That the bill shall be presented to the House by deposit in the Private Bill Office no later than the fifth day on which the House sits after this day;
That a declaration signed by the agent shall be annexed to the bill, stating that it is the same in every respect as the bill presented in this House in the last Parliament;
That on the next sitting day following presentation, the Clerk in the Private Bill Office shall lay the bill on the Table of the House;
That in the current session of Parliament the bill shall be deemed to have passed through every stage through which it had passed in the last Parliament, and shall be recorded in the Journal of the House as having passed those stages;
That no further fees shall be charged to such stages;
That the petition relating to the bill which stood referred to the committee on the bill in the last Parliament shall stand referred to the committee on the bill in the current session of Parliament;
That no petitioners shall be heard before the committee unless their petition has been presented within the time provided for petitioning or has been deposited pursuant to Private Business Standing Order 126(b);
That, in relation to the bill, Private Business Standing Order 127 shall have effect as if the words 'under Standing Order 126 (Reference to committee of petitions against bill)' were omitted.[The Chairman of Ways and Means.]
That the members of the Committee of Selection nominated this day shall continue to be members of the Committee for the remainder of this Parliament.
That this Order be a Standing Order of the House.[Keith Hill.]
The Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions (Mr. Stephen Byers): I am currently considering a request from the Strategic Rail Authority for a direction under section 26 of the Railways Act 1993, relating to the potential award of an early replacement inter-city east coast franchise
Mr. Beith: Does the Secretary of State realise that most regular travellers on the east coast main line would be appalled if the franchise went to Virgin and not to GNER? Will he make the decision soon and, once it is made, will he recognise how important it will be for GNER to invest in the rolling stock that can add to the capacity of the line and for Railtrack to invest in line capacity and to end its lamentable performance, which has seen the quality of service reduced because of the speed restrictions on the line?
Mr. Byers: Like the right hon. Gentleman, I am a frequent traveller on the east coast main line, so I understand the importance of the franchise being awarded. The important point is that submissions from both bidders are given proper and due consideration, and that is happening at the moment. I would like to reach a decision on a direction as soon as possible, but it must take into account all the arguments that I shall need to reflect on. I do not intend to rush and make the wrong decision, but I am aware that the award of the franchise is keenly awaited by many travellers throughout the country.
Hugh Bayley (City of York): The east coast main line is an economic lifeline for Yorkshire and the north-east of England and its present franchise holder, GNER, is a major employer in my constituency. Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is important to maintain competition between the east coast main line and the west coast main line, with different companies operating the two franchises? Does he also agree that, because the modernisation of the west coast main line is already proceeding, any further delay will mean that the opportunity to modernise the east coast line will slip further and further behind?
Mr. John Greenway (Ryedale): I wish to associate myself with the comments of the right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith) and the hon. Member for City of York (Hugh Bayley), but will the Secretary of State be more specific about when he thinks that a decision will be concluded? As a user of the railway line, he must understand that GNER is reckoned generally to be one of the most successful companies since privatisation. What kind of message will it send for confidence in investment in the railway structure if such success is rewarded by it losing the franchise?
Mr. Byers: I intend to make a decision on the direction as soon as possible. I hope that the House will understand the need to take all relevant factors into account, which is exactly what I am doing. I must give due consideration to the strengths of both biddersGNER and Virgin Stagecoachand need to reflect on that. Awarding a franchise is a significant part of improving the standards and quality of our railway network. From being in post for a little more than three weeks, I believe that one of our key levers with the Strategic Rail Authority is the franchising process. I want to ensure that we use that to the full, which is why on 16 July we will publish new procedures and guidance on the awarding of franchises.
Mrs. Gwyneth Dunwoody (Crewe and Nantwich): My right hon. Friend will be aware, however, that this is the third time that the franchise is about to be awarded. Although we are delighted to hear that he is considering the whole issue of franchising, unless some decisions are taken quite soon, real problems will occur in the railway industry. I hope that when he looks for good value for money for the taxpayer, he will remember not only that the awarding of franchises is the key, but that it needs to be turned quickly.
Mr. Byers: I agree with my hon. Friend and she is right to highlight the important role that the awarding of franchises can and should play in the process of improving the quality of our railway services. However, she will also be aware that it is right that when I make the decision, I reflect properly on the strengths of the arguments. It would be improper of me not to do so. I can assure the House that whatever failings I have as a Secretary of State, making decisions is not one of them, and a decision will be made as soon as possible.
I am sure that the hon. Member for Sevenoaks (Mr. Fallon) welcomes the Government's provision for a ring-fenced budget for noise reduction measures to deal with the most urgent and pressing cases, and that he understands that there is strong competition for the available funds. However, he will be pleased to know that two locations in his constituency met the criteria for further consideration of possible measures.
Mr. Fallon: I welcome the Minister to his new responsibilities. Is he aware that my constituency surrounds a triangle of some of the busiest motorways in the countrythe M25, M26 and M20? For places such as Kemsing, Otford and Swanley, noise is a real issue. Will he encourage the Highways Agency to experiment with different types of noise mitigation, such as muffling and noise protection, which are so impressively deployed on the new autoroutes in France?
Mr. Jamieson: First, I thank the hon. Gentleman for his kind remarks on my arrival at the Dispatch Box from the Trappist silence of the Whip's Bench. He will be pleased to know that the M25 at Swanley and the A21 between Bessel's Green and Dibden lane are the sites that are under consideration. If those projects are successful, they will attract between £2 million and £3 million of funding. He will also know of the Government's commitment to noise mitigation measures. I believe that he attended the ceremony to mark the opening of the section of the M25 between junction 5 and Clacketts lane where noise has been considerably reduced as part of the noise reduction programme. Our 10-year plan contains a commitment that 60 per cent. of roads will be resurfaced with quieter materials and that all concrete roads will be resurfaced.