Examination of Witnesses (Questions 60-79)|
QC, MR MIKE
TUESDAY 18 DECEMBER 2001
60. So it is site specific.
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) It decides in principle
that the project should go ahead. There is then the public inquiry
in which the detail is looked at by the public inquiry, the how,
and after that the Secretary of State decides whether to give
61. How are parliamentarians qualified to take
this decision for a locally elected planning authority?
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Because this is an issue
of national importance in the hypothesis advanced.
62. If I live in the north of England, why should
my constituents benefit from T5?
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) It is a national issue
as to whether or not there should be T5. The current arrangement
in relation to major infrastructure projects is that every single
one of them has been called in, in the last decades, by the relevant
Secretary of State and the Secretary of State has decided after
a public inquiry whether to agree or not to the major infrastructure
project. What we are saying in these proposals is that where you
are dealing with a major infrastructure project Parliament has
a role to play in deciding whether such a major infrastructure
project should go ahead.
63. On these major schemes, Parliament had the
old private business way of doing it. It was somewhat cumbersome
and not very efficient but one of the key traditions then was
that it was not whipped business. What you are really saying is
this is going to be whipped business because the government minister
is going to say that he wants to get it through. How far is Parliament
going to have any discretion? Are you saying that you are not
going to have it as whipped business or is it really going to
be the minister decides and the payroll and all the other pressures
that the whips can apply get it through?
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Parliament will scrutinise
the application. It cannot be said that in every case it will
necessarily be a government proposal but in many cases it will
because one of the other aspects of the major infrastructure proposals
was that there should be a policy statement in advance about things
like aviation policy or whatever. In many cases it will be something
that is done with the support of the government.
64. It will be whipped business?
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) I would imagine in some
cases it will be whipped business, yes, but Parliament is still
able to scrutinise it.
65. They cannot affect it but they can look
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) They can affect it; they
can express views in relation to it. Why is that process not a
means by which a public debate goes on properly scrutinising the
detail of the proposal?
66. On the whole if you say to people, "I
have taken the decision. Now you can tell me what you think about
it", that is not regarded as being a debate.
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) I do not think that is
a fair assessment.
67. Forgive me. I am being unfair this morning.
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Not at all. I do not think
it was an accurate description of what we have in mind. What we
have in mind is a policy statement, for example, in relation to
aviation or railways, followed by a proposal which would normally
be by a body like the BAA, then a process by which Parliament
scrutinises the proposal.
Chairman: A body like the BAA, a public corporation
which is now privatised.
68. Parliament scrutinising really means that
you either have to upset the whips or you have to follow the whips'
line. Most members are in because they represent a political party
and they want to sustain that political party so it is not all
that easy to upset the whips, is it?
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) The process by which the
individual project is looked at will throw up a debate in detail
about the project.
Sir Paul Beresford
69. I thought you were saying that Parliament
was going to look at the principles. The problem I have is where
do you draw the line? You used T5 as an example but it is not
just T5; there are potentially rail-road connections and infrastructure
connections in general.
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) It is for Parliament in
determining the principle to look at those issues that they think
are relevant to the principle. Should there be, for example, a
fifth terminal at Heathrow? That is a debate that has certain
parameters. Those engaged in the debate can determine what they
think the sensible parameters of that are. It will involve, for
example, looking at things like the economic benefits of terminal
five or the consequences in general terms of there being a terminal
five, but I do not think there is difficulty about such a debate
70. Can I give you one other possible example?
Suppose we had an application for a railway to go from the Channel
Tunnel, up through the southern counties, to loop round the base
of London and off up to Liverpool. What sort of stage do we get
to? How does that go through?
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) There was a central railways
project to that effect.
Chairman: I am sure Sir Paul is posing an entirely
Sir Paul Beresford
71. Yes. Mr Ash was involved as an adviser on
the Channel Tunnel link.
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) What the proposal in the
major infrastructure project document suggests is that one uses
something akin to the Transport and Works Act in order for the
debate of principle to take place. The very proposal that you
have suggested was dealt with under the Transport and Works Act
and was defeated.
72. I thought there was a lot of complaint about
the Transport and Works Act.
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) It does not apply to enough
areas of major infrastructure. It only applies to certain transport
73. Lord Falconer, I want to take you back to
the comment you made on whipping. You said a few minutes ago that,
yes, some projects may be whipped or would be whipped; and yet
local authority planning committees are instructed they must not
whip their members. Are you asking for different rules for Parliament
than you are imposing on local authorities?
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) No. I am responding to
Mr Bennett's question, will these issues be whipped. The answer
to that is, in many cases, the particular project will be as a
result of a national policy statement issued by government. It
will represent, in effect, government policy.
74. So it will be whipped.
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Whether it will or whether
it will not I do not know is the answer in relation to that. It
will be a matter for Parliament and the government of the day
to decide how each individual project would be dealt with.
75. Surely at local level, where the local planning
committee takes the decision, they will also have policy statements.
Are the roles going to change? Can the local planning committee
now be whipped as to whether it takes the decision?
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) The way that local authorities
work is that the local planning committee has to make its own
decision on the basis of the local development framework. I do
not want to interfere in the way that local planning authorities
make their minds up in relation to those sorts of issues.
76. In future it will be okay for them to be
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) I do not want to make
a suggestion that that should be changed in any way. The major
infrastructure project is a completely different sort of issue.
We are in effect proposing a wholly new and different sort of
process to apply to that.
77. It is not different. I have shares in BAA.
I am totally against the procedure that is proposed. I am probably
the only person in the room who has served on the Joint Special
Procedures Committee. Are you familiar with that committee?
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) I am not familiar with
the detail. Mike Ash knows about the two particular cases.
78. I am on the Northern Tunstall Bypass Joint
Special Procedures Committee which sat in the autumn of 1997.
Three Members of the Commons and three Members of the Lords were
elected to this committee in those cases where the Secretary of
State, under present parliamentary procedures, is unable to take
a decision. I understand that in that capacity we were asked as
parliamentarians to sit in a semi-judicial capacity. We were asked
to state that we had no vested interests and I understand that
a time share along the route of the proposed bypass would have
posed a vested interest.
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) A time share?
79. For example, if we had an allotment. Is
that the sort of procedure that you are suggesting?
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) No. I do not know enough
about the North Tunstall Bypass to know what procedure you are
referring to. Was it a hybrid bill or a private bill?