trusts, for thinking that it is not appropriate to proceed because of the arguments that have been well set out by my hon. Friends.

Mr. McLoughlin

The hon. Lady will agree that there have been debates on those matters, individually and separately, as one would expect with any Bill.

Ms. Walley

I do not agree. A debate occurred in the previous Session, but we are in a changed situation. The Queen's Speech promised new legislation on the port trusts. We are simply trying to establish whether the issue is one of principle that should best be left until the whole House has an opportunity to discuss new initiatives which the Government will bring forward and which I hope will be part of an integrated transport system, or whether we shall make decisions about what is to happen to two port trusts, and make those decisions in the dark. Clearly, at this stage we do not know what is in the draft legislation that is is still to be published and to come before the House. For that very reason, Opposition Members are in great difficulty about deciding whether to accept the revival motion.

We have before us a consultation procedure from the Government on private Bills and new procedures. Whether or not a new Prime Minister has been elected, everybody agrees that there is a clear and urgent need to examine the private Bill procedure and the way in which we conduct business in the House. Perhaps we should have the generosity to say that there will be occasions that suggest that the present procedures need to be redesigned and re-thought.

We have consultation documents and Bills hanging over from the previous Session. It is proposed that they should now be brought forward into this Session, but the Government have not said how the new procedures will be introduced. If it is possible for the Government to spend all this time bringing back private Bills when we now have the primary legislation that we were promised, why has it not been possible for the Government to deal with the issue of the new procedures which are so urgently needed? Important issues are set out for our consideration, such as environment impact assessments, and need to be considered for each of the four private Bills.

There is a great hurry, which makes me suspicious. I am also suspicious about the reasons for tabling the revival motion, which is aimed at getting the two port trust Bills quickly through this Session.

We have not heard any answers from the Minister about the Government's intentions in the new legislation. We have not had any answers about workers' shares. None of our questions has been answered. Nor have we heard anything about responsibilities for navigation and conservation. When we considered water privatisation, environmental protection was a key issue. The Government had to bring back a second set of proposals setting out the need for a National Rivers Authority. The Government had to recognise that there should be some separation——

Mr. McLoughlin

That was always Government policy.

Ms. Walley

No, it was not always Government policy. The early drafts did not suggest that. However, it was clear that safeguards were needed if the Government were to introduce their proposals to separate the different functions of gamekeeper and poacher, about which we heard so much. We need to know whether the new legislation on the port trusts will set out the conservation functions and the way in which those functions will be taken over by whatever replaces the port trusts.

We have not had any answers about retrospective legislation. Clearly we do not want one set of proposals in respect of two ports and a completely different set of proposals for all the other ports. Without safeguards, it is difficult to see how we can proceed.

So far, we have not heard anything about the London Underground (Victoria) Bill, which had fairly widespread support. The safety proposals were supported by hon Members of all parties. However, we have not heard anything from the Government about whether, if there is to be great haste in getting that private Bill on to the statute book, the £3 billion that has already been announced by the Secretary of State for Transport will be used to finance the vital work that the Bill would enable to go ahead. Given the current cash crisis, we need some assurances from the Minister about whether that work can proceed if the Bill is timetabled and given Royal Assent.

Those are all important issues. We are faced with an omnibus of different revival motions. New legislation is to be introduced later. However, we have not had any proper answers from the Minister, and I do not see how it is possible to proceed.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

It is not for me to comment on the possible reform of private Bill procedure, but as procedure has been mentioned, perhaps it would help the House if I were to explain briefly and in a little more detail what the motion actually means and what the House will be doing if it passes it tonight.

Such motions are customary and have been approved regularly in previous Sessions when it is sought to suspend or revive Bills which have been passed by the Commons and which are currently under consideration by the Lords. On 12 November this year, the Lords informed this House that they had passed a resolution that, if the Bills were brought from the Commons in the present Session, they should resume progress at the stage that they had reached at Prorogation. The present motion is therefore a necessary procedural courtesy which has the effect of returning the Bills to the Lords for further consideration. The motion means no more and no less than that.

8.4 pm

Dr. Norman A. Godman (Greenock and Port Glasgow)

If I may say so, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that was a most eloquent observation on my earlier points of order.

To be honest,I was hoping that the promoter ic f the Clyde Port Authority Bill would be present to withdraw his Bill. However, the hon. Member for Eastwood (Mr. Stewart) has been recalled to the first team in St. Andrew's house.

Taking on board what you said earlier, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I wish to place on the record the fact that I am unhappy about the motion, first, because it is a matter of deep regret that we are proceeding with the motion, which deals with the Clyde Port Authority Bill, when, the forthcoming public legislation will presumably deal with the other 30-odd trust ports——

Mr. Worthington

There are more than that.

Dr. Godman

My hon. Friend suggests that there may be more. I am concerned that we may not give adequate protection to those employed by, say, the Clyde port authority if we pass the motion.

Mr. Bell

I should like to correct what I said earlier. When asked how many trust ports there are, off the top of my head I said that there are 30; I should have said that there are 52.

Dr. Godman

I am extremely grateful to my hon. Friend. His intervention emphasises my point that we are dealing here with two trust ports out of a total of 50-odd. It is a matter of deep regret that we are debating this revival motion——

Mr. Harry Barnes

We need to sort out the problem about the number of trust ports. I have with me a map that was submitted to the Committee that considered the Tees and Hartlepool Port Authority Bill. Totting up the number of trust ports on the map, I come to a figure of 40, plus one in the Isle of Wight. Perhaps the total of 52 includes municipal ports, company ports, nationally owned ports and associate member ports. Unless there is another avenue, it looks as though the number is 40.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. We are not debating the number of trust ports.

Dr. Godman

Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I shall stick rigorously to your instructions.

As I have said, I am concerned about the forthcoming public legislation. However, I hope that I shall also be in order if I say that we have fresh evidence about the CPA Bill to employ in our case against the motion. I do not see why the two port authorities referred to in the motion should be excluded from the forthcoming public legislation. New evidence has appeared since the House completed its consideration of the CPA Bill. Numerous recent concerns and developments bear upon that Bill, but even now, we cannot debate them.

One important matter that was brought to my attention in Greenock just a few days ago is the fact that the ownership of properties and land in Greenock that is claimed by the CPA is now disputed by men and women who can only be described as decent and honourable—I refer to the members of the Greenock Waterfront Heritage Association, which asserts with considerable justification that various waterfront properties claimed by the CPA belonged to the people of Greenock by way of a feu signed in the 18th century.

As you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, will understand, deep concern is being expressed over the tragic collision that took place not far from my constituency and those of my hon. Friends the Members for Cunninghame, North (Mr. Wilson), for Clydebank and Milngavie (Mr. Worthington) and for Renfrew, West and Inverclyde (Mr. Graham)—the foundering of the motor fishing vessel Antares, with the loss of its four-man crew. The sinking, brought about by the collision between the vessel's gear and a submerged Royal Navy nuclear submarine highlights a number of issues which impinge on the Clyde Port Authority Bill.

We should be in a position to discuss with the CPA changes in navigational routes and the conduct of vessels, particularly military ones, in and around the firth of Clyde. The CPA, as presently constituted, could play an important mediating role to prevent the recurrence of such a dreadful tragedy. Such a navigational role in the firth of Clyde and the River Clyde, and dredging in the upper reaches of the Clyde cannot be left' to a private company.

There are developments ashore that impinge on the motion. Therefore, it would be best for all involved if the motion were not passed so that, by way of public legislation, we could come afresh to a Bill dealing with CPA ownership to examine recent developments, including tragic ones such as the sinking of the Antares and economic developments taking place in our constituencies on the banks of the Clyde. As my hon. Friend the Member for Clydebank and Milngavie outlined in an intervention, there is concern about the selling and acquisition of shares in the Clyde Port Authority plc. I fear that such shares may eventually be acquired by those living far away from the Clyde, with no interest in it and its communities.

There are sound arguments against the revival motion, particularly in light of recent developments. They include the fears over share ownership in Clyde Port Authority plc, the legitimate worries of members of Greenock Waterfront Heritage Association and others of my constituents who have an affection for the CPA and a respect for its officials. That affection and respect does not prevent them from criticising those officials and managers from time to time. There is deep concern about what will happen to the Clyde port authority when it becomes a private authority.

Mr. Thomas Graham (Renfrew, West and Inverclyde)

My hon. Friend is aware of the terrible tragedy that happened some time ago when six of my constituents lost their lives aboard the Destiny. The Clyde port authority is an agency that we hope would put forward plans and policies involving safety on pleasure craft and other vessels using property owned by the Clyde port authority. I am sure that my hon. Friend is aware of my concern and that of my constituents. It would be nonsense for the Clyde port authority to be taken away.

Dr. Godman

My hon. Friend raised an important issue. He referred to the tragic sinking of the motor fishing vessel Destiny, days before Christmas 1989. The vessel was skippered by Billy Irving of Gourock, a member of the Clyde Fishermen's Association. My hon. Friend is right that, where safety regulations govern sea angling expeditions in boats owned by Clydesiders, the Clyde port authority may well have a role to play that is perhaps more important than that of the district council, which determine the safety regulations. My hon. Friend is right—the CPA could make a useful contribution to determining regulations governing excursions such as the one that ended in deep tragedy for the families of my hon. Friend's six constituents. The CPA, as a public authority, could play an important role, but will be prevented from doing so when it is privatised.

I cannot ask the Minister to withdraw the motion because as you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, rightly said, it is a procedural motion. However, if the Bill is revived and resuscitated in its current condition, that decision will be treated with deep dismay and serious concern in my constituency and elsewhere on the Clyde. I urge my hon. Friends to argue against the motion because the Bill to which it refers—to put it in as disinterested a way as I can—is simply not worth reviving in its present form.

A privatised Clyde port authority may prove to be, in numerous respects, a far more efficient organisation than the present authority as a generator of employment in new and revitalised traditional industry. The CAP, as structured at present, is the best sort of organisation for the communities I represent in the towns of Greenock and Port Glasgow to deal with developments ashore and changes which may come about in the navigational channels in and around the firth of Clyde.

We are entering what is popularly called a post cold war era. To control vast submarines in the fishing grounds in and around the firth of Clyde, the Clyde port authority with its highly competent managers has a role to play: to separate fishing vessels and the submarines. I am not sure whether the Department of Transport can do that, with all due respect to the Minister and his colleagues. The job should be done by a locally based authority that enjoys the respect and trust of Clydeside communities——

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I am finding it very difficult to link the hon. Gentleman's arguments to the revival motion.

Dr. Godman

I do not want to take advantage of your good nature and courtesy, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

The revival motion is a bad idea because legislation is to come for all the trust ports. This motion has come at a bad time and I am only sorry that I am not in a position to appeal to the sponsor of the Bill, asking him to withdraw it so that we can deal with the matter in a more sensible and tough-minded way. We could do that when discussing a Bill covering all the trust ports.

Mr. Harry Barnes

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. As you know, members of a private Bill Committee must sign a declaration to the effect that they have no connection with or constitutional interest in the area covered by the Bill. That was done in the Committee discussing the Tees and Hartlepool Port Authority Bill but we now discover that that Bill has been influential in shaping the public Bill for port privatisation.

Two hon. Members who served on the private Bill Committee, my hon. Friend the Member for Blyth Valley (Mr. Campbell) and the hon. Member for Isle of Wight (Mr. Field) represent constituencies in which there are trust ports——

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. This sounds to me more like a matter that could be discussed on the debate on the revival motion. I cannot see that there is a point of order for the Chair.

Mr. Barnes

The normal procedures for the House for dealing with work in Committee have been tampered with, as a result of which the Government are to supersede the Tees and Hartlepool legislation with an omnibus Bill covering all the trust ports. The two hon. Members whom I have mentioned could fairly claim that trade in their areas was not affected by the Tees and Hartlepool measure but they certainly will be affected by the general Bill—and that has a bearing on whether Opposition Members will support the measure.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

That is not a point of order for the Chair but if the hon. Gentleman, with his well known ingenuity, catches the eye of the Chair he may be able to make these points during the debate.

8.26 pm
Mr. Ted Leadbitter (Hartlepool)

The ruling on revival motions place the House in a straitjacket. Hon. Members who want to put forward their views, which are important to their constituencies and to the economy of their areas, must try not to displease the Chair and must set out to humour its occupant so as to earn a degree of flexibility. The House is at its best when we seek to comply with Standing Orders and the rulings of the Chair.

Bills of this sort are given a Second Reading, when we can argue more widely about the general principles of the Bill. Then, when the patience of the House has been fully exploited, we have a Standing Committee—in this case a private Bill hearing—after which the Bill returns to the House and hon. Members are obliged to hold a different sort of debate, as we did but recently when we discussed our worries based on the evidence brought to the Committee.

Now we must draw on the bank of knowledge of the Bill that has accumulated over a full year since the Bill was deposited on 27 November last year. We seek how best to adduce legitimate and salient arguments, linked directly or indirectly with the strictures governing the revival motion debate.

The paramount reason why we should not return the Bill to the House of Lords is simple and it should appeal to the prudence of the Government. As the Government have enabling legislation to privatise the trust ports on level terms, why should not those level terms apply to the Tees and Hartlepool port authority, which runs the third largest port in the United Kingdom? Moreover, a great deal of money has already been spent on this private Bill. As the objectives of the Government and of the port authority are the same—they both want privatisation ——

Mr. Don Dixon (Jarrow)

The directors of the port authority.

Mr. Leadbitter

Indeed, the Government and the directors want the same thing. So why cannot we co-operate and save money by so doing?

A further reason for not returning the Bill to the Lords has to do with Government policy. The Tees and Hartlepool port authority has already spent almost £1 million on the Bill and the petitioners who are against it have already spent £160,000. In order to petition if the Bill goes to the Lords, thousands of pounds more will have to be spent. When the promoters deposited the Bill on 27 November last year, they knew that enabling legislation was coming before the House. Much money has already been spent, and prudence suggests that we should now save some.

The Minister may say that the outstanding idea of returning the Bill to the Lords is not a matter for him because it is a private Bill. In a letter that I received from the management of the Clyde port authority I learnt that which the Tees and Hartlepool port authority was not prepared to tell us, that the Clyde port authority was complying with the wishes of the Government. ii shall come later to the subterfuge. That authority shared the Government's thoughts on privatisation and the Government were actively promoting, aiding and abetting in the introduction of that Bill to the House, as was the case with the Tees and Hartlepool Bill.

The Minister could say that I am correct. The ports will be included in the Government's enabling measures in January and because the new Prime Minister may want to take the temperature of the electoral waters sooner than we think, it makes good sense for the Government to concern themselves with saving public money. They should consider ratepayers and taxpayers for a change. They could say, "As it is inevitable that the ports will be privatised, we should take away this tiddleywink Bill."

I am sure that the Minister saw some substance in my intervention and his assertion that the Bill had a night to go to the Lords was not exactly unchallenged. Perhaps he thought that I had something up my sleeve when I said that the Bill may go to the Lords on the vote of one out of 650 hon. Members—that is, the Chairman of the Private Bill Committee. When there is a changeover in the Chair, I do not like to have any misunderstandings. So that you, Madam Deputy Speaker, may be put in the picture about the argument that I am patiently developing——

Madam Deputy Chairman (Miss Betty Boothroyd)

Order. I can tell the hon. Gentleman that I have been listening outside.

Mr. Leadbitter

That shows that you are a good Chairman, because even when you are not in the Chamber, Madam Deputy Speaker, you are courteous enough to find out what is happening. I was talking about one vote. As long-serving Chairmen, Madam Deputy Speaker, we know that none of us dares use our casting vote in Committee except to maintain the status quo.

Mr. Harry Barnes

A further point relevant to my earlier point of order arises about the Chairman of the Committee, the hon. Member for Isle of Wight (Mr. Field). That constituency has in it Cowes trust port. By the exercise of his casting vote, the hon. Member for Isle of Wight involved himself in a scenario that pioneered the development of trust port privatisation through Tees and Hartlepool and led to other measures that affected his own trust port. Therefore, he contravened the provisions of a document that he had signed, which said that he had no interest in the measures that the Committee was discussing. It would at least have been prudent for the hon. Member for Isle of Wight not persistently to exercise his casting vote.

Mr. Leadbitter

My hon. Friend may deal later much more succinctly and in detail with the theme that he introduced. I fully agree with him on that important matter.

I should like to draw the Minister's attention to another aspect of the Bill. It pertains to why he should pass on the Bill to the Lords, which is what we are here to discuss. "Erskine May" lays down quite clearly that the members of a private Bill Committee should act in a judicial manner. That is quite different from a member of any other Committee who may have to apply opinion and political argument. My attention has reluctantly been drawn to the fallibilities of the legal profession, and I have had to check carefully to see whether I, with my small and rather limited experience in the House, have hit on a matter about which the House should be concerned. The Minister is no doubt wondering what I am about to say.

I have spoken about the money spent by the Tees and Hartlepool port authority. Everybody has accepted that. I said that it had spent almost £1 million, and when an hon. Member mentions a figure in the House we have to ask ourselves how he arrived at the amount and what are its components. About £500,000 was spent on advertising the privatisation of the Tees and Hartlepool port authority and that pre-empted the decision of the House. None of us is allowed to do that. We cannot act or speak outside on the assumption that the House will agree with us. It is the other way round because the House decides and we have to accept its decision. As I say, the promoters of the Bill spent £500,000 on a national advertising campaign, and the Chairman and members of the Committee must have read the statements in those advertisements. The beneficial effect of the judicial isolation of the Committee was breached.

That is not the only unfortunate aspect. So stupid is the Tees and Hartlepool port authority, so abrasive is its attitude, so completely ignorant is it of its pledge of support for the area, that it employed a London agency to do the job. The local area did not get the benefit of the £500,000.

Mr. Harry Barnes

Was not the amount spent entirely unreasonable, and is not the fact that it was spent outside the area a sign of the way things will go if the Bill is passed? The money will be spent on horizontal integration rather than on helping the local area.

Mr. Leadbitter

My hon. Friend is right. However, I want to link this factor with the motion.

For reasons that I shall not go into, if the Bill were to go to the Lords, our petitioning against it would not be so strong. However, that money spent in the south underlines what the chief executive of the port authority said in his evidence. The parliamentary counsel asked him whether his private enterprise philosophy was contradictory to the purposes of the Tees and Hartlepool Port Authority Act 1966, and he said, "That's why we've got the Bill."

Another reason why the Bill should not go to the House of Lords is that we should be satisfied before we let it go that things are being done in the best interests of the authority. When giving evidence, Mr. Hackney made it abundantly clear in reply to questions put to him by counsel that the constitution of the authority, under the 1966 Act, was adequate for all the purposes of the port. Apart from section 12(1), nothing in the Act makes it impossible for the port authority to invest as it wishes. For instance, it already has shares and investments in a wide range of non-port undertakings.

On Second Reading, the hon. Member for Langbaurgh (Mr. Holt) challenged me. Unfortunately, he has been kicked in the leg, or threatened with reselection, or has had a seizure, so he is not here. We do not know why he is not here, but as we are concerned with each other's health, I shall be asking about his welfare. I know that things are hard for the Conservative party. He may feel that the time has come for retirement and is practising for that.

I must apologise to the hon. Member for Langbaurgh. I was challenged by the hon. Member for Stockton, South (Mr. Devlin), who is also not here. A fit man does not come here, when a lame man has. He asked whether it was possible for a trust port to have shares in a Government agency. I thought that perhaps I should check on that, and the documents show that it is the other way.

The fanciful thing is that I object to the Bill going to the Lords because, apart from one or two hon. Members, of whom I am one, nobody has a clear understanding of it. If I am the only possessor of that knowledge, other hon. Members should be concerned about sending the Bill to the Lords. On Second Reading, I did not want to give hon. Members a tutorial on the finances of the authority because I had more important things to say about the Bill, but I can give a simple answer now.

The Tees and Hartlepool port authority and the Cleveland development corporation got together and wondered how to make legitimate the investment that they were discussing. The Clevement development corporation could not invest in a Government agency, so it set up a company, the Hartlepool Renaissance Company. Because it is a separate company, although with the same personnel, the Tees and Hartlepool port authority was able to give it shares to the value of the land on which the marina was being built. That is known as a convertible share arrangement. That is possibly one of the more sensible things that the authority has done.

We should be concerned not only about letting the Lords have this Bill, but about making it more widely known among hon. Members who will vote on the motion tonight that in Committee the evidence showed that the port authority, which is wanting to spread its wings and speculate on investment schemes throughout the world, has a poor record on investment. It has touched nothing that marks it out as an expert in finance, high investment or entrepreneurial ventures. It has played with tiddlywinks and lost its money but claimed that it went on a rescue operation. It has no backing to support its dreams of economic voyaging around the world. Indeed, counsel referred to it as having dreams——

Mr. Worthington

Are the provisions in the Tees and Hartlepool Port Authority Bill similar to those in the Clyde Port Authority Bill, in that the members of the authority—about whom my hon. Friend has spoken scathingly—can become dominant members of the privatised company? Is there an open way in which other people can become the dominant members of that company?

Madam Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. Member for Hartlepool (Mr. Leadbitter) has done so well, so far, in keeping to the revival motion. He is wise enough to know that he must not go down the road suggested by the hon. Member for Clydebank and Milngavie (Mr. Worthington).

Mr. Leadbitter

Perhaps I will follow my hon. Friend's remarks, so I must work out how to weave that into the procedural requirements. If I succeed, I shall be congratulated; if I do not, I shall be shot down. Either way, it will be quite a thrill coming from you, Madam Deputy Speaker. I shall try to weave it in, but not in a naughty way.

I have already given good reasons why the Bill should not go to another place—for example, the use of the Chairman's casting vote, the powers that already exist under present legislation, and the judicial responses of members of the Committee, who had been subject to a £500,000 national publicity campaign that they could not avoid seeing. There is another reason, which is both intriguing and fascinating. Surely it is not the will of the House, or of any hon. Member, freely to give a windfall to a handful of people. The only way that that could happen would be if the payroll vote were told not to take any notice of people like me, and to vote in a particular way.

Under the Bill, the proposed structure will mean that control of the holding company will fall into the hands of a consortium, which was not named or identified in any way during evidence to the Committee. However, we know that the largest shareholding will have control. I come now to the intriguing aspect. When the sale takes place, the Government will take 50 per cent. of the proceeds, and 50 per cent. will remain. Let us say that 50 per cent. is in the bank. The consortium than takes control and so takes back that 50 per cent., and it also has the port—what a rip-off! I have done it, Madam Deputy Speaker. You told me not to discuss that unless I could keep within our procedure. I found a way to do that, so I should be congratulated.

The House should not allow the Bill to go to another place, because of the reasons that I have given. I have explained what is happening, and that cannot be rebutted. Mr. Hackney agreed that that was happening. A group of people will get control. They have paid for that through the shares, but they will get back their money because they will have 50 per cent. of the sale proceeds, and they will have the port as well. In my language, that is highway robbery.

Mr. Harry Barnes

In Committee, Mr. Hackney accepted the term "double your money". They will get the money and the port.

Mr. Leadbitter

Hon. Members might be persuaded to vote against the motion if they but knew about certain actions during the month of October. It was a month of letters, press releases and general hanky-panky by the port authority. Hon. Members might be surprised to learn that I received a letter from the authority's secretary, and it was that letter which caused me to feel so strongly that we should not allow the Bill to go to another place. It was the most downright disgraceful, ill-tempered, ill-advised and imprudent letter that I have received in 43 years of public life. I contacted the authority's chief executive, but he said that he knew nothing about it. He spoke to the secretary and he also looked at copies of the correspondence. Within half an hour, he told me that he was not prepared to accept that sort of language from the secretary, that the letter would be withdrawn, and that I would receive the necessary apologies. That shows that not only are the procedural requirements of the House important, but they must not be impinged upon by conduct which motivates people to go in one direction or another.

Because of the courtesy of the chief executive, I gave an undertaking that I would not reveal what was in the letter and I am keeping faith with that, but the House should be aware of the kind of treatment I received for taking part in an important debate on an important issue.

Mr. Bell

My hon. Friend is noble in giving a commitment not to reveal the contents of that letter. As a distinguished Member of Parliament, who serves on the Chairmen's panel, does he think that there was a breach of parliamentary privilege in a letter being written to a Member of Parliament about comments made in the House? Is not Mr. Wellington, the secretary of the port authority, fortunate not to have been called to the Bar of the House to explain his conduct?

Mr. Leadbitter

I thought seriously about that at the time. I have a certain weakness—I do not know how I came to have it—but although I can hit hard, I find that when I have my opponent in a corner I feel some compassion. The Chair gave me the freedom to relate that story, and I think that the House had the right to hear it. However, as I told the chief executive of the authority, I accept that the authority's secretary must know his job. Therefore, the letter must have been written in what I would call a state of unfortunate exuberance. In other words, I was far kinder to him that he was to me.

I referred to October as being the month of letters and press releases. Unfortunately, there is another reason why the Bill should not go to the other place. Those letters and press releases represent—in writing—lying, deceiving, practically the worst form of blackmail and obnoxious manners that should not be tolerated by people charged with the responsibility of dealing with serious public affairs. There must be certain standards.

The vote of hon. Members tonight is important. The Bill has taken a year to reach this stage and we now come to the final fence. It is important the House should consider that final hurdle. Yet Hartlepool borough council and Cleveland county council received a letter dated 26 October making it clear that the Tees and Hartlepool port authority would let the planning committee of those two authorities have land in order to build a carriageway from the Middleton pier in Hartlepool to the dual carriageway.

Madam Deputy Speaker

Order. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will come back to the procedural motion.

Mr. Leadbitter

I will, Madam Deputy Speaker. If hon. Members knew of that suggestion they just might, on balance, vote against the Bill tonight. That letter laid down a condition. The petitioners, an interested body of people, said that they would let the local authorities have the land on the condition that they withdrew their opposition to the Bill. How is that as a way of dealing with public affairs? That offended both councils who then got in touch with the Member of Parliament dealing with the opposition to the Bill to express their concern at being forced to do something by the promise of land being conditional upon their withdrawing their opposition.

That is hypocritical, because I have already related how the Tees and Hartlepool port authority has shares in the marina and so is of that development. It is in its own interests to have the linkage and yet it tells the two local authorities that it will be hard. I have got news for it. I have just informed the authorities that since it is in the interests of the marine development to have the road link, it must forget about being a hard seller, it is an anxious seller and must offer the least price that it can get away with.

How the Bill could have been a public Bill if the 50 per cent. levy had been written into it has already been dealt with. In other words, the Bill would not be a private Bill. It would not exist. It would have to come with the enabling legislation. The interesting thing is that the port authority has made it known that it won 50 per cent. of the proceeds. That is the first time we have ever learnt from serious men that if someone take away 50 per cent. what is left is a gain. That is nonsense. It is not true because, in evidence to the Committee, the council made it clear that that 50 per cent. was not even known to the authority when it deposited the Bill.

Madam Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman, to use his own words, is now being naughty, although he promised that he would not be. He has been ingenious in debating the revival motion and I am sure that he will now stay with the procedure and not with the subject matter.

Mr. Leadbitter

The Chair will be concerned with our reasons for opposing the revival motion and, I hope, with nothing else. I appreciate that I must not deviate from the main stream of your ruling, Madam Deputy Speaker. I do not know how long I could pursue that theme without being caught.

I turn now to what is known as the essential principle of the Bill. It must be approached with care, because there is some misconception about the nature of the Bill itself. The promoters submit that the result will be a free and independent port—no more, no less. However, the council might with ease gain from the promoter of the Bill—in the guise of the chief executive, Mr. Hackney—an admission that the purpose of the Tees and Hartlepools Port Authority Act 1966, which followed the Rochdale report, was to achieve a port which was independent, autonomous and financially self-supporting. Therefore, the claim that the new Bill will confer freedom and independence on the port cannot be true.

If the Bill before the House is enacted, the port authority will disband and reform as a trust. It will then create a holding company, but the port itself will be a subsidiary. The port authority will cease to be independent, autonomous, and self-financing. We argue that the Bill should not go to another place because it would be doing so under false pretences.

Madam Deputy Speaker

Order. If the hon. Member intends to continue speaking—there is no reason why he should not—I trust that he will not deploy arguments relating to the purpose of the Bill. With his long-standing experience as a parliamentarian, the hon. Member will be familiar with the limits of a procedural motion. He said that he was at the beginning of his speech.

Mr. Leadbitter

The Deputy Speaker who immediately preceded you in the Chair, Madam Deputy Speaker, read a ruling, which I confirmed by scanning "Erskine May". I discovered that we were both correct in our interpretation of the wording. The Chair rules that debate must be confined to the revival motion—and, as I agree, there is no conflict between us so far. However, I have tried very hard, and somewhat ingeniously, to argue why the Bill should not go to another place. Hon. Members such as I who behave with cultivated innocence should attempt not to be repetitious. That is a bonus that you, Madam Deputy Speaker, have enjoyed as a consequence of the persuasion that you have employed. I, at least, have not been repetitious.

Madam Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman has been repetitious in that he has repeated Second Reading arguments.

Mr. Leadbitter

That is right—and the hon. Gentleman is not prepared to do that, because we are in the business of seeking support, which is the function of an Opposition. We must seek support not only from the Conservative Benches, but from the Chair.

Mr. Thomas Graham (Renfrew, West and Inverclyde)

Earlier, my hon. Friend mentioned the group that had been involved in setting up a project in Hartlepool. Perhaps that project is similar to one involving the Clyde port authority which is trying to develop the Braehead site. This strikes me as jumping the gun—as retrospective legislation.

Madam Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman is moving into areas that I have just forbidden.

Mr. Leadbitter

Diplomacy must operate here—I cannot demonstrate outwardly that I agree with my hon. Friend, because I do not wish to offend the Chair, but I do not want to comply with the Chair to such an extent as to offend my hon. Friend. In the circumstances, I may have to escape the consequences by sitting down.

In the light of the weaknesses of the Bill, the House must make a real attempt not to let it proceed to the Lords. The House must, in such circumstances, always be satisfied that the evidence is so overwhelming that it is unreasonable to stop the progress of a measure. Is the House satisfied that that is the case? If hon. Member sallow the Bill to proceed to the House of Lords today, they will be ignoring the fact that the promoters did not produce one expert witness in the Committee hearings. Does the House intend to allow the Bill to proceed today, knowing full well—this is not merely the due of the hon. Member for Hartlepool—that in Committee the port authority chairman was given statutory authority by the Secretary of State to communicate with him on all matters of importance regarding the port? Yet the chairman himself did not make a single appearance before the Committee.

The position is certainly rather odd. It is clear that, under the present legislation, the port is independent, autonomous and financially self-supporting. It is also important to note that all its activities are for the port, within the port, and that it is free to invest. The corollary, however, is that although its welfare and interests are matters solely for the port, the Bill places it in a secondary position in, as it were, a "group" concept. It appears that the House must now allow the Bill to proceed without taking that into account. I have emphasised the desirability of establishing a subsidiary company, with the new authority as a holding company, but under the Bill the priorities of the port will become secondary to the targeting of investment bringing short-term high-profitability returns, as opposed to long-term, low-return investments in the port itself.

That is why, as we see from page 1 of the report of the sixth hearing of evidence to the Committee, counsel for the promoters said that the condition in section 12(1) of the Tees and Hartlepool Port Authority Act 1966 about keeping the port safe and commodious—as it was before the passing of earlier legislation—was a constraint on the port authority. If it is a constraint on the port authority, then before the Bill be sent to the other place we must heed the clear message that money will not be spent on it.

Meanwhile, container investment in the authority is non-existent, although to enable it to compete with other ports, taking account of proposed installations, would require expenditure of between £60 million and £80 million. In other words, the £20 million now in reserve could be a first step to meeting the competition that will arise from 1992——

Madam Deputy Speaker

Order. I remind the hon. Gentleman, and any other hon. Members who are seeking to catch my eye, that the House earlier passed the Bill to the other place. Tonight we are determining whether to pass the procedural motion.

Mr. Leadbitter

I appreciate that, Madam Deputy Speaker, and I want to halt that motion and stop the measure going to the other place.

It should be clear from what I have said and from the deliberations in Committee that only a handful of people—fewer than five—were instrumental in allowing the Bill to continue on its journey. But I fear that the House has not heeded the warnings given by my hon. Friends and me, even though an enabling measure could have done the job for free. From that point of view, we are witnessing idiocy and imprudence at its peak. The port authority consulted nobody, not even the county, until the Bill was deposited. I have been associated with the port for more than 25 years. I was a chief policy witness prior to the earlier legislation being passed. Despite that, and despite all the knowledge of the issue that I possess, I received not one offer of consultation from the authority.

I feel extremely strongly for the people whom I represent. I know their real worth and I am well aware of the magnificence of the work force and of managements throughout the northern region. I would be foolish to lose any opportunity—because I have been so disappointed with the authority—to voice my views. Having done so, I now say to the authority, as I would say to any other authority, that if the Bill has the misfortune to become law, I shall try to make it work.

9.17 pm
Mr. Tony Worthington (Clydebank and Milngavie)

Our concern tonight is simply whether to breathe life into the Bill and thereby revive it. In considering that, we must take note of certain incidents that should make us think again about the whole issue.

We have been misled, wittingly or unwittingly, about the Clyde Port Authority Bill and the Tees and Hartlepool Port Authority Bill. Indeed, the Clyde port authority was misled, having been told by the Government that the only way it could he privatised was by promoting private legislation. I assume that the Tees and Hartlepool port authority received the same advice.

We were shocked to discover in the Queen's Speech a proposal to privatise all the trust ports. It would be foolhardy to privatise two trust ports when a Government Bill will privatise the other trust ports. We have no knowledge of the contents of that Bill, and the Minister may not know under what terms the other trust ports will be privatised.

The interests of the Government in promoting a Bill to privatise the trust ports are different from the interests of a port authority in promoting a private Bill. That was made clear in proceedings on the port authority Bills. The Government suddenly realised that, under the private Bills, a group of people who had not put a penny into the trust ports would be able to decide the future ownership of those ports and considerably influence who benefited from it. They realised that that would not be in order and belatedly said, "We shall impose a 50 per cent. levy," to ensure that they received some of the proceedings of the sale.

We are considering the motion only because the Clyde and Tees and Hartlepool port authorities have moved quicker than other trust ports. It will be interesting to see whether the Government accept the terms of the port authority Bills. It would be extraordinary if they accepted the same propositions as the port authorities. A number of people were appointed to the port authorities to be custodians of the public interest for a limited period—for example, as the chair of the Clyde port authority on a salary of £10,000 a year or as a port authority member on a salary of £3,500 a year—but under the private Bills they will be able to decide how the future wealth of the authorities is distributed. I am not implying that they will benefit from the distribution of wealth, but they will be able to decide who benefits from that distribution.

Mr. Holt

Does the hon. Gentleman know who is in that position at present, and is it not true that those who run the authorities can award themselves whatever salaries they like and no one has any control over that? Once the port authority is a public limited company, shareholders and others will not have that stricture.

Mr. Worthington

That is a helpful intervention, because it shows that we have considered the port authority Bills completely the wrong way round. There would be general agreement among hon. Members that the structure of port authorities is thoroughly inadequate because there is no accountability. There is a strange procedure in Scotland whereby the Department of Transport—God love it—and not the Secretary of State for Scotland, appoints the members of the trust authority. There seems no logic in the fact that a remote, London-based body plucks out 10 or a dozen people to run the port authority. Does that body exercise any scrutiny over the activities of the port authority? No, it does not.

I wrote to the Secretary of State for Transport and received a reply from the Ministesr in which he said that there was no monitoring of the work of the port authority. In other words, we take no interest in whether it does a good or a bad job. The authorities are simply appointed and they get on with the work. There is no scrutiny of or interest in how they fulfil the task, so we have no idea whether the Tees and Hartlepool port authority or the Clyde port authority is efficient. Neither the Government nor anyone else asks whether the authorities do a good job.

Is there a need for legislation? It seems that the present structure of the port authorities is inefficient, and I suspect that the Minister agrees. A proper analysis of the way in which the port authorities have developed should have been carried out to obtain an appraisal of what was going right and what was going wrong. I believe that the Clyde port authority could have been massively improved. I also believe that it was unacceptable that the authority was neither a democratic nor a private body. It was not accountable to anyone, which led to the incredible statement by the director of the authority, which is engraved on my mind for ever, that above the Clyde port authority there is God. That is strangely pompous, but it is also strangely true. Nobody can call the Clyde port authority to account. It could perform its task efficiently or inefficiently year in and year out.

One would have thought that the first action of a responsible Government who were confronted either with their own legislation or with private legislation would have been to appraise whether the present structure was working correctly.

Mr. Holt

If the trust ports were such an eyesore, why did no Labour Government have the courage to do anything about them?

Madam Deputy Speaker

Order. I am sure that the hon. Member for Clydebank and Milngavie (Mr. Worthington) will deal with the motion.

Mr. Worthington

I am grateful both to you, Madam Deputy Speaker, and to the hon. Member for Langbaurgh (Mr. Holt), whose intervention is relevant in considering whether to breathe life into the Clyde Port Authority Bill and into the others. I did not say that the port authorities were an eyesore, although a major eyesore in my constituency is under the control of the Clyde port authority. I was saying that no hon. Member has ever carried out research into how the port authorities work and into whether they are working efficiently or inefficiently.

The contentious issue is whether the authorities powers are restricted so that they cannot undertake activities that would make them efficient. That has never been appraised by anyone except the ports authorities, which have a vested interest.

This is a fundamentally inadequate way to proceed with legislation. During the passage of the Clyde Port Authority Bill, there has been no analysis of whether we need legislation or what form of legislation we need. It will be sad for hon. Members who represent constituencies in the area of the Clyde port authority and of the Tees and Hartlepool port authority to know that a far better analysis of the role of the other trust ports will be undertaken through the presentation of a public Bill. Ministers will come to the House having been fully briefed by the Department of Transport, and they will be able to argue their case properly.

With the Clyde Port Authority Bill, we did not have those advantages. We had a private Bill sponsored by the hon. Member for Eastwood (Mr. Stewart), who has shown the extent of his interest in the Bill by his absence tonight.[Interruption.] Does the hon. Member for Langbaurgh wish to intervene?

Mr. Holt

The hon. Gentleman is attacking a man who has been made a Minister and who cannot be here for that reason. That is most unparliamentary.

Mr. Worthington

It so happens that the hon. Member for Eastwood has been made the Minister responsible for industry and employment in Scotland and the Bill is of significance to the development of Scotland. That the hon. Gentleman should have taken his interest in promoting the Bill outside the House and put other interests—

Mr. Holt


Mr. Worthington

All right: I shall not withdraw my remarks, because I think they are justified, but I shall take the House back to the Second Reading debate which took place while the hon. Gentleman was but a Back Bencher.

Madam Deputy Speaker

Order. We are not discussing the Second Reading debate. The hon. Gentleman is fully aware that we are debating a revival motion, and I should like to hear arguments about whether the Bill should be passed to another place.

Mr. Worthington

I do not think that the Bill should be revived, Madam Deputy Speaker, because the House has never had the opportunity—on Second Reading, tonight or at any other stage—to consider its merits. The sponsor of the Bill, who now happens to be a Minister—I hope that he will prepare himself better in his new job—came to the House without knowing anything about the Bill and could not answer any of our questions. One of the central questions on the Bill, to which we really ought to be given an answer, concerns the identity of those who will be able to control the port authority in future.

Just to show the confusion that there was on Second Reading—a confusion which persists tonight—let me remind the House that, at that time, the sponsor of the Bill was talking in terms of the flotation of a public company. Only at a later stage did we find that the authority was to be floated not as a public but as a private company.

Mr. Bell

Is it not a fact that Mr. John Hackney has not been able to reconcile himself with Mr. Charles Wellington, the chief of Hartlepool, and that we do not know whether there will be a stock market flotation or not?

Mr. Worthington

My hon. Friend confirms the lack of certainty about who will be able to control the company in future. I have heard from the authority that some of the shares will go to the work force. We do not know what proportion it will be, although Opposition Members accept that there should be some employee share ownership. We do not know who else will control the company in future. We have heard only that some of the shares are likely to go to local institutions and organisations. As a local institution myself, I fully intend to apply for shares. I shall write to the company and say, "As a local institution—the MP for Clydebank and Milngavie—I should like shares in the Clyde port authority." I hasten to say to my hon. Friends that I have no intention of profiting from the shares: any profit will be given to local charities.

I shall be interested to hear the authority's response when I write to it to say that, out of interest in the future of the port and the river, I should like to be on the inside of the company. I wonder whether I shall be given the chance. Some of my hon. Friends may also wish to buy shares, although I shall not tonight commit them to doing so.

Mr. Harry Barnes

Whatever the share arrangement, we have some indication of what has been ruled out. On the Tees and Hartlepool Bill, on the Chairman's casting vote, the proposal that 50 per cent. of voting shares should go to the workers was defeated. Also, a proposal that the majority of the shares should go to the employees' pension fund and port users combined was defeated.

Mr. Worthington

That is why we should not breathe life into the Bill. What rules are the Bills setting up for the distribution of shares? We know nothing, and have been told nothing, about that basic issue. It would be a dereliction of duty to let the Bills go any further without clarification of that issue. I hope that that issue will be directly addressed in the Government's Bill.

With a normal privatisation, the Government lay down the terms under which the privatisation is to occur. They will say, for example, as they did with the electricity privatisation, "We are issuing shares at so much per share." Everybody gets a chance to bid for the shares. But that has not happened in this case. With the Government's Bill, it will be interesting to see whether they give fair access to the purchase of shares for any of the other trust ports or whether they will give privileged access to those who are already on the inside because they are members of the port authority.

Another major issue which has never been fully explored, and which is another reason why we should not breathe life into the Bill or revive it, is the valuation of the company's assets. The port authority has to set up the conditions in which the Clyde port authority will be sold to an institution. It must decide how it will realise the assets that I previously thought were public assets, but apparently it is a difficult situation, in which there is no real owner, and something that I thought was public is to be turned into a private asset.

To sell off the assets of the port authority, they must first be valued by the port authority. Therefore, a firm, which I hope will be independent, will have to be hired to decide what value to put on the assets of the port authority. There may be talk of that firm being independent. However, if I wish to sell a property and I hire someone to value it for me, the valuer will assess that property on my behalf knowing that I am the seller of the property. Obviously, his duty is to me—I have hired him. His duty is to put the maximum possible value on the property. If I wish to buy property, I will hire professional advice from someone who will tell me the cheapest price for which I could get the assets and the lowest price that I should bid for them.

Under the Bill, the buyer and the seller are the same body. The Clyde port authority is liquidating itself, seeking to sell its assets and setting up a new company. As my hon. Friend the Member for Hartlepool (Mr. Leadbitter) eloquently said, initially the only members of the new company will be the Clyde port authority board members, because they will have liquidated themselves as a port authority and reconstituted themselves as the new trust and then as the new company. Who is to carry out a valuation when the buyer and the seller are the same? That issue has never been explored in the House, but it is another reason why we should hesitate to breathe life into these Bills. The issues have never been fully explained.

Other issues did not receive an airing until my hon. Friend the Member for Greenock and Port Glasgow (Dr. Godman) spoke earlier. We are also talking about navigation rights, not simply about property on the banks of the river. We are talking about the maintenance of good conditions for sailing up and down, not only the Clyde, but as far as halfway down Arran and all the surrounding sea lochs. We are talking about the public good. My hon. Friend reminded us of the recent tragic accident caused by submarines using the same channel as fishing boats. Clearly the public good must be at the forefront of our minds.

There are many other important issues. We have not even mentioned dredging tonight because we did not want to go back over the Second Reading debate. However, we have given abundant reasons why it would be prudent for the House not to breathe life into these Bills. I hope that the forthcoming public Bill will deal with these issues much more sensibly and will have the public interest more at heart, and that we shall not proceed with these private Bills.

9.41 pm
Mr. Harry Barnes (Derbyshire, North-East)

It has been said that this is only a procedural motion, with the implication that it is therefore of less significance than the substantive issues. However, as trade unionists among my hon. Friends know, procedural agreements can often be more important than substantive agreements. Sometimes in trade union negotiations on wages, an employer will try to give a good substantive agreement, but part of the terms include selling out the procedural arrangements. Therefore, procedure is important because it is by that process that legislation proceeds.

Hon. Members have referred only briefly to the fact that the motion deals with a number of other Bills apart from the port authority Bills. The motion refers also to the London Underground (Victoria) Bill and to the Shard Bridge Bill. Those may well be reasonable and honourable Bills, and they may well deserve to proceed—I do not know, because I have not investigated them and I have not read the Committee reports. Furthermore, I have heard nothing today to tell me why those two Bills, together with the port authority Bills, should proceed. It would have been procedurally sensible to have a different motion which would have allowed some division and separate debates on some of the Bills. The major elements in our discussions on the Tees and Hartlepool Port Authority Bill and the Clyde Port Authority Bill could perhaps have gone together because many of the principles arising from them are the same.

It is because the motion relates to the port authority Bills and because they are obnoxious in nature that we should not pass it. You, Madam Deputy Speaker, would not allow me to go into detail about those obnoxious provisions, so I simply direct hon. Members to the Committee reports and to our earlier debates in which they were spelt out in considerable detail.

I also oppose the motion insofar as it relates to the Tees and Hartlepool Port Authority Bill, of which i have some knowledge because I served on the Committee dealing with it, because that Bill has already had its chance. Unless I hear some special reason today as to why we should pass the revival motion—I prefer to call it a Lazarus motion, as it brings the Bill back from the dead to pass it on to the Lords—I do not see why we should do so. No Conservative Member has sought to argue the merits of the procedure in which we are engaged. It has been said that as it is only procedure we should let it slip through, out of courtesy to the House of Lords. However, we are here not for purposes of courtesy but for serious investigation of legislation.

The THPA Bill has had its chance. It was deposited in the House on 27 November last year and went to Committee on 15 May. There were seven Committee meetings up to 6 June and a disastrous decision was made in Committee, with the Chairman's casting vote, that Committee members would not visit Tees and Hartlepool to see what they were talking about and meet the community in the district. That procedural nonsense led to two Labour Committee members walking out and insisting that the visit should take place. They were not seeking to hold up the Committee's procedures, but were concerned that they should do their duty before making their final decision. It took seven weeks for that trip to be organised and the day after it took place the matter went back to Committee, on 25 July. If the decision taken in Committee had been to allow the visit to stand, it would have done so the week following 6 June, there would have been substantially more time in which to deal with the measure and pass it to the Lords, and we could have made progress by now.

The Bill's statute of limitations has run out and we should not seek to revive it. It has been said that the Bill has been superseded by a measure in the Queen's Speech, which I believe is one of the most important provisions. The Tees and Hartlepool Bill, and the trouble that it caused, might have been one of the factors which led the Government to decide to include the other measure in the Queen's Speech. Having been included in the Queen's Speech, that provision should have superseded the Bill.

We need to sort out trusts. There has been a statement in the House today, and we are establishing a new range of trusts related to the national health service. It was said that Hospitals would not opt out but that trusts would operate—but who can trust the trusts when they operate like those at Clyde and at Tees and Hartlepool have done and seek their own privatisation provisions in future. It seems that that pattern is likely to follow in the health service.

We should reject the measure above all because it is a Government Bill in all but name, behind which lie all sorts of Government involvement and manipulation. That has come from the Department of Transport, which encouraged the trust authorities of Clyde, and of Hartlepool and Tees to bring the measure forward. When the authorities failed to advance at sufficient speed, pressure was brought to ensure decisions which were carried on casting votes. The Government took over the measure when they realised that the other trust port provisions in this country would result in long-drawn-out processes. It is therefore most important that we should reject the motion.

9.47 pm
Mr. Thomas Graham (Renfrew, West and Inverclyde)

In speaking against the revival motion, I should say that not one Member of Parliament from the banks of the River Clyde supports the privatisation of the Clyde port authority or has spoken in favour of it. I am deeply disappointed that the Bill's sponsor is not here to listen to some of the arguments put to stop the Bill going to the Lords.

It is appalling that the work force in the Clyde port authority is not to have control of the livelihood of its members. That matter should have been included in the Bill. Only last week, some of my constituents asked me what would happen to the profit from the sale of land that they had thought, for years and years, belonged to the public—the people of Renfrew, Glasgow and Inverclyde. Land that has belonged to the people of our areas is disappearing. This Bill is another rip-off; it is a disastrous step, which will lead to the shabby treatment of the Clyde. It will lead to the same sort of disasters as have happened along the banks of the Thames in London. We do not want that in Scotland. The River Clyde could and should be one of the most beautiful rivers in the country.

This is not the way forward for the people of the River Clyde and of Scotland. Time is not on my side, so I cannot say all that I should have liked to say against the revival motion. We are doing a disservice to the members of the public who fought for years to make the Clyde renowned. We have seen the demise of shipbuilding there, but I hope that the river can be cleared up and put to better use. Whether we like it or not, the Clyde port authority is one of the major landowners on the Clyde and the greedy vultures are ready to descend, eager to take its huge assets into private hands. I hope that the Minister has listened to those points.

9.50 pm
Mr. Brian Wilson (Cunninghame, North)

The outstanding feature of the debate has been the fact that we have not heard a solitary speech by a Conservative Member in support of any of these measures having fresh life breathed into them. We heard briefly from the Minister, although not as briefly as he had intended, but apart from that there has been nothing but the silence of the grave. Tory Members know that they can sit back and the work will be done for them by other forces.

Throughout most of the debate none of the sponsors of these Bills has been present, although two of them now are. It is particularly fascinating to wonder who the sponsor of the Clyde Port Authority Bill will be. In its first existence, its sponsor was the hon. Member for Eastwood (Mr. Stewart), who has been exalted to great heights recently. Such is his commitment to the future of the Clyde port, such is his genuine interest in the matter—he has been trying to put the Bill through the House for a year—such is his enthusiasm for the benefits to come to the industry of Scotland, for which he now has ministerial responsibility, and such is his sincerity that I understand that throughout these proceedings he has been in the Strangers Dining Room.

That shows what a con the Bills are. Little private vested interests controlled by people with an eye on the main chance nobble a Member and say, "Look pal, you put the Bill through for us, and once the arrangements have been made, who knows what will come out the other end?" The hon. Member for Eastwood has found his advancement in another form, so we wonder who will take the Bill forward. Will it be the hon. and learned Member for Perth and Kinross (Sir N. Fairbairn), or will it perhaps be the hon. Member for Tayside, North (Mr. Walker)? After that we begin to run out of Scottish Tory Members—the right hon. Member for Kincardine and Deeside (Mr. Buchanan-Smith) is a decent cove who would have nothing to do with the business. Who else is there? That is probably the greatest decision that the Clyde port authority has had to take for some time: to whom to pass the baton to take the Bill through the House?

We have heard much about the port authorities on many nights similar to this, and fortunately, due to the efforts of Opposition Members, the private Bills have not yet gone through. We assure Conservative Members that we shall continue to mount as much opposition as possible.

I happen to know a wee bit about the Shard Bridge Bill. Many hon. Members may wonder what the Shard Bridge Bill is and may reasonably wonder what I know about it. I know about it because I was appointed to the Committee on Unopposed Bills. I understand that people are paid large amounts to present Bills and to turn up and confront the members of such Committees. Like the three wise monkeys, the members of the Committee are supposed to nod the Bills through. We nodded through some fairly major Bills and then the Shard Bridge Bill came up. I asked what it was all about and I also asked what Shard was all about. I found that the Shard bridge is a toll bridge in the north-west of England. I also found that the purpose of the Bill was to increase the share capital of the Shard Bridge Company, which is doubtless owned by the great and good of Shard and the surrounding precincts.

Mr. Richard Holt (Langbaurgh)

rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.

Question put, That the Question be now put:-

The House divided: Ayes 113, Noes 43.

Division No. 18] [9.55 pm
Aitken, Jonathan Kennedy, Charles
Alexander, Richard Kilfedder, James
Amos, Alan Kirkhope, Timothy
Arbuthnot, James Knapman, Roger
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Knight, Greg (Derby North)
Arnold, Sir Thomas Knowles, Michael
Ashby, David Lawrence, Ivan
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N) Lee, John (Pendle)
Batiste, Spencer Lester, Jim (Broxtowe)
Beaumont-Dark, Anthony Lightbown, David
Beggs, Roy Lloyd, Sir Ian (Havant)
Beith, A. J. McLoughlin, Patrick
Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke) Major, Rt Hon John
Benyon, W. Marland, Paul
Boscawen, Hon Robert Maude, Hon Francis
Boswell, Tim Miller, Sir Hal
Bottomley, Peter Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)
Bowis, John Molyneaux, Rt Hon James
Bright, Graham Monro, Sir Hector
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter Morrison, Sir Charles
Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's) Moss, Malcolm
Bruce, Ian (Dorset South) Neubert, Michael
Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon Alick Nicholls, Patrick
Burt, Alistair Nicholson, David (Taunton)
Butcher, John Paice, James
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE) Patnick, Irvine
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Porter, David (Waveney)
Carrington, Matthew Riddick, Graham
Cash, William Ryder, Richard
Chapman, Sydney Sackville, Hon Tom
Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S) Shaw, David (Dover)
Colvin, Michael Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')
Coombs, Simon (Swindon) Sims, Roger
Cope, Rt Hon John Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g) Squire, Robin
Davis, David (Boothferry) Stern, Michael
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James Stevens, Lewis
Fallon, Michael Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)
Field, Barry (Isle of Wight) Summerson, Hugo
Fookes, Dame Janet Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Forsyth, Michael (Stirling) Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Forsythe, Clifford (Antrim S) Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman
Forth, Eric Thorne, Neil
Fox, Sir Marcus Trippier, David
Franks, Cecil Trotter, Neville
Freeman, Roger Twinn, Dr Ian
Gale, Roger Walker, Bill (T'side North)
Gill, Christopher Waller, Gary
Goodlad, Alastair Warren, Kenneth
Greenway, John (Ryedale) Watts, John
Hague, William Wheeler, Sir John
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton) Widdecombe, Ann
Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr') Wood, Timothy
Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn) Younger, Rt Hon George
Hicks, Robert (Cornwall SE)
Holt, Richard Tellers for the Ayes:
Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W) Mr. Peter Thurnham and Mr. Tony Durant.
Irvine, Michael
Janman, Tim
Adams, Mrs. Katherine Cryer, Bob
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Dalyell, Tam
Bennett, A. F. (D'nt'n & R'dish) Dixon, Don
Buckley, George J. Dunnachie, Jimmy
Callaghan, Jim Eastham, Ken
Campbell-Savours, D. N. Flynn, Paul
Canavan, Dennis Foster, Derek
Clark, Dr David (S Shields) Godman, Dr Norman A.
Clelland, David Graham, Thomas
Clwyd, Mrs Ann Haynes, Frank
Cousins, Jim Henderson, Doug
Hood, Jimmy Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Hughes, John (Coventry NE) Vaz, Keith
Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside) Walley, Joan
Jones, Ieuan (Ynys Môn) Welsh, Michael (Doncaster N)
Leadbitter, Ted Wilson, Brian
Lewis, Terry Wise, Mrs Audrey
McKay, Allen (Barnsley West) Worthington, Tony
McMaster, Gordon Wray, Jimmy
Mahon, Mrs Alice
Nellist, Dave Tellers for the Noes:
Pike, Peter L. Mr. Stuart Bell and Mr. Harry Barnes.
Skinner, Dennis
Smith, J. P. (Vale of Glam)

Question accordingly agreed to.

Question put accordingly:—

The House divided: Ayes 107, Noes 44.

Division No. 19] [10.08 pm
Alexander, Richard Irvine, Michael
Amess, David Janman, Tim
Amos, Alan Kilfedder, James
Arbuthnot, James Kirkhope, Timothy
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Knapman, Roger
Arnold, Sir Thomas Knight, Greg (Derby North)
Ashby, David Knowles, Michael
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N) Lawrence, Ivan
Batiste, Spencer Lee, John (Pendle)
Beaumont-Dark, Anthony Lester, Jim (Broxtowe)
Beggs, Roy Lightbown, David
Beith, A. J. McLoughlin, Patrick
Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke) Major, Rt Hon John
Bevan, David Gilroy Maude, Hon Francis
Boscawen, Hon Robert Miller, Sir Hal
Boswell, Tim Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)
Bottomley, Peter Molyneaux, Rt Hon James
Bowis, John Monro, Sir Hector
Bright, Graham Morrison, Sir Charles
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter Moss, Malcolm
Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's) Nicholson, David (Taunton)
Bruce, Ian (Dorset South) Paice, James
Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon Alick Patnick, Irvine
Burt, Alistair Porter, David (Waveney)
Butcher, John Riddick, Graham
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE) Ryder, Richard
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Sackville, Hon Tom
Carrington, Matthew Shaw, David (Dover)
Cash, William Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')
Chapman, Sydney Sims, Roger
Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S) Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Coombs, Simon (Swindon) Soames, Hon Nicholas
Cope, Rt Hon John Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g) Stern, Michael
Davis, David (Boothferry) Stevens, Lewis
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)
Durant, Tony Summerson, Hugo
Fallon, Michael Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Favell, Tony Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Field, Barry (Isle of Wight) Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman
Fookes, Dame Janet Thorne, Neil
Forsyth, Michael (Stirling) Trotter, Neville
Forsythe, Clifford (Antrim S) Twinn, Dr Ian
Forth, Eric Walker, Bill (T'side North)
Fox, Sir Marcus Waller, Gary
Franks, Cecil Warren, Kenneth
Freeman, Roger Watts, John
Fry, Peter Wheeler, Sir John
Gale, Roger Widdecombe, Ann
Goodlad, Alastair Wood, Timothy
Greenway, John (Ryedale) Younger, Rt Hon George
Hague, William
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton) Tellers for the Ayes:
Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn) Mr. Peter Thurnham and Mr. Christopher Gill.
Holt, Richard
Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W)
Adams, Mrs. Katherine Bell, Stuart
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Bennett, A. F. (D'nt'n & R'dish)
Buckley, George J. Leadbitter, Ted
Callaghan, Jim Loyden, Eddie
Campbell-Savours, D. N. McFall, John
Canavan, Dennis McKay, Allen (Barnsley West)
Clark, Dr David (S Shields) McMaster, Gordon
Clelland, David Mahon, Mrs Alice
Clwyd, Mrs Ann Maxton, John
Cousins, Jim Nellist, Dave
Cryer, Bob Pike, Peter L.
Dalyell, Tarn Skinner, Dennis
Dixon, Don Smith, J. P. (Vale of Glam)
Dunnachie, Jimmy Vaz, Keith
Eastham, Ken Walley, Joan
Flynn, Paul Wareing, Robert N.
Foster, Derek Welsh, Michael (Doncaster N)
Godman, Dr Norman A. Wilson, Brian
Graham, Thomas Wise, Mrs Audrey
Haynes, Frank Wray, Jimmy
Henderson, Doug
Hughes, John (Coventry NE) Tellers for the Noes:
Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside) Mr. Harry Barnes and Mr. Terry Lewis.
Jones, Ieuan (Ynys Môn)

Question accordingly agreed to.

Ordered, That so much of the Lords Message [12 November] as relates to the Clyde Port Authority Bill, the London Underground (Victoria) Bill, the Tees and Hartlepool Port Authority Bill and the Shard Bridge Bill be now considered.

The House accordingly proceeded to consider so much of the said Message.

Ordered, That the promoters of the Bills may, notwithstanding anything in the Standing Orders or practice of this House, proceed with the Bills, in the present Session; and the Petitions for the Bills shall be deemed to have been deposited and all Standing Orders applicable thereto shall be deemed to have been complied with; That the Bills shall be presented to the House not later than the seventh day after this day; That there shall be deposited with each Bill a declaration signed by the Agents for the Bill, stating that the Bill is the same, in every respect, as the Bill at the last stage of its proceedings in this House in the last Session; That each Bill shall be laid upon the Table of the House by one of the Clerks in the Private Bill Office on the next meeting of the House after the day on which the Bill has been presented and, when so laid, shall be read the first, second and third time and shall be recorded in the Journal of this House as having been so read; That no further Fees shall be charged in respect of any proceedings on the Bill in respect of which Fees have already been incurred during the last Session.—[The Chairman of Ways and Means.]

Message to the Lords to acquaint them therewith.