HC Deb 09 March 1998 vol 308 cc277-90

Queen's recommendation having been signified—

Motion made, and Question proposed, That, for the purposes of any Act resulting from the Road Traffic Reduction (United Kingdom Targets) Bill, it is expedient to authorise the payment out of money provided by Parliament of any expenses of the Secretary of State which are attributable to the Act.—[Mr. Jamieson.]

8.28 am
Mr. Eric Forth (Bromley and Chislehurst)

The next few items on the Order Paper are important, and the House will want to give them proper consideration. They are money resolutions and Ways and Means resolutions following from private Members' Bills. [Interruption.]

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Alan Haselhurst)

Order. Would right hon. and hon. Members who are not staying to listen to the debate please leave as quickly and as quietly as possible out of courtesy to the right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth)?

Mr. Forth

These matters require to be considered by the House. They are in no sense automatic or trivial. There is an increasing trend for private Members' Bills to give rise to the expenditure of a large amount of taxpayers' money. That would be bad enough, but a trend that is well exemplified by the measure before the House is also contained in the following measures, as we shall see when we examine them.

Clause 3 of the Road Traffic Reduction (United Kingdom Targets) Bill states: There shall be paid out of money provided by Parliament any expenses incurred by the Secretary of State under or by virtue of this Act. That is the clue to what we are being asked to do in this measure as in other measures relating to, let us remember, private Members' Bills. We are being asked to sign a blank cheque, and we are given no estimate of the amount that will require to be expended in pursuance of this private Member's Bill.

We must get some idea from the Minister of how much of the money is already being spent in the Department on the items that are covered by the Bill. I suspect that some of them are fairly easy to justify. Clause 2(3)(a) refers to "emissions of greenhouse gases;" those are almost certainly dealt with already within the Department. However, it might be useful for us to be given some idea of the cost of that. Similarly, other items in clause 2 such as "effects on air quality" are probably already covered. Clause 2(3)(c)refers to "effects on health". That is a broad category and we must know more about it.

Mr. Nicholas Soames (Mid-Sussex)

Does my right hon. Friend agree that, as in the matter of greenhouse gases, which covers many strands of policy, the health issue will cover not only the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions, but the Department of Health? Would not it be appropriate to have a Health Minister in the House to explain in detail the extent of the overlap, what it costs and how it is administered?

Mr. Forth

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising that matter. I intended to deal with it later, but I shall deal with it now because it gives rise to a problem. Perhaps there is a defect in the money resolution arising from the issue that my hon. Friend raises. The money resolution states: for the purposes of any Act resulting from the Road Traffic Reduction (United Kingdom Targets) Bill, it is expedient to authorise the payment out of money provided by Parliament of any expenses of the Secretary of State". I assume that that means the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions, because that is the logical conclusion, but, perhaps as a result of the items in the Bill that give rise to the money resolution, other Secretaries of State may be required to spend extra money in pursuance of the Bill's requirements.

Perhaps the money resolution is defective in that regard or inadequate. I assume that the reference in the money resolution is to the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions, but perhaps the Minister will clarify that. We need to be reassured that if the Bill becomes an Act, all the items will somehow be covered by just one Department and one Secretary of State. In that case, to refer again to my hon. Friend's point, how can the effect on health be properly dealt with by the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions without any contribution by the Secretary of State for Health?

Clause 2(3)(d) is probably simpler than those to which I have referred because it refers simply to "congestion". I assume that that is not a bodily congestion, which might be a health matter, but traffic congestion, although it does not say that. We are being asked to accept that the Secretary of State will prepare a report on the adverse impact of road traffic congestion. That is a complex matter, and perhaps it has already been dealt with in the Department. The House will wish to know from the Minister about each of these headings and about how far the Department is already dealing with these matters.

Mr. Andrew Rowe (Faversham and Mid-Kent)

My right hon. Friend is on an important point. My county council, for example, has ascertained that the second largest cause of traffic congestion is the journey to school. One of the consequences of that is that the council is seriously considering policy changes that will directly affect the budget of its local education authority. Therefore, the money resolution may be defective in that, as far as I can see, it makes no reference to costs falling on other Government Departments as a direct consequence of the attempt to reduce congestion.

Mr. Forth

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. He has again anticipated what I was going to say. I am obviously so predictable—

Mr. Soames

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. May I draw your attention to the hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Mudie), the Deputy Chief Whip, who is forcing Labour Members to leave the Chamber against their wishes, like underpaid and underfed sheepdogs? Do you agree that this legislation is important and deserves the scrutiny of the House? The hon. Member seems to think that, merely by driving new Members who are keen to please him out of the Chamber, that will stop my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth) and me examining in some detail the issues that are before us. I tell the Deputy Chief Whip that it will not alter the position in any way if we have to speak to an empty House, except for the admirable and distinguished Minister. We will go on speaking because we believe that this is worthy of examination.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Whether hon. Members remain in the Chamber is not a matter for the occupant of the Chair.

Mr. Soames

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. This is a serious point. It is not whether hon. Members remain or not, but whether they are being told to leave the Chamber by the Deputy Chief Whip. He went up to them and said, "Go," and a very obedient group of ladies who were keen to please him left with their tails between their legs. Is that not monstrous?

Ms Joan Walley (Stoke-on-Trent, North)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. As someone who has just come into the Chamber because of the matter that we are discussing, may I put it on the record that I have sat with my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Mudie), the Deputy Chief Whip, and he said nothing of the sort? May I make it clear that those of us who, unlike the hon. Member for Mid-Sussex (Mr. Soames), to my knowledge, have sat through all the proceedings of the Bill—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I repeat: this is not a matter for the occupant of the Chair. This is a brief debate and I suggest that we proceed with it.

Mr. Forth

Indeed. I do not want to prolong my remarks because many of my hon. Friends wish to make a contribution, about which I am glad. My hon. Friend the Member for Faversham and Mid-Kent (Mr. Rowe) had anticipated the point that I wished to cover and it is important. I was going to skip forward to clause 2(3)(g), which has the heading "other social impacts", which is the broadest possible term that one can imagine.

I have worked out that one of the aims of road traffic reduction must inevitably involve the item that has come to cause so much congestion: the transport of young children to school by their parents, which is an important part of traffic. If the Bill, were it to become an Act, will reduce that element, those children will have to get to school somehow. My hon. Friend the Member for Faversham and Mid-Kent has made a crucial point.

Mr. Soames

To follow up the point that was made by my hon. Friend the Member for Faversham and Mid-Kent (Mr. Rowe), by extension, there is no reference anywhere in the money resolution to the apportionment of money that will be required to undertake the survey. Clearly, the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions has its own mechanisms for doing traffic surveys. It will, I am sure, subcontract them to county and district councils. Surely in this case, councils will need to be repaid for their work in subcontracting that business from the Department.

Will my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth) turn his mind to that and also tell us what he believes will be the impact on the Bill of European legislation on greenhouse gases?

Mr. Forth

My hon. Friend makes very important points. One of them, certainly in the context of the money resolution, is how far we can identify the costs arising from the Bill's requirements—that is the first question that must be answered. The second involves the apportionment of the costs not only across several Government Departments, but, as we have now identified, across local government. As my hon. Friend said, local government may well be involved in the surveys to underpin the reports that will be required under the Bill.

It has also been pointed out that additional transport costs may well fall on local authorities that have to transport to school children who would otherwise be taken by their parents, but who will be discouraged from doing so if the Bill becomes law.

Mr. Jonathan Sayeed (Mid-Bedfordshire)

As the money resolution leaves everything to the Secretary of State, and given the Government's propensity to give more money to urban than to rural authorities, is it not likely that money will be taken from rural authorities and given to urban authorities? Yet rural authorities have a much greater need to transport children long distances, by road, to school.

Mr. Forth

My hon. Friend makes a crucial point. One of the difficulties—I was about to say nonsenses, but I will say difficulties at this stage—inherent in the whole business of a seductive-sounding Bill to make further provision for road traffic reduction targets, is that if the targets are to be meaningful, they will have to be highly discriminatory between rural and urban traffic, to use the broadest possible terms.

The targets would have to identify the elements of traffic that were to be reduced in an ideal world, according to the sponsors of the Bill. That requires a high level of differentiation which I think will be difficult, and therefore expensive and complex. Following on from that will be all the implications of the flows of finance across Departments, from the Government down to local authorities, in an undoubtedly discriminatory way. The Bill would be used to justify a further skewing of support for local authorities away from rural areas, where the congestion is almost certainly less—although we do not know that yet because the surveys have not been carried out—and towards the urban areas.

My hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Bedfordshire (Mr. Sayeed) made a crucial point, which illustrated the extent to which an apparently seductive and attractive Bill, to which many hon. Members wanted to attach their names because it sounded so good—

Mr. Soames

My right hon. Friend has, as usual, and in his own seductive way, got to the core, the heart, indeed the nub of the Bill. This Bill commands considerable support. I have received a large number of letters from my constituents in favour of it. I do not know whether my right hon. Friend has had the same experience.

However, what we are seeking to do is not something that may or may not be popular, in public terms, in relation to what may or may not be a good piece of legislation. It is our job to analyse the money resolution and decide whether it goes totus porcus. Does my right hon. Friend agree that, within the money resolution, there should be—

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Michael Lord)

Order. That intervention is far too long.

Mr. Forth

I think that I am grateful to my hon. Friend for what he said. I hope that he will try to catch your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to expand on the interesting concept that he has just introduced to the debate. Perhaps the term that he has just used leads us on to the question of biodiversity. I suspect that it does. I am not sure that I know what biodiversity means, and I certainly do not know what it means in the context of the Bill.

We are being asked to vote money to support a Bill that tasks the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions to produce a report involving targets for the effect of traffic on land and biodiversiy. That goes rather wide of what any of us might have imagined would be in a Road Traffic Reduction (United Kingdom Targets) Bill.

I can understand references to greenhouse gases or to the European context, to which we must return later. I can also understand references to air quality, health, congestion, danger to other road users and other social impacts—under which I had intended to deal with the point about schools. However, I really am struggling when it comes to understanding "land and biodiversity".

Mr. David Maclean (Penrith and The Border)

Will my right hon. Friend allow me?

Mr. Forth

Yes, of course.

Mr. Maclean

As one of those who was at Rio and negotiated the original treaty, I can say that biodiversity is the wealth of our wildlife. My right hon. Friend will be aware that, in the context of this Bill, less wildlife would be squashed by car tyres if there were less traffic on country roads. I assume that that is the meaning of that provision in the Bill.

Mr. Forth

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend. I thought that he might come to my rescue on the matter. However, in helping me, he has given rise to another thought: yet again in one word—biodiversity—is contained implications that, one might well imagine, could lead to considerable costs in the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions in working out how many items of squashed wildlife were involved, to provide a target, or the implications of targeting, for the Bill's broad purposes.

Mr. Rowe

My right hon. Friend may be unaware that when my hon. Friend the former Member for Basingstoke—Sir David Mitchell—was a Transport Minister, one of the achievements of which he was proudest was his authorisation of construction of underpasses for some of the busiest roads in Britain, to enable hedgehogs, badgers and otters to cross roads. The cost was absolutely enormous. It may well be that, in trying to protect our nation's biodiversity, we are being asked to sign an enormous cheque.

Ms Walley

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. No Opposition spokesman is on the Opposition Front Bench, as Opposition Front Benchers are absolutely dissociating themselves from this farce.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

That is not a matter for the Chair.

Mr. Forth

Indeed, Mr. Deputy Speaker, we are debating private Members' legislation. It is therefore entirely appropriate that the House, as a collection of private Members, should consider the Bill, which is exactly what we are doing.

At this point, I shall have to introduce a tiny element of discord into my comments—which I shall soon draw to a close, as I suspect that colleagues would like to speak. I am not sure that I agree with the comments just made by my hon. Friend the Member for Faversham and Mid-Kent—but only to the extent that he assumes that the Bill's provisions might give rise to a need to provide more tunnels for hedgehogs to cross roads so that they are not squashed. I understand his reasoning, but I approach the matter from a different angle, and am perhaps keeping more faith with the Bill.

The Bill states that we want to attempt to reduce traffic, which will be done through targets, reports, surveys and investigations. We may consequently reduce the need for hedgehog tunnels under roads to the extent that traffic is reduced, as there would be less risk of hedgehogs suffering from traffic. I therefore have to disagree with my hon. Friend the Member for Faversham and Mid-Kent, but only in that respect.

Mr. Soames

Is my hon. Friend aware that the National Federation of Badger Groups—the groups exist across the country—is one of the prime sources of information—[Laughter.]

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I remind the House that we are debating a serious matter.

Mr. Forth

It is a very serious matter, and I can only assume that, in his comments, my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Sussex (Mr. Soames) is taking me back to biodiversity. His comments also dealt with the comments made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Penrith and The Border (Mr. Maclean). Furthermore, I suspect that there is probably the odd squashed badger and hedgehog to attest to the truth of my hon. Friend's comments.

Mr. Soames

I was trying to make a serious point. The National Federation of Badger Groups, which is the architect of much of the work that was mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Faversham and Mid-Kent (Mr. Rowe), would be able to help the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, North (Ms Walley) in her task. The groups are manned by volunteers who love badgers, and who would be quite prepared to do such a count for free.

Nevertheless, does my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth) agree that the type of research work that will have to be done to get a detailed feel for the total impact of traffic congestion on wildlife, let alone on human beings, would be an extremely costly measure, and that that cost should be far more clearly stated in an order?

Mr. Forth

Of course my hon. Friend is right. Let me, however, draw his attention to a provision in clause 2(2): The Secretary of State is not obliged to specify targets … if he considers that other targets, or other measures, are more appropriate for the purpose of reducing the adverse impacts of road traffic". That would worry me somewhat, but subsection (2) goes on to say: but in that case the report must explain his reasoning and include an assessment of the impact of the other targets or other measures on road traffic reduction. In some ways, I am encouraged by that. At least it provides a degree of flexibility in the Bill, which I am sure that we all welcome. But it opens up the prospect of further costs, because the work involved in examining whether "targets or other measures" are involved will be considerable.

Mr. Sayeed

I shall be delighted if I can save my right hon. Friend from being badgered by my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Sussex (Mr. Soames).

May I ask my right hon. Friend a serious question? There is no specification about the amount of money involved. We are not told where it will come from. Is there not a considerable danger that, in such a money measure, the money will be taken from other very necessary and very admirable causes?

Mr. Forth

My hon. Friend makes an important point, which underpins the debate and gives me an opportunity to wind up my remarks.

We are being asked the same thing, not just here but in subsequent business that we must submit to the same degree of scrutiny. We are being asked it for the same reason. In all these cases, a private Member's Bill, having been passed, is submitted to a money motion—something which, as I recall, rarely occurred some years ago, but is now a matter of routine because nearly all private Members' Bills seem to involve considerable expenditure.

We are asked to nod such motions through, because they come after the main business and are assumed to be matters in which we should not take much interest. But—for the reason given by my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Bedfordshire—we should take at least as much interest in them as we do in most other matters. They involve the expenditure of taxpayers' money, and therefore may well involve—if we believe the Chancellor's claim that he will keep a tight rein on public expenditure as a whole—our old friend "choices and priorities".

My hon. Friend is right. Given that the Bill may become an Act and impose on this Secretary of State—or several Secretaries of State—additional expenditure, we really must know what other items of expenditure will be forgone by the Government in order to give effect to its provisions. Until I am much more satisfied than I am now, I am loth to give my consent.

8.52 am
Mr. Nicholas Soames (Mid-Sussex)

I wish, very briefly, to support the views expressed by my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth).

My mind goes back to the days when my party was in power. In those days, Bob Cryer and the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) always contested money motions, to the great advantage of the House of Commons. Even after a long sitting to which a number of hon. Members on both sides of the House have contributed, we should not necessarily give the nod to a measure just because it is 8.50 am, and let a money motion sail through the House.

One of the most distinguished things about Bob Cryer—in a long and not undistinguished parliamentary career—was his devastating ability, on almost every Bill, to speak fluently for up to 45 minutes. I always used to stay to listen to him, because he was so good at what he did. He was a pleasure to hear, and I for one miss him greatly. I am delighted that he sent the House such a fine wife and such a splendid son, and I am surprised not to see them here this morning. The hon. Member for Bolsover assures me that Bob Cryer's son is a chip off the old block, and I am disappointed that he is not here to support us this morning in holding this high-handed, arrogant, big-headed Government to account.

The main points that I want to make about the motion are connected with public expenditure, as one would expect, and particularly, with clause 2(3), which states: In preparing the report the Secretary of State shall have regard to the adverse impacts of road traffic, including paragraphs (a) to (g). As my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst said, they are extremely onerous charges, particularly with regard to the impact of emissions of greenhouse gases, given the appalling road traffic congestion.

In my constituency of Mid-Sussex and in my old constituency of Crawley, some of the roads running through that very prosperous and beautiful part of the world are, as the Minister knows, absolutely jammed solid every morning.

Mr. Rowe

My hon. Friend may be unaware of one of the interesting elements of social impact as, only relatively recently, Age Concern informed me that something like 60 per cent. of women above a certain age have never had a driving licence. As the Government are preoccupied with social exclusion, gender equality and so on, it must be within their targets to enable women who are excluded by the absence of a driving licence to have one. That suggests that there should be more rather than fewer cars. Therefore, the requirement in the Bill that every year the Secretary of State should publish a report aimed at looking at the social impact of traffic reduction would have to take that into account, too. It would have to be wide-ranging and potentially very expensive.

Mr. Soames

My hon. Friend is completely right. Such a project would indeed be onerous.

I am a 90s man. I am equipped, chiselled and born to be part of the cutting edge of the 1990s. As we move towards the millennium, I feel very much part of contemporary times, but even I do not feel that it is right, and nor do I have the courage, to speculate as to why fewer women than men have driving licences. It would not be sensible for a Conservative Member to do that. I have my own theories, but I could not repeat them in the House of Commons. Nevertheless, the survey proposed by my hon. Friend would be extremely costly.

The effects on air quality represent vast possible expense. My right hon. Friend the Member for Penrith and The Border (Mr. Maclean) was a delegate at the Rio convention. Because of my admiration for him and my dedication to conservation and the preservation of wildlife, I have always carried around with me a little piece of paper that my right hon. Friend gave me with the Rio declaration printed on its centre pages.

I am sure that some of my hon. Friends remember our late lamented colleague, the former Member for Watford, now Lord Garel-Jones, who sadly, was translated into another place. We all remember that he used to carry around in his pocket a list of the cads in my party who voted against various pieces of Government legislation. I do not do that. I am a 90s man. I carry round in my pocket the Rio declaration. Some of my hon. Friends will find that very strange. They will think, "What is that fellow Soames carrying around? He is not into eating bats' droppings and stuff. He is a proper person." However, I carry around the Rio declaration. I would urge the Minister to study the Rio declaration with care if she intends to bring before the House of Commons onerous legislation that imposes the most extraordinary and expensive demands on God knows who. We are not told who will pay for any of it.

Mr. Sayeed

The taxpayer.

Mr. Soames

Yes, but we are not told which taxpayer. We are not told whether it will be the county council, the district council or central Government. How will the county councils be repaid? How will the National Federation of Badger Groups be reimbursed for all its work?

Mr. Forth

I can help my hon. Friend. The resolution says: it is expedient"— ha, ha— to authorise the payment out of money provided by Parliament of any expenses of the Secretary of State which are attributable to the Act. Members of Parliament are being asked to sign a blank cheque for the Secretary of State, which may carry tax implications for all citizens, to support the rather greeny aspirations of the Bill.

Mr. Soames

We certainly are. My right hon. Friend is correct. We are signing a blank cheque. Clause 2(3)(a) to (g) shows enormous potential costs. The clause says: In preparing the report, the Secretary of State shall have regard to the adverse impacts of road traffic, including the measures listed in paragraphs (a) to (g).

Principle one of the Rio declaration is: Human beings are at the centre of concerns for sustainable development. Who could disagree with such a splendid aspiration? Sentence two is: They are entitled to a healthy and productive life in harmony with nature. Living in harmony with nature in 1998 is not cheap. Most of us do not live in harmony with nature. My right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst lives in harmony with nature. My right hon. Friend the Member for Kensington and Chelsea (Mr. Clark) certainly does—he is an expert, a champion of wildlife and conservation and a forward-thinking conservator. My hon. Friend—what is your seat, Chope?

Mr. Christopher Chope (Christchurch)


Mr. Soames

My hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch (Mr. Chope) is a living example of someone who lives in harmony with nature, but it is not cheap. The list in the Bill includes emissions of greenhouse gases, effects on air quality and effects on health. When we consider the vast number of illnesses known to be caused by traffic congestion and the awful build-up of pollution and smog, we have to ask how the Secretary of State, in conjunction with the Department of Health, will pull together all the statistics. Will that not be a hugely costly operation?

Mr. Nigel Evans (Ribble Valley)

Does my hon. Friend agree that, while nobody could fail to support the main thrust of the Bill, the problem is in clause 3? It says that There shall be paid out of money provided by Parliament any expenses incurred by the Secretary of State under or by virtue of the Act. My local authority could have duties placed on it by the Secretary of State. It is having a 12 per cent. increase in council tax this year—three times the rate of inflation. Because of the lack of detail on who will pick up the tab on each of the requirements of the Bill, it could be extremely expensive.

Mr. Soames

My hon. Friend raises an important point. There is just a whimper of opposition to us. No Labour Member is rising to debate the idea that the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions should be given a blank cheque—a blank cheque—at a time of great public expenditure restraint, to undertake a survey, which, in my judgment and that of my right hon. and hon. Friends, will cost millions of pounds.

The Minister will chastise those of us who have sought to give a little more examination to the issue, saying that we are mobbing the issue up. We are not. We are dealing with a very important question. In the old days, when Bob Cryer was in the House, every money resolution was examined, to the embarrassment of my Government, in the most formidable way, with support from other Labour Members. What do we hear today from the Labour poodles? There is not a word from the running dog lackeys of the Labour Whips. All we hear is silence. We could be in the Chinese assembly for all the riot and disorder that we are hearing. Look at them giggling and laughing. We hear not a word—not a word. They are cutting single-parent benefit; they are cutting here there and everywhere; they are sticking to the most vigorous and robust public expenditure policies, attainable only by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Clarke), who laid the preparations for the Labour Government, which are so good that they are sticking to them. What do we hear from them: not a word on the prospect of the Secretary of State being given a blank cheque.

I hope that the Minister will, in a detailed exposition, set out with absolute clarity every penny that she expects to spend in the furtherance of this—I am sure—admirable private Member's Bill. The House has a right to know; the House needs to know—if we do not hold it to account, who will—how much the Bill will cost.

9.4 am

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Ms Glenda Jackson)

I trust that I will not disappoint the hon. Member for Mid-Sussex (Mr. Soames). I was not going to castigate him; I was going to sympathise with him.

The House has become used to the naked ambition that is invariably displayed by the right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth), whose desire to be restored to that cabinet of shadows is such that, at the behest of his Whips, he will walk into the House at any hour of the day or night to speak on any subject that they put in front of his nose with the same lack of seriousness of approach.

In this debate, we saw a move in the ambition stakes. We were privileged to see the first run of a new Little and Large—the Little and Large of the House of Commons—featuring the right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst and the hon. Member for Mid-Sussex. I say with all generosity to both the right hon. Gentleman and the hon. Gentleman that, although I appreciate their desire to entertain the House and their motives in paying absolutely no attention to an extremely serious Bill and the money resolution which the Bill requires before it can be put on the statute book, their act needs a great deal more rehearsal.

We were privileged to hear from Conservative Members a litany of disapproval of the money resolution, which is vital to a Bill which is surely vital to the country's health and well-being. The right hon. Members for Bromley and Chislehurst and for Penrith and The Border (Mr. Maclean) and the hon. Members for Faversham and Mid-Kent (Mr. Rowe), for Mid-Sussex, for Mid-Bedfordshire (Mr. Sayeed) and for Ribble Valley (Mr. Evans) all stood up to express their deep concern about what they perceived to be a blank cheque in the money resolution on the Road Traffic Reduction (United Kingdom Targets) Bill. There was not one word from them on the costs that are already being incurred by the failure of their Administration for 18 long years to do anything about reducing road traffic or to introduce any policy which would have brought about some form of integrated transport.

Conservative Members are expressing concerns about the mayhem that is being wrought on wildlife, particularly in rural areas, yet they formed the Government who privatised buses, which reduced the services running in rural areas, and who privatised railways, which has reduced any kind of public transport in those areas virtually to nil or to that which is totally useless to the people who need it. One cannot say that one is surprised. As my hon. Friend the Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody)—regrettably, she is not in the Chamber—would say, their brass neck on any subject beggars belief.

The money resolution covers the eventuality of any expenses arising for the Secretary of State which are attributable to the Bill. Such expenses might include the cost of commissioning surveys. As the hon. Member for Ceredigion (Mr. Dafis), the Bill's promoter, said on Second Reading: The economic costs of congestion are enormous—between £15 billion and £20 billion. That figure is from the Confederation of British Industry. The hon. Gentleman went on: Maddison and Pearce put the cost higher than that in the study, 'The True Costs of Road Transport'". The effect on health, which particularly concerned some Opposition Members, is also directly linked to an ever-increasing number of vehicles on our roads and the inevitable pollution of the air that we breathe.

Mr. Rowe

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I wonder whether you have had any intimation from the promoter of the Bill that he would not be present when his Bill was being discussed. Is it not a normal courtesy of the House that, when something as important as the money resolution relating to a private Member's Bill is being discussed, the private Member whose Bill it is, is present?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

That is not a matter for the Chair.

Ms Glenda Jackson

Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am certain that the hon. Member for Ceredigion did not think that any Member of the House would speak against the money resolution. The Bill had all-party support. It has cross-party sponsorship. The Bill will bring massive improvements to the health and well-being of people in this country. [Interruption.] I have already pointed out to the hon. Member for Ribble Valley, who, from a sedentary position, said that he wished to know how much the money resolution would cost, that the existing cost to the country of congestion on our roads is estimated to be between £15 billion and £20 billion.

On Second Reading, the hon. Member for Ceredigion said: A recent Department of Health report says: 'We have clearly underestimated the true overall effects of air pollution."'—[Official Report, 30 January 1998; Vol. 305, c. 622.]

Mr. Soames

I want the hon. Lady to break the habit of a lifetime and give a straightforward answer to the following question. She is asking the House of Commons to vote through on the nod a money resolution which says: There shall be paid out of money provided by Parliament any expenses incurred by the Secretary of State under or by virtue of this Act. I understand that the hon. Lady regards it as an impertinence for anyone to question her about anything to do with the payment of public funds, but will she now tell the House how much the Bill will cost? That is the purpose of the debate. She has not been here very long; she is not familiar with the ways of the House. If she were familiar with them, she would not have started her speech in the impertinent manner that she did. Will she now answer the question—how much money is she inviting us to—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. There is no need to personalise the debate in this way.

Ms Jackson

Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but I thought it was quite touching. The hon. Gentleman could not keep his own argument together. First, he asked whether I would break the habits of a lifetime; then he said that I had not been in this place very long. Then he said that I regarded requests from everyone as an impertinence. I say to him in all honesty, it is only his requests that I regard as an impertinence because his approach to the money resolution, and to the Bill, has been to attempt to treat the whole thing as a farceȔindeed, to present himself as a farceur to the House. He may have the build for it, but he certainly does not have the timing.

There are concerns, some of which were expressed by Conservative Members, on the issue of health. The hon. Member for Ceredigion said on Second Reading that the Department of Health report says: the deaths of between 12,000 and 24,000 people a year are 'brought forward' and that Children, the elderly and the poor suffer most. He also said: According to Dr. Ian Roberts of the child health monitoring unit at Great Ormond Street Hospital for Sick Children, more than 6 million children are at risk because of the volume of traffic on our roads."—[Official Report, 30 January 1998; Vol. 305, c. 622–23.]

Mr. Forth

Instead of quoting the absent promoter of the Bill, will the Minister simply tell us whether she does, or does not, know how much the Bill would cost her Department were it to become an Act? It would help us enormously if we were given even that much information. If she could give us an estimated figure, that would be even more helpful, but if she simply told us, as a matter of open government, whether she knows what the Bill is likely to cost—

It being three quarters of an hour after the commencement of proceedings on the motion, MR. DEPUTY SPEAKER put the Question, pursuant to Standing Order No. 52 (Money resolutions and Ways and Means resolutions in connection with Bills):—

The House divided:— Ayes 150, Noes 11.

Division No. 195] [9.13 am
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE) (Chipping Barnet)
Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy Corbett, Robin
Atkins, Charlotte Cox, Tom
Austin, John Cryer, John (Hornchurch)
Beard, Nigel Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)
Benton, Joe Dafis, Cynog
Best, Harold Dalyell, Tam
Betts, Clive Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)
Blears, Ms Hazel Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
Boateng, Paul Davies, Rt Hon Ron (Caerphilly)
Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W) Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H)
Bradley, Keith (Withington) Dawson, Hilton
Brand, Dr Peter Dismore, Andrew
Breed, Colin Drew, David
Brown, Rt Hon Nick (Newcastle E) Drown, Ms Julia
Browne, Desmond Efford, Clive
Burgon, Colin Ennis, Jeff
Butler, Mrs Christine Fatchett, Derek
Campbell, Menzies (NE Fife) Field, Rt Hon Frank
Casale, Roger Fitzpatrick, Jim
Cawsey, Ian Follett, Barbara
Chapman, Sir Sydney Foulkes, George
Gardiner, Barry Morgan, Rhodri (Cardiff W)
George, Andrew (St Ives) Mudie, George
Gerrard, Neil Murphy, Jim (Eastwood)
Gibson, Dr Ian Norris, Dan
Gilroy, Mrs Linda O'Brien, Bill (Normanton)
Goggins, Paul Olner, Bill
Griffiths, Jane (Reading E) Organ, Mrs Diana
Grocott, Bruce Osborne, Ms Sandra
Hain, Peter Pendry, Tom
Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale) Perham, Ms Linda
Hancock, Mike Pickthall, Colin
Hanson, David Pike, Peter L
Harris, Dr Evan Pollard, Kerry
Healey, John Primarolo, Dawn
Hepburn, Stephen Prosser, Gwyn
Hesford, Stephen Purchase, Ken
Hinchliffe, David Quinn, Lawrie
Home Robertson, John Rapson, Syd
Hoon, Geoffrey Rendel, David
Hopkins, Kelvin Robinson, Geoffrey (Cov'try NW)
Howarth, George (Knowsley N) Roche, Mrs Barbara
Hughes, Ms Beverley (Stretford) Rooney, Terry
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N) Ruane, Chris
Humble, Mrs Joan Russell, Bob (Colchester)
Iddon, Dr Brian Ryan, Ms Joan
Jackson, Ms Glenda (Hampstead) Sanders, Adrian
Jenkins, Brian Savidge, Malcolm
Johnson, Miss Melanie (Welwyn Hatfield) Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Kennedy, Charles (Ross Skye) Singh, Marsha
King, Andy (Rugby & Kenilworth) Skinner, Dennis
Leslie, Christopher Smith, Miss Geraldine (Morecambe & Lunesdale)
Levitt, Tom Soley, Clive
Linton, Martin Starkey, Dr Phyllis
Livsey, Richard Stewart, Ian (Eccles)
Lloyd, Tony (Manchester C) Stoate, Dr Howard
Love, Andrew Stuart, Ms Gisela
McAvoy, Thomas Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
McCabe, Steve Thomas, Gareth R (Harrow W)
McCafferty, Ms Chris Touhig, Don
McCartney, Ian (Makerfield) Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
McDonnell, John Tyler, Paul
McFall, John Walzley, Ms Joan
Maclean, Rt Hon David Webb, Steve
McNulty, Tony White, Brian
McWalter, Tony Williams, Mrs Betty (Conwy)
Mallaber, Judy Winnick, David
Mandelson, Peter Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Marek, Dr John Wise, Audrey
Marshall—Andrews, Robert Wood, Mike
Michael, Alun Woolas, Phil
Michie, Bill (Shef'ld Heeley) Wright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)
Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll & Bute)
Milburn, Alan Tellers for the Ayes:
Miller, Andrew Jane Kennedy and
Mitchell, Austin Mr. Graham Allen.
Moran, Ms Margaret
Atkinson, David (Bour'mth E) Lloyd, Rt Hon Sir Peter (Fareham)
Chapman, Sir Sydney (Chipping Barnet) Rowe, Andrew (Faversham)
Clark, Rt Hon Alan (Kensington) Simpson, Keith (Mid-Norfolk)
Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth (Rushcliffe) Soames, Nicholas
Gummer, Rt Hon John Wells, Bowen
Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas Tellers for the Noes:
Mr. Eric Forth and
Mr. Jonathan Sayeed.

Question accordingly agreed to.

Resolved, That, for the purposes of any Act resulting from the Road Traffic Reduction (United Kingdom Targets) Bill, it is expedient to authorise the payment out of money provided by Parliament of any expenses of the Secretary of State which are attributable to the Act.