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Mr. Michael Jack (Fylde): Many motorists who have contributed to the extra £135 billion of tax in the Government's coffers by sitting in traffic jams on the M6 will welcome the Deputy Prime Minister's commitment to widening parts of the motorway. However, can he clear up a confusion? I received a letter from his Department

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indicating that it will be some two years before the multi-modal study is completed and decisions are made, yet the Deputy Prime Minister seems to be committing to immediate action on the widening of the M6. Can he give us a timetable in respect of the M6? It needs action now.

Mr. Prescott: It is a pity that action was not taken 10 years ago. I do not recall the right hon. Gentleman asking for it then. Some multi-modal studies will be reporting in the next couple of months, but others--of which the M6 is a classic example--are more difficult to conclude. The right hon. Gentleman was a Minister in the previous Administration. They came up with the idea that the only way to reduce congestion on the M6 was to build the Birmingham northern relief road. They took that decision in 1988 and announced that it would be on the fast track. Twelve years later, the sod still has not been cut. That road would have helped to reduce congestion, but because there is such a lousy contract I am finding it difficult to force the private sector to face up to its obligations and invest in the Birmingham northern relief road. Hopefully, it will happen. I am doing my best to implement something that the previous Administration tried to do nearly 20 years ago. Hopefully, I shall conclude that shortly. The multi-modal studies will start reporting in the next few months and we will be able to get on with the job.

Mr. Mark Todd (South Derbyshire): May I draw my right hon. Friend's attention to the proposal in my constituency and neighbouring constituencies for reopening the Leicester to Burton line to passenger traffic? Currently, a bid for the project is being deterred by the framework for public finance that is available to support it. Will he meet local representatives to explore a potentially successful bid in the light of his new statement, which promises extra resources?

Mr. Prescott: I take it that my hon. Friend is referring to the Ivanhoe line. An agreement was arrived at between the local authorities, the Government and the people involved in the project. I am well aware that they are asking for more money to be provided. My noble Friend the Minister for Transport will be delighted to meet my

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hon. Friend to discuss the matter, although I am more interested at this stage in the expansion of the railway system than in arguing about the contract.

Sir Teddy Taylor (Rochford and Southend, East): As we have appalling congestion problems in Southend, and as the newly elected council is wholly in support of a ring road, can the Secretary of State say whether there are any new procedures for the consideration of cases under the new programme? What is the best way for an authority to urge its special problems for consideration for the additional funding?

Mr. Prescott: I do not think that there are new procedures in that sense, except that local authorities and regional bodies are considering local and regional roads and will make recommendations in the next six to eight months. We will then make a judgment on the priorities for roads and what resources we will provide. My announcement today is that more resources are available to meet some of the requirements, but the criteria laid out in our roads programme will have to be met.

Ms Rosie Winterton (Doncaster, Central): As a member of the RAC's public policy committee, may I assure my right hon. Friend that the RAC, as well as the AA, has warmly welcomed today's announcement, and especially the extra resources for road maintenance, bypasses and motorway widening? Will he assure me that he will continue to consult those organisations, so that motorists' views and priorities can be taken into account in the implementation of the plans?

Mr. Prescott: I welcome what the RAC and the AA said. In my three years in office, I have not always had such favourable responses, so I welcome a genuine response from the motorist organisations to what I think is a very good plan.

On consultation, we set out in the White Paper the motorists charter and what we thought could be done to improve things for the motorist, which involved roads as well as vehicles and safety matters, because motorists are pedestrians as much as they are motorists and an overall approach is needed. We certainly intend to consult those organisations. As my hon. Friend will know, a body has been set up in the Department to discuss matters with them, so their views are fed into our transport priorities.

Several hon. Members rose--

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. I have no doubt that we will return to these matters in the future, but we must now move on.

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Points of Order

2.8 pm

Mr. Peter Brooke (Cities of London and Westminster): On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. At business questions, I unintentionally misled the House, and I would like to take the earliest possible opportunity to correct that. I ascribed wrongly to the Prime Minister references to £24 billion yesterday. I know why I made the mistake, but I should not have passed it on to the House. I apologise unreservedly.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Michael Lord): There is no need for me to respond to that point of order. The whole House will have heard what the right hon. Gentleman said.

Mr. Eric Forth (Bromley and Chislehurst): On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I seek your guidance in the matter of the forthcoming election of a new Speaker, because of the rather unusual circumstances, in that the House will be in recess for a long time and then come back directly to face that election, and because my impression is that there may be a number of candidates. Can you help the House, not necessarily today, but certainly before we rise, by letting us know exactly what procedure will be followed when we come to elect a new Speaker on 23 October?

It is essential for Members, and indeed the candidates, to know the basis on which the resolutions will be put to the House and the sequence in which amendments may be introduced, so that we can make an assessment in the intervening period of candidates and of proposers and seconders, and then of the procedure to be followed. Otherwise, there is a danger that the House will be faced on 23 October with what might amount to a lottery, which would not be in the interests of the House, its Members or our future Speaker.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for giving notice of his helpful suggestion. The Speaker is giving the matter careful consideration. I have been asked to assure the House that Members will be given clear advice in good time about the procedures to be used on 23 October.

Mr. Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North): Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. You mentioned that the Speaker would give us clear advice in good time. Could I ask you to address the Speaker on the subject to ensure that we have clear advice given to us before the House rises for the summer recess? Could consideration be given to a more democratic and open procedure than the current one, under which a person is nominated and faces a series of Divisions with any other candidate? Is there anything wrong with having an election? The rest of the country does--why not have one here?

Mr. Deputy Speaker: At this point I cannot add to my earlier statement. The House will note the point made by the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. John Bercow (Buckingham): Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I, too, seek your guidance. As the forthcoming election is a matter for the legislature

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and not the Executive, and in view of growing concern that the Government Whips will seek to browbeat people into voting for their preferred candidate, can we have guidance on the possibility of ensuring that the election will be conducted by secret ballot?

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. As I understand it, these matters are all laid down in the Standing Orders. As I have said, Members will be given clear advice before the date concerned.

Mr. Ian Bruce (South Dorset): On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I spoke to the Speaker in the Chair earlier, and I am aware that she does not take points of order during proceedings. However, I would be grateful if you could refer this matter to her. Today, as is normal practice, the Chancellor decided to answer two questions at the same time. He gave notice of that to my hon. Friends the Members for Congleton (Mrs. Winterton) and for Guildford (Mr. St. Aubyn). The two questions were dissimilar, except that they did deal with the issue of the single currency. The House will see from Hansard that the Chancellor did not attempt to answer the second question at the same time as the first and appeared, by a device, to avoid taking that individual question.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. I have heard enough from the hon. Gentleman to understand his point of order. He well knows that the Chair does not have responsibility for ministerial answers.


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