HC Deb 30 June 1954 vol 529 cc1461-78

Read a Second time, and committed.

8.58 p.m.

Sir Herbert Williams (Croydon, East)

I beg to move, That it be an Instruction to the Committee on the Bill to leave out Clause 11. As we spent rather a long time on the previous Measure, I shall endeavour to be shorter than otherwise might have been the case. That sentiment will, I hope, receive your approbation, Mr. Deputy-Speaker.

Clause 11 is a very strange Clause, and it is also unique. The fact that a thing is done for the first time is, of course, no fundamental reason against it. It is also the reason for a very close examination, and we must bear in mind that it is not our duty to say that the Clause is a bad one, but for those who support it and for those who are petitioning Parliament to grant this somewhat novel power to say that it is a good one.

I have always been a very strict opponent of monopoly. Wherever I find it, I am inclined to oppose it, because, in the nature of things, monopoly is evil.

Mr. William Keenan (Liverpool, Kirkdale)

How many directorships does the hon. Gentleman monopolise?

Sir H. Williams

I do not monopolise anything. It is not my fault if people think that my advice is worth taking. I should be very interested to discuss the point on some other occasion, but the hon. Gentleman need not be jealous.

I only saw the petition today and do not know any of the petitioners, but they are numerous. There are the National Farmers' Union; the British Flower Association—the organisation commonly known as "Interflora"; the Horticultural Trades Association; the National Federation of Fruit and Potato Trades, Limited, and the Retail Fruit Trade Association. They are bodies representative, I think, of the people who would send goods to a market.

We are familiar with the fact that in the time of the ancient monarchies when Parliament had failed to make adequate provision for the service both of the monarch and of the State—because it was a common pot—the monarch frequently granted monopolies on terms favourable to his own interests and those of the State, but for a long time it has been regarded as undesirable to create these monopolies.

I understand that the market in Coventry is not a place where the corporation itself engages in trade, but it wants to have a monopoly in the sense that: only the people who have stalls in the market would be permitted to deal wholesale in what is commonly called market garden produce. Poultry, fruit and vegetables. I think, are included, although I have not a copy of the Bill—but it is that variety of produce commonly found in market gardens.

The corporation wants to make it a crime for anyone to sell wholesale to retailers in the City of Coventry except through this one central establishment. I do not understand its purpose. I have never, directly or indirectly, been engaged in this branch of trade.

Dr. H. Morgan (Warrington)

That is why they are doing well.

Sir H. Williams

Maybe, but I have never been engaged in the wholesale or retail distribution of what is called market garden produce. However, as a customer who moves about, as do most, I have observed that very often a Rood deal of the trade is done by the mobile market—the lorry which is loaded up at the market garden or farm and sent round a particular town delivering the requisite consignments of produce to the retail shops. That would become impossible in Coventry.

Mr. Percy Shurmer (Birmingham, Sparkbrook)

No, it would not. I object to that. I spent 28 years on a market stall.

Sir H. Williams

That may be so—

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Rhys Hopkin Morris)

Order. I hope that the conversation at that end of the Chamber will stop.

Sir H. Williams

I do not know whether the hon. Member said he was a licensed hawker, or words to that effect. All I am concerned with is whether or not he has read the Bill. He may have been engaged for 28 years in retail distribution—

Mr. Shurmer


Sir H. Williams

I am very sorry that the hon. Member is so careless in his utterances that we cannot understand what he said and he cannot recollect what he did say. If the hon. Member interrupted a little less frequently, it might help the debate.

That kind of distribution, as I understand the Bill, would become illegal.

Mr. Maurice Edelman (Coventry, North)

Is not the hon. Gentleman aware that Clause 11 (3) specifically says that the Section shall not apply to the sale of goods sold by the person who grew or reared the same; That would apply to the goods produced by a market gardener. On a question of fact, may I be allowed to say that that is so?

Sir H. Williams

I have not got a copy of the Bill. There are a very few copies. It is the case that for many years—

Mr. R. H. S. Crossman (Coventry, East)

On a point of order. The hon. Gentleman has made a serious suggestion which has been denied. Would he please withdraw the downright untruth that he uttered?

Sir H. Williams

The hon. Gentleman has accused me of uttering a downright untruth. A downright untruth is a breach of the way in which we conduct business in this House. If an hon. Member says something which may be inaccurate, it is not the practice to describe that as an untruth.

Mr. Crossman

It is not for the hon. Gentleman to decide what the practice is.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

To accuse an hon. Member of a downright untruth is not in accordance with the rules of the House. It would simplify matters a good deal if the Chair were addressed in this debate.

Mr. Crossman

Of course, I will withdraw the phrase "downright untruth" and substitute "a totally inaccurate description of the Bill." The hon. Gentleman has asserted that those market gardeners who come with a lorry to Coventry will be forbidden to market their produce in the retail shops. That is untrue. In the very Clause which he is opposing it is explicitly stated that they are exempted from the provisions of the Clause, and that the practice will be permitted. I only ask the hon. Gentleman to read the Clause which he is opposing before he gets on with his speech.

Sir H. Williams

I now have a copy of the Bill. I was labouring under a disability.

Dr. Morgan

As always.

Sir H. Williams

The only effect of these ceaseless interruptions is to prolong the debate. I am never put off by interruptions—

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will address his remarks to the Chair.

Sir H. Williams

I find that I had overlooked subsection (2, b). I make mistakes from time to time. I do not see why it should cause anyone distress. But because I have made an honest mistake, I object strongly to it being described as an untruth, because one is intentional and the other is inadvertent.

Mr. Crossman

I said that it was a totally inaccurate statement.

Sir H. Williams

The hon. Gentleman's first statement was different.

Mr. Crossman

I withdrew it.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

I must ask the hon. Member to address the Chair.

Sir H. Williams

I will do my best, Mr. Deputy-Speaker.

Mr. Shurmer

The hon. Gentleman had better hurry up. There are perishable goods in this market.

Sir H. Williams

It is true that there are certain provisos which limit the extent of the monopoly, but that does not alter the fact that the whole conception of the Clause is to create a partial monopoly. As I am one of those who are opposed to monopolies, I am opposed to this Clause. This Clause, as I have said earlier, is novel. It is a power not possessed by any other local authority in this country. To the best of my knowledge, it is a power not previously sought by any local authority in this country, and I hope that in due course hon. Members opposite will give some justification for this Clause. That is what I want to hear, because if I am convinced that this is not the monopoly that I conceive it to be, then naturally I shall not persist in supporting the Instruction. I want to approach this matter in quite a fair-minded manner.

As I have said, I had seen none of the documents produced by those who have petitioned against the Bill until I received them some time this afternoon, but I understand from what happened in another place that one of the arguments in support of this monopoly was the traffic question. It was suggested that there would be less congestion of traffic if the whole of the goods to be sold were sent to a central market.

That seems to me to be entirely delusive. We all know the appalling congestion which is caused in London—although this kind of restriction does not exist there—because a large proportion of market garden produce is concentrated in the Covent Garden area for distribution. Anyone who drives through that area knows how appalling the congestion is. It is a terrible mistake to centralise the distribution of produce in a place right in the centre of a town. The less it is centralised, the better. That is one reason I believe this to be an unfortunate Clause. I am inclined to think that it will add to prices. If a large proportion of the produce has to be taken to a central point from places outside and then has to be redistributed to points of retail distribution, there will be a duplication of traffic, which will have to be paid for, and the cost of this transport will ultimately be added to the cost of the goods.

Mr. Crossman

I do not know whether the hon. Baronet is aware that this site was selected after consultations between all the wholesalers and retailers in the area. It is two miles from the centre of the town, on the side from which the produce will be chiefly derived. Does not that fact affect his argument to some extent?

Mr. Nabarro

On which side of the town is it situated?

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

Order. The hon. Baronet the Member for Croydon, East (Sir H. Williams) is in possession of the House.

Sir H. Williams

I am rather pleased to hear that, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. As I said earlier, I have no desire unduly to prolong this debate, because there is another Private Bill to be taken after this one and then there are Affirmative Resolutions in connection with Sunday cinematograph entertainments. As I—in common with many other hon. Members—got to bed very late last night, I am undesirous of prolonging the debate. I think I have said enough to indicate the grounds upon which I tabled this Instruction.

9.13 p.m.

Mr. Gerald Nabarro (Kidderminster)

I beg to second the Motion.

I have a direct interest in this matter from a constituency standpoint, and, if I may say with very great respect and humility to my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, East (Sir H. Williams), I trust that the observations I shall make on behalf of a number of small enterprises in western Worcestershire—responsible for growing much of the fruit and vegetables which finds its way to the industrial areas of Birmingham, the Black Country and Coventry—will be listened to more quietly than were the observations of my hon. Friend.

The reason why I asked the hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) on which side of Coventry the market to which he referred is to be sited is that it has some bearing upon transportation costs in respect of the fruit and vegetables we are discussing under this Clause much of which come from certain areas of my constituency, namely, the Teme Valley, the northern end of the Vale of Evesham and in western Worcestershire, which are predominantly associated with the horticultural industry.

Clause 11 is restrictive in its effect. It is quite true that a grower or rearer is not precluded from direct sale, within the boundaries of the City of Coventry, to a retail organisation or a consumer. The hon. Member for Coventry, East was, in essence, correct in what he said about Subsection (3, b), for that paragraph reads: the sale of goods sold by the person who grew or reared the same … and the subsection begins with the words: This section shall not apply to … It is, therefore, clear that there is no restrictive element in respect of a grower himself selling direct to a retailer or a consumer, but what the hon. Gentleman conveniently forgot, in his intervention, is that the bulk of the horticultural produce of west Worcestershire and other Midlands horticultural producing areas is sold by rural wholesalers, to other wholesalers in the urban areas, or to retailers or to consumers.

That is general throughout the horticultural industry, and I hope that hon. Gentlemen will not condemn it too strongly, for this is an arrangement generally subscribed to by the Cooperative societies. They follow almost exactly the same arrangements. It may not be so in Coventry. I have no precise knowledge of what the Co-operatives do in Coventry, but in various other parts of the country they do, and my argument against this Clause and my objection to it is simply that if it becomes effective it will prevent a growers' organisation, a growers' co-operative or wholesale body that has bought produce from a number of primary producers, from selling in the City of Coventry direct to retailers or to consumers except through the municipal market. The Clause will require that wholesale or co-operative organisation to sell only through the City municipal market. I do not think that interpretation of the Clause can be open to question.

In broad principle, I dislike any tendency towards collectivisation. I dislike, on principle, any tendency towards the creation of municipal or monopoly markets, particularly in perishable goods, and particularly in the case of horticultural products, for which the growers are, by and large, very large numbers of small men. Such growers have not the channels of sale and distribution on their own account, and thus they sell through a wholesale organisation, or through a co-operative organisation, representing them.

Mr. Edelman

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that there is nothing in Clause 11 (3, b) that prevents a group of producers from getting together to sell their goods as they would wish, and as if they were market gardeners selling on their own account. Indeed, a co-operative arrangement as described by the hon. Gentleman could be specifically excluded by the Clause.

Mr. Nabarro

That is not the interpretation I put on the Clause. I have described precisely the interpretation that I put on it, and to repeat it in shorter form it is simply that a grower is not precluded from direct sale to a wholesaler or to a retailer or to a consumer in Coventry, whereas an organisation of wholesalers or retailers representing the growers is obliged to go through the municipal market, thereby creating an additional tier of trade distribution and adding to costs.

It must be made clear that if this Clause were accepted, if the Bill went without the Instruction to the Committee, the general effect would be to add an additional link in the chain of distribution—[Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman must realise that some of the biggest retail organisations in the country which will equally be affected by an arrangement of this kind are the Co-operative societies—

Mr. G. Lindgren (Wellingborough)

You are not worried about them, brother.

Mr. Nabarro

I am not worried about them, and I wish the hon. Gentleman would not indulge in his camaraderie slang and call me "brother" in the House of Commons, for I am not a brother to the hon. Gentleman or to his Parliamentary colleagues.

The Co-operative societies selling to the general public will be in exactly the same position as other retail traders in having to buy a part of their produce at least from the centralised municipal market. If this Clause became effective it would undoubtedly impose an additional link in the chain of distribution of horticultural produce, in Coventry, in certain circumstances thereby inflating costs.

I have always been greatly opposed to the views of the hon. Lady for Coventry, South (Miss Burton) upon the cost of distribution of horticultural produce. Her view is that the present arrangements are extravagant and too diversified. She thinks that they ought to be organised on some form of communal or centralised basis, similar to that provided by the Clause. If that is done, a measure of competition will thereby be eliminated, and because that measure of competition is eliminated, it will add to the cost of distribution and, in my view, result ultimately in a still higher price having to be paid for perishable horticultural goods.

The City of Coventry has a Socialist Council with a large majority. The Borough of Kidderminster has a Conservative majority. It is perhaps logical that a city council with a Socialist majority should tend towards the municipalisation of its essential or semi-essential services.

Mr. Shurmer

Quite right.

Mr. Nabarro

I might tell the hon. Member who constantly interrupts me that I cannot imagine a Conservative Council bringing in a Communist measure such as is contained in Clause 11, and I am using communist with a small "c" because that is exactly what the Clause implies. It is depriving certain private traders of facilities for obtaining and distributing their goods and, is thus a restrictive practice.

Mr. Shurmer

The hon. Member is shouting about markets and about communism and Socialist councils. Is he aware that the Birmingham City Council had such an arrangement for many years—in fact, until 1945—from the time I went on to the council. It had a large Conservative majority—[Laughter.] Never mind the "Ha, Ha." The hon. Member for Kidderminster need not laugh. I can play him at his own game at any time. The point is, who is in these markets? Is it the Socialist council which is selling the produce? No; it is the great wholesalers, many of whom support the Conservative Party.

Mr. Nabarro

The hon. Member is in his customary, confused state of mind. I know the market conditions in the City of Birmingham quite as well as he does. What is the position? The Birmingham City Council controls the granting of facilities for marketing within the city, but it has never sought to impose such a stringent limitation as the Coventry City Council now requires, which is, in effect, that no person shall distribute horticultural produce in Coventry—unless he be a grower; there is that caveat—without a licence or a permissive document issued by the city council. No such provision exists, in such stringent terms in the City Birmingham, and that is the essential difference between the two cities.

I am speaking on behalf of a large number of horticultural growers and—I make no denial of it—on behalf of the National Farmers' Union. The N.F.U. has 200,000 members in the country, and I can claim that its largest branch in the West Midlands is in Kidderminster, with no fewer than 600 members, a high percentage of whom are horticultural growers.

Mr. J. B. Godber (Grantham)

My hon. Friend should not say that that is the largest branch. We have much larger branches in Lincolnshire.

Mr. Nabarro

Where my hon. Friend makes his mistake is that we are concerned in the debate primarily with Coventry, Birmingham and Kidderminster, all of which are in the West Midlands, a long way from my hon. Friend's native Lincolnshire.

The horticultural community is greatly opposed to this provision and wishes to see the Clause deleted. The National Farmers' Union is unanimous in that regard. It conceives that this Clause has been included in the Bill by the Coventry City Council as a Socialist aberration, similar, of course to the aberration of the Coventry City Council in regard to Civil Defence.

I hope that the majority of the House will conceive that it is not in the national interest, the interest of the City of Coventry or in the interest of the horticultural producers. The provisions of Clause 11 are also opposed by consumers, who see the possibility of prices for horticultural provisions being substantially increased. I hope that, for all those reasons, the House will overwhelmingly support the Instruction to the Committee for the deletion of the Clause and require that free and unfettered competition shall be the means of reducing the price of fruit and vegetables in Coventry and elsewhere.

9.27 p.m.

Mr. Maurice Edelman (Coventry, North)

Having listened to the hon. Members for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) and Croydon, East (Sir H. Williams) dealing with the Coventry Corporation Bill, I feel obliged to declare my interest in the matter, in conjunction with my hon. Friends the Members for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) and Coventry, South (Miss Burton). We are closely associated with the Coventry City Council in advancing tonight certain arguments in favour of the Bill which I hope will have the close attention of the House.

The hon. Member for Kidderminster, in his familiar, megaphonic fatuous confusion, tried to import into this Bill a high degree of political prejudice. What are the facts? He spoke of Communism, of a Socialist-controlled council, but he at no time made mention of the fact that the Bill has, and has always had, the unanimous support of the Coventry City Council. Though it is the case that the council has a Socialist majority, the fact is that when the Bill was discussed and brought before the council it received the unanimous support of Socialists and Conservatives.

It might be thought, if one were merely to listen to the hon. Member for Kidderminster, that in some curious and conspiratorial way this Bill was a Socialist plot in order, by some backstairs method, to introduce a Socialist technique into the marketing affairs of the city. Not a bit of it. For a very long period the proposals contained in the Bill were the subject of consultations between the city council and all the interests represented in the city.

There were discussions with the trade, with the wholesalers, with the retailers; in fact all those in Coventry who had a direct concern with marketing were consulted. No objection was made. On the contrary, the Bill had the enthusiastic support of all the traders, whether wholesalers or retailers, in Coventry. It is perfectly true that there was one inquiry—not an objection—from outside. It was from the Bedworth Council; it was answered, and the inquirers were satisfied.

I wish to emphasise that this is not a partisan matter; it is not a case of party politics. The proposals contained in the Bill have been the subject of close and careful scrutiny by Conservatives and Socialists and by the business community in the city, and as a result it was decided unanimously in Coventry that the Bill should be put forward.

Mr. Nabarro

Would the hon. Gentleman tell us why, among all those bodies consulted, Coventry did not have regard to the interests of the private producers and consult the National Farmers' Union?

Mr. Edelman

The National Farmers' Union can speak for itself and has spoken for itself by laying petitions before the House. It has in the person of the hon. Gentleman, I will not say an adequate spokesman, but at any rate a spokesman who has been able to present the case of the N.F.U.

I am at the moment dealing with the question of Coventry as such, and I say that in Coventry the proposals in the Bill were heard and unanimously accepted. If the hon. Gentleman is not satisfied with that submission, may I also remind him that, at a later stage, a resolution for the promotion of the Bill was passed at a public meeting of local government electors and a separate resolution was passed in respect of marketing.

At that time, had it been the wish of anyone to demand a poll, it would have required only 100 voices to obtain a poll, and had that been the wish in Coventry, a poll could have been demanded, would have been granted, and the objectors would have been heard. The fact is that no such objections were made.

I think that tonight my hon. Friends and I can claim that we speak on behalf of Coventry, on behalf of its council, producers, consumers, wholesalers and retailers—

Mr. Nabarro

Not the producers.

Mr. Edelman

—and of all those concerned in the matter, who will benefit from the admirable proposals which are contained in the Bill.

It is not my purpose tonight to suggest that there have not been any objections. There have been certain objections advanced by the Home Office, which made certain submissions, particularly concerning Clause 11. Afterwards, when the Clause went to the Lord Chairman of Committees in another place, certain of the objections put forward by the Home Office were adequately met, and the Clause was amended until it reached its present form. It now contains a most important and valuable provision, which I very much regret to say the hon. Member for Croydon, East overlooked. I am sure that he will agree that it is a most important provision.

Sir H. Williams

The hon. Gentleman says that I overlooked the point; but, on the other hand, the argument put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) with regard to the wholesale distributors has not been met.

Mr. Edelman

That is a point which I should like to meet. It is a fair and valid point, and, in my own interpretation of the Clause, I believe that point is in fact left, I will in a few moments submit for the consideration of hon. Members on both sides what I think is necessary.

What is necessary tonight is that we should agree to allow the Bill to go upstairs to Committee in its present form. If there are matters of fact which require clarification, such as those advanced by the hon. Member for Kidderminster, and it is necessary to introduce certain Amendments, let the case be heard upstairs, and let those who are interested advance their arguments and put forward their particular interests in the matter. I am quite sure that the hon. Member for Croydon, East will find that the Coventry City Council is very anxious to meet any particular objections which may be advanced, and will do what lies in its power to satisfy those who may have doubts about what appears to be the monopolistic character of this Clause.

When the hon. Member for Croydon, East was speaking he laid very great stress on the question of monopoly. One can well understand that that is a matter which agitates the hon. Member, and I am sure that it would agitate many hon. Members on this side of the House if they felt that anyone were trying to obtain monopolistic powers which might be abused. But let us consider, for a moment, the nature of this so-called monopoly. The Coventry City Council is attempting to set up a market which will provide certain facilities for the city, and where it will be necessary in the normal way for all who sell fruit, vegetables, game and meat wholesale to sell their goods.

What are the substantial reasons why the Coventry City Council is committing itself to the heavy expense of setting up the only wholesale market in the centre of a market of this kind? The fact is that the city was destroyed by bombing during the war. Since that time, in the general replanning of the city and in its general redevelopment, it was decided—particularly as the major part of the produce which is the subject of this Bill comes from the east—to remove the market and establish a new market on the eastern side of the city. I would stress to the hon. Member for Kidderminster that the whole point of that decision was to provide access for the private producers and their wholesalers who would be bringing their goods to the market from the eastern side.

All who know Coventry will agree that it is a rapidly expanding city. It developed greatly during the war and it is constantly increasing in population—

Mr. Ellis Smith (Stoke-on-Trent, South)

And importance.

Mr. Edelman

Quite so, and it is becoming congested. If it were possible for wholesalers to run their heavy lorries from all sides of the city at their own discretion, and without any consideration for the amenities of the city—bearing in mind the fact that Coventry is vitally important as an export centre—obviously we would have a wholly inefficient system of marketing in the city. For that reason, the city council decided that it would make this substantial investment in a market on the eastern side of the city, where the produce comes from, and where it will be distributed.

Does it constitute a monopoly to provide a service, a facility, a private meeting place, where the competitive market gardeners and wholesalers can engage in their normal business? No one is saying that competition should be throttled. No one is saying that competition in wholesale marketing should be done away with, All that is suggested is that the Coventry Corporation should provide a meeting place where the wholesalers who feed the city will be able to meet in the most sanitary and convenient place and in the most favourable conditions both for themselves and for the consumers. Surely it is not a monopoly when there is no commercial advantage in terms of profit for the Corporation as such?

Mr. Nabarro

No one has any objection at all to Coventry, or any other town, having a new market. That is not the argument. It never has been the argument that this Clause creates a complete monopoly; but it is restrictive, and it does create a partial monopoly. Will the hon. Gentleman answer that?

Mr. Edelman

The only comment I would make on what the hon. Member for Kidderminster has said is that he is abusing language when he calls the provision of a unique service a monopoly.

Bearing in mind the intention of the City Corporation, and the fact that it is willing to make such Amendments in Committee upstairs as may be asked for by those specially interested, I hope that the hon. Member for Croydon, East will withdraw his objection to Clause 11; that the Bill may be committed to go to a Committee upstairs; that evidence may be called; that counsel may be allowed to speak, and the Bill be given that careful consideration which it is the tradition of this House to extend to Private Bills. If that is done, then we can hope that ultimately we shall have a Bill which in its final form will serve not only Coventry but the rest of the country as well.

9.40 p.m.

Mr. J. B. Godber (Grantham)

At the outset I should like to clear up a little misunderstanding between my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) and myself. He is justly proud of his close connection with his virile branches of the National Farmers' Union, but I remind him that the N.F.U. started in Lincolnshire, in my constituency, and it has always continued to flourish there to a greater extent than elsewhere.

Mr. Nabarro

I should like to put my hon. Friend right. He is talking about the North Midlands. I am talking about the West Midlands.

Mr. Godber

I had better move on from that point before I incur your displeasure, Mr. Speaker.

The hon. Member for Coventry, North (Mr. Edelman) put his case most persuasively and reasonably. We listened carefully to the points which he tried to make, but there are some very strong reasons why we should resist the Clause. A number of those reasons have been put by my hon. Friends.

Before I proceed further, I should declare an interest in that I myself sell a considerable proportion of the horticultural produce of my own business in Coventry and in its wholesale market. In actual fact, the provisions of the Bill would be helpful to me. My interests will be adversely affected by what I am saying, but I believe most sincerely in the principle of freedom against monopoly and even if it harmed my own interests I would still vote against the Clause. I make that absolutely clear.

I have sent a large proportion of my produce into Coventry for many years. I know the conditions there and I realise that there is need for a new market. I accept that absolutely, but I do not see why in the provision of a new market the Coventry Corporation should seek to impose restrictions on those wholesalers who regularly bring produce into Coventry—not only those from Birmingham, Evesham, and other areas, but also those who come from the area in which I live in Bedfordshire.

I am thinking especially of the small grower who brings in his own produce and also the produce of his friends. The small grower with one lorry, who has a few acres of land and who collects a certain amount of produce from some of his friends, goes into towns such as Coventry and delivers and sells on the doorsteps of the shops. Those people are not wholly covered. They are covered only so far as their own produce is concerned, and many of them could not make a living on that alone. I say most sincerely that this is a genuine point which must be met.

Coventry Corporation must meet the point. The Corporation has introduced subsection (3) to which reference has been made, but it introduced that only as the result of representations. I suggest that it would be right and fitting now for the Corporation to go a stage further and try to meet the genuine points. Then perhaps they would be able to get agreement upon the matter.

If they would do that and allow freedom for the seller of horticultural products, I believe that that would take away very much of the antagonism of my hon. Friends and myself. No assurance has been given on that point, and for that reason we must press for the Clause to be deleted from the Bill.

It should be noted that this is an entirely new point. There are many towns and cities which have their own markets. Many of them are very fine wholesale markets but, as far as I know, there is no other case where it has been sought to prevent competition with those markets by people with lorries delivering produce and selling at the doorstep. This is a most unfair restriction which it is sought to make. It is an unfair restriction against the smallest producer of all who is most in need of help.

There is a point that I would put to the hon. Lady the Member for Coventry, South (Miss Burton), who, I know, is very concerned about the housewives in many ways. On many ocasions in this House I have heard her standing up for the housewives. The people about whom I am talking are bringing their produce to the towns in the freshest way possible, and they are probably getting it to the housewives in the cheapest way possible. I am sure that we shall have the hon. Lady's support in seeking to delete the Clause.

Mr. Crossman

I gather that what the hon. Member for Grantham (Mr. Godber) wants is an assurance on the specific point about the small grower. That can surely be worked out upstairs when the Bill goes to a Committee. I gather that what he is urging is that we should send the Bill upstairs provided he is told that his point will be met there.

Mr. Godber

It is not only that. I want a little more than that, and I hope the hon. Member does not think I am unreasonable. There is the valid case of the wholesalers who bring produce in from Birmingham, and there is a similar point in respect of the co-operatives. We have to consider those who buy in Birmingham market and take their produce to surrounding towns. Birmingham market is a much larger market than that in Coventry, and it caters for a considerable part of that trade.

Also, this is an entirely new provision for any corporation to seek to secure. For that reason, the National Farmers' Union and all the other organisations concerned view it with the greatest suspicion. If this provision were written into the Bill, no doubt many other corporations would want similar powers. We ought to be quite certain that the powers are not unreasonably given.

I do not feel that a case has been made for the provision. As my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, East (Sir H. Williams) said earlier, it is up to the promoters of the Bill to make their case. I feel that they have not made their case. Unless we get a very real assurance on this point, I hope the House will reject the Clause.

Sir H. Williams

In view of the offers which have been made by the hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr.Crossman) and the hon. Member for Coventry, North (Mr. Edelman), I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Motion in order that the matter may be examined by a Committee.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.