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Mr. Beaumont-Dark : I am obliged to the hon. Gentleman. I meant to include publicity.

Ever since 1956, when I was elected as a councillor for the local division of my hon. Friend the Member for Yardley, the council has had vision. The road race is part of that continuing vision. I sympathise with people whose lives are interrupted--for example, taxi drivers who moan because they cannot get their taxis through, and people from the vegetable market who moan about the race day--but we all need a prosperous Birmingham. Business may be interrupted one day to give prosperity the next day. I hope that Birmingham Members of Parliament can look further than being eight against four. I should like to think that, for the future of our city, whatever the inconvenience, we are 12 for all.

9.45 pm

Mr. Jeff Rooker (Birmingham, Perry Barr) : It is a pity that the hon. Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Mr. Beaumont-Dark) was not present to support the city council on Second Reading. He was not in the House to speak or to vote. He was conspicuous by his absence. Judging by his speech today, one would think that the hon. Gentleman was present that day. The same applies to other Conservative Members from the city of Birmingham. It is not the cosy arrangement that one would suppose. Some hon. Members are conscious of finances. We are well aware that, during next year's local

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election, Conservative Members will attack the Labour-controlled city council for its record over the past six years-- the longest period that Labour has been in power since the war. The council will go on for at least 10 years. Conservative Members will attack the council for whatever poll tax is set--whether it is £240 or £340. However, included in the poll tax will be a subvention for the road race.

Underlying all our debates, our primary objection has been the way in which finances have been handled. It was never intended that ratepayers' or poll tax payers' money should be used to subsidise the road race. It was clearly and explicitly stated that that would not happen, and arrangements were made to make sure that it would not happen. I disregard debates about whether it will take three or five years to break even. Leaving aside revenue costs, we even thought that we had an arrangement for capital costs. We thought that capital costs had been so arranged that it would be possible, as my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Ms. Short) said in her press release, to spend money on roofs, gutters and eliminating black mould. We know now that that is not the case. That is our central objection.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Small Heath (Mr. Howell) said that, this year, the race will cost ratepayers £17,000, as though, for a city with a budget of £1 billion, £17,000 does not matter. Birmingham city council is so strapped for cash that 150 disabled people have not been granted bus passes. The council was unable to find the £15,000 to fund their bus passes. That gives an idea of what a council can do with £17,000.

Birmingham city council is not a high-spending authority. Anyone who knows Birmingham would say that it spends too little in some areas. It is £96 a head below average metropolitan districts, as was shown by last week's statement by the Secretary of State for the Environment. It is a question of priorities. We should leave aside the benefits that might accrue from the road race--the publicity and advertising--which I separate in revenue terms from the other issues raised by my right hon. Friend the Member for Small Heath, such as the NEC and the international convention centre, which are wholly different. Those issues are on different planets from the road race. We must consider the financial arrangements and the overall benefits to the city. I am the first to make the point that one must be careful when painting the whole picture of our urban areas. On the one hand, we want new and better investment in our great cities from the public and private sectors. That is crucial across the country. But on the other hand, the dilemma for those of us who represent the arguments of the people who are downtrodden and ignored, who get second best, who have had a bad start, who end up in rotten housing or with rotten or no jobs and who are involved in a cycle of deprivation, is that if we highlight those facts to fight for something better, we are told that we are doing our city down. We have to strike a balance.

So far, to its credit, Birmingham has never put a homeless person or family into a bed-and-breakfast hotel. Never. That is a massive plus for Birmingham city council, but the housing crisis in our city is now so great that within a couple of years--by the time that the five-star Hyatt hotel opens, with its £2 million of ratepayers' money ; at the very time the international convention centre opens ; and the fifth or sixth year of the road race--there will be

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a cardboard city in Birmingham. There is no question about that. Under the present financial arrangements we cannot cope with our housing crisis. That means that we must look at the full cost of an enterprise such as the road race.

Dame Jill Knight rose --

Mr. Rooker : I shall not give way to the hon. Lady-- [Interruption.] No, I shall not. I was cut short with only seven minutes and had a closure motion moved on me in our previous debate on this and I am sure that it will happen again before 10 o'clock this evening. Although I have a lot to say, I shall not because there will be time later on. I simply want to make a few preliminary points. The hon. Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Dame J. Knight) is on one of her rare visits to our Birmingham road race debates. She is an assiduous attender of the House, but not at these debates.

I turn first to the true overall cost. The point that my right hon. Friend the Member for Small Heath so robustly made was that, because of the demands that we made under section 14 of the Birmingham City Council Act 1985, our chickens are coming home to roost. But the fact is that not all the social costs of the road race are put into the accounts. The auditors, lawyers and accountants have found it convenient to include some of the pluses, such as the £600,000 worth of promotion, but they are not willing to include the social costs of the road race. I shall mention just one of those costs--delays. The cost of publicity may be something on which one cannot easily put a figure, but I understand that the sum of £600,000 has been arrived at by looking at all the references to Birmingham in the newspapers and on television and trying to put some value on them. I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Member for Small Heath concedes that it must be a value judgment.

Let us consider the cost of traffic delays. I shall use the Department of Transport's own figures because we do not build roads willy-nilly in this country : all our roads are subject to a cost-benefit analysis to decide whether they should be single, dual or have three carriageways. We also consider the cost of bridges. The Department of Transport's assessment of the cost of delays caused to what is termed a "working car"--a car containing people travelling to work--is £9.124 per hour. If we take only the periods before and after the racing weekend, and accepting that at rush-hour times most vehicles are working cars with, say, a 15-minute delay per vehicle, for 1,000 cars, the cost is £2,281.

As the full traffic flow figures are not known for the entire circuit, I am using the traffic flow figures for the A38 from the Department of Transport. If we estimate that 1,500 cars were held up for 15 minutes, twice daily, for 20 working days between July to September, excluding the race weekend, the delay would cost, at 1988 figures, £136,860. The estimate does not include lorries. That dislocation to travel and transport in Birmingham is the social cost of the road race. No one has bothered to put that on the other side of the account which suggests that £600,000 could be derived from promotions. That cost should be investigated.

I am happy to accept the closure when the time comes, but I hope that I shall get the four and a half minutes left to me. I received a letter from the licensee of a brand new restaurant and bar complex in the city centre. He told me

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that most of his customers on the racing weekend were other licensees who were checking how many customers he had. The bar and restaurant is just outside the racing circuit on the canal, but it is close to the city on the Gas street basin.

It is also important to consider the shift in opinion among Tories on Birmingham city council. The other day, Councillor Zissman, the deputy leader of the Tory group, spoke of the

"spite, narrow-mindedness and obvious prejudice"

of my hon. Friends the Members for Ladywood, for Birmingham, Hodge Hill (Mr. Davis) and myself. Is this the same Councillor Zissman who said on 14 September that there was

"great concern over the way the accounts were worked out"? He also said that he wanted to end the subsidisation of the event by ratepayers and he questioned the financial basis of the race. Those are the very points that have been made by my hon. Friends and myself since the end of 1988 when we found out how the accounts were being set out--because of a change in the interpretation of the preamble to the 1985 Act rather than a section of it. We realised that creative accounting was afoot. Conservative Members should ask themselves questions about their friends on Birmingham city council. It is crucial that the full cost is investigated.

I know that the hon. Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Mr. King) must do his bit to shut me up--that is his job--but before he does it is important to consider the latest annual report for Birmingham which says that the Bill

"could pave the way for a Formula 1 Grand Prix to be held in Birmingham"

We all know that the costs of Formula one grand prix are outside the scope of the Bill. They belong to another planet compared with the money we have spoken about. Hon. Members should be aware, however, that this year the British grand prix attracted 500,000 people over three days. There were 1,000 helicopter movements in and out of the circuit and 25 acres of hospitality tents. Is someone suggesting that the circuit round the inner city of Birmingham is a precursor for a grand prix? The figures that I have just given show that that is absolutely crazy. Such a claim is all part of the hype to try to sell a dud product. It is a dud product, because it is sucking up £600,000 of ratepayers' money. The money could be used to repair school playgrounds and to replace the bus passes given to disabled people. I believe that my right hon. Friend the Member for Small Heath shares my belief that those passes should not have been removed. The money could be spent on a host of worthwhile activities.

The race should be made to pay for itself--that was the promise given to our fellow citizens of Birmingham. If such arrangements could be made, I would support the race--

Mr. Denis Howell rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.

Qustion put, That the question be now put :--

The House divided : Ayes 153, Noes 35.

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Division No. 404] [9.59 pm


Alexander, Richard

Amess, David

Arbuthnot, James

Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)

Arnold, Tom (Hazel Grove)

Atkins, Robert

Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley)

Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N)

Beaumont-Dark, Anthony

Bermingham, Gerald

Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter

Boswell, Tim

Boyes, Roland

Braine, Rt Hon Sir Bernard

Brazier, Julian

Bright, Graham

Browne, John (Winchester)

Buck, Sir Antony

Burns, Simon

Butterfill, John

Carlile, Alex (Mont'g)

Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)

Carrington, Matthew

Chalker, Rt Hon Mrs Lynda

Chapman, Sydney

Chope, Christopher

Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)

Colvin, Michael

Conway, Derek

Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest)

Coombs, Simon (Swindon)

Corbett, Robin

Cormack, Patrick

Couchman, James

Cox, Tom

Cran, James

Currie, Mrs Edwina

Dalyell, Tam

Davis, David (Boothferry)

Dorrell, Stephen

Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James

Duffy, A. E. P.

Durant, Tony

Dykes, Hugh

Eggar, Tim

Emery, Sir Peter

Fallon, Michael

Fenner, Dame Peggy

Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)

Fookes, Dame Janet

Forman, Nigel

Forth, Eric

Freeman, Roger

Gale, Roger

Gardiner, George

Garel-Jones, Tristan

Golding, Mrs Llin

Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)

Griffiths, Sir Eldon (Bury St E')

Hamilton, Hon Archie (Epsom)

Hampson, Dr Keith

Harris, David

Hayhoe, Rt Hon Sir Barney

Heathcoat-Amory, David

Hind, Kenneth

Hoey, Ms Kate (Vauxhall)

Howard, Michael

Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd)

Howell, Rt Hon D. (S'heath)

Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk)

Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W)

Hughes, Roy (Newport E)

Hughes, Simon (Southwark)

Hunt, David (Wirral W)

Hunter, Andrew

Irvine, Michael

Jack, Michael

Janman, Tim

Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey

Johnston, Sir Russell

Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)

Jones, Robert B (Herts W)

Key, Robert

King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield)

Kirkhope, Timothy

Kirkwood, Archy

Knapman, Roger

Knight, Greg (Derby North)

Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston)

Knox, David

Latham, Michael

Lawrence, Ivan

Lightbown, David

Lilley, Peter

Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)

Lofthouse, Geoffrey

Lord, Michael

McKay, Allen (Barnsley West)

MacKay, Andrew (E Berkshire)

Maclean, David

McLoughlin, Patrick

Mans, Keith

Martin, David (Portsmouth S)

Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick

Meyer, Sir Anthony

Michael, Alun

Mills, Iain

Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)

Moate, Roger

Monro, Sir Hector

Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)

Moynihan, Hon Colin

Neubert, Michael

Nicholls, Patrick

Nicholson, Emma (Devon West)

Onslow, Rt Hon Cranley

Oppenheim, Phillip

Paice, James

Patnick, Irvine

Pawsey, James

Pendry, Tom

Porter, Barry (Wirral S)

Powell, Ray (Ogmore)

Sackville, Hon Tom

Shaw, David (Dover)

Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')

Shephard, Mrs G. (Norfolk SW)

Shersby, Michael

Skeet, Sir Trevor

Snape, Peter

Speller, Tony

Stern, Michael

Stevens, Lewis

Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)

Stradling Thomas, Sir John

Summerson, Hugo

Taylor, Ian (Esher)

Taylor, John M (Solihull)

Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)

Thompson, D. (Calder Valley)

Thorne, Neil

Thornton, Malcolm

Thurnham, Peter

Trippier, David

Trotter, Neville

Vaughan, Sir Gerard

Waller, Gary

Watts, John

Wheeler, John

Widdecombe, Ann

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