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Column 112The right hon. Member for Small Heath knows, as we all do--he, my hon. Friend the Member for Selly Oak and I are the only three people present who served on the city council--that Birmingham has wanted the Bill for a long time. My hon. Friend the Member for Selly Oak and I voted for such a measure as long ago as 1973 when the issue first arose. I am pleased to say that the Bill is now unstoppable unless some Opposition Members--a small minority--are successful in their determination to block the measure by introducing every disruptive practice that they can.
The prime motive behind the Bill is safety, which is of paramount importance in motor racing. The international governing body, FISA, is responsible for the safety of drivers and tracks. Its rules become stricter year by year. We must applaud FISA and ensure that its rules are abided by. One of the greatest racing drivers in history has recently learnt that safety rules must be abided by, probably at the cost of losing a world championship. Therefore, I remind the House that the principal purpose of the Bill is to improve safety in the pits and on the track. Without the legislation, the international licence of the Birmingham circuit is in jeopardy. A vote against the Bill is a vote not only against the promoters' ambitious plans to extend the event, but against the race itself.
In my view, the hon. Member for Ladywood committed political suicide when she announced her real intention in the last minutes of her speech. Unlike that of most other people, her real intention is to stop the Bill and to delay or jeopardise the future of the race. Other cities, in Britain and abroad, would be very anxious to take up the challenge if Birmingham were to lose it. The longer the race is established, the safer it is and the safer Birmingham's lead in world terms.
One of my portfolios on the Back Benches is tourism, so I know that the figures are right. Hoteliers are reporting greater use of hotels and the value to tourism of activities such as motor racing is accelerating in Birmingham. It means more jobs in the inner city, in Ladywood, in Sparkbrook, in parts of Hodge Hill and certainly in parts of Yardley. It would be madness to object to those economic gains.
Mr. Bevan : The debate has been characterised by continual interventions and I should be obliged if the hon. Gentleman would allow me to make my case as quickly as I can so that he can question my speech in the context of his own.
The race has been one of the contributory factors to £1.5 billion investment in the city and an endorsement of the enterprise for which Birmingham is so famous. That is an all-party endorsement because Birmingham is not divided on this matter. The only divisions are the few that have been so vocally expressed tonight. All the great things that exist in Birmingham--the national exhibition centre, the convention centre which is almost finished and the Birmingham international airport and station--were all carried through on an all-party basis, as is our tradition.
I have been privileged and honoured to be part of that process. To suggest, under the protection of this Chamber, that our officials have behaved dishonourably is an absolute iniquity. On behalf of those officials I must stress
Column 113that they have committed no malfeasance whatsoever and the case has been put fairly and honourably, as it deserves. Tonight an attempt has been made to perpetrate a moral defeat by using procedural means to defeat a Bill which has almost, the wholehearted support of those on the council, in the city and in the country.
I am certain that hon. Members who object to the Bill are sincere, but why do they always object to measures that, given time, will not only be profitable for the city's coffers and underwrite matters of greater social importance but will give people pleasure? I cannot and will not understand that attitude.
We want to support industry, and what better way of showing that than by supporting the industry that has been the heart of the midlands--the car industry? The race does not deprive Birmingham of money, but it adds to the spectrum of the city and to the quality of leisure in it. It is of much value to the Rover Group and other manufacturers and all the component manufacturers who employ Brummies.
Although the race may occasionally be noisy, and although occasionally it might be the cause of verbal abrasiveness in the House or outside, it is welcome. Birmingham is a warm and welcoming and exciting place, and once experienced it is not easily left or forgotten. I invite my right hon. and hon. Friends to agree to the carry-over motion and to continue to give the city its car birthright.
Mr. Denis Howell (Birmingham, Small Heath) : Although I feel strongly about the Bill, about which I have spoken previously, you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, will be glad to hear that I shall attempt to put my succinct points succinctly.
Some important points must be made. I am sorry that my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Ms. Short) has left the Chamber--I am sure for good reasons--but I am sure that she will not object to my replying to some of the points that she made. My hon. Friend let the cat out of the bag in the last two minutes of her speech. For 55 minutes, she urged us not to pass the carry-over motion but to introduce a new Bill and to reconsider financial and other matters. Having urged that on us, she said that we should kill the road race. It was quite clear to hon. Members that whatever the city council did she would not support a Bill for a road race in any circumstances. Therefore, her plea--
I need not remind you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that we are debating the carry- over motion. We should not be debating the merits of the road race--
Mr. Howell : My hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker) says that we are not. In that case, I must have misunderstood the lengthy speech made by my hon. Friend the Member for Ladywood.
Column 114The Bill has properly gone through its parliamentary procedures, but hon. Members voting against the carry-over motion are voting not to continue parliamentary discussion of the Bill.
Mr. Howell : In this next Session. The carry-over motion is to allow us to continue discussion in the next Session. Some of my hon. Friends do not want to debate the merits of the Bill in the next Session, which is why they oppose the carry-over motion. I do not approve of that extraordinary parliamentary procedure. I have strong views about the private Bill procedure, which has got out of hand, but they are probably not so strong as yours, Mr. Deputy Speaker. You have my sympathy in dealing with that dilemma. When the public are required to bring a private Bill before the House to get parliamentary authority for their actions, they are entitled to have the procedures on the Bill followed in the ways laid down by Parliament. My hon. Friends are objecting to that.
There is no doubt that many Birmingham citizens support the Bill. Even those living close to the race supported it in a poll. My hon. Friend the Member for Ladywood conceded that just over 50 per cent. voted for it. That is a majority among the people most likely to be affected. The Bill certainly has the support of a majority of the members of the city council, and I am glad to say that it has the support of at least eight of the 12 Birmingham Members of Parliament. That should not be lightly forgotten.
I should like to deal with a financial point. I gave some figures in an intervention, so I shall not go over them again. In 1988, the last year for which we have published accounts for the race, there was an operational profit of about £582,000--a tremendous profit. Before my hon. Friend the Member for Perry Bar intervenes, may I say that I agree that that includes the £600,000. My hon. Friend has a big responsibility for that sum, to which he will not admit. After taking account of that £600,000, the deficit this year was about £17, 000 overall. The cost to the ratepayer this year was about £17,000.
Mr. Howell : My hon. Friend does not understand the figures. The operational profit was £582,000. As my hon. Friend said, the cost to the city of promoting the race was £600,000. If my hon. Friend does a little mathematics, he will see that subtracting £582,616 from £600, 000 leaves the cost to the ratepayer--£17,384. That was the actual cost.
Mr. Howell : I am coming to what we got for that. Did the city council get value for that money? I want to comment on the £600,000 about which my hon. Friends feel so strongly. It was imposed on the city council by my hon. Friends because of their representations that every penny possible should be put into the accounts in accordance with proper accounting procedures.
Mr. Howell : That is what my hon. Friends were asking for. Because of that pressure, it was proposed in an amendment, to which my hon. Friends did not object, that the accounts must be made on the basis of what was technically termed a "true and fair view" basis. That was the form of words imposed on the city council.
Mr. Howell : Of course I will give way, when I have finished my point. I do not want to stop my hon. Friend from making his point. I remember the "true and fair view" basis in the amendment drafted by the city council to meet the pressures put on it by my hon. Friends to have proper accounting.
Mr. Davis : I was closely involved in discussions with Sir Reginald Eyre on the city council's behalf. The discussions took place in the presence of parliamentary agents on behalf of the city council. I was pressing Sir Reginald Eyre, on behalf of my hon. Friends, to accept the inclusion in the Bill of the principle that there would not be any charge to the rates and the proposal that if the race did not make a cumulative profit after five years--the council was actually offering three years--it would be stopped.
The wording of the amendment was provided by Sir Reginald Eyre and I believe that it was drafted for him by parliamentary agents to give effect to his and the city council's assurances. We were simply asking the city council to include in the Bill what it said it wanted to do in any case. It is not correct for my right hon. Friend to accuse me and my hon. Friends of having drafted the amendment or of being in any way responsible for any defective wording in the city council's effort to give legal effect to what it had offered and we had accepted.
Mr. Howell : I am obliged to my hon. Friend. Everything that he says supports my contention. I certainly never said that my hon. Friends drafted the amendment--I said that they pressed for this form of accountancy.
Mr. Howell : Sit down. I know that my hon. Friend was there, but I was the recipient of the Bill when it came back here. The wording that I have read out to the House was designed to meet the pressure that the city council thought was being put on it. Perhaps the council was wrong, but it took advice and the amendment was drafted. To the best of my knowledge, no hon. Member objected to that form of accountancy when we discussed the Birmingham City Council Bill.
Mr. Howell : Let me explain. I must say that I do not want the £600,000 to be included. However, the wording having been accepted, Price Waterhouse said that if we had to have true and meaningful accountancy, the accounts must include the value that the city received from advertising itself worldwide as a result of the race. That is the history of the matter.
Mr. Howell : I support the race not only because it is a major sporting event, and I have spent all my life trying to bring major sporting events to Birmingham, but because the most important aim in inner cities--
Mr. Davis : I repeat to my right hon. Friend that he is mistaken. I accept that he is misinformed, but the account that I gave--and he has accepted--of the discussion that took place with Sir Reginald Eyre did not suggest any particular form of words for the amendment or for the type of accountancy to take place. That all came from Sir Reginald Eyre, the city council and the parliamentary agents. It is wrong for my right hon. Friend to suggest that we were in any way involved in the drafting.
Mr. Howell : That may be so, and it may be the common ground between us, but I must stress that the amendment was drafted by parliamentary agents and lawyers in an attempt to meet the points that were urged on them about the need for proper constructive accountancy. As a result, my hon. Friends have what they did not expect and what I do not want either. Price Waterhouse--the auditors imposed by the Government, not by the city--told us that in that case we must include the value of the race to the city in promotional terms. That amount is estimated by other consultants and experts to be £600,000. That is not disputed.
Have we had value for money? The second reason why I support the race--if my hon. Friends agree that this is the case, they will agree that it is desirable--is that we must bring jobs into Birmingham. All the inner-city constituencies which I and my hon. Friends represent have an unemployment level of about 30 per cent. I hope that hon. Members supporting the Bill will not mind my
Column 117saying that our unemployment problems in Birmingham will not be solved by the Government, but by us. [ Hon. Members :-- "That is true."] I agree with that, too. It is all part and parcel of the promotion of the city internationally through the olympic campaign, which I had the privilege to lead, the international exhibition centre, for which there was all-party support, the international convention centre, which promises to be an outstanding success, and the international indoor sports arena. I used some influence to have the arena built in Birmingham with great effect, and it is now being built. It will be the only international indoor sports arena in the country. All such projects are vital. With the grand prix road race, they result in £1.5 billion being invested in Birmingham.
Mr. Rooker : In the few minutes at the end of Second Reading I separated out all the examples that my right hon. Friend has just given. They are all solid capital assets for our city which will be of undoubted benefit to future generations. However, one cannot by any stretch of the imagination equate the road race with such solid capital assets. It is simply a revenue plughole.
Mr. Howell : The accumulation of public relations and the projection of the city combine to produce the result. No one can deny that the grand prix road race is part of the accumulation aimed at presenting the modern face of Birmingham. This year, 100,000 people watched the road race. Birmingham citizens and others voted with their feet by turning up to watch.
Mr. Howell : One hundred thousand people turned up to watch the race and at least 10 million watched it on television. No sports event in the history of this country has been televised by Independent Television, Central Television and the BBC all at once. It is the only time that a weekend sporting event has been televised simultaneously by every channel available.
Ms. Short : I do not know whether my right hon. Friend attended the race this year, but I have been to it in previous years. It was notable that many of the stands were empty. The people who live nearby say that the numbers were undoubtedly down this year, perhaps because it was beautiful weather. Is my right hon. Friend saying that 100,000 tickets were sold?
Mr. Howell : Let me answer the point. There were 88,000 people who paid to watch the race. This year, the city council, in its wisdom, decided to allow people to bring their children free. There were 88, 000 adults at the race and 12,000 children accompanied them. My hon. Friend should welcome that because she has been urging that people in Birmingham should be given concessionary tickets.
Mr. Corbett : As research into attendance at the race last year shows, two out of three people who paid to watch the road race were from outside Birmingham. Is that not important because, but for the road race, that money would be unlikely to come to Birmingham?
Mr. Howell : My hon. Friend is quite right. The road race is part of our attempt to promote the city, and I do not know how it could be done better. It cost us about £17,000 in 1988. Where else in the country could one achieve as much for £17,000? The race has been projected to about 30 different countries worldwide ; 11 million people watched it in this country and 100,000 people turned up and paid to watch it. That is fantastic--
Mr. Howell : No, I did not go because I was having a heart attack at the time. If I had heard my hon. Friend's speech before my heart attack I might not have survived, but due to the care of the National Health Service I am in more robust form than before.
Ms. Short : We are all extremely glad that my right hon. Friend survived. He spent some of the time in Dudley Road hospital in my constituency, and I am sure he received superb care there. We are all very pleased to see him looking so well.
Mr. Howell : I intend to take it easy, but my hon. Friend must not provoke me. If my surgeons were here, they would be getting upset. Almost every country in Europe and countries world-wide broadcast the road race, which appeared not only in its own right but on all the news bulletins. It was very good value for Birmingham. That is why we should carry the Bill over.
I do not want to stop my hon. Friends objecting to the Bill. They have every right to do so, and I do not complain about that for one moment. But the time for them to voice their objections will come on Report and Third Reading. If we pass the motion to carry the Bill over, my hon. Friends will have every right to object in those debates. If we do not carry the motion, we shall kill the Bill and prevent ourselves from taking advantage of the merits of the race. That would be unacceptable from the point of view of the House and of the city of Birmingham. I urge the House to support the motion. 9.36 pm
Mr. Anthony Beaumont-Dark (Birmingham, Selly Oak) : This has been an interesting debate in which Conservative Members' views have been almost peripheral to the argument taking place on the Opposition Benches--which would be a cause for satisfaction were the Bill not so important to the city of Birmingham and its long-term plans. I have some sympathy with the proper point made by the hon. Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Ms. Short) that people's lives are regularly interrupted by developments such as this. When I was a young councillor--as will be obvious, that was many years ago
Column 119--I secured a bus stop that someone very much wanted. In fact, I did so well that the bus stop was outside the person's house. He never ceased to complain because he wanted the bus stop in his road but outside someone else's house. The same can happen with airports. We all know that Birmingham international airport is of huge importance to the city, but we do not want the flight path over our homes.
Of course we need airports, but they disturb people's lives. The same is true of the national exhibition centre. I was a founder director and signed the contract on behalf of the city. That, too, interrupted many people's lives--as does the convention centre. One can make a good argument against nearly every development on the ground that it will inconvenience someone.
The hon. Member for Ladywood argued that many of her constituents would be put out, and I do not doubt for one moment that that is a proper argument. Cars, like motor bikes, are noisy things. But we must look further than that. As my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Yardley (Mr. Bevan) pointed out, I served on Birmingham city council for 23 years with many splendid Socialist as well as Conservative councillors. We spoke for Birmingham. Labour Ministers often used to say that Labour Members from Birmingham gave them a harder time than Conservative Members. Indeed, Conservative Members also said that Conservative Members from Birmingham gave them a harder time than the Socialists. We all spoke for Birmingham. On behalf of the city of Birmingham, I resent some of the remarks made by the hon. Member for Ladywood. In her excitement and her desire to serve her constituents, she said that we were talking about a potty little road race. It is not potty to try to bring considerable publicity and hope to one's people.
Mr. Beaumont-Dark : It is always the easiest argument in the world to say, "Have it near you." For 30 years as a councillor and as a Member of this place I have argued in favour of issues which I believed were for the wider good of Birmingham. The people of Ladywood need prosperity as much as any and more than many. They need things like the Olympics--a glorious £2 million failure, but which still bought us a lot of publicity--a motor race, the convention centre, the city of Birmingham symphony orchestra or even the Birmingham royal ballet. Those things help to give people a vision of Birmingham.
Labour colleagues of the hon. Member for Ladywood must resent the fact that time after time she mentioned the phrases, "deeply dishonourable", "misleading" or "if the truth was told." As far as I can tell, the only good point that the hon. Member for Ladywood would make about her colleagues is that they were deeply dishonourable, but with good intent. I have never known anyone be deeply dishonourable with good intent. There is either good intent about what the city council, on behalf of the people wished to do, or there is not. It cannot be deeply
Column 120dishonourable to tell the truth if it could be told or to tell people that they deliberately mislead and then try to say, "I know that they do it with the best intentions." On sober reflection, I hope that the hon. Member for Ladywood will withdraw what she said. If a proposal produces a vast amount of advertising, that is not fraudulent. Why do people want their names on racing cars? Why do they want to have the Barclays Football League? Why should Marlboro appear on racing cars or Kelloggs' symbols on children's television programmes? Such names subliminally and properly make people believe that that is good advertising. Advertising is not something that is handed out like lollipops on street corners or with "Kiss me Quick, Clare" hats at election time. It is all part of an overall strategy. The city council is not dishonourable, not even with good intent. It is honourable with the good intent of trying to round off what some of us have spent 30 years of our lives doing : making people worldwide look on Birmingham not as a narrow provincial city, but as a place with vision.
Alderman Harry Whatton was a great Labour leader of the city of Birmingham. When he signed the £23 million contract all those years ago for the national exhibition centre, I remember telling him that we would either end up in prison or as heroes. Happily, we did not end up in prison.
Mr. Corbett : I believe that the hon. Gentleman meant to use the word "publicity" instead of "advertising". My right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Small Heath (Mr. Howell) stated that the reporting of the road race by ITV through Central and by the BBC in this country and in 30 other countries round the world was not space that we could have bought even if we had wanted to.