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Column 85Soley, Clive
Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Taylor, Rt Hon J. D. (S'ford)
Thomas, Dr Dafydd Elis
Thompson, Jack (Wansbeck)
Wardell, Gareth (Gower)
Wareing, Robert N.
Watson, Mike (Glasgow, C)
Welsh, Andrew (Angus E)
Williams, Rt Hon Alan
Williams, Alan W. (Carm'then)
Wise, Mrs Audrey
Tellers for the Noes :
Mr. Frank Haynes and
Mr. Ken Eastham.
Question accordingly agreed to.
Mr. Speaker-- forthwith declared the main Question, as amended, to be agreed to.
That this House welcomes the Government's consistent refusal to give support to either the PRK or the murderous Khmer Rouge ; commends its commitment to finding a peaceful and comprehensive settlement endorsed by the Cambodian people ; and welcomes the increased assistance which the Government is providing for the innocent victims of this tragic conflict.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That the Promoters of the Birmingham City Council (No. 2) Bill shall have leave to suspend proceedings thereon in order to proceed with the Bill, if they think fit, in the next Session of Parliament, provided that the Agents for the Bill give notice to the Clerks in the Private Bill Office not later than the day before the close of the present Session of their intention to suspend further proceedings and that all Fees due on the Bill up to that date be paid ; That on the fifth day on which the House sits in the next Session the Bill shall be presented to the House ;
That there shall be deposited with the Bill a declaration signed by the Agents for the Bill, stating that the Bill is the same, in every respect, as the Bill at the last stage of its proceedings in this House in the present Session ;
That the Bill shall be laid upon the Table of the House by one of the Clerks in the Private Bill Office on the next meeting of the House after the day on which the Bill has been presented and, when so laid, shall be read the first and second time (and shall be recorded in the Journal of this House as having been so read) and, having been amended by the Committee in the present Session, shall be ordered to lie upon the Table ;
That no further Fees shall be charged in respect of any proceedings on the Bill in respect of which Fees have already been incurred during the present Session ;
That these Orders be Standing Orders of the House.-- [The Chairman of Ways and Means.]
Mr. Bob Cryer (Bradford, South) : On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. It has been brought to my attention that a Birmingham evening paper has reported that there have been behind-the-scenes negotiations about the Bill. Would not such a report cast a slur on the Chairman of Ways and Means, who, as I understand it, should adopt a completely neutral view? The report suggested that the hon. Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Mr. King) used his influence to bring this motion on the Bill before the House and that if he had not, he would have found it more difficult to obtain support in the House. That implies that the hon. Gentleman has special influence. I am sure that that must be wrong, because any promoter of a private Bill has the same influence as any other and can obtain the same prominence for his Bill. I am sure that the article is misleading. Will you assure us that it is fallacious and that the hon. Gentleman has not done a deal behind closed doors and thereby trampled on the rights of Parliament?
Several Hon. Members rose --
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Paul Dean) : I shall deal with this point first. I am not sure whether the hon. Member is saying that there might be a prima facie breach of privilege. If so, he knows the procedure and should write to Mr. Speaker. The sooner that we continue with the debate, the sooner all will be revealed.
Mr. Denis Howell (Birmingham, Small Heath) : On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Can you advise the House whether it is in order for one of my hon. Friends to advise all Labour Members to go home and not to participate in the private business, as he did in a loud voice in the Division Lobby just now? I find that action reprehensible.
Mr. Jeff Rooker (Birmingham, Perry Barr) : Further to the point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Would you place on record the fact that there is no obligation on hon. Members to attend and listen to debates prior to voting? Moreover, there is never an official view on private business. There is never a view from a Government Whip or an Opposition Whip, so it is left to individual Members to advise their colleagues of the importance to be attached to that business. As I said earlier today, we ought to be debating the changing boundaries of Europe rather than the wasting of ratepayers' money on a road race. The European people will not understand the way in which the British Parliament is conducting its business today.
Mr. Anthony Beaumont-Dark (Birmingham, Selly Oak) : Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. At long last the House has shown its willingness to debate a private Bill at a sensible time. As a rule, the hon. Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer) rages and rants about the rights of the House and private Bills, yet now we find that he is an avid reader of the Birmingham Post all of a sudden. That is a very good thing, because it is a first-class newspaper but I do not know what that publication has to do with Bradford--unless the hon. Gentleman's remarks emanated from some other Birmingham Member. The Chairman of Ways and Means and the Panel should be applauded for the fact that, at long last, private Bills are given prime time. I do not wish to offend the hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker) whom I look upon as a friend in a Birmingham sense, but his claim that we should be discussing the problems of Europe--or Cambodia or outer Mongolia or outer space--rather then the problems of Birmingham and his imputation of the motives of my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Mr. King) should bring shame to the hon. Gentleman's eyes and tears to ours.
Mr. Peter Snape (West Bromwich, East) : Further to the point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. It is not normal for me to intervene at such an early stage, but I must comment on the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer), who alleged that the hon. Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Mr. King)--has used his influence improperly--
The implication was that the hon. Gentleman used his influence to bring the Bill before us tonight. I must rush to the hon. Gentleman's defence. I must tell my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, South that, if the hon. Member for Northfield had any influence, he would long since have arrived on the Government Front Bench--a role that he has been seeking with passion since the day he was elected. I cannot really believe that he has any influence.
On the point made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Small Heath (Mr. Howell), who said that my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker) had been standing in the Division Lobby urging hon. Members to go home, I can only say, as an ex-Whip, that it strikes me as odd that someone of my hon. Friend's competence should waste his time on such duties, which are extraneous, to say the least. It has always
Column 88appeared to me that hon. Members do not need too much encouragement to leave this place when they have the opportunity. I do not think that my hon. Friend the Member for Perry Barr has done much to change matters.
Mr. Frank Haynes (Ashfield) rose --
Mr. Haynes : Yes, Mr. Deputy Speaker, it is a point of order. I have been working. I have been a Teller at the door of the Lobby. I do not know what has been going on in there, but I do know what has been happening for the past few moments. I am a bit surprised that you did not challenge the hon. Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Mr. Beaumont-Dark). We are wasting time and we should get on with the business.--[ Hon. Members :-- "Hear, hear."] I am supporting the occupant of the Chair. I am a little surprised that you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, did not have a go at the hon. Member for Selly Oak for wasting time. I am always here, but he is hardly ever here. More often than not he is flying around in a jumbo jet somewhere. I am a little surprised that you let him carry on because he was wasting time and he is usually one to complain about waste of time.
Mr. Roger King (Birmingham, Northfield) : I am somewhat flattered by the accusations concerning my ability to influence the operations of the House. I only wish that that were true, but those who know will know that I have not been party to any negotiations directly--[ Hon. Members :-- "Indirectly?"]--or even indirectly. I have had nothing to do with them. The hon. Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer) does me an honour by even suggesting that I have such influence. What the hon. Member for West Bromwich, East (Mr. Snape) said is true to an extent. That is why I sit on the second row--I am but one row from the front.
Mr. King : It is early in my remarks and I do not want to take more than a few moments. Last time we debated the Bill the hon. Lady rightly pointed out that we had taken an awful long time to explain its intricacies and had allowed a large number of interventions, which cost her the opportunity to speak. Nevertheless, I give way to the hon. Lady.
Ms. Short : I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would not want to say different things in the House and in the Birmingham press. Will he confirm the report in the Birmingham press which said that delicate negotiations behind the scenes had brought the time forward so that there would be 100 hon. Members present to carry the Bill? Will he confirm that he said :
"I do not anticipate any problems in getting 100 colleagues to support this measure. We are very, very confident."
He should not say different things here and to the press, as that is dishonourable behaviour.
Mr. King : I am confident that the necessary number of hon. Members will be here. There has been a change in the timetable, but I stand by what I said--in terms of negotiations, I have not been involved. That is perfectly fair and honest.
Let us move on to the object of our debate, which is the progress of the Bill. The subject has received considerable debate over the years. The Birmingham City Council (No. 1) Bill, which authorised motor racing in Birmingham, received much debate, with further debate on Second Reading and in Committee. On Second Reading, on Tuesday 18 April 1989, 145 Members voted for the Bill to be read a Second time and 24 voted against. That was a significant majority and reflects the overwhelming desire on the part of the city of Birmingham. Out of 65 councillors who voted, 30 Labour councillors and 31 Conservative councillors were in favour of the Bill. Sixteen Conservative and Labour councillors were against and four members of minority parties registered their disapproval.
At that time there were eight petitioners objecting to the Bill. In the usual manner, the promoters--the city council--have discussed objections with all the petitioners prepared to negotiate. Undertakings were reached with all but three.
The Committee met in May, with seven days of hearings and one site visit. The Committee heard evidence from representatives of the National and Local Government Officers Association, a residents association from the area of the race circuit and a residents association from somewhat further afield. The outcome of the deliberations was a number of amendments to the Bill, accepted by the promoter and to be considered by the House should the Bill be carried over. These are :
"1. An acceptance that four days of racing would only be for Grand Prix racing, and that a three day event would be part of a Bank Holiday.
2. The reinstituting of strict liability for personal injuries or damage to property, except for competitors.
3. Streets being closed from 7.30 am to 7.30 pm, rather than 6.00 am to 8.00 pm"
as originally proposed.
"4. Equipment should be dismantled within 10 days after the event, not 20. Moreover, all work should take place between 8 am and 8 pm. 5. A reinstituting of the agreement to pay all police costs." In addition--
In addition, the Committee has the agreement of the city council to the following 11 undertakings :
"1. That, for a period of four weeks before the race and two weeks afterwards, the Council sets up a telephone call-line to provide full information to residents in relation to the road race and to record any complaints regarding the road race, so that immediate action may be taken.
2. That there should be an increased provision of security patrols both for local residents and businesses.
3. There should be an increased provision of parking areas for local residents when the circuit streets are closed, to reduce the distance between residents and their cars.
4. That religious worship should take place during the racing period without any undue interference.
5. That the River-Rea subway crossing should be brought into use as a circuit crossing point at the earliest opportunity, and that it should so constructed as to enable disabled persons to cross at this point.
6. That underpass crossings should be made more welcoming, kept clean and well lit, and be clearly marked.
Column 907. That the disabled should not at any point be prejudiced in gaining access to and from the road race area.
8. That in any of its future building projects, or major repair works to existing buildings, within close proximity to the race circuit, the Council should consider installing double glazing. 9. That the Council should strive to introduce permanent, rather than temporary, beautification features on the circuit.
10. That there should be an increased number of manned crossing gates in the circuit area.
11. That noise levels should be measured at various parts of the circuit, and that the records of such measurements should be available for public consultation."
We believe that those amendments and undertakings go a considerable way towards easing the inconvenience of local residents and businesses.
Mr. Rooker : I hope that the hon. Gentleman has finished his list. He was speaking rather quickly and I did not hear anything about stopping the illegal use of ratepayers' money to fund the revenue account. We have had undertakings before. The hon. Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Mr. King) is effectively in charge of the Bill. If he has not been involved in the negotiations about the Bill, but he promoted its Second Reading, can he tell us who has been involved in the negotiations, so that we know where to direct our representations?
Mr. Rooker : A few moments ago, in reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Ms. Short), the hon. Gentleman said that he had not been involved in any negotiations. He clearly implied that other people or other hon. Members had been involved. The hon. Member for Northfield is the promoters' man on the Floor of the House. He moved the Bill and he is effectively in charge of it. Who has been responsible in this House for the negotiations about the Bill and its timetable?
Mr. King : The city council, as is its right, made representations. I was expecting the Bill to be debated at a different time this week, but was informed that it would be debated this evening. I cannot go into the exact details, because I was not privy to them.
Mr. Beaumont-Dark : Does not my hon. Friend find the allegations from Opposition Members of some kind of impropriety, almost of dishonesty, quite amazing? Has not the council in our city of Birmingham, through no will of ours, a large Labour majority? Is it right that hon. Members should accuse a Labour council of dishonesty? Is it possible that we should agree with Labour Members that it is dishonest? Is this not a proper Bill for the benefit of Birmingham, and is that why all the Conservative Members representing Birmingham constituencies are doing their best to help it to make progress against the opposition from some of the laggards on the Opposition Benches?
Ms. Short : The hon. Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Mr. Beaumont- Dark) heard what I said. Perhaps he has not read Friday's edition of the Birmingham Post. It is clear from that article that the hon. Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Mr. King) is claiming full knowledge of the negotiations to bring the time for the Bill forward so that he could-- [Interruption] It is obvious from the article that the hon. Member for Northfield is
Column 91claiming full knowledge of the negotiations and is confident that the Bill will be carried. He has said in the House today that he knows nothing about that. In that case, he was dishonest, either to the Birmingham Post or in the Chamber today.
Mr. King : I should have thought that the best service that anyone could provide in the debate would be to allow it to proceed without examining that particular issue. Nothing will be gained from that, except a loss of time to debate the issues which undoubtedly the hon. Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Ms. Short) would like to raise. All matters relating to private Bills are very provisional. We are all anxious to ascertain when such a measure will come before the House. As a sponsor of the Bill, it would be part of my job to try to determine when the debate will take place. The support and the hon. Members who want to speak must be organised and we must adjust our timetable accordingly. I was given to understand that the Bill would be debated on a different day this week. However, presumably as a result of normal parliamentary procedures that are adopted in relation to any private Bill, the timetable was adjusted to this evening.
Clearly negotiations took place between certain individuals--no doubt supporters of the Bill--who made their voices adequately known. I know that there is no record of any letter from me or any verbal approach to anyone in authority in order to change the timetable. When the timetable has been changed, as it has, that must have happened as a result of negotiations.
Mr. Snape : I am always anxious to help the hon. Gentleman, as he knows. As the hon. Gentleman so wisely said, perhaps he did not put anything down on paper. However, perhaps he would agree that a conversation took place, perhaps with Mr. Nigel Hastilow, the esteemed reporter from the Birmingham Post, during which the hon. Gentleman might have verballed Mr. Hastilow that perhaps his influence was so great in this place that the business had been changed. Does the hon. Gentleman accept that that might not be an unreal version of what happened last Thursday?
Mr. King : I wish that I could confirm that I have that kind of power and authority. Alas, I have not. I was not a party to negotiations. I remained deliberately on one side because I did not want to have these aspersions cast upon me. Negotiations have presumably taken place between some individuals, and perhaps some people here today, were part and parcel of them, but I cannot say who they are.
Mr. Barry Porter (Wirral, South) : As someone who is disinterested, but not uninterested, in the progress of the Bill, does the city council of Birmingham with its Labour majority supported by a Conservative minority want this Bill? Do the majority of Birmingham Members want the Bill? If that is so, I might be one of the 100 hon. Members required to see it through the Lobby at 10 pm. No one has asked me about it, but if that is the case, I do not believe that Birmingham Members are doing their great city much good by these childish exchanges.