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That the promoters of the Canterbury City Council Bill, which was originally introduced in this House in Session 2007-08 on 22 January 2008, may have leave to proceed with the Bill in the current Session according to the provisions of Standing Order 188B (Revival of bills) .-(The Chairman of Ways and Means.)
That the promoters of the Nottingham City Council Bill, which was originally introduced in this House in Session 2007-08 on 22 January 2008, may have leave to proceed with the Bill in the current Session according to the provisions of Standing Order 188B (Revival of bills).
Mr Julian Brazier (Canterbury) (Con): I welcome the opportunity to address the revival motion briefly. I shall talk mainly about Canterbury, and I believe that the hon. Member for Nottingham South (Lilian Greenwood) will lead on the Nottingham Bill.
Both Bills were first deposited in the House in 2007, and they were first debated in the House on 21 January 2008. Since then, we have been through two cycles and one previous revival motion. We have spent many hours debating the merits of the Bills on the Floor of the House, and you, Mr Deputy Speaker, would certainly bring me to order if I were to go into that in any detail. I was, however, extremely pleased to hear my hon. Friend the Minister say not only that he sees a long-term future for a national framework in this area, but, crucially, that he sees scope for local variation, because different cities have different issues.
Canterbury's particular problem is that we are the third or fourth most visited city in the country but we have narrow mediaeval-width streets in parts of the centre, and we have a particular problem with large numbers of illegal street traders who operate alongside street traders who have paid £800 each for their licences, with the former frequently causing an obstruction to the public. The Bill's provisions will allow Canterbury city council to tackle the problem not of pedlars peddling but of pedlars acting illegally as street traders, and to do so in a way that is nowhere near as costly and burdensome in terms of officer time, prosecutions and so forth as the current arrangements. In fact, the current arrangements are effectively unenforceable. I was glad to hear the shadow Minister, the hon. Member for City of Durham (Roberta Blackman-Woods), suggest there was room for a national framework and, if I understood her correctly, for local variation. I was delighted, too, that my hon. Friend the Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mr Field) progressed with his Bill a few moments ago.
I do not want to say any more about the Canterbury Bill, except that I welcome the fact that a number of my hon. Friends made constructive speeches on the earlier Bill and I hope that the same spirit will be exhibited in respect of the Canterbury Bill and, indeed, the Nottingham Bill. I commend this second revival motion to the House.
Mr Christopher Chope (Christchurch) (Con): I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury (Mr Brazier) on introducing the revival motion, and on trying to seduce the House by not going into much detail about the background and history. If he were to do so, people would be reminded that of the four Bills dealing with pedlars introduced in this House in the last Parliament-there were also two others that started off in the other place-the Leeds and Reading Bills are now in the other place and their revival motions have not been objected to, and I think it would be sensible to put on the record why I did not object to their revival motions, whereas I did object to the revival motions in respect of the Canterbury and Nottingham Bills.
In a nutshell, the reason why I objected to one group of Bills and not the other was because in the last Parliament the promoters of the Leeds and Reading Bills and their respective council officers realised that the best way of making progress would be to have some constructive discussion about the contents of their Bills. That constructive discussion resulted in the equivalent of the clause 5 provisions on pedlars in the Canterbury and Nottingham Bills being significantly amended.
Mr Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con): There are a number of new Members in the House tonight who will not quite understand why councils have to come to individual Members in respect of these Bills, instead of their being like Government Bills. Will my hon. Friend expand a little on the procedure so Members can understand what is going on?
Mr Chope: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his intervention. The short answer is that there is no compulsion at all, but obviously, councils that are in close touch with their council tax payers will want to be able to ensure that the resources they spend are spent wisely. The view was taken in Leeds and in Reading that the provisions in the equivalent of clause 5 of the two Bills in question were not necessary for their areas, which is why they were prepared to have significant amendments. In particular, those amendments recognised that pedlars carrying their goods with them about their person should be able to continue to do so and to display and sell them in the city centres of Leeds and Reading, and to use modest additional trolleys and so on if appropriate. The issue in Leeds in particular was that the trolleys were causing the obstruction, which is why they were prepared to have their Bill amended.
Unfortunately, and despite my best efforts, the opportunity has not arisen to get any compromise out of Nottingham or Canterbury, save that my hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury did agree that when his Bill progressed, he would remove completely clause 11, which deals with touting. Although there was an opportunity to do that in the last Parliament, it was not seized on for one reason or another. I am not criticising my hon. Friend, however. I know he is keen for clause 11 to be removed as soon as his Bill goes before a Committee in the other place. I hope he will also ensure that clause 5, on pedlars, is significantly amended to bring it into line with the Reading Borough Council and Leeds City Council Bills.
Mr Brazier: On the first point, my hon. Friend has of course seen a copy of the letter from the Bill's promoters confirming that they will immediately strike out clause 11, as originally proposed by my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley (Philip Davies). On the second point, I am afraid I can give my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch (Mr Chope) no such assurance, because of the simple practical fact that, given the circumstances in which we in Canterbury find ourselves, making the same amendment would not leave us with workable legislation. At the end of the process, the situation would be as unworkable as it is at the moment.
Mr Chope: I am disappointed at my hon. Friend's response, but not surprised; a lot of time has been spent in this House trying to tease this matter out. If his Bill is revived, goes before a Select Committee in the other place and the petitions against it are heard, I hope that Members there hearing them will take into account the compromise that has been reached by other councils-including, of course, on slightly different areas, Bournemouth borough and Manchester city councils. Obviously, my hon. Friend-and I, for that matter-will have to accept whatever verdict is reached in the other place when it considers the petitions' merits.
One thing that emerged from what the Minister said in the previous short debate is that the Government will come forward in two or three months with their response to the consultation. I strongly urge Members of the other place to defer convening a Committee to look at the detail of these Bills and the petitions until after they have the Government's response, because the information may be very helpful in enabling them to consider the petitions in detail. So I hope that, for the sake of a month or two, the Bills will be put on hold and that priority will be given in the other place to the Bills that were the subject of the constructive compromise to which I referred. If it is not possible to hear petitions against all the Bills at once in the other place, I hope that the Reading and Leeds cases will be dealt with before the Canterbury and Nottingham ones. That is another reason why I thought it would be helpful to put them on a different time frame by ensuring that we had this debate and that the other ones would already have gone through the other House with the revival motions unopposed.
So that is the background. We, in this House, no longer have any control over what happens to the contents of the Canterbury City Council Bill and the Nottingham City Council Bill. For that reason, the pertinent question raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley (Philip Davies) in the earlier debate is more pertinent in respect of these two Bills-he asked whether the Bills are worth reviving. It remains open to this House to consider the contents of the City of Westminster Bill, but the Canterbury and Nottingham Bills are outwith our control. We have no opportunity to propose further amendments in the light of any suggestions that the Government may make, so we are at the mercy of the good sense of their lordships. To look on the bright side, I should mention that last week I met one of their lordships who is very interested in and concerned about these issues relating to pedlars. He spoke as warmly in support of the principle of pedlary as the Minister has just done, and I am sure that if that noble Lord is
involved in the Committee, as I hope he will make it his business to be, the pedlars will receive a good hearing in the other place.
Mr Bone: I just wish to get this point clear in my mind. This is now in the other place, so we may now have only one option tonight if we have concerns about these Bills, on which we have had hours of debate. So if we were to divide and the Bill were not allowed to be revived, would that, in effect, kill the Bill off?
Mr David Nuttall (Bury North) (Con): If this is going to be the end of the consideration of these Bills in this place, does that mean that more than 200 newly elected Members will have no say about them?
Mr Chope: My hon. Friend makes a very potent point, and the short answer to his question is yes. One of the extraordinary oddities is that our Standing Orders allow for legislation to be passed on from one Parliament to another, but only in very exceptional circumstances. That does not apply in the case of primary legislation and public Bills; it applies only in the case of private legislation in special circumstances where a strong and compelling case is being made. That is why it is important that when an attempt is made to revive one of these Bills, not just from one Session to another, but from one Parliament to the next, we should have the opportunity to consider it carefully. He makes a powerful point about whether it would not be better to introduce these Bills afresh now with a new House, as could happen, or to pull back and allow the Government to pronounce on the results of the consultation and then introduce whatever legislation might be appropriate. I look forward to hearing him develop his point later in the debate. He is speaking on behalf of many hon. Friends and Opposition Members, including my hon. Friend the Member for Devizes (Claire Perry), who is not in her place at the moment-oh, I see that she is now. I have already spoken about this subject, and one of her constituents is very exercised about what he sees as a persistent campaign over many years to try to vilify pedlars and pedlary. As my hon. Friend was keen to point out, at this time of all times, when an enormous number of people are without work but are eager to try to find work, tonight's short debate gives us the opportunity to promote the case for pedlary. If individuals who are keen to try their hand at entrepreneurial activity get a pedlar's certificate for £12.25, they can try selling goods to members of the general public during the course of the summer season.
Claire Perry (Devizes) (Con): I want to reiterate the point. I, like many new Members, perhaps had an impression of pedlars as people one would not want knocking on one's granny's front door. However, I was impressed by the work of the pedlars' organisation and by my constituent who has shown enormous entrepreneurial zeal in setting up a business, trading legitimately within the law, obeying all the licensing regulations in the cities that he visits and running a thriving enterprise. I want to echo my hon. Friend's point: at a time of high unemployment, I want to encourage such entrepreneurial zeal. The Bills drive out the spirit that we are looking for.
Ben Gummer (Ipswich) (Con): My hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough (Mr Bone) was entirely right to point out that many people now in this place were not cognisant of the previous debates. Without wanting my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch (Mr Chope) to reprise the content of the debates in the previous Parliament, I would be interested to know whether there had been any discussion of the competition and free market issues that arise. If we control pedlary in one town, what happens in another? My town, Ipswich, might be concerned if pedlary were controlled in one place as that might have an impact on market traders in another place where there was no such control. Will my hon. Friend elaborate on whether that was discussed in the previous Parliament and whether he thinks it should be discussed now?
Mr Chope: My hon. Friend makes an important point, which was discussed in the last Parliament in the context of some Bills. For example, in the context of the Bournemouth Borough Council Bill, I raised it as an issue because I represent the adjoining borough and I was concerned about the knock-on effect of banning pedlars in one town and what would happen in an adjoining town. It has been discussed, but I am bound to say that the promoters of the Bills denied that there was ever going to be a problem. In that respect, there was general denial.
On the point about entrepreneurial spirit, I can remember-with a bit of help from the Official Report for 14 January, when we last discussed the Canterbury City Council Bill-drawing the attention of my hon. Friend who was then on the Front Bench to the paper produced by Paul Braidford of St Chad's college at Durham university, which was all about selling in the street and pedlary as a entry route to entrepreneurship. That was an important paper and my hon. Friend the Member for Weston-super-Mare (John Penrose), who was then dealing with such matters from the Front Bench, said that he had seen the paper-because I had only just given it to him-and that he was going through it.
I hope that the Minister has looked at that paper, too. He has obviously mastered it, because he seems to have got the message that although pedlary might be based on ancient statute, it is still a unique activity in our country. It is a national means by which people who want to get out and try their hand at enterprise can do so.
Philip Davies (Shipley) (Con): Does my hon. Friend agree that, when considering whether the Bills should be revived, we should also take into account the fact that the report on street trading and pedlary that he mentioned was produced after the Bills were initially introduced? Would it not make sense for any legislation on this matter to take note of the report by Durham university, which these Bills do not, because they were introduced before its publication?
My hon. Friend makes a powerful point. So much has changed, in regard not just to the national economy but to the information available on the role of pedlars and pedlary, since the Bills were first introduced in late 2007. Two and a half years have passed, and we
must now consider whether we want them to be discussed for a further year or 18 months in the other place, or whether it would be better to have a fresh start. Obviously, some of us are asking whether the Bills are really worth reviving. That is the consideration that we must keep at the forefront of our minds.
Mr Bone: Does my hon. Friend agree that a new aspect has come to light, and that we ought to consider it before making a decision on whether to revive the Bills? It relates to whether these local Bills would interfere with the right to the free movement of labour granted by the European Union.
Mr Chope: My hon. Friend will recall that there was quite a lively debate in the previous Parliament about the interaction of the services directive and the provisions of the Bills. In the end, it was resolved by the then Minister saying that, as far as he was concerned, the legislation would not make any difference and that pedlars would still be able to carry on their pedlary irrespective of the interaction with the services directive. However, my hon. Friend is right to suggest that the matter might not be quite so clear cut.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills (Mr Edward Davey): There might well be an issue relating to the services directive that we need to take into account, and I will say a little more about that in my speech. European legislation is actually ahead of the game in this regard, in that it encourages this House to protect ancient rights and ensures that we legislate properly and thoughtfully.
Mr Chope: I am most grateful to the Minister for that intervention. I shall not refer back to exactly what was said in that previous debate, but what he says is a revelation. He is obviously in charge of what is happening in his Department in relation to European legislation, and I look forward to hearing more from him later about the interaction between the Bills and the services directive.
Philip Davies: I hope that my hon. Friend will give some thought as to whether he will take different approaches to the Bills relating to Canterbury and to Nottingham. I know that he was disappointed by an earlier intervention from my hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury (Mr Brazier), but I would suggest that Canterbury has at least made an effort to deal with some of the issues that have been raised, and he will remember that, in the previous Parliament, the former Member for Nottingham East was very unhelpful when it came to telling the House why the Bill was necessary. We now have a far more genial and constructive Member for that constituency, but my hon. Friend will remember that we were never given much of an idea of why the legislation was needed in the first place. Will he take a different approach to each of the two Bills?
If there were a batting order of unpopularity, Nottingham city council would be top of the league as the most unpopular council promoting a Bill on pedlary. I am not saying that for reasons of prejudice; I am
basing it on the lack of co-operation that was received in the previous Parliament. Not only was there a lack of co-operation, but a sullen silence. The former Member for Nottingham East did not wish to engage. He was so arrogant that he felt he did not need to address the arguments.
Chris Leslie (Nottingham East) (Lab/Co-op): As a proud Member for Nottingham East, I can assure the hon. Gentleman that I am very much in favour of the proposals. Moreover, I can assure him that Nottingham city council and the sponsors of the Bill, whether in this place or the other place, will be more than happy to listen, out of the spirit of consensus, to the carefully crafted points that he is making. We are all keen to make progress on this important issue and to tackle the serious difficulties that exist.
Mr Chope: That is wonderful-a revelation. It has taken two and a half years and a general election, but we now have constructive engagement from the city of Nottingham. I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that. I hope he will encourage his city council to engage with the other place in the same spirit, if we grant the Bills a revival tonight. His contribution to the debate-I do not know whether he intends to make a more extensive one later-may be an effective softening-up exercise among some of my colleagues, who may have been taking a rather hard line, encouraged by my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley.
Mr Bone: My hon. Friend is generous. Before I make up my mind whether to support the revival of either Bill, I need to hear about the Bills. Last time we heard nothing about Nottingham. My hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury (Mr Brazier) has been a powerful advocate and has made his point, but we will need to hear from Nottingham before deciding whether to divide the House.
Mr Chope: My hon. Friend makes a powerful point. My hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury went into enormous detail about the situation in Canterbury, so much so that one almost felt that one had been living in the environs of Canterbury cathedral, among the street traders, the pedlars, the tourists and others. We have never had any similar word picture from Nottingham. We had a very effective word picture from Members from Leeds, and my hon. Friend the Member for Reading East (Mr Wilson) did a similar job in relation to Reading. I hope we will have the benefit of a contribution this evening from the hon. Member for Nottingham East (Chris Leslie) so that he can put on the record-
Lilian Greenwood (Nottingham South) (Lab): I will be more than happy to provide a few words of explanation about why Nottingham city believes that the legislation is needed, if the hon. Gentleman will allow us time to do so.
Fortunately, we have until 11 pm, so there should be plenty of time for the hon. Lady to contribute to the debate. When there are so many Members eager to participate in the debate, there is no need for anyone to speak for longer than is appropriate. I have just set out my stall briefly, but the issues before the House are
whether the case has been made for reviving the Bills, taking into account the point about the number of new Members and the fact that new Members-
Mr Nuttall: There is another point, apart from the number of new Members. I understand that in the previous Parliament, some of the Bills reached the statute book. It would be interesting to know whether my hon. Friend has had any representations about the effect, if any, that those Bills that were enacted have had on pedlary in the towns and cities that were so affected.
Mr Chope: That is another good question. I am put on the spot by my hon. Friend. I am not sure whether the Bournemouth Borough Council Bill, which got through in the end, has made any difference at all on the ground in Bournemouth. During the general election I met pedlars from my constituency and from Bournemouth who were having a go at Bournemouth borough council for having wasted so much money on trying to prevent them from carrying on their activities in Bournemouth. If Bournemouth borough council succeeds in stopping lawful pedlars trading in the town, the council and the people of Bournemouth will be the losers, because pedlars bring colour and entrepreneurial activity to the area. Now that we do not have the Member for Bournemouth West from the previous Parliament, and as his successor is not in the Chamber this evening, I can say that the problems in Bournemouth were wholly exaggerated, and it is for the people of Bournemouth to assess whether the amount of money spent on the process was proportionate. I do not know the impact on the city of Manchester and have not done any research into it, but my hon. Friend the Member for Bury North (Mr Nuttall) might wish to initiate some. Indeed, a Select Committee visit to a major city might be helpful.
Ben Gummer: I am sorry to ask a question that might have been dealt with in detail in the previous Parliament, but for my benefit will my hon. Friend explain whether the Bills offend against any ancient charters of the towns and cities that we are discussing? In Nottingham, there are freedoms given to citizens of the city, on which the hon. Member for Nottingham East (Chris Leslie) will no doubt be able to enlighten us, and in Canterbury there are freedoms under the original monastic charter, which no doubt my hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury (Mr Brazier) will tell us about. I wonder whether the Bills might offend and go against those ancient liberties, which have been granted for so many hundreds of years, and whether the issue has been discussed.
Mr Chope: My hon. Friend has a charming way of making me feel totally inadequate, because, despite detailed scrutiny of the Bills over many hours during the previous Parliament, we never got around to discussing the points that he has raised. Perhaps that was because of a lack of time, or because we did not have the presence of mind to discuss them. However, I look forward to my hon. Friend's contribution to these ongoing debates, because prima facie his points are important and pertinent.
Lilian Greenwood (Nottingham South) (Lab): I support the Nottingham City Council Bill, primarily because illegal street trading is a considerable problem in our city centre. The Bill is designed not in any way to prevent legitimate pedlars, but to deal with the problem of illegal street trading.
To provide a flavour of the situation, I should say that in Nottingham city centre there are suitable places for legitimate street trading and legitimate street traders pay fees for the location of their stands. They pay between £1,775 and £7,657 per year, depending on the pitch size, the location and the range of goods. Rightly, those people want to ensure that they do not pay such fees only to find that people who are not legitimate street traders, and have not paid for licences, are taking over their pitches or significantly obstructing the streets and taking trade away from them and from the shops in our marvellous retail area.
Pedlars, by nature, are pedlars: they are meant to be on the move, not sited on stalls that are fixed or fixed for periods. Their phrase should be, "Stop me and buy one," and they should stop only when they sell their goods. In contrast with the amount that street traders pay, which is in the thousands, the cost of obtaining a pedlar's certificate is just £12.25. Many Government Members have talked about the importance of encouraging entrepreneurialism, and pedlary is an opportunity for people who want to make money or get back into work. We do not want to detract from that opportunity to become a pedlar and travel either door to door or around the streets; we want to give people the opportunity to stop and trade, but not in a fixed position.
Mr Nuttall: Has the hon. Lady done any sort of research among people who have street trading licences to see how many of them started off as pedlars and have now moved up the ladder? Pedlars are essentially the seed corn. People who started off as pedlars may well move on to become street traders, and perhaps their next step will be to have their own shop.
Lilian Greenwood: I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question. I can speak only anecdotally in saying that that is not necessarily the case judging by the types of people who are involved in peddling, who often come from outside, including from abroad, in order to sell their goods. This legislation is not intended to prevent people from legitimate peddling-it merely makes a clear distinction between that and illegal street trading.
This is a procedural motion, so I do not want to debate the merits of these Bills, which have already been examined in some detail. I have been looking at the history of the Nottingham City Council Bill since it was introduced in 2007-it obviously precedes my being in
this House-and it is clear that there has already been considerable debate on these matters. I understand that it has been through First, Second and Third Readings in this place and was awaiting its Second Reading in the Lords. As there has been considerable cross-party support for these Bills at each stage in the Commons, and as there has been considerable debate on these matters over the past two and a half years, there is a strong case for their being revived and allowed to complete the parliamentary process.
Mr Bone: I am grateful to the hon. Lady for her speech; she is attracting me towards her point of view. However, could she outline what level of support there is for the revival of this Bill and what organisations in the city support it?
Lilian Greenwood: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for asking that question. Unfortunately, I do not have the full details, but I know that it has been debated over many hours, and I am sure that that information was placed before the House at those times. I will be happy to go back and look at that, but I do not have it to hand at this moment.
There is a strong case for looking at this legislation again. It has clearly been subject to a lot of debate, and surely its revival should be allowed in order for it to complete the parliamentary process, with the opportunity for further debate and consideration in the other place.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills (Mr Edward Davey): I congratulate the hon. Member for Nottingham South (Lilian Greenwood) on her speech; several Members across the House will be reassured by what she said. I was born and bred in Nottingham, so I know its streets-the narrow ones and the broader ones. I do not know whether she and the promoters of the Bill are particularly worried about the lace market or the wonderful market square in Nottingham. Perhaps the hon. Member for Nottingham East (Chris Leslie) may wish to enlighten us later on.
I am grateful for this opportunity to respond to the debate. This is the second time that the House has debated reviving the Canterbury City Council Bill and the Nottingham City Council Bill, and I am grateful for the fact that hon. Members have made such lively contributions. During the previous debate, several Members took the opportunity to air their concerns about the national position on the regulation of street trading and pedlars, but they also set out their growing support for these Bills.
Of course, it is fair to say that there have been voices of concern, and hon. Members who have raised those concerns are focusing on at least some elements of the Bills, which they wish to ensure are not unfair to the genuine trader. I have a huge amount of sympathy with that. However, we have heard that there may nevertheless be a case for providing local authorities in general with additional powers for when they experience problems with traders in the streets and feel that they cannot properly deal with them under existing powers. I will of course reflect further on all the views expressed tonight, and all those that we have heard in the consultation, before we come to any final decisions on the need for changes to national legislation.
George Freeman (Mid Norfolk) (Con): I am conscious that this question really requires the presence of my hon. Friend the Member for South West Norfolk (Elizabeth Truss), but is the Minister aware of the pedlar of Swaffham, an ancient and renowned historical figure in the county of Norfolk? I am not aware of his being in my constituency and there are no tales of him-I assume it was a him-coming into Mid Norfolk.
My question, however, is about the regulation of pedlars and whether the Minister would like to mention any issues about the regulation of peddling in modern times. Are there particular issues that we ought to raise with local authorities?
Mr Davey: I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I was not aware of the pedlar of Swaffham, but I was aware of some people who believe that Robin Hood was a pedlar in one of his many guises. No doubt stories abound around the House of pedlars from olden days. Perhaps members of the public following the debate will be more familiar with Del Boy and "Only Fools and Horses", and perhaps they are the people whose needs we should be thinking about-the people today who are trying to earn an honest crust.
We have a balance to strike, as always in legislation. The current national legislation contains powers for local authorities to regulate street trading in their area, a point that is key to the debate. Let us be clear, though, that they are not required to do so; they have only an option to do so. That is the enabling approach that the House has taken to the matter in the past. Of course, there is also legislation dealing with the itinerant traders who can be certified as pedlars. Certification through their local police enables those traders to trade throughout the country.
In considering the legislation on street trading and pedlars that we have been bequeathed there are a number of matters to balance, and they have been aired widely in these debates. The first is the effect of unlawful trading on the livelihoods of licensed street traders and others entitled to trade in the streets, and arguably of static traders in the shops by the streets. We have to consider whether there is scope for the creation of further powers to penalise unlawful traders, which might aid local authorities and their partners in their enforcement role.
I wish to emphasise that we also have to consider the creation and dissemination of guidance on legitimate trading methods for certified pedlars, and clarification for local authorities as they go about their enforcement role under the current regime. I am concerned that some local authorities are perhaps not as clear as they might be about how they can deal with the issue. Perhaps rather than a lot of new legislation, we need to create and disseminate guidance. We will consider that in the consultation.
Claire Perry: On that point, can the hon. Gentleman assure the House that whatever the outcome of tonight's debate and the further debate in the other place, we will strive to put no new laws on the statute book in dealing with this or any other problem, but rather to work within the existing regime and legislation so that we can start to roll back some of the legislative burden of the state?
Mr Davey: I am sympathetic to what my hon. Friend has said, although I should say that hon. Members have called in these debates for a national framework-not to increase the role of the state or impose extra burdens, but to clarify things so that local authorities do not need to come to Parliament to get yet more legislation. That can save them costs. Such a framework would also ensure that there was clarification for pedlars and legal street traders. I assure my hon. Friend that if the consultation and other processes require legislation and we believe that it is necessary, we will not put the heavy hand of the state into the statute book.
Mr Brazier: Is not the problem that all markets are ultimately based on property laws? There is a finite number of pitches. If a council is selling the number of pitches that can be reasonably accommodated in a high street at what is effectively the market clearing price, and others come in who have not paid that price, that effectively undermines what the legitimate street traders have paid.
Mr Davey: My hon. Friend has made a valid point. I have sought in my remarks to make a distinction between street trading, which has a certain definition in legislation, and peddling. There has been confusion, in some areas at least, about how those two activities, which are regulated separately, interact. Through the consultation and what follows thereafter, I hope to give greater clarity on that issue. That will help.
The Pedlars Act 1871 could also be updated. The certification of pedlars, which is currently undertaken by the police service, could become a local authority function. The consultation looked at that issue and we are considering it in detail. In response to my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch (Mr Chope), I mentioned that we must look at how we ensure that any future authorisation of pedlars as providers of retail services complies with the rule set down in the services directive. In case my hon. Friends are concerned that that will import an extra burden from Europe, I should reassure them that doing so will help us ensure that British pedlars can provide their services anywhere in the European Union.
Christopher Pincher (Tamworth) (Con): My hon. Friend mentioned British pedlars, but I would like him to consider the question of European pedlars. Tamworth has a vibrant farmers market; people from Spain, Germany and France go there to sell their wares. The Bill is
"for the better control of street trading in the city of Nottingham."
"Between the idea
And the reality...
Falls the Shadow".
An idea can be great, but ensuring that it works properly in reality can be very difficult. If we pass this legislation, I want to make sure that it does not impinge on those who rightly come to Britain from Paris, Madrid and Munich-
Mr Davey: In a former life, you would have enjoyed such an intervention, Mr Speaker, as you were renowned for your erudition. I represent the royal and ancient borough of Kingston-upon-Thames. In a revived marketplace, we enjoy not just farmers markets but a German market; Italian and Spanish traders also come. One of the many advantages of such activity is that it can create a vibrancy in our marketplaces. It is important that local authorities consider my next point, which I wish to emphasise. The fact that additional traders come to sell their goods and services can help the traders already there. If those additional traders improve the vibrancy and vitality of a town centre, it becomes more attractive to shoppers and visitors. It is not at all a zero-sum game.
Mr Davey: We will give some detail on that when we publish our consultation. I do not wish to prejudge the final analysis, but I say simply that we know that we need carefully to consider the services directive, and I believe we can respond without undermining the centuries-long tradition of pedlary. I hope that that gives the hon. Gentleman the reassurance he needs.
Mr Bone: Before the Minister concludes his opening remarks, will he reflect on the fact that quite a number of Government and Opposition Members are yet again in the Chamber to consider such legislation, so it is clearly important?
Mr Davey: Many hon. Members have come to the Chamber tonight to listen to the hon. Gentleman and the hon. Member for Christchurch, who are now renowned experts on such matters. They will have many followers and admirers in the honourable profession of pedlary for their efforts.
I was explaining how the new Government wish to pull off the different balancing acts. One issue raised by the Bills that we will consider as we respond to the consultation is the balance between ensuring healthy competition, whether among pedlars, street traders, static traders or ordinary retailers, and safety in congested, narrow streets. I have not heard anyone deny that those are genuine issues, but those who have valiantly defended the rights of pedlars are concerned that too much can be made of safety. They are worried that safety leads to protection by the back door and that it can be used to hinder genuine competition. We need to reflect carefully on that. We want to be sensitive to the different natures of our ancient towns and our more modern towns. We shall seek to strike that delicate balance as we respond to the views that we receive, for which we are grateful.
Jacob Rees-Mogg (North East Somerset) (Con): Is not there always an argument for more regulation and laws, and for taking away the liberty of the British subject? Is it about time that we had a deregulating Government, which I hope the coalition is, who stop piling law upon law upon us? A great and noble Liberal, Lord Palmerston, said that we would run out of things to legislate about, and sadly, that day has not yet come.
Mr Davey: Let me reassure my hon. Friend that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills and I, and many right hon. and hon. Friends across the coalition, do not seek to burden the statute book with unnecessary legislation. As I said in response to a previous intervention, if we are careful in how we shape our response to the consultation and those genuine issues, we might see some deregulation and actually make it easier for local authorities to manage existing regulation. There are some difficult judgments to make and some of the issues are clearly not as well understood as they might be, so it is the Government's job to give a lead and greater clarification.
The consultation deals with many practical issues. For example, is it sensible that pedlar certificates are available from individual police stations and that it falls to the police to manage the system? If not, then perhaps as discussed in the consultation document the local authorities are better placed, as many of them already license static street traders. Bringing together the systems might assist in reducing some of the burden. Not all local authorities take up the option to regulate street trading, so is it fair on local authorities that have no desire to regulate street trading that we should ask them to certify pedlars, given that we would not want to limit the availability of pedlars certificates geographically? These are the issues with which we are struggling.
Chris Heaton-Harris (Daventry) (Con): I was taken aback by the point that the Minister made about the services directive. I was a Member of the European Parliament when that went through, and we had hours of debate on it. It is one of the bizarre European examples of the law of unforeseen consequences that it should have some bearing on what local authorities do when it comes to allowing pedlars to trade on their streets. When the European Scrutiny Committee looked at the services directive-it wrote a long report on it-did it consider that point? What other unforeseen consequences might flow from that directive?
Mr Davey: My hunch is that those who considered that legislation did not have the issue of pedlars at the forefront of their minds. There has been debate about whether the services directive applies in this area, and I have given my view that it probably does. However, in a way, given the itinerant nature of pedlary, it may be one of the more happy unforeseen consequences, because the entrepreneurial spirit that exists in British pedlary may make them one of our new exports to the continent. I do not see a particular problem. I suspect-although I have done no study-that in French, German, Spanish and Italian towns street trading and pedlary are more heavily regulated, and the services directive may give some extra freedoms where there were none before.
I assure the Minister that in the European Parliament there was no debate on whether pedlars fell within the scope of the services directive, although we discussed many issues and there were battles left, right and centre. The wonderful former Labour MEP for the East Midlands, Phillip Whitehead, who was an assiduous follower of such matters, always used to say that the problem with every European law was not what was at issue, but the unforeseen consequences that flowed from it. This is another prime example of the problem with well-meaning European legislation
that works in many areas, but may not do so in this one. In any case, it was not debated in the chamber of the European Parliament.
Mr Davey: My hon. Friend does not surprise me. His point however shows the need for careful scrutiny of the legislation and it is fair to say that the Bills we are considering have had a degree of scrutiny.
I hope that I have been able to illustrate that the Government are sensitive to the different perspectives of the stakeholders involved in these matters and their differing views on how to achieve a fair trading environment on our streets that will ensure that they are joyful places to shop and prosperous places for traders. I hope that I have been able to convey to the House that, while in many respects talk of pedlars and street traders might seem quaint, the issues under consideration are very serious, because they affect the livelihoods of small business people and speak to the type of society and trading environments that we want to promote and to see flourish.
Ben Gummer: In answer to an earlier intervention about the pedlar of Swaffham, my hon. Friend referred to Robin Hood, the most famous son of one of the cities that we are discussing. I wonder whether the over-zealous interpretation of the legislation by councils might take away the vibrancy that the Minister is seeking to promote. What protections in the Bill might the Government wish to bring to bear to ensure that councils do not apply it with such harshness that that vibrancy is denied, thereby preventing any future Robin Hoods from emerging?
Mr Davey: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that reference to my home town and for the point that he has made. I hope that I have done enough to reassure him and other right hon. and hon. Friends that we are mindful of the possibility of over-regulating-and thereby killing-what ought to be a legal, prosperous and vibrant livelihood. When we respond to the consultation, we will be extremely mindful of the need to ensure that we do not just maintain the status quo, but ideally encourage such entrepreneurialism. My Department is taking note of what people have said in response to the consultation.
Mr Nuttall: There has been a lot of debate about the merits of the Bills, but this evening we are considering whether they should be reintroduced in this Parliament. However, it seems to me that the most important point is the fact that more than 240 Members of the House have had no opportunity, other than in this short debate on a technicality, to consider this important legislation, which strikes at the very heart of free enterprise in this country. I wonder whether the Minister would like to comment on that.
The hon. Gentleman will know that the procedures for private Bills are unique and somewhat different from those for many other types of legislation. That is why the Government do not normally comment on either the content or the process of private Bills; equally, as the hon. Member for Christchurch (Mr Chope) said, it is why special provision is made for private Bills to continue from one Parliament to the next. I do not
know how long that has been the position in our Standing Orders, but it is relatively traditional-it might not be as long a tradition as pedlary, but nevertheless it is not something that we should discard with undue haste.
Roberta Blackman-Woods (City of Durham) (Lab): I do not wish to delay proceedings, so I will be very brief. The Canterbury and Nottingham Bills were subject to extensive scrutiny by the House. A number of Members of this House used the parliamentary process very effectively indeed to challenge the need for the Bills and to question their content and their likely impact on pedlary and street trading. Similarly, the promoters put a great deal of time and effort into setting out to the House the need for the Bills. The Bills passed all their Commons stages, and it is surely only fair to allow them to complete their parliamentary process, bearing in mind that there are opportunities to subject them to further examination during their remaining stages-a point excellently made by my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham South (Lilian Greenwood).
The Minister is correct that this has been a lively debate, but I hope that we will be able to agree to the revival motion this evening. While I am on my feet, I would like also to thank the Minister for the comments that he made about the Government responding to the BIS consultation and publishing the outcome. I hope-I would like to press him on this point-that that will be a precursor to proposals for a national framework in due course.
Philip Davies (Shipley) (Con): In the previous debate my hon. Friend the Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mr Field) said that I knew his constituency better than he knew mine. That certainly cannot be said for the hon. Member for Nottingham East (Chris Leslie), who knows my constituency far better than I know his. I certainly would not want to challenge his knowledge of Nottingham. As you know, Mr Speaker, he was a distinguished predecessor of mine-far more distinguished than I am-and I am sure that most of my constituents would rather he were still representing them than to have the misfortune of having me represent them. The people of Nottingham East are very fortunate to have him on their side in Parliament, and I am delighted to see him in his place this evening.
On the motion of whether we should revive these particular Bills, the main issue revolves around what has changed since they were first introduced. That is what lies behind this debate. It seems to me that three things have changed since these Bills were first proposed. The first, as we have heard in some detail, is the existence of the EU directive, which was never envisaged by the Bills' promoters. It seems bizarre to revive a Bill when it might make absolutely no difference to the cities and towns trying to promote it. That would be the result of it being completely overridden by EU legislation. As I say, that was not envisaged when the Bills were first proposed. It seems absolutely bizarre to me that local
authorities would want to continue spending taxpayers' money in their local areas pursuing something that might be a complete and utter waste of time.
The second thing that has changed since the Bills were first proposed is the excellent report on pedlary and street trading produced by Durham university. It was a very weighty document, which I certainly commend to any hon. Member in this House. It makes the point that pedlars encompass the entrepreneurial spirit that we want to promote. Those who might have thought when the Bills were first proposed that pedlars were a nuisance will, on reading this report, find that their original prejudice was completely and utterly wrong.
The fact that Durham university makes the point so well in its report brings me on to the third thing that has changed since the Bills were first proposed, as I think was touched on by my hon. Friends the Members for Christchurch (Mr Chope) and for Devizes (Claire Perry). They said that since these Bills were proposed, we have suffered a very deep recession, which was not envisaged at the time. Encouraging pedlars and encouraging people to go down the route of peddling is something that this House should encourage people to do in response to the fact that some people are finding it difficult to get a job.
George Freeman: While my hon. Friend is on the subject of things that have changed, does he agree that one of them is that we on these Benches are all in this together? As we pursue a programme to develop and promote the big society, does he agree that each day of the week we find ourselves promoting a different part of society? We have national weeks and days for various things, so should we consider having a national pedlary day to promote the benefits of pedlary, particularly to some of our youngsters and school leavers, as a way of getting into entrepreneurship and small business?
Philip Davies: My hon. Friend makes an excellent suggestion, as he often does. I certainly would not want to challenge him if he wanted to pursue introducing a national pedlars day. Along with my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch, I would be one of the first to support it. My hon. Friend is absolutely right that we are all in this together, which is something I tell my Whips on a regular basis.
I would like to make some distinction between the two Bills under consideration in respect of their merits for revival. I certainly share the misgivings of my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch about some elements of the Canterbury City Council Bill, as I think my hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury (Mr Brazier) knows. We must make it clear, however, that the latter has made a valiant effort on behalf of his constituents to highlight to people in this place why this Bill is so important to his area. Although we may not agree on every particular detail of the Bill, my hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury has gone out of his way to do that; he has engaged in the debate, probably more than any other Member sponsoring their particular Bill. I am particularly grateful that he respected the point I made about touting with respect to the original Bill and struck that out in the proposed Bill. I am extremely grateful for the way in which he has dealt so constructively with all these points. On that basis, I am much more minded to support the merits of the Canterbury City Council Bill.
Mr Brazier: May I say that I am indebted to my hon. Friend for pointing out that particular defect? When I explained to the promoters the wide fashion in which those powers could have been used by a successor council of a very different political complexion, they were very concerned indeed. I am delighted to have been able to help on that matter.
Philip Davies: I am grateful to my hon. Friend. His contribution emphasises how constructive he has been throughout the process. I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch is equally thankful. Personally, I would be more minded to allow the Canterbury City Council Bill to be revived.
However, such a constructive approach has been in stark contrast to that deployed in the previous Parliament by the then hon. Member for Nottingham East, who spent barely a minute explaining why the Nottingham City Council Bill was necessary. I am delighted to see the new blood representing Nottingham on the Opposition Benches, and I commend the hon. Member for Nottingham South (Lilian Greenwood) on setting out in far greater detail why the Bill is important for Nottingham. The new hon. Member for Nottingham East also made an intervention that was more revealing than the entire speech made by his predecessor.
Despite that, I am still not sure why the Bill is so necessary to Nottingham that it must be revived this evening. As my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch made clear earlier, the revival of Bills should be seen not as a right, but as an exception and a privilege. The duty is on the sponsors of such Bills to explain why they are so important before we should consider whether they deserve to be revived. I still have not heard that from Nottingham. Serious consideration should be given to taking a different approach in relation to the Bill for Canterbury from that for Nottingham. Should the House divide on the issue of Nottingham, I would be minded to vote against that Bill.
Chris Leslie: Clearly, I look forward to the private Bills for Shipley and Bradford in due course, and I will be more than happy to contribute on any issues that the hon. Gentleman wants to raise at that point. I assure him that the Nottingham City Council Bill is virtuous. On a revival motion, it would not be appropriate to go through all the details, but it is important to revive the Bill. There are already difficulties in Clumber street in Nottingham because of the tensions between peddling and the activity of legitimate street traders who are already there. The hon. Member for Christchurch has made important points, as has the hon. Member for Canterbury (Mr Brazier) and my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham South (Lilian Greenwood). I hope that the hon. Member for Shipley (Philip Davies) will be satisfied as to the merits of the Bill for Nottingham.
Philip Davies: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. I do not doubt that people in Nottingham view the issue as important, and nor do I doubt his sincerity. Were any private business to be debated for Bradford and Shipley, I am sure that he would decide on the basis of its merits. I hope that he was not suggesting that if I scratch his back, he will scratch mine at a later date. I am sure that I would be wrong in inferring that-he is a fair-minded man and would treat private business for any other place on its merits, irrespective of what happens this evening.
I merely express my frustration that we have not heard a real reason why the Bill is necessary for Nottingham. The Bill will be considered no further in this place, and I am concerned that we have not got to the bottom of why it is needed in the first place.
Lilian Greenwood: I would like to say a little more about why the Bill is necessary in Nottingham city-not all Members will be as familiar with it as the Minister is. Nottingham has a strong retail sector-it is one of the best cities in the country for shopping. One part of the city, Clumber street, between the Old Market square and a large shopping centre called the Victoria centre, is, I believe, one of the busiest pedestrianised shopping streets in the whole of Europe. On a Saturday when one is trying to get from one place to another it is incredibly crowded.
One of the problems is an activity which, although Members might want to call it peddling, is actually illegal street trading. People set up small stalls-they are not pedlars walking from place to place waiting for people to stop them and buy-
Mr Speaker: Order. I am learning quite a lot about the geography and high streets of south Nottingham, and that is a matter of considerable interest, but it had been my impression that the hon. Member for Shipley (Philip Davies) was still making his speech and was giving way to an intervention. I think we will now let him respond to it.
Philip Davies: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Obviously I accept your ruling, but the hon. Member for Nottingham South was being extremely helpful in at least setting out the case for why we need the legislation, and I think we are all grateful for that. It is just a shame that this is the first occasion on which we have heard any of these matters discussed.
I do not wish to cover ground that was covered during the debate on the City of Westminster Bill, but I must return to one point. The Minister made a second very helpful speech earlier, and I commend his comments and the approach that he has taken. He is still indicating that the Government wish to introduce a national framework by some means, and I still do not see any point in reviving private business for particular towns and cities when it seems that the Government, in good faith, are going to make some provision in that regard anyway.
I ask the sponsors of the Bills whether what the Minister has said today-which was much more proactive than anything that we heard from the last Government-has made them change their minds. I entirely understand why, during the last Parliament, people were keen for these private Bills to proceed, because the Government kept saying that they were going to do something and then never did. I have much more confidence in this Minister. I think it far more likely that he will proceed with something much more sensible in a much more timely way, and I think that in the light of what he has said, we should question whether we need to revive the Bills.
I do not wish to detain the House, which has debated these matters for some time, but the issues are important. Again, I commend my hon. Friend the Member for
Christchurch, who has made a fantastic contribution. Without him, we should not have seen any concessions. I shall leave this with him. I shall be happy to follow his lead, and I shall give some thought to whether these Bills should be treated differently. However, I hope that when they go to the other place-if that happens-they will receive the scrutiny that they deserve, and that we will celebrate pedlars who are trying to make something of their lives rather than attempting to do them down.
Vernon Coaker (Gedling) (Lab): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I wonder whether any Education Minister has approached you following our discussion on the statement made earlier today about the future of the Building Schools for the Future programme. You were in the Chair, Mr. Speaker, and you may recall that there was considerable discussion about the propriety of what the former Secretary of State for Education had done with respect to capital expenditure, about whether the previous Government's proposals had been affordable and, indeed, about whether the former Secretary of State had acted in a way that was consistent with Treasury rules.
If you remember, Mr. Speaker, the former Secretary of State asked the Secretary of State if we could have a letter from the accounting officer-in other words, the permanent secretary to the Department for Education-stating whether the former Secretary of State had acted appropriately with respect to capital expenditure, and whether he had received a ministerial direction. As you know, Mr. Speaker, he would have had to receive such a direction had the former Secretary of State acted in a way that was inappropriate with respect to that money.
We now have that letter, which I shared with you, Mr. Speaker. I will not read all of it, but it describes the ways in which end-of-year flexibility and decisions on capital expenditure were handled, all of them appropriately. The last paragraph states,
"If any actions on this, or any matter, were in breach of the requirements of propriety or regularity, I would have sought a ministerial direction. I can confirm that I made no such requests during your time as Secretary of State."
Mr Speaker: The short answer to the hon. Member for Gedling (Vernon Coaker) is that I have had no request from a Minister to make a statement on the matter. The second point I would make is that he has clarified the position in terms of his understanding and in defence of the former Secretary of State, and as he will know as he is an experienced Member who has been in the House for 13 years, his views are now clearly on the record.
Mr Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con): I am glad to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley (Philip Davies), but after that rather long point of order I wonder whether we should reprise what we have covered so far, perhaps for half an hour or so, to get us back into the swing of our debate about pedlars. Time is short, however, and we want to reach a conclusion tonight.
I want to put on the record that if it were not for my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch (Mr Chope), we would not be here tonight. His forceful and persistent standing up for the right of a minority of people in this country is to be welcomed.
The decision the House has to make tonight is whether to support the revival of these Bills. In principle, I am against reviving Bills. I start from that basis, because if a Bill's promoters have not been able to get it through since 2007, perhaps there is something wrong with it.
That is where I start from, therefore, but there are other issues. First, I believe we should listen to the Members who represent the constituencies where the Bills are being promoted. I commend in particular my hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury (Mr Brazier) because he has attended every debate I have been at on the pedlar issue, and he has always represented his constituents with great zeal. I appreciate that, and I note that he has made it clear to the House that the promoters have listened and will remove clause 11 from the Canterbury Bill. Although I have some concerns about clause 5, at least there has been some movement, and I understand that the Bill still has to be discussed in the other place. I am therefore inclined to say we should support the Canterbury Bill because of the local input and that movement. That is the way things should happen, and I am grateful to my hon. Friend for what he has done.
I cannot, however, say the same about the Nottingham Bill. The two new Members, the hon. Members for Nottingham South (Lilian Greenwood) and for Nottingham East (Chris Leslie), have done their best tonight, but in the previous Parliament I sat through many hours of silence from Nottingham Members, and I am not entirely convinced that I know enough to say that the people of Nottingham want this Bill. I intervened on the hon. Member for Nottingham South when she was making her speech to ask what the feeling is in the city. Is there great demand for this in Nottingham? Which organisations want it? Does the council want it? Are people marching in the street demanding that pedlars be removed? I was also a little concerned that it sounded slightly as if this was a money-making exercise for the council, with huge fees for sites.
There is another issue that worries me about the revival of these Bills. My hon. Friend the Minister has made it clear that there may well be a national framework in a number of months, and it seems that if we stop the Nottingham Bill no more money will be spent by that council-no more taxpayers' money will be wasted. Also, if the European Union, that wonderful organisation for which I only have praise on so many occasions, is actually ahead of the game, then that is good. We have to weigh these issues up in our minds in deciding on these matters.
Chris Leslie: I am sure that the hon. Gentleman cannot be distinguishing between the Nottingham and Canterbury Bills on the basis of the different political complexion of the Members concerned. I am sure that that would be entirely wrong and inappropriate. However, I assure him that, as elucidated in previous debates, there are strong reasons in favour of the Nottingham Bill, so I refer the hon. Gentleman to the previous debates.
Mr Bone: I am very grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that helpful intervention. Had he been a Member of this House for a little longer, he would know that I am just as critical of my own side on many occasions.
Mr Chope: Does my hon. Friend think that Nottingham city council has indicated tonight through its Members of Parliament a willingness in any way to compromise on the Bill's content? If there is such a willingness, it might cause people not to want to vote against its revival.
Mr Bone: I am very grateful for my hon. Friend's intervention. The interventions from the Nottingham Members have been quite helpful in determining the House's view, and if a Member from that area wanted to leap to their feet to intervene-
Lilian Greenwood: I am sure that those in Nottingham would be very happy to have further discussion and to approach the issue in a spirit of compromise. This is an important Bill for our city, and I would be happy to talk at length another time about the many reasons why we need it.
Philip Davies: I hope my hon. Friend agrees that we might allow Nottingham the same benefit as that given to Canterbury, in the light of the hon. Lady's extremely helpful intervention, of the constructive nature of the comments of both Nottingham Members, and of the willingness to negotiate and discuss this issue in more detail.
Mr Bone: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his intervention; I was actually coming round to that view myself. The interventions have been most helpful, and it does show that argument in this House can win the day.
I have to commend the Liberal Democrat Minister; I think he is almost now a Tory Minister, given the way he is performing. He is doing exceptionally well. I point out, just so the House knows, that it is a credit to this coalition Government that there is no whipping on this side of the House. We are entirely free to do what we wish-on almost everything, but certainly on tonight's business. That is in contrast with what happened in the last Parliament, on occasion, when private business was discussed here, when I felt that the heavy hand of the Government Whips was behind some of the things that happened.
We have had a most interesting and entertaining debate; it has been a remarkable evening. To hear my hon. Friends the Members for Shipley (Philip Davies) and for Wellingborough (Mr Bone) praising the EU is something I never thought I would hear in my whole political career. We have heard my
hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch (Mr Chope) being brief, which is tremendous, and we have heard the Minister set out clearly that this is an area in which there is a case for a national framework and for local variation. I do not think it an exaggeration to say that Opposition Front Benchers broadly took the same position.
The practical fact is that there is a split on two very simple issues: first, on whether this is a question of unfairly regulating a struggling group of business men, or of protecting property-the finite number of slots on overcrowded high streets-for which another group has actually paid; and secondly, on enforcement.
We have taken some 14 hours in total on these two Bills. I am most grateful to all my hon. Friends who have spoken tonight for indicating that they intend to let the Canterbury Bill go forward-and, I hope, the Nottingham Bill, which has the same merits. I am grateful to the House for an interesting exchange, and I am profoundly relieved that these Bills will now go to another place and hopefully not re-emerge here-with the solitary exception of the one Lords amendment on which I made a commitment to my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley.
That the promoters of the Canterbury City Council Bill, which was originally introduced in this House in Session 2007-08 on 22 January 2008, may have leave to proceed with the Bill in the current Session according to the provisions of Standing Order 188B (Revival of bills) .
That the promoters of the Nottingham City Council Bill, which was originally introduced in this House in Session 2007-08 on 22 January 2008, may have leave to proceed with the Bill in the current Session according to the provisions of Standing Order 188B (Revival of bills). - (The Chairman of Ways and Means.)
Alex Cunningham (Stockton North) (Lab): Thank you, Mr Speaker, for allowing me to speak on this subject this evening in my first Adjournment debate. I am only sorry that it must focus on such a seriously worrying subject. I had hoped to have more time for this debate, but my learning about this place has taken a huge leap forward. I have learned tonight that Conservative Members appear to have more interest and certainly more expertise in the activities of pedlars and Robin Hood than they do in the health of the nation.
I called for this debate in the light of the statement made to the House by the Chief Secretary to the Treasury on 17 June that the new hospital to replace the North Tees and Hartlepool university hospitals will no longer receive Treasury funding. As a former non-executive director of the North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust, I was closely involved in the planning of future health care for the area over some considerable time. This was not a project rushed through to beat a deadline, but one that was carefully planned over years. I will address that in more detail this evening.
This hospital would have served local people from a number of constituencies, not just my own but others including Stockton South, Hartlepool, Easington and Sedgefield, and I am pleased to see colleagues from those areas in the Chamber tonight. I know from speaking to other Members, at least those on this side of the House, that there is huge disappointment, but little surprise, that the coalition has already begun slashing spending on front-line services. It is already abundantly clear that this programme of deep cuts will have a serious impact on people in Teesside and the north-east.
I wish, first, to set out the background to the decision to build a new state-of-the-art hospital to serve our communities, which was planned to open in 2015. Although the Chief Secretary was correct in saying that final approval for this £464 million project was granted in March, the project has been on the drawing board for more than five years. It dates back to a 2005 report by eminent clinician Professor Sir Ara Darzi on acute services in Hartlepool and Teesside. In 2006, an independent reconfiguration panel report stated that
"a modern hospital to replace the existing out of date hospital buildings should be provided on a new site in a well situated location accessible to the people of Hartlepool, Stockton-on-Tees, Easington and Sedgefield."
I had cause to visit one such modern hospital this weekend, and I wish to place on record my personal thanks-I hope that the Minister will join me in this-to the plastic surgeons and the staff of ward 35 at James Cook university hospital for their care and expertise, and for saving my finger.
Let us be clear that the two hospitals that currently serve our communities operate to the best of their abilities and have excellent staff. However, the hospitals are showing their age and must be replaced if we are to maintain and improve health services in our area. I want my area to have the same modern facilities that I benefited from over the past couple of days.
Mr Iain Wright (Hartlepool) (Lab): I congratulate my hon. Friend on securing this debate, which is very important to a large number of hon. Members. Will he confirm that the whole driver for this reconfiguration has been a clinically led approach-led by eminent doctors and surgeons-and that the decision made by the Chief Secretary takes us back to square one, with no plan B?
Alex Cunningham: I certainly agree with that. I know that it is the view of clinicians and other health professionals that it will be impossible to sustain two hospitals with the full range of services and facilities needed to serve our communities. Indeed, patients in our areas have to access different services at the two different sites, which are 14 miles apart.
The new hospital was to be a vital element of wider health care reform in our region and would have delivered clinically sustainable hospital services in the single hospital while delivering a much wider range of services in the community much closer to people's homes, including three new integrated care centres in Billingham, Hartlepool and Stockton. There is no doubt that there has been some controversy about the plan to build one "super hospital" to replace the two outdated ones, as well as unease among some in the community about the location chosen. I firmly believe, however, that the plan would have provided improved services for local people and that it is ultimately the right plan for the NHS trust to pursue.
James Wharton (Stockton South) (Con): I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way. I also note with interest that he is perhaps the first hon. Member in the history of this House to brandish his middle finger at Mr Speaker and to receive no reprimand for it.
The hon. Gentleman has acknowledged that the hospital's location between two communities is somewhat controversial locally. The representations that I have received from my constituents have, almost without exception, praised the Government's decision and criticised the proposals for the hospital at Wynyard. Let me read him one short example of an e-mail that I received only the other day:
"The decision is a sensible one. Leaving aside the reckless economic folly of committing funding the country does not possess and blatant politicking by Labour in promising such funding in marginal constituencies the truth is that this hospital was vehemently opposed by a significant number of local people on grounds that it was geographically in the 'wrong' place for both communities, had no public transport links and would seriously affect A19 and A689 traffic flows".
Alex Cunningham: These issues were extensively explored with the public. There was detailed and extensive formal and informal consultation involving public meetings, leaflet drops to households and a radio campaign. The Government had promised additional funding to tackle some of the transport issues and communities across the place were in favour of the hospital.
Grahame M. Morris (Easington) (Lab):
I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Stockton South- [ Interruption. ] I am sorry-we will get that one next
time. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Stockton North (Alex Cunningham) on securing this debate. People in my constituency and the five others that were to have been served by this new hospital need to know why this project was cancelled when three other schemes elsewhere in the country were approved. The Minister is being coy in his written answers to questions, but we really need answers. The need remains. Issues of health inequality need to be addressed. I want to place it on record that south Easington, which would be served by this new hospital, is one of the most deprived communities in the United Kingdom, as identified by the indices of multiple deprivation. Health inequalities still play a significant role in determining life expectancy and quality of life. Health inequalities remain a big issue: they are inequalities not just in terms of outcomes but in access to health care resources-
Mr Speaker: Order. May I say very gently to new Members, whose passion for this subject I respect, that although the hon. Member for Stockton North (Alex Cunningham) is showing great forbearance there is a difference between a speech and a short intervention?
In Stockton-on-Tees, just over a quarter of residents live in some of the most deprived areas of England. Early deaths from heart disease and stroke and from cancer are higher than the England average. Inequalities are starkly demonstrated by the fact that a man living in one of the least deprived areas of Stockton can expect to live just over 10 years longer than a man living in one of the most deprived areas.
Since 1997, however, early death rates from heart disease and stroke have fallen markedly and early death rates from cancer have also fallen, albeit more slowly. We have also seen a narrowing in the gap between our area and the rest of the country. Things are improving for my constituents, and my concern is that the coalition's decision will see a halt to and possibly even a reversal in these positive outcomes. The NHS is too important to be turned into a party political football, however. Those listening to this debate back in the north-east this evening do not want to hear us point scoring. I have heard you say yourself, Mr Speaker, that that is the sort of behaviour that turns people off politics and politicians.
I wholeheartedly welcome the commitment shown by the Prime Minister and his party to the NHS, and I would like to draw the attention of hon. Members to a statement that he made during the election campaign. He said:
"The test of a good society is you look after the elderly, the frail, the vulnerable, the poorest in our society. And that test is even more important in difficult times, when difficult decisions have to be taken, than it is in better times."
I could not agree more with the Prime Minister's statement, but I fear that his words are not being followed by his actions. As we all know, it is all too easy to make promises in politics. The real test is whether we stand by our word once the votes have been counted.
During the election campaign, the Conservative party claimed that it was now the party of the NHS. I doubt very much that people who went to the ballot box on 6 May and put a cross next to the name of their
Conservative candidate thought that the right hon. Member for Witney (Mr Cameron) would be authorising the cancellation of a long-awaited new hospital just weeks later. We all acknowledge that cuts have to be made to reduce the deficit, but this is a much needed front-line service, and I will not stand by and let this project disappear without a fight.
Of course, 6 May gave us not a Conservative Government but a Liberal Democrat and Conservative coalition, so I urge Members to refer to the document "The Coalition: our programme for government", which states:
"We are committed to the continuous improvement of the quality of services to patients."
Again, I warmly welcome that statement, but I fear that when push comes to shove, it will mean very little to my constituents and those in neighbouring areas. This coalition seems intent on cutting spending without fully realising the human cost of the cuts. This decision is a backward step for the communities that would have been served by the new hospital, and it does not tally with the Prime Minister's claim that the Conservatives are now the party of the NHS or with the coalition's document.
Since the announcement on 17 June, I and other Labour Members have met the chair and chief executive of North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust. They are understandably extremely disappointed that, after the many years of hard work creating and fine-tuning the plans for the future of health services in our region, those plans have been sent back to the drawing board. It is not only the foundation trust that is unhappy with the decision: on Saturday 26 June, other Members and I attended a rally in Hartlepool to highlight local opposition to the decision, which grows by the day.
I have also received encouraging support for early-day motion 273, which asks for a review of the coalition's decision. To date, it has received 42 signatures-regrettably, only from Members on this side of the House. I hope that it will not only be Labour Members arguing this evening that their constituents should not lose out after waiting so long for an agreement on the future of health care in our area.
One of the key questions that I hope the Minister will answer this evening is why this particular project has been scrapped. The Chief Secretary to the Treasury said in his statement to the House that his decision to cut £2 billion of public spending, including on our new hospital, was guided by a principle of fairness. At the moment, we feel as though we have been subject to an arbitrary decision. I have yet to hear any persuasive argument as to why people in the north-east have had their new hospital withdrawn while schemes such as the Royal Liverpool hospital, the Pennine acute hospital and the Epsom and St Helier hospital are going ahead. What advice did the Minister receive from his Department that led to the conclusion that the North Tees and Hartlepool project did not represent value for money, compared with the other projects?
"assessed against a number of other major build projects that were at the same stage of development; those schemes are more urgent."-[ Official Report, 17 June 2010; Vol. 511, c. 1051.]
I would appreciate a little more clarity from the Minister about what was meant by that statement, and I request that he publish the criteria used and the detailed comparisons carried out against the project. The North Tees and Hartlepool project was, according to my right hon. Friend the Member for Leigh (Andy Burnham), the top priority for the NHS. We would like to know why it has slipped down and out of the queue.
In answer to my question on 29 June about the strategy developed by the foundation trust, the Secretary of State for Health did not rule out other ways of making our new hospital happen. I noted that he said it needed to fit his new criteria and that the trust should not ask the Department of Health to meet the whole capital cost of whatever it proposes. Does that mean that some funding could be made available and the balance raised by the trust using its existing powers?
I urge the coalition to work with Members on the Opposition Benches as well as with the foundation trust to look at new and innovative ways of funding the project and ensuring that local people are not left behind. Will the Minister confirm that more time invested in developing a new solution to fund the new hospital will not be a waste of time, and that he and his coalition partners have not set themselves against any new hospital in our part of the country?
If we do not find a solution and build a new hospital, what will happen? The chief executive of the North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust has publicly acknowledged that there is a chance that Hartlepool hospital could close, whether or not a new hospital goes ahead. I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Hartlepool (Mr Wright)is extremely anxious about that. We could end up with one hospital. I want it to be a new one.
There is much more at stake than just health care and a new hospital. The location for the hospital was Wynyard park, a 700 acre high-end mixed-use development accommodating residential and business properties.
Phil Wilson (Sedgefield) (Lab): I congratulate my hon. Friend on achieving the Adjournment debate. I shall be brief. I expect the point that he intends to make is about added value arising from the project. The business park would have attracted high-value private sector jobs in medical research in an area that needs them. They would have reached the site as a result of the £10 million that would have been introduced into the transport system.
Alex Cunningham: Exactly. The new hospital would have kick-started development in the area, creating many thousands of jobs. The owners of Wynyard park believe that the new hospital would have been a considerable incentive for investment by others to develop the type of industries mentioned by my hon. Friend. Most important of all, the coalition's decision to scrap the new hospital will have a major detrimental effect on continuing the work to close the gap between the unhealthiest and healthiest in our communities.
I am therefore grateful to the Minister, who has agreed to a request from my hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Grahame M. Morris) for a meeting to discuss how we can keep our hospital project alive. I look forward to the meeting to discuss the way forward and will listen intently to his response this evening, in
the hope that the door to funding is not already firmly closed. At present there are many more questions than answers about the future of acute services in our region. What is the future of health care, of our strategy for a new hospital, and of the organisations, such as the foundation trust, that plan care? There is so much doubt.
Roberta Blackman-Woods (City of Durham) (Lab): Does my hon. Friend agree that that meeting is an important opportunity for the coalition Government to demonstrate some commitment to reducing health inequalities in the north-east, tackling deprivation and supporting a new hospital?
Alex Cunningham: Most certainly. The project is also about jobs and tackling deprivation. Tremendous progress has been made on health inequalities in our area, and I want to see that work continue. The good people of Stockton, Hartlepool and the surrounding areas deserve better than this, and I can assure the Minister that my hon. Friends and I will fight passionately to ensure that they are not left behind.
The Minister of State, Department of Health (Mr Simon Burns): I begin by congratulating the hon. Member for Stockton North (Alex Cunningham) on securing the debate on the future of the North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust and its hospitals. I join him, with the greatest pleasure, in congratulating clinicians, GPs, ancillary workers and all those who work so hard on Teesside, in the north-east and in the rest of the country to provide a first-class quality health care service for the people of this nation.
The decision to cancel the North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust proposal has to be seen within the context of the wider economic climate. This year's budget deficit of £155 billion-inherited, I gently remind Opposition Members, from the previous Government-illustrates the scale of the economic challenge facing this Government. As part of this Government's determination to face that challenge head on, the Treasury and other Departments have reviewed every significant spending decision made between 1 January and the general election on 6 May. As the proposed new hospital scheme at the foundation trust received the previous Government's approval only in March, the North Tees decision formed part of that review.
In these tough economic times, it is essential that all major hospital building schemes be affordable. On 17 June, as the hon. Member for Stockton North rightly said, my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary to the Treasury announced to this House the decisions of the Government's review of spending commitments. The review cancelled 12 projects throughout Government and considered four major NHS capital investment schemes with a total capital value of more than £1.2 billion.
The size and funding of the schemes were considered in relation to the nature of the organisations concerned. The aim of granting foundation trust status is to give such bodies greater financial independence. As well as being able to keep any internally generated resources, foundation trusts have greater freedom to borrow from either the public or the private sectors, and, by requiring an allocation of public dividend capital from the
Department of Health of more than £400 million, the proposals were not consistent with that financial independence.
Treasury and Department of Health Ministers, myself included, decided that, overall, these factors-affordability within the changed economic climate and the foundation trust status-weighed more against the scheme for North Tees and Hartlepool than against the other three schemes for the Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University Hospitals NHS Trust, Epsom and St Helier University Hospitals NHS Trust and the Royal National Orthopaedic hospital. For those reasons, the Government withdrew their support for the scheme.
If I may, I shall just answer one question that was mentioned in an intervention on the hon. Member for Stockton North. The question was, "Why North Tees and Hartlepool and not the three other schemes?" After looking into the situation, we found that, for example, the Royal Liverpool university hospital building is not compliant with fire safety regulations, and that its mechanical and engineering services are more than 30 years old and at increasing risk of failure. Some 94% of St Helier hospital's buildings are more than 50 years old, and the 2007-08 data show that the total maintenance backlog for the Royal National Orthopaedic hospital is £53.8 million; for Epsom and St Helier it is £23.8 million; for the Royal Liverpool it is £16.3 million; and for North Tees and Hartlepool it is £3.5 million.
Grahame M. Morris: On the point about affordability and the Minister's suggestion that the foundation trust look towards PFI, how would such a proposal be more affordable when the evidence suggests that PFIs are 14 to 20% more expensive to deliver? The need certainly exists, and we need to deliver quality health care, but affordability suggests that the public purse is the best way to do it.
Mr Burns: I am very grateful to the hon. Gentleman. Earlier today, his right hon. Friend the Member for Leigh (Andy Burnham) made the point that it would be cheaper to have a new hospital than to maintain the existing two ageing hospitals. I do not believe that that is accurate. The business case actually showed that the whole-life costs of continuing to operate and provide services from the two hospitals were very similar, but slightly lower than the whole-life of costs of operating and providing services from the proposed new facility. Over the appraisal period of 35 years, the total net present cost-that is, the whole-life cost-of building, maintaining and operating the new facility was £5.033 billion, but the cost of repairing defects, maintaining, operating and providing services from the two existing buildings was £5.024 billion.
However, the North East strategic health authority, Hartlepool primary care trust and Stockton-on-Tees primary care trust have pledged to continue working closely with North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation
Trust to plan and develop the best possible health services for the local population of Hartlepool and North Tees. I understand that the chief executive of North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust is currently reappraising the available options. As I have said, NHS foundation trusts have greater financial independence, which includes consideration of the private finance initiative. I am advised that the chief executive of the trust has already said that the PFI is one of the options that he is looking at, but any new proposals must be realistic, affordable and provide value for money. I cannot in any way give any guarantees that such a scheme would or would not be approved. Like all schemes, any proposals that might come forward would have to be considered on its merits and in the light of the economic climate at that time.
The local health economy is also ensuring that the wider momentum project, which involves bringing health care services closer to communities, will continue. I am delighted that on 10 May this year, the new integrated care centre known as One Life Hartlepool, located in Hartlepool town centre, opened its doors to patients. Hartlepool primary care trust has transferred a range of community services into this new £20 million facility. The PCT is working with North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust to agree a programme for moving a range of out-patient services into the building. In addition, work is continuing on the outline business cases for integrated care centres in Billingham and Stockton.
Any new proposals to develop local NHS services must be affordable, but they must also now take into account the further criteria on service reconfiguration recently set out by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. I believe that it is vital that any proposals focus on improving patient outcomes, are based on sound clinical evidence, increase choice for patients, and have the backing of GP commissioners. I, like the hon. Gentleman, his hon. Friends and everyone else in this country, want a high-quality NHS that is accountable to patients and led and controlled locally. This Government have been elected on a platform of real-terms increases in the NHS budget for every year of this five-year Parliament. But hand in hand with that, we must have an NHS that puts patients at the centre of high-quality care and delivers care that is efficient, productive and, importantly, affordable. This must be the case nationally; it must also be the case locally, including for the people of Stockton North and Teesside.