HC Deb 05 March 1990 vol 168 cc640-82

Order for Second Reading read.

7 pm

Mr. David Gilroy Bevan (Birmingham, Yardley)

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

I am aware that there have been objections to the private Bill procedure. The word "Parliament" derives from the French "parler"—to talk. Supporters of the Bill do not object to the Bill being debated, but moving its Second Reading is the only way it can be heard. We must therefore follow that procedure. The House may consider a better procedure in the future, and that might commend itself, but at present this is the only procedure available.

One or two hon. Members wish to oppose the Bill, and one of the happy outcomes of this debate is that they will be able to do so. I hope that they will bear in mind—I shall refer to this in detail later—the referendum carried out by the promoters, showing a majority in favour of the Bill among those who will be affected by it. Some 62 per cent. of those polled were in favour, 15 per cent. opposed it and 22 per cent. were uncertain.

The Bill follows a long tradition that was initiated by Bills in the 18th century to construct canals and by Bills in the last century to construct railways. The same routine was used when the Birmingham-London railway was constructed in 1832. The canal that runs through my constituency was subject to the same procedure.

Transportation patterns have changed enormously in the past few decades. When I served on the transport committee in Birmingham, it was said that the black country was no more than a bicycle ride away from a chap's place of work or home. That was the limit of his transport horizons. I remember being told by the then general manager that there was no connection between the black country and Birmingham, and that no one wished to travel on such a route. How different transport has become. We now have lines between Wolverhampton, the black country and Birmingham which were established by the passing of the first Act to build a line connecting Wolverhampton to Birmingham.

All the surrounding areas have changed. The reference in "Jerusalem" to the dark satanic mills of industry no longer applies. They are now much more pleasant to work in and more pleasant environmentally. The back-to-back houses of the early industrial revolution have changed and are now pleasant villas in which to live. Their occupants want an alternative transport system. We have seen green changes, environmental facelifting and cosmetic work throughout the area. One of the advantages of the Bill is that, wherever the line runs, it will continue that trail of environmentally acceptable measures.

Birmingham and many black country towns used to have tramways. There was a horse trough in the centre of Moseley, from which horses would drink before pulling trams on the last part of their journey up St. Mary's hill. Trams were abolished in the 1950s and in my office I have a picture of the last tram.

I believe that the Midland metro will provide a better form of transport than the trams. I travelled down Bristol road to school on a tram. It was a safe method of transport, and the only method that did not provide one with an excuse for being late. The trams were open-ended, and many a friendly cap used to exit from either end of them.

Constraints on transport in urban areas have led to demands for an alternative form of transport. In previous decades, attempts were made to legislate against the car. They have not been successful, and car usage has increased enormously. It was my lot as second chairman of the West Midlands passenger transport authority to draw up the west midlands transport plan and to include a paragraph that we should bring back an electric light railway to supplement existing transport systems. We had introduced the cross-city railway line in Tyseley, and the 80 marshalling places for it, on a shoestring of about £8 million, compared with the £300 million that Newcastle was lucky to obtain for its heavy rail system. We did not begrudge Newcastle that excellent system, which we inspected many times, but we had to manage on a shoestring, and in only the past few weeks has the Secretary of State for Transport given permission for the electrification of that cross-city line, which we hope will be completed within two years. That is bad enough. The lead-in time was long, and we hope that the Bill will give us a chance to make up some of the lost time and lost line.

Transport debates have always dealt with the differences between highways and railways, but there has been no need for that. Under the integrated transport system initiated following the Midland Metro Act 1989, buses and cars were provided with free car parks, enabling their passengers to use the trains. Usage on one line increased by 1,500 per cent.

Mr. Jeff Rooker (Birmingham, Perry Barr)

Does the hon. Gentleman accept that probably the only justification for ever providing free car parking is as part of an integrated transport system? Does he agree that free parking provided by employers and others should be a taxable perk to encourage people to use transit systems?

Mr. Bevan

I note that point. I would not like to comment on tax-free perks, but I agree with the hon. Gentleman about the necessity for free parking. I have always resisted any attempt to levy a charge in the midlands.

Five new stations have been built in Birmingham this century. Many more have been refurbished; dozens of free car parks have been provided; and the lines have been upgraded to take heavy rolling stock. Much more must be done. The Bill authorises the construction of the second and third stages of the network. Its capital costs will be substantial—about £224 million for the Birmingham-Solihull route and £139 million for the black country route. I hope that the stock will be similar to that operating in Grenoble, which is the watershed in terms of light railways. The system is ecologically elegant, being whisper-quiet and attractive. I hope that it will be made in Britain, perhaps even in Birmingham.

Progress on a previous Bill stopped because the proposal would have destroyed far too much property and interfered with the rights of citizens and was for the wrong place at the wrong time. The task was again taken up by the West Midlands passenger transport executive, now called Centro. It has aimed to introduce a rapid rail system in the best possible way, wherever possible using disused railway lines or using designated or on-street tramways. Although there have been a few objections, the project has cross-party support on all seven metropolitan district councils—Birmingham city council and the metropolitan borough councils of Coventry, Dudley, Sandwell, Solihull, Walsall and Wolverhampton.

The west midlands metro system will play an important part in reversing the declining use of public transport. It will make a major contribution in regenerating derelict or economically depressed areas and will bring major benefits in improving the environment. The system is a constant factor of success elsewhere, being well-used and patronised throughout the world. On my visits as a member of the Select Committee on Transport, I have been impressed by rapid rail transit systems in the United States, Canada and throughout Europe, where towns vie with one another to introduce their own metropolitan transit system. I am determined that our area will not be behind. In making this move, we will initiate one of the most modern systems in the world.

Extensive consultation has been carried out. The Bill's sponsors respectfully ask that the House give the Bill a Second Reading. The procedure that we are following differs slightly from the normal procedure for a public Bill. Granting a Second Reading will merely allow the Bill to proceed to Committee where it will be fully examined.

The Bill's aims are to relieve traffic congestion, bring about economic regeneration, ensure increased use of the public transport network and, attendant upon the work, bring about environmental improvements. The first stage provides for 20 km of line linking Birmingham Snow Hill, a station that has recently been rebuilt, to Wolverhampton, at a cost of £60 million. The Bill providing for that work received the Royal Assent in November 1989, without objection.

The light transit system provided for by this legislation will consist of a modern lightweight tram which has low floor boarding and runs on a standard gauge track. It will be fume-free, being powered by overhead electricity. It will be able to operate on either designated track or on shared road. It will be similar to the Grenoble design, of which I have full details, although I shall merely say that it will have a two-unit capacity providing room for 250 people, 75 seated and the rest standing.

The system's benefits are that it will relieve traffic congestion and increase mobility because of the low floor, it is safe, environmentally friendly, fume-free and reliable and it compares favourably with other modes of transport. For my money, it is the finest system that I have seen. It will provide direct access to towns and shopping centres. Its advantages over roads are that it is safer, has lower costs and has less environmental impact. Recent transport studies do not propose roads as a solution to transport needs in urban areas. The aim of the state-of-the-art systems is to get the right mix between roads and rail, including light railways and other forms of transport.

This system has much lower costs than heavy rail and has less environmental impact. It is more flexible, being capable of negotiating tighter bends and steeper gradients. It can share the roads with other traffic and it gives greater penetration into city areas. Compares with buses, it is more reliable, cleaner and fume-free, has greater capacity, is faster and more modern and has an upmarket image. Compared with the requirements of busways and bus priorities, it uses less space, is easier to control, can share road space and is cheaper to operate. Compared with trolley buses, it is faster and more efficient. Many other comparisons could be made.

The Bill provides for a transport route from Birmingham Five Ways, one of the five stations built this century. It will go underground through the city centre to the Birmingham Heartlands development area, a 2,000-acre redevelopment, to Bromford, Castle Bromwich, Chelmsley Wood, Arlington business park and the national exhibition centre, which is already a world beater, making Birmingham and the midlands one of the most important strategic areas in the world——

. Iain Mills (Meriden)

Hear, hear.

Mr. Bevan

The route runs through the constituency of my hon. Friend who has applauded its existence. I am sure that he will applaud the necessary transport survey. The route will take in Birmingham international railway station and Birmingham international airport. The length will be 26 km, and there will be 34 stops. Twenty-four vehicles will be required, the frequency will be every five minutes, and the cost will be £240 million.

Then the line will go underground—under the city centre. Underground stations will serve the new international convention centre, the town hall, New street and Corporation street. The line will surface at Aston university and the general hospital—if the hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker) and I, together with our colleagues, are able to have that preserved in the health plan. The underground section will cost £100 million.

From Wolverhampton, line 3 will go to Dudley town centre, via Wednesfield, Walsall, Darlaston and Wednesbury. It will cross line 1 at the Sandwell 2000 development. It will serve Tipton, too. Indeed, it will link all those towns in the black country whose citizens used to want to cover small distances. The length will be 26 km, there will be 32 stops and 11 vehicles, frequency will be every 10 minutes, and the cost will be £139 million.

Major feasibility studies were undertaken to choose the route. These were partly funded by the EEC. Suffice it to say that, in the end, the district councils selected the routes on the basis of minimum effect on residential property. In the case of line 1, no residential property whatsoever will be taken out. In the case of line 2, only some residential property in a redevelopment area will be affected.

Potential passenger use, cost, environmental effects and development proposals, as well as practicability of construction, were borne in mind. Each passenger stop will be 60 m long—sufficient to accommodate two units. Stops will be located about every 600 to 800 m, as in the case of bus stops. Kerb height will be twice the average, so that in most places the step will be precisely level. There will be a slightly inclined ramp to give pushchairs and wheelchairs access. Incidentally, a disabled passenger will be able to press a button on the tram, at the point of exit, to bring out a pneumatic step to bridge the two-inch gap between the vehicle and the kerb. Thus there will be completely safe and smooth exit for disabled people.

No decisions about stops have yet been made. Ultimately that will be a matter for the council, after consultation with local residents. Consultation has followed a very intense pattern. Since the launch in 1987, many videos have been shown and a dedicated exhibition bus has toured round. In 1989, 300 six-minute videos were sent to residents' associations, community groups and local political parties; 64,000 leaflets were distributed; 95 presentations were given to business groups, chambers of commerce, rotary clubs, breakfast clubs, local groups and CBI groups; 17 exhibitions were mounted at conferences and transport events; and the exhibition bus appeared on 72 days at 40 venues.

Regarding the Bill, 115,000 leaflets were distributed within 1 km of the line of route immediately after the local council announced the proposed route. Ten different leaflets were produced. PTE or Centro officers attended 40 consultation venues or meetings.

In the case of line 2, in Birmingham 14,000 leaflets were distributed within 1 km of the proposed route—4,000 covering the city centre section and 10,000 for the area outside the city centre to the Solihull boundary; 13 consultation venues were organised by Centro and council officers, and were attended by 1,400 members of the public; an exhibition lasting three and a half weeks was arranged at Bromford neighbourhood office; public meetings were organised and publicised by Centro and Birmingham city council, and 239 people attended; and there were 26 meetings with businesses and business groups.

In Solihull, 25,000 leaflets were distributed throughout northern Solihull; two further leaflets—4,500 copies of one, and 14,000 of the other—were distributed to advise people of further consultation venues.

Mr. Rooker

I have been waiting for the hon. Gentleman to come to the end of his list, and I think he has now done so.

Mr. Bevan

I have not come to the end of it.

Mr. Rooker

In that case, I shall put my question when he has finished.

Mr. Bevan

I come now to line 3. In Walsall, 36,000 leaflets—three versions covering sections of the route—were distributed to households within 1 km of the proposed route; and 11 consultation venues were organised and attended by Centro and council officers.

In Wolverhampton, 12,000 leaflets were distributed to households within 1 km of the proposed line of route; personal letters were sent to occupiers of 130 properties directly affected by the route; three consultation venues were organised, with Centro and council officers in attendance, and these were attended by 200 people; and an exhibition was held at New Cross hospital.

In Sandwell, 12,000 leaflets were distributed to households within 1 km of the proposed line of route; three consultation venues were organised and attended by Centro and council officers, and these attracted 400 people.

In Dudley, personal letters, with Sandwell leaflets, were sent to the occupiers of 32 homes along Birmingham New road; and 600 people visited the exhibition bus in Dudley market place.

Mr. Rooker

I am sorry for having interrupted the hon. Gentleman before he completed his list. That list of consultations in respect of the three routes is very impressive, although I have not taken it all in. In any case, my constituency is not affected. Despite this massive public relations operation, the real test is whether people were listened to. Can the hon. Gentleman tell us how many changes were made in the proposed route as a result of all these consultations?

Mr. Bevan

As the hon. Gentleman knows, it is necessary that the routes be promulgated along with the private Bill. Thus, by the time the Bill is published, the route is almost fixed. However, by that time all those who have a legitimate interest in the route, and who have expressed that interest, will have had their views taken into consideration. Of course, account will have been taken of locus standi. In a case like this, anyone voicing an objection must say who he is, what his interest is, and how he is affected. That cannot be altered. I understand that, in the case of the hon. Member for Birmingham, Hodge Hill (Mr. Davis), some changes were made in the original proposed route. It would appear that the requirements have changed from time to time. I think that certain minor modifications have been made.

Mr. Terry Davis (Birmingham, Hodge Hill)

I had no intention of intervening in the hon. Gentleman's speech, which I have been following with great interest, but I assure him that no changes were made as a result of the leaflets or of meetings in my constituency. If he thinks that some changes were made, perhaps he will tell the House what they were.

Mr. Bevan

I understood that there had been minor changes from the centre of the spine area originally proposed by the city council to the periphery—changes that the hon. Gentleman wanted. Certainly the route has now been arranged along the boundary of Collector road.

Mr. Davis

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Bevan

I shall give way once more, but then I must get on.

Mr. Davis

The hon. Gentleman is talking about my constituency. I have to tell him that he is confusing the Bromford estate with Chelmsley Wood. Collector road is in Chelmsley Wood, not in the Bromford estate, which is in my constituency. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman does not intend to mislead the House, but his description of the alleged changes is misleading.

Mr. Bevan

I shall listen with interest to the hon. Gentleman's speech and perhaps return to the matter.

Let us consider the concerns expressed at the many meetings and consultation sessions. One of them was noise. The vehicles are much quieter than the 1940s tram or even the Blackpool trams, and the higher frequency will mean that they will be less intrusive. The tracks will be embedded in rubber compound and ballasted when feasible, so there will be virtually no noise, and noise insulation grant will be payable under a scheme similar to that in operation for highways.

Safety has been concentrated upon, and the tram will be a much safer form of conveyance per passenger mile than the car. There will be far fewer accidents involving pedestrians. The vehicle runs on rails and so will be more controlled than a car or bus. The driver does not have to steer and has a high level of training, and the system has been approved by the railway inspectorate under the strictest criteria.

Concern was also expressed about property values and compensation. In 1989, Centro introduced a scheme to purchase properties directly affected by the proposals whose owners wished to sell. Moreover, evidence shows that property values increase faster when new public transport infrastructure is built. In Grenoble, only about 50 per cent. of the people had been in favour of the system before it was initiated, but after it had been running for about a year, no fewer than 93.7 per cent. expressed themselves completely in favour.

A factor that is important to all of us here is funding. We shall seek funding from the private sector—through operating rights, stop locations and development gain. We shall seek it from the EEC regional development fund, on the basis of job creation, economic regeneration and environmental gain. I understand that about 30 per cent. of the funding may be available from the EEC. We shall seek funding from the United Kingdom Government, on the grounds of non-user benefits such as the relief of traffic congestion, environmental improvements and a reduction in accidents, as well as by the appropriate section 56 applications.

What will the costs be? Line 1 will cost £60 million for 20 km. The lines covered by the Bill—lines 2 and 3—will cost £224 million for 26 km and £139 million for 26 km respectively, and the vehicles will cost £30 million.

How do those costs compare with road costs? The heartlands spine road, which my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Mr. King) and I seek to bring into existence and for which we, with some other hon. Members, have obtained approval, will cost £85 million and cover 4.1 km—a cost of £20.66 million per km—and its maximum passenger capacity will be 14,500. Line 3 of the metro will cost £139 million, or about twice as much as the heartlands spine road, but it will cover 26 km, which is more than six times the road's length. The cost per km will be £5.36 million—about a quarter of the cost of the road, and the passenger capacity will be about 30,000—twice the capacity of the spine road.

Support for the project has been pretty constant, and the groups that have given their support range from Aston Villa football club—despite yesterday's loss—and the Automobile Association, through a myriad of bodies to the Urban Wildlife Group and the west midlands branch of the CBI. There has been cross-party support from all the district councils and from most of the west midlands Members of Parliament—support which I hope will be reflected again this evening. As I explained earlier, there is widespread public support and even the groups that oppose the project because of the routes claim to support the concept and to want the metro to proceed.

What happened in Grenoble? Before the tram was built the people were 53 to 47 in favour of its going ahead. Two years after it had opened, they were 93 to 7 in favour.

This is a brilliant opportunity to take a gigantic transportation step forward to the benefit of citizens throughout the west midlands and of all the towns that are clamouring for the metro. We understand the necessity to debate and question, but we must not deny people their right to move freely on such a transport system. The Bill presents an opportunity which, if not grasped now, may be denied to us for ever. I am certain that there are no transportation luddites or even troglodytes among us, and I hope that all hon. Members will vote to give the Bill its Second Reading.

7.35 pm
Mr. Bruce George (Walsall, South)

I speak not as a troglodyte or as a luddite. Words of abuse may have been heaped upon me, but I have never been called either of those. Nor am I a Trappist.

One of the great problems that hon. Members face in dealing with constituency matters is how to make a judgment based on representations from individual constituents or groups of constituents, however legitimately expressed on the one hand, and representations from a wider group—which may or may not be formally made—on the other. One's judgment must be based partly on sectarian interests—I do not use the word "sectarian" in any way abusively—and partly on broader regional and national interests. Sometimes hon. Members may be cowed into silence—if not submission—on an issue that directly affects a group of their constituents, but we must try to take a broader approach.

Although a number of my constituents—not many—have expressed their opposition to the Bill, I am secure in the knowledge that the overwhelming majority of people are in favour of the metro being constructed through my constituency and adjacent constituencies. Without the slightest shadow of a doubt, the creation of the network will bring immense advantage to my constituents, to the town of Walsall, to the black country and to the region. As Members of Parliament, we have an obligation to represent not just specific interests but wider town and regional interests.

In my view, there is an overwhelming case for the House to endorse the Bill and to hope that it will wend its way through Committee and through a consultation process that will be a continuation of the consultations to date. I hope that eventually—not before time, as this saga has been unfolding since the early 1980s—in the mid to late 1990s, we shall see the network in operation. We must work towards that end and recognise what has already been achieved.

As far as I am aware, the authorities were not legally obliged to begin the consultation process until the Bill had completed its passage through Parliament. What was done in my area, and, I presume, in others, was therefore discretionary. The hon. Member for Birmingham, Yardley (Mr. Bevan) narrated a long tale of consultation, which I could replicate with the greatest of ease. A large number of meetings and metro surgeries were held; a hot line was established; letters were written; tens of thousands of leaflets were issued, including to all those living within a kilometre of the proposed route.

Walsall council cannot be criticised for failing to consult. Nor can the council or the passenger transport authority be accused of not acting on a number of suggestions. A year ago, residents in Victoria road, Darlaston, heard that the line was to go past their houses. They told me that that proposal was illogical. I was told that the line would go down the road and that there would be enormous traffic problems because the road was too narrow. They said that, just 20 yd from the proposed line, there was an old railway cutting, and asked whether it would make more sense to put the line in the old cutting. However, the problem was that the council had spent money making that cutting into a linear pathway and it was not initially enthusiastic about ripping up something which was environmentally advantageous that it had constructed. When the case was put to Walsall council and the PTA, reason prevailed and the route was changed. It is obvious that, where a rational case could be presented, the authority has been prepared to reconsider and has changed the route.

I understand that there had been a change of route in Solihull. Perhaps there will be other changes later.

However, we face problems with such proposals. People legitimately say that they do not want the proposed line to pass their houses because it might be noisy or because fishermen carrying their lines might snag them on the overhead wires. Similarly, they argue that children might be run down or that the line would have an adverse effect on house prices. Many arguments can be made with fervour and legitimacy, and perhaps some are valid.

It is quite natural that people are reluctant to have any development near their homes. At what point do legitimate criticisms and proposed alterations to a route that might be to the public advantage turn into opposition regardless of the proposal? I have heard it argued that the metro should not be located near houses, that it should be located on some derelict land a quarter of a mile or half a mile away. That argument seems to defeat the object of the metro, which is to put a network close to where people live so that they can get on and off the line and go wherever they want within the network. If the network is located away from houses, people will not use it.

Although I have some objectors to the proposal in one part of my constituency, the majority of the objectors in Walsall are within the constituency of my hon. Friend the member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick). I am satisfied that the objections have been heard and a rational decision has been taken. Clearly some people will be most unhappy, but they were consulted and the local authority pursued the consultation and administrative process incumbent upon it so efficiently that, when the ombudsman, at the request of constituents, complained to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration of maladministration and lack of consultation by Walsall council—I shall not bore the House by listing the complaints—the local ombudsman concluded: I am satisfied that the Council considered objections to the proposed route but concluded that on balance the original route was the best option. This is a judgment within the council's discretion. The council was exonerated of maladministration and it has nothing to feel guilty about.

I was struck by the discretionary nature of the consultation. Councillor Dick Worrall in my constituency has been tireless in consulting people who have objections. He produced a leaflet informing objectors how to petition Parliament. In some ways, it is rather bizarre to offer weapons to one's opponents. However, such was the great desire of Councillor Worrall, who is a member of the passenger transport executive, to make the opportunities for protesting well known, that the information was made available in leaflets that were distributed widely. To those who sometimes argue that the consultative process was a farce and that no genuine attempt was made to listen to the objections, I respond with some authority from experience of my area, and dismiss those criticisms.

I am sure that many hon. Members want to speak tonight, and some of them will give good reasons why the metro routes should not be laid down. However, hon. Members from the west midlands must be aware that our transport network is in deep crisis. That is obvious simply from looking at our streets and roads.

I want to be not politically partisan but descriptively correct and to argue that our highways are clogged and the situation is unlikely to improve. In fact, if car ownership increases at projected levels, in a decade or so our highways will be impassable.

I congratulate the West Midlands passenger transport executive on its imagination with this proposal. It has not pioneered such an idea, and the concept is not unique in the United Kingdom or elsewhere. However, the executive has faced the difficulties. It has devised routes and gone to an enormous amount of trouble in hiring consultants and holding meetings. The process is now moving towards a critical stage.

It is obvious to everyone why the network is necessary. It is required urgently because it will assist those who are not mobile to become mobile. I have seen statistics which show that the majority of the metro's critics in some areas are car owners. While it is important to encourage car owners to get on the new trams, some people would argue that it is more important to bring mobility to those who do not have it now.

There are also arguments in favour of the metro in terms of environmental improvements and savings in fuel. It is argued that it will bring together towns in the west midlands and the black country that are now not closely linked, especially east to west. Most importantly, the metro will help to regenerate our region.

The proposal will be costly, and we hope that money will come from central Government, local government, the European Community and private sources. The proposal is not the easy option. However, I urge hon. Members who are present in the Chamber now and others who have not yet heard the arguments to support the Bill today.

The proposal is necessary. We must bear in mind the objectors and, even if we are victorious tonight, we must be magnanimous in victory and recognise that we must as far as possible meet legitimate objections. However, those objections must not be elevated to such a level that the public interest will be damaged by routes being vetoed. We must listen to objectors, take account of what is said, and determine whether it is possible to re-route or to compensate adequately. Everything must be done to maximise support. Perhaps, in five or six years, some parts of the region will have a rapid transit system of which we can be proud, and we shall look back to this Second Reading debate and say that we supported it.

7.49 pm
The Minister for Public Transport (Mr. Michael Portillo)

It may be for the convenience of the House if I indicate the Government's attitude. I am aware that my speech may sound rather dispassionate compared with the two heartfelt speeches that hon. Members have already heard. I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Yardley (Mr. Bevan) for the comprehensive way in which he moved the Second Reading.

This is one of several private Bills—I need hardly tell the House that—providing for new light railways or rapid transit systems in and around our major cities. Light rail has many potential advantages—for example, where vehicles run on their own tracks, they can move more people more quickly than buses can. They can also run on-street and negotiate steeper gradients and tighter bends than conventional railways.

The Government welcome the efforts that transport planners are making to assess what light rail has to offer. Naturally, it cannot be the ideal solution in all cases, but it can bring considerable benefits, as it has done in the case of docklands light railway. Only a few months ago, we were delighted to give the go-ahead to the Manchester MetroLink light rail project, and we have also provided some funding for the development of the south Yorkshire project planned for Sheffield.

Parliament has already negotiated for line 1 of the proposed midland metro network. I understand that the West Midlands passenger transport executive, now known as Centro, intends to apply for grant towards the cost of providing that line. When it does so, we shall look at the case on its merits and in the light of resources available. I cannot forecast the outcome of that tonight, not least because we do not yet have the submission.

Now Centro is seeking powers for two more lines towards an extensive light rail network. It hopes to reduce existing and future traffic congestion and foster the expansion of employment and development opportunities. I understand that, in doing so, it intends to take full advantage of the skills that the private sector has to offer in designing, building and operating the system. I welcome that.

In principle, the Bill is acceptable to the Government, but we have raised with the promoters a number of technical and drafting points that I hope will be resolved satisfactorily. The works proposed in the Bill also affect a listed building in the area. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment is concerned about paragraph 7 of schedule 1 to the Bill, which disapplies the special controls that normally apply to listed buildings. That issue has been raised with the promoter, and he wishes to reserve his position for the time being.

There are 35 petitions against the Bill, and, if they are pursued, there will be the opportunity to present objections to the Select Committee. The Committee will be in a very much better position than we are tonight to examine in detail the issues involved, and it will have the added advantage of hearing expert evidence.

Mr. Rooker

It is a bit unfair to ask the Minister this question, but he is the only Minister present. Will every hon. Member from the west midlands be excluded, or will hon. Members through whose constituencies the lines will go be on the Committee? Frankly, that is what is wrong with private legislation. Hon. Members from the west midlands have experience of the area and could contribute to the Select Committee's proceedings. Membership of that Committee is important for a proper discussion of the Bill. How will exclusion be drawn? Will it be based on the whole of the west midlands region or county, or will it be based on Members through whose constituencies the lines will go?

Mr. Portillo

I was not overly flattered when the hon. Gentleman said that I was the only Minister around and suggested that I would do for the purpose. He does not want a Minister to answer his question. It is not within the gift of Ministers to determine which hon. Members will serve on Select Committees. I imagine that it must be for some Committee of the House, but it certainly is not for me. I cannot predict how a Committee might interpret its role. I understand the hon. Gentleman's point, and it is clearly on the record for the relevant authorities to consider.

I hope that the House will give the Bill a Second Reading to allow it to proceed in the usual way to Committee for detailed consideration.

7.54 pm
Mr. Peter Snape (West Bromwich, East)

Like the Minister, my brief is to express a few words of welcome for the Bill. It is the Labour party's policy to support such developments. However, I am bound to say that the Government's attitude to some parts of the country has been somewhat worrying. The Minister mentioned the docklands light railway and Manchester. Although Opposition Members are pleased with the success of those developments, we are aware that, in the case of the docklands light railway, the Government are anxious to commit some public funds—as with the extension of the Jubilee line—to prove that their private enterprise flagship can stay afloat, albeit by pumping some additional public funds into the hull.

The Government have announced their approval of a private-public sector partnership in Manchester. Given the Minister's detailed scrutiny of such matters, it will not have escaped his attention that the lines proposed for conversion into a metro system in Manchester are existing heavy railway lines that have been used to such an extent that both lines were electrified by the London Midland and Scottish railway about 50 or 60 years ago.

Opposition Members note that, in giving the go-ahead and steering Manchester towards the conversion of those existing heavy railway lines, the Government are aware that there will be many passengers to move along that corridor. I make no complaint about that. However, if I were a season ticket holder at Altrincham or Bury, to name but two, I doubt whether I would be looking forward with any great relish to the replacement of my fast, frequent and comfortable electric service by a metro system which, in the rush hour at least, is likely to be far more crowded than the existing conventional trains that it replaces.

The Minister looks somewhat doubtful. He must not think that we are gullible enough to believe that public money is necessarily steered towards such projects because of the amount of public good that such money will provide. That is not the Government's way. They will guarantee the success of the Manchester metro and its private sector involvement in exactly the same way as they guaranteed the success of the docklands light railway—that is, by cramming as many passengers as possible into vehicles that are likely to give a less comfortable journey.

If any declaration of interest is necessary, I have a mild interest to declare. Although the Minister was careful not to commit any Government money in this case, the proposed railway line runs through my constituency. Indeed, it joins Wolverhampton with Birmingham, via West Bromwich—a fact that will no doubt please my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-East (Mr. Turner). We would have been grateful if, together with the Minister's good wishes, we had the promise of funds. Of course we do not have the advantage of converting a conventional railway, although the line will run along the track bed of the former Great Western railway main line and will connect with a reopened stretch of that line, if Centro's plans for conventional rail go ahead as we hope.

There is some opposition to the Bill. Like other west midlands Members, I have received representations from those who oppose the Bill. I apologise for missing part of the speech of the hon. Member for Birmingham, Yardley (Mr. Bevan). It was not sour grapes because he made such a fool of himself on television in the west midlands a few weeks ago; it was because I had been ensconced on this Bench since 3.30 pm.

For once, we agree on the project. The Labour party supports the Bill. Representations have been made to all hon. Members by those whom my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, South (Mr. George) said were primarily car owners. I do not know whether they are primarily car owners, but I am convinced of the relevance of some of their objections. However, to deny objectors the right to put a case before a Committee of the House is scarcely good public relations.

I am aware of the recommendations of the Select Committee, behind which Centro seeks to shield itself from criticism. It has nothing to fear from criticism. and I wish that it had not taken the action that it took.

My second criticism of the way in which the matter has been handled is that Centro occasionally appeared to be more interested in paying money to public relations firms than in speaking directly to Opposition and Conservative Members who have not only a direct interest in the future of the metro system but knowledge of parliamentary procedures which we would gladly pass on without demanding the enormous fees which no doubt were paid to public relations firms.

I object to receiving letters from a public relations firm asking me to meet members of my own political party who serve on local authorities in the west midlands. I do riot see either the point or the relevance of such letters. On numerous occasions I have sought to impress that fact on those who are responsible for paying the bills to such companies, apparently without success.

Mr. Rooker

It is worse than my hon. Friend says. During one part of the public relations exercise on the Bill, on behalf of the public relations firms, I received from its employee, a Member of Parliament representing a Surrey constituency, an invitation to talk to my passenger transport authority. When people send me letters to try to get my ear in that way, I tear them up. When residents write to me, I do what other hon. Members do and go to see them. I went to see people in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Hodge Hill (Mr. Davis) in Bromford. When a company tries to reach me via another Member of Parliament from a constituency deep in the Surrey woodlands, it seems that someone is not earning his salary.

Mr. Snape

Regrettably, what we are complaining about is that someone is earning his salary, albeit at the expense of those whom we represent. Letters from the source that my hon. Friend referred to are an extremely clumsy way, to say the least, of going about the matter.

I make no complaint about the chairman and founder of the public relations company being a prominent member of the Conservative party, but when such an organisation sends me letters, it does not endear the cause to me. I see no reason for Centro to handle the matter in that way.

I have no doubt that, should they catch your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, some of my hon. Friends will state the objections to the Bill of people in the area. Any hon. Member has every right to raise objections on behalf of those whom he represents. In this case, the objectors are misguided in the long term. As the hon. Member for Yardley said, if the projections are right, traffic congestion in and around the west midlands conurbation by the end of the decade is likely to mean that none of us will travel anywhere by motor car. By objecting to and perhaps delaying, if not preventing, the line, objectors might prevent themselves from moving around the conurbation and prevent other people from doing so in years to come.

I have some sympathy with those who feel that there is something to fear from noise and so on, but, having seen metro schemes in operation in other parts of the world, I believe that their fears are misplaced. I repeat that they should have been allowed at least to put those fears to the appropriate Committee of the House without being challenged.

With those twin caveats in mind—the clumsy and unnecessary opposition of petitioners and the even more clumsy and less necessary use of a fairly hostile public relations organisation—I repeat that the official Opposition support schemes such as this, and I shall vote for it tonight.

8.6 pm

Mr. Iain Mills (Meridan)

It is always difficult to make change in complex societies. One wants to make change for the better. There is no doubt in my mind that the midland metro is a change for the better in the west midlands. I hope that both Conservative and Opposition Members will remember that I represent a constituency that lies between Birmingham and Coventry. We have seen change for the better in the shape of the national exhibition centre, Birmingham international station, Birmingham international airport, Birmingham business park and many other developments. That has created a huge complex of industrial activity, which I strongly welcome and which the vast majority of my constituency have come to welcome. It is part of the most important regeneration of our area.

Centro—formerly the pasenger transport executive—has come along with what seems to be a good proposal. The principle is good. The majority of my constituents believe that the principle of better communications between Birmingham and the NEC, servicing on the way the constituencies of Opposition Members and mine, is good. The line will have a major effect on my constituency. Therefore, it would be wrong not to raise some of the objections that have been made to me by my constituents.

I am not one of the luddites or troglodytes of which my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Yardley (Mr. Bevan) spoke so eloquently. But it seems to me that the authorities involved have been either naive or bound by the chains of bureaucracy in their approach. The consultation was brief and was carried out badly in the initial stages. However, I pay tribute to some of the officials of Centro, who did their best, when I drew their attention to some of the problems, to meet my constituents.

In the initial stages, I was overwhelmed with people who came to my advice bureau. On one occasion, 200 people turned up out of the blue at my advice bureau in Castle Bromwich. They had not received their leaflets, because the leaflets had been dumped by the young children who were supposed to have delivered them. Perhaps that is one of the difficulties of public communications. I began by saying that we are in a complex society. It is terribly important to involve people whose lives will be affected by changes, especially as we are a democracy.

In the early stages of processing what is now the Bill, but was then a proposal, many people felt—and they still feel—totally disadvantaged by the fact that they had not been adequately consulted, although their lives were being affected. It is they who may not be able to park their motor cars and who will have to have a terrible tram—although, of course, it might be a light, super-quiet and benign vehicle—running near them. The whole process of consultation in the early stages was a disaster. I can say that because all the people concerned came to see me. I have with me just part of my key bundle on this. There is more, but I could not carry it all over here, even with the Minister's chauffeur-driven car and the 12 red boxes. Very many people have been to see me and have written to me about this.

The consultation was inadequate in the early stages of the proposals, but I am now concerned that it is complicated by a serious denial of democracy, which will make me oppose the Bill unless I receive a serious reassurance from the promoters. The serious denial of democracy is that the residents' groups, which number five and of which three are in my constituency, and the 35 petitioners who wish to petition against the Bill in the Opposed Private Bill Committee, are being denied that oppor-tunity by Centro, which has challenged their objections.

I understand that the objections have been challenged on two grounds. The first is that locus standi cannot be granted unless the line of deviation affects a particular property. Does that mean that, if the wing of an aeroplane comes within 2 in of a person's hedge, that person cannot be given the right to put his or her case to the four hon. Members who serve on that Committee? Although I understand the technicality, I find it bewildering that my three groups may not be able to make their petition. I understand that other hon. Members have heard from other groups.

I quote from Centro's response: our action in challenging the locus standi of your group is in accord with the recommendation of the Joint Select Committee of Members of Parliament on private Bill procedure which said that 'promoters should be encouraged to police the rules of locus standi'". That may well be correct in technical terms, but how can my constituents make their views known if I do not speak tonight and if they cannot petition the Court of Referees, which I understand meets on Thursday of this week, and which is chaired by the Chairman of Ways and Means, who is to consider the objections? I have written to the chief executive of Centro, asking him to consider withdrawing the technicalities so that the process of democracy can work.

There is some passion in my voice tonight because, whatever the rights and wrongs of the metro, the mere fact that the line of deviation is 12 in or even 12 ft from the homes of those affected should not deny them the right of making their representations.

Having served on a Committee considering a similar Bill relating, strangely enough, to Liverpool and Merseyside, I understand how the procedures work. My good people have briefed counsel, taken a great deal of trouble and done a lot of work to prepare their petitions, which I have with me. If those petitions are not heard by the hon. Members who will make the judgment, that is a gross denial of democratic procedures.

Whatever the rights and wrongs of the midland metro, we should be making a grave mistake if we allowed that to happen. A simple withdrawal of the objections by Centro would allow those people to put their petitions. Although the locus standi argument of the director general may be technically correct, it is not in the spirit of true democracy. Therefore, although I do not want to detain the House for too long, those are the reasons why I am speaking.

The other point that has been made about the denial of locus standi is that those groups are not truly representative of the people affected. I understand that about 90 per cent. of the residents concerned are paid-up members of one of those small groups. As the local Member of Parliament, I have experienced 200 people arriving at my advice bureau when I was expecting only 15 or 20 in that area—[Interruption.] Well, perhaps the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott) has only about two—they know how helpful he is—but I get more than that. The fact that I had 200 people at my advice bureau shows the strength of people's feelings. Somebody had to organise that. In at least one place—in Smith's Wood—the parish council, which is established by statute, supports the objectors.

I do not accept the argument about the line of deviation being only a few feet or metres from a person's residence. I do not accept the technical argument, that the Joint Committee on Private Bill Procedure has recommended that these technical matters should be considered by the promoters. I do not accept the argument that the groups involved are not representative of the individuals affected.

Anyway, what is representation? Presumably it should be by statute, by the parish, town or borough council. However, that is to deny another element of democracy. I am talking about residents' groups, representing the most reasonable people I have come across. At my meeting this weekend, one of them, who might be seen by the promoters as their leading campaigner, said, "I cannot wait to get the metro. I cannot wait to get a better transport system, provided that it is on the right route." That is the whole genesis of my speech.

Before I refer to details about routing—I promise you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that I shall not detain the House for longer than I have to—I am concerned that, as part of its process of consultation, Centro commissioned a firm called Terraquest to discuss their properties with those concerned. That was done so badly that people came to my advice bureau fully believing that compulsory purchase orders would be applied to their land.

I am most grateful and pay tribute to Centro for giving me the right information so soon and for telling me that that was not the case. However, by then the damage had been done. The surveys had been carried out and people were absolutely terrified. Surely there must be a better way. Was it a question of timing? Did Centro try too hard, too soon? I know that the survey had to be carried out because of the Bill and that Centro had to know about the properties involved and whether they were freehold, but people were given the strong impression that they would lose hedges, land or even their houses. Centro's methods seem strange.

It is wrong that the House should consider giving the Bill a Second Reading before the consultation has covered key aspects of the routing of the midland metro, such as its stops or stations. Those matters have still not been decided. As I have said, I am opposed to giving the Bill a Second Reading unless I am given good reasons for agreeing to it. We do not know where the stops will be, because the consultation period is yet to come. That is a matter of major importance to my constituents. Of course, the stops may well be beautiful. I am sorry that I was unable to go to Grenoble. I should have liked to go, but could not, for no other reason than pressure of time. Perhaps the midland metro will sigh benignly to a halt and there will be no parking or other problems, but to proceed with the Second Reading of a Bill that gives draconian powers to Centro before those matters have been resolved is a serious matter.

As I said, whatever the rights and wrongs, there is still great concern in my constituency about house values. That has been expressed by local estate agents and chartered surveyors. I do not know whether it is temporary or will apply in the longer term, but house values have been depressed. One of my constituents has been trying to sell his not very big four-bedroomed house. It is at the top end of Chelmsley Wood, going towards Marston Green, and is on the route of the metro. He has been advised that that property, which he could normally have expected to sell for about £65,000, is now valued at £47,500.

It is classic that the houses on the route appear to be devalued and that houses that are occupied by those who will not be affected by the route and who will have the advantage, which I applaud, of travelling into Birmingham more easily, will not be devalued. As I said, one of my constituents has told me that he cannot wait for the construction of the metro, as it will make his life much easier, provided that it runs on the right routee. Those who live on the route deserve better consultation and greater consideration.

Is the national exhibition centre one of the 35 petitioners? Has it petitioned against part of the route? Have the Birmingham business park and other business interests petitioned against parts of the routeing? If those interests are allowed to petition and constituent groups are not, that is an unhappy situation.

Mr. Rooker

There is no doubt that the private Bill procedure is in a mess. That is why a Select Committee report has been produced. Attempts to stop individuals petitioning against private Bills are bound to throw the system into a worse mess. It is likely that the House will take a dim view at a later stage in the consideration of the Bill if individuals are prevented from exercising their democratic rights before the Committee. That will be especially evident if the business park is allowed to petition, subject to the Minister's answer to the hon. Gentleman's question. The business park is under construction and I have visited the site with one or two of my hon. Friends. If the park were allowed to petition arid residents were not, I do not think that the House would allow the Bill to proceed.

Mr. Mills

It is strange that I find myself in agreement with the hon. Gentleman. We often disagree across the Floor of the House. On this occasion, however, he is right.

I have been given information, and I ask whoever is responsible to make the position clear on behalf of the promoters. Will the NEC, the business park or any other industrial interest be allowed to petition? Has any such interest not been challenged and not referred to the Court of Reference? Will such an interest be able to brief a barrister to express its point of view on changes of route?

With one or two exceptions, all those who have sent me documents are in favour of the metro. They are against the route, or aspects of it, but they are in favour of the metro. They are not awkward or extremely difficult people in the sense that they are saying, "Put the metro in Surrey and we shall not worry about it." Instead, they are asking for specific changes and they have petitioned for those changes. It will be extremely unsatisfactory if their petitions are not heard.

There are three organised groups in my constituency and they are representative. Their petitions have been properly drawn up and they have been properly advised. They were prepared to present themselves as reasonble groups of people. When I spoke to them, they were quiet. Perhaps they were more softly voiced than I have been this evening, especially when I allowed some passion and unhappiness to be demonstrated by my voice. Many strident voices have been heard at many public meetings, but the groups to which I refer are representative. They have distilled logical options from the strident arguments.

I believe that we can gain support from those who are affected by the metro if we produce reasoned alternatives. Are the promoters chained in bureaucracy? Are they unable to change the route because of the relationship with the local authority and others? Are they unable to go back and start again because of the complexities? I ask them to think again. I cannot support them even if the chains of bureaucracy are their problem.

One of the three groups represents the majority of the residents of Auckland drive, with is a long road running alongside Collector road. Some of my colleagues may not know that charming part of Birmingham. It is near Fort Dunlop, where I spent 20 years. Therefore, Collector road is like my back yard. It has for years been extremely under-used, to say the least. It is a very quiet road. I use it many times a week. When I hold my advice bureaus, I travel to and fro on it.

My constituents who live in the area say that the decision to position the route of the metro on the embankment is one to which they object strongly. They submit that the plan should be amended to provide for the construction of a route along the carriageway of Collector road. It is a road almost of motorway standard. It is almost as good as the M42 running north from Dunton Island towards Leicestershire. It is an ill-used road. It has been used for car parking during the motor shows at the NEC. So little is it used that there may be technical problems, but if we are to make progress, we must resolve them.

Mr. Bevan

The route was designed by the local council. It is only a few metres from the preferred route of one of the pressure groups, the ADAM group. That is the group that represents the Auckland drive residents. Solihull council has been emphatic that it does not want to disrupt a major highway. It is especially important that the metro operates on reserved tracks. My hon. Friend should address his remarks to Solihull council.

My hon. Friend knows that extra value has been attributed to the properties that are along the route, not negative value. He claims that the locus standi is not democratic. A petition against a private Bill can be held only if it has locus standi. The Select Committee has been especially vociferous in emphasising that the rules must be observed.

Mr. Mills

I referred briefly to locus standi, and I am not being facetious when I say that I am standing to put as many points as I can to the House. As the hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker) said, it is ridiculous that those who are intimately concerned but whose locus standi is dismissed because of the rules are unable to present their views.

However delightful and however charming the vehicle is that passes within a few metres of the dwellings of those who are in that position, does my hon. Friend say that they should have no means of expressing their feelings? Surely they should be able to submit their views to Parliament. The private Bill procedure is arcane. As others have said, it is probably wrong. If we in Parliament have to decide, how can we be petitioned?

Mr. Dennis Turner (Wolverhampton, South-East)

Residents are unable to object for reasons other than locus standi. They are unable to do so even if their properties are adjacent to the route of the metro, not adjoining it or in the way of it. The definition of those who are unable to petition is not as narrow as the hon. Gentleman suggests.

Mr. Mills

I am grateful for that advice. If the three groups that I understand are going to the Court of Referees on Thursday morning are granted the ability to approach the Committee, that will be helpful. I have served on such Committees and I am more than happy to listen to those who have an interest, and these people have an interest. For example, in Helmswood drive, the midland metro will run within a metre of their hedge. If locus standi does not permit such people the opportunity to make their points, perhaps I can make some of them for them.

I take the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Yardley, that the working group included Solihull council. However, apart from protesting at various meetings, how can my constituents press for changes in the route? Are they to have no further opportunity, as they would do at a public inquiry, where one can ask the Minister to make a reasoned judgment or to make a judgment on the basis of certain facts? Are they just to be told that it is finished and that they will have no further opportunities to make their point heard?

The embankment at Auckland drive is important. Any hon. Member who has travelled from Birmingham to Coventry, not on the motorway but on the side roads from Stonebridge, up the Chester road and down the Collector road towards my old place of employment, Fort Dunlop, will have seen what the embankment means. It was constructed as a wind and sound barrier for the residents against both the motorway and the Collector road. It has a considerable amount of wildlife. One does not expect Solihull council, much loved by me and by those in Chelmsley road, to make claims like this.

There is also the amenity value for the residents, which the presence of the metro on some or all of the embankment would substantially reduce. Proximity of the metro would also have an effect. Having had the advice of experts on this subject, I know that, while the metro may not have a detrimental effect on the capital value of the houses of the majority of those living in Chelmsley road, it would certainly affect those living right by it.

Mr. Bevan

I can quickly answer that point made about possible erosion of the embankment and harm to wildlife, and I hope to my hon. Friend's satisfaction. There will be little erosion. A retaining wall will be used where necessary to keep the embankment height, and further planting will take place.

Mr. Mills

I thank my hon. Friend. I was going to press him later on landscaping and further planting. He has a good point, because it may be possible to do that on this embankment. I do not accept the arguments of either Solihull council or Centro about siting the metro on part of the embankment when it could just as easily, more acceptably, and without any effect on the wildlife, be positioned on one side of the Collector road.

As a result of lines 50 to 52 of schedule 3, the Footpath between subway under Collector Road and Auckland Drive at junction with Nightingale Avenue will be extinguished. My constituents are most concerned about that and would like the problem resolved. The footpath is used by adults and children and it would be dangerous if it crossed the metro track.

I am aware that I am taking up an unfair share of the time, but this matter is important. I press my hon. Friend the Member for Yardley, or the promoters who might care to reply elsewhere, or even my hon. Friend the Minister who may be able to advise me, about compensation. Little has been said about that. Those who will be adversely affected directly—that is, if the metro line runs across their property—will be compensated under present legislation. Those who feel that they will be adversely affected indirectly, in the sense that the wing-tip of the aeroplane is within 1 ft—that is, if the metro runs within a short distance of their land—do not know. What provision will there be? How is it proposed to consider compensation? What happens and how does it work? What rights do they have?

Is there any provision in the Bill to require the executive to construct safety fences and noise barriers between the metro and houses occupied by my constituents? It may be that the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Yardley about the wall on the embankment at Auckland drive has answered that question.

The next part of my constituency to be affected is Bacons End—a charming part of the world, to be recommended to any of my colleagues who wish to come to see a good community. All my constituents there are concerned about their embankment, which is further down, beyond what is known as the Coles hill roundabout. Going up Collector road, leaving behind Fort Dunlop, one passes the Coles hill roundabout and comes to the next roundabout. There is a charming group of dwellings at Bacons End, at Clopton crescent. Again, there is wildlife on the embankment and amenities for the residents. They have said to me: It has become a natural habitat for a variety of animals within an otherwise urban area and is used for dog walking, bike riding, exercising children, flying kites and is visually attractive. On the many occasions that I have passed it, I have seen young people, parents and dogs on it. The presence of the metro would remove the opportunity for such exercise, and substantially reduce the amenity value.

My constituents are most concerned about the value of their homes. In their petition, which they may or may not, due to locus standi, be allowed to have heard, they say that they understand that there is no provision in the Bill for there to be adequate fencing. They have pointed out to me that one of the purposes of the metro is to persuade people to take public transport as an alternative to private motor cars. Consequently, there is likely to be a drop in the usage of the road in the route along the metro. Therefore, why not position it on the carriageway of the road? As my constituent said, "I can't wait to use the metro." Once people leap on the metro and leave their cars at home, there will not be the traffic problem that we do not have on the Collector road anyway.

For both the Auckland drive and the Bacons End parts of the road, it is important to consider the routeing. The plans as presently lodged permit Centro to construct the metro on any part of the grass embankment as the whole area is within the line of deviation, within the permitted variations. Why cannot that be more limited? How can my constituents feel any confidence in the consultation process when there are no limits, and they do not know exactly where it will be?

Schedule 4 shows the proposed route, including a tunnel that emerges between Collector road and Chester road, which is used by many local children as a play area. That would be impractical if the metro were positioned on that route. If the alternatives to Collector road were considered, that problem would be resolved.

There is more concern about consultation, but I must come to my third subject, which is the alternative. If any right hon. or hon. Member wishes to see it, I have here a map showing that the route leaves the island, cuts down through Berwick's lane and Helmswood drive and then comes back up again and cuts round the national exhibition centre. There is much enthusiasm in the area for the metro, provided that it goes straight along the dual carriageway known as the Chester road. That alternative has been suggested, pressed for and fought for by my constituents all along.

I was in my constituency on Saturday, and I am there most Saturdays. Let us visualise how close the metro will be, particularly to Helmswood drive. We must ask where people will park their cars. What provision has been made for that? There is no point in talking about landscaping there, because there is no room for it. The metro will be almost as close as my hon. Friend the Member for Yardley is to me in the Chamber.

Mr. Bevan

I am glad that my hon. Friend mentioned Helmswood drive and on-street parking. Bays will be provided all along the street in that area, after consultation with residents. Therefore, his point is accepted.

As for the pedestrian subways that will be closed on Moorend avenue and Helmswood drive, I have no doubt that my hon. Friend will be pleased about that, because local residents have already campaigned for it.

My hon. Friend said that the route goes too close to houses on Helmswood drive and Berwick's lane, but that route was approved by Solihull council. It is important for the route to go close to the population; otherwise there is little point in having a metro. Line 2 was designed so that no residential properties would be demolished and no gardens would be taken up, and I am advised that very few properties are less than 30 m from the track. In Grenoble, the vehicles go within a few metres of dwellings and shops in the city centre and there are no objections whatever.

Mr. Mills

I thank my hon. Friend for his usual gracious way of blaming Solihull council for not objecting to the scheme. The local residents' group and residents in Moorend avenue, Berwick's lane, Helmswood drive, Chelmsley road and Coleshill Heath road believe that the present route will be severely detrimental to residents in the area. I accept that there are parking problems now, but those are, by and large, resolvable. Other anxieties have been expressed to me. One charming lady who recently lost her husband asked whether a hearse would be able to gain access, and there is also the question of ambulances and fire engines. Perhaps my hon. Friend can reassure me about that.

The whole point of the residents' argument is that the layout of the area is predominantly residential. It is owner-occupied and tenanted, and is not a rich area but mixed. The people there work in Birmingham and would welcome access to Birmingham by the metro. It is the proximity of the proposed route to homes in the area that is the problem. Therefore, they have proposed an alternative, and if they could petition the Committee about that, I should be most grateful.

The houses in the area were originally built on green belt land and it is a pleasant environment in which to live. The introduction of the metro through the area would fundamentally affect its nature. The grass verges, trees and shrubbery are not good now, but they would be non-existent, and there is no possibility of landscaping, in view of the layout of the area—I do not see how it can be done.

My hon. Friend said that there would be consultations about parking, but how can I agree to a Second Reading of a Bill that gives Centro the power to introduce the metro without my constituents having the opportunity to discuss where the parking bays will be?

Mr. Bevan

The bays will be provided after consultation with local residents.

Mr. Mills

I accept that from my hon. Friend, but surely, before we proceed and give Centro the power to introduce the metro, we should have resolved the problems of stops, stays, stations, lines, parking and landscaping. It should all be laid out, so that people can say, "Here it is and we shall tell our Member of Parliament that we accept it."

Mr. Snape


Mr. Mills

The hon. Gentleman is sniggering, but as a rail man I suppose that he is not too worried about parking.

Mr. Snape

I was not sniggering. I was somewhat surprised at what the hon. Gentleman was saying. Is he seriously asking the House to believe that every dot and comma should be drawn up before we agree to the scheme, or that parking and the whole line of the route should be arranged? If that was the case, would not he and his constituents shout that it was fixed, because everything had been done beforehand? One cannot draw up a scheme with every dot and comma and also claim that there should be consultation afterwards.

Mr. Mills

Life is difficult.

Mr. Snape

So was my question.

Mr. Mills

No, I am coming to that. In most instances, when a complex change affects people's lives, such as a planning decision, they know what is going to happen. For example, they know that 20 houses will be built and they can object or not object, or they know that there will be a change of use of a house to a shop or a garage, and they know the details.

We are talking about stops, stays, and barriers, of the imposition of double yellow lines along a stretch of Helmswood drive and of parking.

I know that the hon. Member for West Bromwich, East (Mr. Snape) is a modest man. He probably has a small house and does not have parking provided, so he parks in front of the house in the street. If he were told that the parking bay was going to be 20 yd up the road, he would probably feel a bit fractious himself, and he might wish to have some of the i's dotted and t's crossed before procedures went ahead.

Mr. Snape

I do not mind being insulted by the hon. Gentleman at any time, but I should be glad if he withdrew the description "modest".

Mr. Mills

Of course. I fully understand—the hon. Gentleman lives in Chateau Snape, in some suitable part of his constituency.

Mr. Andrew Hargreaves (Birmingham, Hall Green)

I feel that my hon. Friend should know that the hon. Member for West Bromwich, East (Mr. Snape) is one of my constituents.

Mr. Mills

In which case, the hon. Gentleman's credentials could not be higher.

My final technical point about Moor end avenue is that it will be reduced from a dual carriageway to a single carriageway.

There will be health problems and loss of privacy, which will affect constituents' lives, and they should be balanced against the economic regeneration. If we could find a solution to those problems and make relatively minor changes to the route in two cases, and a major change of route in the case of Chester road, the proposition would be welcomed. It would serve the NEC and my constituents and it would be popular with them, popular with me, much loved and much cherished.

8.47 pm
Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North)

I think that all hon. Members would agree with the hon. Member for Meriden (Mr. Mills) that life is difficult. I wish to apologise to the House for having a sore throat.

I have no quarrel with the way in which the hon. Member for Birmingham, Yardley (Mr. Bevan) presented the case today. I disagree with some aspects of it and I shall refer briefly to the reasons why, but he promoted the Bill in a moderate and reasoned speech, and it is helpful to the House that it was done in such a way.

I support the metro scheme, as I have stated from the start. In my view, all the arguments and reasons given by the hon. Member for Yardley and other hon. Members this evening for the scheme and for extra forms of public transport in the black country and the west midlands are perfectly valid.

Some object to the Bill on the grounds that further public transport is not needed, but that is certainly not my view. It is important to point out that a substantial number of people in the west midlands—certainly in my constituency—rely on public transport. We should get rid of the notion that everyone or nearly everyone either owns a car or has access to a motor vehicle, as that is certainly not the case.

I must also declare an interest—although not a commercial one—as we are rightly so sensitive about declaring interests these days. I am a regular user of the public transport in my area. I need to use public transport at every opportunity. Since the Government changed the regulations a few years ago, it is not pleasant, particularly on a cold windy evening, to have to wait as I have waited—and, more important, as my constituents have to wait—quite a while before the bus arrives. I do not blame the transport authority: we on this side anticipated the problem, and warned people at the time.

I am not too happy about the way in which the transport authority dealt with two of my constituents. Following some negotiation over their property, they concluded that their right to express their objection to the metro was being taken away. As soon as I learned about the matter, I wrote to the authority. The director general replied: Naturally, one aspect of reaching an agreement with such property owners, is for them to undertake not to object to the proposal whilst we, for our part, undertake to do or not do whatever it is that we have agreed through the negotiations. Clearly, if this was not so, there would be no basis for any agreement between us. It is nonsense to put a couple in a small house on the same level as the transport authority. Of course people will take measures to protect their houses; why should they not do so?

I was not pleased with the director general's reply, I am a democrat—although some hon. Members may question that from time to time—and I believe that people have a basic right to put their point of view at every opportunity. I therefore wrote back to the transport authority expressing my concern. The reply—dated 1 March; my letter was sent on 15 February—states: we had no intention of infringing their rights as citizens to engage in free speech or other activity. Of course I am pleased about that. The letter goes on to say that the authority would not regard the couple as being in breach of the undertaking by attending meetings opposed to Metro or expressing views hostile to it. I am pleased about that as well, but the letter continues: However"— for there is a "however"— as you will I am sure appreciate, a different view would be taken if a formal Petition against the Bill was deposited by them. I hope that this clarifies the matter. If the transport authority wants to take public opinion with it, such a restriction, however it is argued, is unacceptable—not only to me as the local Member of Parliament, but I hope, to the House of Commons and to individual Members on both sides of it.

Mr. Bevan

The object of the letter of 1 March—of which I have a copy—was to emphasise the democratic rights of the hon. Gentleman's constituents. As I said at the outset, however, the constitutional processes applying to private Bills are spelt out very strictly: that is the reason for the differentiation concerning the petition.

Mr. Winnick

I understand what the hon. Gentleman is saying. I praised him earlier, and I do not want to fall out with him now, but I do not accept the need to place any restriction on my constituents, and I imagine that the House as a whole agrees with me.

A number of hon. Members on both sides of the House wish to speak. I was pleased to give way to the hon. Member for Yardley—who, I am sure, has a list of matters that he wishes to raise—to refute the points I am making. I do not criticise him, for he has a job to do and he is doing it competently, but it would serve no useful purpose for me to give way to him every time I criticise aspects of the proposed route. Moreover, I shall deal with some of the issues at the end of my speech, as the hon. Member for Meriden did.

The proposed metro route through parts of Willenhall, which is in my constituency, has prompted harsh criticism from residents who consider that they will be adversely affected. The hon. Member for Yardley rightly said that we were a Parliament, and explained the origins of the word "Parliament". The fact that I happen to be in favour of the Bill, like my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, South (Mr. George), does not alter my belief that one of the purposes of the House of Commons—long may it remain so—is to allow people who feel strongly to ensure that their view is expressed in the Chamber or in Committee, even if it is wrong or misguided. Although the hon. Gentleman's speech took up more time than I intend mine to take, I have no criticism of that aspect, or of the way in which he outlined his constituents' objections to the Bill.

Some of my constituents oppose the Bill for wider reasons than worry about their properties. They are not exactly delighted, however, at the thought of passengers being able to look through the windows—perhaps even upstairs windows—of their houses, which may be overlooked by the metro, and their anxieties have been expressed repeatedly in both meetings and correspondence. I do not think that we should dismiss such genuine concern out of hand, even if the promoters consider it misguided.

There are, however, broader environmental worries. I remind hon. Members, if they need to be reminded, that my borough is urban and built up, although there are some delightful green open spaces only about some two miles away. The proposed metro route would destroy the grassy areas and places of safety for young children around Stroud avenue in Willenhall, and would also do away with the existing walkways. An old railway line now serves as a pleasant public footpath, and no doubt that would go as well.

Concern has repeatedly been expressed about the memorial park in Willenhall, which is its only park and originates from Willenhall's wish after the first world war to commemorate those who died by providing open space within a park. The proposed route would take up part of the park. It is only a small part, I accept, but it should be remembered theat the old railway line has been part of the memorial park for a very long time.

It was put to me—I wrote accordingly to the transport authority—that the metro could go underground through parts of Willenhall. I realise that there may be technical problems, but the reply that I received did not deal with those to any great extent, although it made some reference to possible dangers. It should be said that the route will go underground through parts of Birmingham, and if there are no dangers to Birmingham, there should presumably be none for Willenhall. The reply stated that an underground route through Willenhall would significantly increase costs and make the prospect less viable, but I am not altogether impressed by that argument: I should have thought that more valid reasons should be given if there are real objections by the authority.

I promised my constituents that I would raise their objections on the Floor of the House. As I said, I am in favour of the metro. Anything that can be done to improve transport in the west midlands is to be welcomed. My hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker) referred to an integrated transport system. No Opposition Members would object to such a system for the west midlands. However, according to their statement—which I saw only today, although it was possibly issued last week, but I make no criticism of that— The Promoters respectfully request that the Bill should be given a Second Reading so that they should be allowed to put forward to the Committee all the reasons why the Bill should be passed and their case for the clauses in the Bill. That is understandable; that is why the promoters want the Bill to be given a Second Reading, so that, when it reaches the Select Committee, it will be scrutinised—or at least, I hope it will be.

If it is right for the promoters to argue their case in Committee, if the Bill receives a Second Reading, why are the objectors not allowed to argue their case in Committee? I understand that the passenger transport authority objects to the people in my constituency who are opposed to the proposed metro route arguing their case in Committee. If the metro system is to be constructed in time, the maximum good will needs to be created. Can it be argued that the best way to create good will is to state, with all the powers that such bodies have, that it is unnecessary for the objectors to be heard?

If the Bill receives a Second Reading, on Thursday next the Court of Referees—a body of 11 senior Members of Parliament—will decide whether that objection should be upheld. I understand that it would not be in order this evening to make further reference to the Court of Referees, so I shall not do so. Nevertheless, having said that I am in favour of the measure, I should be much happier if there were no bureaucratic objection to the case for these people being heard. If the objectors' arguments did not stand the test of examination, the Select Committee would reach that conclusion.

Why, therefore, should we go to these lengths and say that the objectors ought not to be heard? If the Bill is given a Second Reading, I hope that, even at this late stage, further consideration will be given to that matter. The passenger transport authority needs the good will of the local public. I hope that it does not intend to undermine it by going about matters in a way that will undoubtedly antagonise many people.

9.2 pm

Mr. Andrew Hargreaves (Birmingham, Hall Green)

I begin by declaring an interest, since the matter—as some hon. Members have already remarked—is sensitive. I was a consultant to the bank that gave advice on the feasibility study when the metro concept was originally considered.

I sympathise with the metro concept and with everything that it could do for public transport in the west midlands, and around Birmingham in particular. However, I am still doubtful whether a light railway system—or what used to be known as a tramway system, to call it by its proper name—is really the best answer for this conurbation.

I have visited many capital cities and other cities throughout Europe. I have been to Grenoble and Lyons. I have also visited Stockholm, Vienna, Munich and a dozen other cities where they are hurrying and scurrying to remove trams and light railways and to place their transport systems underground, with occasional aboveground exits. I am therefore concerned that the passenger transport authority is running into what appear to be serious objections from local residents about the route. That ought to be unnecessary, particularly in an area where there is so much disused and under-utilised railway track.

I should stress to the promoters of the Bill that, when future routes are planned, maximum use should be made of existing rail networks. If those networks are under-utilised and perhaps a light rail system would attract more passengers because the stops can be made more frequent, negotiations should begin with British Rail immediately or as soon as practical to usurp those rails and put them to better use.

I recognise the significant advantages that the system would provide for our conurbation in alleviating congestion. I am relieved that the latest proposal for lines adds a viability to the concept which was not present in the original proposals. It was made very clear to the promoters of the Bill at an early stage that some commercial viability had to be established, particularly if some private funding, and ultimately EC funding, was to be introduced into the scheme. The lines under consideration would help to ensure that viability. I feel that further routes under the city of Birmingham would further enhance that and enhance the attraction to residents along the route and around the black country.

Mr. Rooker

It so happens that the hon. Gentleman's point about the city of Birmingham was the only point on which I offered any specific comment in consultation. The result is the exact opposite of what I suggested, but I make no complaint about that. Does the hon. Gentleman take the view that routes under the city centre of Birmingham will require people to go underground, as they have been forced to do in the past few years, whereas the advantage of routes on the surface through most of the city centre would have brought about a spin-off in environmental improvements?

That point does not seem to have been taken on board, despite the planned £130 million-worth of tunnelling. When the hon. Gentleman offered his views on the Bill, as we both represent Birmingham constituencies, what was his view? Did he agree with tunnels or overground, environmental improvements or sticking people into subways? People do not like going into subways. They understand the old Victorian tube network in London, but frankly I do not think that they will accept that a 21st-century railway network needs to push people underground.

Mr. Hargreaves

I hear with interest what the hon. Gentleman says, but in my experience, having travelled through major cities in Europe similar to ours, people do not like large, heavy railed vehicles trundling down busy streets in major city centres. I do not consider that Birmingham would necessarily be enhanced by large or light rail transit down the centre of our streets. Perhaps those streets would be enhanced by pedestrianisation. I agree that people would prefer streets without vehicles and that the environment would be enhanced by having fewer cars in those streets, but I do not think that the answer is to stick light rails down the centre of Birmingham. I disagree with the hon. Gentleman, but I hope that he accepts that I have thought about the matter with some care.

I visited Stockholm, which is quite an attractive city, rather smaller than Birmingham but of interest as they have torn up their trams and introduced a system which runs underground in the city centre but is similar to light rail transit as it approaches the suburbs. In those tunnels, which are not as deep and cavernous as our Underground in London, they have introduced a most charming shopping arena and other facilities which are safe and clean and a pleasant environment for people to work in. I believe that we should follow that system in Birmingham city centre. I put that forward for the hon. Gentleman's consideration and interest should he have time to visit that city.

Finally, I turn to the points made by my hon. Friend the Member for Meriden (Mr. Mills), who unfortunately is not in his place at the moment. It is important that such a transport network wins the hearts and minds of the people who will use it. There has already been one storm, which may have resulted perhaps from a lack of consultation or from a lack of public relations.

Opposition Members criticised the promoters' use of public relations. It seems that they are experiencing difficulty both ways. They tried public relations, but fell at the second fence. Having attracted people to the concept of the metro, which is indisputable, they slammed the door in the face of those who disagreed about its route or about other aspects. If we are to benefit from a metro network around Birmingham, and through the black country to the NEC and surrounding areas, it is important that people are enthusiastic about it, or they will not use it.

As a slight tease to my constituent, the hon. Member for West Bromwich, East (Mr. Snape), I should like to put down a marker. I support the Bill, but I should be horrified if it were proposed to run the metro down the centre of the Stratford road.

Mr. Rooker


Mr. Hargreaves

Because light railways do not run well on through roads.

Mr. Snape

The House will be grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his interesting speech, and perhaps to The Independent for so rapidly provoking it. If the metro were to run down the middle of the Stratford road, presumably steps would be taken to prevent parking on both sides of it and the loading and unloading of light and heavy commercial vehicles, which occurs all day every day and is a prime cause of the congestion about which the hon. Gentleman, and I as one of his constituents, frequently complain.

Mr. Hargreaves

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his intervention and for his kindly interpretation of my speech. I am putting down a marker on behalf of the hon. Gentleman and myself. If it were proposed that the metro should travel down the middle of the Stratford road, I should object, because light rail systems do not work happily in shopping areas or on through routes such as the Stratford road, which will become increasingly busy because of the M40–M42 link.

I shall support the motion, but I shall have doubts about the Bill unless changes are made to its presentation and to its consultation procedures.

9.12 pm
Mr. Terry Davis (Birmingham, Hodge Hill)

I oppose the Bill because I object to what is described as the Birmingham to Solihull route from Five Ways and the convention centre to the national exhibition centre and Birmingham airport. I object specifically to the proposed section running through the Bromford estate and Firs estate in my constituency.

Anyone who has driven on the M6 knows that part of my constituency. Fort Dunlop is a well-known landmark to the north of the motorway and the Bromford and Firs estates are on the other side of it. The area consists of houses, low-rise flats and tower blocks, with a narrow ribbon of land between the houses and motorway. The West Midlands passenger transport executive wants to run the midland metro along that ribbon.

The Firs estate was built after the second world war, and the Bromford estate was built in the 1960s. The houses facing the motorway were built in the style of that time, with big picture windows. The motorway was constructed a few years later on stilts. It is one of the longest stretches of motorway viaduct in western Europe. Over the years, trees have gradually been planted and a narrow green ribbon developed for recreational use.

My constituents have now been told that all their efforts to improve their local environment have been in vain. The midland metro will bulldoze its way along the line between the houses and the motorway. The trees that have been planted by local schoolchildren will be uprooted, the cycle track will be realigned, the football pitch removed and the children's play area relocated. In introducing the Bill, the hon. Member for Birmingham, Yardley (Mr. Bevan) claimed that the environment would be enhanced wherever the metro ran. That is a travesty in terms of the Bromford estate.

Much worse than the loss of these amenities is the fact that the people who live along the route will have the metro running as close as 40 yd to their houses and it will be even closer—not even the PTA can tell us how close, but perhaps a matter of a few feet—to one block of flats.

What will they see from their picture windows? No one knows, not even the PTA. No one can tell us what the overhead wires and their supports will look like. No one can tell us how obtrusive they will be. No one can even tell us where the supports—pylons, gantries, or whatever they are called—will be located. All that they can tell us is that my constituents will have vehicles travelling at speeds up to 50 mph passing in front of their picture windows every five minutes. One of my constituents was even told that the PTA did not want to screen the metro route in any way because it was relying on local residents to keep an eye on it to prevent vandalism.

That brings me to the other objection to this section of the metro route—noise. My constituents know a lot about the effect of noise on the quality of life. I have explained that the M6 runs alongside and above the Bromford estate. In the early 1970s, the estate's residents got together with residents of other areas along the route of the motorway and campaigned for noise insulation. Eventually, a scheme was introduced and a large number of flats and houses were insulated. Unfortunately, many were ruled to be ineligible and they are precisely the houses that are nearest to the proposed route for the midland metro. It does not stop there.

At that point, the motorway runs above the railway line from Birmingham to Derby. It does not cross the railway. In effect, the railway goes through a tunnel with open sides. Not surprisingly, the noise of the trains echoes and reverberates and the result is disturbing, to put it mildly.

That is not all. One of the biggest problems in my constituency is the noise from aircraft using Birmingham airport. I calculate that at least half my constituents suffer from noise so great that they cannot watch television or conduct a conversation by telephone or face to face whenever a plane goes overhead. The air traffic controllers at Birmingham airport told me that it was not surprising that there was a major problem with aircraft noise in my constituency. The pilots are supposed to take their planes to a height of 1,000 ft before turning towards open countryside and the most commonly used planes at Birmingham airport reach a height of 1,000 ft when they get above the Bromford estate.

What do the Bill's sponsors have to say about noise? All hon. Members will have received today a statement by Sherwood and Company, the parliamentary agents for the PTA, which said: The high capacity lightweight rail vehicles intended for operation on the Metro will result in lower noise levels than those experienced from buses and trains. That statement is grossly misleading. We are talking not about replacing buses and trains in front of my constituents' homes but about additional noise for those residents. Birmingham city council's environmental health department has told local councillors and me that 118 houses and flats could be so badly affected by the noise of the metro that they should be provided with noise insulation if the route went ahead.

Of course, as anyone with experience of noise from aircraft or from motorways will agree, no provision for noise insulation is good enough. There are two important reasons for that. In the first place, what matters is the total amount of noise—not the noise from several single sources, but the total amount.

The noise from the metro may not be significant in itself for a particular house, but when it is added to the noise from the M6, from the railway that runs underneath the motorway, and from planes taking off from Birmingham airport—none of which the powers-that-be regard as significant—the total amount of noise could become intolerable for the ordinary family living in an ordinary house. But the Department of Transport, British Rail, Birmingham airport officials and the passenger transport authority can all shrug their shoulders and, with a clear conscience, claim that their noise is "lower than that experienced from buses and trains."

The second problem about noise insulation is that, obviously, as soon as windows are opened, it ceases to work. That is why the problem is always worse in summer. There is nothing that the passenger transport authority, or this House, or anybody else, can do about that nuisance.

Hon. Members may wonder why there is no problem in any constituency except mine and that of the hon. Member for Meriden (Mr. Mills). Why is not the House full of people making similar points on behalf of their constituents? The answer lies in the route itself. Although this metro route begins at Five Ways and runs through the city centre, it is underground until it gets to the wasteland of the heartlands—a derelict industrial area. It runs through that area until it reaches Bromford Bridge and enters my constituency. Only at that point does it begin to affect anyone's home.

At that point, against the background of the problems that I have described, one would have expected the West Midlands passenger transport authority to be particularly careful about consulting the people who live in the Bromford estate. Tragically, the arrangements for consultation were grossly inadequate. They were regarded as inadequate by myself, by local councillors and by the residents. A summary of our opinion is that the arrangements for consultation were a farce. The members and officers of the West Midlands passenger transport authority are totally incapable of understanding the difference between informing people and consulting people. The information that people were given was sparse, and the consultation was virtually nil.

The hon. Member for Yardley said that there had been a tremendous amount of consultation. I listened very carefully to his remarks. He listed leaflets. But leaflets are not consultation; leaflets are information. He listed exhibitions. But exhibitions are not consultation, unless one invites people's views and then pays attention to those views. Otherwise, exhibitions are only information. The hon. Gentleman mentioned meetings.

I asked the passenger transport authority what it regarded as the consultation arrangements for my constituents. It gave me a list of meetings that had taken place—meetings with Members of Parliament, Members of the European Parliament and Councillors.

The first meeting, on 25 April 1989, was with T. Davis, MP. That so-called meeting consisted of my giving coffee to the director general and the head of communications of the passenger transport authority in the Strangers' Cafeteria, where they told me that they could not discuss the route through my constituency because it was a matter for the city council. That meeting is described as consultation.

Then there was a meeting with John Tomlinson, MEP. I do not know what took place at that meeting; Mr. Tomlinson is not the MEP for the area in which my constituency is located.

Next on the list is a presentation to city council members. Let that be noted: "presentation". But that is not consultation.

The next item on this list of so-called consultations is a presentation on 10 May 1989 to west midlands Members of Parliament at the House of Commons by Birmingham city council. Once again I say, "presentation" is not consultation.

The next on the list is a briefing of Councillor R. Spector. I do not know which ward Councillor Spector represents, but it is not in my constituency.

Then there is a meeting with T. Davis, MP, and Councillors Turner and Jones at Birmingham city council offices. That meeting certainly took place. We asked a lot of detailed questions that could not be answered.

Then—still on consultation—is listed a meeting with R. Corbett, MP. I do not know what the result of that meeting was, but my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Erdington (Mr. Corbett) subsequently announced that he agreed with me about wanting to have the metro rerouted.

Next on the list is a meeting with the sole surviving Conservative councillor in my constituency, who subsequently announced that he agreed with the Labour party on this issue.

Then we have a meeting with C. Crawley, MEP, who is the MEP for my constituency. After the meeting, she announced that she opposed the route through my constituency.

Next comes a meeting with T. Davis, MP, dated 20 October. That was the occasion on which I went to the city engineers' department and the city engineers agreed that I was right and that it was physically possible to reroute the metro on the other side of the motorway.

Then there came another meeting with R. Corbett, MP. I am not sure what happened, but my hon. Friend the Member for Erdington has not told me that he changed his mind as a result.

Mr. Rooker

My hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Erdington (Mr. Corbett) is not in the Chamber but, as my Member of Parliament, he confirmed to me today that he still believes that the route should go the other side of the M6—in other words, into his constituency.

Mr. Davis

I am grateful to my hon. Friend.

There followed five meetings with residents' groups and other associations—two with the Bromford community centre committee, which is opposed to the route, one with Kevin Hawkins and Forse, the group that has tried to petition against the route, one with the Bromford Conservative group, which I believe to be opposed to the route, and one with the Birmingham branch of the Royal National Institute for the Blind, of whose views I am not certain.

Under the heading Activities following the submission of the Bill"— this is still supposed to be consultation—I read that, on 30 November 1989, a reception at the House of Commons was attended by the hon. Members for Yardley, for Solihull (Mr. Taylor) and for Northfield.

Then we have a meeting on 22 January with T. Davis, MP at Summer lane. That meeting was arranged by the hon. Member for Yardley and I shall come to it in a moment. But that is not consultation; that was never consultation; it was information.

My constituents, the local councillors in my constituency and myself suggested in June 1989, after the route was made public, that it would be a good idea if we had real consultation. We suggested that the way to do that was to set up a working party with representatives of the city council, the passenger transport authority and local residents to discuss the route as it would affect our part of Birmingham.

That request was made in June 1989, and nothing was done about it until the hon. Member for Yardley arranged a meeting for me with the passenger transport authority in January, which I shall come to in a moment. Tonight, however, the hon. Gentleman told the House that there were changes in the original route through the Bromford estate as a result of what he described as consultation.

Mr. Bevan

Will my hon. Friend allow me?

Mr. Davis

I am not the hon. Gentleman's hon. Friend, but I shall certainly give way.

Mr. Bevan

As a matter of fact, I regard the hon. Gentleman as my hon. Friend even though he sits on the Opposition Benches, and I am not frightened of saying so.

I think that I was wrong in what I said. The hon. Gentleman asked me whether there had been any changes in the route, and I thought that he meant the whole route. When I said that it had been moved, I had in mind the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Meriden (Mr. Mills). I want to put that right straight away.

If you will allow me, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I shall take this opportunity while I am on my feet to deal with another matter. Although the hon. Member for Hodge Hill does not construe any of the meetings that he has mentioned so far as consultation, he did not mention—on top of all the leaflets and officers' meetings at the Bromford neighbourhood office—the sports centre meeting, which I should have thought was consultation.

It must be noted that, in all those consultations, Centro received very few letters or telephone calls from Bromford residents. I should have thought that the hon. Gentleman would concede that every attempt had been made to consult all along—and that includes the meeting that I subsequently arranged for him because he told me then that no meetings had been held.

Hon. Members have referred to the option of taking the route the other side of the M6 and said that that would be more sensible. That option was looked at, but it would have cost another £16.6 million and would have reduced the potential number of travellers by two thirds.

Mr. Davis

If I may intervene in the hon. Gentleman's intervention, I will come to those points in due course if I am allowed to make my speech.

The hon. Gentleman is right. A public meeting was held. It was requested by the councillors in my constituency and by me, and that meeting was very well attended. I do not have a record of the number of phone calls made by my constituents, nor do I have a record of the number of letters that they sent. If the hon. Member for Yardley is concerned about the number of phone calls, it would be easy to get my constituents to telephone the PTA. However, my constituents thought that they should be consulted face to face. Consultation does not take place on the telephone. Telephone calls may be all right for protests, but they are no good for consultation.

My constituents wanted consultation. What we requested and what all the councillors in my constituency supported——

Mr. Bevan

indicated dissent.

Mr. Davis

The hon. Member for Yardley may shake his head, but even the Conservative councillors supported our request. We wanted a working party to discuss the route as it affected that part of Birmingham.

The hon. Member for Yardley referred to the public meeting at which we made clear our views about the two proposed routes. Earlier, the hon. Member for Yardley said that the chosen route was, as he described it, on the periphery of the Bromford estate instead of along what he called a spine road—he means Bromford drive. To suggest that the change was the result of consultation is a travesty of what really happened.

The PTA thought that it had been clever. It told the people on the Bromford estate that there were two alternative routes through the estate, both of which were bad, but that one was worse than the other because it affected more homes. The PTA asked the people on the Bromford estate to choose between the alternatives.

The PTA was trying to set one set of residents against the other. It wanted to set them arguing among themselves about whose homes should be affected. That was the old tactic of divide and rule.

The residents, local councillors and I refused to be taken in by the clever people in the PTA. We refused to choose whose home should be sacrificed. Instead, we came up with a third option which would not affect any homes.

The hon. Member for Yardley referred to a referendum. He said that the clear majority of people affected by the route are in favour of it. He referred to a figure of 62 per cent. in favour. That statistic conceals the truth.

Mr. Bevan

indicated dissent.

Mr. Davis

The hon. Member for Yardley may disagree with me, but I found the figures in the PTA's documents. The PTA admits that, in the Bromford estate, only 10 per cent. of people were in favour of either of the metro routes. Ninety per cent. voted against the proposal. The hon. Member for Yardley has done less than his duty to the House by not stressing that point.

The hon. Member for Yardley said that there had been a previous scheme. That is true. Five or six years ago, a scheme was abandoned because, according to the hon. Member for Yardley, it was in the wrong place at the wrong time. I am not sure what he means by the wrong time, but it was certainly in the wrong place. But the officers and some members of the PTA do not agree with the hon. Member for Yardley. They have said openly and publicly that they still believe that the original route, demolishing one side of Coleshill road, was the best possible option.

The hon. Member for Yardley also said that the new route would help to regenerate the industrial wastelands of Birmingham. That is an interesting comment and it is precisely what my constituents, the councillors in my constituency and I have suggested.

We suggested that the metro route should run on the other side of the motorway where no one lives. We suggested that it should run through the Fort Dunlop site, which is ripe for redevelopment. That site has been included in the heartlands area to which I referred earlier and which the hon. Member for Yardley described as an industrial area scheduled for redevelopment. The metro is intended to serve that heartlands area elsewhere along its route.

If the metro ran through the Fort Dunlop site to the north of the motorway, instead of through the Bromford estate to the south, no one's home would be affected. A spokesman for the West Midlands passenger transport authority, Mr. Michael Parker, has said publicly that the residents objecting to this Bill are trying to move the metro from their backyard to someone else's backyard. As for my constituents, that is a completely unjustified slur on a group of very reasonable and very responsible people. We have suggested a different route which goes through Fort Dunlop and affects nobody's backyard.

My hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, South (Mr. George) referred to legitimate objections to development near someone's home, the need to strike a balance and consider where legitimate objections shade into unreasonable objections, and the need to put the development near people instead of on derelict land. In Birmingham, for most of the route, the development runs through derelict land. It does not go near anyone's home until it reaches the Bromford estate.

Not only residents of the Bromford estate have suggested the alternative route. It is supported by all the councillors in the ward, by all the councillors in my constituency, by myself as local Member of Parliament, by our Member of the European Parliament, and by my hon. Friend the Member for Erdington, whose views are particularly important because the Fort Dunlop site is in his constituency.

My hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, South explained that it was sometimes difficult to choose between sectarian interests and the broader public interest. But this is not a case of being opposed to the metro system; it is a case of being opposed to the route as it will affect the Bromford estate. It is not only a small group of residents, but the overwhelming majority of people in that estate, all their councillors, their Member of Parliament and their Member of the European Parliament. We asked for a working party to consider our objections and our alternative route, and our request was rejected. I inform my hon. Friends from Walsall that my consultation experience has been very different from theirs.

The response to the alternative by the West Midlands passenger transport authority has been as inadequate as the original arrangements for consultation. Basically, it told us that there are three reasons for rejecting it, and two of those reasons were reflected by the hon. Member for Yardley. First, it told us that it was not physically possible, because a new road called a spine road—that is where the term comes from—is planned for the northern side of the motorway to assist redevelopment of the heartlands, and it was physically impossible to find room for a spine road and the metro.

That is a serious objection, so I went to see the chairman of Birmingham Heartlands, a former conservative Member of this House, Sir Reginald Eyre, and I went to the city engineers' department. I was told that in fact it was physically possible to find room for both the road and the metro. So we knocked that objection on the head. The PTA then fell back on its second objection, which was, "Ah, we don't really mean that it is physically impossible; we mean that it is too expensive." We asked how expensive, and it said, "An extra £12 million." It was not £16 million. The hon. Member for Yardley used a bogus figure, which I will explain to him afterwards in detail if he wishes. The extra cost is £12 million. That is the figure that we got. We were told that it will cost that much because a tunnel would have to be built to get the metro to the other side of the motorway.

That sounded like a lot of money, so we asked how that sum compared with the total cost of the scheme. We were told that the total cost of the route from Five Ways to Birmingham airport would be £224 million. We said, "That sounds an even bigger amount of money." We were told, "Yes, it is expensive because we need to build a tunnel through the city centre." We said, "Oh yes, how much will that tunnel cost?"

We were then told that the authority was planning to provide not one but five separate tunnels, at a cost of £100 million, to ensure that the metro is environmentally acceptable in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Ms. Short), plus £7.5 million to get the metro from my constituency into the neighbouring constituency of Meriden, plus another £12.5 million for tunnels in Solihull. The authority is willing to spend £120 million for five tunnels elsewhere, but it will not spend £12 million—one tenth of the total—for a tunnel to ensure that the route is environmentally acceptable to the people who live on the Bromford estate.

When the PTA was faced with that comparison, it fell back on its third objection. It said, "In any case, we cannot put the metro on the other side of the motorway because it would have an adverse effect of ridership. We want the people of the Bromford estate to use it. We do not think that the people of Bromford estate will go to the other side of the motorway to use it. We want to put the metro as near as possible to the homes of people living in the Bromford estate so that they can pop on to the metro and go to Five Ways, the convention centre, the national exhibition centre and Birmingham airport whenever they like."

The residents and I asked the authority to tell us what the effects on ridership would be. It told us that if the metro ran to the north of the motorway, the number of people using it would be reduced by two thirds. That is the figure that the hon. Member for Yardley used. When we asked what that meant in terms of passenger journeys, we were told that the number of trips—that is what the authority calls it—would be reduced from between 1,900 and 2,200 trips a day to between 500 and 800 trips a day. When we expressed some incredulity about those figures, we were told that they came out of the computer of the passenger transport authority. We all know about computers. My constituents and I wanted to know why the computer said that there would be a reduction of two thirds, or 66 per cent., rather than some other percentage.

We asked the passenger transport authority what assumptions it had put into the computer to produce the figures. We were told, "You will have to come back because we do not have time to do it today and the man who is responsible for it has to catch a train to Derby." That is what they call consultation.

As the House will have gathered, my constituents are not easily fooled. By now they have come to distrust any figures given to them by the passenger transport authority. They have looked at the report given to the city council in January about the effect on ridership figures of moving the metro route.

The residents of Bromford estate have drawn my attention to the one thing that we have been told about ridership figures. The figures assume that, if the metro ran to the north of the motorway, it would not be possible to provide a station at Bromford Bridge. At the same time, one of the few facts that we have elicited about the calculation of the extra cost—which produced a figure of £12 million for a tunnel—is that it includes £7.5 million for the cost of providing an underground station at Bromford Bridge.

The passenger transport authority and the hon. Member for Yardley claim at one and the same time that, if the metro ran to the north of the motorway, the ridership figures would be reduced by two thirds because there would not be a station at Bromford Bridge, and that it would be prohibitively expensive for the metro to go north of the motorway because it would mean building an underground station at Bromford Bridge. They cannot have it both ways.

The House will understand why my constituents, the local councillors and I are beginning to suspect that the West Midlands passenger transport authority has made up its mind that the metro will run through the Bromford estate and is trying to cook the figures to justify its choice. My constituents have suggested a constructive alternative, but the only response of the passenger transport authority has been to oppose it with arguments that are incorrect, incredible and inconsistent.

I now come to what I regard as the worst aspect of the affair. Hon. Members who have just come into the Chamber are probably saying to themselves that a case has been made for a careful and independent examination in Committee of the details of the route as it will affect the Bromford and Firs estates. Supporters of the Bill may argue, "The objections are merely details; let us vote for the Bill tonight. Let us vote for it in principle and leave the details of the route to the Committee. After all, the residents of the Bromford and Firs estates have petitioned against the Bill and their case can be examined in Committee." I regret to tell the House, as other hon. Members have, that the determination of the West Midlands passenger transport authority to bulldoze the Bill and the route on to the statute book knows no hounds of decency or democracy.

As soon as my constituents lodged their petition against the Bill, the passenger transport authority lodged an objection to their right to be heard by a Committee of the House, on the grounds that the authority did not intend compulsorily to purchase my constituents' homes but only to impose unacceptable noise levels and take away their view. This is a matter to be settled by the Court of Referees, and I ask the House to take note of the attitude of the West Midlands passenger transport authority.

Altogether, 34 organisations have petitioned against the Bill, including banks, property developers, businesses, educational institutions, statutory undertakings and British Rail. They include organisations as diverse as the Post Office and the Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England, and five residents' groups in Walsall, Solihull and my constituency.

The Minister suggested that the Bill should be given its Second Reading so that it can be examined in detail in Committee. The hon. Member for Yardley suggested much the same in introducing the Bill. However, unlike the Minister, my hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich, East (Mr. Snape) was kind enough to express his concern on this point. My constituents are much heartened by my hon. Friend's letter on behalf of the Leader of the Opposition, which told them in September: During the last metro controversy in the area, I did make the point to Councillor Bateman that it was impossible to implement a new transport system without the active support of the residents. I will liaise with Terry Davis over this matter once Parliament has resumed to ensure that no development takes place without the consultation and consent of local residents. There is no doubt that the project does not have the consent of the residents in my constituency. The passenger transport authority is trying to stop residents putting their views to a Committee of this House. It has objected to all the resident groups' rights to be heard.

Those residents are ordinary people—people whose only investments are in their homes—yet the passenger transport authority wants to prevent them from having the opportunity to explain their fears and objections to Members of Parliament.

Throughout the build-up to the Bill, the attitude of the passenger transport authority has been, "Don't question us. We know what is good for you." That is not democracy, it is dictatorship, and that in itself is a good enough reason for opposing the Bill.

9.46 pm
Mr. Ronnie Fearn (Southport)

I have spent six hours in the Chamber, but it has been worth it because I have been able to listen to the debate and to hon. Members who actually represent their constituencies. As transport spokesman for my party, I have received representations from Walsall members of my party which I should like to put on the record tonight. I also represent people who have written to me out of the blue because I am my party's transport spokesman. I have received many letters, although perhaps not quite as many as those received by some Conservative Members.

Mr. Turner

Will the hon. Gentleman confirm that he has also received letters of support for the metro from Liberals in Wolverhampton?

Mr. Fearn

I have had a letter from one councillor who, I believe, is not standing at the next election. However, I have received many other letters. Liberal Democrats in Walsall have been working hard on this issue.

Liberal Democrats are not opposed to light railway systems and I would support them wherever they may be proposed, although I shall speak out if they affect people's homes, as has been suggested tonight. Nor are Walsall Liberal Democrats opposed to a light railway. They support the Walsall-Wednesbury link, although they are opposed to the Walsall-Wolverhampton link, firstly on environmental grounds in certain areas. The planned route will decimate the Greenway between the M6 and St. Annes road. The elevated section between Granbourn road and Clarke's lane would apparently be lost altogether and the Willenhall memorial park, which has been mentioned, will be intruded upon. The park is a memorial to the dead of the first world war.

I also know that the rail will run just feet from the back doors of residents in Belinda close and that 2,000 signatures in opposition to the route have been presented. I know that the Bill's promoter said that 15 per cent. object to the Bill, but what I do not know is, 15 per cent. of what figure? The involvement of 2,000 residents sounds a great number to me, and they should be listened to.

There is already a confused road network in the area, and I believe that the chosen route will create chaos in that network with its eight level crossings.

For the metro to be successful, it should be street-running for the majority of its length. Perhaps comment will be made on that aspect of light rail—should it or should it not be street-running? The Liberal Democrat Chief Whip and four other persons walked the route, and I can tell the House that the majority of it has little to do with street running. It is a quiet walk and there are few houses.

Have options been considered closely? What are the objections to re-establishing the heavy rail link between Walsall and Wolverhampton by extending the Shrewsbury sprinter service through to Walsall? it is obvious that wide-ranging consultation has not taken place, despite what has been said. More information must be made available, and the residents who will be affected by the route are calling for more consultation. The environment and the people will suffer unless firm alterations to the routes are agreed with all those concerned.

Although in principle I agree with the light railway, I cannot support the Bill——

Mr. George

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Turner

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Fearn

—unless alterations are made in the planning stage. I tell those who sought to intervene that I have finished.

9.51 pm
Mr. Jeff Rooker (Birmingham, Perry Barr)

I refrained from seeking to catch your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, until those hon. Members who have a direct constituency interest had made their "constituency" speeches. In principle—like every other hon. Member, I believe—I am in favour of a more modern transport system for the urban areas. Whatever our political differences across the Floor of the House or within our parties, I do not believe that anyone can be satisfied with the present situation or with the present plans for solving the problems that face us. The Government's solution is to build more roads for more cars. It is barmy. There is no long-term future in such a proposal. The world will run out of rubber before we arrive at a solution.

It is clear from the proposals that have been produced by the transport authority that another route into Birmingham from Sutton Coldfield, which can only pass through my constituency, is a prime candidate when it comes to improving the transport system. It would be a money spinner: there is no question about that. The route from another area of Sutton Coldfield will be electrified through to Erdington. The other route from Sutton Coldfield will have to come through my constituency and through the Kingstanding area. I do not have any details, and I am not arguing for one proposal or another. I have an interest, however, and so do my constituents, in the conduct of organising Bills and in the routes that are set out in legislation. What I have heard so far about the route proposed in the Bill I do not like.

Like many other hon. Members, especially those who represent Birmingham constituencies, I have been on the receiving end over the past six months or more of many letters and petitions from people who are not my constituents. In the normal course of events, one passes this correspondence to the local Member, and in all cases I have passed it to my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Hodge Hill (Mr. Davis). Many of the letters were personal, not photocopied.

Many people made a plea—I considered it to be a reasonable one—that I should go to the Bromford estate. I was asked to listen to the residents about the future of the estate. When I was no more than seven or eight years old, I remember being taken to the area for a day out when it was the Birmingham race course. I do not think that I have been on the land since those days.

It was suggested that it was no good going to the Bromford estate on a Sunday afternoon. Accordingly, I visited it at 7.30 am on Friday. I met representatives of the residents' association, having first consulted my hon. Friend the Member for Hodge Hill because the estate is in his constituency. I use the motorway every week. I also use Collector road. That is because using the two routes varies my drive out of Birmingham to the M I. I am aware of Collector road. I have travelled the M6 ever since it has opened and used the Bromford viaduct. However, I have never before been to the Bromford estate underneath it.

I was appalled. There is an elevated section of the motorway and there is the railay line. The quietest thing there is the canal—another method of transport—underneath the motorway. There are aircraft flying overhead. Nobody thought to bury the power lines. Subject to weather conditions, these make no noise, but they are an eyesore. The visual amenity for the residents of the estate is zero. As well as the pylons, the railway and the motorway, there are the factory sites for Dunlop and its associated factories, which can be seen through the pillars holding up the motorway.

Nobody offered to screen the motorway. Trees have been planted, but they are not mature. The green lung—this is a misuse of the phrase—running along the motorway is the only bit of green on that part of the Bromford estate. It is used not just for football pitches, walking the dogs and so on, but for having parties and picnics in the summer. The idea of picnicking under a pylon near the M6 with a railway running alongside beggars belief, but that is the only bit of green for the residents. Someone has decided that this bit of green is the ideal route for the metro line. I have walked from one end of the estate to the other.

Mr. Turner

If all these serious environmental matters are of such relevance, why is it that Birmingham city council, at an earlier stage, did not take these points on board? The route has been set by a Labour-controlled city council.

Mr. Rooker

For the same reason why, in the past, various public authorities erected power lines and the motorways while ignoring the needs of local people. It is as simple as that. The decision has been taken, but the residents do not agree with it. I have heard from both sides of the House the argument that this is a point of detail, a Committee point, to be dealt with upstairs. That is the answer to most issues when one is discussing the principle, but I have also heard that the right of people to be heard upstairs will be taken away because they are opposed by the very people who are promoting the Bill.

Mr. Terry Davis

Does my hon. Friend agree that the whole issue has blown by the intervention from the hon. Member for——

Mr. Bevan

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 119, Noes 28.

Division No. 102] [9.58 pm
Allason, Rupert Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston)
Arbuthnot, James Knowles, Michael
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Knox, David
Arnold, Tom (Hazel Grove) Lamond, James
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N) Lawrence, Ivan
Beaumont-Dark, Anthony Lilley, Peter
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)
Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke) Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)
Bermingham, Gerald McFall, John
Bevan, David Gilroy McLoughlin, Patrick
Bidwell, Sydney Maxton, John
Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich) Meale, Alan
Boyes, Roland Michael, Alun
Bright, Graham Miscampbell, Norman
Brown, Nicholas (Newcastle E) Montgomery, Sir Fergus
Browne, John (Winchester) Moonie, Dr Lewis
Budgen, Nicholas Moynihan, Hon Colin
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE) Mudd, David
Canavan, Dennis Neubert, Michael
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Nicholls, Patrick
Chapman, Sydney Nicholson, Emma (Devon West)
Clarke, Tom (Monklands W) Norris, Steve
Clelland, David Page, Richard
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest) Patnick, Irvine
Coombs, Simon (Swindon) Pawsey, James
Corbett, Robin Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli) Porter, David (Waveney)
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James Redwood, John
Duffy, A. E. P. Rhodes James, Robert
Dunnachie, Jimmy Riddick, Graham
Durant, Tony Sackville, Hon Tom
Dykes, Hugh Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')
Eadie, Alexander Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)
Fallon, Michael Snape, Peter
Fearn, Ronald Speller, Tony
Field, Barry (Isle of Wight) Stern, Michael
Flynn, Paul Stevens, Lewis
Fookes, Dame Janet Stewart, Andy (Sherwood)
Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman Stradling Thomas, Sir John
Freeman, Roger Summerson, Hugo
Fry, Peter Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Fyfe, Maria Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman
George, Bruce Thompson, D. (Calder Valley)
Godman, Dr Norman A. Thorne, Neil
Golding, Mrs Llin Thurnham, Peter
Graham, Thomas Trippier, David
Greenway, Harry (Ealing N) Turner, Dennis
Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N) Waddington, Rt Hon David
Hague, William Waller, Gary
Hanley, Jeremy Wareing, Robert N.
Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr') Warren, Kenneth
Harris, David Watson, Mike (Glasgow, C)
Haselhurst, Alan Watts, John
Hawkins, Christopher Winnick, David
Haynes, Frank Winterton, Mrs Ann
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N) Winterton, Nicholas
Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W) Wood, Timothy
Hunt, David (Wirral W)
Hunter, Andrew Tellers for the Ayes:
Jack, Michael Mr. Roger King and Mrs. Maureen Hicks.
Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)
Knight, Greg (Derby North)
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Lewis, Terry
Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE) McKay, Allen (Barnsley West)
Buchan, Norman Mahon, Mrs Alice
Callaghan, Jim Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)
Clay, Bob Mills, Iain
Cousins, Jim Morgan, Rhodri
Cox, Tom Nellist, Dave
Cryer, Bob Patchett, Terry
Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'l) Primarolo, Dawn
Dixon, Don Rooker, Jeff
Eastham, Ken Short, Clare
Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John Skinner, Dennis
Hughes, John (Coventry NE) Wigley, Dafydd
Williams, Alan W. (Carm'then) Tellers for the Noes:
Wise, Mrs Audrey Mr. Martin Redmond and Mr. George J. Buckley.

Question accordingly agreed to.

Question put accordingly, That the Bill be now read a Second time:—

The House divided: Ayes 112, Noes 17.

Division No. 103] [10.10 pm
Allason, Rupert Fallon, Michael
Arbuthnot, James Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Flynn, Paul
Arnold, Tom (Hazel Grove) Fookes, Dame Janet
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N) Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman
Beaumont-Dark, Anthony Freeman, Roger
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Fry, Peter
Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke) Fyfe, Maria
Bermingham, Gerald George, Bruce
Bevan, David Gilroy Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John
Bidwell, Sydney Godman, Dr Norman A.
Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich) Golding, Mrs Llin
Boyes, Roland Graham, Thomas
Brown, Nicholas (Newcastle E) Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)
Buchan, Norman Hague, William
Budgen, Nicholas Hanley, Jeremy
Canavan, Dennis Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr')
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Harris, David
Chapman, Sydney Haselhurst, Alan
Clarke, Tom (Monklands W) Hawkins, Christopher
Clelland, David Haynes, Frank
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest) Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Coombs, Simon (Swindon) Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W)
Corbert, Robin Hunter, Andrew
Cox, Tom Jack, Michael
Dixon, Don Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James Knight, Greg (Derby North)
Duffy, A. E. P. Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston)
Dunnachie, Jimmy Knowles, Michael
Durant, Tony Knox, David
Eadie, Alexander Lamond, James
Lawrence, Ivan Snape, Peter
Lilley, Peter Speller, Tony
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham) Stern, Michael
Lloyd, Tony (Stretford) Stevens, Lewis
McFall, John Stewart, Andy (Sherwood)
McKay, Allen (Barnsley West) Stradling Thomas, Sir John
McLoughlin, Patrick Summerson, Hugo
Maxton, John Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman
Meale, Alan Thorne, Neil
Michael, Alun Thurnham, Peter
Miscampbell, Norman Trippier, David
Montgomery, Sir Fergus Turner, Dennis
Moonie, Dr Lewis Waddington, Rt Hon David
Moynihan, Hon Colin Waller, Gary
Neubert, Michael Wareing, Robert N.
Nicholls, Patrick Warren, Kenneth
Nicholson, Emma (Devon West) Watson, Mike (Glasgow, C)
Norris, Steve Watts, John
Page, Richard Williams, Alan W. (Carm'then)
Pawsey, James Winnick, David
Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth Winterton, Mrs Ann
Raison, Rt Hon Timothy Winterton, Nicholas
Redwood, John Wood, Timothy
Rhodes James, Robert
Riddick, Graham Tellers for the Ayes:
Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb') Mr. Roger King and Mrs. Maureen Hicks.
Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Lewis, Terry
Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE) Mills, Iain
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE) Nellist, Dave
Clay, Bob Patchett, Terry
Cousins, Jim Short, Clare
Cryer, Bob Skinner, Dennis
Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'l) Wigley, Dafydd
Fearn, Ronald
Hood, Jimmy Tellers for the Noes:
Hughes, John (Coventry NE) Mr. George J. Buckley and Mr. Martin Redmond.
Janner, Greville

Question accordingly agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time and committed.