Guidance on Costs and Benefits

Part of New clause 3 – in the House of Commons at 6:30 pm on 27th June 1995.

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Photo of Mr Bill O'Brien Mr Bill O'Brien , Normanton 6:30 pm, 27th June 1995

The amendment seeks to improve the Bill, which grew each time it was debated in Committee in another place and in this House. More and more amendments were made and new clauses added, so that the Bill is now one of the largest that the House has enacted for some time. It devotes more pages to schedules than to clauses, and much of the information that it contains will have to be studied by the companies, industry, local government, commercial organisations and even individuals who will be affected by the Bill in some way. We want the Bill presented in such a way that the public will enjoy the full benefit of the legislation.

We in the Opposition do not oppose the principle and spirit of the Bill. There is much merit in the agency arrangements, but we are concerned about the agency's duties and responsibilities. We are not against assessing the cost of schemes, but how are they to be decided? To leave the Bill in its present form will not help the organisations which will have to analyse costs and compare benefits.

The amendment requires that before any scheme is considered, the Secretary of State—after consulting the bodies involved—will present a report to Parliament so that it will have an opportunity to consider the costs and benefits. That constructive approach will assist everyone and allow the legislation to work properly, by making available information affecting communities.

Reference was made to motorways and motorway construction. I have a particular interest in the diversion of the Al in my area. I would prefer the principle embodied in the Bill applied to that proposed road development because the public would then be able to understand the real implications, compare costs and analyse different schemes that will influence the environment and the health and destinies of individuals. The public would then be able to study the changes proposed by the agency in realigning the A 1 to Ferry Bridge.

New clause 3 is significant and important. The Minister would do a service to the House and to the nation by carefully considering the new clause and the points made by hon. Members in all parts of the House, including the hon. Member for Lincoln (Sir K. Carlisle), who expressed favour for it. All hon. Members who have spoken have offered new evidence for accepting new clause 3.

Our personal experience and knowledge of work involving changes to the environment which have caused damage in many areas prompts us to enter the plea that new clause 3 is constructive, will help the Bill and will benefit the people who have to administer the legislation. I fear what might happen if a proper, sincere and constructive approach to analysing costs and environmental benefits in schemes such as the Al to Ferry Bridge is not taken. That would be doing a tremendous disservice to communities.

There is merit and value in new clause 3. It is not a wrecking clause and it will strengthen the Bill. I ask the Minister to accept the new clause and to acknowledge its value to the Bill.