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Mr. Bercow: I wish to challenge my hon. Friend about the money resolution. Like my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth), I regard the Bill as a miserable measure, despite the magnificence of its mother, the hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody). Will my hon. Friend help me to evaluate the money resolution by saying whether he thinks that the proceeds of fines levied under clause 1(3) will be ring-fenced to offset pound for pound and penny for penny the costs incurred elsewhere to the Exchequer?

Mr. Leigh: No, of course they will not. It would have been nice had the Government made that clear. I should be amazed if the proceeds were ring-fenced. Presumably, fines incurred on Sunday or Christmas day traders will go into the general Exchequer pot and be lost. Again, there is a lack of oversight. It is no good Ministers saying that the Bill is small and affects only one day so it is not important, because it is the principle that is at stake. Parliament has a right to demand further and better particulars.

Mr. David Davis (Haltemprice and Howden): Will my hon. Friend comment on the socialist heresy advanced by my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth), who suggested that if the money from fines is ring-fenced--

Madam Deputy Speaker: Order. The right hon. Gentleman is an experienced Member. I am sure that it is an oversight not to face the Chair.

Mr. Davis: I beg your pardon, Madam Deputy Speaker, but I was shocked by the suggestion about ring-fencing

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the fine money to finance the proposal. That would create a self-funding regulatory agency, of which we would disapprove, and would remove from Parliament the right of approval of such financial burdens.

Mr. Leigh: The gradual enlargement of the principle of ring fencing is regrettable. Many people in local government are alarmed--

Madam Deputy Speaker: Order. The hon. Gentleman is going wide of the motion, which is about additional costs to be incurred because of the Bill. It is not about ring fencing.

Mr. Leigh: I take your strictures, Madam Deputy Speaker. There will clearly be additional costs. All we want is to be given more information in this short debate.

The tenor of some remarks was that we are only talking about Christmas day. My hon. Friend the Member for Lichfield (Mr. Fabricant) made an interesting contribution from the perspective of a Jewish Member of Parliament. The Minister is a good Catholic Member of Parliament and views with great distaste people trading on Christmas day, but we live in a multicultural society and people might demand similar legislation for days that are as holy to their faiths. The costs could escalate. Where would it all end?

The House needs to be aware that we are not just talking about one day in the year and a limited cost. Pressure will undoubtedly be put on the House for other equally important holy days in the Muslim and Jewish faiths to get similar treatment. Why should Christians alone have the great privilege that if stores open on Christmas day, they must be closed down and the inspectors' costs sent to Parliament?

Mr. Redwood: Does my hon. Friend agree that any money that might be expended on enforcing the Bill--and the Minister needs to clarify how much will be spent--would be better used to provide more hospital operations over Christmas for people who are in agony and cannot wait any longer, rather than wasting it on inspectors in case an illicit Father Christmas is still trading a day after everyone else has stopped?

Mr. Leigh: My right hon. Friend makes a fair point. However, the strict guillotine procedure that is always imposed on us means that time is running out. In the remaining minute or so, perhaps the Minister will explain how much the measure will cost. That is all we want to know.

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It being three quarters of an hour after the commencement of proceedings on the motion, Madam Deputy Speaker put the Question, pursuant to Standing Order No. 52(1)(b) (Money resolutions and ways and means resolutions in connection with bills).

Question agreed to.


Madam Deputy Speaker (Mrs. Sylvia Heal): With permission, I shall put together motions 8 to 10.

Motion made, and Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 118(6) (Standing Committees on Delegated Legislation),

Local Government

Question agreed to.

Motion made and Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 118(6) (Standing Committees on Delegated Legislation),

Social Security

Madam Deputy Speaker: I think the Ayes have it.

Hon. Members: No.

Division deferred till Wednesday 4 April, pursuant to Order [7 November 2000].


Motion made, and Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 25 (Periodic adjournments),

Question agreed to.

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3 Apr 2001 : Column 307

Motorway Service Stations

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.--[Mr. Clelland.]

11.45 pm

Mrs. Caroline Spelman (Meriden): I apologise, Madam Deputy Speaker, for giving you cause earlier to reprimand me for bringing work into the Chamber. Like the lame man who lay beside the pool at Bethesda and was anxious to reach the pool when the waters were disturbed, I was afraid that I might miss my Adjournment debate because I was not sure whether the preceding debates would take their full allotted time. Given the lateness of the hour, I was anxious not to miss the opportunity.

I want to put on record my gratitude to Mr. Speaker for calling the debate. I have tried on several occasions to obtain a debate on motorway service stations. The subject would have made a good Westminster Hall debate because several hon. Members have such service stations in their constituencies and others have experience of them. We could have held a wider debate on the subject.

A propos of that, I want to refer briefly to two contributions that I have received. First, the Royal Automobile Club Foundation pointed out that an Office of Fair Trading report on motorway service areas, published in December 2000, suggested that they provide poor value for money, and poor food and refreshments. I am sure that several hon. Members might have something to say about that.

Secondly, during last year's Easter holidays, the Automobile Association carried out an interesting survey of European motorway service stations. The United Kingdom's position is not good. Of the 10 UK service stations inspected, five were rated as acceptable, three as poor and two as very poor. Overall, UK service stations were rated as below average in Europe.

In that context, I want to consider a decision that relates to my constituency and directly affects that of my hon. Friend the Member for Solihull (Mr. Taylor), who is present tonight. He has campaigned hard with me to oppose the decision to allow the construction of a motorway service station in the Meriden gap. It is an interim decision, and until it is final, I assure the Government that we shall fight it tooth and nail.

For hon. Members who are present and not familiar with the location, and anyone who may read Hansard tomorrow morning, the Meriden gap is a narrow strip of green belt between Coventry and Birmingham. It is five miles wide at the point that we are discussing. In my maiden speech, I spoke about the need to protect the Meriden gap. Less than four years later, we are fighting hard to resist a development that my hon. Friend and I and our local authority implacably oppose. Solihull metropolitan borough council refused to grant planning permission for it as well as for two other developments in the same area. All my constituents oppose it; my postbag is flooded with protest mail from them.

I ask the Minister to extend an invitation on behalf of my constituents to the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions to examine the site. However, I stress that he should pick the right time of day. There is no point in travelling to the bridge over the M42 near junction 6 at an off-peak time. He should

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come with me in the rush hour to see the gridlocked traffic. There is nose-to-tail traffic in both directions. The Secretary of State should therefore reconsider the decision.

There are a variety of reasons for the severe congestion on that stretch of the M42. I am sure that hon. Members who have to use it are familiar with them. The service station is located south of junction 6, which carries all the traffic to Birmingham international airport and Birmingham international railway station. It is the junction with the A45 that serves Birmingham city centre and Coventry. Exhibitions at the National Exhibition Centre, for which the road is the exit, are seasonal causes of intense congestion. When the spring or autumn fair is on, that queue can stretch right back to junction 3 of the M42. Any hon. Member who uses the M6, which is notorious for its congestion, will know that any delay or heavy traffic on that road backs up to junctions 7 and 6 of the M42. We are talking about a highly congested stretch of motorway.

Hon. Members may also recall that not so many years ago, that location was the site of a terrible motorway pile-up, which is still alive in the memories of my constituents and those of my hon. Friend. None the less, the Government have chosen to justify their choice of location with reference to road safety.

The motorway service area policy statement says that the Government wish to concentrate on the completion of a network of motorway service areas at 30-mile intervals. Apparently,

The Highway Code recommends that motorists stop to rest after two hours, so there is an inconsistency between the policy of having intervals of 30 miles--roughly half an hour--for motorists to take a break, and the two-hour interval recommended in the Highway Code.

It is also difficult to square the fact that motorists' interests are paramount with the Prime Minister's most recent assertions about his party's environmental credentials. He said that we need to put business, technology and environmental protection together. In this instance, however, environmental protection has been sacrificed in the interests of the motorist.

There are a number of contradictions in the decision made on the motorway service area application. The interim report says:

originally there were three--

and that he also agrees that motorway service area developments on the proposed sites

There is a clear acknowledgement that the development would be detrimental to that section of green belt. There is a local site of special scientific interest, and also a problem with the water table. Indeed, a variety of environmental concerns are associated with choosing that site.

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