Previous Section Index Home Page

Business without Debate

Delegated Legislation

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 118(6)),

Health Care and Associated Professions

Question agreed to.

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 118(6)),

Betting, Gaming and Lotteries

Question agreed to.

European Union Documents

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 119(11)),

European Security and Defence Policy

Question agreed to.

4.43 pm

Sitting suspended (Standing Order No. 20).

21 Apr 2009 : Column 171

Manchester City Council Bill [ Lords] and Bournemouth Borough Council Bill [ Lords]

Debate resumed.

Question (15 January) again proposed,

7 pm

Tony Lloyd (Manchester, Central) (Lab): This is rather like old times, I suppose, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The business before the House tonight consists of two revival motions, and I know that you would take a dim view were I to stray beyond the arguments in favour of or, indeed, against revival. The debate is clearly narrow, and I hope that, on that basis, it can be short and succinct.

It is worth reminding the House that the revival of this type of private Bill has been common practice for a long time, and I am told that opposition to revival motions is relatively unusual in the annals of the House. In that context, and given that the Bills that received a Second Reading on 29 October 2008 passed that stage so recently, and that the other Bills that we will discuss did not have the chance of being given a Second Reading even though there was lengthy debate, I want to establish that, after less than six months, it would be almost absurd for the House to refuse the revival motion.

In that spirit, I hope that I can say confidently to the Chamber that the revival ought to go ahead. It is up to those who oppose it to put, with your permission, Mr. Deputy Speaker, their narrow and brief case as to why it should not.

Mr. Christopher Chope (Christchurch) (Con): Surely the hon. Gentleman needs to address the fact that, since the Bills came before the House, the Durham university report has been published. I am sure he will accept that it throws considerable doubt on many assertions in the promoters’ statements.

Tony Lloyd: For the record, the Durham university study does not show that. For example, it said that, even to a sceptical inquirer, it was clear that there were circumstances in which such legislation would be important to certain local areas. I speak from the point of view of Manchester, but I am sure that my colleagues from Leeds and Nottingham, who are alongside me, and those from Canterbury, Reading and Bournemouth, who are also present, share the same sentiments in respect of their own localities. That is an important point. In any case, the hon. Gentleman’s argument about detail and the study’s merits, while fascinating and worthy of debate, would be better conducted when those Bills that have received a Second Reading move into Committee. Indeed, with your agreement, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and if we can secure the revival motion for those Bills that have not yet had a Second Reading, we might debate the merits of the Durham study during their Second Readings, too.

21 Apr 2009 : Column 172

In that spirit, I hope the whole House will accept that a revival is desirable. It is only a matter of months since the Bills were debated, and it was clear at the time that, barring a small fringe, a majority of the House massively supported them. It would be contemptuous of the House not to accept the spirit and, indeed, the letter of the revival. In that context, I support the first and, by reference, second motions, on private business which appear on the Order Paper tonight.

7.4 pm

Mr. Christopher Chope (Christchurch) (Con): I welcome this debate because it should give the promoters of these Bills the opportunity to show cause as to why they should have leave to proceed with them in the current Session. The provisions of Standing Order No. 188B, which relates to the revival of Bills, make it clear that there is no right to have a Bill revived and that it is a matter of discretion for the House. It is therefore relevant to look at the history of the Manchester City Council Bill and the Bournemouth Borough Council Bill, which goes back to 22 January 2007, when they were originally introduced in the other place.

Since then, much has happened that renders the Bills, particularly in so far as they relate to pedlars, no longer appropriate. I have particular reason to be concerned about clause 5 of each Bill. A Select Committee in the other place scrutinised the Bournemouth Borough Council Bill in detail in 2007. One of its conclusions was that it had

The justification given by the promoters for continuing to proceed with the Bills was that nothing was happening through national legislation and that therefore local solutions were needed.

However, the caravan has moved on. As a result of pressure from both sides of the House, the Government agreed last summer to commission research from Durham university on the application and perception of local authority controls and pedlar legislation. I opposed the Second Readings of these two Bills—because, among other reasons, I regarded them as premature. I argued that we should await the publication of the Durham university report. For the same reason, I objected to the Bills’ being carried over into this Session. The Government provided no time to debate those carry-over motions before Prorogation last November. That, in turn, resulted in the promoters seeking the indulgence of the House to allow them to revive the Bills in this Session.

I accept the point made by the hon. Member for Manchester, Central (Tony Lloyd): the two Bills that we are considering both received a Second Reading in the House. However, they received it before the Durham university report had been published. I do not know whether you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, have had the chance to look at the report, but I should say that it extends to 97 pages and, in my submission, represents an important and timely contribution to the debate on these Bills.

The report was published by the Government earlier this year and because of its findings I had expected the hon. Member for Manchester, Central— [Interruption.] He is not paying attention to the debate at the moment. I had expected the hon. Gentleman to have a much more contrite mindset about the alleged justification for
21 Apr 2009 : Column 173
including clause 5 in his Bill. I shall expand on this in connection with the other Bills, but I should tell him that I have had discussions with two of the local authorities concerned in this private legislation—those discussions continued today—and I have to report their willingness to be much more receptive to the clear evidence of the Durham university study. It is a matter of regret to me that in his short introduction to tonight’s proceedings, he did not refer to that important report. Among other things, the report draws attention to the fact that there have been only five convictions in the whole of Manchester in the period 2002-06—hardly indicative, one might think, of a really serious issue that needs to be addressed by this House, and has so far been addressed at considerable length.

Philip Davies (Shipley) (Con): My hon. Friend makes a very powerful case on these matters. Does he agree that it is also important to reflect on what implications there would be for neighbouring local authority areas if the regulations were introduced?

Mr. Chope rose—

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Alan Haselhurst): Order. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will not be too distracted by his hon. Friend, because he understands, I am sure, the careful distinction that we have to make in this debate about what are strictly matters to do with the revival motion rather than with the actual merits of the Bill, where the House has already made a decision. It is a question of whether there would be an opportunity for further consideration of these matters were the revival motion to be approved by the House.

Mr. Chope: As ever, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I am grateful for your guidance.

Mr. Greg Knight (East Yorkshire) (Con): While of course I accept that what has been said from the Chair is correct—and is, indeed, always correct—is it not the case that when deciding whether one should give consent to carry over a Bill, the question whether there is still a need for the provision must be relevant to making that decision?

Mr. Chope: That is absolutely fundamental. What has happened in this case is a change of circumstances. Where there is fresh evidence, it behoves Members of this House to consider the new situation. The Durham university report makes it clear that if a local authority wishes to use private legislation to change the law in this respect, it needs to have strong evidence—the very last statement made in the report; I do not quote it exactly but summarise, I think fairly. If that is so, it is all the more incumbent on the promoters of the Bill to address the issues contained in that report, particularly the finding, which we were never able to get out of them in the debate in June last year, that in the period 2002-06 there were only five guilty verdicts in Greater Manchester and only three in Dorset—of course, those are the two areas affected by the Bills that we are discussing. The most fair-minded person might say, “If, in that period, only five incidents have resulted in convictions in one area and three in the other, does that really merit the
21 Apr 2009 : Column 174
introduction of a complete change in the law with new private legislation?” This is new evidence before the House that was not available to us when we considered the matter previously, and that needs to be taken into account.

Mr. Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con): This debate is about the revival of the Bill. Could not the Government have found time for a carry-over motion in the previous Session? The only argument from the hon. Member for Manchester, Central (Tony Lloyd) as to why this revival should take place was that revivals usually take place, which does not seem a very powerful case.

Mr. Chope: I am not sure that revivals normally take place; it is a question of judgment. I think that there is a precedent, which has been cited, to the effect that if a Bill has not received its Second Reading during the whole of one of our parliamentary Sessions, it would prima facie not be right for that Bill to be the subject of a carry-over motion or a revival motion. I accept that that constraint does not apply to these two Bills, although it may have some relevance to the subsequent debate.

It is quite clear from examining the private business Standing Orders that this is a matter of discretion for the House. You may recall, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that I objected to the carry-over motion that was put forward at the end of the last Session in respect of the Northern Bank Bill. I objected to the Bill and made it clear to its promoters that it was not going to be a straightforward tick-in-the-box procedure, and they decided to withdraw it. They recognised that it had not made any progress during the Session, and implicitly recognised that they needed to go back to the drawing board to see whether the Bill was still relevant.

Lorely Burt (Solihull) (LD): Members on both sides of the House have now said that this is a matter for the discretion of the House. Perhaps I am not as well versed as the hon. Gentleman in the wonderful and mysterious ways in which the House works, but if it is a matter for the discretion of the House, why do we not divide and let Members use their discretion to decide whether the Bills go forward?

Mr. Chope: I do not think that anybody is ruling out the possibility that there could be a vote on this issue, and then we could find out the view of the House. However, it is a pretty novel proposition that we should not have any debate in this House about the motions that are before us. I happen to think that it is a pity that there was so little debate on the previous business this afternoon that the sitting had to be suspended for more than two hours, at a time when the way in which we conduct ourselves is very much in the public eye, but that is another issue and I will not go down that route.

One of the major findings of the Durham university report was:

That is a direct quotation. In trying to find out the attitude of ordinary members of the public towards
21 Apr 2009 : Column 175
pedlars, the report’s producers commissioned research in two city centres. One was Edinburgh and the other was actually Manchester. There is a detailed set of findings in the Durham university report on the views of the public in Manchester, which are that there is no great problem with pedlars. The public think that pedlars add to the character of the neighbourhood and they enjoy using their services. Of course, we have made the point before that it is not compulsory to use their services, but the public enjoy their availability and recognise that they make a major contribution to Manchester’s entrepreneurial flair, which has national renown.

The evidence in the Government’s report is completely at odds with many of the assertions that the hon. Member for Manchester, Central made when he introduced the Bills on Second Reading. In my submission, the fact that the promoters’ assertions have been found wanting by the independent report is relevant in deciding tonight whether the Bills should be allowed to be revived in this Session, notwithstanding the fact that we are already halfway through it.

A further finding of the Durham report, which echoes the speeches that several of us made during the Second Reading debates, is that the problem is illegal street trading rather than the activities of genuine pedlars. That point was made a lot, but the hon. Member for Manchester, Central, my hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth, West (Sir John Butterfill), whom I am delighted to see in his place, and others disputed it hotly. However, we now have objective evidence from the Durham university study that shows that the evidence that local authorities submitted conflated illegal street trading with the activities of genuine pedlars. According to the report, the promoters of the Bills and their supporters showed confusion about the different identities of pedlars, illegal traders and rogues, just as the Durham university researchers found that local authorities generally had done.

Mr. Julian Brazier (Canterbury) (Con): What is the difference between an illegal street trader with a pedlar’s licence and a pedlar who trades illegally? The problem is pedlars trading illegally on the streets of Canterbury—it may not be a problem nationally. What distinction is my hon. Friend trying to draw? He mentioned “promoters of the Bills”, presumably referring to me. Will he explain the distinction?

Mr. Chope: I referred to the Bills’ promoters, but obviously my hon. Friend is promoting the Bill about Canterbury—a city council—which is the subject of the second debate tonight. Mr. Deputy Speaker has already made it clear that he does not believe that it is appropriate to go into the merits of the Bills. However, to give my hon. Friend a summary response, I commend the Durham university report to him. I do not know whether he has read it, but it is available on the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform website. I am delighted that my diligent hon. Friend the Member for Cotswold (Mr. Clifton-Brown) has not only read and digested it, but has a copy of it in the Chamber. If my hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury (Mr. Brazier) reads it in full, he will realise that there is a clear answer to the problem that he has raised, and that the findings are not in accord with the prejudices that he brings to the debate, doubtless based on his experiences in Canterbury.
21 Apr 2009 : Column 176
However, in the light of the objective report, I do not believe that those experiences warrant the proposed legislation.

Mr. Brazier: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving way. Will he now answer my question?

Mr. Chope: I will not answer my hon. Friend’s question directly, but simply refer him to the report because I do not want to consider the merits of the Bills. I want to consider carry-over, which is the subject of the motion. I appreciate that my hon. Friend may mischievously be trying to tempt me into a conflict with the Chair about the procedures, but I shall not be drawn into that. The merits of the Bills have been tackled: I commend the Durham university report to my hon. Friend.

However, I ask my hon. Friend and the other promoters what their response has been to the findings, which came as a relief to many pedlars, but were a surprise to several people who had been seduced into believing that there was a problem that primary legislation needed to address.

Philip Davies: I admit that I have not been on the Department’s website, so will my hon. Friend tell us whether, given that the Government commissioned the report, they have produced a response to it?

Mr. Chope: My hon. Friend raises a point that I was going to come to in a minute. In response to a written question from the hon. Member for Bolton, South-East (Dr. Iddon) in March, the Minister said:

Next Section Index Home Page