Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Northern Ireland Assembly (Elections and Periods of Suspension) Bill

6.30 p.m.

Standing Order 47 having been dispensed with, Report received.

Clause 1 [Election of next Assembly]:

Lord Williams of Mostyn moved Amendment No. 1:

"(3) Section 96 is amended as follows—
(a) in subsection (2), after "section" there is inserted "31(2),",
(b) after subsection (2) there is inserted—
"(2A) Paragraph (b) of subsection (2) does not apply to an order under section 31(2) if the order declares that the Secretary of State considers it to be expedient for the order to be made without the approval mentioned in that paragraph.

14 May 2003 : Column 294

(2B) An order containing a declaration under subsection (2A)—
(a) shall be laid before Parliament after being made; and
(b) shall cease to have effect if it is not approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament before the end of the period of 28 days beginning with the date on which it is made.
(2C) Subsection (2B)(b) does not prejudice the making of a new order.
(2D) In calculating the period of 28 days mentioned in subsection (2B)(b), no account is to be taken of any time during which Parliament is dissolved or prorogued or during which both Houses are adjourned for more than four days.""

The noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, earlier, in Committee, there was a little confusion about the numbering of amendments, for which I was entirely responsible.

To make things perfectly clear—I have dealt with the substance of the matters—I must point out that there are now two amendments in my name for Report. Amendment No. 1 will insert the affirmative resolution procedure into Clause 1, which grants the power to call elections. Amendment No. 2, which refers to new Clause 7, will change the date at which the power to call elections must be renewed or else lapse from 31st December to 15th November, as I explained fully in Committee. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 7 [Renewal of powers under section 1]:

Lord Williams of Mostyn moved Amendment No. 2:

    Page 6, line 5, leave out "31st December" and insert "the end of 15th November"

The noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, I have also explained this matter to your Lordships. I think that your Lordships were pleased. I beg to move.

Lord Glentoran: My Lords, this is as good a moment as any to wind up the debates on the Bill. I shall take the opportunity to do two things. First, I say, once again, a big "Thank you" to the noble and learned Lord the Lord Privy Seal, the Northern Ireland Office, the officials and all who worked with us. I hope that I may be so bold as to include the other parties—the Liberal Democrats and the Unionists—with whom the noble and learned Lord and I have worked hard over a short time to get the Bill to a situation with which all of us in the House can, I hope, be satisfied. As has been said, none of us wanted the Bill, but, at this stage, we have got the best that we could have hoped for. We must hope that it is not too long before the Bill is in the wastepaper basket and is no longer in use.

Having said that, I shall raise one other subject. There are many things going on in Northern Ireland. Both Governments have committed themselves to quite a lot of changes, and some of them give us quite a lot of concern. It is hard to know where the legislative programme might go, what the Government feel they need legislation for and what they will go on doing without legislation in the devolution situation. If the noble and learned Lord the Lord Privy Seal could give us some clarification on that, I would be grateful.

14 May 2003 : Column 295

Overall, it has been a satisfactory debate. It has been short and sweet in your Lordships' House—your Lordships will be delighted about that—but it has often been long and arduous in various corridors and offices.

Lord Smith of Clifton: My Lords, I echo what the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, said. There has been some hard pounding over the past week or so. We have made the best of a bad job, and I echo the comments about the mutuality that was shown.

Enough plaudits have been given to the noble and learned Lord the Leader of the House, but there is one attribute that is rarely mentioned but which shone through in the past 10 days—his intellect. It is at the service of your Lordships' House and is a great asset.

Baroness O'Cathain: My Lords, I want to follow the comments of my noble friend Lord Glentoran and say something about the current situation in Northern Ireland, in which we do not have an Assembly. Until now, we have been taken into the thinking of the Government by the noble and learned Lord the Lord Privy Seal, and I trust that that communication and consultation will continue. It has helped us all to understand what has happened in the past few weeks. I thank the noble and learned Lord for keeping us informed.

Lord Rogan: My Lords, I wish to be associated with the words of the noble Lords, Lord Glentoran and Lord Smith of Clifton. I heartily agree with what they said.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, I am very grateful, not just for myself but on behalf of my Private Office—actually the indefatigable Nicky Daniells—and all our colleagues in the Northern Ireland Office.

We have done useful work. With specific regard to what the noble Lords, Lord Glentoran and Lord Smith of Clifton, and the noble Baroness, Lady O'Cathain, asked of me, I will do my very best to keep the House as fully informed as I can. I know that, in the past, your Lordships have welcomed the letters in which I have been able to set out a legislative timetable, even if it was on a tentative basis. I undertake to continue to do that.

My Lords, where there is discord, let us bring harmony—

Noble Lords: Oh!

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, now for the harmony: I beg to move that this Bill be now read a third time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read a third time.—(Lord Williams of Mostyn.)

14 May 2003 : Column 296

On Question, Bill read a third time, and passed, and returned to the Commons with amendments.

Hereford Markets Bill [HL]

6.36 p.m.

Lord Livsey of Talgarth My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time.

Before going into the detail of the Bill, it would be apposite for me to give noble Lords some background to the need for the Bill. First, there is the nature of Herefordshire. I think that it is the best county in England, but, as a Welshman, I would say that. It is an excellent rural county. It has excellent pasture land that fattens cattle and produces stores. It is varied in its cropping. It produces cider, hops and fruit in great abundance.

My association with Herefordshire goes back a long time. Although I lived just on the Welsh side of the border when I was a child, I have fond memories of Hereford town and Hereford cattle market as it was in those days. Over 40 years ago, the great ambition of nearly all Breconshire farmers was to farm in Herefordshire, because of the fertility of the soil. It is a very productive county and produces excellent products.

Hereford markets bestride the rural and urban part of the county. Hereford is a true county town, and it services the whole county. The livestock market was reconstructed in the 1960s, and it now lies alongside the ring road in Hereford. The markets are open on Wednesdays and Saturdays. There is also the butter market in the market hall in High Town, as well as farmers' markets. I can remember famous election campaigns in Hereford from many years ago, including one that the late Robin Day contested. There were so many fireworks that he lost his voice, which was the first time that I could remember that happening—probably the first and the last time.

The livestock market occupies what is probably the largest space in the market—3.2 hectares—and is the biggest generator of traffic in New Market Street, which the market lies alongside. It is the cause of much congestion. On that side, there is also an open market with traders and tenants. The market was founded by royal charter in 1597 by Queen Elizabeth I, the last of the line of Tudor monarchs. Indeed, this is a very historical situation. The market is now regulated by local legislation, by old Acts put in place mainly in the 19th century. The Hereford Improvement Act 1854 empowers the council to maintain and regulate markets and fairs in Hereford and to provide market facilities. It also incorporates the Markets and Fairs Clauses Act 1847, which contains general regulatory powers for markets. The Food Act 1984 is the modern equivalent. It gives the council the power to stipulate the days and times of the markets and fairs.

The Hereford Improvement Act 1872 extends the council's power to provide market facilities. The Hereford Order 1927, which is contained in the Ministry of Health Provisional Orders Confirmation

14 May 2003 : Column 297

(No. 9) Act 1927, updated the provisions in relation to the market tolls. Finally, the Hereford Corporation Act 1936 gave the council power to lease stores, shops, and so on, and to use the market facilities for other purposes. It also updated the financial and animal health provisions applying to the market.

The Hereford market is run by the Hereford Market Auctioneers—HMA—which is made up of two companies. Its lease on the market expires in 2005. The proposal is for the new market to commence work by 2006. Let me make it clear that this is an enabling Bill which paves the way for the possibility of local action to be taken as far as the market site is concerned.

The market's turnover is a six-figure sum and approximately 50 full-time equivalent jobs are involved with the market. Unfortunately, during the last decade, the amount of livestock going through the market has fallen by 31 per cent and the cattle throughput by 78 per cent. This is, in the main, due to the impact of the foot and mouth disease outbreak which caused a severe decrease in livestock numbers. In fact, the market was closed for normal trading for nearly 12 months but was used as a centre for collecting livestock.

There are severe limitations on the market site and many constraints. The lorries coming into the market, which is in the middle of Hereford, are becoming larger and larger. Very large articulated lorries queue up to get into the market, and those queues go back on to the ring road. One of the reasons for this is the Defra biosecurity measures resulting from the foot and mouth outbreak of 2001. The lorries have to stop at the market gates, which causes substantial delays and back-up on the ring road.

When the market is in action on a Wednesday, the air quality, which has been measured, is not at all good—in fact, it is quite poor. Elevated levels of NO 2 are found in the atmosphere on Wednesdays.

The other related problem is that quite a lot of competition comes through the market, which has had an impact on the number of livestock coming forward where new markets have been built. A new market has been built in Ross-on-Wye, another at Brecon and another at Ludlow, which is particularly successful.

The council has conducted one study and is in the middle of a second one. The first study was carried out in 1997 by Donaldsons, the consultants. It looked at traffic generation and congestion as a result of the existing market site and concluded that it was not satisfactory. Indeed, the animal welfare facilities in the market were not up to standard either and there were considerable delays and costs. When consulted, the auctioneers concluded that the present site was inefficient for modernising the livestock facility. The 1997 study concluded that relocation of the market was the best option, probably west of the city. There are many options in this regard; there has not been any process yet, and it is far too early for the council to select a site.

The redevelopment of the existing site is the other aspect. The New Market Street site, where the council has freehold and the market is situated, adjoins the

14 May 2003 : Column 298

Courtyard Theatre and Hereford United Football Club ground in the well known Edgar Street. They are all within the Advantage West Midlands rural regeneration zone from which assistance can be given for regeneration on this site. It is not just the market site that we are considering—the adjoining site is being considered for regeneration and redevelopment as well. It is a considerable area if the two are put together.

A major master planning exercise is being carried out by Herefordshire council, funded by Advantage West Midlands rural regeneration. This is due to be completed by August 2003. The objective is to regenerate an important part of the city of Hereford, to drive growth in all sectors of the local economy, to bring real benefits to the residents of Herefordshire—the entire county—and to provide a sub-regional service and employment centre on the present market site.

The council's draft unitary development plan contains proposals for leisure facilities for commercial developments which combine new homes associated with those commercial developments, new office space and re-establishment of the canal basin with connections to the rest of the canal network and, indeed, an amenity for the whole county. I must make it absolutely clear that the council is looking at the possibility of only the livestock market going outside the city of Hereford. The rest of the markets—the open market, the Butter Market and the farmers' market—will remain within the city.

The council's unitary development plan identified desirable features for a livestock market and concluded that there were 46 possible sites. I shall not go into any of that, because this Bill is an enabling measure. It is up to the democratically elected members of the council to decide their own processes and put them through.

The main points being addressed are a site's capacity to meet the minimum size requirements and to deal with the expected animal throughputs of a new market. It should be available or capable of being acquired at or close to agricultural land value with limited hope value attached. Its location should maximise ease of access by sellers and have regard to likely future livestock catchment areas and populations, and maximise the ease of access by buyers to the major highway network. The new site should be close to or within Hereford city urban area as well as capable of convenient and low-cost connections to existing highways. It should also be suitable for the development proposed without unduly detracting from the amenity of adjoining land uses or other established or proposed planning designations. Ideally, this will be identified through the UDP process.

In fact, of the 46 sites identified, not one site actually fully met the features, so a criteria-based policy was put in place and written into the council's unitary development proposals. That included the following factors: that the proposed site was restricted for use as the new livestock market and necessary ancillary uses

14 May 2003 : Column 299

only—in other words, it is only for use as a livestock market; that the site is of a size and nature capable of adequately accommodating the identified needs of the livestock market, and will not have a detrimental effect on the surrounding area or its immediate setting; that the site is well related to the primary road network, where the development will not create an unacceptable impact on the highway network and satisfactory access can be provided; and that the site can be adequately serviced by the provision of infrastructure to include the necessary supply of water and for the satisfactory disposal of sewage and trade effluence in surface water. The scheme must include proposals for sustainable drainage and incorporate measures to ensure that the run-off does not contaminate local watercourses. The built development, car-parking and lairage should be located and of good design to respect its surroundings and character, in order to protect local amenity and minimise landscape impacts. Finally, a comprehensive and suitable landscaping scheme is provided to help assimilate the development into the surrounding area and to safeguard landscape character.

The development, in fact, would be limited to the sales rings, pennage, lairage, car-parking, and ancillary use such as agricultural supplies and veterinary and financial services. The only retail use that would be permissible would be the sale of goods related to agricultural businesses alone. I should like to emphasise that fact.

Following those processes, it was clear that many of the potential sites for the livestock market's relocation would be outside the urban area. However, the council's consideration of these sites threw up a legal difficulty, which explains the need for this Bill. It is because so many sites are outside the urban area that I am proposing the Bill to your Lordships' House. The original charter of 1597 stipulates that markets must be held within the city of Hereford. Therefore, the council could not move the market outside the Victorian city boundaries without the enactment of this Bill. The Bill allows for the relocation of the market outside the city.

The Bill does not take away the council's duty to hold the markets; that still applies. Nor does it give the council the power to move the markets to a particular site. Full planning permission, environmental and other consents will need to be obtained before the livestock market can be moved. The Bill allows the council to consider other sites for the market outside the built-up area.

Clauses 1 and 2 simply contain citation, commencement and interpretation provisions. The operative provisions are Clauses 3 and 4. Clause 3(1) confirms that the market rights remain with the council, notwithstanding the repeal of the old enactments. Clause 3(2) updates the public legislation applying to the markets by making them subject to the provisions of Part III of the Food Act 1984, which governs most local authority markets. Clause 3(3) restates the council's powers to hold the markets,

14 May 2003 : Column 300

provide and improve facilities for them, and enter into agreements for others to run the markets on the council's behalf.

Clause 4(1) gives the council the power to relocate the city's markets anywhere within Herefordshire, replacing the council's current power to relocate the markets anywhere within the city. That power is subject to limitations, including protection under Clause 4(2) for anybody else in the county who has market rights, which safeguards the interests of all the other market towns in Herefordshire. There is a requirement under Clause 4(3) to consult stakeholders who might be affected by relocation.

Clause 5 repeals the old local Acts governing the markets, so that they are regulated entirely by the Bill and the charter. As a local authority, the council had to pass a resolution under Section 239 of the Local Government Act 1972 to promote the Bill. That resolution was approved unanimously on 1st November 2002. A further resolution confirming the promotion was passed unanimously in January. That was unanimous by all political parties on the council. The Bill was then deposited on 27th November and the ordinary process of advertising and giving copies to government departments took place. The examiners held that the Bill complied with all the relevant Standing Orders on 18th December 2002, and it received its First Reading on 22nd January 2003.

After a Private Bill such as this is deposited, there is a period for people who believe that they will be affected by the Bill to petition against it. That gives them the opportunity to be heard by the committee considering the Bill and to call evidence against it. No petitions were lodged against the Bill during that period. The scene was therefore set for the Bill to receive a formal Second Reading, which was briefly put down for 19th March. However, the council then learnt that the noble Lord, Lord Temple-Morris, wished to raise some matters, and it was agreed to hold this debate.

I understand that the noble Lord has met with the agents for the council and that they have had the opportunity to discuss some of his concerns with him. I shall listen carefully to his remarks. I hope that the contents of my speech may assuage him.

As I have already said, the passage of the Bill will not give the council the power simply to relocate the market as it sees fit. The process that will take place as regards the council is that there will be a unitary development plan, which will be revised after legislation. The revised UDP will be published, and it will then be subject to scrutiny by the public. There will be a public inquiry, and the planning process by the council will follow.

The redevelopment proposals, in fact, will read as follows: first, to demonstrate that they provide a significant overall benefit to the vitality and viability of the city centre as a whole; secondly, to include provision for local government offices and for the retention or relocation of existing stall markets to a suitable site within or adjacent to the city centre; thirdly, to be prepared on a comprehensive basis,

14 May 2003 : Column 301

treating the site as a whole; fourthly, not to prejudice the achievement of the plan's town centre and retail strategy; fifthly, to provide a high standard of design, merited on the prestige location—there is an excellent development just the other side of the ring road that really needs support in making the area more attractive; sixthly, to ensure that safe, effective and attractive pedestrian links are provided to the city centre and to the Courtyard Theatre and football club to the north. This is a comprehensive development to improve the centre of Hereford, to respect the historic fabric of the area and to provide for the retention and beneficial use of the listed Market Tavern, which should be integrated into any scheme. I have visited the Market Tavern on numerous occasions when attending the market in the past.

I should like to record the apologies of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Hereford, who would very much have liked to attend this debate. He had to be in Shrewsbury today. However, in a letter to me, he said that,

    "most Herefordians like the market and want to keep it".

He says that they have no attachment whatever to the ugly buildings from the 1950s and 1960s on the market site. Indeed, those building are,

    "old-fashioned, grubby and worn out".

It is not an attractive site to visit. He went on to say that although it is important that the butter market and the farmers' market are kept, the cattle market could better perform its function at an out-of-town location. I have tried to summarise his views.

When the council comes to appraise any potential site through the planning process, it will have to do so publicly and reasonably, as any local authority would. The council's decision would be subject to scrutiny not only by local council tax payers, who would have the ultimate sanction of voting to remove any councillor who favoured a policy that local people did not, but also potentially by judicial review by the High Court. Any new livestock market site chosen by the council would then be subject to consultation with market traders and other stakeholders in accordance with the safeguards put in place.

I realise that I have only a limited time to speak and will finish soon.

Following a UDP inquiry and adoption of the plan, the council will be able to make a decision to apply for planning permission to relocate the market to a particular site. In making that decision, the council will again, through the planning process, be subject to scrutiny by the court and local opinion as to the reasonableness of its decision, including whether it took into account all the relevant responses to the consultation exercise.

As I mentioned earlier, a proposal to relocate the market to a particular site will receive planning permission only if it meets the conditions set out above or the policies that replace them in the final form of the UDP. The application for planning permission will have to be publicised and affected stakeholders will be able to make objections. An environmental impact assessment and traffic impact assessment will also

14 May 2003 : Column 302

have to be carried out and will be material considerations when the decision on whether to grant planning permission is made. Indeed, in the final analysis, there is a possibility that the Secretary of State will decide to call in the application. Therefore, as I said, there may be a public inquiry.

The council will consider any site that is available or readily capable of acquisition at or close to agricultural land value.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page