HL Deb 15 October 1991 vol 531 cc1038-50

5.38 p.m.

The Minister of State, Department of Transport (Lord Brabazon of Tara)

My Lords, I beg to move that the Bill be now read a second time.

The purpose of the Bill is to authorise the provision of a second tolled road bridge over the Severn estuary between England and Wales and of the road links needed to connect it to the existing motorway network. It also provides the necessary framework to enable the new bridge to be privately financed through a concession agreement between the Secretary of State and a private concessionaire.

The Bill is important, first, because of the long-awaited improvement in communications which the new bridge will provide between England and Wales, and, secondly, because it represents a further significant stage in the Government's initiative to encourage the fullest participation by the private sector in the provision of the country's transport infrastructure.

As the powers to enable the provision of privately financed roads given by the New Roads and Street Works Act 1991 are now available to us, I ought to explain to your Lordships why we have introduced the Severn Bridges Bill as the means of seeking powers for the new bridge. There are essentially two reasons. First, this scheme involves—as I shall explain later—the repeal and replacement of the legislation which authorises the tolling of the existing Severn Bridge so as to provide a common tolling and operating regime for both bridges. That would have required a separate Bill in any case. Had we attempted to seek powers for the scheme partly through a Bill and partly through the new order-making procedures, that would inevitably have resulted in delay and confusion, with the risk of inconsistency between the two sets of powers.

The second reason for seeking all the necessary powers in the Bill is to enable the provision of the new bridge to go ahead as quickly as possible. On the basis of the Bill now before the House, and depending of course on the outcome of the consideration of the Bill by your Lordships, we hope that construction of the new bridge could start early next year, with completion by early 1996.

The background to the second Severn crossing starts with the opening of the existing Severn Bridge in 1966, 25 years ago. Since then it has provided the main road link between South Wales and England as part of the M.4 motorway. As such it has assumed a crucial economic importance.

Traffic on the bridge has increased greatly over the period. It now carries an average of over 50,000 vehicles a day, and delays to traffic have become an increasing problem at peak times of the day and at holiday weekends. That is essentially due to sheer lack of capacity at the bridge.

After initial feasibility studies into options for a second crossing, the Government announced in 1986 that a second road bridge would be provided at the English Stones, some three miles downstream of the present bridge. After further preparatory work, a competition to provide the new bridge was launched in December 1988.

The outcome was the selection in April 1990 of a privately financed proposal from the consortium Severn River Crossing plc. This was followed up last October by the formal signature of a concession agreement with the company. Copies of the agreement were placed in the Library of the House soon after. The concession agreement is conditional on enactment of the Bill now before your Lordships, without which it cannot take practical effect.

Alongside the competition to provide the new bridge itself, work continued on the development of the design of the motorway links which would connect it to the existing network. These roads would be provided under separate publicly funded contracts to be arranged in the usual way by the Department of Transport for the link roads in Avon to the M.4 and M.5 and by the Welsh Office for the link road in Gwent to the M.4. At each stage of the development of these proposals there has been extensive local consultation on all aspects of the scheme, including its effect on the environment. The part of the estuary which would be crossed by the new bridge is of considerable ecological interest and we are therefore taking great care to ensure that the effects of the scheme on the estuary will be minimised.

In terms of the practical effect of the scheme on people, the aim has been to minimise as far as practicable the impact on the local environment and on local communities. That applies both for the period of construction, where we are proposing wherever possible to keep the inevitable heavy construction traffic away from local centres of population, and for the completed roads themselves, where the aim has been to minimise their visual impact and the severance to local communities.

A detailed and comprehensive environmental statement has been prepared in parallel with the Bill to explain all the environmental considerations affecting

the scheme and the full extent of the work that has been done to ensure that there is the minimum adverse impact. Copies are in the Library of the House.

I see that the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, wishes to intervene. I give way.

Lord Clinton-Davis

My Lords, I am much obliged to the Minister. In the light of the view taken by the European Commission that the environmental impact assessment directive has not been properly transposed into our law—which the Government may or may not dispute—can he tell the House whether the Government, in connection with the environmental impact assessment to which he referred, feel that they have taken into account the Commission's objections? If they have not done so, does the Minister agree that there is a risk of the possibility of litigation in the European Court of Justice because the way in which that environmental impact assessment has been carried may be found to be defective? What advice is he giving in those circumstances?

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, I have no reason to believe that the way in which we have carried out the environmental impact assessment is at all in conflict with what the European directive requires. As I understand it, the possible dispute between the Commission and the Government regarding other schemes is a question of timing and whether or not they were brought into effect before the directive came into force. That of course comes after. We have produced the full environmental statement and also a handy guide, if I may call it that, both of which are now available.

The noble Lord will have a chance to make his own speech in a moment. If I may now proceed with mine, I shall obviously attempt to answer any further questions that he has at that time.

I hope that the House will find it helpful if I now turn to the Bill itself and provide a brief explanation of its structure and contents. The Bill is in three parts. Part I would provide the necessary powers for the construction of the new bridge and the connecting roads and other associated works. It would also empower the acquisition of the necessary land and permit the necessary alterations to the existing highway network.

Part II, which deals with the operation of both bridges, confirms the power of the Secretary of State to enter into a concession agreement with a private promoter for the provision of the new bridge and provides for the implementation of a new tolling regime for both bridges. That would take effect, initially only at the existing Severn Bridge, on the starting date for the concession period when the concessionaire would take over responsibility for the finances and operation of the existing bridge and begin construction of the new bridge.

The tolls to be levied under the Bill would be set on the same principles whether it is the Secretary of State or the concessionaire who is levying them. The tolls, which would normally be charged only on traffic heading in the westbound direction—which would reduce both operating costs and the disruption to traffic—would be fixed on the basis of the table in Clause 9, indexed in line with the retail prices index.

These tolls would represent a significant increase over existing levels. That is necessary to meet the costs of providing the new bridge, which amounts to some £300 million. In return, the new bridge will benefit road users by more than doubling the capacity of this vital road link and additionally providing the benefits of shorter journey times and the minimisation of disruption from bad weather.

Under the Bill, which provides for tolling to cover not only the cost of the new bridge but also the outstanding deficit of some £120 million on the existing bridge, the concessionaire is permitted a maximum of 30 years' tolling. That period would be reduced if he collects a certain amount of revenue from tolls before then. On current traffic forecasts, tolling by the concessionaire would not be necessary for more than about 21 or 22 years. If the concession were to start in 1992, it could therefore end by 2014 -only eight years after the end of the tolling period already permitted under the Severn Bridge Tolls Act 1965, which the Bill would repeal. The Bill also allows tolling by the Secretary of State for a further limited period.

Part II of the Bill also provides the necessary frame work for the arrangements under which the concessionaire is to be responsible for maintenance and operation of the bridges. It also provides a regime for regulating traffic on the bridges to prevent obstruction or damage. These provisions are needed because of the special circumstances of the bridges and the constraints on their operation; for instance, the absence of a hard shoulder on the existing bridge.

Part III of the Bill contains miscellaneous provisions, notably to regulate operations which would interfere with the navigation of the River Severn and to protect the bridge from damage from shipping. It also deals with matters such as rating and planning permission.

The examiners have determined that the Bill is hybrid and so, subject again to the outcome of this afternoon's debate, it would next be referred to a Select Committee to consider the petitions which have been made against the Bill. A total of 18 were deposited within the time ordered after First Reading, but I am confident that the number which the committee will have to consider will be significantly less than this in the light of the constructive negotiations which have taken place between officials and petitioners during the Summer Recess. I hope that a satisfactory solution to each of the remaining petitioners' causes for concern will be found.

At this stage in the parliamentary calendar it will be clear to the House that the Bill will not be able to complete its proceedings during the remainder of the current Session. If your Lordships decide today to give the Bill its Second Reading, we shall then seek to carry the Bill over to the next Session.

The Bill would enable the earliest practicable provision of the much needed second Severn crossing and thus improve communications on this vital link between England and Wales. It represents another major step in the Government's initiative to use to the full the skills of the private sector in the provision of transport infrastructure and clearly demonstrates the Government's commitment to that policy. Accordingly, I commend the Bill to the House.

Moved, That the Bill be now read a second time. —(Lord Brabazon of Tara.)

5.50 p.m.

Lord Clinton-Davis

My Lords, I have thanked the Minister for his explanation of the Bill, but I have a number of questions. We agree with his view—subject of course to your Lordships' view that the Bill should receive a Second Reading—that it would be right to continue the proceedings during the course of the next Session. From that the House will appreciate that the Opposition support the proposal for the building of a new bridge across the Severn. The needs of the Principality require it, but of course it is of wider interest to the whole country, especially in terms of our economic and transport relationships with the Community; and in terms of the development of the internal market.

Clearly high quality transport links to the Community and the rest of the United Kingdom are vital in view of the fact that Gwent is geographically peripheral to the Community. The link is of crucial importance to the economy of Gwent, the whole Principality and beyond. The link is also of critical importance when viewed against the backcloth of the contracting steel, coal and other industries in Wales, and the burgeoning unemployment which prevails there.

The present bridge is badly designed. It is subject to delays caused by accidents, congestion and inclement weather. Alone it is clearly inadequate for the purposes that I have already outlined. I only wish that my welcome for the Bill could be unqualified, but regrettably that is not the case. I want to spell out our doubts in the hope that some of them will be assuaged during further consideration of the Bill in your Lordships' House in the way that the Minister has described.

Those anxieties have been strongly expressed, in the main in representations made by the Standing Conference on Regional Policy in Wales which represents Gwent, Mid-Glamorgan, West Glamorgan and South Glamorgan. Those anxieties were strongly expressed in amendments proposed in another place but which for the most part have gone unanswered. Let me state briefly those anxieties afresh. The standing conference feels that it is wrong in principle for increased tolls to be levied on the existing bridge before the new bridge comes into operation. It put it graphically when it said: Today's users should not have to pay for tomorrow's bridge". The Minister must answer that point.

Another issue of principle which the standing conference raised is that while taxpayers are responsible for providing the access roads all the revenues which emerge from the construction of the bridge will be passed on to the builder and not to the nation. The Minister must also answer that point. It is also necessary to mention a number of factors relating to the proposed toll regime. First, the tolls represent what is tantamount to a local tax on residents and businesses in Gwent, although the bridges represent a national asset. Secondly, as the Minister conceded in another place, what we have here is a monopoly. There is no practical alternative to the existing or future bridge. It is unrealistic to regard a detour of 60 miles via Gloucester as a reasonable alternative.

The third point is that the tolling of estuarial crossings imposes a disproportionate and unfair burden locally. One of the consequences is the likely impairment of commercial and industrial development. That is a view most strongly pressed by the standing conference. In addition, it calculates that the combined benefits of assistance to Gwent through regional selective assistance grants, the regional enterprise grant and the European Regional Development Fund are almost negatived by the tolls burden, if calculated on an annual basis.

The fourth point under that head is that a remarkable disparity exists in relation to other crossings which are toll free: the Britannia Bridge; the M5 Avonmouth Bridge; and the new A55 crossing in North Wales. So one is compelled to ask the Minister: why the difference of approach?

When the then Secretary of State for Transport—I cannot remember how many the Government have had—announced in July 1986 that a second bridge was to be built across the Severn, he at that time gave no indication that the private sector would be involved. All that was changed in July 1988 —yet another somersault by the Government—but at no time since has it ever been suggested, so far as I am aware (the Minister can put me right on that point) that the new crossing was to be provided solely by the private sector. The Bill is not framed in that way, but that is effectively what the Minister has said. So what caused the change of mind?

The standing conference—this is my fifth point under this heading—has persistently, rightly, but so far unavailingly, argued that there should be the possibility of a local inquiry before any toll order is made pursuant to Clause 9(5) whereby tolls may be revised other than in accordance with the RPI. It has also asked that the Secretary of State for Wales should be instrumental in making the toll orders. That may or may not be right. I merely put it forward as part of its argument. However I believe—if I may say so with respect—that it is less significant than the other points it makes and that I make on its behalf.

There is then the question of the debt. It is a debt of about £120 million accruing to the present bridge. The standing conference argues that that debt should be written off. I shall return to that point in a moment. I want to enlarge upon the issue of the local inquiry. It would be wholly in accord with precedent, not least the Severn Bridge Tolls Act 1965, and even more recently if the Minister would look at Schedule 2 of the New Roads and Street Works Act, which he took skilfully through the House, which contains such a provision. So why the difference? Why is the Minister not prepared to make the concession for which the standing conference has pleaded?

It would be helpful to the Secretary of State if he were to become aware, as a result of a local inquiry and not through the inadequate consultations to which the Minister has alluded, of the local circumstances and the impact of the proposed toll changes on the local community. Moreover, local people should not feel divorced from decisions that affect them vitally, but that would be the consequence of his ignoring this plea.

The Bill specifically takes away Gwent's existing statutory rights to make objections to proposed toll increases. That is in marked contrast with the fact that new circumstances affecting the concessionaire are to be taken into account. So, circumstances affecting the concessionaire will be taken fully into account but not the views of the local community. Why the difference of approach?

I turn next to the proposed toll increases briefly referred to by the Minister. I note immediately that in another place the Minister, Mr. Freeman, on 14th January at col. 642 of the Official Report, said: We do not seek to hide the fact that these tolls would represent a significant increase over existing levels". He can say that again! The standing conference asserts that at 1989 prices the charge for cars between now and 1995 will increase by no less than 42.5 per cent. The position of heavy goods vehicles is even worse because in their case it will increase by 114 per cent. From 1992 to 1995 the proposed increases in tolls will, according to the estimates of the standing conference—the Minister may care to dispute this—amount to in the region of £100 million, in actual prices, more than the tolls would bring if maintained at their current levels. If the Minister wishes to dispute the calculations he is at liberty to do so. However, it would be helpful if—possibly by his silence—he could confirm the assertions.

One has to ask: what benefits will present users obtain in consideration of those increased payments? That is the essential point which the Minister must answer. It amounts to yet another impost on the local economy during a deep recession. Moreover, how will inward investment be enhanced by this state of affairs?

I turn to the outstanding debt issue. My understanding is that this is of the order of £120 million or will be at the start of the concession. If we look back to 1966, the debt on the completion of the bridge then was £14.4 million. The debt has grown primarily as a result of largely unforeseen maintenance costs amounting to £90 million, plus interest.

The House of Commons Select Committee agreed—at least on this point—with the standing conference in concluding that the debts should be written off. Here again, there is a precedent: the Avon Bridge on the M.5. There was no requirement there for capital and maintenance costs to be recovered from the users. No requirement has ever been made that the costs incurred by the entire United Kingdom motorway network should be recouped. However, the Government insist that the outstanding debt should be transferred to the concessionaire, adding to the pain on businesses and residents of the substantial increases in tolls on the existing bridge. That is a situation which will persist over two decades.

A reduction of the 1995 levels of no less than 20 per cent. could be achieved, according to the standing conference, if such writing off took place. One is entitled to ask how this could adversely affect the viability of the new crossing.

I wish to say a word about policing. Here again, I may be wrong but the Government are able to confirm or deny the position. My understanding is that the Home Office is looking to the Gwent Police Authority to discharge the responsibility for policing the bridge. In another place, the Minister of State argued that the Avon and Somerset police would maintain the motorway leading up to the existing bridge as well as the new approach roads on the Avon side on behalf of the Department of Transport. However, the facts are that the constabulary will police a smaller bridge in an authority double the size of that in Gwent. I ask the Minister whether that is reasonable.

I wish to ask the Minister a number of questions concerning the relationship between the Bill and the New Roads and Street Works Act. They may all be susceptible of a simple answer which I did not immediately observe. I may be obtuse; the Minister may be able to enlighten the House.

I notice that in the Bill there is no provision comparable to that of Section 5 of the New Roads and Street Works Act which relates to the transfer or termination of a concession. Does that section apply to this Bill, and thus not require repetition? If not, what is the situation? Similarly, Clause 10 deals with the application of enactments relating to monopolies. Is that provision subsumed effectively in this Bill? The same applies to Clause 11 dealing with the variation or revocation of the toll order.

It may be that the Minister will say that all these matters are dealt with by the 1991 Act and the provisions do not have to be repeated. If that is the case, why does Clause 26 specifically repeat the provisions of Section 15 of the Act?

I turn to the environmental impact assessment position. The Minister says that he understands that the assessment is not complained of by the Commission. I wish to know whether or not there is any possibility that the Commission might take exception to it, as I understand it has taken exception in 12 other cases. If there is any doubt about it, surely it would be right to try to clear it up as soon as possible by discussion with the Commission, rather than to await further consideration of it by the Commission. That does not mean that the Commission is necessarily right, but litigation could be injurious to the scheme. One hopes that consideration of the matter could clarify the position beyond doubt. If the Minister states that it is already clarified beyond doubt, the House will be satisfied. However, if there is a lingering doubt, then because of the urgency and as the whole House wishes to see the Bill proceed, it is right that the matter should be pursued with the Commission at an early date, even if the Commission has not yet mentioned it—if there is a scintilla of doubt that it may pursue the matter later.

In conclusion, one may ask why, in the light of these powerful arguments—not all coming from the standing conference, although many do—the standing conference does not propose, as I understand it in Gwent in particular, to submit any further petitions to your Lordships' House. I do not wish to say anything out of turn, but I understand that that may be the case. The truth is that in a way a pistol is being held to the Commission's head because its overriding concern is the need to prosecute the building of the bridge with urgency. Delay of any kind will be inimical to that purpose.

I hope that the Minister will not say that my speech of 17 minutes constitutes a delay that is inimical to the building of the bridge. He is capable of that, I know.

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, it goes a long way towards it!

Lord Clinton-Davis

My Lords, 18 minutes beyond the Government's due time is not an undue length. The Minister spoke for almost that time anyway. The appeal that the standing conference makes at this late stage is for the Government to listen to what it believes is a powerful case; to engage in further consultation with it to try to meet some, if not all, the points that I have made. That is a perfectly reasonable view. I hope that it will elicit a positive response from the Minister.

6.8 p.m.

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, I do not know whether or not to say I am grateful for the noble Lord's response to my moving the Second Reading of the Bill. He started in the right direction by saying that he supported the proposals for the new bridge. He then, so far as I can see, attempted to pick holes in practically every aspect of the Bill. One wonders how it was that the existing bridge was built as a toll bridge in 1966 by the then Labour Government. It did not cease being a toll bridge between 1974 and 1975 under that Labour Government when there was every opportunity for them to stop it. I think it is entirely reasonable that it should continue to be a toll bridge. It is right that we have involved the private sector in the building of the bridge. As I said in my opening remarks, it is part of the Government's policy that we should involve the private sector in the provision of transport infrastructure when and where we believe it right.

The noble Lord asked me many questions and I shall attempt to deal with each and every one of them. He asked why tolls should be raised before the new bridge opened. Under the terms of the concession agreement the Severn River Crossing is required not only to finance the construction of the new bridge—at an estimated cost of £300 million—but also to take over responsibility for the outstanding debt of £120 million on the existing bridge, as I explained in my opening remarks. Half of the debt is to be paid at the start of the concession and the remainder, on which interest will be payable, is to be paid at the end.

If toll increases were deferred until 1996, SRC would be unable to meet its existing financing commitments during the early years of the concession and would be forced to increase its borrowings simply to finance the interest payments to which it is already committed. Those additional financing costs would have to be recouped from tolls during the remaining part of the concession with the result that tolls would have to increase fairly substantially from the levels indicated in the Bill. The noble Lord has already criticised those levels.

The consequences of postponing any increase until the opening of the new bridge would be that from 1996 the level of tolls for the ordinary motorist would need to be in the order of £4.70 rather than £2.85 as specified in the Bill. We consider that the phased increase in tolls currently envisaged would be more acceptable than a sudden and disproportionately steep increase in 1996. That conclusion was accepted by the Select Committee in another place following its consideration of a petition which had been deposited against the Bill seeking a deferral such as the noble Lord suggested.

The noble Lord asked why approach roads were not financed through tolls. The Government's policy is and has long been that users of major estuarial crossings that provide exceptional travel benefits should contribute to their costs. The only practical way of defining such a crossing is generally to consider that element which goes across the estuary concerned. Otherwise, there is no clear-cut way of defining limits of roads to be financed through tolls. Thus, for example, tolls are levied on the existing Severn Bridge but not on the adjoining sections of the M.4 which for most users effectively lead only to the bridge. Similarly, the new Dartford-Thurrock crossing is tolled but not the adjoining roads.

I agree with the noble Lord that this is in effect a monopoly situation and that there is no alternative way of crossing the River Severn other than a very inconvenient one. That is why the Bill provides clearly for the tolls to be linked to a formula set out in the Bill and why the concessionaire would not be allowed to charge whatever tolls he may wish to levy. Nothing in our announcement in 1986 precluded the choice of private finance.

The noble Lord referred to a matter of which I am well aware when he referred to the possibility of local inquiries into toll increases. Implementation of the tolling proposals will depend on parliamentary approval of the Bill. The Bill sets out a detailed method for fixing the amounts of the tolls. If Parliament were to approve that method, there would then be no justification for a local inquiry into the tolls subsequently calculated in accordance with that method. I can give an assurance that the Secretary of State for Wales will be involved in that process.

Lord Clinton-Davis

My Lords, one appreciates that the Secretary of State will be involved; but as regards the development of transport policy, we need increasingly to involve the public and obtain their acquiescence. It is that factor which is missing.

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, these entire proposals are of course subject to parliamentary approval. If this Bill is passed, the formula I have referred to will be adopted. That is a perfectly reasonable and democratic way of going about this matter.

In my earlier remarks I did not hide the fact that there would be higher tolls. The increase in tolls over the present level which these proposals entail is a direct reflection of the additional cost of providing the new bridge over and above the continuing costs of financing and operating the present one. At current prices the construction cost of the new bridge is some £300 million. The sheer scale of the undertaking which the new bridge represents should not be underestimated. The proposals from the Severn River Crossing company which the Bill embodies offered overall the best value for money of all those proposals submitted to the Government, whether publicly or privately funded. We therefore consider that the tolls now set out in the Bill offer the best practicable deal for road users who rightly want to see the earliest possible provision of improved links across the country. That is particularly important in view of the European dimension.

The tolls for heavy goods vehicles will be higher but we do not believe that the tolls for heavier vehicles proposed in the Bill will cause any real difficulty in practice. Given the higher operating costs of such vehicles, their operators will see significant benefits from the shorter journey times and distances offered by the new bridge, from the reduction in delays arising from congestion and from the much reduced risk of diversions in bad weather. Overall business must benefit from the greatly improved communications between England and Wales which the new bridge will offer.

As regards the writing-off of the debt on the existing crossing, the Government believe there is no case for writing-off the debt on the Severn Bridge irrespective of the planned provision of the new bridge. The Government's policy, as stated in the Government's response to the second report of the Transport Committee of another place in 1985–86, is not to accept any general necessity to write-off or discharge debts of such crossings where they are or can be made viable.

The Severn Bridge Tolls Act 1965 provides for the costs of the bridge to be recouped over a period of 40 years. Under the present tolling regime there is no reason to suppose that this would be impractical. Under the proposals set out in this Bill responsibility for paying off the outstanding deficit on the bridge would fall to the concessionaire who could recoup that cost from tolls levied on both bridges. As we already let a concession on this basis, there is no shred of evidence to suggest that what is being proposed is unreasonable.

As regards the argument of the noble Lord on the possible adverse effects of tolling on the Welsh economy, I should say that successive public inquiries into the effects of toll increases at the existing Severn Bridge have concluded that there is no evidence to suggest any material effect of such toll increases on the South Wales economy. Tolling costs in practice represent a small proportion of industry's costs. As I have said, the new crossing will bring with it the potential for considerable savings in time as well as in distance for many journeys.

It is of course largely as a result of the economic developments in Wales over recent years that there has been traffic growth which has justified the second crossing we now intend to provide. It is self-evident that the new crossing will bring with it the potential for farther increased investment and economic growth, particularly in South Wales. As regards the environmental statement and the European Commission, we do not expect the Commission to take exception to the environmental statement for this project, not least because—as I understand it—such a statement is not required for projects promoted through primary legislation. However, the Government have felt it to be their duty to produce a statement for a project of this significance and have met the requirements of the directive fully.

I now turn to the relationship with the New Roads and Street Works Act which I referred to in my opening remarks. There is no provision in this Bill which replicates Section 5 of that Act although Clauses 19 and 20 make certain provision for termination. Section 5 allows a concession to be assigned with the consent of the Highway Authority to a new concessionaire. However, in this case the position is complicated by the transfer of some of the staff of Avon County Council to the concessionaire. If only to protect their interests we do not believe it would be right for the concession to be freely transferable to a new concessionaire. Sections 10 and 11 of the New Roads and Street Works Act refer to monopolies. As the noble Lord suspected, the provisions of this Bill make it unnecessary to repeat the terms of Sections 10 and 11 of the New Roads and Street Works Act. As I have already said, we recognise that the Severn crossing constitutes a monopoly and the Bill would control the tolls on the crossing to protect the interests of the road user.

Lori Clinton-Davis

My Lords, before the Minister sits down, can he explain why Clause 26 replicates Section 15 whereas the Minister resiles from that position in relation to other matters? I do not understand why it is necessary to replicate that in one particular case when it is not necessary in other cases.

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, I do not have the answer to that question. The noble Lord will have to wail until Committee stage when we shall no doubt deal with the Bill clause by clause. In the meantime I commend the Bill to the House.

On Question, Bill read a second time, and committed to a Select Committee.

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.

Moved, That if a Bill in the same terms as those in which the Severn Bridges Bill stood when it was brought to this House from the House of Commons in this Session of Parliament is brought to this House from that House in the next Session—

(a) the Bill shall be deemed to have been read the first and second time; (b) the Standing Orders of the House applicable to the Bill, so far as complied with in this Session, shall be deemed to have been complied with in the next Session; and (c) any petitions deposited against the Bill in accordance with the order of the House of 3rd July 1991 shall be taken to be deposited against the Bill in the next Session.—(Lord Brabazon of Tara.)

On Question, Motion agreed to, and it was ordered that a Message be sent to the Commons to acquaint them therewith.