Previous Section Home Page

Column 100

anything that this Government would like to see done. I very much hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will be able to distance herself from any such proposal, if she wishes to say anything about it now.

The timing of such compensation must be flexible and should be taken from a date at which such damage could conceivably be assessed. To say that the damage can be assessed within three months of the Act being passed, which will be before Redbridge market starts trading anyway, is ludicrous. Even supposing that Redbridge market can manage to start trading in that period, it will take a year or two before the impact of that market is fully felt at Romford. What will my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, South say later to that, if he has the opportunity, as I hope that he will? What proposal will he be able to make that will adequately cover the point of giving properly assessed compensation at the right time to the council?

It is not, of course, only the council, or primarily the council in many instances, which will be the loser. The losers will be the 300-odd traders who have their market stalls in Romford. They have been established there for a long time and the Bill contains no proposal that compensation should be payable to them.

Mr. Barron : The hon. Gentleman has made the case that I was going to put. It is highly questionable whether the issue of compensation resulting from new retail outlets can be assessed at all, whether it involves a new market or a new shopping mall, which I understand that the town of Ilford will have in the next few years. The whole concept of compensation for the loss of retail trading is not well planned. There have been no major legal judgments on which an assessment could be based. Clause 4 is perhaps a sop, as is the proposal about compensation claims having to be made within three months. That is especially the case under the private Bill procedure. This Bill could go into Committee and two hon. Members could send it back unamended. It would then have to go through with the major defects that the hon. Gentleman has pointed out.

Sir Nicholas Bonsor : That is wholly correct. The Bill could go through with those defects and it would be appalling and unjust if it were to do so. Even if the Bill is amended, it is difficult, I agree, to assess compensation for the loss of retail trade. I am not aware of any great precedents for that, certainly not in the big world outside market trading. There is no previous history of such compensation within market trading because no previous Act has gone against existing rights under part III of the 1984 Act, or any similar rights before that. I may be wrong about that, but, to my knowledge, this matter has not arisen before. Clause 4 is an odd and inadequate clause. As presently drafted, it gives no compensation either to Romford council or to the traders who will lose out and it is, therefore, in the context of the Bill, wholly irrelevant and can be seen only as a red herring.

When I intervened earlier in the speech of the hon. Member for Leyton he said that there had been talk about a compromise on this point. I understand from my local authority that two compromises were offered of which that was one, but that they were offered on wholly unacceptable terms --namely, that the council should undertake not to oppose the Bill on Second Reading. The understanding was that if the Bill was opposed on Second

Column 101

Reading, the offers of compromise would be withdrawn. Like the hon. Member for Leyton, I am here not as a preacher for my local council, but to represent my constituents. I find it odd, therefore, that Redbridge council should seek to put such terms on any compromise it may seriously have proposed. If it was serious about putting forward a compromise, it should not have been on terms that the local authority should try to gag local members of Parliament and prevent them from properly representing their constituents. That should not be encouraged by this House and should it prove to have been the case we shall have to ensure that it does not happen again. The compensation clause is, therefore, quite irrelevant to the Bill and the House should disregard it when deciding on whether the Bill should go through this stage.

Clause 5 says :

"A market established under this Act shall be deemed to have been established by the Council under Section 50 of the Act of 1984." I want to make a technical point on that. I may be wrong as I am not a draftsman, but it seems to be an appallingly badly drafted Bill. It makes the claim that a market established under it should be established as follows :

"50.--(1) The council of a district may--

(a) establish a market within their district ;

(b) acquire by agreement (but not otherwise), either by purchase or on lease, the whole or any part of an existing market undertaking within their district, and any rights enjoyed by any person within their district in respect of a market and of tolls,

and, in either case, may provide--

(i) a market place with convenient approaches to it ;

(ii) a market house and other buildings convenient for the holding of a market.

(2) A market shall not be established in pursuance of this section so as to interfere with any rights, powers or privileges enjoyed within the district in respect of a market by any person, without that person's consent."

That is what section 50 of the 1984 Act says.

How can the promoters of the Bill purport to set up a market under the terms of that Act when in clause 3 of the Bill and elsewhere they propose precisely to set up a market without the consent of the people whose rights will be thus abrogated? This an appallingly bad clause in an appallingly bad Bill, which should be thrown out at this stage. If Redbridge really wants legislation passed, it should bring back a properly drafted Bill and have proper discussions with other concerned local authorities, rather than attempting to obtain such discussions by means that I would consider to be dubious. We could then re-examine the whole question.

Perhaps I may deal with the locus standi of Romford council, the borough of Havering and the three Members of Parliament who represent the area. As my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, South said, we in Romford have enjoyed our own markets for 742 years, which must make Romford one of the oldest established and most continual trading markets in the country. The market was originally set up under a writ issued by Henry III in 1247, under which he gave the right of a market in the Royal Manor of Havering-atte-Bower, which continues as the Romford market today. That market was the one which meets on Wednesday.

Romford also has the right to hold markets on Fridays and Saturdays. The Saturday market arises from what is called a "lost modern grant". For the benefit of those of my hon. Friends who are not lawyers, and indeed for the benefit of some who are--even as a lawyer, I confess that

Column 102

I had to ask someone exactly what it meant-- a "lost modern grant" is, in fact, a lost old grant. No one knows how the right was acquired because it was acquired so long ago and because it has been enjoyed continuously for so long, but the legal fiction is that at some stage someone granted the right. The "lost modern grant" is the basis on which the market is held. The rights of a market held under lost modern grant are as great as those of a market held under original writ. The Friday market is operated by Havering borough in exercise of its powers under part III of the Food Act 1984--on which Ilford and Redbridge so wrongly attempt to base their market operations. We in Romford have the right to hold markets on three days of the week. That is significant. It means that we are not talking about taking away the rights of market traders who trade in Romford one day of the week and somewhere else the next. We are talking about taking away the rights to an exclusive area which have been enjoyed for a very long time by about 300 traders trading there three days a week. I suspect that those traders base a large part of their livelihood upon their operations in Romford market. The House must think carefully, therefore, before doing anything to undermine the security of their operations in Romford by passing a Bill in direct contravention of the arrangements that have pertained in our area for so long and in direct contravention of anything that has been done in this line before. I am advised that all other new markets set up under the 1984 Act have scrupulously observed the limits and boundaries of other markets that have been operating in the vicinity. We are not talking about following precedent or doing something that is normal in the course of market trading, negotiation and dialogue. We are talking about doing something that has never been done before. One would certainly not guess that from the way in which the Bill has been presented to the House.

I hope that we shall throw the Bill back where it came from and that, in due course, we shall have a chance to negotiate the position with Redbridge and perhaps find some way in which Romford could properly consent to a change in the present structure. If we do not give that consent--if that consent is not forthcoming for proper reasons--it would be wrong for the House to override the rights of the local borough of Havering in this way.

Mr. Barron : The hon. Gentleman says that the Bill should be withdrawn and that the London borough of Redbridge should hold proper discussions. The third paragraph of a letter signed by the chief executive of Redbridge says that major concessions have been discussed between the two local authorities. Does the hon. Gentleman know of any such concessions and, if so, does he know whether his local authority is satisfied with them? The letter seems to suggest that it is.

Sir Nicholas Bonsor : One thing that I certainly do know is that my local authority is not satisfied with the Bill as drafted, nor has it agreed any of the compromises that it was invited to agree. As I said earlier, the terms in which that invitation was expressed were wholly and rightly unacceptable to the local authority, and, indeed, undeliverable by it. Whatever the local authority may have said to me, I would in any case have taken whatever view I considered to be right in the interests of my constituents. I know that there were negotiations and that at some stage

Column 103

the local authority agreed some of the points, but it certainly did not agree to the Bill in its present form or to the compromises mentioned earlier.

I am concerned that the interests of my constituents, the local traders and those who have enjoyed the facilities of Romford market for so long will be gravely endangered if this Bill is allowed to reach the statute book. I hope that when we vote in about an hour's time the House will take the view that the Bill should not be sent upstairs to Committee.

When I intervened in the speech of the hon. Member for Leyton I said that I was afraid that there would not be any acceptable new clauses or amendments during Committee that would allow the Bill to return to the Floor of the House for further discussion on Report. That must be seriously considered because, unlike the usual procedure for Bills, there will be no further opportunity--other than for the four hon. Members who will consider the Bill upstairs in Committee--to consider possible compromises that would enable those of us who represent the interests of Romford--

Mr. Skinner : If Mr. Speaker accepts a closure motion, even though there are still a number of hon. Members wishing to speak, the hon. Gentleman should have a word with his hon. Friends because two of the four hon. Members who will consider the Bill upstairs will represent the majority--if there is a majority in favour tonight--and it is important that they are distanced from the arguments. Our recent experience of certain private Bills, such as the Associated British Ports (No. 2) Bill, is that hon. Members were not allowed to table amendments on what, under the normal Bill procedure, would have been Report stage.

Neither the hon. Gentleman nor I want the Bill to proceed to its next stage. I am certainly not happy about the private Bill procedure. The hon. Gentleman should use his best endeavours with his hon. Friends, including those in favour of planned, strategic organisation of markets as opposed to market forces--there may not be many of those in the Tory party, but there are certainly more now than there used to be--to ensure that there are two hon. Members on the Committee who will allow justifiable amendments so that the House can have another bite at the cherry on Report.

Sir Nicholas Bonsor : I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will forgive me if I do not follow his general points, although I agree that it is highly desirable that there should be people of an independent mind--and I am sure that there will be--who will properly and closely consider whatever is put before them. As the hon. Gentleman suggested, the judgment of two, three or four Members of Parliament resulting in a final decision is very different from a full discussion in the House with all hon. Members able to make their points on the relevant amendments.

If the Bill proceeds to its next stage, it is important that those appointed to serve on the Committee read what has been said during this debate and take on board the fact that not by any stretch of the imagination could the Bill be said to have the support of those hon. Members present tonight.

I wish to deal with three generalisations that have arisen during the debate. The first is what the catchment area should be around the market. My hon. Friend the Member

Column 104

for Ilford, South informed us that the distance of 6iles dates from Roman rule. I know that the market dates from Henry III, but the catchment area obviously dates back a lot further than that. I do not follow the logic of what he tries to persuade us, which is to the effect that because the distance was 6iles in the days when people could not get about, it should now be much smaller when people can get about more easily. I would have thought that the logic was the reverse and that, in order to protect the trade and the interests of those who live in the vicinity, such a radius might be extended rather than made smaller.

The second point is about whether it is an unfair restraint of trade for Romford to say that it has had the right for so long and that it should preserve it, never mind the interests of Redbridge. I am prepared to make that point because it can be raised legitimately as an argument against me. I reject the logic of that because we have 300 traders trading in Romford and we cannot sensibly talk about restraint of trade when 300 people are competing with each other. Sometimes my party gets in a muddle on this. I think that we could draw a parallel between my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, South and the policy of the Monopolies and Mergers Commission on brewers. It does not seem to be compatible with Conservative philosophy that people who have built up their businesses over many years--200 years in the case of some brewers and by tradition at least 200 years for some of the family interests that have traded regularly at Romford--should lose their business, with no compensation being offered. I was very glad to hear some Opposition Members voicing similar opinions.

Mr. Barron : I do not know whether Opposition Members would go all the way with the hon. Gentleman on compensation for the brewing industry which makes the biggest contribution to Conservative party funds.

Sir Nicholas Bonsor : I understand that that might be a reason for Opposition Members not to go along the same road as me, but I am sure that they would have other and better reasons, were they to take an opposite line. I am sure that they would not allow narrow party political bias to override their natural desire to look after the public interest.

My hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, South referred in his opening remarks to the applications that he has had. He told the House that he has had 240 applications for stalls at Redbridge. [Interruption.] That is the very point ; the sedentary intervention asks how many of those have come from Romford. I too should like to know that. Perhaps my hon. Friend can tell me how many of the applications are from people who already have stalls in Romford market.

It may be that all that we will do, should the Bill go through, is to move the trade down the road from where it is well established. Even if that does not happen, the historical justification for the laws that have been in force for nearly 800 years is that there is only a limited amount of business to be done in these areas. If we are to have an efficient service in the public interest and if we are to look after consumers and safeguard the livelihood of the traders, we must have safeguards such as exist under the writ of Henry III. I invite the House to throw the Bill out at this stage. Should there unfortunately be inadequate numbers

Column 105

listening at the moment to hear what the argument is about, I hope that at a later stage hon. Members will read the debate and make their own judgment.

9.13 pm

Ms. Joan Walley (Stoke-on-Trent, North) : The longer I listen to the debate, the more convinced I am that the many objections that we have heard to the Bill are justified. We have heard of the many detrimental effects that the Bill would have not just on street traders in Romford but on the local shopkeepers in the communities where markets exist. Such points make Opposition Members very concerned about the Bill. It must also be said that there are strong objections, not least because it sets a precedent. If we really are talking in the absence of total strategic planning, which was a point well highlighted during the earlier stage of the debate, we shall make even more problems for ourselves in local government. We have heard that there are flaws in the Bill. As a relatively new Member of the House, I do not consider myself as being someone who is as learned in parliamentary procedure as many of my hon. Friends, but, even so, it is clear to me from what has been said that there are flaws. The problems that would ensue, if the Bill went to Committee and we were not able to make amendments to it, should be considered when we vote later.

We have heard from the hon. Member for Ilford, South (Mr. Thorne), in whose constituency the proposed market lies, that it would be to local and public advantage. I would like to ask him to whose local and public advantage he referred. Was he referring to the developers and the large retailers, who will presumably, as a result of market forces, be taking profits from the new development and from the shopping precinct which is being developed, or to the stallholders, and the local people, who will probably find it inconvenient to go into Ilford to shop in the proposed new market? Many comments have been made about the lack of proper provision for highways, for transport and for all the other planning matters that should be taken on board when considering the Bill.

From conversations that I have had with elected members in Redbridge, I know that the planners have not even been able to arrange for bus stops to work properly. I have heard stories of 13 buses stopping at the same bus stop. I do not have any confidence, therefore, that the necessary considerations have been taken on board. Various aspects, especially the fact that there is no strategic planning that could reconcile the conflicting views and pressures, lead the Opposition to oppose the Bill.

Unlike the rest of the country, it must be said that the south-east has never benefited to any great extent from the municipal reforms that provided for the building and operating of so many excellent indoor markets, with all the proper facilities of fair, healthy, hygienic and safe trading. I believe that in our discussions so far on markets, whether indoor or outdoor, we have not shown any concern about the whole infrastructure which goes into supporting a market, such as the cleansing operations. Instead the south-east and even urbanised areas of London have suffered from a crude and opportunistic free-for-all. In what was known as inner London, the late-lamented Greater London council managed to control street trading and similar markets by means of its general powers, which were enforced by the boroughs. In outer London the

Column 106

historic town centres, of which Kingston and Romford are good examples, had the long-established market rights dating back to time immemorial about which we have heard so much this evening. We have before us what is in all repects a grubby little Bill, which is designed to upset the pattern of history in the interests--I have to say it --of commercial opportunism.

I understand from the sponsors of the Bill that they have seen fit to allocate £50,000 and £4,000 a month plus expenses for their lobbyists. Their proposal is obviously not so simple and clear-cut as it seems, or as the hon. Members supporting the Bill would have us believe. We were told that the petition had 6,000 signatures. I understand that many people did not institute the petition of their own accord. They signed their names when the major retailers thought that it would be in their commercial interest to get the petition under way.

I take great exception to the comments about tatty old markets which, we have been told, are out of date and have no place in modern market policies. Any former councillor who has been involved in local government knows that the operation of retail markets is not merely a matter of providing some space for a few traders. There are complicated implications for all local shopping facilities--parking, cleansing, hygiene, consumer safety and regulation.

I do not know whether the Minister intends to contribute to the debate. I noted a recent report in The Independent of her visit to the Lambeth Walk street market. I am sure that she has had ample opportunity during the Vauxhall by-election campaign to see for herself how the once thriving street market in Lambeth Walk has been laid to waste by developers and the competition of other shopping centres. That factor must be taken on board.

The Bill will allow Redbridge council to set up a market in Ilford or, to be more precise, will allow private interests to do so, with the blessing of their friends on the council. I listened carefully to the hon. Member for Upminster (Sir N. Bonsor) and I wonder whether he has misinterpreted clause 3(2). Is that subsection all about setting up two markets or does it enable the council to invest in the market and then ensure that it is quickly privatised, which means that we are talking about one market? I say that with some trepidation because the council is spilt on this issue.

Anyone who has done his or her homework will know that it is not a matter of bringing before the House a Bill that has the full support of the large Conservative majority on the council. My information is that at least one third of the Conservative councillors do not support it--hardly a portent of success or widespread support within the community. Hon. Members who said that they felt bound to speak on behalf of their constituents should not necessarily be judged by council decisions. I am sorry that there are not a large number of hon. Members present to make it clear that this proposal does not have the 100 per cent. support of the Conservative majority on Redbridge council.

I can, however, well understand why multiple retailers and Ilford developers want the attraction of choice and interest for shoppers in one of those up-market markets about which we have heard. Unfortunately, this is bound to detract from support for small retailers trying to get a

Column 107

foothold in the economy. Many people and many small shops near the existing market stand to lose much if the Bill is passed. The Bill's sponsors need to be alerted to the fact that the demise of small shops will reduce the business rate income--an important point which has not been noted. In inner London and the east end, there are many streets and shops where business income has been greatly reduced. The introduction of a substantial six-day week market in the centre of Ilford is also bound to create a loss of trade, not only to places such as Romford, but to the local shopping centres and markets of Redbridge and its adjoining boroughs. I have a letter from the National Market Traders Federation. We must take into account the concern that some of us have for those who trade in the Romford markets. The letter states :

"The traders are opposed to new markets, as they have built up their businesses under strict rules and procedures. When they first attended Romford market they had to stand in the casual queue with no certainty of getting a stall. As they progressed up the list by regular attendance they gained a stall every week but not in the same place. After a period of up to eight years on the casual list they finally obtained a regular stall and further service on the market allowed them to transfer to better stalls as they became vacant." That is the practice by which markets all over the country have become established, and the process by which traders have built up their livelihood. We should think carefully about removing their livelihoods when the clauses in the Bill which deal with compensation are, as the hon. Member for Upminster said, grossly inadequate. The federation also brought to my attention the fact that "Romford, in common with other well-run markets, has strict conditions attached to the trader's licence' which restricts traders as to what they can sell and they are also required to trade in a responsible manner."

Anyone who is familiar with local markets will be aware of that. I am concerned about the proposal contained in clause 3(2) which could hand over the responsibility of running the markets to private developers.

As the federation states :

"Private operators are not always responsible in the way that they run their markets and do not enforce strict trading practices to protect the shopping public and a bad' market at Ilford could reflect badly on the responsible traders at Romford."

That is an important point, which is worth making.

The Bill is not specific about the site of Ilford market. I understand that a site has been earmarked already. I stand to be corrected on that, but I understand that the site is within one mile from the town hall. As usual of late, the site is, at present, a car park. Hon. Members will therefore ask how a loss of parking spaces can be reconciled with the hope, expressed earlier, for an increase in shoppers. We must also question the provisions of other related matters.

I have a copy of a letter from David C. Humble and Company, independent financial advisers, who wrote to the director of land management of Redbridge council, objecting in the strongest possible terms to a planning proposal which is, I understand, currently under consideration and which would take away one existing car park to make way for a large scale office development. The company is expressing concern about the status quo and

Column 108

the lack of car parking facilities in Ilford. If we are to lose that car park, we should be concerned about the loss of a car park which is to be the very site of the market.

We must also question the provisions for proper food hygiene, refuse storage and disposal, storage of barrows and stores. Anybody who knows anything about street markets, especially if they have been local councillors, knows of the many complaints about street traders who infringe on the amount of space and parking space available and the times when it is possible to deliver to market stalls. Even traders' vehicles will occupy a substantial area of car parking which is, at present, available to shoppers. I wonder whether these detailed items have been taken into account.

We are talking about two issues : whether we are setting a national precedent and whether there are special circumstances in which we should not support the Bill. I submit that the problems that I have mentioned, coupled with the difficult access to the site, constitute a strong case against the Bill.

Opposition Members might be more inclined to support the Bill if it provided for a well-thought-out scheme with some evidence of the strategic planning of which we heard so much from my hon. Friend the Member for Leyton (Mr. Cohen), relevant to shopping in east London and to all the environmental and planning implications. As far as I can see, the Bill merely offers those who live or work in the area the prospect of traffic chaos, dirt, disruption and widespread adverse effects for shoppers as well as established market traders. The Bill--which Redbridge council no doubt sees as a model of late 20th-century enterprise--is no more than a grubby piece of opportunism from the flog-it-off, get-rich-quick school of politics.

Mr. Barron : The free market.

Ms. Walley : The free market, indeed.

I have learnt not to expect any concern for the environment or the health and safety of the public from such people, but in this instance they have exceeded themselves by not even caring about the effects on other traders or the wider interests of shoppers. That is reflected in the number of technical flaws in the Bill.

I am grateful to hon. Members on both sides of the House, and others, who have pointed out to me that the Bill's enactment would represent a major departure from a nationwide policy of many years' standing. Regardless of the position in Redbridge, the Opposition are anxious to avoid the creation of a precedent that would allow the Conservative car park groups to exploit similar opportunities in constituencies all over the country, many of which have excellent retail markets established by people who knew what municipal improvement and initiative really meant. How sad and how significant that, instead of organising strategic planning for London and for councillors who look to the future health and welfare of their boroughs, the House must now spend its time considering a Bill whose sole purpose is to maximise the commercial value of a car park. 9.31 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Environment (Mrs. Virginia Bottomley) : It may be helpful if I give a brief explanation of the Government's view. It is, of course, for my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford,

Column 109

South (Mr. Thorne) to respond to the detail of the debate, but it can fairly be said that, whatever the outcome, many of us will wish to take the opportunity of visiting the Romford charter market. A number of hon. Members were not aware that the market is 742 years old. My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Armed Forces, the hon. Member for Romford (Mr. Neubert), has been present throughout the debate but, because of his ministerial status, has been unable to participate. No doubt we shall be visiting his constituency to see the market.

Long-established charter rights such as this can be set aside only by Act of Parliament, and it is for Redbridge to persuade Parliament that the powers that it seeks are justified. It is traditional for the Government to take a neutral stance on private Bills, and tonight's Bill is no exception to that rule. The Government have considered its content and have no objections in principle to the powers sought by the council. The Department has raised no observations ; we take the view that the issues raised in relation to markets and existing market rights are local matters in which the Government do not wish to intervene.

There is one petition against the Bill, and the petitioner will have an opportunity to present his objections to the Select Committee. The Committee will be in a much better position than we are tonight to examine the issues in detail, and will have the added advantage of hearing expert evidence--not that I wish to suggest that many of tonight's contributions have not been expert in their various ways.

I hope that the Bill will be given a Second Reading and allowed to proceed to Committee in the conventional way for detailed consideration.

9.34 pm

Mr. Martin Redmond (Don Valley) : I am grateful to you for calling me, Mr. Speaker. I have been in the Chamber since seven o'clock this evening, apart from nipping out to do some photocopying, and have endured the no-smoking rule that applies in it. I am glad to have this opportunity to speak briefly, because I certainly intend to allow the sponsor of the Bill to answer some of the points raised this evening.

I take exception to a remark made earlier by a Conservative Member who has now left the Chamber to the effect that if one is a Labour Member of Parliament serving a constituency having a

Labour-controlled local authority, one should not make any remarks that are contrary to that local authority's wishes--and that the same applies to Conservatives. I have an excellent relationship with my own local authority, but we disagree from time to time on one or two issues.

The Minister stated that the Government have no preference either way but that the Bill should be given a Second Reading, and that anyone who intends opposing it will leave disappointed when the votes are counted. It is obvious from previous debates that private Bills which have the Government's support and which are the subject of Government whipping enjoy a majority vote in favour of them. The Bill represents the thin end of the wedge. It cannot be considered in isolation. If the Bill receives a Second Reading it will have a domino effect on other markets throughout the country, which will come under fire from people out to make a fast buck and a quick profit--and to hell with long-term planning. Doncaster could find itself in

Column 110

such a situation. It has a historic market on the site of the old Roman road. I do not doubt for one moment that the existing market at Romford provides similar excellent facilities. Doncaster market offers fresh fruit, vegetables and fish, haberdashery, and other goods. It is protected by the rule that does not permit another market nearer than 6iles. If that rule were waived, it would have a tremendous effect on Doncaster market. That is one of the reasons why I am very concerned about getting shot of the royal writ to which the Bill refers.

Under the Bill, the only thing that is certain is that the old royal writ will disappear and that another market will be established nearer than 6iles away from Romford. The Bill makes no mention of improved commerce or of any other positive element. It is no use people arguing that the Bill will not have a knock-on effect in other areas, because that will be the case once a precedent is set in this Chamber.

Reference has been made to good strategic planning. If a bad planning decision is made, future generations will have to live with it. There are examples in Yorkshire and in other parts of the country of that happening, where subsequent generations have faced a host of problems as a consequence of someone making an adverse planning decision.

In Doncaster we have an excellent market and an abattoir which serves farmers for miles around. Quite rightly, the local authority seeks to protect the market. There are also other markets outside the 6iles. The market at Mexborough is an excellent little market and should certainly be protected. Unfortunately, within our avaricious society many car boot sales have been springing up throughout my area, causing all sorts of problems for local residents becauses the increased traffic does nothing to enhance local villages. The towns in my constituency have suffered many problems due to car boot sales.

I want to allow time for the sponsor of the Bill to respond to the debate, but I should mention briefly the petition which carries 6,500 signatures. A few weeks ago I handed in to 10 Downing street a petition against the poll tax and that had many more signatures, but I do not suppose that the Prime Minister even saw that petition and if she did I am sure that she took no notice of it. The petition to which the hon. Gentleman referred is, therefore, of no concern because the people who signed it want the market and intend to exploit it and profit from it, but no doubt there is also a petition from those who do not want the market within than 6iles.

I hope that the House will reject the Bill as it upsets the fundamental principle of the distance of 6iles. There is enough greed in society without the House endorsing more greed. I have examined the promotional leaflet that Redbridge council has handed out. There certainly seems to be a large number of car parks. Perhaps Redbridge should have planned more stores and other premises that attract business. The borough council appears to be more concerned with car parks, and perhaps it will have too many car parks without sufficient cars to fill them. That emphasises that good planning is needed to ensure that everything is orderly in future.

The Bill causes great concern. I am not satisfied that certain things will not happen if the Bill is given a Second Reading. I am not quite sure about the safety factor. It would appear from the promotional leaflet that the market stalls will be under a viaduct. The sponsor will probably correct me, but occasionally we get bad weather and I

Column 111

would hate to be a customer of one of those stalls when an articulated lorry went over the top of the market. It has been said that the market was hemmed in and that there could be no expansion for the 68 stalls. Although the map does not give all the finer details, if I had a few million pounds and wanted to add another 60, 80 or 100 stalls, I could certainly find room to do so. Therefore, the hon. Member for Upminster (Sir N. Bonsor) who spoke against the Bill had every right to be concerned. We do not want people chasing a cake that is becoming smaller and ending up with no living at all. We have a duty to protect the existing market stalls that are there by royal charter. I hope that the hon. Member for Ilford, South will allay my fears about the possible knock-on effects of the Bill. People outside are waiting to move in to exploit certain circumstances.

Doncaster is a first-class market town. People enjoy visiting it because of its compactness. When I was on the local authority, it used to wish that a certain organisation was in Timbuktu. I must admit that I was a bit of a philistine at that time, but markets have changed, and those that have built up over the centuries have charm and character. No matter how clean and tidy a new market is, it will not have the character and flavour of a centuries-old market. I hope that the hon. Member for Ilford, South will think again and will withdraw the Bill until such time as the points made by hon. Members can be satisfied.

9.45 pm

Mr. Thorne : With the leave of the House, I shall try to answer as many questions as I can. The hon. Member for Leyton (Mr. Cohen) was concerned that the Bill would circumvent the planning process. I reassure him that it must still go through the normal planning procedure.

As the hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. Redmond) said, the market is partly under a road. It would therefore be quite unsuitable for a football pitch, as was suggested earlier. I shall return to the points made by the hon. Member for Don Valley later.

The strategic plan for Redbridge, which was introduced in 1980, included provision for a market. It was therefore very much on the cards when the Greater London council was in existence. I have no reason to suppose that if that authority had been in existence it would have objected to its promotion now.

Retailers are in favour of the market. I have not been approached by any retailer who is not in favour of it. Local traders and the local chamber of trade were responsible for the petition. It is not a parliamentary petition but merely an expression of support for the Bill. It is not couched in parliamentary terms, so it will not therefore be put in the Bag. I was not a party to it, but if I had been I would have offered certain advice. Local traders and the local chamber of trade did it on their own initiative, and in the time available they did very well.

Rates and competition with shopkeepers were mentioned. These are taken into account by the level of charges for a market stall. Rent for stalls will be paid to the local authority, and this will benefit ratepayers.

Mr. Ian McCartney (Makerfield) : The hon. Gentleman makes an interesting point about rents being paid to the local authority. In the foreseeable future, a substantial part of those rents will be used to offset the capital costs of

Column 112

construction and development work. In reality, for a considerable period thereafter, there will be no significant benefit to the ratepayers of the borough.

Mr. Thorne : I do not agree. A shop must be fitted and equipped, and inevitably there is a contribution towards the costs of constructing a market stall. I do not foresee that being a major proportion of the cost. The ratepayers' investment will be well worth while.

The police were consulted. A car park which will take 1,400 cars is now under construction and that will more than make up for the 60 car places which will be displaced by the development.

The hon. Member for Leyton spent a considerable time expressing concern about the availability of funds for roads in his area. He was given an assurance by Mr. Price, the chief executive of the London borough of Redbridge, that there are no plans to spend further money on roads in Ilford town centre in the foreseeable future. Mr. Price cannot bind his successors or the council into the distant future, but there is no question that Ilford town centre will in any way be competing for funds now with the London borough of Waltham Forest for Leyton and Leytonstone.

My hon. Friend the Member for Upminster (Sir N. Bonsor) expressed concern about the number of markets and compensation. I have already given an undertaking that compensation will be calculated six months from the time at which the market is opened, not six months from the Bill being enacted.

Mr. Barron : Is there any legal precedent for people being compensated for the loss of retail trade? Has the relevant clause, on which I have so far been unable to speak, any precedent in law?

Mr. Thorne : Not that I know of. The compensation is payable to the London borough of Havering. It is there to compensate for any effect that there might be on its market, about which it was concerned. My hon. Friend the Member for Upminster mentioned negotiation between local authorities. As I understand it, there has been a singular lack of negotiation or response to negotiation from his local authority. His remarks this evening have gone further than any previous negotiations in that regard. If the Bill receives its Second Reading tonight, as I hope that it will, there will be an opportunity for further negotiation. That is what should happen before the matter reaches an opposed Bill Committee. I am sure that Redbridge will want to obtain as much agreement as possible.

I have every confidence that the four hon. Members appointed to an opposed Bill Committee would view the matter in an unbiased way. I have served on such Committees myself in the past and I well remember the undertaking that has to be given. I have always been extremely impressed by the way in which Opposition Members have looked at such matters in an impartial way and have done their best, together with Conservative Members, to reach a proper and fair decision. I have explained in some detail how the figure of 6iles was arrived at. The proposed market will be 5 miles away and that seems to me to be a fair distance. I believe that it will have no effect upon the market in Romford. As I have said, there were 250 applications. A survey has been carried out by some experts, G. L. Hearn and Partners,

Next Section

  Home Page