HL Deb 24 March 1981 vol 418 cc1058-70

3.1 p.m.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment (Lord Bellwin) rose to move, That the order laid before the House on 27th November 1980 be approved.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this order establishes and defines the area of the Merseyside Urban Development Corporation, which the Government propose to set up under the powers contained in Part XVI of the Local Government, Planning and Land Act 1980. Section 134 of that Act enables the Secretary of State by order to designate an area as an urban development area if, in his opinion, it is in the national interest so to do. Section 135 empowers him by order to establish a corporation for the purposes of regenerating the area. This order sets up the Merseyside Development Corporation, with the task of securing the regeneration of 865 acres of land, largely comprising discarded and under-used dock areas in Liverpool, Sefton and Wirral, as delineated on the accompanying map.

As I explained to your Lordships' House during the passage of the 1980 Bill, the Government consider that the scale of the problems in the London and Merseyside docklands requires the establishment of new bodies with sufficient resources and powers, with the specific objective of regenerating their areas, working at all times in close consultation with the local authorities, the port authority and other appropriate local interests.

Following the laying of the order in late November, it was considered and judged hybrid. This meant that petitions could be made against the order by any interested parties. Only one petition was submitted, but was shortly afterwards withdrawn. I shall deal briefly with the corporation and its powers, and then with the area.

The board at present exists in "shadow" form, comprising a chairman, Mr. Leslie Young; a deputy chairman, Sir Kenneth Thompson; and the chief executive, Mr. Basil Bean. The purpose of this arrangement, which is well precedented, was to enable some progress to be made in the start-up period while the formal procedures were in train. If Parliament approves the order, the Secretary of State proposes to confirm the appointments of Mr. Young, Sir Kenneth Thompson and Mr. Bean to the board. Other appointments to the board will be made shortly and will include those, taking the words of paragraph 2 of Schedule 26 to the Act, "having special knowledge of the locality". The corporation will be tightly staffed. It will not be an inflated bureaucracy, but will buy in expertise, including using local firms, and will work with and use the services of the local authorities.

Part XVI of the Act provides for a wide range of specific and general powers to be exercised by the corporation, in order for it to carry out the substantial task of regenerating the designated area by bringing land and buildings into effective use, encouraging development, upgrading the environment and stimulating private investment. The order makes no exclusions from the range of functions which the Act allows urban development corporations to exercise—with one caveat. There is no current intention to bring forward orders that would enable the corporation to exercise either building control functions or the powers of a housing authority. The corporation will still be able, however, to secure housing provision under its general powers. It is the Government's intention that the full range of planning authority powers, which the Act permits to be conferred, should be exercised by the corporation. My right honourable friend accordingly intends to lay a further order (subject to annulment) before Parliament to secure this, as well as orders proposing the vesting of certain publicly-owned land in the corporation.

My right honourable friend announced on 9th February that £82 million would be available to the London and Merseyside UDCs in 1981–82. The estimates published last week show a level of grant provision for the Merseyside Development Corporation of £16.5 million. This sum is, of course, additional to the £17 million that has been allocated to the Liverpool partnership for 1981–82, and the £2 million-plus that Wirral, as an inner city programme authority, can also expect to receive under the urban programme. However, the possible allocation of further sums to the new development coporation in 1981–82 will be considered in the course of the year.

Provision for future years has yet to be decided but will, without doubt, reflect the high priority which the Government attach to the development corporation's task. Inevitably, in the MDC's first year of operation, much of the expenditure will be for land acquisition and initial reclamation work. But provision is also being made for environmental schemes, expenditure on roads, payments to local authorities and statutory undertakers and grants and loans under the Inner Urban Areas Act.

As to the corporation's area, four main factors have determined what that area should be: first, where the regeneration task of the corporation could best be brought to bear; secondly, the need to avoid prejudicing the operational requirements of the port; thirdly, areas where the provision of port-related industry by the corporation could best assist the needs of the port; and, fourthly, the need not to cut across the existing initiatives of local authorities in, for example, the declared industrial improvement areas. Accordingly, the urban development area comprises three tightly-defined parcels of land. Most of the land is in various public sector ownerships. About 75 per cent. of the total is owned by the Mersey Docks and Harbour Company, and much of the rest is owned by British Rail. Most of the land has passed out of its original port or port-related use and is in poor condition, decaying and unattractive, with poor access and infrastructure. Nevertheless, there are areas with thriving economic activity, often comprising small firms which have moved in, taking advantage of the low rents offered, but with poor conditions and little security of tenure.

To look at the areas in turn, in Liverpool the South Docks finally passed out of operational use in the early 1970s. Open to the tide, they have filled with polluted silt. But in spite of the dereliction, the area has its assets and it is here, particularly, that many of the old sheds now house small firms. Through dock reclamation and selective clearance, sites can be created in order to attract private investment. Here, too, refurbishment, good estate management, improved access, infrastructure and environment will be required, both to sustain and to enhance the existing firms, and also to attract new ones.

The adjoining riverside area to the south includes a partly-cleared area which was used for petroleum storage, and there is a major opportunity here to improve the environment by landscaping, and for some residential development. In the Bootle area of Sefton, the modern docks continue in active use but back-up land nearby for port-related use is needed. The area designated by the order presents opportunities for site assembly and marketing in support of the port. On the other side of the Mersey estuary, a further dock system lies between Birkenhead and Wallasey. Access is poor and major reclamation works are needed. Around the Woodside/Morpeth dock areas, there are further old buildings housing small firms and some operational port uses. The area presents considerable opportunities, but there is need to assemble land, reclaim it, provide infrastructure and better access.

In all the three areas, the single-minded approach of the corporation, combining development and planning powers, will be needed to make improvements, but it is well understood that there must be maximum cooperation with existing tenants and with the local authorities, as well as of course with the Mersey Docks and Harbour Company.

The shadow organisation that has been preparing for the establishment of the corporation has done a great deal of work to ensure that the corporation can be effective as quickly as possible. Its development strategy is largely complete, as is the preparation of its proposed initial projects. Numerous consultations have already taken place with the local authorities and with existing occupiers within the area, and also with the existing landowners, in order to decide what land should be acquired initially by the corporation.

The renewal of the dockland areas of Merseyside presents immense tasks and challenges. But they represent also a great opportunity for enterprise to flourish in the heart of one of our great cities. I am confident that the new, single-minded development corporation, with the powers that I have indicated, and with the substantial Exchequer finance which we are making available, will be able to make a major contribution to the badly needed regeneration and additional job provision on Merseyside. With that in mind, I commend this order to the House.

Moved, That the order laid before the House on 27th November 1980 be approved.—(Lord Bellwin.)

3.12 p.m.

Baroness Birk

My Lords, first I should like to thank the Minister for his very clear and brief exposition of the order. We should be quite clear at this stage that there is a great difference between this order and the London Docklands Order which at the moment is being considered by a committee of this House. So anything I say about the order—we on these Benches are not objecting to it—does not in any way apply to what might evolve during the discussions on the London Docklands Order.

So far as Merseyside is concerned, it has been accepted by the area itself and by the Members of Parliament who represent the constituencies in that area that there should be a UDC. Nevertheless, we recall that there was great discussion about it during the passage of the last Local Government Act. We on these Benches opposed in principle the setting up of UDCs because we felt that the local authorities themselves would be able to cope. But that is water under the legislative bridge. We are now dealing with this order.

If the object of the exercise—the Minister stressed this very strongly and very well—is to stimulate growth in Liverpool, it is recognised that the most basic industries are the docks industry and the dock-related industries. The Mersey Docks and Harbour Company now has debts of between £16 million and £20 million. Any receipts from the sale of those assets will have to go towards the repayment of debts to the stockholders. To start with, therefore, it looks as though the initial £16 million will be taken up in the repayment of debts to the stockholders of that company. Not only will they lose their capital assets; they will also lose the revenue. At the moment something like £½ million is coming in from the rents of buildings, houses and other property owned by the company.

Whatever funding arrangements are made through the development corporation, the Mersey Docks and Harbour Company should not be disadvantaged. It should be helped to become viable. Half of the surplus land which it is selling off is in an incredibly bad state. Once the land is cleared, there will be a need for considerable infrastructure: drainage, sewerage, access, clearing of buildings, land put into good order and areas of water filled in. The betterment of the community, as I understand it, is what this is all about, but it should not be done at the expense of the dock company itself. If the legal responsibility which was imposed on the dock company in 1971 when it ceased to be financially viable were removed, the Government could and should write off the stockholders' debt. The Government should pay that debt themselves and not leave it hanging around Liverpool's neck.

In Liverpool, the biggest industries are the Ford motorworks and food products. In Liverpool also the level of unemployment is extraordinarily high. There is an unemployment rate in the Liverpool area of 18 per cent., which includes the "journey to work" community. And unemployment is as high as 30 per cent. in the inner areas. Therefore, it is absolutely essential to create a new employment image. The old image has gone. It is no good looking for palliatives. Something more fundamental is needed. When the last Government were in power we were in the process of redeploying various Civil Service departments, but this was axed by the present Government. The PSA had gone very far towards redeveloping the Exchange Station site, but this was abandoned by the present Government. This has been costly in terms of jobs and financial and economic sustenance for Liverpool. Therefore, Liverpool has already been put into a worse economic state than it needed to be in.

Turning to the structure of the board, the Minister spoke of the shadow board which exists at the moment. Its membership is extremely important. It is very important that membership of the board should not be considered as a reward for local "worthies". It is essential that there should be 11 dynamic people on the board and that membership should not be regarded as an honour or as a reward. I do not know whether the Minister can help me, but at the moment I understand that there are very strong and fairly authoritative rumours that each of the local authorities will have one member on the board. Those local authorities are Liverpool City Council, Sefton, Wirral and Merseyside County Council. The deputy chairman, Sir Kenneth Thompson, was the chairman of the Merseyside County Council.

If this is so, it means that there will be a very grave imbalance in representation on the board. To take for a moment Liverpool City Council, which has 60 per cent. of the proposed land within its area, for it to have only one member on the board would seem to be rather ill-balanced. It would also mean that there would not be one Labour representative on the board. There will be three Conservative representatives from Wirral, Sefton and the county council. This does not include the deputy chairman who was the Conservative chairman of the county council. Incidentally, at that time he was very much against the setting up of the UDC. Liverpool City Council will be represented by a Liberal because the Liberals have control of the chairmanships, although the Labour Party on the council has one vote more. I do not know whether the Minister can help us over that point.

I agree with the Minister that it is important that the links with the local authorities must be very close and that there should be very close, practical cooperation as well. It is essential that duplication should be avoided. The Minister stressed the importance of co-ordination. However, I cannot help thinking back to the Local Government Act 1972 and to the National Health Service Act 1973 which resulted, though I do not suppose this was the intention at the time, in enormous empire building, a great deal of duplication and unnecessary levels of both manpower and administration. I should like to ask the Minister whether it will be made very clear that when Liverpool City Council is dealing with its planning applications its own department secretariat will be used, where necessary, by the UDC—this is just an example—rather than setting up its own. It would be bad if the UDC got off to a feeling locally that the territorial stakes had been wrongly allocated.

I should also like to ask the Minister what incentives there are going to be to attract enterprise to this area. Trade and commerce are in fact needed more than industry because there is no longer a strong and long tradition of manufacturing industry in Liverpool. I ask this because it is all very well to say that £16.5 million is now being allocated. I would suggest that it is a financial drip, not even a drop, of money at this time. The Minister has said that further sums will be considered in the course of the year. We really have to be realistic about that.

We are living at a time when local government is being cut by the Secretary of State and having the stuffing knocked out of it week after week—sometimes almost day after day. We have no commitment; there is nothing on which we can accept that there will be more resources automatically forthcoming in the process of the next year or so. If we look at what is happening at the moment in Liverpool itself, the rate support grant has undergone a cut of £6.5 million; the reduction in the Government grant as a proportion of the reduced national expenditure has cost Liverpool £2 million (that is to say, the drop from 60 per cent. to 59 per cent.) and the effect of the new block grant has cost Liverpool £6 million. Therefore there has been a cut of £14.5 million.

In another place an honourable Member drew attention to the case of Sefton, where, according to him, £19 million has been knocked off the rate support grant. That is in column 523 of Hansard of another place for 19th March, and when the Minister wound up he did not argue about that figure. Unless local authorities have their grants restored all that is happening is a changed pattern of expense and more and more pressure resulting on the local authorities. There is a loss of operational jobs through these cuts, so I do not know how this will improve the employment situation when on the one hand there is a certain amount of money going to the UDC and on the other hand the local authorities are undergoing cuts. It is really chopping it all off from the knees. I cannot see that this will work in any constructive or positive way.

The Minister mentioned the partnership schemes and the £17 million there. I am glad to know that the Government are continuing with that, because at the time when the Labour Government brought in these schemes they were strongly opposed by the then Tory Opposition, who did not feel that the Government should have anything to do with the matter but that it should be left entirely to private enterprise. But what in fact is private enterprise going to do when there is so much groundwork to be done?

I come back to the context of our national economic position at the present time. While the Government's policies are de-industrialising Britain, it does not seem to me that there will be a great deal of comfort in Liverpool and a great surge of people wanting to go there. It would be a terrible tragedy if the hope that people are putting into this exercise is not fulfilled. On the face of it, it seems when one first considers the figure for the urban development corporation of £16.5 million that it means a lot, but if people's hopes are going to be crumbled and the human misery, of which there is a great deal in the Liverpool area, is not really going to be alleviated it could be a very grave tragedy. We have no commitments and no firm undertakings that more resources—that is really the important thing—are going to be put into the corporation or into this area.

If we cannot hear something more positive from the Minister, it would seem—and indeed it does seem to many local people in Liverpool—that it could well be a most inauspicious time to take the initiative. If the Government would stop lumping public expenditure all together and saying, "Cut, cut, cut", and instead would differentiate between public expenditure on consumption and public expenditure on investment—and this surely is an important area of investment—then a great deal could come of it, because we do wish it well. We want to see something positive happening in Liverpool, but the Government's record and the amount of resources that they are going to put in together with the number of cuts that are going on in local authorities make one anxious about the result.

3.27 p.m.

Lord Evans of Claughton

My Lords, at the time of the passage of the Local Government, Planning and Land Bill through your Lordships' House I was very much opposed to the concept of the setting up of a fresh Quango in the shape of an urban development corporation for Merseyside and indeed for the London docklands. I felt then—and I still feel now—that with slightly extended powers to acquire property and to raise money, the duties that have been given to the development corporation of Merseyside could, and would, have been carried out very successfully by the Merseyside County Council. They would then have been carried out by people who are properly accountable and elected. I still believe that this section of the Act is otiose and unnecessary; but nevertheless it is there, and, as the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, said, there is no point in continuing to oppose it. I believe that if it gets off the ground successfully, and it is properly based financially, it can do a great deal of good for Merseyside.

Before the Act came into being, the county council on Merseyside—as no doubt the noble Lord the Minister will know—had carried out detailed negotiations with the Mersey Dock and Harbour Company with a view to the county council taking the land interest in the South Dock part of the proposed area of the urban development corporation. We were of course inhibited by the Mersey Dock and Harbour Company's knowledge that, if they received capital payments from the freeholder, they would go direct to the bond-holders. However inconvenient it is to the Mersey Dock and Harbour Company not to have that capital, I think it is absolutely right that the bondholders should get their money back. Very many people invested in the belief that they were investing in trustee securities when they bought the bonds, and it seems right that these people, many of them now very elderly, should be recompensed. If the development corporation has done nothing else than to release the freehold so that the bond-holders have restored that which is due to them, I think that will be very important to many people who bought in the genuine belief that they were buying gilt-edged securities.

The negotiations which the county council have had in hand for some considerable time have been held up by the parliamentary procedures to set up the development corporation, and inevitably the initiative which the county council took has been delayed. But now that the Government have forced through the legislation, we on these Benches want to see the task of revitalising the dockland areas of Merseyside proceed as quickly as possible and to ensure that the development corporation has the proper tools to do the job. When I speak of the proper tools for the job I am thinking, as anyone will who has taken part in the debate here or in the other place, of two things. The first is the acquisition of the land. The second is the provision of money.

Obviously even £16½ million is welcome, but as the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, has said, because of the changes in the block grant and the availability of capital resources from central Government, we on Merseyside have the feeling that what the Lord giveth the Lord also taketh away. This view is held with some feeling and cynicism on Merseyside and I hope that the noble Lord will be able to reassure us that this £16½ million is not a once-and-for-all payment—which we know—and that when the land has been acquired more money will be available for the generation of new life in this area. I hope very much that one of the things which the corporation will do will be to generate money from the private sector in encouraging amounts. That is very important indeed.

The second point I wish to mention in connection with the development corporation being able to get on with its job is that there have been, I believe, very protracted negotiations between the designated development corporation and the Merseyside Dock and Harbour Company about what is and what is not an operational dock. I gather that most of these negotiations have been completed and most of the differences have been resolved except for an outstanding difficulty over the Wallasey and Morpeth Dock areas, which lie on the Wirral side of the development corporation area. If these areas are not vested in the development corporation I doubt whether there would be any purpose in having a development corporation on the Wirral side of the area. I believe this to be a very important matter and a key one. I have spoken to various members of the local authority and to designated members of the board about this matter and I hope that this remaining difficulty can be resolved. Speaking as a person who lives in Wirral, to me it would be a tragedy if a lengthy hold-up occurred over the vesting of the area of the development corporation which lies on the Wirral side of the Mersey.

I welcome the fact that the development corporation—through its chairman, deputy chairman designate and chief executive designate—is proposing to use existing local authority facilities and other facilities. As the noble Lord said, it would be an excellent thing if the corporation continued to buy in local experience in all fields and kept its own bureaucracy to a minimum. I do not believe that Merseyside, nor the country in general, would forgive the development of another great bureaucracy. In the choice of the development corporation's chairman, Mr. Leslie Young, and deputy-chairman designate, Sir Kenneth Thompson, the Government have started well. We have had our differences—not with the chairman but with the deputy chairman designate, who was until recently leader of the county council and is now chairman of the county council—but I am sure that his experience in politics and in dealing with difficult politicians, with touchy and with awkward politicians, both here and in local government on Merseyside have been of great value. I am sure, too, that the professional and manufacturing experience of the chairman designate is very important indeed.

With the large number of local and other authorities in the area of the development corporation it is so important that between the corporation and the other agencies "co-operation" is the watchword. I share the concern expressed by the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, about the appointment of the rest of the board's members, although I could not prevent a wry smile about the way in which the Labour Party objects to, as it were, the first past the post system when it does not suit them. They ought to have supported my amendment in Committee in your Lordships' House which attempted to introduce a proportional system of electing members to the board. But, quite apart from the composition of the board, I do hope that there will be local authority members. It is a pity that at this stage some of the names at least have not yet been announced. The schedule to the Act requires the Secretary of State to consult the relevant local authorities about the composition of the board and to include members (and I quote): having special knowledge of the locality". I am a member of Merseyside County Council and what is of particular concern to me is that there has been no general consultation with my authority over membership of the board. There has been a specific reference to us—What do we think about the appointment of Councillor X? But that is not general consultation, that is just asking us what we think about one particular person, and since that person is a fairly prominent member of our local authority it is not likely that we would say anything particularly offensive about him. In Merseyside we countered that by saying that we approved of the person named but also put forward the names of people in the Labour and Liberal parties who could be members of the board; I suppose, therefore, that I should have declared my interest. If the Act does require general consultation, it does not appear to have taken place either at the level of Merseyside County Council or, so far as I am aware, among the other district authorities in the area.

With regard to the composition of the development board, will it be the Minister's intention to appoint board members from county councils before or after the results of the next local authority elections in May? There cannot be much doubt that there may well be changes next May and it might be an absurd situation to appoint someone who was representing the largest party on a district authority or county council on 1st May but who was representing a minority party by the end of that week.

From these Benches, we wish the development corporation well. We tried to strangle the infant at birth, but now that it has survived we wish it well and hope that it will do something, if only a very little, to help relieve the terrible dereliction, unemployment and other problems we have in Merseyside. If so, then it will have been worth while. We hope that, in addition to encouraging manufacturing industry, assistance and encouragement will also be given to the development of service industries on Merseyside, which seem to succeed particularly well in that area. In that rather half-hearted way, I wish the development corporation well.

Lord Barnby

My Lords, in her remarks the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, mentioned unemployment. Since unemployment has been of such importance in the recent history of the port of Liverpool, will the Minister ease the anxiety that exists in the minds of many, and which is expressed in press reports, that there still remain in the port of Liverpool a considerable number of dockers who are not required for work but who still receive full pay? What are their numbers and for how lone will this situation continue?

For the rest, may I give my support to the proposals which the Minister put to this House with such clarity and helpfulness. As one who used the port of Liverpool regularly in the early part of this century, when I made frequent visits to the United States, I remember its eminence as one of the great ports of Europe. How different is the position in which it finds itself today! Probably, therefore, the proposals he is putting forward today are helpful, and it is certainly promising that this is being taken in hand in this energetic manner. I hope a successful outcome may result in relieving the difficulties of the port of Liverpool which the noble Baroness emphasised so strongly.

Lord Bellwin

My Lords, if I may deal with the points raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, some of those were touched on by the noble Lord, Lord Evans, and I will try to deal with them together. As regards her concern as to where the money goes—she was anxious about the money going to the bondholders—I thought the noble Lord, Lord Evans, made a very fair point on that; I think it is right that they should be repaid. Perhaps more important, as a matter of principle, is the fact that the capital receipts from the sale of the surplus MDHC land to the development corporation flow to the MDHC bondholders, and this in fact would have happened in any case, because, as I understand it, under the terms of the bond to whomsoever the land was sold—

Lord Evans of Claughton

My Lords, will the noble Lord be kind enough to give way for one second? The concept that the Merseyside County Council was proposing with the MDHC was to take a lease, which would release the MDHC from having to pay a capital figure because it was merely to be a rent rather than a capital figure.

Lord Bellwin

Yes, my Lords, I know that, but the fact is and my advice is that this point is not directly relevant to the setting up of the MDC, because the proceeds from the sale would have to go to the bondholders. The fact is that financial support for the port is being considered in another place.

Baroness Birk

My Lords, if I may intervene—I was waiting for the Minister to finish the sentence—I do want to make it clear that I was not suggesting, nor would I, that the bondholders should not be repaid. I think that would be quite wrong. What I was suggesting was that the Government should take that financial responsibility themselves so that it did not come out of the money given to the MDC.

Lord Bellwin

My Lords, I note what the noble Baroness says as to that. The structure of the board seems to have caused some concern. I would have thought that what is most needed on this, or on any other board of this kind, is the right and best people to do the job. While we have said that we want to have as much representation as we can, and indeed we will try to ensure that, and there will shortly be some further consultations with the local authorities, I hope your Lordships will agree that at the end of the day the fact that it is somebody who is a member of the council now but may not be after May is secondary to the contribution which he or she can make to making this whole enterprise a success, because that is what it is really all about. I think the days of people being appointed because they represent one body or another have to take second place to their being appointed because of the innate abilities that they may have. Until we come to that kind of thinking generally, we will not succeed in having other than bodies which may become, as the noble Lord said, otiose and all the rest. So, although I will note carefully what has been said about the composition of the board, I hope your Lordships will take from me what I consider to be the greater need to have the right people doing the job.

The noble Baroness went on to ask what incentives will there be to trade and commerce. She referred to the £16 million as a drip. Well, it is a pretty substantial drip and one that is not easy to find, and I can think of many authorities who would be delighted to have even a little of that drip. But in fact, with great respect, that misses the point, because the object of this exercise—and if we do not achieve it then we—fail is to encourage other people, the private sector, to come in and make their investment. The money we put in can be called pump-priming money. If we do not get the private sector—and the same applies everywhere else, enterprise zones and so on—to come in with their money, then we will have no more success than in the whole of the inner cities programme, which we also consider as pump-priming money. We must get other people to want to come and invest; that is the object of this exercise. Having said that, it should be a comfort to the noble Baroness when I say that we are not considering this as a once-for-all proposal; it is an ongoing thing and we will watch it as we go on. We have to allocate money very carefully indeed.

I do not think anyone in Liverpool would argue other than that we recognise the needs of their particular city. Although I would not want to put it into a league table, I think it fair to say that the amount of money we put into Liverpool must be among the greatest that we give to any authority. There may be some greater, but I cannot think of one offhand. I do not complain about that, but I think it reasonable that I should point that out. As for what Liverpool does or does not lose or gain in grants, I do not think this is the occasion to debate that. I would simply say that the system for paying those grants is now both fairer and more able to be analysed and seen than under any system of this kind previously. When the noble Baroness criticises what the Government have done for Liverpool, I would ask her to compare it with what the Government she represented did for Liverpool. She talked about cut, cut, cut. It may be we would not have to cut so much if her Government had not spent, spent, spent, quite so much. Nevertheless, I was pleased that the noble Baroness wished the project well. She said that categorically enough and I accept that from her.

Finally to answer the noble Lord, Lord Evans, I have touched on his point about consultation, and I hope I have given him some reassurance on that. He said, I hope with tongue in cheek, that his support was somewhat half-hearted. I suspect it is a lot more than half-hearted. His heart is very much in Liverpool, as I know. I can tell him that only this very day I was talking with other elected Members from Liverpool, some of his friends, I am sure, who were far from unhappy at what we were doing about this; quite the contrary, they welcome it, and I am glad that we are able to do it. I have not covered all the points, but if either the noble Baroness or the noble Lord wish me to give more detail on any of the points raised, they know I will be only too pleased to do so. With regard to the observation by my noble friend Lord Barnby—it is always nice to hear him speak— I cannot offhand reply to his point about the dockers. I cannot give him that number; I do not think he expected me to do so today. Nevertheless, I welcome also his welcome for what we are proposing.

On Question, Motion agreed to.