|Previous Section||Home Page|
It is my pleasure to introduce the Second Reading of the Bill. It is said that :
"It would be of public and local advantage to provide for the establishment of a further market in the part of the borough known as Ilford notwithstanding the infringement or non-compliance thereby with any rule of law or enactment : "
Many towns already have local markets but Ilford in the London borough of Redbridge is prevented from doing so because of the existence of other markets nearby. The purpose of the Bill is to give the right to establish a market that most other boroughs already have. In the neighbouring borough of Havering, which includes Romford, in 1247, in the reign of Henry III, a royal writ was issued establishing a market. The council today holds markets everywhere in Romford on every Wednesday throughout the year. Havering council claims the legal fiction of a "lost modern grant", which enables it to hold a market at Romford on Saturdays throughout the year. Havering also holds a statutory Food Act market on Fridays throughout the year at Romford. Thus Havering council holds three markets on premier trading days of the week and, because two of its markets--the Wednesday and Saturday markets--enjoy the benefit of protection under the common law, no other market may be established within a distance of 6iles from Romford.
Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover) : Is the hon. Gentleman trying to tell us that, as a good old-fashioned Tory, he does not agree with market forces, and that somehow or other he wants those markets protected, or is it that he is a good old-fashioned Tory, but that this knighted Tory, the hon. Member for Upminster (Sir N. Bonsor), is not interested in market forces? I want to get this clear, because this could be a long evening. I want to know which is the Thatcherite and which is the Heathite. Will the hon. Gentleman explain before we go any further?
Mr. Thorne : The hon. Gentleman, as usual, has put his finger on a very interesting point. I assure him that I believe in the free market. My hon. Friend the Member for Upminster (Sir N. Bonsor) will no doubt try to catch your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and explain his position later.
Because the markets on Wednesday and Saturday enjoy the benefit of protection under the common law, no other market may be established within a distance of 6iles from Romford. The 6iles represent the 13th century jurist Bracton's concept of one third the Roman dieta. The Roman thought was that one could travel 20 miles in a day. Therefore, to travel to a market should take a third of a day, one should spend a third of a day at the market and another third going back, which would allow one to travel 6iles in each direction. That is the basis on which this present custom continues.
Ilford lies within the 6ile radius and the Ilford town centre, which is the main shopping centre of the Redbridge local authority area, is therefore deprived of its statutory powers by that ancient common law right. It now wishes to establish a market of its own.
Column 80In this increasingly sophisticated economy, we find that more and more people expect to shop in a wide variety of shops. They want value, choice and diversity. In order to do that properly, we find that a lot of traders expect to have a market nearby. It was not so long ago that markets tended to be rather scruffy and untidy, but that is now in the past. The majority of markets are high quality, well-designed areas, where one can expect to buy exotic fruits and vegetables at the one end of the spectrum and antiques and craftwork at the other.
These markets actually encourage conventional retail trade and they are, therefore, welcomed by conventional traders, whereas in the past markets were generally considered to be derogatory and most ordinary traders preferred that they should not be permitted to run side by side with conventional shops.
An efficient and well-run market has become an essential part of any well- developed shopping centre and Redbridge council, having put in a bypass, now wishes to take full advantage of modern shopping methods. A new shopping centre is being developed by the pension funds of some insurance companies. Substantial sums are being invested on behalf of pensioners in that area. Those companies and the shopkeepers locally are very anxious that there should be an open-air market in the Ilford area. The present proposal is that a market shall be permitted within one mile of Ilford town centre. The traders' association and the local chamber of trade have given this matter full support, and in the past couple of weeks they have been at some pains to obtain signatures to a petition. More than 6, 500 people have already signed the petition in favour of such a market.
Mr. Thorne : I have not examined the petition to see how many people from Romford have signed it, but, if the House allows me to speak later, I shall endeavour to make a rough calculation and tell the hon. Gentleman.
The question of the 6iles has already been referred to in a recent case by the Vice-Chancellor of the Chancery Division of the High Court as archaic. I believe that the majority of people would consider such an arbitrary distance now to be quite archaic. As the hon. Member for Rother Valley (Mr. Barron) has suggested, there may be some people with vested interests who would be against such a proposal and would oppose it, especially those from the Romford area. However, I assure him that that is not universal. Many people in Romford support the opportunity of market facilities being provided in the area. If the hon. Gentleman is interested and looks at a map of the markets in the region, he will see that there is an acute shortage of markets in that part of London. One of the reasons that the London borough of Redbridge is promoting the Bill is to ensure that that to some extent is put right.
Mr. Skinner : Vested interests is a serious matter. The hon. Gentleman has said that about 6,000 have signed in favour of the project. My experience is that, when markets have been proposed--in all parts of the country really--there have been local shopkeepers who have not been very keen on the idea. I know that in Derbyshire there have
Column 81been several instances where initially-- sometimes it has changed--shopkeepers have opposed it. Is the hon. Gentleman telling us that none of the local shopkeepers were saying that they were a bit worried about the market? I would be intrigued if there were none. Will the hon. Gentleman tell us the position of the local shopkeepers?
Mr. Thorne : As I said before, the chamber of trade and the local shopkeepers have indicated that they are in favour. They find that an open- air market, especially one of modest size, encourages trade because it encourages people to come to the local area. Well run markets are an encouragement. The tatty old markets that one used to find in the past, which were upsetting to local shopkeepers, are now out and we can expect shopkeepers in future to view open-air markets in a different light. I am certainly not saying that every single shopkeeper in Ilford is in favour, but I have not had my attention drawn to any who have indicated dissent, whereas I have had confirmation from the chamber of trade and others that they are very much in favour. After all, it was the chamber of trade that set out to raise the petition, and it has now collected 6,500 signatures. That was its own idea. I believe, therefore, that the whole tempo is changing in that regard. I hope that that will be the case in other parts of the country, too, in future.
Some of the objections from Havering are technical and some financial, based on the idea that the Romford market will be damaged by a market in Ilford. Romford market has provision for 600 spaces and 300 traders work there, with an average of two stalls per trader. That substantial market has been in existence for more than 600 years, so it is well-established.
Mr. Martin Redmond (Don Valley) : The hon. Gentlman said that there are 600 pitches at Romford. Why are 300 empty? If there is such a demand for market stalls, one would have thought that market traders would be only too pleased to go to Romford market.
Mr. Thorne : Forgive me, but I obviously did not explain myself well. There is provision for 600 stalls at Romford. There are 300 traders and, on average, they have two stalls each. Some have only one and others have three. The proposal for Ilford is to site the market on an existing car park, with provision for between 50 and 60 stalls, and there would be a new multi-storey car park. We are talking about an entirely different scale, perhaps only 10 per cent. of the spaces available at Romford market.
Any problems should be resolved by an opposed Bill Committee, which is the correct place to argue these matters. I suggest that the Bill should be given the general approval of the House and it would be up to members of the opposed Bill Committee to decide whether the arguments were fair and correct.
As to whatever harm would be done to Romford, the Bill promises compensation for losses to the franchise of Romford's market. That is a generous offer. It is strange that a firm such as Sainsbury's can happily open a store within 6 miles of another major store, such as Tesco, and not have to offer compensation, whereas Redbridge is offering compensation to Romford if loss is proved.
Redbridge has received 250 applications for the 60 possible sites, which shows the ready demand that exists.
Column 82compensation will be paid if there is a loss of business. Will he elaborate a little? What is the ceiling and for how many years will the offer be on the table?
Mr. Thorne : Any compensation would have to be agreed by valuers. This aspect would have to be considereed by the opposed Bill Committee because it is technical. It would be necessary for the valuers of the two local authorities to get together to decide on a reasonable and satisfactory formula, and it would be wrong for me to pre-empt what they might decide. The timing would be hammered out by the opposed Bill Committee.
Mr. Redmond : I accept that the valuers would toss around ideas on the amount of money that would be lost. Given my experience, I am always a little sceptical about Bills leaving this place and going into Committee if I am not totally convinced about the merits of the arguments.
Mr. Thorne : I shall consider that matter further and, if given the opportunity, try to respond to it later. The technical details would be hammered out in the opposed Bill Committee, but at this stage I can say that after six months the valuers would establish whether there had been any major change. That would be a reasonable period in which to see whether there had been an adverse effect. The matter would have to be agreed between the valuers and it would be wrong for me to pre-empt their negotiations.
Sir Nicholas Bonsor (Upminster) : I shall raise this matter later if I have the good fortune to catch your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but I want to give my hon. Friend the chance to deal with it. Under the Bill a claim must be submitted within three months of the legislation being passed. Is my hon. Friend conceding that the wording is wrong and that the Committee should amend it?
Sir Nicholas Bonsor indicated dissent.
Redbridge is keen to give its shoppers a complete spectrum of shopping facilities. The shopping system has changed considerably in recent years, let alone over the past 600. We should look towards what is required in today's age. When Romford market was first used, a large part was devoted to cattle and sheep trading. I remember that not so long ago livestock occupied a substantial part of the market, but the market has changed. The places that were occupied by cattle pens are now occupied by smart market stalls. Romford market clearly needed to change, and Redbridge wishes to be able to change as well.
Mr. Barron : The hon. Gentleman has made some good points about the period during which the market has been in its position. Given that in 1247 the authorities prevented the market from being put in the place where the hon. Gentleman wishes it to go, has he been in touch with the Crown who issued the writ in the first place to ask Her Majesty whether she believes that her subjects should be treated in the same way now? That point should have been pursued before the Bill was considered by the House.
It is important in this day and age, when rents and rates for accommodation are ever on the increase, that we should give people the opportunity to start trading and a market stall is an extremely effective and efficient way of doing so. That opportunity should be available throughout the country so that large numbers of people have the opportunity to start a small business. There is no better way of starting a small shop. The examples of this include British Home Stores and Marks and Spencer, and the many other shops that started as market stalls. We should allow that. I certainly hope that the House will agree and, therefore, give the Bill a Second Reading. 7.30 pm
Mr. Harry Cohen (Leyton) : I do not wish to speak at great length. I spoke for two hours 40 minutes on the recent City of London (Various Powers) Bill before I was cut short by a closure. That was the longest speech in the Session so far, and I do not intend to repeat that.
Mr. Skinner : I was present then, and my hon. Friend the Member for Leyton (Mr. Cohen) gave a bravura performance, but there was one weakness. The Secretary of State for the Environment was trying to pinch part of the forest in my hon. Friend's constituency. That was made abundantly clear, but we did not ascertain the amount of land in question. One weakness of my hon. Friend's contribution was that he seemed unable to tell me the kind of trees involved. Could my hon. Friend remedy that today?
Mr. Cohen : I certainly shall not respond to my hon. Friend's intervention, although trees were involved. In the other debate the Minister for Roads and Traffic suggested that it was scrubland. There are trees all over the place. However, I do not want to go on about trees because we are talking about a market, which is different. In that other debate I was just warming up, but I do not have the opportunity here to get to the substance of what I was on about. My hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) was right : forest land was being stolen from my constituency.
The two Bills share a common feature and it is the reason why I objected to both of them. I looked at all the private Bills at the beginning of this Session and was concerned about a number, but objected to only two because they had local implications. One was the City of London (Various Powers) Bill to steal my forest land, which has still not been given back, and I shall take that further. The M11 link road scheme also worried me. This Bill worries me because Redbridge has had by far the better deal on roads from the Department of Transport than my borough, Waltham Forest. I am talking not merely about building roads, because we could do without that, but how those roads are built and the environmental effects involved.
In the other debate I suggested that there should be a linear park through Leyton which would provide
Column 84environmental beauty to the area instead of the environmental monstrosity of the Department of Transport's plan. Redbridge has the money for roads. The Department of Transport has been biased.
Mr. Cohen : The hon. Gentleman makes a super point for me to use later. I hate to give away my speech so early, but one of my arguments is that there should be a strategic planning authority for London, just like the GLC. Clearly, as he has praised the GLC, the hon. Gentleman will come to my support when I make that point. He is obviously saying that the GLC helped with roads in his area, and I am pleased. It also helped in my area, and it was only under the Department of Transport that we had such a rotten deal from the Minister for Roads and Traffic, the husband of the Under- Secretary of State for the Environment.
It is ironic that we have had such a rotten deal on the environment. I have a lot of time for the Under-Secretary. Will she kick her husband in bed one evening and say, "I'm a Minister for the Environment, you are the Minister for Roads, will you give Leyton a bit of a good environment?" I know that a Minister's life is a hard life.
Mr. Cohen : This is fundamental to the point that I want to make. Redbridge has received money for roads and has had a better deal from the Department of Transport than has Leyton and Waltham Forest. When the market is built, it will be served by roads ; a number of roads are already in place. The source of my objection and deep concern was that the money would go to Redbridge. Perhaps it would not do so immediately because some roads are there already, but, in future, Redbridge might get the roads money that should go to Leyton for a better environment along the M11 link road, which is being used to steal our forest.
Mr. Skinner : The nub of the matter is that there will have to be roads. The point was well put by the hon. Member for Ilford, South (Mr. Thorne) who said that there used to be a cattle market. Obviously, people then travelled over lanes and fields, but we are not living in that age now and we are talking about markets served by roads. We cannot discuss this properly without considering the
Column 85general environmental background, which means the infrastructure, roads and everything else, and that could affect my hon. Friend's constituency. All these roads lead to Leyton.
The source of my concern was that the road network around the market for Ilford would be improved and Redbridge would get the money again. That is serious because it has political implications. Certainly, in my area there is a feeling that, when it comes to environmental improvements, Conservative boroughs get the money from the Conservative Government We have only to look at the Channel tunnel to see that Conservative areas have a special deal, while Labour areas are left to rot by the Tory Government. That is political bias, and it is not the way in which markets and the roads around them should be planned.
Mr. Redmond : Strategic planning is, I believe, an important element of how the proposed market fits into the overall picture. Perhaps there should be an authority to look at London as a whole. I remember my hon. Friend speaking one evening in the Chamber about the proposal to move Spitalfields market : he was worried about the loss of character that the move would entail. Markets cannot retain the character that they have possessed for many years if they are moved from one place to another. I do not know London as well as my hon. Friend, but I feel that we should examine the sites of such markets throughout the city.
Let me echo my hon. Friend's remarks to the Minister. Last time we discussed a private Bill we faced someone far less attractive, and it is well worth our while to be here this evening.
Mr. Cohen : I shall not go into the Spitalfields issue tonight, as I have already made my views clear. My hon. Friend is, however, right to say that a strategic planning authority for London is needed to consider the implications of the building of markets and the roads around them. Parliament has not the necessary localised knowledge. This is not Parliament's job ; we have plenty of other serious issues to address. Today we have heard statements on China and on the NATO conference, but we should have debated those issues. Those are the real issues for the Parliament of today, rather than the question of some regional market--although it may be important to local people. The market seems to be the cause of an internecine battle between the authorities of Redbridge and Romford which should be sorted out at local level by a strategic planning authority like the old GLC.
Mr. James Arbuthnot (Wanstead and Woodford) : I believe that I am the only Member present this evening who was also present for the entire two hours and 40 minutes of the hon. Gentleman's speech on the City of London (Various Powers) Bill. If he really feels that we should not be debating this matter, the solution lies in his hands. I wonder whether his speech this evening will last as long.
Column 86The hon. Gentleman expressed concern about the political bias that might be evident. Will he confirm that Labour- controlled Waltham Forest district council has no objection to the Bill?
Mr. Cohen : That was one of the things that put my back up. I objected to the Bill because of the road implications to which I have referred. Like any hon. Member who objects to legislation on such grounds, not knowing all the implications for my
constituency--shopping implications, for instance--I expected the promoters to discuss them with me at an early stage. I see that the hon. Member for Ilford, South (Mr. Thorne) is getting het up. Let me be fair : he arranged for the chief executive and the borough solicitor to come and discuss the matter with me last week. It was very late in the day, but I was grateful. Part of the purpose of my speech is to put on record some of the assurances that they gave about the roads not affecting Leyton adversely--or so they claimed. For months on end, not a word came from the Bill's promoters in response to my legitimate concern expressed in the form of an objection. Then I received a letter of literally three lines from the agent for the borough council, which said, "Why are you objecting? Your council does not object." The hon. Member for Wanstead and Woodford (Mr. Arbuthnot) made the same point. I was deeply insulted. I sent back a very curt postcard saying, "My council does not always speak for Leyton. Members of Parliament have the right to speak for their areas as well." It was rude of the agent not even to bother to find out why I was concerned about the Bill.
In answer to the hon. Gentleman's other point, I certainly do not intend to speak for two hours and 40 minutes this evening. Nevertheless, I have important and legitimate points to make. Leyton, after all, is a neighbour of Redbridge. We have a football team called Leytonstone and Ilford : it used to be called Leytonstone before it merged with Ilford. I fear that you are a little anxious, Madam Deputy Speaker, but one of the team's problems is that it now has no ground and has been thrown out of the league.
Mr. Eric Illsley (Barnsley, Central) : My hon. Friend has raised an interesting point. Would the market be held on football match days? That could complicate matters. I hope that my hon. Friend can also tell us whether the recently promoted Leyton Orient could play in the same area.
Column 87A London strategic planning authority would resolve conflicts between areas such as Ilford and Redbridge, and dealing with the question of markets would be one of its functions. I am not a great supporter of ancient charters being cast in iron for ever, such as the one that states that no market should be set up within 6iles of another, which was drawn up by Henry III. I think it daft, however, that we have to depend on Parliament for such a provision to be waived. Parliament's time should not be wasted ; such disputes should be sorted out by a strategic planning authority.
Mr. Cohen : Yes, but the conflict would have been sorted out long before now. Because the GLC would have performed that function, we might well have been in a position to scrap the private Bill procedure in such cases and thus save hon. Members' time. Getting rid of that ancient charter could set a precedent in other areas where authorities want to build markets to which the charter would apply. We could be flooded with private Bills aimed at getting round the procedure. There could be an element of corruption. The market is financed by the Prudential and by Norwich Union to the extent of hundreds of millions of pounds. With the involvement of big business in such markets there is scope for corruption through bribing right hon. and hon. Members to push through private Bills, while that procedure operates.
Mr. Andrew F. Bennett (Denton and Reddish) : As I understand legislation, compensation will be paid for Romford market as a result of the new market at Redbridge. However, markets compete not only with each other but with shopkeepers. Surely there should be a balance between compensation paid to other markets and to shopkeepers who will lose out by the development of Redbridge market, because shopkeepers pay rates whereas stallholders do not. The private Bill procedure is inappropriate when the matter should form part of strategic shopping plan for the whole of London. The lack of such a plan will cause chaos, with many different shopping centres competing with one another and with resources not being properly used.
Mr. Cohen : My hon. Friend makes an excellent point. A strategic authority would devise such a plan. My hon. Friend is also right about small shopkeepers losing out and not receiving compensation. If they want to make representations under the private Bill procedure, they must incur enormous expense. They may feel that the matter is cut and dried anyway, so there is little point. However, they would have incurred no expense in contacting their GLC councillor or a strategic authority for shops policy.
Under the expensive private Bill procedure, the democratic right to object is being placed beyond the bounds of people who have genuine cause for complaint, and who might receive compensation if they did. Perhaps one should not compare that situation with the recent events in China, which are of course horrendous, but in China too there is a struggle for democracy. The small shopkeepers are crushed not by tanks, thank goodness, but by the expensive and stupid private Bill procedure. It is in that way that their democratic rights are crushed.
Mr. Skinner : My hon. Friend makes an important point about strategic planning and says that we should not hang around here talking about a matter that concerns his constituency and that it should be dealt with by a body such as the old Greater London council. I envisage that under a strategic authority there could be different types of market for different types of area. There could be a flea market in Finchley, a dead sheep market in the Foreign Secretary's constituency, and puppet markets in the constituency of every Cabinet Minister.
Mr Cohen : I recall my hon. Friend's remarkable comments about the Prime Minister cutting jelly babies in half to ensure that customers did not get any extra weight. There have been cuts ever since, but fewer cuts in Tory Redbridge than in Leyton, which has greater need for extra resources, including markets. Again we see the party political bias to which I referred earlier.
My hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley (Mr. Redmond) made a good point concerning Spitalfields market. The local communities make it possible for markets to make big profits. My hon. Friend rightly said that some of those profits should be returned to those local communities. Under the private Bill procedure, that cannot happen. Local communities are being robbed of enjoying an element of the profits that markets make.
The strategic authority, as well as devising better policies for shopping centres and for markets, could devise better policies for roads. Leyton would have had a much better deal over the M11 link road had a strategic authority been involved rather than the Department of Transport. My major concern is that the roads money from that Department will be soaked up in Redbridge market rather than go to Leyton to offset the effects of the road that the Department is blasting through the area.
Mr. Bob Cryer (Bradford, South) : As to planning access to markets, one of the problems confronting many local authorities, and one that the Bill may not take into account, is that the European Community is trying to force through, with the agreement of the Minister for Roads and Traffic, 40 -tonne lorries instead of the present maximum of 38 tonnes. Clearly, any local authority must consider that serious departure from existing regulations before presenting any Bill to the House in which road access is a factor.
Mr. Cohen : That is perfectly true, Madam Deputy Speaker, except that road access is relevant to many markets. I agree with my hon. Friend that it is horrendous that the Government have again given in to the Common Market and to big business interests. If Redbridge market develops and grows bigger, it may have to be served by larger lorries. In those circumstances, the road network serving the market may not be suitable. Redbridge will then tell the Department of Transport, "Give us the money. The heavy lorries have destroyed the roads around here. We have a market here and we deserve that money." Again, that will put the kibosh on Leyton and on extra money to counter the adverse environmental effects of the new link road. Leyton has already been robbed of its
Column 89forests by the Government and of money to improve the environment. Now we shall get stuffed up again by 40-tonne lorries because money for new roads will be given only to Redbridge.
Mr. Andrew F. Bennett : Can my hon. Friend say what consultations there have been between the boroughs involved and the police authorities about policing the market? In some areas a substantial volume of goods shoplifted from ordinary shops ends up on market stalls.
Mr. Cohen : I have not received any specific information from the supporters of the Bill, but my hon. Friend makes a fair point and perhaps the Bill's sponsor will be able to answer it. I do not really like the black economy in which street markets operate, but if they can get goods off the back of a lorry, to use the colloquial term, that probably has a beneficial effect because good quality goods can be sold cheap to people who are being hammered by Government policies, by high inflation, and by unemployment. Therefore, I can sympathise with that aspect of the black economy. I detest the other side of the black economy whereby the rich find all the loopholes and rake in millions of pounds.
I am not particularly worried about the black economy. One can get a blooming good bargain in some of the markets in east London. I recommend that my hon. Friend goes down there and gets a few bargains. The other day I came to the House in a suit that cost me only a fiver. It is a wonderful fit. Brick lane market is superb for second-hand clothes.
Mr. Cohen : My hon. Friend is right. I am sure that the local markets sell suits made with wool from Bradford. The suit that I bought in Brick lane market for a fiver is a thorn-proof suit. Believe it or not, I saw a Government Minister on "Wogan" and as he sat down he flashed the label of his thorn-proof suit, so I did not know whether my suit once belonged to a Government Minister, but working-class people can get access to thorn-proof suits via markets and the black economy.
My key point concerns the road network. I am very glad that the hon. Member for Ilford, South set up a meeting last week with Mr. Price, the chief executive, and Mr. Bassett, the director of administration and legal services. They were most helpful. They gave me a verbal assurance that no new roads or road improvements are planned.
Mr. Cohen : I need to be absolutely convinced about that and I hope that the sponsor of the Bill will refer to it. If at any time, even under a Labour Government, Redbridge tried to fool a Labour Government by saying that it had a market and needed money for its roads, it should be on record that the borough has stated that it does not need the money and has not planned any expansion in the road network and that it should not be given priority. Leyton should get priority as the Government have stolen our forest and we have had the worst possible deal from the M11 link road with very poor environmental effect.