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On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. As you know, I represent Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley, in Scotland. I received a letter from the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. McQuarrie) asking me to be present today to participate in the debate on the Harwich Parkeston Quay Bill. It appears that Scottish Tory Members are trying to organise Scottish Labour and other hon. Members at the behest, and perhaps other sorts of influence, of Lord Lauderdale—a Member of the other place. Is it right that such influence should be used by someone whom I understand has a material pecuniary interest in the matter?
Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. It is an absolute disgrace that the hon. Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley (Mr. Foulkes) should suggest such a thing. Had he seen the Order Papers of the past few months and been in attendance on Monday 28 April, he would have found a perfectly good reason why I and other colleagues wished to raise the matter tonight.
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. You will recall that during the debate on the quorum for the Felixstowe Dock and Railway Bill, the Chairman of Ways and Means gave an undertaking that an inquiry would be set up into the procedure on private Bills. That has not yet appeared on the Order Paper. It is unfortunate that the Chair gave assurances in February that there would be an inquiry into the procedure, but that we have made no progress.
Tonight's procedure is rather unusual. It is normal for the promoter of a private Bill to try his hand at getting it through on the nod at 2.30 pm. If he is unsuccessful, he tries to obtain a debate at seven o'clock. It is fairly normal on Second Reading to get one shot until 10 o'clock. If the promoter cannot secure a majority for the closure or for his measure, the Chairman of Ways and Means tends to let the matter rest until further negotiations have taken place between the promoters and the objectors to see whether a consensus can emerge.
It is rather odd that tonight two Bills are being offered a second helping of parliamentary time, although no negotiations have been successful on either Bill. We should set up the inquiry into procedure before we develop a new procedure that allows Bills to have a second shot. Could the Chairman of Ways and Means, or you, Mr. Speaker, throw any light on whether the new procedure has been set up?
If, as you have just said, discussions are continuing, what purpose will be served tonight by the House debating those matters when the House cannot know the outcome of the discussions?
The point on which I wish to seek your advice, Mr. Speaker, relates to the British Railways (Stansted) Bill. In the Vote Office with the papers on the Bill is a statement issued on behalf of British Rail which I believe is grossly misleading. The final sentence of the statement says:
The Bill was debated on 24th February and the debate was adjourned. Since then, the Board have made strenuous efforts to satisfy those Honourable Members who opposed the Bill, The promoters respectfully submit that they should be allowed to put forward to the Committee to whom the Bill may be referred their case for the proposals of, and clauses in, the Bill and that the Bill should accordingly now be given a Second Reading.
As one of those hon. Members who spoke against the Bill on Second Reading, I must inform the House that no attempts have been made to satisfy me on the subject and, as far as I am aware, no proposal to do so has ever been made.
The hon. Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley did not have the courtesy to advise me in advance that he would mention my name in the House. During his point of order, he said something about a pecuniary interest. I sincerely hope that the hon. Gentleman was not asserting that I or the hon. Members whose names appear on the Order Paper have a pecuniary interest in the matter. If he has done so, I must make it clear to you, Mr. Speaker, that I do not have a pecuniary interest in the matter. Nor, as far as I am aware, do any of my hon. Friends. If the hon. Gentleman made that assertion, he should withdraw it now and apologise.
Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I make it clear that the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan speaks for himself? He says that he has no pecuniary interest. Had he listened carefully, he would have known that I did not suggest that he had a pecuniary interest. I said that the person who was pulling the strings and giving him the words to say—Lord Lauderdale—has a pecuniary interest.
Further to the point of order, Mr. Speaker. I raised the question of how much progress had been made in the inquiry into private Bills. Since I observe that the Chairman of Ways and Means is now in the Chamber, would it be possible for him to make a statement telling us what progress has been made in setting up the procedure or, if it is not possible for him to make a statement now, whether he could make a statement to the House at an early opportunity because you will recall, Mr. Speaker, that he spoke from the Treasury Bench, albeit not at the Dispatch Box, when the House considered the Felixstowe Dock and Railway Bill. I think that we have been very patient on the Opposition Benches in waiting since February for the setting up of that inquiry.
When I was rudely interrupted by the hon. Member for Harwich (Sir J. Ridsdale) on 28 April, Mr. Speaker, you will recall that I said,
That is why—"—[Official Report, 28 April 1986; Vol. 96, c. 751.]
and I did not get the opportunity to complete my sentence. I was always taught that it was a matter of good manners that one did not interrupt people in mid-sentence, but perhaps my hon. Friend the Member for Harwich has no good manners. I say that for this reason. This very morning when I was attempting to persuade him on the telephone to negotiate, he actually threatened me that he would make it difficult for me to retain my seat in Perthshire by making remarks, which the Labour party might take up, to the effect that I was anti-employment, so I was threatened by my hon. Friend the Member for Harwich, and I propose to take that up with the Committee of Privileges. If my hon. Friend disputes that matter, let him stand up and say that he did not threaten me. I find that particularly offensive for this reason.
My opposition to the Bill is based on principle. The hon. Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley (Mr. Foulkes) need not giggle about principle. I doubt whether he has ever heard of principle. But one day he may actually stand on it, and it would be a good thing if he did.
Exactly. Clearly the hon. Gentleman does not have principle.
I take the view that it is wrong that the House of Commons should grant a right to a company to develop an area, that that company should then spend 12 years and a great deal of money doing this—frustrated, I may say, by other Acts of Parliament and Government and Government Departments—and that then along should come an American company to take away that right without compensation.
Let me start from where I was last time. Hon. Members who heard the debate will remember that the principle I was making was that it was odd that there had been no attempt at negotiation by the company that is seeking the legislation, the American company that calls itself British Ferries but is an American company run by Mr. Sherwood, USA, who is not in this country often enough to sign the letters that he writes me—they are all signed in his absence. I understood that this House had recently freshened its anti-American stance and objected to the idea that an American company might take over British Leyland or parts of it or even Westland helicopters.
Let us be clear. This company, it was claimed in the debate by the hon. Member for Harwich—and I have Hansard here—was happy to negotiate. Strange it was indeed that that negotiation started only on the day that we last had our debate. It sent a letter that was despatched by hand apparently but never arrived. I am not surprised that it did not arrive because I was attempting this morning to come to a last moment negotiation with the hon. Member for Harwich, and he promised to let me know before this debate whether the matter was acceptable. I have not heard from him. Of course I have not heard from him because they do not keep their word.
That is the matter that we are debating. All Ministers, with the Government three-line Whip, have been told that they always vote for a closure so they will not know what they are voting for, they will not know about principle, they will not mind about the matter; all they will do is be pushed as propellants are into the muzzle of a cannon to come out having discharged their function, regardless of its effect. That is what will happen.
Therefore, I think that it is important that I should remind the House of exactly what was said on 28 April to give an indication that this was not a matter in which those seeking the legislation—this American company—and seeking employment were unwilling to negotiate.
I find it somewhat strange that the hon. and learned Member for South Tayside is so knowledgeable about an issue that is clearly a matter of concern to Harwich and the surrounding areas. Where does the hon. and learned Gentleman get all this information from? On what basis can he make such detailed statements about the negotiations that are taking place? Why should we as hon. Members take his word on this matter? Why has he, a Scottish Member of Parliament, any particular knowledge, expertise and understanding on this issue?
First, I am happy to tell the House that, instead of allowing my constituency to bear a bogus name like South Tayside, I was able to retain the names of places in Scotland that actually exist like Perth and Kinross, so I am not the Member for South Tayside.
Secondly, as the hon. Member who failed in that project—and, therefore, we cannot remember the name of his constituency, except that it is somewhere in Ayrshire—seems to imagine that he has a special knowledge of places 8,000 miles away, I dare say that he is informed by penguins. When he goes to Argentina to be informed by the penguins he frequently gets egg on his face, as far as I can recall, so I do not think that he should ask me that sort of question.
If the hon. Gentleman wishes to ask that question, which is particularly naive and absurd, let me tell him this. Where do I get my information when I appear as counsel—who gives it to me? I get my information from solicitors, from witnesses and from policemen. I do not know whether the information is accurate or inaccurate, but I get it from the person who is concerned with the matter and whom I ask. Of course I do. That does not mean that the information is accurate or inaccurate. But I can say this to the hon. Gentleman: I can see a cheat a long way away, and this is a cheat. It is a cheat attempting to deprive a person, to use Parliament to avoid having to compensate. That is the matter to which I want to come.
I know that the hon. Gentleman is hot-blooded and light-headed. That is a matter that he has made available to the House by everything that he has ever indulged in, and I love him for it, but that is no reason why on this occasion he should not be hard-headed and cold-blooded and I would invite him to he so for a few minutes.
We have a Bill seeking powers to remove powers already granted by Parliament. Where is the justice in using private legislation to do that? One does not have to rely upon evidence from anybody; one does not have to have friends; one does not have to be bought or influenced. When one sees a wrong as wrong as that, one does not need to go further from that principle.
First, those precedents have nothing to do with this matter. Secondly, I did not say that there were no precedents. Thirdly, the insulting remarks that I am alleged to have made about my hon. Friend are the truth, because that is what he said to me. If he is willing to stand up in the House and go on record that he did not threaten me this morning in the way that I described, I am willing to let the matter rest. But he should remember that there are two telephones in my house and not one. In Scotland we need corroboration, so it is not a bad idea to have somebody else on the other end. Since he has not sought to withdraw those remarks, probably they were made.
To get back to where I started, in the debate on 28 April the hon. Member for Harwich—I took him in good faith as I do still——
He is my hon. Friend. If the hon. Gentleman does not understand the conventions of honourable friendship, he should do so. In court we call them learned friends; in this House we call them hon. Friends. The fact that we hate them or love them does not matter. It is a method of diffusing anger, and it is a good one.
On 28 April the hon. Member for Harwich said that he had in his hand a letter about the Bill from Sherwoods—that is the American company—dated 14 April. He quoted the letter as follows:
When we considered with you at the telephone today a possible date for the proposed meeting to discuss the issue raised in your client's petition against this Bill, it appeared that the three alternative, dates offered by the promoters would not be convenient. We have' since obtained further instructions and are now able to offer the afternoon of Tuesday the 29th April. Please let us know whether a meeting in our offices at, say, 2.30 on that date would be acceptable." —[Official Report, 28 April 1986; Vol. 96, c. 745.]
That would have been the day after the debate on the Bill. This letter, which was said by the hon. Member for Harwich at the time of the debate to have been delivered, has not yet arrived.
So we come to the question of negotiations. In good faith I believe that it is wrong that the ordinary compensation for work done should not be paid by those who will benefit from it. I believe that to be a principle. I do not see why Parliament should be a party to allowing a civil claim to be extinguished when we are talking about a sum which is valued by actuaries at £7·4 million and which certainly could not be valued at less than one tenth of that.
I have been attempting to negotiate between the patties. Last week a sum of £200,000 was offered. I attempted to negotiate again this morning. I was informed that I would be told whether the negotiation that I had made was reasonable and acceptable. I would have attempted to get the company whose Bill is sought to be extinguished to accept that negotiation, but t have not even had the courtesy of a reply from the hon. Member for Harwich. That seems to me to indicate a certain lack of good faith. I am sure that I share with the hon. Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley the view that that lack of faith is not to be commended.
Is the hon. and learned Member saying that he was acting as a mediator between the two parties on the matter? He is now participating in the debate. Does he not recognise that there may be a conflict of interest in those two roles?
I thought that, as ever, the hon. Gentleman would get it wrong. I wish that he would become hard-headed and not feather-headed. I attempted as a Member of the House to do my best to prevent the matter having to go on. If there was good faith, I was anxious to find and to implicate that good faith. I was not acting as a lawyer. One of the rules that I have always used as a lawyer is to say to my client, "Never litigate if you can settle." I was trying to get the matter settled. Not only has the matter not been settled, but my attempts have not even had the courtesy of an acknowledgement. That is why I find the matter continually offensive.
I want to try to measure the reaction of the hon. Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley (Mr. Foulkes) to what my hon. and learned Friend has just said. There might still be some doubt as to what my hon. and learned Friend is saying about his capacity in the matter. Am I correct in thinking that he is acting entirely as a Member of the House and not in any way in a professional capacity?
That is absolutely so. I was trying to act in the best of good faith as an honest broker. If I may remind hon. Members who were not at the previous debate, I said then:
It is not that I do not trust my hon. Friend,"—
the hon. Member for Harwich—
but given the history of non-negotiation and sudden negotiation it is clear that there is no real intent to negotiate by those who seek to extinguish the powers granted by Parliament to the Earlpar company.
I am not giving way because the last points that the hon. Member made were so futile, so perverse, so childish and so petty. I may in time have that Christian equity for which I am asking the House tonight, but just for the moment the hon. Gentleman will have to sit on his backside and think; he should use his brain for a moment and not his feet.
In the debate on 28 April I said:
I am sorry to say that, notwithstanding all the generosity within my heart, I do not believe the good will of those on behalf of whom my hon. Friend speaks. However, I shall believe in the equity and honour of those on behalf of whom he speaks if tonight we decide that the Bill's Second Reading should be postponed for six months.
That would have given time to negotiate.
I do not know the procedures that apply in the consideration of these matters … However, if we are successful and the Bill is not considered for a further six months, we may come to know … that by chance and coincidence rather than chastening the matter has been resolved." —[Official Report, 28 April 1986; Vol. 96, c. 749.]
It ought to have been resolved. The offer from the American company proposing the Bill came only on the night of that debate. It has never been received and it has never been fulfilled. When the company took the view that it would get away with it, it offered a derisory sum and said, "We will go on."
I am still not clear about the role of the hon. and learned Member for Perth and Kinross as a negotiator. As I understand it from having read his previous contributions and from what he has been saying tonight, he is clearly partisan. He is clearly arguing the case of Lord Lauderdale's company, the existing company. As one of the strongest advocates of one particular case, how did he imagine that he could possibly be accepted as some kind of honest broker or arbiter in this dispute? Is that not a naive and incredible assumption?
It is a naive and incredible question. When I am acting for any client I am presumably the most prejudiced person there is. That does not alter the fact that I am the best person to achieve a settlement, whether it is a civil or criminal claim because I am in cognisance of the matters at stake and one can negotiate with the other side on that basis.
In the hon. and learned Gentleman's view, would a period of six months enable the parties to reach a reasonable settlement? Several times the hon. and learned Gentleman has mentioned the unreasonable and derisory sum. What in his opinion would be a reasonable sum?
The constituencies used to be named with the area closest to London coming first. I do not know whether they still are and I am not sure whether Greenock or Port Glasgow is closer to London. However, I am fond of them both as I am of the hon. Gentleman.
I believe that the last debate was established with the sudden offer to negotiate. Then, when the matter was put back on the Order Paper, the refusal to negotiate, or a derisory offer, and the fact that my offers to mediate have been met with plain rudeness and neglect show that there is no willingness to negotiate. Therefore, whether it was a period of six months or sixty years, I do not think that time is a factor. If I thought that there was a genuine offer to negotiate, I would be more than happy and the hon. Member for Harwich knows that as well as I do. I see no chance of that and it is for that reason that I believe a wrong is being done in the name of the House.
Various matters have come to my attention. I received a photocopy of a letter from somebody whose name I cannot read on behalf of the chairman of the American company, Mr. J. B. Sherwood. It was dictated and signed in his absence. If it was dictated in his absence, I take it that it is not from him. The letter makes a number of points which are false and at no stage does it offer to negotiate. It does not offer to compensate for 12 years of work.
The hon. Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley has disappeared, but let me put the case on two sides. On one side it is suggested that the company which was granted the powers under the Bathside Bay Development Act 1972 did nothing. It did not have any money, did not do anything about it and should therefore have the right taken away. On the other side is the fact that the company did 12 years' work. It was consistently frustrated by requirements of section 9 permission and when that was granted it had made an arrangement with a company to develop the resources and provide exactly the same employment as the American company concerned. I must say, the American company has considerably reduced its employment figures. That is the bracket of the argument. The hon. Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley does not feel that an advocate is capable of taking an impartial view when he knows the bracket of the dispute. That is the bracket of the dispute and I do not accept it.
Does the hon. and learned Gentleman accept that, although there may be a dispute between the promoters of the original Bill and the new Bill, there is also another argument which, unfortunately, we have not had much time to address. That argument is whether this country needs extra port facilities and that if we developed any they would be at the expense of existing ports. That is a major argument that hon. Members should have some opportunity to deploy, as well as the argument between the two promoters of proposals for harbours at Harwich.
I agree with that and that is why I do not think that I have to answer the charge made by the hon. Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley when he asked what a Scottish Member was doing about an English matter. We are members of the United Kingdom Parliament. The English vote on Scottish legislation and the Scots vote on English legislation. We are part of one country. I agree with the hon. Member for Denton and Reddish (Mr. Bennett) that he should address the House on the matter of whether there are sufficient port facilities and what those port facilities should be. As I have said before, there are also ports on the east coast of Scotland. There are Dundee, Perth and Inverness and on the west coast of Scotland there are a number of important facilities on the Clyde, part of which the hon. Member for Greenock and Port Glasgow is in charge of. Therefore, the question of what ports are required and where they should be is an important matter. I look forward to the contribution of the hon. Member for Denton and Reddish if he catches Mr. Speaker's eye.
The letter, which was dictated and signed in the absence of the chairman of the American company, sets out a number of reasons why he believes that the scheme is not plausible. He is entitled to take that view. In my opinion, the reasons are all as irrelevant as the matter raised by the hon. Member for Harwich when he said that there is a precedent in early railway law. I know the cases of early railway law. When every monkey wanted to form a railway company and wanted to go from Harwich to Felixstowe, Inverness to Perth and Perth to Dundee, somebody had to say "Just a minute. We cannot have railways going from everywhere to everywhere in different companies". As the hon. Member for Denton and Reddish said, as we must regulate to ports so we must regulate the railways. They are nothing to do with one Bill attempting to extinguish the rights granted to one company by another Bill and funds expended.
It is alleged by those who propose the Bill that the company which obtained the Bathside Bay Development Act 1972 has done nothing. That is entirely false. A vast amount of work has been done and a vast amount of benefit has been achieved. That cannot be denied. I have had a great number of letters from people who live in Harwich, Felixstowe and the surrounding areas who are as concerned as I am about this proposal. If we vote for the Bill, what is the guarantee that the American company will not reduce its labour force? What is the guarantee that it will do anything? What is the guarantee that it will provide this employment? We have that guarantee from the company which currently has legislative permission to do what is asked. The hon. Member for Harwich, in his self-righteous concern, says that he wants to create employment — and all hon. Members want to create employment in their constituencies. That could be one reason. We would get more jobs in Perth if Perth harbour was not challenged by other harbours. Therefore, let us understand that there are conflicting interests.
It is not a question of whether the scheme will provide employment merely for the constituents of my hon. Friend the Member for Harwich (Sir J. Ridsdale), if the Bill is passed. Essex county is represented by about 14 hon. Members, and control of the council is shared by all three political parties. It is firmly in favour of the scheme because it believes that the scheme will provide considerable employment, not merely in Harwich, but throughout the county. Therefore, I hope that my hon. and learned Friend will not concentrate all his bile on my hon. Friend, but will recognise that the matter concerns a county of 1·25 million people.
I appreciate that. The present company is able and willing, and has made exactly the same arrangements. All we are saying is that Earlpar w ill have its rights transferred to an American company. What will happen when the American recession occurs, wher the dollar falls or when the company discovers that the scheme is not in its interests? It will first close the outposts. Let us be clear that we are substituting an American company for a British company, which has already made arrangements for the task.
My hon. and learned Friend makes a perfectly valid point except that he has not explained at any stage in his lengthy speech on the previous occasion or in his lengthier speech tonight what the company which he advocates has done since the passage of the Bathside Bay Development Act 1972. What steps have been taken to advance this wholly desirable project? What moves have been undertaken to ensure that work can start? The only work that has been undertaken has been undertaken by Essex county council.
That is untrue, and my hon. Friend should know that. Earlpar has a scheme to develop the matter.
Let us consider the American company's proposals, and what Mr. Sherwood, who dictates and signs letters in his absence, said on 8 July 1985. He spoke of sea containers for the proposed harbour development
as user commitments become available.
If user commitments do not become available, he will do nothing. The House should be clear about that. Mr. Sherwood is not committed to doing anything. He seeks to obtain the huge benefit of drilling and information for nothing by putting an Act through Parliament.
Since January, Parkeston quay has lost to Felixstowe the services of two freightliners, carrying vehicle components to and from Europe. It is alleged that the previous company has never been able to get finance. I am not speaking on behalf of the previous company. I am saying that there is a parliamentary wrong in passing a Bill which enables another company, and at that a foreign company, to reap benefits without compensation. That seems to be an inevitable wrong.
Is my hon. and learned Friend aware that there are considerable problems arising from Mr. Sherwood's involvement in the Dover harbour area, where he is causing grave difficulties about the passage of various items of equipment and for personnel? According to the Dover harbour board, its relationship with Mr. Sherwood is far from satisfactory. Is that not an indication of the problems that may arise for the Harwich Parkeston quay area and the county council if this measure is passed?
I am aware of that, and of the extreme disturbance of the unions in Dover at the effect that the company has had there. This is a matter of considerable principle.
I know that other hon. Members wish to speak and I do not wish to delay the matter, but it is important for the House to understand what it is doing. In America this is called the steamrolling process: one looks for an asset and strips it, and if one must use a parliamentary process to obtain it, well and good.
The hon. and learned Gentleman may know that the company in question controls 80 per cent. of the routes to the Isle of Wight. On several occasions I have criticised Sealink, but I cannot listen to the hon. and learned Gentleman's criticisms. Sealink has made a considerable investment in the Isle of Wight since it took control of the routes. The hon. and learned Gentleman's Government sold British Rail Sealink to what he calls an American company, although I think it is a British company which happens to have an American chairman. It is registered in either Bermuda or the Bahamas. Nevertheless, the investment has been substantial. Sealink is building a new 150-car ferry on the Humber, and it has just bought or built in Tasmania two new catamaran-type fast ferries, one of which is already in operation between Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight. It is wholly wrong to portray Sealink as a badly administered company which can run away overnight. Obviously, it will not do that.
I did not say that Sealink would run away overnight, and it may have helped the Isle of Wight substantially. Newspaper readers on the Isle of Wight will undoubtedly be delighted to read that intervention, which does not appear to have much to do with Harwich. Nevertheless, the hon. Gentleman is entitled to get his plug in, which is about as much as the Liberal party is ever likely to get.
I do not mind that the company is American. I look forward to foreign investment in the United Kingdom. All I am saying is that some hon. Members have been saying that America has no place here. Why are they not present to say that on this occasion? It is not a question of investment, but of parliamentary theft. That is what I am objecting to on principle. I have no financial or political interest, but I have an ethical interest. Parliament should not be used to allow one company to remove the investment of another company and benefit from it. No wonder that the Isle of Wight is benefiting so much if this company can obtain £1 million or £4 million of benefit for nothing.
My hon. Friend the Member for Harwich (Sir J. Ridsdale) has represented his constituents with diligence and distinction for the past 32 years without interruption. He has been sustained by the electorate in both popular and unpopular times for the Conservative party. Surely no one would doubt that there is no hon. Member who knows more about the needs of Harwich than my hon. Friend. If my hon. Friend thinks a bid is good for Essex, Harwich, and the country, I certainly support it.
I should particularly like to draw to the attention of the House the amount of local support for the Bill. Essex county council is no longer controlled by the Conservative party. It is a hung council, and the chairman, Mr. Bill Dixon-Smith, has expressed the council's complete support for the Bill. As far as I am aware, every Essex Member of Parliament supports the Bill. I understand that it also has the support of the unions, especially the National Union of Railwaymen and the Transport Salaried Staffs Association.
The crucial matter that we should consider tonight is that of employment. If we give the Bill a Second Reading, how many jobs will be created? It is often said that the south of the country is cushioned from unemployment. My hon. Friend the Member for Harwich does not have anywhere near enough jobs for his constituents. I wonder how many hon. Members realise that Harwich has an unemployment rate of 14·3 per cent. and that Clacton, in another part of the constituency, has an unemployment rate of 19·2 per cent.? Overall, my hon. Friend's constituency has an unemployment rate of 17·3 per cent., which is considerably above the national average, and is certainly higher than the rate in Basildon.
I hope that the House will take note of two letters that I have received. The first is from my hon. Friend the Member for Harwich. He says that when he agreed to support the Bill he was anxious to get employment for his constituents. For that reason, he helped to get Lord Lauderdale's Bill on to the statute book. My hon. Friend went on to say in his letter that he had tried very hard, with Lord Lauderdale, over the past 12 years to find a company which would come up with financial backing. He said:
We had many feasibility studies done by many companies including Japanese companies but they found that the scheme was quite unworkable.
The original legislation was drafted"—
If a feasibility study has been done by the Japanese, has that study been seen at any time by the Earlpar company, which owns the land on which the project was undertaken?
Perhaps I can assist my hon. Friend. Nothing was shown to the Earlpar company, because the scheme was regarded by the Japanese friends whom I approached as an impossible scheme in which to invest.
I am grateful for that assistance. I hope that that answers the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. McQuarrie).
My hon. Friend the Member for Harwich went on to say in his letter:
The original legislation was drafted in such a way that it would have taken 15 years to get any financial return. The scheme was seen to be over ambitious.
My hon. Friend said that, to his great disappointment,
no investor could be attracted.
The net result was that the Bill was not worth the paper on which it was written. It was a bitter pill for the people of Harwich, who so desperately need employment opportunities. My hon. Friend expressed his great pleasure at the fact that, after 12 years of devastating frustration, Sealink, under its new ownership, had said that it wanted to invest in Harwich.
My hon. Friend also drew my attention to the fact that the impression was given that a British company was, and still is, willing to invest. The company had 12 years in which to do that, but it came up with absolutely nothing. Naturally, my hon. Friend asked for support.
Will my hon. Friend inform the House of his understanding of the impediment to development which resulted from section 9 of the Harbours Act 1964? He has been making some play of the fact that nothing has happened. Would he care to comment on that important aspect?
Perhaps I can help my hon. Friend. That was not the position. The Harbours Act was not a barrier in any way. Essex county council had experience in negotiating with the company. The chairman of Essex county council wrote to me in the following terms:
For your personal information, our experience over 10 years of negotiation with Earlpar and their Chairman, Lord Lauderdale, was that their scheme was overambitious and not practical in that it never received any financial backing. The Sea Containers scheme on the other hand was wholly different in that it sought to develop the Bay by incremental stages.
The Bill's opponents are introducing red herrings. I am sure that my hon. Friend will he able to substantiate that.
Will my hon. Friend, having listened carefully to the previous intervention, turn his mind to the fact that there is legislation on the statute book? There was an impediment. but that has been removed. Does my hon. Friend not think that that substantially changes the position about any fund raising that may be attempted?
I do not think that that changes the position substantially. That is a matter that we can develop later.
My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Perth and Kinross (Mr. Fairbairn) referred to Mr. Sherwood. He said that letters had been signed on his behalf and that he appeared not to be in the country. I can tell the House that Mr. Sherwood was in my constituency seven weeks ago to open the business and industry exhibition sponsored by Essex county council. The exhibition was held to promote Essex and to produce more employment opportunities. I hope that my hon. and learned Friend will accept that Mr. Sherwood is trying to create more employment opportunities in Essex.
I draw the attention of the House to another letter which we should consider. It is from the chairman of the Essex county council, Mr. Bill Dixon-Smith, who said:
I cannot emphasise too strongly how important the proposed development at Bathside Bay is to the County Council as a whole and the economy of the County".
My right hon.Friend the Member for Castle Point (Sir B. Braine) mentioned that earlier.
In co-operation with Sea Containers, as the new owners of Bathside Bay in 1984, the County Council carried out a reclamation scheme of the Bay which will enable us to construct the Dovercourt By-pass and, equally important, enable Sea Containers to proceed with their port development and expansion once they have obtained parliamentary powers.
The letter was not marked "private and confidential". It was sent to each of the 15 Essex Members of Parliament. I am sure that the chairman of the council would wish me to bring the matter to the attention of the House. We are discussing a matter of prime importance to Essex. All Essex Members support the Bill, because we wish to create further employment opportunities.
The chairman of the county council continued:
over 10 years of negotiations with Earlpar, … their scheme was overambitious and not practical, in that it never received any financial backing. The Sea Containers scheme, on the other hand, was wholly different, in that it sought to develop the Bay by incremental stages. We would not, therefore, agree with the opponents to the Bill who are alleging that Sea Containers are seeking to adopt the expertise of the Earlpar scheme without proper acknowledgement.
I must correct my hon. Friend about funding. It was said in the debate on 28 April that a substantial firm had offered to fund the Earlpar development and that the information had been made known to Sealink prior to that debate on 28 April.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for pointing that out, and I hope that we can discuss it in Committee.
To the south of the port area there will be a substantial piece of land suitable for industrial and commercial use, which has already attracted the attention of major companies, which have expressed an interest in setting up factories on the site. Implementation, in association with the construction of stage two of the Dovercourt bypass, would ensure adequate road access.
As I mentioned earlier, all Essex Members——
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. May I put it to you that it is a disgrace and an abuse of the House to accept the closure after less than three quarters of an hour's further debate, since the sponsors failed to get the closure last time? Clearly some hon. Members wish to raise points concerning, in particular, questions of procedure, which, indeed, I raised earlier on a point of order. It seems unfair that the closure should be accepted after such a short debate.
Order. I have allowed the lion. Gentleman to make his point, but this is a matter for the discretion of the Chair. The Chair has exercised its absolute discretion, and I do not think that any point of order can arise.
Will the Serjeant at Arms please check to see what is causing the delay in the Lobbies?
Will the Tellers please take their places before the Table?
|Division No. 197]||[8.30 pm|
|Alton, David||Griffiths, Peter (Portsm'th N)|
|Amess, David||Grist, Ian|
|Ancram, Michael||Ground, Patrick|
|Ashby, David||Gummer, Rt Hon John S|
|Atkins, Robert (South Ribble)||Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)|
|Atkinson, David (B'm'th E)||Hanley, Jeremy|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Harris, David|
|Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Vall'y)||Haselhurst, Alan|
|Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N)||Hawkins, C. (High Peak)|
|Baldry, Tony||Hawksley, Warren|
|Banks, Robert (Harrogate)||Hayes, J.|
|Batiste, Spencer||Hayhoe, Rt Hon Barney|
|Beaumont-Dark, Anthony||Hayward, Robert|
|Beith, A. J.||Heddle, John|
|Bellingham, Henry||Hicks, Robert|
|Benyon, William||Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.|
|Best, Keith||Hind, Kenneth|
|Biffen, Rt Hon John||Holland, Sir Philip (Gedling)|
|Biggs-Davison, Sir John||Home Robertson, John|
|Blackburn, John||Hordern, Sir Peter|
|Body, Sir Richard||Howard, Michael|
|Bonsor, Sir Nicholas||Howarth, Gerald (Cannock)|
|Boscawen, Hon Robert||Howell, Ralph (Norfolk, N)|
|Bowden, A. (Brighton K'to'n)||Howells, Geraint|
|Braine, Rt Hon Sir Bernard||Hubbard-Miles, Peter|
|Brandon-Bravo, Martin||Hunt, David (Wirral W)|
|Bright, Graham||Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)|
|Brooke, Hon Peter||Hunter, Andrew|
|Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thpes)||Irving, Charles|
|Bruinvels, Peter||Jackson, Robert|
|Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon A.||Jenkin, Rt Hon Patrick|
|Buck, Sir Antony||Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey|
|Burt, Alistair||Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)|
|Butcher, John||Jones, Robert (Herts W)|
|Butterfill, John||Knight, Greg (Derby N)|
|Carlile, Alexander (Montg'y)||Knowles, Michael|
|Carlisle, John (Luton N)||Knox, David|
|Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)||Lang, Ian|
|Cartwright, John||Latham, Michael|
|Cash, William||Lawler, Geoffrey|
|Chapman, Sydney||Lawson, Rt Hon Nigel|
|Churchill, W. S.||Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)|
|Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)||Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark|
|Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S)||Lightbown, David|
|Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe)||Lilley, Peter|
|Clegg, Sir Walter||Livsey, Richard|
|Conway, Derek||Lloyd, Ian (Havant)|
|Cook, Robin F. (Livingston)||Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)|
|Coombs, Simon||Lord, Michael|
|Cope, John||Lyell, Nicholas|
|Couchman, James||McCrindle, Robert|
|Crouch, David||McCurley, Mrs Anna|
|Currie, Mrs Edwina||MacGregor, Rt Hon John|
|Dalyell, Tam||MacKay, John (Argyll & Bute)|
|Dewar, Donald||Maclean, David John|
|Douglas-Hamilton, Lord J.||McLoughlin, Patrick|
|du Cann, Rt Hon Sir Edward||McNair-Wilson, M. (N'bury)|
|Durant, Tony||McNair-Wilson, P. (New F'st)|
|Emery, Sir Peter||McQuarrie, Albert|
|Eyre, Sir Reginald||McWilliam, John|
|Fairbairn, Nicholas||Madel, David|
|Favell, Anthony||Major, John|
|Fookes, Miss Janet||Malone, Gerald|
|Forman, Nigel||Marek, Dr John|
|Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)||Mates, Michael|
|Forth, Eric||Mather, Carol|
|Fox, Marcus||Maude, Hon Francis|
|Franks, Cecil||Mawhinney, Dr Brian|
|Fraser, Peter (Angus East)||Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin|
|Fry, Peter||Mayhew, Sir Patrick|
|Galley, Roy||Miller, Hal (B'grove)|
|Gardner, Sir Edward (Fylde)||Mitchell, David (Hants NW)|
|Glyn, Dr Alan||Moate, Roger|
|Goodhart, Sir Philip||Moore, Rt Hon John|
|Gow, Ian||Morrison, Hon C. (Devizes)|
|Gower, Sir Raymond||Moynihan, Hon C.|
|Gregory, Conal||Neale, Gerrard|
|Griffiths, Sir Eldon||Newton, Tony|
|Nicholls, Patrick||Steen, Anthony|
|Norris, Steven||Stern, Michael|
|Page, Richard (Herts SW)||Stewart, Andrew (Sherwood)|
|Pawsey, James||Stewart, Ian (Hertf'dshire N)|
|Percival, Rt Hon Sir Ian||Stradling Thomas, Sir John|
|Pollock, Alexander||Temple-Morris, Peter|
|Powell, William (Corby)||Thompson, Donald (Calder V)|
|Powley, John||Thornton, Malcolm|
|Proctor, K. Harvey||Thurnham, Peter|
|Pym, Rt Hon Francis||Trippier, David|
|Rhodes James, Robert||Trotter, Neville|
|Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon||van Straubenzee, Sir W.|
|Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas||Vaughan, Sir Gerard|
|Ridsdale, Sir Julian||Waddington, David|
|Roberts, Wyn (Conwy)||Wall, Sir Patrick|
|Robinson, Mark (N'port W)||Wallace, James|
|Roe, Mrs Marion||Waller, Gary|
|Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)||Watson, John|
|Rost, Peter||Watts, John|
|Rumbold, Mrs Angela||Weetch, Ken|
|Ryder, Richard||Wells, Bowen (Hertford)|
|Sayeed, Jonathan||Wells, Sir John (Maidstone)|
|Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)||Wheeler, John|
|Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')||Whitfield, John|
|Shelton, William (Streatham)||Winterton, Mrs Ann|
|Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)||Winterton, Nicholas|
|Shersby, Michael||Wolfson, Mark|
|Shields, Mrs Elizabeth||Wood, Timothy|
|Sims, Roger||Wrigglesworth, Ian|
|Skeet, Sir Trevor||Young, Sir George (Acton)|
|Speed, Keith||Younger, Rt Hon George|
|Spicer, Jim (Dorset W)||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)||Mr. Alex Fletcher and Mr. Bill Walker.|
|Steel, Rt Hon David|
|Atkinson, N. (Tottenham)||Lawrence, Ivan|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Leadbitter, Ted|
|Benn, Rt Hon Tony||Leighton, Ronald|
|Bennett, A. (Dent'n & Red'sh)||Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)|
|Boyes, Roland||Lofthouse, Geoffrey|
|Callaghan, Jim (Heyw'd & M)||McDonald, Dr Oonagh|
|Campbell-Savours, Dale||McKay, Allen (Penistone)|
|Clarke, Thomas||Maynard, Miss Joan|
|Clay, Robert||Michie, William|
|Clwyd, Mrs Ann||Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)|
|Conlan, Bernard||Nellist, David|
|Corbett, Robin||O'Brien, William|
|Davies, Ronald (Caerphilly)||Patchett, Terry|
|Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'ge Hl)||Redmond, Martin|
|Dixon, Donald||Skinner, Dennis|
|Dunwoody, Hon Mrs G.||Soley, Clive|
|Eastham, Ken||Straw, Jack|
|Faulds, Andrew||Thorne, Stan (Preston)|
|Fields, T. (L'pool Broad Gn)||Tinn, James|
|Gourlay, Harry||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy||Mr. Tony Lloyd and Mr. Robert Litherland.|
(seated and covered): On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. We were forced to vote at an early stage of the previous debate, when many hon. Members still wished to speak, having come into the Chamber for the debate. Two of my colleagues and I were still trying to raise the issue in the Lobby—
|Division No. 198]||[8.45 pm|
|Alton, David||Eyre, Sir Reginald|
|Amess, David||Favell, Anthony|
|Ancram, Michael||Fookes, Miss Janet|
|Ashby, David||Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)|
|Atkins, Robert (South Ribble)||Forth, Eric|
|Atkinson, David (B'm'th E)||Fox, Marcus|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Franks, Cecil|
|Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N)||Fraser, Peter (Angus East)|
|Baldry, Tony||Fry, Peter|
|Banks, Robert (Harrogate)||Gale, Roger|
|Batiste, Spencer||Galley, Roy|
|Beaumont-Dark, Anthony||Gardner, Sir Edward (Fylde)|
|Beith, A. J.||Glyn, Dr Alan|
|Bellingham, Henry||Goodhart, Sir Philip|
|Benyon, William||Gow, Ian|
|Best, Keith||Gower, Sir Raymond|
|Biffen, Rt Hon John||Gregory, Conal|
|Biggs-Davison, Sir John||Griffiths, Sir Eldon|
|Blackburn, John||Griffiths, Peter (Portsm'th N)|
|Body, Sir Richard||Grist, Ian|
|Bonsor, Sir Nicholas||Ground, Patrick|
|Boscawen, Hon Robert||Gummer, Rt Hon John S|
|Bowden, A. (Brighton K'to'n)||Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)|
|Braine, Rt Hon Sir Bernard||Hampson, Dr Keith|
|Brandon-Bravo, Martin||Harris, David|
|Bright, Graham||Haselhurst, Alan|
|Brooke, Hon Peter||Hawkins, C. (High Peak)|
|Brown, Gordon (D'f'mline E)||Hawksley, Warren|
|Bruinvels, Peter||Hayes, J.|
|Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon A.||Hayhoe, Rt Hon Barney|
|Buck, Sir Antony||Hayward, Robert|
|Burt, Alistair||Hickmet, Richard|
|Butcher, John||Hicks, Robert|
|Butterfill, John||Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.|
|Carlile, Alexander (Montg'y)||Hind, Kenneth|
|Carlisle, John (Luton N)||Holland, Sir Philip (Gedling)|
|Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)||Home Robertson, John|
|Cartwright, John||Hordern, Sir Peter|
|Cash, William||Howard, Michael|
|Channon, Rt Hon Paul||Howarth, Gerald (Cannock)|
|Churchill, W. S.||Howell, Ralph (Norfolk, N)|
|Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)||Howells, Geraint|
|Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S)||Hubbard-Miles, Peter|
|Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe)||Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)|
|Conlan, Bernard||Hunt, David (Wirral W)|
|Conway, Derek||Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)|
|Cook, Robin F. (Livingston)||Hunter, Andrew|
|Coombs, Simon||Irving, Charles|
|Cope, John||Jackson, Robert|
|Cormack, Patrick||Jenkin, Rt Hon Patrick|
|Crouch, David||Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey|
|Currie, Mrs Edwina||Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)|
|Dalyell, Tarn||Jones, Robert (Herts W)|
|Dewar, Donald||Kellett-Bowman, Mrs Elaine|
|Dobson, Frank||King, Roger (B'ham N'field)|
|Douglas-Hamilton, Lord J.||Knight, Greg (Derby N)|
|du Cann, Rt Hon Sir Edward||Knowles, Michael|
|Durant, Tony||Knox, David|
|Emery, Sir Peter||Lamont, Norman|
|Lang, Ian||Ryder, Richard|
|Latham, Michael||Sainsbury, Hon Timothy|
|Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark||Sayeed, Jonathan|
|Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)|
|Lightbown, David||Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')|
|Litherland, Robert||Shelton, William (Streatham)|
|Livsey, Richard||Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)|
|Lloyd, Ian (Havant)||Shersby, Michael|
|Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)||Shields, Mrs Elizabeth|
|Lord, Michael||Sims, Roger|
|Lyell, Nicholas||Skeet, Sir Trevor|
|McCrindle, Robert||Speller, Tony|
|MacGregor, Rt Hon John||Spicer, Jim (Dorset W)|
|Maclean, David John||Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)|
|McLoughlin, Patrick||Squire, Robin|
|McNair-Wilson, M. (N'bury)||Steel, Rt Hon David|
|McNair-Wilson, P. (New F'st)||Steen, Anthony|
|McWilliam, John||Stern, Michael|
|Madel, David||Stewart, Ian (Hertf'dshire N)|
|Major, John||Stott, Roger|
|Malone, Gerald||Stradling Thomas, Sir John|
|Marek, Dr John||Straw, Jack|
|Mather, Carol||Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)|
|Maude, Hon Francis||Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman|
|Mawhinney, Dr Brian||Temple-Morris, Peter|
|Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin||Thornton, Malcolm|
|Mayhew, Sir Patrick||Thurnham, Peter|
|Meyer, Sir Anthony||Trippier, David|
|Miller, Hal (B'grove)||Trotter, Neville|
|Mitchell, David (Hants NW)||van Straubenzee, SirW.|
|Moore, Rt Hon John||Vaughan, Sir Gerard|
|Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)||Waddington, David|
|Morrison, Hon C. (Devizes)||Wakeham, Rt Hon John|
|Morrison, Hon P. (Chester)||Wall, Sir Patrick|
|Moynihan, Hon C.||Wallace, James|
|Neale, Gerrard||Waller, Gary|
|Newton, Tony||Warren, Kenneth|
|Nicholls, Patrick||Watson, John|
|Norris, Steven||Watts, John|
|Page, Richard (Herts SW)||Weetch, Ken|
|Patchett, Terry||Wells, Bowen (Hertford)|
|Pawsey, James||Wells, Sir John (Maidstone)|
|Percival, Rt Hon Sir Ian||Wheeler, John|
|Pike, Peter||Whitfield, John|
|Powell, William (Corby)||Winnick, David|
|Powley, John||Winterton, Mrs Ann|
|Proctor, K. Harvey||Winterton, Nicholas|
|Pym, Rt Hon Francis||Wolfson, Mark|
|Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon||Wood, Timothy|
|Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas||Wrigglesworth, Ian|
|Roberts, Wyn (Conwy)||Young, Sir George (Acton)|
|Robinson, Mark (N'port W)|
|Roe, Mrs Marion||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)||Sir Julian Ridsdale and Mr. Robert Rhodes James.|
|Rumbold, Mrs Angela|
|Atkinson, N. (Tottenham)||Lewis, Terence (Worsley)|
|Bennett, A. (Dent'n & Red'sh)||Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)|
|Boyes, Roland||Lofthouse, Geoffrey|
|Callaghan, Jim (Heyw'd & M)||McCurley, Mrs Anna|
|Campbell-Savours, Dale||McDonald, Dr Oonagh|
|Clay, Robert||McQuarrie, Albert|
|Clwyd, Mrs Ann||Nellist, David|
|Cohen, Harry||O'Brien, William|
|Couchman, James||Pollock, Alexander|
|Davies, Ronald (Caerphilly)||Skinner, Dennis|
|Dixon, Donald||Speed, Keith|
|Eastham, Ken||Stewart, Andrew (Sherwood)|
|Evans, John (St. Helens N)||Thorne, Stan (Preston)|
|Fatchett, Derek||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Fields, T. (L'pool Broad Gn)||Mr. Alex Fletcher and Mr. Bill Walker.|
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. At the beginning of the debate on private business I raised with Mr. Speaker a question of procedure on that business. You will recall, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that during the debate on the quorum for the Felixstowe Dock and Railway Bill you gave an undertaking from the Treasury Bench that you would be setting up an inquiry into the private Bill procedure. It was clear that the House had been caused considerable concern and I am sure that you are aware, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that the proceedings this evening will cause even more concern.
The normal procedure for a promoter of a private Bill is to start by trying to get the Bill through without opposition at 2.30 pm. If he fails in that aim, he tries to obtain a three-hour debate on a subsequent evening. Normally, there would be a closure motion and a majority would be gained for the Bill to proceed. It is a little unusual for an extra debate to be gained if there is a failure to secure the closure.
You have heard, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that there is some disappointment on the Opposition Benches that you accepted a closure motion after such a short debate on the previous business. I do not query that, but I suggest that this is a matter that should be considered during the inquiry that is held into the private Bill procedure. If the procedure is examined, some of the less desirable aspects of debates that have taken place in the recent past might be avoided. Now that you have had a chance to reflect on that request, Mr. Deputy Speaker, perhaps you will make a statement to the House.
I am grateful to the hon. Member for Denton and Reddish (Mr. Bennett) for his assurance that, despite his reservations, he is not challenging my decision of this evening. I am grateful to him also for having given me notice that he intended to raise the matter. I am glad to tell him that since I informed the House on 12 February that I wished to initiate a review of private Bill procedures I have been engaged in active consultation with both the Chairman of Committees in another place, Lord Aberdare, and the Leader of the House. As a result of those consultations, I anticipate that an appropriate motion will shortly be tabled. As it will have to be a Government motion rather than a motion in my name, if the hon. Gentleman wishes to pursue any question on its contents and its timing he will have to address it to the Leader of the House.