HC Deb 07 December 1960 vol 631 cc1273-399

Order for Second Reading read

3.43 p.m.

The Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. Christopher Soames)

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

I wish, first, to say a word of welcome to the hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. de Freitas), who is now devoting his thoughts and energies to agricultural matters. For about fifteen years now, I believe, he has been thinking about matters aeronautical and, as our technology has improved, he has been moving higher and higher into the stratosphere. We welcome him back to earth again and we are glad that he has made a successful landing.

In debating this Bill, we shall be considering the future of the national marketing centre for fruit, vegetables and flowers which is the biggest market in the country. A market is not just a matter of bricks and mortar. It is a living entity, and it must constantly be changing with the changing needs of the trade and of the public which it serves. Over the years, the Market has far outgrown its first location. Today, it presents grave problems not only of marketing, but of planning, traffic and fire control. All these factors have had an important bearing on the Government's decision to introduce the Bill.

Although the Bill is called the Covent Garden Market Bill, and although it deals, of course, directly only with marketing, it sets out to tackle the problem as a whole. It must also be considered against the background of the Government's comprehensive proposals for helping British horticulture and improving horticultural marketing. It is the third feature of a three-point plan the first two of which were the Horticulture Improvement Scheme and the Horticultural Marketing Council which are already in operation following the passing of the Horticulture Act last Session.

It may help the House to understand the reasons which lie behind some of the provisions of the Bill if I say something of the history and development of the market, with which the Bill deals. In 1670, King Charles II granted a Royal Charter to the Earl of Bedford to hold a market in what was then an open square, skirted—in the words of the day—by stately buildings for the dwelling of Persons of Repute and Quality. The Charter Market still exists in its original three-acre site, but no longer do the stately buildings. By 1828, the trade of the Market had grown with the growth of London and in that year Parliament passed an Act enabling the Market to be improved to meet the conditions of the time. That Act stipulated how the Market should be laid out and prescribed the tolls which could be levied there. It is still in force today.

London continued to grow and people began to expect an ever-increasing variety of goods from all parts of the world as well as from our own soil. To meet the expansion of the trade, the then owners of the Market put up, during the course of the last century, additional market buildings, the Floral Hall, the Flower Market, Russell Street Market and Jubilee Market, occupying, in all, an additional two and a half acres on top of the three acres of the original Charter Market so that, all together, the area of the Market comprises the six acres or so which are now owned by a company, Covent Garden Market Limited.

Still the trade continued to grow. The Market overflowed into the adjacent streets and accommodated itself higgledy-piggledy in private premises. Now, marketing extends over an area of about thirty acres affecting an area stretching almost from Charing Cross to Kingsway and from the Strand to New Oxford Street. This is the area which is called, in the Bill, the Covent Garden area.

Present conditions in and around the Market are so bad that all agree that drastic reform is needed. The whole area cries out for proper planning and development. The market buildings themselves are obsolete. The layout and the working of the Charter Market are still governed by the 1828 Act, which is now far out of date and must be repealed before anything worth while can be done. Traffic congestion is a source of grave public concern. There is no parking space for market vehicles except in the open streets. Loading and unloading have to be done by hand and produce is taken from one part of the market to another in barrows. The storage of empty wooden boxes in unsuitable buildings constitutes an appalling fire risk and a gross waste of space. These are the problems which are to be faced.

Covent Garden is by far our most important horticultural market. Each year it handles horticultural produce to the value of about £70 million. It not only supplies the people of London, but it is the centre of distribution for the provinces. It serves as the national price setting and balancing market. Its activities, both good and bad, have their effect on marketing throughout the country. Although the most important, Covent Garden is but one of five large wholesale markets in the Greater London area. No solution of the Covent Garden problem would be sound if it ignored these markets. Two of them, Spitalfields and the Borough, are in Central London. The other two, Brentford and Stratford, are in the western and eastern outskirts, well situated to expand. As they do so they will be able to offer facilities for retailers who now have to travel some distance to Central London.

We propose that a modern Market, which will be self-contained and cover from six to eight acres, should be built in the Covent Garden area to take the place of the existing inadequate and inefficient buildings which sprawl over the thirty acres and inhibit other activities throughout the whole area. We have never contemplated that the Market must be rebuilt on exactly the same site where the original Market is today. The exact site is left open in the Bill for the Covent Garden Market Authority to choose in conjunction with the planning authority within the Covent Garden area. I should be surprised if a move to another site in the area—around Seven Dials is an obvious possibility—does not turn out to be the best. With proper design and facilities for mechanical handling and storage, produce will be able to flow freely into and out of the Market so that business can be done more quickly and economically.

But it is not our intention merely to provide facilities for the trade as it is now. The new Market must be designed to fit in with the trends of future marketing techniques. The modern trend is towards greater standardisation in grading and packing and more direct distribution from grower to seller. More and more produce will be able physically to by-pass the central market, even though the operations of buying and selling and of fixing prices and regulating supplies continue to be centred there.

To ignore these developments and to build a new Market, either at Covent Garden or anywhere else, to rehouse a trade of the present size and indulging in its present methods would not only be unnecessarily expensive, but fundamentally wrong. We cannot, however, afford to hold up the reorganisation of the Market until these developments in marketing have of themselves reduced the size of the present Market over the years. Neither should we sit back and await the time necessary to rebuild a new market.

The Bill therefore provides, in effect, for a two-phase operation. In the first phase, a new Covent Garden Market Authority will be set up which will establish a market annex outside the market area to take some of the physical load off the market. This reduction in physical load will come about in two ways. First, by providing storage for empty containers. It is a disquieting fact that no less than eight-and-a-half acres of floor space is taken up at the moment in Covent Garden for the storage of empty boxes.

Secondly, it will relieve the physical load by providing storage for produce in bulk which will consist mostly, in the early stages, at any rate, of imported goods coming in from the docks. I am not saying that from the day the annex begins to function all imported produce will go to the annex, but the fact is that 50 per cent. of goods sold through Covent Garden are imported, and the packing and grading of a large proportion of this produce lends itself to bulk storage and sale by sample and need never, therefore, go into the Market itself. It will be sold direct from the annex on sample exhibited in the Market. Neither the lorry which collects it from the docks nor the lorry which collects it for further distribution will need to touch the Market itself.

The broad outline of the returnable box problem, which is a considerable one, is as follows. Literally thousands of these boxes are at present brought back empty to the Market by the buyers, sorted out, often in the streets, and carried to the stores of the individual merchants from where they go out to the growers. In future, these operations will be dealt with at the annex. The annex will, therefore, provide considerable relief to the Market in the near future, in terms both of space and traffic.

Mr. George Brown (Belper)

I did not follow that. The Secretary of State said that the 50 per cent. which is imported will go to the annex because it is most able to be sold. The imported produce comes in in non-returnable containers. The returnable box problem does not concern imported produce. It is containers for home-grown produce which cause the problem.

Mr. Soames

There are two factors. The first concerns empty boxes, which is a problem on its own.

Mr. Brown

For home-grown produce?

Mr. Soames

Yes—nothing to do with imported produce. The other produce comes in in packages which are never returned. I have tried to explain that the annex will provide two benefits. The first concerns home-grown produce and empty boxes and the other bulk produce which comes in from the docks, which at the moment is taken to Covent Garden and a large proportion of which will be able to be diverted to the annex when it is built and not go into the market at all.

Mr. Brown

The Secretary of State said that imported produce can obviously be sold ex-sample. He did not say that home-grown produce can be sold ex-sample. I therefore presume that it cannot. In that case, all the boxes have to go to Covent Garden.

Mr. Soames

This is quite like old times, when we used to talk about defence, especially as the right hon. Gentleman calls me the "Secretary of State". I have a long way to go yet in my speech and, strangely enough, I intend to deal with the points which the right hon. Gentleman has raised.

Mr. Brown

A bull's-eye.

Mr. Soames

The right hon. Gentleman says that it is a bull's-eye. He has thought that he has scored bull's-eyes before, but it turned out that he was completely off the target. In future, these operations will be able to be dealt with at the annex, which will provide considerable relief.

While the first phase of the operation is going on, the Authority will be getting out plans for the second phase, the rebuilding of an entirely new Market which, thanks to the existence of the annex, the expected expansion of Brent-ford and Stratford Markets, and the incorporation of modern techniques in the new Market, will be able to be concentrated in a quarter or less of the area taken up by the present Market. Once the location and size of the Market are decided, the planning authority will be able to get on with the comprehensive redevelopment of the whole Covent Garden area.

The L.C.C., obviously, has been keen to do this for many years, but it has been quite impossible because of the present sprawling condition of the Market and uncertainty about its future. The implementation of the Bill will sweep all this away and will give the Council the opportunity which it has wanted for so long. For this reason, the L.C.C. welcomes the Bill, and I and my predecessor are grateful for all the help which it has given us in the period of preparation of the scheme and the Bill.

There have been serious fires and loss of life in the Market buildings in recent years. The risks of fire owing to storage of large numbers of empty wooden boxes are acute. In the Covent Garden area, with its congested streets and old properties the consequences of a fire could be grave indeed. The London County Council, as the fire authority, considers the present risk to be intolerable. The House will be aware that in a private Act of 1959, the London County Council took powers, which have not yet been invoked, to enable the Council to get the boxes out of the Market. The reasons are clear. Whether, however, these powers could be effectively used without causing serious disruption of business in the Market is questionable. If the Bill is passed the risk can be radically reduced without jeopardising the work of the Market.

The subject which has caused more concern, perhaps, than any other is that of traffic. We commissioned an independent traffic expert to conduct a survey of traffic in and around the Market. The results are interesting and I should like to tell the House about them, as they set out the measure of the problem in perspective. They show that the actual movement of market traffic is not a major factor in the flow of traffic on the roads around the Market area.

Mr. Kenneth Robinson (St. Pancras, North)

One cannot move.

Mr. Soames

I will try to develop this and hope to be able to satisfy the hon Member.

During the course of a whole day, the total number of vehicles coming into the Market is 3,250. This compares with an average rate throughout the day of 10,000 vehicles per hour on the roads bounding the area. The real problem is not the vehicles going in and coming out of the market. It is the time that vehicles are stationary in the streets, waiting to load and unload. Of the 3,250 vehicles moving daily into the Market, 2,850 come in to collect produce and 400 to deliver it. Over half of the former have had to wait for more than three hours to be able to load up and, of the latter, those delivering produce, over half have had to wait for more than three and a half hours to unload.

A by-product of this parking chaos is the delay which it causes in the Market traffic getting clear of the Market as early as it should. Under our plan, the new Market will have a precinct where all Market vehicles will go and get right off the streets. There will be fewer of them coming into the area because of the use to which the annex will be put. Those that do come into the area will be able to discharge and pick up their loads more quickly and, therefore, get away sooner, thus avoiding the peak period between 9 and 10 a.m.

Even during the first phase of the operation, before the Market is concentrated in its new area and rebuilt, there will be a substantial easing of traffic congestion. Many of the heavy lorries bringing imported produce from the docks, or loading it for delivery to the provinces—it is these 500 heavy lorries a day which have to be parked for so long and which are the most serious causes of congestion—will use the annex and will have no need to come in to Covent Garden. With them out of the way, parking will be easier and other Market vehicles will be able to get away earlier.

There are those who feel that even the Market, in its new form, once it has been rebuilt, must contribute to the traffic difficulties in the area. I ask them to consider whether the substitution of other forms of activity would be any better. I should like to quote in aid some figures from the traffic survey. At present, after about 9.15 in the morning, there are more vehicles unconnected in any way with the Market than Market vehicles themselves parked in the Covent Garden area. They stay there a good deal longer. By mid-afternoon, they outnumber Market vehicles by five or six to one.

We all know that the one desire of growers who supply the Market and of retailers and others who buy from it is to get their business done as early as possible while the produce is fresh and before the housewife begins her shopping. They aim to get clear of the Market in the early hours and this will be a primary object of the new plan. Any other form of redevelopment to take the place of the Market would be bound to generate traffic of precisely the same kind as that which causes the most serious difficulties on the roads between 9 and 10 o'clock in the morning.

Mr. K. Robinson

The right hon. Gentleman has stated that any other development would also cause congestion. Is he aware that what we need in Central London is residential development which would ease the traffic situation? Can there be any argument for siting the new Covent Garden Market somewhere where there are only road transport facilities and no rail facilities?

Mr. Soames

I am coming to that point; the hon. Member will see that I am not ducking it.

What will improve the position in Covent Garden is the diversion of a high proportion of the heavy lorries away from the Market area to the annex and the speeding up of the turn-round of the lorries in the Market area, so that they are away out of it at an earlier hour before the weight of traffic has built up. This is what will happen under the scheme in the Bill.

The important traffic point concerning the annex is that parking space will be provided for vehicles within the grounds of the annex. There is no question of vehicles parking in the street and they would not, therefore, cause any local congestion. The annex that we envisage lies at the busy junction of Old Street and City Road, where a roundabout is to be constructed during the next few years and, later, a fly-over. I understand that various improvements will take place on the many alternative routes around that area. All these will improve the general traffic situation.

Some hon. Members have been asking why we have not accepted the recommendation of the Runciman Committee that an entirely new market should be created in North-West London. Others have asked why we have decided in favour of the Covent Garden area in preference to other central sites—for instance, the railway sidings at King's Cross. The Runciman Committee made a careful study of the functions and the location of the Market. I am sure that the House will agree that the Committee's work has been of great value, and we are grateful to the members of that Committee.

The Runciman Committee came to the conclusion that the national central Market should stay where it is, at Covent Garden, but be reduced in size and scope. It recommended that this should be done by diverting some of Covent Garden's trade with London retailers to a completely new market and to Brent-ford and Stratford Markets, which should be expanded for the purpose. We accept what the Committee said about the national central Market—that it should continue, but be reduced in size. We accept, too, that there is great scope for expansion of Brentford and Stratford. While we agree, however, that physical pressure on Covent Garden must be reduced and concentrated in a smaller area, we do not consider that the creation of an entirely new market is the right way to achieve it. Until one comes to the point of practical decision, it is not difficult to produce schemes which, on the face of them, seem attractive. But as each one has been examined it has been rejected in favour of the one which is now in the Bill.

In essence, a market is a place where people congregate to do business together. The mere provision of buildings can be no guarantee of a flourishing market. Success depends on the readiness of growers, wholesalers and retailers to move in together. It is not enough to say, as hon. Members opposite might feel tempted to say, in view of their Amendment, that all that needs to be done is to squeeze out or close down completely trade at Covent Garden for traders to go where we want them to go. The traders might well transfer their business to established markets like Spitalfields and the Borough, and transfer congestion there rather than risk their whole future in a market in which they may not have confidence and which they do not know will succeed.

Sir John Vaughan-Morgan (Reigate)

I follow my right hon. Friend's argument. He does not want to squeeze them out of Covent Garden, because it may be difficult to provide facilities elsewhere. I would draw from that the logical conclusion that the Runciman Committee was right in recommending a central marketing authority.

Mr. Michael Cliffe (Shoreditch and Finsbury)

My information is that the trade raises no objection to a new market being created and that those engaged in the trade have not proposed that this annex should be an alternative to Covent Garden.

Mr. Soames

The trade says that it is satisfied with the proposals in the Bill and my view, from all I have heard, is that it would be most dissatisfied with the proposition to build a new market on the outskirts of London and move out to it.

This is one of the main arguments. If we are to expect the trade to move out of Covent Garden we must take very much wider powers than we are taking in the Bill. It all adds up to this—that we could only be sure that a new market would work if traders were compelled to use it and prevented from going elsewhere. This would call for entirely new powers of direction over the trade and over all the authorities with markets in Greater London. The Government do not believe that it would be either necessary or right to take sweeping powers over all the marketing facilities in the Greater London area which would be necessary to enforce such a plan on unwilling traders, grower, wholesalers and local authorities.

Nor is this the end of the story. The Market authorities would not be prepared to put money into improving their own markets while they were uncertain of the effects that the new market would have on them.

Mr. G. Brown

Oh, really!

Mr. Soames

The right hon. Gentleman mumbles away, lying on the Front Bench opposite, but the Brentford and Chiswick Borough Council, for example, which is responsible for the Brentford Market, has made it clear that it would not go ahead with plans to expand its Market if a new market were contemplated, and we attach considerable importance to the expansion of these markets. Our proposal for a Covent (Garden Market annex avoids these difficulties. It is in line with the natural developments of the trade and can be put into effect with the co-operation of those concerned. The removal of the market to King's Cross would give rise to much the same problems.

Moreover, it is far from certain whether a site over the railway would be available, or whether building a market there would be the best and most profitable use of the land. I would ask hon. Members not to attach undue importance to the part that the railways can play in the delivery of horticultural products. All the trend of marketing is away from railways on to the roads, because of the double and treble handling that goods have to undergo to be moved from the farm to Covent Garden if they go by rail. All the trend is towards the direct employment of lorries from the farm straight to Covent Garden. I ask hon. Members not to overestimate the value of a market being next to a railway station.

Mr. Geoffrey de Freitas (Lincoln)

The right hon. Gentleman says that the trend is that way, but surely it is one of the Government's objects to reverse that trend so far as practicable, especially now that the railways have developed their Condor system of loading and handling. Is not the trend of which the right hon. Gentleman has spoken an undesirable feature of transport at the present time?

Mr. Soames

No, Sir. The vast majority of growers will always send their produce by road, and they will not go back to the railways. To plan in that way is to plan in cloud cuckoo land, because that will not happen.

No site will be ideal from every point of view. Wherever it is situated it must take produce from Cornwall as well as Essex, Kent as well as the Lea Valley, from counties to the north of London, from the docks and from rail termini serving the Continent. The Market must serve not only London retailers who will continue to use it, but must be convenient as a distribution centre to the country as a whole.

Whatever site is chosen, some will approve and others oppose. Alternatives offered will have only their advantages highlighted. The Government have come to the conclusion that the present site is better than any other in the field and that the decision to keep to the Covent Garden area is the only one that will enable action needed on so many fronts to be started without delay. Therefore, we have this Bill before the House.

Mr. Albert Evans (Islington, South-West)

Would the right hon. Gentleman deal with the point which was raised by his hon. Friend the Member for Reigate (Sir J. Vaughan-Morgan)? Would he say why, if the Government are interested in developing the Brentford and Stratford Markets, the Bill limits authority to Covent Garden? Why have the Government not thought it appropriate to take authority to deal with London markets?

Mr. Soames

Because we believe that the Brentford and Stratford Markets will be expanded and that it would not be right to take the sort of sweeping powers necessary to enforce what the hon. Member has in mind.

Clause 1 of the Bill provides for the setting up of a Covent Garden Market Authority. This will be a small body of independent people. It will not engage in trading. Its job will be to supply facilities for efficient marketing along the lines I have explained.

Mr. Gordon Walker (Smethwick)

With sweeping powers.

Mr. Soames

Why is it necessary to have statutory authority even in this small area with this specific purpose rather than that we should leave the job to private enterprise or local authorities? The answer is that to contain the present sprawl of the market in Covent Garden, and, in due course, to concentrate it into a much smaller area, there must be control by licensing over premises used for marketing.

Mr. G. Brown

Sweeping powers.

Mr. Soames

We are not so rigid as the right hon. Gentleman. There is no reason at all why we should not say that we do not think it necessary to take the type of powers that are required to control all marketing in London, but we do consider it necessary to take powers within the Covent Garden Market area.

Mr. Brown

The answer that the right hon. Gentleman gave to his hon. Friend the Member for Reigate (Sir J. Vaughan-Morgan) was that we could not have a London marketing authority because that means sweeping powers. The Runciman Committee did not recommend that, but that was the right hon. Gentleman's answer. Now he says that the reason why he wants a Covent Garden Market Authority is that he must have sweeping powers. We say that the two answers do not match up.

Mr. Soames

But the other would be for the markets in the London area and this is for Covent Garden itself. To contain the present sprawl of the Market, and, in due course, concentrate it, there must be control by licensing over the premises used for marketing. To ensure that bulk produce and empty containers are diverted from Covent Garden to the annex there must be regulation of trading within the market area. The powers required even for this limited scheme at Covent Garden go far beyond any used by local authorities in running markets, let alone private enterprise, and the problem in Covent Garden involves several different authorities.

For these reasons, we believe it necessary to have a statutory Authority set up specifically for the purpose. This is a special Authority, constituted for one market for special reasons, and it in no way indicates any thought on the part of the Government that markets in general should be run by statutory authorities of this character. Local authorities throughout the country are responsible for their markets, and we intend that this system should continue.

Clauses 2 to 14 provide for the Authority to take over the "market lands". These consist of the Charter Market and adjacent Market buildings at Covent Garden, and also the site of the St. Luke's Printing Works, Finsbury, which is now being acquired on our behalf by the London County Council for the Market annex, although this does not rule out the possibility of other sites being used, if better.

Under Clause 3, the Charter and the Act of 1828 will be repealed to clear the way for changes in the layout and siting of the Market. Clauses 8 to 12 deal with compensation for these vesting operations, and Clauses 13 and 14 with the future of present Market staff.

The next group of Clauses, 16 to 32, give the Authority certain specific powers of control and regulation over market operations. As I said earlier, special powers are necessary if the Authority is to achieve the purposes for which it is to be set up within the Covent Garden area.

The first of these is that of licensing. Then there are the powers, provided under Clause 25, which are designed to enable the Authority to keep away from the Market produce and containers that can conveniently be handled at the annex. It will thus be able to increase the tempo of the trend towards selling by sample. As I have said, much of our imported produce is already packed and graded in a way which lends itself to this form of marketing.

I now come to the point raised by the right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) about home produce. As lime goes on more home-grown produce will be able to be handled in the same way, but no one with any knowledge of the trade would expect all produce to be dealt with like this.

Although Covent Garden, in years to come, will operate much more on the lines of a produce exchange than it does now, it is unrealistic to think of it ever relying entirely on sample as happens, for example, at Mark Lane. Small consignments from small growers will still need to be brought physically into the Market, as will goods like flowers, high quality and rare fruits and special products sold in comparatively small quantities. There is already a worth-while volume of trade which can be dealt with by sample, and for the rest it will be a matter of evolution.

For a great many years grower-wholesalers have traded in the Market. Specific provision was made for them in the Act of 1828, and under Clause 17 of the Bill the Authority will be required to continue to provide facilities for them. No one would expect the Authority to perpetuate the exact Market charges fixed 132 years ago, but any proposals that it has for new tolls and charges must be approved by the Minister of the day. It will be for him to see that no group of legitimate traders, be they grower-wholesalers, commission salesmen or merchants, is treated unfairly compared with others.

To help the Authority do its work we are providing, in Clauses 33 to 36, for three committees to be set up to advise it. A Market Management Committee, consisting of traders and other users, will be consulted by the Authority on all matters affecting trade interests. A Traffic Committee will be consulted on matters affecting traffic, congestion and the like, and a Workers' Committee will be consulted on matters touching the interests of workpeople in the Market and those engaged in transporting produce into and away from it.

I come now to finance. When the Authority acquires the interests of the present owners, it will get an income from rents, tolls and other charges. But, at the same time, it will have to carry the cost of servicing the financing of the acquisition and of building the annex as well as meeting the costs of day to day running of the Market.

As the Authority will be required under the Bill to be self-supporting it will have to increase its income to match the increased liabilities which it is bound to incur in carrying out its responsibilities. But even if the Market charges go up it by no means follows that the total marketing costs will go up as well. Time lost at present by men and vehicles kept hanging about costs big money which is impossible to evaluate, and the quality of produce also suffers from the delays. Better facilities must increase efficiency and lower costs.

Clearly, it will take time for the Authority to step up its income by higher charges and from developing the valuable properties which it will own. We consider that it will need help to raise its initial capital. Hence, Clause 40 of the Bill allows it during the first ten years to borrow up to £8 million from the Exchequer. This is not a subsidy. Any Exchequer loan will attract normal interest charges and the Authority will be expected to repay it as soon as possible. All the Authority's other capital requirements will have to come from commercial sources, subject to the restriction that total borrowings may not exceed £20 million at any one time.

This is a complex Bill, covering a broad field. It is brought forward in the public interest, but inevitably it affects many individual rights. In it we seek to grapple with a problem which has daunted central government and local authorities for upwards of fifty years. The solution which we propose is realistic and practical and can be achieved with the minimum of interference with traders and public authorities. In preparing the Bill it has been an enormous help to the Government to have had the advice of organisations representing producers, traders and market workers, and of the London County Council, the City of London and other local authorities.

Until there is new legislation, nothing can be done about Covent Garden. The Bill provides the opportunity for which so many have been looking. It will open the way for imaginative redevelopment of the area. When the Bill becomes law we can expect, on the one hand, radical improvements of amenities, convenience and safety in this important area, and, on the other, a modern and efficient national central market. For these reasons, I commend the Bill to the House.

4.28 p.m.

Mr. Geoffrey de Freitas (Lincoln)

I beg to move, to leave out from "That" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof: this House declines to give a Second Reading to a Bill which fails to deal effectively with the problems involved in the marketing of horticultural produce, and which authorises the rebuilding of a wholesale market in one of the most congested parts of London without proper regard to the lack of transport facilities. I should like to thank the right hon. Gentleman for his kind words about me. The unkind words which I may have to say about the Government are not so much directed towards him, because, after all, he inherited the Bill. He has, of course, collective responsibility, but the Bill was already there when he reached his Department.

We are all agreed that the-situation at Covent Garden is chaotic. What we differ about is how the problem should be solved. I do not agree for one moment that the Government have grappled—as the right hon. Gentleman called it—with the problem. It is not surprising that they should be chaotic, because, as the right hon. Gentleman pointed out, the site was granted 300 years ago to the Earls of Bedford for a market, but now it is called upon to serve an area containing 13 million people. T.he chaos can be measured by experts—and, indeed, by anyone who visits the site. I shall not dwell too long on what the experts say of the chaos, but I will quote a sentence from an article by Mr. Collyer who produced the report for the London Fruit and Vegetable Trades Federation and the Fruit Importers Association. He said: The result is an appalling loss of man-hours and vehicle time and deterioration of produce on a scale impossible to estimate. For example, many vehicles taking produce out to the provinces may not finish loading until it is too late to make deliveries the same day. I draw the attention of the House to those words, that the deterioration of produce is on a scale impossible to estimate.

Sir Harry Legge-Bourke (Isle of Ely)

I hope the hon. Gentleman will also recall that Mr. Collyer whom he has quoted wrote a letter to The Times in which he definitely comes out in favour of the rebuilding of Covent Garden Market.

Mr. de Freitas

I wish the hon. and gallant Gentleman would let me develop my case. I was only saying that here was a man—of course, he has a different opinion as to the way in which the problem should be solved—who shows that there is a case for something to be done. We all agree about that. We do not agree about the methods. I was limiting my quotation to the need. I was saying, first, that there is a need. I was saying, secondly, that one does not have to be an expert to go there to see the chaos today in Covent Garden Market.

What depressed me in much of the right hon. Gentleman's speech was that though he talked about the chaos and the need for efficiency he made no reference to the really thrilling prospect of replanning this area so that we could see Inigo Jones's church and allow the Opera House space in which to build rehearsal rooms. The Russians may be strange people but they do not have lorries of rotting vegetables outside the Bolshoi and they have rooms for rehearsals.

We could do far more today if we rebuilt in this area. We could develop its present amenities, and allow cur architects, engineers and town planners in the twentieth century to show their skill in putting up some really good buildings on the site which might under this Bill be used for a market. We could put there something which is needed in this area—some public building such as a permanent exhibition hall which we lack in central London. That would meet the right hon. Gentleman's point about the volume and nature of traffic, because such a building would not require the same sort of traffic as there is in residential areas.

I put this to the right hon. Gentleman. Why should any of the Covent Garden Market area be sterilised by markets and diesel fumes and prevented from being the site of a well-planned, twentieth century addition to the public buildings of the capital city? This is one of my complaints at what the Government propose to do.

My second complaint is this. Although Covent Garden—by what I mean a central market in central London—is undesirable, if there is to be one surely it makes nonsense to have it unless the satellite markets are certain of being developed and expanded. My second complaint is that the Government are not doing this.

Let me remind the House again of what the Runciman Committee said dealing with the numbers and siting and organisation of London markets. It recommended that Brentford to the west and Stratford to the east must be greatly improved and expanded. It recommended that Greenwich to the south-east must be developed as far as possible. The Committee was careful to point out that there are problems there about developing it. However, it pointed out that Greenwich to the south-east must be developed as much as possible.

It went on to say that a large new market must be built in the north-west, and then, and only then, did it say that Covent Garden was to remain in the centre, primarily as a clearing house. The conditions on which it advocated the retention of Covent Garden as a centre was that those other markets on the perimeter should be expanded if they existed or established if they did not; and then, in those conditions, Covent Garden should be retained in the centre primarily as a clearing house. On organisation, the Committee said that a London Market Authority must be set up. We have those two sets of considerations and recommendations on numbers and siting and organisation.

The right hon. Gentleman gave the impression as he went on with his speech that various bodies—he told us their names—were in favour of this Bill, but even the National Farmers' Union, which distributed the document which we all received this morning, said in effect that this is second best. The N.F.U. makes the point in the document that it regrets the abandonment of the new large market which the Runciman Committee envisaged being established in the north-west.

No wonder is it that we have the Economist describing this Bill, as "an ineffective measure". Why? The Economist, on 12th November, studying the Bill, argued that, although the Minister talked about congestion and inefficiency at Covent Garden, there would be greater wisdom in putting less money into this project at the congested centre and putting more money for facilities in the north-west and in the north-east and other sections of what it called "the hinterland of London".

I am elaborating the point for this reason. Everyone who has come out in favour of retaining Covent Garden Market in the centre of London, as far as I can see, has always supposed that, as a condition precedent to this, there would be certain developments and expansion of markets on the perimenter.

Why have the Government ignored the Runciman Committee, and why have they ignored those important bodies which gave evidence? Again, the right hon. Gentleman talked about co-operation from the L.C.C., and he seemed to me to be trying to give the impression that the L.C.C. wanted this Bill. What is the fact? The L.C.C., in its evidence to the Runciman Committee, called for the complete decentralisation of the markets. Complete decentralisation. What it has done, like any responsible, important local authority, is reluctantly to accept the Government's decision and to indicate its willingness to make the best of a bad job. It is not fair to the L.C.C. to say that this is its scheme. It called, through the Runciman Committee, for complete decentralisation.

I remind the right hon. Gentleman and the House that the T.U.C. in its evidence to the Runciman Committee called for a London Market Authority. I still do not understand the argument as to why there is to be no London Market Authority. Is it because—I put it quite frankly—the Government are frightened of the vested interest of the owners of the other London markets, such as the City of London? If so, I beg the Government to pluck up their courage and to act on this.

Let the Government think back to what happened at the time of the setting up of the Port of London Authority. Before 1908 there was chaos in the docks. There was a large number of organisations running the docks and owning the docks. There was inquiry after inquiry. At last there came a purposeful Government adopting a radical solution—I am sorry that there are no Liberal hon. Members in the Chamber—and Mr. Lloyd George persuaded Parliament to establish an all-embracing authority for this vast enterprise. It was a radical solution to settle, once and for all, the chaos in the London docks with the large number of owners of different enterprises in it. The Port of London Authority has become a model. It has been adapted for dozens of ports throughout the world.

The Government have failed in this just as Conservative Governments failed with regard to the Port of London Authority. I wonder whether, as I have heard argued, there is some law in democratic politics that after eight years or so of Right-wing Governments—Conservative in this country or Republican under the American system—having adopted about 90 per cent. of the reform measures of their predecessors and reversed about 10 per cent. these Governments have nothing else to do but to revert to type. Just when wide thinking and bold action are required, they seek the easiest and most Conservative solution, for it is easiest to take over one private company and leave all the publicly-owned enterprises alone. In other words they come down from the wide conception of a London Market Authority to the narrow one of a Covent Garden Authority.

That is not a real solution. When I used the word "solution", saying that it was a cowardly solution and essentially a Conservative solution, and I was discussing this with a retailer he hit the roof because I used the word "solution". He said—and I am bound to comment on it because this is one of the right hon. Gentleman's arguments—that an improved Covent Garden would attract retailers from Spitalfields and the Borough, and this would be no solution at all. Incidentally, this is also the considered view not only of a small retailer but of a very large organisation, the London Co-operative Society.

It is bad enough that the Government should have ignored most of the important proposals of the Runciman Committee. But in the years since Lord Runciman took the evidence and the Committee reported, the congestion on the roads has become worse. I want the Government to give some sign that they know that in this country we have railways. The right hon. Gentleman said that I was arguing in cloud-cuckoo-land when I intervened a short while ago. If I suggested that every grower everywhere should send his produce to market by rail it would be cloud-cuckoo-land. Of course, that is ridiculous, but surely we should not build a new market where there are no railway facilities, when we know that the railways have developed over the last few years, especially during the last few months, a system of moving goods that avoids double handling as much as possible.

It may be that that is only a small percentage of the volume that can be so moved, but, however small, it should be developed. It is not a new idea. It is referred to by Mr. Collyer in his report. He refers to the new developments on the railway's and the possibility of using them more. We do not know how the roads will stand up to traffic in the future. We have the railways, and surely that is an important fact to consider when siting the new Market, because this will be a new market, probably, as the right hon. Gentleman says, in the Covent Garden area at Seven Dials.

I remind the right hon. Gentleman of the T.U.C.'s evidence to the Runciman Committee which showed how practically they looked at this. The T.U.C. was arguing the preference of Stratford to King's Cross if the site was to be moved. It referred first to the railway marshalling yards, then to the system of inland waterways and then to the road facilities—railway, water and road. It was thinking in terms of all the possibilities of carriage. It is not cloud-cuckoo-land thinking when I mention that we are moving into an age when the transportation of very expensive flowers and vegetables, especially exotic flowers, by helicopter from London Airport might well be practicable. Many people think that the time has already come for that. If the Government are to think in twentieth century terms it must establish any new market in a place which takes advantages of all modern methods of communication—road, rail, water, helicopter.

Several hon. Members have told me that they are hoping to speak, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, on the particular scheme for King's Cross. I ask the Government to consider it as a scheme which has been carefully worked out. I am not saying that it is the answer, but it should be considered.

I have criticised the Government for ignoring the essence of the Runciman Committee's Report and not decentralising and not setting up a London Market Authority. I have criticised them for ignoring the importance of thinking of rail, water and air transport as well as road transport. I now ask them to look further away. I will mention only two places—Sheffield and Paris.

Has the Sheffield Market, on the edge of the city, been a success? It is obvious that what suits Sheffield cannot possibly be said to suit a city of the size of London with all its hinterland, but surely there is something to learn from the construction there and the way the market is sited on the railway and on the road. What have the Government learnt from Paris? Has not Paris now adopted a policy of decentralisation of its markets, at present covering meat and a wide range of groceries and soon to cover fruit and vegetables? Is there not something that we can learn from there? Have they not their centralised process for determining prices, their "stock exchange" at the centre served by teleprinter? Are these developments inevitable in any orderly marketing system?

Is not this the way we should be thinking—decentralised markets, a London Market Authority, and a centralised price determination system? Since we are in the twentieth century, let us see what experiments have been made with closed-circuit television, which could be used for auctions and a dozen other purposes connected with marketing. I ask the Government to consider that what they are doing they are doing in the middle of the twentieth century. There is still time for the Government to look wider, and they should take the Bill back and think again.

Criticisms have been many. I will mention first the one in relation to the Finsbury Annex. My hon. Friend the Member for Shoreditch and Finsbury (Mr. Cliffe) hopes to develop this matter. It seems to me that the Finsbury Annex plan is a strange one. It aims at transferring some of the traffic congestion and fire hazards from the citizens of Westminster to the citizens of Shoreditch and Finsbury two miles away.

Apart from the obvious disadvantages of double handling, there are many who believe that this will increase rather than decrease the length of the average traffic journey for the disposal of a unit of produce. I notice that a little while ago the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food called for the document which the National Farmers' Union sent us this morning. As I understood it, he was claiming that this organisation supported the Bill. It may be that he has qualified support, but he will also notice that it points out that many of its members criticise the proposal and say that it will increase rather than decrease the length of the overall traffic journey for the disposal of a unit of produce. This view is supported by two other organisations—the Covent Garden Market Traders' Association and the Retail Fruit Trade Federation.

I think I know the area round the Finsbury Annex as well as any hon. Member except my hon. Friends the Members for Goole (Mr. Jeger) and Shoredith and Finsbury. In the 'thirties when I was reading for the Bar I lived at a boys' club in Shoreditch for two years, and on three or four evenings a week I took the boys running round the streets of Finsbury and Shoreditch. I think I know every single one of the streets backwards. I can tell the House that they are narrow and difficult streets, and these are the streets which lead up to the annex area. It is no wonder that the Borough Councils of both Shoreditch and Finsbury have protested against the traffic congestion which will result from the putting of the annex up against the third busiest intersection in London and in an area where the streets are very narrow.

There is also the fire risk. The right hon. Gentleman talked about the L.C.C. being worried about the fire risk. Of course, it is. But with all these tens of thousands of cases piled up in the Finsbury annex next to the eye hospital which is perhaps the largest in the country and certainly the largest in London—the Moorfields Eye Hospital—it is no wonder that the Borough Councils of Shoreditch and Finsbury have protested on this very ground.

As for the traffic congestion itself, I have referred to the letter from the National Farmers' Union and quoted two organisations directly associated with Covent Garden itself. Now I quote from Modern Transport, a journal which takes an interest in the great problems of living in cities. It says in its issue of 19th November: Two things seem clear. The first is that the new Covent Garden Market Authority could get far better value for its £8 million grant from the Exchequer if it started afresh on a site outside Central London; the second is that, if the present rebuilding scheme … is persisted with, traffic can only be kept down to an acceptable level by irksome restrictions on users of the market, and the capital investment might not be fully realised. If the Finsbury warehouse does materialise there must be some duplication of services. … It seems that every one is in step but the Minister himself. Lest it be thought that that is an unofficial view and not important—it is not an official journal—I shall quote a more official view. The Report of the London and Home Counties Traffic Advisory Committee, 1958, says: In our last report, we stated our considered opinion that, from the traffic point of view, Covent Garden Market would be best removed entirely to another site. Since then … the Minister"— has announced the new Bill. In view of our duties in connection with London traffic, we much regret that this decision has been found necessary. Those responsible for planning the future market, as well as those responsible for traffic conditions in the area, are now confronted with a challenge which it will require all their ingenuity to meet. That is a polite way of saying that there will be dreadful chaos.

I now turn to a criticism about finance. I did not understand everything that the right hon. Gentleman said about finance, but a figure of £20 million was mentioned as the borrowing figure. Where does the figure of £20 million come from? It obviously comes from the Department, or it would not be in our discussions. But when there were discussions with the interests concerned that same figure was used, and then the figure was for the Landon Market Authority and not for a Covent Garden Authority. If I am wrong, I should like to be told so, but I believe I am right. I should be interested to know whether that is so.

Against the Bill I have given the views of some public bodies, some private bodies and some newspapers and also my personal opinion, and I do not apologise for giving my own opinion because I am certain that I speak for millions of ordinary citizens who would be horrified if they realised what the Bill proposes to do, because they have pride enough not to want to go down in history as a generation who failed to make bold and imaginative decisions. This Bill is an example of political timidity in that it takes over the private company but runs away from the solution of setting up a London Market Authority because that would upset the City of London and other market owners. It is the sort of political thinking which I believe should have no place in the settling of a great problem like this.

As the Prime Minister said on Monday in another connection: Those who come after us will, rightly condemn us if we cannot rise to the level of events, particularly if we allow the promptings of immediate difficulties, political or other, to divert us from the ultimate aim. One of our aims should surely be a finer capital city.

5.0 p.m.

Sir Wavell Wakefield (St. Marylebone)

I congratulate the Government on facing up to and tackling this complicated problem of Covent Garden. The tackling of the problem is long overdue. The present position cannot possibly be allowed to continue. Something has to be done and whatever is done is bound to be criticised, but it would have been quite unforgiveable to have done nothing.

As has been pointed out, the main problem to overcome is that of traffic congestion, and that can be done, as the Minister has said, either by moving the Market elsewhere, or rebuilding and reorganising it in such a way that the Market is made smaller and the traffic allowed to flow freely. The Government have chosen the latter course for the reasons which the Minister has already advanced. There are a number of criticisms and suggestions which I desire to make about the Government's proposals which, in a number of respects, I consider to be far from satisfactory.

In my discussions with the representatives of the City of Westminster, there was impressed upon me the very grave concern which the City authorities have had for a long time about the traffic congestion in the Covent Garden area. That congestion, caused by the Market traffic, is not confined to the area of the Market's sprawl. The Market traffic also has a very far-reaching effect on the main traffic arteries radiating in all directions from Covent Garden.

The Minister has given us details of how that is caused, and I will not go into that matter any further. However, from time to time, over the years, the Council of the City of Westminster has told the Government that in its opinion the only completely satisfactory solution to the traffic problems created by the Market would be the removal of the market entirely from the heart of London.

In its recommendations, the Runciman Committee would not go so far as that and it proposed, as has been said, that the existing Brentford and Stratford Markets should be enlarged and improved and that a new wholesale market should be set up to the northwest of London. The local business of Covent Garden could then be transferred to those markets leaving Covent Garden to concentrate mainly on its functions as a national price fixing market conducting business mainly on sample without handling commodities in bulk.

In 1957, the Government were informed by the City of Westminster Council that, failing the complete removal of the Covent Garden Market, which it would still prefer to see, it supported the Runciman Committee's proposal in general. I do not want to detain the House longer than I need, but I think that I should quote paragraph 211 of the Runciman Report in full. It says: At present, there is no market conveniently close for retailers in the north-west of London, and most of them have to use Covent Garden. More retailers come to Covent Garden from that area than from any other save the very centre. If Brent-ford and Stratford Markets were improved and expanded and a new market were created, having a similar character to these two, to serve the north-west of London, they could between them handle a good deal of the trade with retailers now done through Covent Garden. We recommend that these measures be taken. Some hon. Members will have received, as I have done, a statement from the National Farmers' Union during the last few hours in which the Union says: … we have little doubt that a large central market in London will continue to be required for a substantial bulk of our home-grown fresh fruit and vegetables. It goes on: The Union agreed with the view of the Runciman Committee in 1957 that Covent Garden Market should be retained primarily to cater for wholesale customers … It entirely accepted the further suggestion of the Runciman Committee that, largely to ease congestion in the latter part of the morning"— and in view of what the Minister has said that is important— a new market for retail buyers should be established somewhere in North-West London and regretted that the Government should have abandoned that recommendation. I suggest that St. Marylebone Railway Station and Goods Yard, where there is an area of about forty-four acres, would make a very suitable site for the setting up of such a market in North-West London. Only about one-sixth of the site would be needed and it is very well situated to serve North-West London. There is, of course, railway access, to the need for which the hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. de Freitas) drew attention. There is also road access to the North which, as we all know, is being greatly improved and, with the improvement of Western Avenue, there is also access to the West Country.

Earlier this year, I drew attention to the grossly inadequate use of this goods yard by the British Transport Commission and to the large losses which have been taking place there for many years. The proposal which I am now making could help to mitigate some of those losses. In fact, if such a market were set up perhaps it could be better served by turning that old Great Central Railway line, which comes into St. Marylebone, into a road. In his speech, the Minister drew attention to the trend to use roads rather than railways, and I can think of no better railway line than this to try out the experiment of converting a major railway line into a road, since suburban traffic is low compared with that of other stations and can easily be handled by road vehicles.

I very much hope that much more careful examination will be made than I believe has been made of the possibilities of setting up a market at St. Marylebone Goods Yard, which is in the northwest of London and which has been recommended from so many sources.

Mr. de Freitas

In the context of the Runciman Report and discussions about North-West London, is not the argument that something should be done a good deal further out than the hon. Member's very distinguished constituency?

Sir W. Wakefield

That may well be true, possibly to Wembley or elsewhere, but if, as has been suggested, there should be a central market, I put this forward as a way of serving North-West London without having the market too far out, which might make it subject to the criticism that it would not be suitable. However, I appreciate what the hon. Member has said and his interesting suggestions about the use which should be made of the latest scientific developments in communications, television, and so on, which could be more intensely explored than they have been.

Clause 17 sets out the objects to be attained by the Covent Garden Market Authority in the discharge of its duties. They include the concentration of the Market into a more compact area; the provision of improved modern buildings and facilities for traders; the avoidance of traffic congestion; a reduction of the amount of produce brought into the area in bulk for sale; and the increase of the amount of business done by means of the facilities provided. There are very strong objections to that last purpose.

As the hon. Member for Lincoln has pointed out, the increase in business at which the Authority will aim must inevitably attract even larger numbers of traders to the Market. Any reduction in traffic which might result from the setting up of bulk storage and empties depots outside the Market area might well be more than offset by the extra traffic which increased business would bring. The object of the avoidance of traffic congestion would, therefore, be defeated and the benefits which the Minister hoped for from the concentration of the Market into a more compact area and by the provision of more modern buildings and facilities for traders would be largely nullified.

If an horticultural market is to remain at Covent Garden, its functions should be very strictly limited to those envisaged by the Runciman Committee. I think that the attention of the House should be drawn particularly to the extinguishing of the public rights over the Piazza. Clause 3 (1, b) seeks to extinguish any right of the public to use the Piazza for the purposes of exercise and recreation. The hon. Member for Lincoln will no longer be able to run round with his packs of boys if the Bill is allowed to go through as it stands. This is something to which I think great exception must be taken, and I ask the Government to reconsider this proposal most carefully. There surely can be no adequate justification for this proposed action.

I have had discussions with representatives of the City of London. While they are not opposing the principles of the Bill, as has already been pointed out by the London County Council, they are very lukewarm about it. There are a number of matters in the Bill which the representatives have asked me to draw to the attention of the House. Like the City of Westminster, they are concerned about the conflicting objects of the Bill, to which I have already drawn attention.

Another matter which is causing the City authorities anxiety is connected with the fact that the Covent Garden authorities are to be assisted by a Management Committee to which Clause 33 and the Fourth Schedule refer. That Management Committee will consist of those who do business at and with Covent Garden. This Management Committee is obviously a perfectly proper and suitable instrument to assist the Authority in its first task, which is that of running Covent Garden as such. It is not, however, a suitable body for exercising the wider planning powers.

The Authority is vested with powers of control, and a power in the Minister to make financial advances to it under Clause 40 which is only justifiable in its capacity as a planning and not as a management authority. Nevertheless, these powers and financial facilities will be available for the purely competitive side of the market. The only way in which the Authority can perform the functions laid on it by Clause 17 (1) is to change Covent Garden over from sales of produce actually physically brought into the Market to sales at the Market of produce by sample, the bulk, as has already been stated, to be kept elsewhere.

It is, I think, generally agreed that a large proportion of the produce sold at all the London markets is not gradeable, and never will be. It is, of course, possible that a much larger proportion could be graded. Indeed, as we know, a large proportion of foreign fruit and vegetables is graded, and is, and could be, sold by sample.

The present position is that at Spitalfields there is a large and flourishing Fruit Exchange which does, in fact, sell by sample an enormous quantity of imported fruit. The other produce which is already graded, or could be made gradeable is not enough in quantity to run a really flourishing market alone. Therefore, the Covent Garden Authority, to perform its task, must try to take away the graded imported fruit from the Fruit Exchange at Spitalfields.

As a matter of ordinary competition this is fair enough. Nobody can take exception to that, but the only way Covent Garden could take this business—and to be a success in the task set it it must do that—is by providing such facilities as well tempt this trade away altogether.

I suggest that it is very doubtful indeed if it will be able to do this on any ordinary commercial principle. With subsidy and unlimited cash no doubt it could be done, though it would seem to the City of London authorities that it would not be an economic proposition or even a practical one. Apparently the Authority will be given a task which can only be carried out uneconomically, that is to say, by subsidy with taxpayers' money.

The justification for the Covent Garden Authority having the statutory powers that are given to it, together with financial backing by the taxpayer, is that it is not merely an ordinary competitive Market Authority, but is entrusted with the important planning functions of making the Covent Garden area—and that is the whole of that area between Kingsway and Shaftesbury Avenue, Charing Cross Road, the Strand and Oxford Street—viable from the point of view of traffic.

If it were not entrusted with this task, surely there would be no justification for the powers and financial resources being granted to it. I do not see why it is necessary to vest such wide powers in the Authority if existing local government machinery and the powers of the planning Acts were used. If we are not very careful we shall see another opportunity created for the spending of taxpayers' money without adequate return.

As the Minister pointed out, Clause 2 vests the Finsbury lands in the Authority. No doubt if the hon. Member for Shoreditch and Finsbury (Mr. Cliffe) catches the eye of the Chair he will deal in great detail with the points which concern his constituency, but I would like the House to know that at one time the City of London authorities were asked to assist with the purchase of this site at the junction of Old Street and City Road, in advance of the Bill, but they felt that the project was not practicable, and so, as we have been told, the London County Council, acted as the Government's agent in this matter.

I understand that the City of London authorities still believe that the project is not economically practicable, and that they still have the gravest doubts whether, from the planning point of view, it is desirable. I consider it only right that the House should be made aware of the views of the City on this proposal.

In Clause 25 (1, c) it will be seen that the Authority may, by regulation, prohibit storage of horticultural produce within a quarter of a mile of the Finsbury lands or any other storage space. There seems to be no reason at all for this power. It has nothing to do with the rehabilitation of the Covent Garden area, and should it be suggested that two storage spaces be set up in close proximity, surely that should be purely a matter for the planning and traffic authorities, and not for the Covent Garden Authority, which would be, after all, only one of a number of authorities concerned.

This proposed storage space is very near the City boundaries, and it is only right that any land used should be subject to planning controls in the usual way. The City authorities are at present contemplating obtaining a site for storage of a similar type in connection with Spitalfields, and, indeed, obtained powers so to do in Section 8 of the City of London Various Powers Act, 1959. Therefore, the proposed new Authority and the City of London should both be subject to the usual planning controls. I suggest that there is no justification at all for the Authority having this special and additional power to control the neighbourhood of its storage site.

In Clause 18 (1, f), and 18 (2), read in combination, it will be seen that the Authority is given what is virtually unlimited power. Although, in essence, an ordinary competitive market business management, it has no articles of association, yet if these two provisions are read together, it has power to carry on all such other activities as it may appear to the Authority to be requisite, advantageous or convenient for them to carry on … with a view to making the best use of any of their assets. The Authority shall have power to do anything … which in their opinion is calculated … to facilitate the exercise of any of their powers under the foregoing provisions of this section, or is incidental or conducive thereto. It is difficult to imagine any enterprise, however remote from market management, which could not be included under those words.

The Authority will come into possession of a considerable block of property which it is the very object of its institution to redeem from market use. It is under a duty to make the best use of its assets, and has unlimited power to do it in any way that it thinks appropriate.

It is usual when a local authority obtains powers—for example, to provide multi-storey garages—to obtain powers to provide incidental services such as petrol stations and service stations. It is also usual for the trades concerned to be protected by the insertion of provisions which prevent the authority from carrying on these enterprises itself. I cannot think that it is in the general interest that such a precedent as is now being created in the Bill should be created.

This Authority should have no wider powers than any other authority, and if it wants wider powers for any special purpose then it should be required to come to this House to get them. I ask the Government why there should be this infringement of the City boundaries. Indeed, there seems to be no reason for the prohibited area to extend nearly so far. At its southern end it extends into the middle of Horse Guards Parade.

Is it that the Government fear there is a danger that the swollen Admiralty staff, with time on their hands, may well start a horticultural market on the north side of Horse Guards Parade, or is it, perhaps, that they have no fear that the Foreign Office will do this—or, indeed, the Treasury—on the south side of the Parade?

In conclusion, by Clause 29, the Authority may, under a scheme, impose charges on persons carrying on in the Covent Garden Area the business of selling … horticultural produce … in respect of sales of such produce made by them in the course of that business. There is a substantial number of merchants who carry on business in more than one market—Covent Garden, Brent-ford and Spitalfields. If a company is carrying on business in Covent Garden it would seem that a charge can be imposed on the whole of its business whether, in fact, all of it is being carried on at Covent Garden or part of it elsewhere.

It is also obvious to anyone conversant with market operations that it is far from easy to separate out where any particular transaction is carried out. The result might very well be that the system of charges which can be imposed in respect of a business that has an office in Covent Garden could so operate as to put on a premium affecting as many transactions in Covent Garden as possible

It seems that this Clause needs most careful examination, and the power to charge should be limited strictly to business done in Covent Garden itself. From these matters to which I have drawn attention, it seems that the Bill ought to be subjected to rather drastic alteration before it is finally passed by the House.

5.24 p.m.

Mr. Michael Cliffe (Shoreditch and Finsbury)

Having heard the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food submit the case as to why the Government want the Finsbury annex at the corner of City Road and Old Street, the matter becomes even more frightening to me when it is suggested that most of the heavy traffic should be diverted to the St. Luke's Printing Works site. I want, if I possibly can, to convince hon. Members that what is now being proposed in the Bill would be most disastrous for London. It would be disastrous to put the annex in an area where it is proved by statistics—provided not by Shoreditch or Finsbury but by independent people carrying out their own research—that the corner of City Road and Old Street, where the site that we are discussing is situated, is the third busiest area in London.

If one accepts those figures—and I think that one is entitled to do so—one appreciates at once that is a very good reason why we should think again about whether or not the proposed move would, in fact, solve the problem, as suggested in the Bill, by taking away some of the heavy vehicles that now go to Covent Garden, or whether it would create two problems in Central London.

What it really means is that as far as the annex itself is concerned, all market traffic coming from the dock area would have to traverse some of the most restricted parts of London. Allowing for the traffic having already negotiated the difficulties in the dock area and having got as far as Leman Street, Whitechapel Road, Aldersgate and Commercial Street, which carry something like 37,000 vehicles between 7.30 a.m. and 6.30 p.m., it proceeds from there down Commercial Road where Spitalfields Market is situated. This is the only direct route that the traffic could take without creating greater problems and difficulties.

I do not know how many hon. Members are familiar with that area but I can assure them, having travelled up and down there for some thirty years, that one can only travel 100 yards in almost as many minutes because of the congestion. Every little turning within a quarter of a mile area of the market is chock-a-block with traffic to and from the market.

When the traffic gets as far as Bishops-gate it is then confronted with the traffic coming from Bethnal Green Road. Five roads converge on that spot. The traffic then proceeds to Pitfield Street where improvements have recently been made in street lighting and traffic control. But despite all these improvements, the authorities have found it necessary to employ the services of the police because of the creation of bottlenecks as a result of the traffic lights being unable to control the flow of traffic.

The traffic then gets to City Road itself. At the corner of City Road and Old Street there is no right turn. The traffic has to proceed as far as Bath Street, which is a very narrow turning. It is a one-way street and it is a right-angle turn for traffic coming east into Bath Street. If it were not a one-way street there would not be sufficient room for heavy vehicles travelling the other way. On more than one occasion I have seen large vehicles about to enter Bath Street turned away because there was insufficient room for them to negotiate it once they turned into it. This is one of the most congested traffic areas in London.

I admit that it would be fatal not to do anything at all about Covent Garden itself, but I think it would be an absolute mistake to say that what is now proposed should be carried out in spite of certain other considerations. It is admitted that something must be done about Covent Garden. The traffic now is almost in the Strand and Aldwych. It is spreading into Long Acre and it is becoming almost impossible for vehicles to move. But, having admitted that something must be done, it follows that there must be a practical approach to this problem. It should not be dealt with in the way proposed in the Bill. That would mean that Market traffic coming from Covent Garden must go either into the Strand or into Aldwych and, whichever way it went, it would go through Kingsway or Ludgate Circus. It must come to the corner of City Road and Old Street, and there is also the corner of Southampton Row and Kingsway. It would come to Grays Inn Road, where there is the commencement of Clerkenwell Green and Rosebery Avenue—one of the main roads leading to Euston, King's Cross and St. Pancras.

Two hundred yards from the corner of Farringdon Road and Old Street there is Mount Pleasant, the largest post office in the world. There is a constant flow of post office vans in and out of Mount Pleasant Post Office all day and all night long. There is no time within the twenty-four hours when there are not literally dozens of post office vans within a quarter of a mile of Mount Pleasant Post Office, and that creates great difficulties.

At the corner of John Street there is Smithfield Market. Not only is there here the problem created by the presence of eight-wheeled vehicles coming to the Market, but it is also a bus terminus. Four or five bus routes have a terminus in the Smithfield Market area. One can, therefore, appreciate the enormous traffic problems which arise there.

At Goswell Road, within a stone's throw of my home, I can say without exaggeration that from 8.30 in the morning until almost midday the traffic stretches from one set of traffic lights to the other, with a quarter of mile of road in between. Immediately on the opposite side of the road the area has been opened up a little, but even so there is an average traffic delay, according to statistics, of over two minutes. I am explaining this for the benefit of hon. Members who are to be asked to vote on this matter, so that they will know what they are being asked to do.

In Central Street there is a British Road Services main dispersal depot which at any time during the day or night is never free of six-wheeled and eight-wheeled lorries. There is also Holdsworth and Hanson's and Sutton's vehicles to be found there, and one can appreciate the difficulty of trying to traverse that area with people coming from Lever Street and Central Street and trying to get through Golden Lane to miss the traffic bottle-neck. The police have been called on more frequently to direct the traffic, especially since the publication of the Runciman Report, and the situation now is worse than when I spoke about it on the last occasion.

Then we come to Bath Street. I think that the Evening Standard summed up the matter better than I can, and I should like to quote from an article entitled "Market Squeeze", which states: The Government could hardly have chosen a worse time to present its plans for Covent Garden Market to Parliament, While the Minister of Transport is trying to persuade motorists to keep out of Central London, the Minister of Agriculture is tomorrow introducing a measure which might be specifically designed to perpetuate the traffic congestion. The article goes on to deal with the amount of goods for which Covent Garden is noted. Then there is a paragraph which I consider important: The objections arise because the Government's Bill does not contain sufficient guarantee that every effort will be made to divert bulk goods from Covent Garden. It may be that more use will be made of storage depôts on the outskirts of London. But this will be for the new Authority to decide. And once it is set up, M.P.s will no longer be in a position to control its activities. M.P.s should therefore examine the Government's Bill particularly critically and closely. The continued existence of a market on the scale of Covent Garden in the heart of London is, in itself, an anomaly. And Parliament must at least ensure that the new plan has built-in safeguards against aggravating the problem of chaos"— in Central London. I think that is absolutely right. Not only does the Evening Standard know its London but it is showing some concern for London by printing this on its leader page.

Now we come to the site of the proposed annex. Here there are three schools and two of them are divided only by Old Street. St. Luke's school is more than a hundred years old. St. Joseph's is a Catholic school to which children come from all parts of the Borough. On any week-thy morning, at about half-past eight, one can see mothers bringing their children to school, and from time to time the co-operation of the police is sought so that they may get over Old Street without becoming involved in an accident.

Both the schools are to be modernised and expanded and then they will provide accommodation for, roughly, twice the number of children which at present attend them. In Bath Street there is Moorfields School, and when the improvement plans have been carried out there will be more accommodation at this school. The three schools between them will cater for about 1,100 to 1,200 children and they are within a stone's throw of each other. The division between the site of the annex and the schools is the width of Bath Street at one end and Old Street at the other.

I want hon. and right hon. Members to examine this problem and try to appreciate the anxiety they would feel if they were in this position, and were faced with a decision to send young children to these schools. How much more anxiety would they feel if something like 800 of these large vehicles were to be diverted to this site, adding to the already existing problem and anxiety?

In addition, in Finsbury, we have just completed a block of flats to provide accommodation for 200 families, including 22 flats for old people. Within a hundred yards, there are the Guinness and St. Clement's Buildings, housing between them roughly 400 families, and there are some hundreds of children. We believe with the L.C.C. and others that, for a Central London borough we are badly starved of school places. What this means is that we shall create a tremendous danger if this annex is to be within a hundred yards of these large estates.

We have three schools there, and perhaps even worse than anything else is the fact that for the first time for many years Moorfields Eye Hospital is embarking on a plan of extension to provide accommodation for 200 of the staff. Not only is this hospital known to hon. Members of this House; it is known universally. It is one of the few specialist hospitals in this country to which people come from all parts of the world for its services. For years the hospital authorities have had a plan for its extension, but, because they could not obtain the necessary money, they have had to wait until funds were made available. At the present time, members of the hospital staff are brought in from Kensington to the hospital and later taken back to Kensington.

Now, the hospital authorities have approved plans for an extension immediately opposite the south side of the proposed Market annex, and it has been suggested by the deputation which went to see the Minister that the hospital staff will be disturbed by the heavy traffic during peak hours. The nursing staff is involved in very heavy work doing the kind of job that people very often frown upon. It is true that it is vocational, and these people are untiring in their efforts for the patients under their care. To suggest that between 500 and 800 heavy vehicles should be travelling alongside the building night after night when these people should be getting their rest is, to say the least, atrocious. During peak hours the situation will be almost impossible.

The local authorities called special meetings when they first heard of the Government's intentions, and a resolution was passed unanimously by both authorities concerned protesting against this proposal. In the case of Shoreditch, one might say that this was a political decision, because there is a 100 per cent. Labour council, from which we would expect a unanimous decision. Finsbury is represented by both Labour and Conservative members, but the decision there was just as unanimous as in Shore-ditch. I have had a tremendous amount of assistance from members of the Conservative Party in the locality, and from people whom I know are attached politically to that party. Indeed, on one occasion, when I went to see the Minister of Housing and Local Government on this question, I was accompanied by an hon. Member opposite, who knows the district very well because he has industrial interests in the locality, and who felt just as appalled about this proposal as we did ourselves.

In the statement which the Minister made, reference was made from time to time to the London County Council and the way in which this proposal was presented. Although I do not know all the details, I should have felt that what was done by the L.C.C. in fact had the full approval and blessing of that authority, whereas it is very well-known that this was a last-minute decision. It was the result of a Bill which was being considered by this House, the L.C.C. General Powers Bill, and on the very last day when the general summing-up was to take place, it was suggested that a more suitable site had been found than the proposed site in the Caledonian Market area. Nobody appeared to know anything about it, and that rather confused things for the Committee considering the Bill. I was there at the time, and I was equally as shocked as anybody else.

I have since met the Leader of the L.C.C., the chairman of the Planning Committee and the chairman of the Housing Committee, and we discussed this problem quite officially. I led a deputation from Shoreditch and Finsbury, and I know that it would be wrong to believe, or even to suggest, that this was done in any way with the blessing of the L.C.C., although that body acted as agents for the Government in this matter. The L.C.C. found itself in a position in which some other site appeared to have been found at the last minute, and this was rather a panic measure. It could not have been the case that anyone had suggested that the site of St. Luke's Printing Works had just been found or had only just become available, because, in fact, there have been notices there for the last two years informing people that it was for sale. It was only at the very last minute that it was suddenly discovered that the printing works site was more suitable for the purpose than the site at the Caledonian Market.

I am not suggesting that we should go back to the Caledonian Market site. What I am saying is that I do not consider that what is now proposed in this Bill is in any way a solution to the problem. I believe that if the Government proceed with this Measure, it will mean that we shall have two problems rather than one. It is quite wrong, and I think that if we accept it we shall have paid only lip service to the idea of improving traffic conditions in London. In view of the difficulties which it will create, the position will be considerably worse than it is now in an area in which there are three schools, hospitals and about a thousand flats within a radius of a hundred yards.

I have received today a letter from the Rev. Davis, of the Leysian Mission, who has between 30 and 50 old-age pensioners at his mission every afternoon, and who considers that some of the activities and services rendered to the people in his locality will have to cease if permission is given for this site to be developed.

5.49 p.m.

Mr. G. R. Howard (St. Ives)

For the benefit of those hon. Members who wish to follow me, it my intention to limit my remarks to ten minutes. I will not follow the hon. Member for Shoreditch and Finsbury (Mr. Cliffe) in all he said, but I wish to take up one or two points which he made, particularly on his reference to the St. Luke's Printing Works site and this being a panic decision.

A year ago, I was worried about the Bill, and I was one of those people who brought a good deal of pressure to bear on the Government to take the Bill back. During that year, no one has come forward with any other solution to the problem. Westminster City Council, on which I served for about twelve years, has had a year in which to lodge its objections. The City of London has also had a year to do so, but nothing has been done. Therefore, it seems that however many difficulties there are in connection with this project, nobody has yet been able to find a better solution.

Mr. Cliffe

I have made two or three suggestions that have previously been made to me. People have even submitted plans and have suggested areas considerably larger than the annex at the corner of City Road and Old Street, but nobody appears to be interested.

Mr. Howard

I am grateful to the hon. Member for that intervention. I am merely saying that these authorities have had the chance to object. I have no doubt that the hon. Member has taken up the various suggestions.

This is not to say that I do not have considerable fears about the Bill. They are just as strong as they were a year ago. First, local authorities are worried at the thought that this may be a blueprint for taking over markets all over the country, and I want to be assured that this Market Authority is definitely for Covent Garden only and for no other market.

I am also worried lest we should find ourselves perpetuating an out-of-date system. The whole trend in marketing today is away from central markets and towards the co-operatives who sell straight to the big stores, like Marks and Spencers, who are doing a tremendous business in this respect. It is said that Covent Garden is to be the barometer of the grower. Growers in my area say that if it is a barometer it is about the worst one that they have seen, because the prices there are very much lower than elsewhere. They say that it is far more likely to become a kind of Stock Exchange, with a bias in favour of the foreign importer. The Minister himself says that the foreign importer has 50 per cent. of the business. I am much more concerned with the home grower than with the foreigner.

Will the sample idea work? When we condemn the traffic chaos in Covent Garden we must remember that the whole idea of this sample plan is to reduce the amount of traffic going into the area. We must also be careful to see that we are not too hard and fast in what we say about the siting of the new market, because it is in quite a large area. Spitalfields is a comparatively new market, but I am not too sure that it is doing very well.

The question of market charges worries me, and it certainly worries the growers. They feel that one effect of the Bill will be to increase the power of the wholesalers, and another will be to make it impossible to compensate the charter holders without making the whole thing more expensive. If the charges rise in Covent Garden, who will pay? We can be sure that the burden will be placed on the wretched grower, who has to sell under a system whereby the salesman sells the produce on commission.

I now turn to the question of charter holders. Here I would like to quote again from the N.F.U. document. It says: The Bill (Clause 17 (2)) proposes to place the authority under an obligation to ensure that grower-wholesalers have facilities 'no less adequate than the facilities provided for the transaction of business by other classes of persons'. This may appear reasonable until it is realised that grower-wholesalers who for years have sold 'on the cobbles' and without the overheads of buildings etc., and with exemption from toll charges, may be forced either to accept tenancies of wholesale stands at high rents and perhaps with heavy overheads, or abandon the wholesaling part of their business altogether. These men have been selling out of the backs of lorries, and if they have to accept these new conditions it will obviously be more expensive for them—and who will bear that further expense? Those of us who represent producer interests know that the burden will fall upon the producer.

We have heard much about non-returnables from the Continent, and refrigerated trucks. These are connected with one of our big "grouses". The very few refrigerated trucks which come to this country seem to be placed entirely at the disposal of the foreign importer. If hon. Members could see the kind of railway wagon that the wretched producers in Cornwall have to put their horticultural produce into they would be ashamed, and they might well be put off buying it. Old, disused cattle trucks are all that we get. That does not help to produce good produce for the market. The hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. de Freitas) asked us to remember the railways. We should very much like to do so if we could get better trucks and better handling.

If we are to accept the Covent Garden scheme it is important that the samples and the actual goods sold from the annex should be the same thing. If we are to have double handling charges, fork lift trucks are excellent, and we know that the horticultural industry is carrying out research into new forms of containers. But that is in the future.

I am not at all keen on this idea, having been instrumental in getting it delayed for a year to give people a chance to object, but such bodies as the Westminster Chamber of Commerce, of which I am a vice-president, do not seem to be able to think of any alternative. I mentioned it to them months ago and said, "This is the time for you to object if you want to." But this and other bodies either have not objected or have not been able to find another solution. With all its disadvantages, therefore, we must go forward with the scheme in the hope that it will do something to deal with the traffic chaos. This is not a horticultural Bill; it is a planners' Bill—a Ministry of Housing and Local Government Bill—and it is rather unfortunate that it should be regarded as being for the benefit of horticulturists. I do not believe that it will be.

5.58 p.m.

Mr. E. L. Mallalieu (Brigg)

It has been extremely interesting to some hon. Members on this side of the House who oppose the Bill to hear the two speeches which have been made by hon. Members opposite. The hon. Member for St. Ives (Mr. G. R. Howard) said that he supported the Bill, but the only thing that he could say in support of it was that nobody had been able to produce anything better in the year during which there has been some delay. As for the hon. Member for St. Marylebone (Sir W. Wakefield), it is true that he started by congratulating the Government on tackling this question, but thereafter I could only congratulate him on the extent to which he tore the Bill into shreds from top to bottom. I hope that whoever replies from the Government Front Bench will deal with the points he raised, particularly with regard to the traffic.

I do not want to attack the details of the Bill, because if we are to have a single authority to deal with the market I am personally all in favour of it being a public authority. I think that an excellent idea. I was somewhat tickled to see in the Explanatory and Financial Memorandum to the Bill how powers are proposed to be given to the Authority to achieve its objects by licensing and controls. I say through you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, to the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, "Fie, fie Mr. Minister, that such dirty words should be used and used in an Explanatory and Financial Memorandum to a Bill on which you of all people are apparently to have something to say in the latter part of this debate."

One of the objects for which these powers of control and licensing are to be taken is to reduce the space which at present is occupied by the market in the Covent Garden area, but for the life of me I cannot see how that is to be achieved, even in the long run—and surely there would be additional chaos in the meantime while interference was made with the existing arrangements—without some substantial new market. I confess that I am incapable of seeing that.

Of course, the object of reducing the space occupied by the present market is extremely laudable. If we are dealing with reforms of marketing in any shape or form it is not a bad thing to look at the effect which the proposed reforms will have upon those who buy and sell in the existing marketing arrangements. I am not against that at all, but, as those of us who have taken an interest in this matter have shown, there is some outside interest which perhaps is even paramount and more important than the interest of those who buy and sell in the market with which we are concerned.

That paramount interest is the interest of the outside public, because the Market is situated in a social entity. It is situated in more than one social entity, in the City and in the country. If the activities of the buyers and sellers, through no fault of their own, have an effect on those social entities, we have to take those effects into account. That is really what the Bill is supposed to be about. I wish I thought it would have any good effect at all on the interests of those outside social entities, the City and the country. I cannot see that happening under the Bill as at present before us.

Both the Runciman Committee and the National Farmers' Union want a central market to continue in Covent Garden. They want that for different reasons perhaps. The Runciman Committee wanted it to continue to exist for three main reasons. According to that Committee, it had an extreme importance in price setting, and also as a clearinghouse for the disposal of surpluses. The Committee thought it was unequalled at present and that it was unlikely to be equalled by any other market. It also thought it suitable to continue what it does at present in the disposal of certain specialised commodities.

I am in favour of keeping an old market going unless it is positively harmful, and the continuance of this Market for these three purposes may not be harmful provided the bulk of the business is removed to a new market elsewhere. This Bill, as has been shown by my hon. Friend the Member for Shoreditch and Finsbury (Mr. Cliffe), is going to create worse problems than those which the Government say they are solving by its production. There is no real attempt to remove the main bulk of the business from Covent Garden. That is a thing on which I feel we are entitled to ask the Government to think again. I know that they say they have a plan about it, but nothing that has been said in this House, certainly nothing said by the Minister today, gives one any hope for thinking that the main problem of removing that bulk of the business from Covent Garden will be achieved.

In fact, it looks as though this has been a rather miserable attempt, a wretched offspring born of indifference out of fear for vested interests. The brat ought to be taken away and thought about very much more, and the whole problem tackled more radically.

There have been references in the debate today to the possibility of using space near King's Cross. I am not an expert in these traffic problems. I certainly do not profess to know much from a technical point of view about the possibilities of the King's Cross sidings site scheme. Has that scheme, the Glover scheme, been considered by any authoritative body? I do not believe that the Runciman Committee considered it. I may be wrong, but that is my impression.

Sir Richard Nugent (Guildford)

The Runciman Committee did consider King's Cross and rejected it as unsuitable.

Mr. Mallalieu

I am not asking whether the Committee considered King's Cross but whether it considered the Glover scheme? That is precisely my point. King's Cross covers a wide area and the King's Cross sidings are very large. Did any responsible body consider the Glover scheme? It may be that this is a high falutin' affair which is not of very much use to anyone and practical politics. On the other hand, it is imaginative. Having regard to the miserable brat of a Bill which the Government have produced to deal with this very serious problem, just because that idea is imaginative I hope they will not cast it away out of hand and say that it is impracticable and an airy-fairy scheme for someone to make a good thing of for himself.

Until the Government have dealt with this matter very much more imaginatively than they appear to have done so far and until the Glover scheme has been considered very seriously by them, I could not support the Bill and I hope that the House will not.

6.8 p.m.

Sir John Vaughan-Morgan (Reigate)

For me this a unique and historic occasion. It is the first time that I have spoken in an agricultural debate, but, as my hon. Friend the Member for St. Ives (Mr. G. R. Howard) said, this is not really an agricultural debate.

I very much regret that from what I understand in this debate we are not to hear a voice from the Ministry of Housing and Local Government or from the Ministry of Transport, because those of us who dislike this Bill are not opposing it on any other but planning or transport grounds. It is unfair that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, to whom I listened with great sympathy, should have to defend this indefensible project. He it is who is left with this deplorable problem on his plate. The only deduction that I can draw is that in the Cabinet the voice of the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food has been able to shout down the voice of the Minister of Transport or even, perhaps, of the Minister of Housing and Local Government.

I am glad that my right hon. Friend has returned to the Chamber, but he has found himself committed to propounding a solution which, in his heart of hearts, I do not think he likes, which no outside body has recommended and which is clearly the result of months of unsatisfactory negotiation. I do not think that in his heart of hearts the Minister is surprised by the lack of enthusiasm for the Bill not only on the Socialist benches but on these benches. My hon. Friend the Member for St. Ives, who is no longer here, said, in effect that it is no good talking about this problem unless we are prepared to point out an alternative site. That is fair enough as a general criticism, but the point is that if one is taking drastic powers, as the Minister is in the Bill, then one must find a drastic solution. I will come back to that later.

The Minister's speech was interesting and attractive but not illuminating, because he gave no reason which I found satisfactory for rejecting the other site. I do not think that the King's Cross or Glover schemes are the only schemes by which we can find enough ground in the whole of London. The essential point is that we must see that that ground is not, as it is now, in the heart of London. This is not the only island site. How much is required in total? I did not gather from my right hon. Friend's speech what is the exact figure.

Mr. Soames

It is about six to eight acres.

Sir J. Vaughan-Morgan

Surely in the County of London, particularly to the north-west, there are six to eight acres to which we could obtain access. The final argument remains that if we were starting de novo the Minister of Agriculture, the Minister of Housing and Local Government and the Minister of Transport would be the first to find forceful and forcible arguments against the status quo in Covent Garden.

What does my right hon. Friend propose to do? He intends to move Covent Garden to Seven Dials. The problems of moving a market a quarter of a mile or half a mile are not all that much easier, it seems to me, than those of moving it five or six miles. People will have to be uprooted. A phrase which my right hon. Friend used was that a market is a human organisation. My right hon. Friend will have a lot of difficulty when he starts moving these people even across the Covent Garden area.

It is quite true that the Runciman Committee did not recommend abolition or total removal in the relevant paragraph, which is paragraph 221. Let us also face the fact that that Report has become out of date in the three years since it was written. It made one important point when it referred to pressure from interests more concerned with traffic than with marketing proposals. I hope that that was, even today, the still small voice of the Minister of Transport. But I should like to know how and why that stentorian voice has been silenced. Can the Minister of Transport in 1960 say that he finds it acceptable that there should be this muddle right in the heart of London, and if he can say it in 1960, what does he think his successor will say about it in 1980?

The flaw in this, to all of us, is that even if we reduce the area to seven and a half acres and produce this streamlined Market which my right hon. Friend has in mind, and if it is a success, I do not see how we are to control other interests ancillary to the Market which will collect around it—and we shall be back where we started.

There was another point on which I must honestly say that I felt less than satisfied by my right hon. Friend's remarks, and I apologise for having at the time interrupted him in full flood. I was not satisfied by his reason for rejecting the Runciman Committee's recommendation of a central marketing authority. I share the misgivings of some of my hon. Friends that the drastic powers proposed in the Bill might be extended to local authorities all over the country. I hope that that is not so, and I do not think that it is the Minister's intention. But I can see no objection to an enlarged central marketing authority on lines such as the Runciman Committee Report recommended.

I feel that at the back of my right hon. Friend's mind was the feeling that such a proposal might prove ideologically unacceptable to some hon. Members on these benches and that it was alien to Conservative thought. I think that he is wrong there and that people on this side of the House would accept it, if it were a means to a good end. Sometimes people forget that it was a Conservative Government which set the pattern and precedent for public authorities. I refer to the Metropolitan Water Board, one of the first, and I still think one of the most successful, authorities on this pattern. The Bill introducing it was brought before the House by Walter Long, and he was no more a Radical than is my right hon. Friend.

I would say about the Covent Garden Authority that my right hon. Friend is proposing a measure of nationalisation and is expropriating a certain amount of private property—on the whole, I think, in a good cause—but I should like to see, and I do not think that this has yet been contemplated, the Market Authority and the whole function of marketing taken over by that Greater London Authority which some of us hope will come out of the recent Royal Commission Report. That would be the right body to have the kind of powers which my right hon. Friend is taking on behalf of this Authority today. I should much prefer those powers to be handled by an elected body rather than a nominated body such as my right hon. Friend proposes in the Bill.

I must admit that my grounds for disliking the Bill are mainly on the wider planning aspect, not only on traffic grounds but on grounds concerning the whole area and what it represents. I am the first to admit that traffic and planning are inextricably intertwined. Indeed, I was struck by the leading article in The Times today which wrote of the "charm" of the Covent Garden area. I am not sure that the word "charm" is the right word to apply to those cabbage stalks and bits of orange peel that one finds lying about in the area. The leading article opened with a masterly piece of understatement, that the area had "successfully defied redevelopment," Nevertheless, it voiced some of the feelings and the sentiments which I have about the Bill.

As all good Londoners agree, this is a unique area. London is peculiar in having grown up not around one city but around two—around the twin Cities of London and Westminster, which now have the honour of being represented by you, Mr. Speaker. The Covent Garden area is a kind of no man's land between the business world of the east and the seat of government and the main shopping and theatre areas to the west.

It contains a most remarkable variety of inhabitants. It contains the headquarters of the Communist Party and of the British Freemasonry movement. In close juxtaposition are Bow Street Police Court and the publishers of Debrett and the Daily Herald. There is the Covent Garden Opera House and, last but not least, there is the elegant emporium of Messrs. Moss Bros., to which persons of repute and quality who once frequented Covent Garden now go for quite different purposes.

The area is quite suitable for amenities, for business, for residence and for service facilities such as multistorey car parks. It is at present—I speak with no disrespect to your constituents, Mr. Speaker—a rum lot. It has a number of very mixed users, all of which can be justified, with the one exception of a fruit and vegetable market.

The Abercrombie Plan, which is sometimes forgotten, said of Covent Garden: It is now a source of great congestion and delay and with its inadequate road and rail connections its position cannot be justified today. That is what was said in 1943, nearly twenty years ago. It is now completely impossible on the grounds of planning and traffic. My right hon. Friend must regret that Hitler did not solve the whole problem for him.

I accept that under the Bill the area and the amount of congestion is being substantially reduced, but it is not enough. No other city, as the hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. de Freitas) said, would tolerate the continuance of this situation. I was glad to hear it said that the London County Council and the Westminster City Council do not, as I had understood and feared, accept the Bill. As far as I can understand, they have merely chucked their hands in, perhaps because they are unable to argue any longer with the Minister about taking it out of the area altogether. Is there yet a ray of hope that they may petition against the Bill and stop this nonsense being perpetuated?

The Bill is a most unloved baby. It is a foundling which has been dumped on my right hon. Friend's doorstep. It puts some of us in a quandary. It is not for us to propound a final solution, but I believe that with a rather more ruthless attitude than my right hon. Friend and his predecessors have shown a solution could be found.

Alas, the Opposition's Amendment, at any rate the first half of it, is irrelevant. It brings in, in the form of a generality, some things which we are not debating today. I should have found it very hard not to support the second half of the Amendment in the Division Lobby, except that I think it does not go far enough. It mentions only transport facilities. I believe that the House cannot entirely divorce itself from an interest in the wider planning problems of London. That is more especially so after the recent Piccadilly Circus inquiry, which was a first battle honour to the Civic Trust.

Therefore, I do not feel that I can honestly support the Bill. I very much regret this wasted opportunity. I hope that even at this late stage someone will find a better answer.

6.26 p.m.

Mr. John Morris (Aberavon)

Some people may wonder why anyone coming from the Principality should intervene in a debate involving a market in London. As one who is interested in the marketing of agricultural and horticultural produce, I cannot but intervene, because the issue here affects every producer of agricultural and horticultural produce in the whole of the United Kingdom. Produce comes to Covent Garden Market from everywhere in the United Kingdom.

This poor Bill has not been welcomed by anyone. I sympathise with the Minister in the reaction with which it has been received by back bench Members on both sides. The Minister told us that the Market dates first to the Act of 1828 and, before that, to the charter of Charles II in 1670. The horticultural influence of Nell Gwynne and her oranges may well have been particularly important in the founding of the Market.

Conditions in London in 1828, certainly in 1670, were very different from conditions today. London was very much smaller in 1828. The purpose of the Market then was to organise the sale of produce from the Home Counties. Today, the standard of living has risen and the resulting demand. Such has been the growth of our system of communications all over the country that it is not any longer a market for the Home Counties. It is a market for the whole of the country.

We have been told that each year between three-quarters of a million and one million tons of produce is shoved, pushed and forced through the apparently choking funnel of the Market by no fewer than 1,800 porters. The wonder is that the Market has been able to last for so long and that the produce is able to get through at all.

I am against the Bill, because it will involve the expenditure of a very large sum of public money. Whether it is by loan or otherwise, large amounts of public money will be invested. Once that money is invested, we cannot expect any change in the Market for the rest of our lifetime. There will be a built-in defence against any change. A large amount of money will have been spent. Much development will have taken place. The result will be that there will be a further disincentive to change the present system and organisation.

I am interested in marketing, and I am surprised that we have not heard one word from the Minister to tell us whether the rearrangement will result in the cheaper marketing of goods. What will be the result to the farmer—the producer? Will it mean cheaper and better goods in the market? Will he be able to sell more of his produce so that the housewife receives them in good time? We have not heard one word about the marketing angle. That is the most important consideration.

This is not merely another London traffic Bill. It is a Bill which is part of the three-pronged attack of the Government on the country's horticultural problem. We have had the other two prongs already. Apart from a mention that the Bill is one of the three prongs, we have not heard a word from the Minister about whether it will result in cheaper goods on the market and better marketing facilities for growers. He did not tell us whether it would be of assistance to our horticultural industry as a whole. The horticultural industry has been going through very difficult times during the past year or two. It may well go through difficult times in the future. I had expected the Minister to give some words of cheer to the horticultural industry.

London's traffic is now piling up today to a far greater extent than when the Runciman Report was published, three years ago. The Minister of Transport, who has a great capacity for introducing Pink Zones, has had the temerity to add his name to a Bill which will be a further disincentive to any change in this congested area in the centre of London. Not only will he have Pink Zones; when he realises the significance of the Bill he will have a pink face.

In a Press statement, the Minister of Agriculture said: The object of the present Bill is to create a streamlined and modernised market in which traders can have all the benefits of a rational layout, and the whole range of up-to-date mechanical handling and storage facilities. I wonder whom he has consulted on the subject of mechanical handling and storage. What is the attitude of the growers and wholesalers, and, in particular, of the trade unions, to the mechanical handling of goods? To what extent did consultations take place before that statement was issued?

The Press statement went on: This will enable the market to handle a greater volume of business …". I have never understood that the purpose of the Bill was to enable the market to handle a greater volume of business. The Runciman Report forecast a decline in business, but the Minister seemed to be expecting a greater amount as a result of the operation of this Measure. Having regard to the present heavy congestion in Central London, a step in that direction is most unwise.

The statement added that all this … will get rid of the intolerable delays now caused by congestion in and around the market. This will be of great benefit to the growers, wholesalers, purchasers and all who work in the market. To me, that is one of the most optimistic phrases ever uttered in any Press statement. Will the Bill, of itself, get rid of the delays, or will it merely give a very small amount of assistance in getting rid of them? The Minister seems to have pitched his statement at a very high level. He seems to be indulging in the art of self-persuasion in thinking that this Measure will be the one wonderful solution to the problem.

The growers and wholesalers have two needs. Their first need is for a quick clearing-house—they want to get rid of their produce as quickly as possible. Their second need is to get an easily ascertainable price. We on this side of the House are entitled to ask whether the present proposals of the Government will not only provide that quick clearinghouse and give the growers an easily ascertainable price, but will also assist in the general improvement of marketing in the country as a whole.

The housewife has three needs. Her first need is a cheap price, her second, an adequate supply, and her third, goods that are as fresh as possible. Are any of those three needs to be catered for by the Bill and, if they are, to what extent? I should have thought that the Minister would have paid more attention to these matters in his opening speech, but perhaps before the debate is over more attention may be paid to the housewife's needs.

It is not fair to say that the Runciman Report proposed merely that Covent Garden should be retained in its present position. That recommendation was based on a broad, general picture of the development of the other markets. It is impossible to isolate the one proposal in the Runciman Report from the others. To adopt the one proposal and say that thereby the Runciman Report is adopted is altogether untrue, and puts a wrong interpretation on the conclusions that the Runciman Committee came to after studying the problem in very great detail for a considerable time.

The Report recommended that Covent Garden should be retained for wholesale customers—and we have been told that they comprise 70 per cent. of those using the produce market. The Report further recommended a new market in North-West London for the retail buyers. There were thus two recommendations, and to accept the retention of Covent Garden Market and forget the proposal for a retail market in North-West London must give a false impression and cause confusion.

In fairness to the Runciman Committee, we should be told much more clearly why the proposal for a market in North-West London was dropped. The House has not had an adequate explanation of that, and we are entitled to know. Incidentally, there is this proposal to build an annex to St. Luke's Printing Works. It seems that, at best, this Measure can be called merely a Bill to provide for the storage of empty boxes, but such is the advance in horticulture that the need for empties is getting less and less with the development of new containers. When my right hon. Friend the Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) asked exactly how the St. Luke's annex was likely to affect the need to sell by sample from home as well as from imported goods, the Minister tied himself up completely. He failed to clarify what effect St. Luke's would have.

In the Bill the Government should have taken the bull by the horns. Instead of this half-hearted proposal, they should have faced the issue by giving Covent Garden an entirely new function. Covent Garden should have the function of dealing with goods that cannot be sold by sample—flowers, specialised products and exotic items should be sold there. The remainder of the produce should be sold by sample, and the Bill ought to contain some compulsory powers, some sort of incentives to make the wholesalers buy and sell in Covent Garden by sample. As it is, we merely have the suggestion that some articles will be sold by sample, and that the bulk of certain goods will be kept at St. Luke's.

We do not know what those goods will be, or to what extent St. Luke's will be used for them. We do not know what incentive there will be for wholesalers, buyers and sellers to use the annex. The House should be told exactly what effect that annex will have. If it is found that the buyers and sellers at Covent Garden are not using the annex, what powers will the Minister take in the Bill to make them use it? It is a very poor substitute for the proposals in the Runciman Report merely to insert in the Bill this proposal to use an annex.

Before the horticultural industry is really on its feet it has to face the issue, once and for all, of selling articles by grade. It has to find some way of getting a standard iproduct—that is the crux of the industry's problem. A Bill like this, Which deals with marketing, should have provided an element of incentive to make that industry face what is necessary for its own salvation. If the horticultural industry will realise that it must find a way of selling by sample, and of having a properly graded article, Covent Garden could be used for selling by sample, and that would go a long way towards eliminating the terrible traffic problem that we now have there.

The Commissioner of Police told the Runciman Committee that … at 6.30 a.m. on a typical market day as many as 1,500 vehicles, many of them heavy vehicles, may be stationary in the market area … and he added that more than half of them were likely to be still there four hours later. The Commissioner doubted whether there was scope left for much improvement as long as the function of the market continued as at present.

The Runciman Committee went on to make a few piecemeal suggestions, but it did not itself face up to the whole issue. So long as Covent Garden is kept in its present position, with its functions basically unaltered, even with this annex, the traffic position in this part of the country will remain as bad as it is, and will worsen with the growth in the number of motor vehicles year by year.

The words, I believe, of the Minister on this matter this afternoon were that conditions are so bad that drastic action is necessary. I should like to know whether the Minister is taking the necessary drastic action in the Bill. Is this the drastic action that the buyers, sellers and the market as a whole are entitled to expect, or is it a second-best action? Is it a compromise action having regard to all the vested interests which are concerned in this market? Even though the right hon. Gentleman's words, that drastic action is necessary, were bold, I feel that he has failed to take the drastic action that is necessary, not only in his own opinion but in the opinion of the House as a whole.

I am reinforced by the words of the Horticultural Marketing Council last week: The Council is convinced that positive action by the Government is the only way to resolve the Covent Garden problem. One day the Government will have to face the problem of moving this Market's present function from its present position. I cannot see any reason why the proposal of the Runciman Committee, that another market should be built, should have been shirked by the Government, who propose, instead, merely to rebuild in the present area and hope that things will sort themselves out in years to come. I ask that the Bill be rejected.

6.42 p.m.

Sir Harry Legge-Bourke (Isle of Ely)

I am glad that the hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. Morris) mentioned the Horticultural Marketing Council. I think that we should be wrong, in considering the Bill, to forget that that body has been set up. It is also important to remember what it is trying to do. It has already started work on one of the most important features with which, arising from the Bill, we have been dealing today, and that is the whole question of the size and returnability of containers.

There is no doubt that although there is a great planning aspect to the Bill, there is a need from the point of view of the growers, as well as of the retailers who buy from the wholesalers, that something should be done to improve the working of Covent Garden Market. If only we could have before us the picture of what would have happened if the charter had never been given, how much more sense should we be able to make of this Bill. But I should have thought that the fact that a need for a market came about somewhere in that district was but symptomatic of something which occurs in almost every great city in the world, namely, that somewhere there has got to be a central market.

There is an immense case logically for saying that as all the growers who are producing in this country do so outside London, therefore there is an immense case for putting a group of markets all round the outside of London instead of having a central market. But the strange thing is that there has always been a tendency throughout the ages for markets to appear in the central areas. Antwerp is one city where there has been a tendency to moved out, but I do not think it is necessarily true that what applies to cities which have found it easier than London can possibly do to modernise themselves applies to London, too.

As my hon. Friend the Member for St. Marylebone (Sir W. Wakefield) has reminded us, we have here a site which is within the limits set out in Clause 25—within a quarter of a mile not only of Horse Guards Parade but also of the Ministry, too. Incidentally, I was amused to hear my hon. Friend the Member for St. Marylebone mention Horse Guards Parade, for no less a person than Samuel Pepys, six years before the granting of the original charter, visited the first colonel of the Royal Horse Guards who was then lodging in the Piazza. In the course of his visit he was going to discuss the Tangier estimates, which I do not think need bother us this evening. He said in his diary that when he called upon Lord Oxford, having lain long himself, … his Lordship was in bed at past ten o'clock and Lord helpe us! So rude a dirty family I never saw in my life. He sent me out word my business was not done but should against the afternoon. The number of people who go to Covent Garden and hope that their business will be done before lunch time, only to find it hardly done until well in the afternoon, must be considerable.

I believe that, apart altogether from the traffic and planning problems of London as a whole, this Bill will be of advantage to those who bring their produce into London and those who come to some central market to buy it. The measure of the improvement remains to be seen, but I am not at all sure that we have not now got to a stage where any major rebuilding ought to be on stilts. There have been such examples. I think Chester has a very ancient example of where the footwalk is on the first floor.

It seems to me that we are getting into a congested state in London, which is caused not solely by people such as those who bring their produce to Covent Garden but much more often by those who come to work in London and park their cars in the streets. I believe there is a big case for saying that if, as a result of the Bill, we can enable an authority to be set up which will rebuild a structure where all the vehicles arriving at it will go underneath the first floor and unload with the aid of fork lifts and so forth, to get the produce to the right level, then may be the Covent Garden Market Authority will not be the body guilty of congesting London's streets.

Both the inquiry to which the hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. de Freitas) referred and the inquiry which the Minister had with the Metropolitan Police showed that the real evil is caused by vehicles—about one-fifth or one-quarter of the total which come into the market in a period of twenty-four hours—and which remain there after 8.30 in the morning. Those are the vehicles with which we must cope, and I am convinced that a new building can be designed to take care of that problem.

I should like to deal with the observations of my hon. Friend the Member for Reigate (Sir J. Vaughan-Morgan) on the subject of a central markets authority. I think—I hope he will correct me if I am wrong—that he may have thought that it would be possible for a central market authority to send certain types of produce to one market and certain other types of produce to another market; that produce coming from the docks should be sent to one market and produce coming from the North could go to a market on the north side of London.

If that be in his mind—and I know it is in the minds of some people—I believe it is a misconception of how these markets work in London and in other big cities. All of them have virtually to be comprehensive. That is the great difficulty. How wonderful it would be if we could say that all the produce coming in at the Port of London would go to one market, and so on. But that is not what happens. The fact remains that practically every market which serves a wide retail area will demand both the imported produce and the home-grown produce.

Hon. Members have paid great tribute to the Runciman Report today.

Sir J. Vaughan-Morgan

Has my hon. Friend finished with me?

Sir H. Legge-Bourke

I thought that my hon. Friend might wish to deny the possibility which I suggested.

Sir J. Vaughan-Morgan

I most certainly wish to deny it. I was not suggesting anything of the sort. All I was saying was that, following the lines of the Runciman Report, I believe that one can plan market sites for London. I do not want to plan the actual marketing. That is the job of the Authority, if necessary. I do not believe that one can plan sites by taking the area of one authority alone. My right hon. Friend himself spoke about the expansion of Brentford and Stratford, but he did not deal with the point about the northwestern site.

Sir H. Legge-Bourke

My hon. Friend forestalls me if he assumes that I have quite finished with him. This idea of the central markets authority arises out of Runciman. I have never been quite so wedded to Runciman as the Minister's predecessor was. I have always felt that that Report was concocted by some horrible free trade Liberals, and I am no free trade Liberal when it comes to looking after home growers of horticultural produce. The Runciman Committee conceived this idea of a central markets authority and, from the point of view of logic, I see what is passing through my right hon. Friend's mind.

Sir J. Vaughan-Morgan

Not passing.

Sir H. Legge-Bourke

I am sorry; it is apparently lodged in his mind. The two rôles we are talking about are really quite different. The rôle of organising one market in itself is quite different from the rôle of organising all the markets in London.

After all, the central markets authority would have to override several planning authorities if it was to do its job. It would seem a pity to do that, if we believe in local democracy. Covent Garden, on the other hand, is a site—some may think it too big, and some may think it too small—in an area where there is a planning authority. I should have thought that the rôle of the Authority to deal with one market was completely different and one which did not necessarily conflict in any way, whereas the central markets authority would conflict with our conception of local democratic rights in the matter of planning. For that reason, I say again that, while I am very strongly against the idea of a central markets authority, I am in favour of the setting up of a Covent Garden Market Authority.

I have one request to make to my right hon. Friend the Minister about this. I have already referred to the Horticultural Marketing Council. This body has been given some very important rôles to fulfil. In particular, by Section 10 (1, f) of the Horticulture Act, 1960, it has been given the function of advising on the lay-out of wholesale markets and the facilities to be provided in the operation thereof, and encouraging the adoption of improved lay-outs and facilities". That surely means that there is an immense case for linking the Horticultural Marketing Council with the Covent Garden Market Authority and for there to be one or two members common to both. I suppose that this ought to come in under the provisions about membership in the Fourth Schedule to the Bill, which deals with the Covent Garden Management Committee. It is dependent, I think, upon the Clause which gives to the Authority the right to set up the Management Committee to handle market management, Clause 33 of the Bill.

I should have thought that this was where the Authority might be allowed, perhaps even obliged, to work closely in with the Horticultural Marketing Council, linking itself specially with that part of the Horticultural Marketing Council which concerns itself with the powers given to the Council under Section 10 (1, f).

Mr. Soames

I think that that point may be largely covered by paragraph 3 (2) of the Fourth Schedule.

Sir H. Legge-Bourke

Perhaps we might look at that. Obviously, it is rather more a Committee point than a Second Reading point, but, since it raises a rather important principle, I thought it right to mention it. It raises the whole question of whether or not the Covent Garden Market Authority is to have a specified relationship with the Horticultural Marketing Council. I think that ii should have. In my view, there ought to be very close liaison indeed. There might, possibly, be joint offices.

The only other point I wish to raise now arises out of the question of who pays the tolls and what the rate of tolls levied should be. Clause 28 (3) provides: The person liable to pay tolls under this section in respect of any produce shall be he who carries on the business in the course of which the produce is intended to be sold at the time when it is brought into the Covent Garden area". I must say this on behalf of the smaller growers. There is an anxiety lest too much attention be paid to the position of the grower-wholesaler of the bigger kind with too little paid to the smaller growers who really desperately rely upon getting all their produce fairly quickly through one market. It will be an encouragement to them to know that, as a result of coming to Covent Garden, the tolls will not then be so prohibitive that any of the improvements resulting from the quicker turn-round of their vehicles, thanks to the easing of congestion, will at once be whittled away by the increased charges which they will have to pay.

It is very important that we should not allow the small growers to be forgotten. Even the bigger men are worried about it. One of them wrote to The Times on 10th November, and I will read a short passage from his letter. It is from Sir Lionel Leach, of Joseph Rochford & Sons, Ltd., a company which operates in the Lea Valley. The Lea Valley growers, of course, are those who learned all there was to learn during the Covent Garden strike. Even Sir Lionel Leach says: The money involved in building a new market might well be wasted because market users will find it uneconomical to send or collect by road. Their reluctance to use Covent Garden will be increased by the higher charges which are likely to be levied in due course to meet the cost of reconstruction. If men of that calibre can say it, I wonder very much what the smaller men will say. It is extremely important that we give the smaller man some reassurance that the Market Authority must take their interests really to heart and do everything it can to see that there is not unfairness and that nobody is forced out of doing business which otherwise he would do simply because of the rate of toll.

I appreciate very much the fact that the Government have not done what they did under the Land Drainage Bill, which is to get everybody so tied up with an interlocked agreement that Parliament could not have a say about what should happen. In this case, Parliament is free to express its opinion, and I am delighted about that. I still rather regret that we did not debate the White Paper first, because, perhaps, some of the misgivings might have been got out of the way. However, I congratulate my right hon. Friend on bringing the Bill forward. It concerns a problem which must be tackled, and it is for the general benefit of those who rely upon the growers to provide really fresh fruit and vegetables in the London area and not merely of the growers.

7.1 p.m.

Mr. Albert Evans (Islington, South-West)

The hon. Member for the Isle of Ely (Sir H. Legge-Bourke) will pardon me if I do not follow him in what he said about the tolls which are imposed on people who take their produce to market. I am sure that he was putting forward the point of view of many growers in his constituency, and, of course, it is his duty to do that.

The hon. Gentleman said, quite rightly, that in future we shall have to build many of our commercial buildings on stilts. That is so, and I am sure that the Minister of Transport will agree that we shall have to go up, certainly in the centres of our great cities. We shall have to build on stilts. No doubt, any horticultural market in future will largely be a multi-storey structure and many lorries will have to go up ramps to the higher floors. Any new horticultural market premises which are built will have to go up, certainly if they are anywhere near the centre of London or of any great city.

It does not matter to the growers of Ely, however, whether they go up a ramp to deliver their goods. The point to them, surely, is the distance which they have to travel before they can unload their goods. The question posed for them is: will they be obliged, as in the past, to travel to the centre of London to unload their celery, potatoes, or whatever produce it may be, or, more happily, be able to bring it to a market on the northern periphery of London? I should have thought that the hon. Member for the Isle of Ely would be 100 per cent. in favour of a market on the northern outskirts of London if only for the convenience of the growers in his constituency.

Sir H. Legge-Bourke

indicated dissent.

Mr. Evans

The hon. Gentleman shakes his head. I wonder, if he were to take the opinions of his local growers, whether they might not say that it would be more sensible if they could unload at Waltham Abbey, or some other point on the northern outskirts of London, rather than have to take their produce into the centre of London.

I should have thought that it was clear that growers in the hon. Gentleman's constituency would be only too pleased to be relieved of the obligation to come into the centre of London, wait there several hours and then make their difficult and vexatious way out of the centre of the Metropolis back to Ely.

I should have thought that the hon. Member would insist that the Minister should give further thought to the suggestion made in the Runciman Report that there should be established a new market on the northern outskirts of London. However, the hon. Gentleman did not make that point. Perhaps he will ascertain the view of his constituents on it. I am inclined to think that, on balance, they would prefer to have the shorter haul rather than have to come right into the centre of London.

I am sorry that the Minister has left us, because I wanted to say a word or two to him. I am sure that by now he realises that the Bill, which has been foisted on him, is not all that it might be. If he had insisted on having sufficient time to consider the problem broadly, and in detail, then I am sure, knowing him as I do, that he would have come to a different conclusion from the one embodied in the Bill. It is regrettable that the Minister has been in his office for such a very short time and has to try to pilot through the House a Bill which was made for him before he took over as Minister of Agriculture.

The Bill has not had a good reception from either side of the House. Some very powerful speeches have been made from the Government side against it. I am sure that the Minister realises that it would have been better if he had insisted to his colleagues that he should be given a reasonable time to think about the whole problem so that he could bring in his own proposals and not those prepared for him by officials of his Department.

If the right hon. Gentleman had taken sufficient time to consider the matter adequately and fully he would have realised that he had a wealth of information at his disposal. The Runciman Committee sat four years ago and considered the problem exhaustively and in detail. It considered evidence from scores and scores of different interests in the horticultural trade. They are all listed in the back of the Report. The Committee made a careful and praiseworthy examination of the whole problem of horticultural marketing. The Minister had that Report. Has he had time to consider it since being promoted to the Ministry of Agriculture before being faced with the task of bringing the Bill before the House?

I thought that the right hon. Gentleman's speech was far from adequate. He failed to reply to the point of his hon. Friend the Member for Reigate (Sir J. Vaughan-Morgan) about the need for a London Market Authority. It seemed to me that the right hon. Gentleman had not studied the Runciman Report with the care that he should have done. As I have said, he has not long been in his new office, but I repeat that I regret that he did not take longer to consider the recommendations in the Runciman Report and the broad aspect of the matter.

We have been speaking about Covent Garden and the Finsbury annex, but the problem of marketing horticultural produce is of much broader significance than that. The members of the Runciman Committee considered every large town where there is an horticultural marker. They considered Glasgow, Manchester, Sheffield, Coventry, Birmingham, and Southampton. They also considered Covent Garden as the largest and most important horticultural market in the country.

In London, they made a detailed examination of Spitalfields, the Borough, Stratford and Brentford Markets. They went to Greenwich and looked carefully at the layout there and made certain recommendations. They went to the King's Cross Potato Market. They even considered the proposal which has been put forward by a private group of architects and engineers to put Covent Garden over the railway sidings at King's Cross. That was considered by the Runciman Committee, and it was turned down. All this is in the Report. We know what the Runciman Committee recommended, but does the Minister know? One or two of his replies today made us doubt whether he had considered the Runciman recommendations.

Sir H. Legge-Bourke

Surely the hon. Member appreciates that the establishment of the Horticultural Marketing Council was one of the recommendations. The Government took great note of the Runciman recommendations in that respect, but until that Council gets under way it is difficult for my right hon. Friend the Minister to do more.

Mr. Frederick Peart (Workington)

Then why have the Bill now?

Mr. Evans

Previous Ministers of Agriculture picked up the suggestion to which the hon. Member for the Isle of Ely has referred and it was implemented. That was a small, almost insignificant, part of the Runciman recommendations. The Runciman Committee recommended for London that there should be a London Market Authority. That was the Committee's central recommendation, to which the other recommendations were merely adjuncts. The Committee suggested improvements at Brentford, Stratford. Greenwich, and so on, and that there should be a new market on the northern outskirts of London. One would have thought that this was an obvious and sensible suggestion which the Government should adopt.

The Minister has today brought forward this small Bill. The hon. Member for the Isle of Ely said that he rejected the idea of a London Market Authority to supervise all the London markets, because he was concerned with democratic rights. The Bill and the Authority that it sets up are far from democratic. The Authority will have autocratic powers. It will direct traders where to maintain their premises, and so on. It is a most undemocratic body that the Bill proposes to set up. The hon. Member for Reigate said that he would have preferred this power to be in the hands of a larger London local authority and that it was more in keeping with our democracy that an elected body should be the authority for these markets rather than the autocratic body which the Minister proposes to set up. I hope, therefore, that the hon. Member for the Isle of Ely will look again at the power which the Authority will have over his constituents.

Sir H. Legge-Bourke

I was talking about local planning rights.

Mr. Evans

On that point, the Bill goes a long way. It denies the planning authorities certain rights in respect of horticultural premises. It sweeps away planning controls in the case of the Authority that the Bill will set up. The new Authority will be able to acquire property compulsorily with merely the sanction of the Minister. It will be able to over-ride planning authority and can go direct to the Minister. Therefore, planning control in respect of the projects of the new Authority will be denied to the planning authorities.

It is evident that the Government do not have a policy for horticultural marketing. They have not decided to deal with the problem comprehensively and in a way that would produce a lasting and satisfactory result. They have come down with their proposal for the one market at Covent Garden and they are contenting themselves with this restricted attempt to bring order into the marketing of horticultural produce. They have restricted themselves to the one proposal that there should be this Authority for Covent Garden.

As far as I can make out, the new Authority will start to acquire land almost anywhere. It will acquire the Finsbury annex. As I understand the Bill, there is nothing to prevent it from compulsorily acquiring land anywhere with merely the approval of the Minister. The Authority can decide in a short period to acquire a site in any part of London. All that will be required is the sanction of the Minister of Agriculture. Planning considerations will be swept aside.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. W. M. F. Vane)

The hon. Member is not quite right concerning the planning question.

Mr. Evans

The hon. Gentleman says that I am not quite right. That is not giving me very much information. If he gives chapter and verse of where I am wrong, I shall be happy to learn.

Mr. Vane

To be precise it is Clause 51.

Mr. Evans

I cannot pick up Clause 51 in the middle of my speech. I have, however, examined the matter carefully and it seems to me that the new Authority will have power to acquire lands, apart from the Finsbury annex, with merely the sanction of the Minister.

Mr. Sidney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)

My hon. Friend has not had time to look up the reference, so perhaps I might assist him. Clause 51 states: For the purposes of subsection (1) of section one hundred and eighteen of the Town and Country Planning Act, 1947 (which relates to the application of that Act to land regulated by special enactments) this Act shall be deemed to be an enactment in force at the passing of the said Act of 1947. I hope that this gives my hon. Friend the information he needs.

Mr. Evans

I am obliged. I am sure that the Joint Parliamentary Secretary has read that Clause and that the House is very much enlightened by hearing it read.

It is clear from earlier Clauses of the Bill that the powers given to the Authority will enable it to acquire compulsorily any site that it decides it needs for its purpose, and the only sanction that it requires is the sanction of the Minister of Agriculture. However able that Minister may be, he is not a Minister who considers the site from the wider social point of view.

Mr. Vane

The London County Council comes into this, too, which, I think, will please the hon. Member.

Mr. Evans

The London County Council comes into this, too, but my reading of the Bill is that it takes the new Authority out of the scope of the ordinary planning legislation and confers upon it special powers that will enable it to avoid the ordinary planning procedure and to acquire compulsorily merely with the sanction of the Minister of Agriculture. If I am wrong, I shall be happy to learn in detail, but it is not sufficient for the Joint Parliamentary Secretary merely to get up and tell me that he thinks I am wrong. I think I am right about it. Perhaps we shall have further explanation later.

The Authority which will be set up will have considerable powers. It will not be a democratic authority. Every single member of it will be appointed by the Minister and the members jointly will work with the Minister only. A number of able and informed gentlemen and possibly ladies will be appointed and that group, with the Minister, will decide what the Authority will do, what land it will require and what tolls it will impose.

The Authority, for generations ahead, will implant on the centre of London a new structure. Once that is done the whole area will be committed for that purpose. Whatever social consideration might arise, it will be impossible to alter the impress that the Authority will make on that part of London for many generations. It will do this at the cost of several million pounds of public money. I know that it is said that the Authority must balance its accounts. Possibly it will, but let us be quite clear that, immediately up to £8 million—and I think that the Minister mentioned a maximum of £20 million—of public money will be available to the Authority to carry out the task imposed upon it.

By the spending of that public money an important centre in our city will be perpetuated as a horticultural market. All the traffic congestion will be there. I know that the Minister believes that that congestion will be diminished.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport (Mr. John Hay)

indicated assent.

Mr. Evans

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary nods. He, too, firmly believes that the traffic will be diminished. It will be a wonder if traffic in Central London generally will ever be diminished below its present level. It is growing all the time and it will continue to grow. It is, therefore, rather overoptimistic to think that the present flow will diminish in the future. It will be at least what it is now, do the Minister of Transport what he may.

One of the purposes of the Bill is to try to do away with congestion in the Covent Garden area. It certainly needs to be tackled. This is a problem that has faced the Government for many years. They believe that as a result of this Authority getting to work the congestion will decrease. The Minister, in opening the debate, spoke about a traffic survey and we were given some figures. We were not told who made the survey, when it was made, and how extensive it was. It is not sufficient to have a statement of that kind made without substantiation. I would remind the Joint Parliamentary Secretary that the motoring organisations do not agree with the Minister.

Mr. Hay

To clear up the point, the traffic survey was conducted by Mr. C. P. Andren, a Master of Science, an Associate Member of the Institute of Civil Engineering and an extremely well-known traffic expert in this country. The dates between which the survey was conducted were 31st August and 14th September of this year.

Mr. Evans

This survey, apparently, was specially made for the Ministry. I do not know what the Commissioner of Police had to say about collaborating, but even taking it at its worth, we cannot attach too much importance to it.

Mr. Hay

I ought to add, in justification, that what Mr. Andren discovered as a result of his survey was to bear out everything we had learned in the Ministry of Transport and from the police over a number of years about the nature of the traffic problem in and around Covent Garden. The survey was specially commissioned for the purpose of obtaining the latest possible information.

Mr. Evans

We now know something about the survey. The Minister dealt with it in a very brief manner and I was rather dubious about its authenticity.

But whatever the result of the survey, the motoring organisations do not agree. A joint committee representing them is on record as saying that it is strongly opposed to the Government's decision to allow the market to remain on its present site in the centre of a congested traffic area. We must pay attention to the opinion of this joint committee. The motoring organisations say that it is a mistake to leave Covent Garden where it is. We can, therefore, set that against a special investigation by one person on behalf of the Ministry. However much the Joint Parliamentary Secretary appears to shake his head, some attention must be paid to the joint committee of the two organisations.

Mr. Hay

I would ask the hon. Member to be careful. He must not get me into more trouble with the motoring organisations than I am in already.

Mr. Evans

I do not mind getting the hon. Gentleman or the Government into trouble. The two organisations are opposed to Covent Garden remaining on its present site.

The London and Home Counties Traffic Advisory Committee, in 1947, urged that the market should be moved to another site, and in the following year it expressed its regret at the Government's failure to follow its recommendation. On the traffic consideration, the weight of evidence is against the Government and against the Bill.

Why has the Ministry contented itself with dealing in this limited way with one market? Why is the Minister restricting the new Authority? We all agree that we must do something about Covent Garden, but one would have thought that the right hon. Gentleman would have given the Authority wider powers. I do not mean by that undemocratic powers, to which I am opposed, but wider powers so that it could advise and encourage the other markets to join in a general plan for horticultural marketing in London. The Minister has not done this. He has left it to the Authority to deal solely and narrowly with this one market.

In whose interests will the Authority act? I see no reference to the public interest except that in the Preamble to the Bill it is said that the Authority must have regard to the public interest, but will it consider the interests of London from a planning point of view? It is not being fitted so to do. It has no compulsory power anywhere else in the London area or outside. I am surprised that the Minister did not take time to consider the whole question of horticultural marketing and did not decide to give a new Authority wider powers to supervise horticultural marketing in the Greater London area.

I strongly suspect that the Government are basically concerned with the interests of the market traders in the promotion of the Bill. The traders are to be treated very carefully; they are to be fully compensated; they are to get new and more modern buildings erected for them; initially, they are to be given all the facilities of modern movement of goods at public expense, to some extent. About £8 million of public money is to be provided initially to see that the traders are given a nice new market containing all the modern techniques.

The Bill largely considers the interests and the convenience of the market traders—not the growers. The constituent of the hon. Member for the Isle of Ely is not being considered. The hon. Member himself raised the point that the grower might have to suffer the imposition of some kind of charge upon the goods he brings into the market.

Whatever else we might think about it, we are quite clear that this Bill will not solve the problem of horticultural marketing in the London area. I am quite certain that before many years have elapsed another Government will have to look at the matter again and bring in a comprehensive Measure to deal with it in an adequate way.

7.32 p.m.

Sir Richard Nugent (Guildford)

I can well understand why previous Governments in the last fifty years have hesitated to bring in a Measure dealing with Covent Garden. This Bill has found few friends in the House, but I was glad to hear my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the Isle of Ely (Sir H. Legge-Bourke) say one or two words of welcome for it. I shall say a few myself.

The hon. Member for Islington, South-West (Mr. A. Evans) said that my right hon. Friend the Minister seemed to have only a cursory knowledge of the Runciman Report. I do not think that that is so, but I congratulate the hon. Member on his obvious study of the Report, and no one can accuse him of having a cursory knowledge. I recall the appointment of Lord Runciman and I take this opportunity to congratulate him and his Committee upon the work which they did not only for London but for horticultural marketing in the country.

When he presented his Report I was still at the Ministry of Agiculture. Then I moved to the Ministry of Transport and spent nearly the next three years there, when I had the opportunity to study this fascinating subject from the point of view of the Transport Ministry.

I acknowledge that when one first looks at this problem one immediately thinks of the appalling congestion—the worn-out jumble of old buildings and the rather irregular and sometimes chaotic conditions of the Market. The first impression is, "For goodness' sake, let us move the whole thing out." Some hon. Members, to a greater or lesser extent, have said that today. Any suggestion that there should be a rebuilding of the Market there conjures up a picture of the perpetuation of the horrific conditions which exist in the area.

I sympathise with that point of view, but as I have lived with this problem over the years I have gradually been borne down by the weight of the facts and have reached the conclusion that the solution proposed in the Bill is probably broadly the right one. At the end of the day, this is a matter of balance between the conflicting considerations of marketing interests on the one hand and traffic interests on the other. I have something to say about planning and amenity, but these two factors are the main ones.

Let me say this about planning and amenity, and so relieve the mind of the hon. Member for Islington, South West. Of course, the planning authority for London, the L.C.C. has full planning powers over the area. If it had not, I imagine that hon. Members opposite, and, no doubt, hon. Members on this side of the House, would have received a brief telling us what deficiences there were in the Bill. The hon. Member can be quite happy that although Clause 52 seems to be very obscure, the L.C.C. remains the planning authority, and whatever is put up there, and wherever it is put up, including the new Market buildings, will have to be subject to its planning control.

I should like to deal with amenity at once. I am glad to see my hon. Friend the Member for Reigate (Sir J. Vaughan-Morgan) here. I know that he feels deeply concerned about danger to amenity through these proposals. He would like to see the Market moved out.

The proposal, as my right hon. Friend has indicated, is that out of the thirty acres on which the market now stands, about seven or eight acres will be taken up by new Market buildings, leaving the rest capable of redevelopment in any way thought fit. The powers which the new Authority will have over the area are to prevent the development of marketing in a band surrounding the new, rebuilt Market. So it is quite possible, and I hope that it will happen, that this area will be redeveloped in an attractive way that will be convenient and pleasant to the amenity of London.

I am not so sure that Londoners really dislike having Covent Garden in the middle of London. I believe they rather like it. Most of us have been to see "My Fair Lady". The most attractive scene in it is the scene at Covent Garden. There is a great romance about the Garden—something that appeals to all of us. Even the irregularities of the Market—the restrictive practices and the conditions of sale—have an historical ring. What was the most conditional sale in history? It was the sale of oranges by Nell Gwynne to King Charles II. There is no record of complaint about that one.

There is a certain glamour about the Market, and I do not believe that it will damage the amenity of London to keep it there, provided that it is rebuilt in a form that allows the traffic to flow, that is constructive in its elevation outside, and is part of a harmonious redevelopment of the whole area. This gives a great opportunity. To have the Market buildings in the middle of the area will not destroy that opportunity, but could, indeed, enhance it. That brings me to the factors which I see as conflicting—traffic and marketing interests.

My right hon. Friend dealt most ably with the traffic problem, but the main obstruction to traffic now is the waiting vehicle in the street—a vehicle which is not just standing there but is being used as a place from which to trade. The retailer arrives with his van, stands it alongside the wholesaler's lorry, and trade goes on between the two. I dare say that this is an efficient function in some ways, but it completely blocks all these streets round Covent Garden and sterilises the whole area for traffic movement.

The proposals in the Bill will provide for all that to come to an end. All the vehicles will go into the new building, the whole of the area of the new Market will be sterilised for these market necessities, so that all those streets will then be free for traffic movement, and to that extent there will be a really substantial reduction of the traffic problem. At the same time, as my right hon. Friend rightly said, instead of the process of marketing going on throughout the day, as it does now, the produce vehicles will go in in the early morning and the distributors' vans will go in early, too, and the whole thing will be moving smoothly, and the distributors' vehicles, and, indeed, the producers' vehicles, will be away again generally before the commuter flow comes in. That is the aim.

Of course there will be a certain amount of traffic generated there. That is inevitable. From the purely traffic point of view one would say, "Move it out," but my right hon. Friend has this dilemma to face if he moves it out. If we move the central Market far enough out so that it is not going to interfere with the flow of traffic, in other words, outside the central area, it will be so far out that almost certainly traders will not go there, and, therefore, the market system will be disrupted.

Sir J. Vaughan-Morgan

What does my hon. Friend define as the central area in this context?

Sir R. Nugent

It is anybody's guess, but I should think anything within an area of, perhaps, five miles or so of Charing Cross; something of that order; perhaps a bit more—seven or eight miles.

But if to avoid serious traffic congestion—let us face it—we move out the central Market to King's Cross, we find that there is as serious a traffic problem, and if we push it out ten or twelve miles then it will be so far out that the traders would undoubtedly not follow. [HON. MEMBERS: "What would they do?"] Some would go to Spitalfields, probably; some would go to the Borough; some would pack up altogether.

Mr. John Mackie (Enfield, East)

Oh, no, they would not.

Sir R. Nugent

This is a point I am going to deal with.

If that happened, if we were to do that, we should run a serious risk of disrupting the system of horticultural distribution, of vegetables, fruit and flowers, for the whole of London, which would be a very serious matter indeed both for producers and for consumers, and that is one factor which my right hon. Friend, and my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport, will have to consider.

Markets are not just a piece of mechanical machinery which we can move from one place to another and expect them to function just the same. A market is a place where men, and women perhaps, have been in the habit of meeting to buy and sell, and it is a business which grows up as an organic human organisation. We cannot just suddenly transfer it five, ten or fifteen miles and expect the traders to follow. They will hesitate to do so. The buyers will not be sure that the sellers will go there, and the sellers will not be sure that the buyers will go there, and so they just will not go.

Mr. G. W. Reynolds (Islington, North)

I am interested to hear the hon. Member's dissertation about the laws of supply and demand so far as horticultural produce and Covent Garden are concerned, but does he not realise that the congestion at Covent Garden which has grown over the years is such that quite a number of traders have, during the last year or two, deliberately moved away from Covent Garden to Brentford? That I know, and I have no doubt that a similar thing will happen the other way out as well. Is this not something one would wish to see and to encourage? Is this not what the Runciman Committee suggested as one way of dealing with the problem?

Sir R. Nugent

Yes, certainly, and I am glad to follow the hon. Member's point.

I apprehend, having listened very carefully to the speech of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Lincoln (Mr. de Freitas), who opened the debate for the Opposition, that the complaint of the Opposition is first that there is no positive, overall market authority set up for the whole of London, and secondly that the market recommended in the Runciman Committee's Report in the north-west has not been set up at all. The hon. Member for Lincoln was more or less silent about what we could do with the central Market, and he did not say that we should uproot it and move it away.

Certainly one of the developments I wish to see at Covent Garden is its becoming more a produce exchange and less a market where the retailer goes to purchase from the wholesaler. Certainly, what should happen—it is happening to some extent, and probably it will happen faster and faster—is that more and more sales should be by sample so that produce in bulk will go in less, so that retailers will go more to the surrounding markets on the periphery.

I should think that, in this context, undoubtedly the Brentford and Chiswick Market has a very big part to play. It has good road communications and good rail communications, and also, as has been suggested by some people, good water communications. There is no reason in the world why fruit being imported from overseas should not be trans-shipped into barges and sent up to the wharves there. That would be a very efficient thing to do. I think it is most important that the Government should see that that market in particular does develop, and, indeed, the market at Stratford, too.

I am not so sure about the project for a market in the north-west. It is a very chancy undertaking to put up new market buildings and yet be by no means certain that we should get the buyers and sellers to go there. But the other two markets, I entirely agree, have good reasons for development. I wish to see a differentiating of markets' functions. Covent Garden being a market—it could never be completely so—more of the nature of a produce exchange where bulk does not go; and that would greatly reduce the traffic problem.

The point I wish to make to those who say that Covent Garden should be uprooted altogether and moved right out is that it would really mean running a risk of disrupting the whole system of the distribution of horticultural produce in London, and indeed, to a considerable extent, it would be a risk to growers all over the country who send their stuff up here.

Finally, on amenity, I should like to raise a small point which interests me very much personally. I shall be glad if when the Minister replies to the debate he will assure me that Clause 18, which is the one which gives powers to the new Authority, will give it power not only to provide horticultural buildings but to provide for culture as well, allowing it to let or sell a site adjoining the Royal Opera House which the Royal Opera House needs for its rehearsal rooms. Hon. Members will probably know that the Floral Hall used to belong to the Opera House. At the turn of the century it let it go to the Market and now the Opera House has no rehearsal rooms at all and all the rehearsals have to take place on the stage and that, of course, is desperately inconvenient and a handicap to the whole of the productions there. I apprehend that there is power in Clause 18 for the new Authority to do that, but I should just like an assurance that there is.

I should also be glad if, when he replies to the debate, the Minister would be kind enough to say whether the new Authority to be set up is given power, when proposing to move from a site, to lease or sell that site to the Opera House so that it may be equipped as we should all like it to be equipped. That is a little divergence from the main issue, but one which, I am sure, will commend itself to hon. Members in the House, and I see one particularly interested in it.

However, the main issue—I should just like to leave this thought with the House—is certainly this, the issue between traffic necessities and market necessities. Hon. Members on this side of the House who have been critical—except my hon. Friend the Member for Reigate—and hon. Members on the other side who have been critical have not said that the essential market function at Covent Garden should be uprooted from Covent Garden. They have made other criticisms, weighty criticisms, which can be answered, but the broad necessity of keeping the central Market itself in Covent Garden has not been generally disputed. It really is a necessity for the marketing of horticultural produce in this country, and to remove it a substantial distance away would be a serious danger to the whole distribution system.

Mr. Cliffe

Does the hon. Member really agree that the place which is chosen for the annex is the right place?

Sir R. Nugent

Wherever it were put there would be drawbacks. The L.C.C., as my right hon. Friend said, gave very careful consideration to the various sites available and finally recommended that this was the best site it could recommend. Of course there are drawbacks. Big road improvements need to be made between that area and Finsbury. I listened with great interest to the hon. Member's speech on the subject. I accept, of course, that criticism can be made, but I think that on the whole it is probably the best place that can be chosen.

Mr. Cliffe

My reason for asking that is that I seem to remember that the hon. Member was, in fact, connected with the Ministry of Transport at the time when argument was going on over the establishment of an underground car park at Finsbury Square. I believe that that scheme had his blessing, because of the serious dislocation of traffic there. He now seems to be departing from the position that he held then.

Sir R. Nugent

I do not think so. I did help on that underground oar park, and there were difficulties whieh I do not think that this proposal will encounter. The vehicles concerned will be taken off the streets, and I think that this will serve a useful purpose in the broad picture of improving the traffic arrangements in the neighbourhood of Covent Garden, and particularly in getting the returnable empties out of Covent Garden.

It is clear that something must be done about Covent Garden. I would give my word to the House, if I may, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that, despite many aspects of this Bill which can be criticised, this is a constructive and a very well-thought-out attempt over many years, after careful consultation with all concerned, to solve the problem. I think that it will work. It will take time, but I believe that it will work. I believe that it is the right balance between the interests of the Market and the interests of traffic, and I ask the House to give support to the Bill.

7.52 p.m.

Mr. John Mackie (Enfield, East)

I shall intervene for only a few minutes to touch on one subject, and that is the situation of this Market. I have suffered from its inefficiency when sending lorries up to the Market and then finding that one could not plan the use of the lorries because they came back hours after they should have done.

The hon. Member for St. Ives (Mr. G. R. Howard) mentioned the inefficiency of the position of the present Market. That is quite true. For traders coming from Smithfield to Covent Garden it is very good, but for others it is very bad indeed, and I think that it is an inefficient Market.

The hon. Member for Guildford (Sir R. Nugent) said that the Market's advantages outweighed the traffic disadvantages. I could not disagree with him more. I am perfectly certain that buyers will follow the produce. To carry on a market that is inefficient simply because we think of the market advantages when, in many other respects, it is inefficient, is not, I think, an argument which will bear a lot of examination.

Sir R. Nugent

The hon. Gentleman will realise that the Runciman Committee studied this matter very carefully and came to the same conclusion that I have. I am in good company.

Mr. Mackie

The Runciman Committee's Report has been quoted quite a lot, but it reported nearly four years ago and no doubt its study took about a year and the situation has altered considerably since then.

Let us consider what a lorry has to do. It has to be used to collect the produce and for its sale and distribution. It has been said that much might be done to ease the situation by sending in a sample and then delivering it by lorry elsewhere. That will not bear a lot of examination. What will the farmer in Worcestershire, or Lincolnshire, or any of the far away producing areas, do? Will he start off in the morning with produce in the back of his car to deliver his sample, followed by his lorry, say, 100 miles behind? He sells his produce and the lorry arrives at the same time as all the accumulation of other traffic coming into London in the late morning. Although the sampling system may work to a certain extent, it will never relieve the congestion as it must be relieved in that area. I do not know whether a survey has been made to determine where the home produce comes from, but I should think that 50 per cent. of the produce comes from pretty well all round London—the southern counties, the western counties, and the other 50 per cent. from the London Docks. We want, not as the hon. Member for Islington, South-West (Mr. A. Evans) said, one market, but four or five markets on the south side of London, and four or five on the north side as the obvious answer if this big problem is to be solved.

I cannot understand why that should not be done. If these proposals are to take place there must be an upset in the market and if, as I am sure the hon. Member for Guildford will agree, rebuilding in itself will be upset, why not start building smaller markets? After all, we are supplying an area containing 8 million to 9 million people. I know one or two markets in Glasgow which are large enough to have all the modern equipment, and we could have eight or ten markets with every efficiency for handling and situated in the right places for the roads which we are building now around and through London. That seems to be the obvious thing to do, and I cannot understand the Minister bringing the Bill before the House, particularly that part of it which deals with the situation of the Market. Most of the produce is coming in smaller lots. That would make it simpler. What is proposed seems to me to be just nonsense, and I cannot understand the Minister.

I know that a lot of evidence has been taken from the Market operators and I hope also from the Market workers. The hon. Member mentioned the question of glamour and tradition, and I think that he is quite right. We should not pay too much attention to that. I have talked to quite a few of the employers and I know that they are very tied to the places where they have breakfast and places where they probably have a drink. They like the area and give a biased type of evidence because of that. They are conservative people and the workers' union is just as conservative on the subject. I feel that the Minister should not pay too much attention to that; to do so is to pay too much attention to tradition.

It is astonishing how people must be saved from themselves, and these people must be saved from themselves in thinking that this Market can be carried on almost in perpetuity. We are spending £8 million and I hope that we shall get something from the Government which will help to save these people from themselves.

7.58 p.m.

Mr. Geoffrey Johnson Smith (Holborn and St. Pancras, South)

I am sorry that my hon. Friend the Member for Guildford (Sir R. Nugent) is not in his place. When he was speaking, as in the case of the hon. Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Mackie), for a moment some of my harsh attitude towards the Bill was dispelled. My hon. Friend carried me back to the days of the Merry Monarch and reminded me of the historical charms of a young lady. Then, swift as a flash, he brought me right up to the present, to another "My Fair Lady" and "Pygmalion." As the hon. Member for Enfield, East has pointed out, we are living in the sixties, a very real world, and not the world of the theatre or the historical past, and from time to time people have to be saved from the past.

Having said that, I think that it would be an exaggeration to use the language of Billingsgate to describe the Covent Garden Market Bill. Some of the comments that we have heard from hon. Members opposite in their criticism of the Bill have been exaggerated. Having heard the comments made my hon. Friend the Member for Guildford, it is obvious that it is not an easy problem. Earlier in the debate it was suggested that over the past year no one had come forward with a better suggestion, and so, in a moment or two, I should like to turn to one suggestion.

Broadly speaking, it seems to me, looking at the Bill, that it has killed off Covent Garden as we have known it. The Bill has slain an octopus which, for centuries, has lived in the heart of London and sucked into it all the produce from the far corners of the world, and it has set up in its place two octopuses or octopi, whichever one prefers, which are slightly smaller—a restricted Covent Garden Market and the annex—both capable of sucking in, as the old octopus did, the produce from the four corners of the world. That is a fair summary and a fair conclusion to reach, having looked at the Bill.

As I read the Bill, I cannot see that there will be much of an improvement in the affairs of Covent Garden. If there is to be an improvement, let it be a radical one. Let it be something upon which we can look back ten years from now and say that we seized the opportunity given to us to do something radical about Covent Garden, something which will enable that area to be re-planned and something which will improve the efficiency and distribution of horticultural produce.

With this in mind, it was interesting to look at paragraph 180 of the Runciman Committee's Report, in reference to the King's Cross site as an area of possible development, when the Committee was examining various alternative suggestions. The Committee's Report states: But we are not convinced that the King's Cross site has so many advantages over Covent Garden as a site for a market as to justify the very heavy cost of a move there. There, I think, we have the first weakness of the Runciman Committee's proposals which have to a very large extent been enshrined in the Bill. The Committee admitted that there were advantages in the King's Cross site, but not so great as to justify the cost of removal.

I wonder what the Committee meant in referring to the cost of removal. There has been reference to the sum of £20 million which will be borrowed. It may be more. Some hon. Members have wondered whether this smaller, restricted Covent Garden is commercially viable. Some have suggested that it will not be because many of the activities of those who formerly patronised the market will have been transferred to others. One wonders to what extent there will be a continuing charge on public funds if the Bill goes through.

Also, it is envisaged in the Bill that those who will continue in the market will have to move and that there will be considerable dislocation as a result because much of the reconstruction will take place on the present site or close to it. I do not see why it should cost any more to move people a quarter of a mile than it would to move them two miles, which is the approximate distance from the present site to the King's Cross site. I think that the Runciman Committee, when examining the King's Cross site, had in mind the possibility of a number of buildings close to King's Cross railway station having to be pulled down. The Committee did not have the advantage which some of us have had more recently of looking in detail at the proposals put forward by C. W. Glover and Partners, consulting engineers and architects.

I cannot help feeling that if the Committee had had the opportunity of looking at the imaginative scheme proposed by that firm it might not have written paragraph 180 in quite the terms that it did. I must make it clear that I have no particular interest in the firm. I certainly have no particular brief for this scheme as opposed to any other scheme that might be put forward, but I feel that, as it has been mentioned, same attention should be drawn to that scheme.

One of the chief disadvantages of the King's Cross site, according to the Runciman Committee, was that the railway terminus at King's Cross would handle goods mainly from the Eastern Region and that trucks would have to move across the central area from the south of London to get to the market, and it made some reference to poor rail communications.

Let me, in contrast, list some of the possible advantages of siting the market in that area. It would for the first time bring road, rail and water facilities together in one centre. The rail facility is obvious. There is also the York Way, one of the main outlets from London to the North. There is also the extension to Western Avenue—my hon. Friend the Member for St. Marylebone (Sir W. Wakefield) referred to it—giving good access to that part of London from the west country. There is also the Grand Union Canal; goods could be loaded at the docks and shipped right through London on the canal to this part.

I understand that the estimated cost of the scheme is about £6 million, and this could be financed privately with no charge to public funds. Also, the space could be let to those who went there at levels not exceeding the present level of rent. The level of rent takes account of the fact that the British Transport Commission would be paid as much as £100,000 annually in ground rent.

Another advantage is that while the handling capacity of the present Covent Garden Market is about 500 tons per hour, the handling capacity of the Glover scheme at King's Cross would be about 5,000 tons per hour, so that, given the same volume of goods passing through the market, we could expect the work to be completed not after lunch as it so often is now but before 9 a.m.—before the rush hour begins.

When one looks at the map, it is not really very accurate to suggest that the King's Cross terminus could handle only rail traffic from the Eastern Region. It could handle traffic from the Western Region, from Cornwall, and, indeed, from other places, including Kent. I have already referred to the canal. The road conditions certainly seem to be no worse there than those at present suffered at Covent Garden. In fact, my view is that they are probably superior to, certainly not worse than, those around the annex. Indeed, I imagine that they are very far superior.

Lastly, embodied in the Glover scheme—and, to me, this is the most attractive part of our scheme—is a heliport. The market would be on stilts over the railway lines. At the side, there would be a widening of the road so that road vehicles could enter the covered market; rail traffic would go through the building and I am given to understand that the roof, of about twenty acres, would be sufficiently large to accommodate a heliport. That is perhaps the most attractive feature of the scheme, because I am sure that at some time in the future we shall be debating where to site a heliport, and that there will be criticisms of the Government's reluctance to agree to give planning permission to a heliport in one place or another.

It seems to me that here, at one stroke, we not only have a rather more attractive proposal to solve the horticultural marketing problems, but also an attractive proposal to deal with the helicopter problems in this country. Quite apart from the use by the public of such a heliport, I have no doubt that the helicopter is a form of conveyance which would be favoured by those who have to market their produce.

It should be said in favour of the Bill that I have received no representations against it by people who live in my constituency, in the Holborn end of it, and who work at the Market, and I should be surprised if I received very strong representations if a decision were made to rebuild Covent Garden Market in the Seven Dials district, which is directly in my constituency. In other words, wherever it goes, whether it is the Seven Dials district or King's Cross, my constituents and I would be stuck with it.

Having looked at the various schemes, however, and realising that the Runciman Committee did not consider the Glover proposals, I wonder to what extent my right hon. Friends have examined the Glover proposals and whether they examined them with minds which had already been made up. That is what I rather suspect. I hope that they will open their minds and look again at these proposals. There has been so much criticism to the Bill this afternoon that I find it difficult to believe that it is beyond their wisdom to devise something better than has so far been put forward.

For example, if the Covent Garden Market were taken away from the present site altogether, I hope that we could look forward to the kind of development at Covent Garden which, I think, should take place there. Not only should there be greater provision for garaging, some new offices and rehearsal rooms for the Covent Garden Opera House, but, as important if not more important, there should be new housing. I should like to see that area brought back to life again in a different way—brought back to life by people living there with their families. In this way it seems to me that we could help to reverse the wrong which has been perpetrated on Londoners in the last few years, namely, the extraordinary growth in commuter travel.

Finally, if a scheme could be devised which calls for no assistance from public funds and no drain on the Treasury—which, under the Bill, may possibly be a continuous drain if the Market is not commercially run—then my hon. Friends, in particular, should welcome it. I believe that the Glover scheme takes account of that. I ask my right hon. Friend to look again at this scheme and to see that we are not obliged to look at the redevelopment of Covent Garden only on the lines of the present Bill.

8.14 p.m.

Mr. G. W. Reynolds (Islington, North)

I am impressed by the faith shown by the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras, South (Mr. G. Johnson Smith) in the ability of his right hon. Friend with the rather out-of-date title—the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster—who is sitting on the Front Bench at present, to draw up a better Bill. I am not quite so confident about it. I was also impressed and quite surprised to hear an hon. Member inviting a horticultural market into his constituency. I recall the battles we had fifteen months ago in which my hon Friends and I tried to keep part of it out of our constituency. I was interested to hear the hon. Member welcoming the main parts of the Market into his constituency, although when he described the various means of access to it I noticed to my horror that mast of them pass through my constituency and very few pass through his. This may be why he is not particularly worried about it. The rateable value of the Market would go to St. Pancras and the traffic would go through Islington. It boils down to that.

The hon. Member may or may not know, but many people in Islington hope in the course of the next few years to see the King's Cross site used for rebuilding the large slaughterhouse which at present occupies the Caledonian Market. I believe that this has already been agreed between the City Corporation, the owners of the present slaughterhouse, and the London County Council, as the planning authority, and I sincerely hope that discussions have taken place with the St. Pancras Metropolitan Council, although frankly it would not surprise me if they had not.

Many people in Islington hope to see the large cattle market and slaughterhouse moved to the King's Cross site to which the hon. Member referred, where the architect has suggested that the Covent Garden Market should be rebuilt. I would rather see the slaughterhouse put on that site. At present all the animals being taken to the slaughterhouse are brought in by rail. There is no question of them being taken by road through my constituency or any other constituency at that stage. The animals are brought in by rail and are walked three-quarters of a mile through the streets of Islington to the slaughterhouse. It would be much better to put the slaughterhouse in the railway depôt to which the animals are brought at present. I am more concerned that the King's Cross site should be used for that purpose than for resisting the Covent Garden Market.

I support my hon. Friends in the suggestion that the time has come to take the Covent Garden Market right out of the centre of London. I cannot accept the argument put forward by the hon. Member for Guildford (Sir R. Nugent) that the retailers might not follow the trade if we moved the Market miles away. The retailers must obtain their goods from somewhere. At the moment many of them go to Covent Garden, and if the Market were moved five or even ten miles away to the north, it is my belief that the vast majority of the retailers would follow the Market to any new site on which it was built.

I am primarily concerned in the debate with the proposals in the Bill and the statements we have had from the Ministers from time to time about opening an annex to the Market in the Borough of Finsbury. In June, 1959, my right hon. Friends who represent Islington constituencies and myself delayed the House until nearly 2 a.m. in an endeavour to prevent that annex from being provided in the Metropolitan Borough of Islington. At that time there was no suggestion that it should be provided a mile or so away in Finsbury, but for some reason or another, after that long debate on Second Reading, the Ministry, the L.C.C. and I believe the Corporation of the City of London suddenly decided that perhaps Islington was not such a good idea after all, and in a matter of a fortnight or three weeks a new site had been found at the corner of Old Street and City Road.

No mention was made of that site in the debate in the House in June, 1959, but about a fortnight or three weeks later it was suddenly found to be eminently suitable for the purpose of storing empty containers as well as containers full of produce for the market. This is rather surprising when one realises that the site had been empty for nearly two years. The London County Council had looked at it previously as had other bodies in the London area. Because of the objections raised by hon. Members representing Islington constituencies in the House against the proposed site in Islington, this Finsbury site, which had been empty for two years and had been inspected and apparently found wanting, suddenly became eminently suitable in the three weeks between the Second Reading and Third Reading of the City of London (Various Powers) Bill.

Not everyone is satisfied with this site. I hope that we shall be told by the Minister who winds up what were the reactions of the City Corporation. We know that the Metropolitan Boroughs of Shoreditch and Finsbury have objected to the use of this site in Finsbury as an annex to the Market. We know that the London County Council has almost been forced to become an unwilling partner in this venture.

We also know that the Lord Mayor and City Corporation took advantage of their ancient rights of personal interview with the Prime Minister at No. 10, Downing Street and expressed to him their views on the proposal to have this establishment on the borders of the City. What we do not know is what those views were. Rumour has it that they expressed opposition to the proposal to bring these facilities for the storage of empty boxes, old sacks, cardboard boxes, sacks of potatoes and rotting vegetables and other matters of that nature adjacent to the boundaries of the City. We know that the Lord Mayor took advantage of the right to see the Prime Minister personally.

Sir W. Wakefield

I drew the attention of the House to the opposition of the City to this site and gave some of the reasons for its continued opposition.

Mr. Reynolds

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. I did not hear his remarks, but that was my belief, that the City was opposed to the use of this site, and it is my belief that the Lord Mayor went to the Prime Minister for the purpose of explaining those objections to him in detail, and I am grateful that the hon. Gentleman confirmed that. It seems that we are in a position here where the three local authorities—if the City Corporation will forgive me for lumping it in with Shoreditch and Finsbury—which are most directly concerned are opposed to the scheme.

One must also look at the fact that if the Government had made up their minds about two years ago when that annex building first became vacant it could have been purchased for about £750,000. Now, because of the long delay and procrastination which has gone on, and because of the needless wrangles to provide temporary storage facilities at the Metropolitan Cattle Market in Islington, the cost of purchasing the site will, I understand, be £1¼ million, or perhaps more. The space was vacant for two years, but no decision was taken by the responsible authorities, including the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, to acquire it for this purpose. Because of that delay, because of the procrastination, because of the messing about between the City Corporation, the London County Council, the Ministry and other people concerned, at least £500,000 will be added to the cost to the public of purchasing that site at the corner of Old Street and City Road.

It is said that this will not cause any great increase in congestion, because, apparently, a terrific amount of money will be spent on road works between the Market and the Old Street site during the next few years. I hope that these road works will proceed more quickly than some we have seen in London during the last few years. At present lorries come into the Covent Garden Market area, dispose of empty containers, load up, and go back to wherever the retail shop or firm happens to be. In future they will have to come to the annex at Old Street, be unloaded, then go to Covent Garden, be loaded again, and then go back to wherever the retail shop is. We cannot believe that these additional journeys and stopping points will not increase the traffic congestion, particularly in the already greatly congested area between Old Street and the existing Covent Garden site.

This is going to cost a terrific amount of money. In my view it will cost at least £500,000 more than it would have cost if the Government had been wide awake and made up their minds with regard to the use of this site. It will not, in my view, provide anything like satisfactory facilities, and it will increase the traffic difficulties no matter what action is taken to improve communications between those two sites.

One of the things for which I criticise the Government is that we are still, in 1960, talking about providing on the Old Street site a space where primarily, though not entirely, empty containers will be stored. Four years ago, when the Runciman Committee made its Report, it suggested that the Government should spend some money and expand some effort on investigating the possibility of completely eliminating the use in the horticultural marketing industry of returnable or chargeable containers.

We are in the fantastic position in this country that goods coming from all parts of Europe, some of them travelling nearly 1,000 miles, come into Covent Garden in non-returnable containers and non-chargeable containers. Storage facilities are therefore not required once they are empty. Yet, some goods which come from thirty miles away from Covent Garden are packed in wooden containers on which a charge of half-a-crown is made and the box has to be returned. Expensive storage facilities have to be made available in the centre of London for storing these boxes. If Continental producers are able to send their produce 1,000 miles to Covent Garden in containers which are non-returnable, I cannot accept that in 1960 it is necessary for a horticulturist 30 miles away from London to use wooden chargeable returnable boxes.

I have spoken, I admit primarily in the Brentford market, to market tenants, retailers and officials and workers in the Transport and General Workers' Union. I found almost universial agreement on the desire to get rid as quickly as possible of chargeable or returnable containers. But so little appears to be being done about it. To the best of my knowledge hardly any research is going on. When we last debated this matter about fifteen months ago, we asked the Minister how much money the Government were spending on trying to get rid of returnable containers. To the best of my knowledge, nothing was being done at that time, and I believe that nothing has been done since. I think that the Government would be doing a great service to the industry as a whole, and would be helping to reduce congestion, if they got down to dealing with this problem of eliminating these unnecessary, expensive and bulky containers, the storing of which will perhaps be the main function of the annex at Old Street.

Mr. Denys Bullard (King's Lynn)

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman has heard of the Horticultural Marketing Council recently set up under the Horticulture Act. It is the intention of that Council to stimulate research into the important project the hon. Gentleman has mentioned.

Mr. Reynolds

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that information. I was not aware that it was trying to stimulate this. I hope that it will also stimulate the Government to assist it in its research, and perhaps the Government, having been informed of this by the hon. Gentleman will be willing to provide such assistance.

I believe that if we tackle this problem of finding simple and easy ways of providing non-chargeable and non-returnable containers, within a few years it will completely obviate the need for the large premises proposed at the corner of Old Street and. City Road which will be primarily, though not entirely, used for the storage of empty boxes and containers. In the long run, this will be a cheaper and more efficient way of dealing with this problem. It will be cheaper to eliminate chargeable containers than to provide storage facilities for them. I hope that the Government will get down to the problem in the near future.

I am disappointed that the Bill deals only with horticultural marketing. This, perhaps, stems partly from the fact that it is the only market in Central London not owned and controlled by the City Corporation, so presumably it is fair game for the Government to have a go and try to do something.

I wish we had before us legislation dealing with all the markets in London generally, but we have not. We are dealing with the one market which does not belong to the City Corporation and leaving the other five markets in the Central London area which do to go along in their own sweet way. It would appear that the Government are concerned not to upset the City at present any more than is necessary, but I hope that in due course we may have a marketing authority for the Greater London area which will deal with all the wholesale markets.

I strongly object to the idea inherent in this Bill that it is necessary to have a second site—a second part of the octopus or octopi which was referred to a moment ago—spreading into the Shoreditch and Finsbury area to provide facilities to operate a horticultural market in the Central London area when there would be every advantage in moving the market out of the centre of London into an area where transport facilities could be greatly improved and vehicles, tradesmen and everyone else would not have to go through the centre of London in the busiest hours.

Mention was made that it would be possible for tradesmen to get in and out of the Market at times other than during the rush hours once the new building had been erected. It would seem to me that people who operate retail shops, and others connected with the Market, do not wish to get to the Market so early in the day as they once did, and as it was necessary to do twenty or thirty years ago. Having found out that here was such a miserable hour as 4 o'clock in the morning on the day that I went to Brentford Market to have a look round, I cannot blame them for that point of view.

If we could get the Market out of the centre of London, these people could work at different hours of the day and they would not have to concentrate their activities into the early hours of the morning. The Market would be much more efficient, the workers, tenants and retailers would benefit, and, in the long run, the housewives and other consumers in the country would benefit.

8.31 p.m.

Mr. William Roots (Kensington, South)

I have listened to the speeches of hon. Members during this debate although I had not intended to. I became so interested in the kaleidoscope of views presented that I remained in the Chamber. One is struck by the fact that everyone has suggested that there is a need to do something about Covent Garden as soon as possible. Most hon. Members have gone out of their way to stress that. Many have followed it up by expressing a plethora of incomplete ideas about alternative sites. We have heard mention of King's Cross, St. Marylebone, Wembley and Nine Elms. Another suggestion was that there should be four new markets on the north side of London and four new markets on the south.

Mr. G. Brown

That was the best suggestion.

Mr. Roots

I think that suggestion came from the hon. Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Mackie). It seemed to me that he might have thought of that earlier and presented a complete scheme. But how can one at the moment seriously hold up something, which is admitted to be necessary on all sides, because a number of people have had what are no doubt quite genuine ideas of how and where a market might be planned? Provided that one is not a constructional engineer, is not in the market business, does not own land in London, and has no experience, there is no more attractive occupation for a wet afternoon than revising the market system, and it is wonderful what one can do.

But, at this stage of this appalling problem, for the House to sit solemnly considering for a whole afternoon—I do not think that it was "solemnly", it was in many instances laughingly—and seriously to have it suggested that nothing could be done, on the off-chance that the present market "doodling" could be continued, is, in my view, out of the question. It is the presentation of these incomplete ideas which must have convinced anyone listening to this debate that the Government are right to debate this scheme which, though it may have its faults, at least is the best suggestion so far, and is the result of expert, lengthy and careful consideration.

I wish to say a few words on the other aspects of the matter. The problem divides itself into marketing and traffic. At least one thing is clear on the marketing side. Marketing can take place at Covent Garden and a large number of people concerned would wish it to continue there. The only question is whether the traffic situation is irremediable and the Market must be moved. All hon. Members seem to have overlooked the traffic figures which were given by the Minister. When one looks at them they are incredibly small. There are 400 incoming lorries, no doubt heavy lorries, and a large number of them travel during the night hours when the streets in that area are, obviously, comparatively empty.

There are only 2,850 outgoing vehicles, that is to say, vehicles which have come to the Market to collect. An unknown number, but again a large number, of them move during the night hours. Therefore, it is wrong to contend that traffic coming to the Market for market purposes is in any way comparable with the 10,000 vehicles an hour using the roads round about. Where the traffic congestion exists and where the remedy is needed is in the Market.

Mr. Morris

Will not the hon. Member agree that the Minister qualified his statement, as did the Commissioner of Police when giving evidence to the Runciman Committee, by saying that the problem is not the number of vehicles coming in and going out of the Market? The fact that there are a number of vehicles stationary for long periods is what causes the congestion.

Mr. Roots

I was just coming to that. The congestion and delay to market people arise within the Market area. The trouble arises simply because it is not a market area designed for modern use.

No hon. Member criticised the Minister's categorical assertion that in the new Market, covering seven acres, it will be possible for the whole of the parking, loading and unloading to be carried out within the Market building. If that is so, the congestion must go from the streets within the Market area. I am not now talking of the Strand and Oxford Street.

No one has said that it cannot be done physically. My right hon. Friend told us that the plans provide for it. If that is a fact—I see no reason why it should not be—the Market will be provided where the market people want it, but the outer roads which the general traffic use simply will not be touched by this.

Sir W. Wakefield

My hon. and learned Friend has forgotten that much light traffic goes to and comes from retailers. He has mentioned the lorries which go there, but he has completely omitted to mention that thousands of retailers' vehicles—taxis and other vehicles—go to the Market at a later hour.

Mr. Roots

No one challenged my right hon. Friend when he said that 3,250 vehicles use the market. That is the total figure. Four hundred vehicles go to the Market, and 2,850 vehicles come from it.

No one has suggested that there is any flaw in that remedy. Several hon. Members have urged that their pet solutions must be adopted, but everyone has had to admit that he is not suggesting a complete solution. I concede that there is no earthly reason why, if more talk is thought beneficial, the Market Authority should not be given the power to acquire a King's Cross site and share it with a slaughterhouse. It could acquire a site somewhere else. I certainly cannot support the rejection of the Bill because of the alternatives which have been put forward tonight.

8.40 p.m.

Mr. Kenneth Robinson (St. Pancras, North)

The hon. and learned Member for Kensington, South (Mr. Roots) has challenged hon. Members on this side to find a flaw in the Minister's arguments, in the figures he quoted about traffic at Covent Garden and in the conclusions that he drew from those figures. In a moment, I hope to reply to him.

I do not regard myself as being in any respect an authority on horticultural marketing, but for many years I have taken some interest, as any London Member must, in the traffic conditions in Central London. When I learned that the Government had decided to rebuild Covent Garden Market on its present site or thereabouts, I thought that they must have taken leave of their senses. I listened very carefully to the Minister this afternoon, but he said nothing whatever to allay my anxieties about the Bill. This is a catastrophic proposal, and I will tell the House why I think so.

Speaker after speaker has said that the Bill has to strike a balance between the interests of the traffic and the interests of marketing, but we have never been given any reason why there should be a central fruit, vegetable and flower market plumb in the middle of the West End of London except that it has traditionally been there. Many sites have been suggested, but I submit that nowhere in London could this Market be worse sited than in Covent Garden.

It is ridiculous for the Minister to quote figures in an effort to prove to London Members that there really is not any serious congestion in Covent Garden. We know perfectly well that there is. For one thing, the numbers of vehicles he talks of are probably, on an average, three times as large as the 10,000 vehicles an hour passing along the roads around Covent Garden.

The Minister said that the congestion was largely caused by those vehicles standing in the same place for hours, and went on to assure us that in the conditions of the new Market that is to be constructed there, with its better handling facilities and the rest, the vehicles would be loaded and dealt with much more quickly, and, would be away again before the morning rush hour starts.

That is no more than a string of pious hopes. The fact is that as long as there is a central market in the middle of London it will act as a magnet to wholesalers. It is obvious that from many points of view it is very convenient for wholesalers, and for some producers—although my hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Mackie) said that it certainly was not a convenient market for him. Nevertheless, it will always act as a magnet, and if all that the Minister says really takes place, all that will happen will be that more and more goods will come in to take up the slack, so to speak, achieved by the more efficient handling of the lorries that will be using the Market.

Again, the Market activities will be confined within a smaller area. They now slop over into about thirty or thirty-two acres, but it is proposed to confine them to about seven or eight acres. That will tend to make congestion even greater. I do not want to canvas a number of alternative suggestions I have already said that almost all the suggestions that have been made would have been preferable to that coming from the Government. I agree with my hon. Friends—and, I think, with one or two hon. Members opposite—that insufficient consideration has been given to the proposal to build a market over the sidings at King's Cross.

Another reason for my thinking it quite ludicrous to have a central market at Covent Garden is that it limits access to road traffic. We ought to be doing everything we can to stimulate rail traffic. A very high proportion of the goods coming into Covent Garden is imported. They arrive by rail from the ports—or they arrive here by air—and the advantage of a site at King's Cross would be that those goods could be brought into the Market by rail, and not by road.

The Minister challenged us on congestion by asking, "What other redevelopment could you do in the Covent Garden area that would not also result in traffic congestion?" I suggested to him simply that one of the things we could do would be to develop it largely for residential purposes. I think that my hon. Friend the Member for Lincoln (Mr. de Freitas) misunderstood the point that I was trying to make. It is always a mistake to try to make a point in an intervention, because one can never develop it. The point of my suggestion was that one of the principal reasons for London's traffic congestion at present is that almost everybody who works in London lives outside it. This is a conclusion which the L.C.C. reached somewhat belatedly a year or two ago.

The L.C.C. has now stipulated that in new office and commercial development in the centre of London some provision shall be made for residential accommodation, because, obviously, the more people who are accommodated in the centre of London, and who work in the centre of London, the less commuting traffic there will be, the less peak hour pressure on London transport, and the fewer private cars there will be coming into London and standing about all day before being driven home again.

One of the things which have gone wrong with a lot of our—I was going to say town planning, but it has really happened by accident over the years and the centuries—is that the centres of our cities have become more and more denuded of residential accommodation. If we are to get an opportunity to redevelop this great site in the heart of London's West End, a large part of it ought to be devoted to the provision of residential accommodation.

My hon. Friend mentioned the possibility of some public buildings. Indeed, this is an admirable site for certain new public buildings which we need very badly. Mention has been made of the need for setting aside a portion of this site for an extension to the Royal Opera House at Covent Garden. I strongly support that plea. The Royal Opera House certainly needs additional dressing room and rehearsal room accommodation, and it needs a block to be sterilised at the back of the present building so that it can be extended.

However, I would not stop there. It is time that London had a modern opera house. I would not dream of pulling down the existing Opera House. It is an extremely beautiful building, but, unfortunately, it is very uneconomic. I should like to see it turned over to some such body as Sadler's Wells and I should like there to be built in this redeveloped Covent Garden a really modern Opera House to compare with some of the best post-war buildings on the Continent. However, that is by way of diversion. Another thing that London desperately needs in that part is a bit of breathing space. Part of this area should be devoted to open space.

I listened with great interest to the speech of the hon. Member for Guildford (Sir R. Nugent), whose Ministerial experience is peculiarly appropriate for him to take part in this debate, having been Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and the Ministry of Transport. He said, speaking from his experience of transport, that from the traffic point of view we should move Covent Garden Market out. I think that the traffic situation in London has got to a point at which one must put it first, and one must say that because of the traffic problem, Covent Garden Market should be moved out.

The hon. Member for Guildford said that if the area were redeveloped, traffic could flow round the market. That is an extremely optimistic suggestion. I do not think that we should get much traffic flowing round that area if we had seven or eight acres of the central horticultural market plumb in the middle of it. On the other hand, if we moved the Market right out, I think we could get a much improved traffic circulation in that extremely dense part of London.

The Minister had other reasons why the Government have chosen to rebuild in the Covent Garden area. One of them, he told us, was that this was the quickest way to provide a new modern central Market, and if one decided on a completely new market somewhere else that would involve considerable delays. From that standpoint, he said, the Government's proposal was preferable. But this proposal will not be implemented very rapidly, even if the Bill goes through, which I hope it will not. The Minister said that it is anybody's guess where the Authority will decide to site the new Market within the Covent Garden area. It is suggested that, perhaps, it will be at Seven Dials. There will have to be a great deal of demolition done to start with before anyone can begin to build the new market at Seven Dials.

Mr. G. Brown

And permission from Mr. Cotton.

Mr. Robinson

Yes, and from Mr. Clore as well. It seems to be an extremely feeble argument to say that any alternative suggestion would lead to greater delay. There will be delay anyhow, and sufficient delay to make it obligatory on the Government thoroughly to examine every alternative proposal.

I believe that that is what the Government have not done. They have decided to rebuild on this site because they have given in to the vested interests involved, particularly the producers and the wholesalers. I am not interested in those vested interests. There is only one vested interest in Covent Garden, so far as I am concerned, and that is the interest of the consumer. I suggest that it will not make a ha'p'orth of difference to the consumer of fruit and vegetables in London where the major market is sited. It is ridiculous to say that if one split up the central market into four regional ones or put it somewhere else that would disrupt the whole distribution pattern of horticultural produce in London.

Like my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, North (Mr. Reynolds), I believe that in this matter the law of supply and demand will take care of any difficulty of that kind. I do not believe that a different site for the central Market will result in the people of London eating fewer potatoes, apples or tomatoes. The demand will be met somehow or other, and if it means a certain amount of temporary inconvenience to wholesalers, I think that it is a price which must be paid. I regard the traffic consideration as the most important one here. In my view, the Government's proposals are utterly disastrous, and I earnestly hope that hon. Members opposite will support our Amendment in the Division Lobby.

8.53 p.m.

Mr. Colin Turner (Woolwich, West)

I support much of what the hon. Member for St. Pancras, North (Mr. K. Robinson) has just said, although any proposal by any Government to do anything about the menace of Covent Garden is obviously to be welcomed. I say quite frankly that, in my view, the Bill completely lacks imagination. It has been planned not for today but for a few years back, and it has no regard for what the position will be in the 1980s and beyond.

It seems to me quite incredible, on grounds of traffic—this is the principal point I wish to make—that we should now propose to clear the Covent Garden area and concentrate the Market into a smaller acreage. That is understandable, if we have to accept it, but I would rather see the Market as a whole removed out of the West End area. It is quite impossible to have a market of any size in this part of Central London, and if it goes to the Seven Dials site it will be within a few hundred yards of the centre of the West End. Having been connected for about thirty years with a business in and about the Market area, I know how terrible the traffic is.

It is now proposed to set up a further Market on the edge of the City. That is what it amounts to. We were given the figure—there was some dispute about it—of 3,250 vehicles in. I do not think that my right hon. Friend will disagree if I say that if we split the Market there must be an increase in the total number of vehicles using both the new Market and the annex. He has admitted that there will be traffic taking the empties to and fro between Covent Garden and the annex.

I do not believe that the real traffic congestion is inside the Covent Garden area. Anyone who wants to go from Kingsway to St. Martin's Lane has to go right round the outside of the Market. The real danger and menace to the traffic situation is the large number of lorries in the roads surrounding Covent Garden and the annex. Whether people like it or not, there will be about 7,000 vehicle movements, whatever may be the number of vehicles. Any hon. Member who knows the area of the annex and uses it with a motor car, as I do regularly, will know what a complete and utter menace it is.

We have heard from my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport on numerous occasions facts and figures to show that the number of motor cars and other vehicles will increase at a fantastic rate. That is why I say that the Bill completely lacks imagination, not only from the traffic point of view but from the point of view of facilities which should be available in a modern market. I am certain, particularly for the transport of flowers, precious plants and precious fruits, that we shall see, especially from Europe and the Channel Islands, helicopters used on an immense scale. I believe that any Bill designed to get rid of the menace of Covent Garden which does not take into account these considerations is completely devoid of the understanding of the problem which we shall face in the years ahead. Many hon. Members may well live to regret the lack of imagination in the Bill. I hope that even at this very late stage my right hon. Friend will look at the matter again.

We have been told that the new Market in Covent Garden and the annex will take all the lorries off the street. I do not think that we have been given the acreage of the annex, but can we be certain that all those lorries which arrive at a given time—and there is always a tendency for everyone to arrive at the same time—will be taken off the roads into the annex? I very much doubt it.

Another point which has not been mentioned is that if 50 per cent. of the trade in Covent Garden is done by sampling, it will be done at about 6 o'clock in the morning. There will be considerable delay while someone telephones the people at the annex to tell them to load the lorry and to transfer the goods. Because of that delay, the lorries will be thrust into the hurly-burly of the commuter rush in the morning and will cause much greater havoc and chaos than there is at present.

I am not trying to decide the site tonight but I believe that there are other sites. Having had the courage to tackle this problem at all, the Government might as well have even greater courage and take really drastic action to sort out the problem.

9.0 p.m.

Mr. George Brown (Belper)

The hon. Member for Woolwich, West (Mr. Turner) has kept up the ratio. As far as I can see, each hon. Member opposite who has been kindly disposed towards the Bill has been followed by one of his hon. Friends who has spoken against it. We shall be glad to have the hon. Gentleman with us in the Lobby tonight so that his right hon. and hon. Friends may have time to think about the matter.

This is for me an escape back to happier days and happier fields and less melancholy preoccupations than I have had over the last few years. I am no longer talking about missiles and things one wants to bury in Holy Loch, but pleasant things like agriculture and horticulture. The former Secretary of State for War has also escaped from similar matters and is now Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. Behold, however, I see also exactly the opposite. A right hon. Gentleman whom a former general secretary of the Transport and General Workers' Union used to call the Chancellor of the "Ducky" has also escaped. Here tonight, therefore, we have the escapers' club, all getting back—the right hon. Gentleman was once in food—to happier days and pleasanter fields. On behalf of all the old escapers, I must say how pleasant it is to be back to deal with these rather more pleasant affairs.

Having said that, What has struck me through all the debate which I have heard—and I have heard most of it—is that most hon. Members have approached the subject as if it were a transport Bill. Indeed, for most of the debate I wondered why the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food was introducing it. Everybody has spoken about congestion and helping the traffic to move. That is not the business of the Minister but of his right hon. Friend. Somehow, it has all gone wrong.

The most impressive of the speeches which I have heard—I apologise for missing, perhaps, other impressive speeches—were, on this side of the House, from my hon. Friend the Member for Aberavon (Mr. Morris) and, on the Government side, from the hon. Baronet the Member for Reigate (Sir J. Vaughan-Morgan), both of whom spoke of the Bill as a horticulturists' Bill and about the interest of horticulturists in it. Incidentally, both of them spoke about the interest of the consumer. I was astonished how few people approached it this way round.

We are having a Bill to deal with Covent Garden, I understand—unless the Minister of Agriculture, perish the thought, was misleading us—because these are the Government's conclusions arising from Runciman and all that about the marketing problems of horticulture here in the great capital city of the Empire. That being so, we ought to start talking about it from that angle.

There are certain things we must do. We have to get the produce, whether it comes from abroad or from our own growers at home, to market, and from the market and into the consumer's hands, in the freshest possible condition. We have to add as little as we may in the way of on-cost and we have to see in the course of doing it that the grower gets as good a return for his effort and his work as we can give him without mulcting the consumer. That is the purpose of all marketing.

From the consumer's angle, we have to see, equally, that he gets the freshest horticultural produce and that he gets it as cheaply as he may, while allowing the grower a reasonable return for it. Again, the on-cost for marketing, transport and all that must be as little as we can arrange it.

Everybody who has looked into the matter starts from the conclusion that Covent Garden as it now is does not help any of these three things. It is not itself an ideal arrangement. If it did not exist, nobody would invent it to look after the growers interests or the interests of the consumer. Nobody would regard it as the ideal way of ensuring that produce got to its destination in the freshest possible condition.

From there, we go on to see how we can do it better. There are certain subsidiary problems, one of which clearly is traffic. I listened to the hon. and learned Member for Kensington, South (Mr. Roots), who is no longer in his place, talking about traffic movements in and out of the Market. I could only conclude that he had never been there. If he had added up the number of vehicles he would have found that to get through to the Garrick Club at 9.30 and pick up one's car at 11 o'clock is not possible. There is a considerable problem of traffic, but if we can help that while helping to solve the other problems, so we should.

A second subsidiary problem which nobody has mentioned in the debate is the absolute complete lack of facilities that ought to go with a wholesale main market. There should be refrigeration facilities and hot-room facilities so that we can get from the Market that little tiny bit of extra which makes the market for the producer if he comes in that day, and helps the consumer the next day.

We have had committee after committee. The last one, the Runciman Committee, reported not so long ago. This Bill is the outcome. What does it do? If I said that it simply tinkers with the thing, would you not say that I was telling the truth? You are forbidden to answer my question, Mr. Speaker, but it is so. It tinkers with the problem and makes no real contribution to the matters I have mentioned. And it tinkers with it in a jolly expensive way to the taxpayers for whom we speak here and to those on whom the charge will fall.

In the first place, people send produce in and, secondly, the consumers buy it. We are to provide up to £8 million. I am not clear on what terms or whether there are to be special interest rates. That is the figure to start. In the end, somebody will provide £20 million, with all the servicing charges that that involves. This is a considerable addition to the on-cost that the consumer already has to bear. The wife of any hon. Member will tell him that one of the problems about horticulture, and especially British horticulture, already is that the price that the woman pays for the cabbage or tomato, or whatever it is, seems to bear absolutely no comparison with the price that the farmer or grower, be he specialist or general farmer, gets for the same thing.

One cannot explain to the Lea Valley, Worthing or Cornwall people, or the general farmers in Derbyshire, why it is that when they are given a few pennies for something, my wife in Dulwich is still paying many more times more pennies for the same thing. The Bill really does not deal with any of the major problems and yet what will be done will be to add more pennies to what the housewife already pays for something for which the grower already receives far less.

This is the outstanding conclusion to draw. It is a tinkering Bill and that is why I said at the beginning that it is not a horticultural marketing Bill. It is a traffic Bill at the expense of the producer or the consumer. We have had complicated arguments about the nonsense of the annex. It is with respect, absolute nonsense. My hon. Friend the Member for Shoreditch and Finsbury (Mr. Cliffe) and many others have explained that if the Government had set out to choose the wrong site on which to put an annex they could hardly have succeeded better than with this site, next to the hospital on the third busiest crossroads in London.

It is so absurd that I do not know how they did it, except that I presume that every other candidate fell down until somebody said that they were prepared to take the St. Luke's buildings and put it there. I want it to be understood that this is an absurd thing to do. It could not be more absurd or wrong.

Speaking as a reclaimed horticulturist from missiles, I believe that this idea is horticultural nonsense. If one has a central market in London—the Minister called it a national market, but I thought that was going a little far—and arranges for an empties annex three miles away through the three most congested and most difficult miles one could pick in London, how does one expect this plan to work?

What has happened? The Minister's example was so fascinating that I interrupted him to make sure that he meant to use the argument he was putting. That argument was that 50 per cent. of the produce going through Covent Garden is imported, and is, therefore, graded and packed and can be sold on sample. Therefore, he argued, it does not all need to go to Covent Garden, and so we can have an annex which can hold the bulk and deal with the empties. That was his argument. But that 50 per cent. comes in in non-returnables.

The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Dr. Charles Hill)

indicated dissent.

Mr. Brown

That is what the Minister said. But the 50 per cent. to which he referred that produces the empties problem comes in non-returnables. If the Ministers were concerned with the horticultural problems, and with the fire problem in Covent Garden, they should have given their minds long ago to encouraging the home grower to put his produce up in non-returnables. In this way one does not create an empties or a fire problem. Yet the Government are to create an annex which will be of use, as the right hon. Gentleman's example shows, to the very chaps who are not going to use it.

If the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster thinks that the retailers will buy on sample from home growers with the present way in which home growers now put up their produce, I can assure him that he is on a loser. I have discussed this with leading wholesalers in the Market and with leading growers—my old friends, God bless them, who have come out of retirement with me to talk about this again.

I asked them, "Would anybody trust you so far in the present disorganised state of packaging and grading of British horticulture as to buy your produce on sample?" They said: "Not if they are as bright as we think they are."

They are not as bright as that. This annex is horticultural nonsense. Buying on sample from bulk produce kept there will not happen. If it did happen, there would be a nonsensical traffic situation. There would be people going to and from the annex two or three times, collecting empties and delivering them back again. Even more on-cost would be added to what is already over-costed. However, I do not believe that it will happen that way. I believe that this proposal is nonsense and that unless we do something much more fundamental for horticultural marketing we shall not get anywhere near a solution.

The right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Agriculture claimed, in part, that this was the Runciman Report and that the Bill had decent, respectable parentage. One of my hon. Friends said that this was not Runciman. Let us get rid of the idea that it is Runciman; it is not. It is true that this particular proposal is part of a number of recommendations, all of them locked together. The Runciman Committee did recommend this proposal but as part of a general plan. The Minister has, however, jettisoned the whole of Runciman but has picked out this one proposal—a proposal which, when taken by itself, makes no sense. If hon. Members will read the Report carefully they will see that the Committee ruled out this proposal as something to be done in isolation. It in fact admitted it only as part of a whole, with a number of other things which all went together.

I cannot, as a bit of an agriculturist and horticulturist, think of any Bill I would less want to be concerned with than this, if it were my charge at this moment. I repeat, the thing is nonsense. It will achieve nothing horticulturally. It may help the Minister of Transport's problem. That I beg leave to doubt, but I can see his point about that. It is for him to prove it. However, from the point of view of the Minister of Agriculture it is absolute nonsense. It will do nothing at all.

Our Amendment invites the House to reject it for that very reason, that it makes no contribution. Effective re-organisation of horticultural marketing is what I want to talk about for the few minutes which remain to me, and about what could be done, what in fact the Minister should have got hold of.

Some people have argued, I have in my own time myself argued, that there was a case for thoroughly reforming the marketing of British horticultural produce along the lines of the Dutch auction market. It may well be that there is still a very good case for this. On the other hand, other friends of mine who have seen it operating say that it does on occasion break down.

Nevertheless, this is a national problem. This is what the Minister of Agriculture should be putting his mind to. The real problem, as I said at the beginning, is to get the stuff to the consumer with the least intervening charge and in the freshest condition, and avoiding that last little surplus which breaks the market. How can we reorganise our marketing in the centre of London or on the outskirts of London in four or five periphery markets, say with one in the north-west, and one in the south-east, and the others developing? I am not prejudging. I am simply saying that the problem of the Minister is, how can we do this and help?

One thing we should obviously have to have is a considerable area where the lorries can back up against one another, an area into which they can go and get out of easily without a great deal of congestion, and where we should have to have refrigerated stores, and hot rooms, too, for some of the overseas produce, notably bananas, and where all this work could be done with the greatest of ease and on the simplest basis. Does this Bill provide for that? No, it does not. The Minister knows it makes absolutely no contribution to that at all.

The second thing we should have to do is to see that as London is developing, if it is London we are talking about, as the suburbs are developing, there is obviously very great need for perimeter markets. Whatever we do in Covent Garden, there is a great need for perimeter markets. We do not have to have all Covent Garden's facilities in Covent Garden.

I hope that the Chancellor of the Duchy does not repeat that rather silly remark of the Minister about sweeping powers of a sort which Conservatives are against. There are already sweeping powers in this Bill, except that they are great, sweeping powers for a rather tiny project. What he should in fact say is, "Let us recognise the development of radial roads, the development of ring roads, the development of the suburbs, and the push outwards of population, and let us have perimeter markets to cut out the intervening transport in and out of London."

When I talked this morning to a Lea Valley grower he said to me, "Every day I see lorries from Bedford coming in through the Lea Valley to Covent Garden chock-a-block and then every evening I see them coming out again equally full, this time with loads of different things. They go out again still through the Lea Valley." It is nonsense, absolute nonsense. People are coming into London and going out again whereas the periphery markets are there, and could be developed and could be a considerable help.

A thing to remember is that the horticultural grower is the one chap in British agriculture we do not guarantee, the one chap we leave to the play of the market, and we owe him rather more than we owe to anybody else. We put on him some load of increased production when we need it, but we do not give him the guarantee we give the others. Therefore, we do not organise him and we do not organise the consumer.

I should have thought that if we had £20 million or £8 million to spend it could have been used with very great effect for the periphery markets and all those other things, instead of having this nonsense about the central Market in London. I see that the National Farmers' Union has considered this. The N.F.U., as we might expect, whenever it writes anything, is careful never to offend the Government, although it is not quite so careful never to offend the Opposition. It states that the Minister's plan will not benefit the English grower and will result in higher marketing charges and higher consumer charges.

I saw an interesting article in a paper called the Grower and Pre packer, which, no doubt, the Minister has seen, which said: We hardly think that the improved facilities will increase efficiency to a sufficient level to cover such a charge upon the industry. An increase in handling tolls and rents is almost certain, despite the assurances to the contrary. It went on to say: We fear that the encouragement of this method"— that is, presumably, the new Authority's aims— will take the form of a penalising charge upon bulk supplies for the market, coming mainly from home growers, who would be obliged, therefore, to pay more for the privilege of using Covent Garden than would the importers. The other suggestion is that we shall be helped in due course, because the new Market Authority will collect the area together and redevelop it, not quite where it is at the moment but within the area, and, it is suggested, within Seven Dials. The Minister or some hon. Member said that it was largely slum property around Seven Dials.

I was interested in this is this property already acquired and is it already covered by quite tight planning orders, because I was told as recently as one and a half hours ago, in response to an inquiry that I made, that Mr. Cotton and Mr. Clore have already made extensive purchases of that very property in that very area. I was told this by people who might well be expected to know. I want to know from the Minister, as he was so sure that this would go through, whether he is quite sure that he has this back door covered, because, if he has not, I am quite sure that Mr. Cotton and Mr. Clore will make quite sure that he does not get it as easily as all that.

I come back to the transport point. I still do not see how the Bill helps the transport problem. I have tried to show that the Bill is nonsense horticulturally. It is nonsense transport-wise too. As long as we are to keep the Market going and have lorries going up to the City Road and down again twice as often as previously, I do not see how we make the transport problems any different. The transport problem is that one goes in so early and stays so late. It is not true that it is a problem of only five hours in the day. If one goes into that area about nine o'clock and tries to get away by half-past ten, one will find that the lorries are already there, and they are there until nearly mid-day next day. Also, there are a lot of fellows moving out at about five o'clock in the afternoon. There are only a few hours in between which are free.

I do not believe that what is proposed makes the slightest change at all. If the Government tell me that the real purpose of the Bill—this is what they are telling us—is to take the lorries off the highways and put them into interior parking places, I am bound to ask the Government on behalf of the consumers and growers of British horticultural produce, "Why charge us? It is not our business." If the Government think that this is what they will achieve, I do not think they will achieve it. On behalf of British housewives and British horticulturists, I must say that I cannot see why they should be charged. If that is the defence of the Bill, it goes sky-high on those grounds, and the Minister should not have introduced it.

There are much wider things that need doing here. I have talked about horticulture, and I should like to deal with one other thing. I am not making myself responsible for saying whether Covent Garden should go away altogether, whether we should have a series of suburban markets and let Covent Garden waste away, which, I suppose, is what it would do if we did that. I am merely saying that we should look at modern practice. What does the best—meaning the most efficient—kind of British retail establishment do? I do not know what hon. Members would call the best, one of the best I know is Marks and Spencer—best in terms of being very efficient. That firm relies for its success on getting its margins very well down and on delivering graded, packed products up to sample all the time. I do not think anybody would dispute this. I have no shares in Marks and Spencer, but this is how it works. Whether we talk about dry goods or food, it works the same way.

Does Marks and Spencer buy in the market? It does not. What it has done—for all I know, other people may also do it—is to use the East Kent Growers at Faversham. The people supplying Marks and Spencer do not come into the market at all but send their produce to Faversham and use the machinery of the East Kent Growers. Marks and Spencer collects from there and distributes to its areas from there. I repeat that this is an organisation which is interested in keeping the margins dawn. If that is the way it does it, why the devil do we not do something of the same sort?

Mr. John Wells (Maidstone)


Mr. Brown

I cannot give way, because I have promised to conclude by 9.30 p.m. I am sure that there can be no dispute about the facts of what I have said, although there may be some argument.

Mr. J. Wells

There is a fact in dispute.

Mr. Brown

Not only does Marks and Spencer do that, but prominent officers of the Tomato and Cucumber Board, the most prominent tomato growers in the country, send to Faversham so that their produce will be picked up in the same way.

In conclusion, I would say to the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster—I will take no longer because the right hon. Gentleman wishes to have the rest of the time till 10 o'clock in which to reply—that the Bill could not have less to do with horticultural marketing than it has. It could not do it in a less competent way than it does. If it were a transport Bill, we should have been asked to support it on these grounds, and I cannot tell what the answer to that would have been, because that is not a subject in which I have any responsibility. However, in terms of horticultural marketing, in terms of the grower and in terms of the consumer, the Bill will help not at all. It can only add to the cost.

We ought to have had a Bill which looked at horticultural marketing as a national problem, which offered us a horticultural marketing authority to deal with the problem as a national one, market controlling authorities to deal with the markets Wherever they were proposed to be and storage facilities and market facilities on the lines of the Continental countries, particularly the Scandinavian countries and Holland. Such a Bill would have been of great interest to the House and of great benefit to the consumer and the producer. This piddling little Bill is of no benefit to either, and I respectfully submit that it should be rejected tonight with contumely.

9.30 p.m.

The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Dr. Charles Hill)

As a fellow escaper, let me say at once that the lively speech of the right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) has shown that, whatever has happened to him since, he is still interested in the problems of horticulture. I confess that I found it a little odd when he asserted that a proposal for a new market, with new facilities and the most modern techniques, as will be possible in the new Covent Garden Market, made no contribution to horticultural problems.

Like the right hon. Gentleman, I have heard most of the debate. As I have listened to it I have reflected that, confronted as we are with a difficult and perplexing problem, it is much easier to criticise a particular solution than to offer a practicable alternative.

My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kensington, South (Mr. Roots) demonstrated this point. It is a difficult problem. There are many angles and many sides to it. There has been an immense amount of study, widespread consultation and negotiation. What we believe, and what I hope to demonstrate to the House, is that this provides the opportunity, as nothing else would, for effective action now. Of course, critics and criticisms remain. For example, the hon. Member for Shoreditch and Finsbury (Mr. Cliffe)—I will come later to the main substance of his speech—alleged that if the London County Council had not opposed it, at least it had most reluctantly acquiesced. I would say to him that, as we understand it, another and equally accurate way of putting it is that the L.C.C., through its leader and others, has made it clear that it welcomes this plan as a practicable solution to a very complex problem.

I will not pretend that the City Corporation likes the St. Luke's site proposal. It does not. What it wanted to do was to use the Metropolitan Cattle Market, which belongs to it, in Islington, for the annex. The City Corporation promoted a Private Bill in the summer of 1959 empowering it to do so, but it was strongly opposed by the L.C.C. and the Islington Borough Council.

Mr. Cliffe

The London County Council and the City Corporation's Private Bill were saying exactly identical things.

Dr. Hill

So be it. My hon. Friend the Member for St. Marylebone (Sir W. Wakefield) raised a number of interesting points, many of them perhaps Committee points. I will answer one straight away. He suggested the use of Marylebone Station. Let me say at once that the British Transport Commission could not make the land available on the Marylebone Station site.

My hon. Friend the Member for St. Ives (Mr. G. R. Howard) asked for an assurance that this Bill, to use his own words, was not a blueprint for taking over markets everywhere. I can give him an unqualified assurance on that point.

I turn to the question of costs, to which the right hon. Member for Belper referred. Of course, a considerable amount of money is involved in this and in any other project for improved marketing, but particularly in the case of Covent Garden there will be a resultant increased efficiency and a saving of wasted time and, so, money, which will be a compensating factor.

The hon. Member for Shoreditch and Finsbury, made, if he will allow me to say so without impertinence, a very considered speech with a good deal of human material in it. I am not referring to the traffic aspects, to which I will come later, but to his reference to the area as it is in terms of schools and Moorfields Hospital, and what it may become.

My right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food said earlier, and I will repeat it, that although the Bill vests the St. Luke's site in the Authority, and the Authority will acquire the site, if, on further scrutiny and examination of the problem, it decides that there is another and better site, subject to the permission of the Minister the Authority will be able to select that site.

The hon. Gentleman is clearly anxious to have a further opportunity of putting not only his objections, but other ideas for a site, to those responsible, and I assure him that he will have a further opportunity to express his views. I will come to the traffic point later.

The hon. Member for Islington, South-West (Mr. A. Evans) made the point, though I did not myself hear him, that in this Bill all planning was swept aside and the Authority could compulsorily acquire anywhere in the country. That is not true. All the projects that it puts forward for building are subject to planning control, and it can acquire compulsorily only where the London County Council has designated land for the purposes of the Authority. It has, in fact, the powers of a statutory authority like the Port of London Authority.

Before I come to the main arguments, I should like to deal with the point made by the hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. de Freitas), about rail traffic. He said in effect, "Here is an opportunity to encourage the use of rail for this project". He referred in friendly terms to much that was in the Runciman Committee's Report. He will understand if I quote two sentences from the Report: In general, road transport in this country is more convenient than rail for horticultural produce. Later, the Report says: The great disadvantage of transport by rail is the amount of handling involved. The fact is that rather more than half the horticultural produce is imported, and, clearly, that will be a matter of road transport from the docks. Of the rest, the bulk—and I am stating the position as it is—does, in fact, travel by road.

I come now to what I believe to be one of the main arguments of the hon. Member for Lincoln. He said in his summary of the Runciman Report that the Report recommended a north-western market extension of other markets—Brentford, Stratford, and so on—and then, for this would make it possible, the contraction of Covent Garden. I do not demur from his summary of the Report, but it is "and then" which is the trouble. The suggestion in the Report is that the north-western markets should be established, that the expansion should proceed in the others, and then, in the light of the experience and the results, we should proceed to deal with Covent Garden.

As I hope to show later, the Covent Garden position, both in terms of traffic congestion and still more seriously in terms of fire risk, is such that we cannot wait until these other experiences have been gained before we tackle it. Further, it was made clear that the authorities responsible for the other two main markets, Brentford and Stratford—and particularly Brentford—were not prepared to proceed with their expansion at least for a number of years until they had seen the effect of the projected northwestern market.

In other words, to accept one part of Runciman would have meant that we should have lost another. It is one thing to build a market, it is another to get the traders to go there; and though, of course, there are shades of opinion among the traders, the view expressed to us very firmly was that the wholesalers would be unlikely to go there.

The hon. Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Mackie), to use his own words, would save them from themselves—a delicate form of phraseology to cover the sort of coercion which the hon. Member has in mind. The plain fact is, to put it in practical terms, that we cannot compel traders to go where we want them to go, and if they did not want to go to the north-western market they might well go to the Borough and to Spitalfields, two already crowded markets.

The proposed Market Authority, according to Runciman, would awn and run Covent Garden Market and the north-western new market. It would control the other markets which would remain with their present owners but which would be controlled by the Market Authority. The hon. Member asked why did we drop that, was it pressure from the City of London—the oldest game in the world—

Mr. de Freitas

Well, was it?

Dr. Hill

There are a number of authorities. The Brentford Market is owned by the Chiswick and Brenfford Borough Council. Stratford Market is owned by the British Transport Commission and shortly, in all probability, will be owned by the West Ham Canny Borough. Spitalfields is owned by the City Corporation. The Borough is owned by the Southwark Borough Council and there is a small market at Greenwich which is run by the Admiralty.

Mr. de Freitas

That is exactly the point. I cited London as the only one with these vested interests. Why was not the matter tackled in the same way as the Port of London Authority?

Dr. Hill

I withdraw the unworthy suspicion. I thought the hon. Member had picked out the City of London in order to arouse some prejudice against that authority.

These authorities did not like it. They were marketing authorities and, quite naturally, they wanted to remain so. There is another consideration of very real importance. It must not be assumed—I am sure that it is not generally assumed—that merely to create a controlling body with a central organisation to assume control of local markets would really achieve something useful. What we did accept of Runciman was a constructed Covent Garden Market—I admit in the different context of our own proposals—as a national market, not only in history and tradition but in that it provides the basis of market prices throughout the country.

My hon. Friend the Member for Reigate (Sir J. Vaughan-Morgan) raised the question of planning and said that we were neglecting an opportunity to plan this historic area. Let us get the facts of the acreage right. Today, there are five Market buildings occupying about six acres and the area covered by market operations is about thirty acres. The Market area, which is the area bounded by the main roads affected by and, at some times of the day, dominated by the market area, is 120 acres. That is the significant figure for traffic purposes. In fact, as a result of this, what is to be used by the Market is between six and eight acres—call it eight acres—and 112 acres are not only to be freed of their traffic problem; they are to be free for development in accordance with the development plan of the London County Council. And my hon. Friend says there is no planning consideration here. There is here a planning opportunity of the first magnitude. The L.C.C. has been holding up its draft plan for the area until a Government decision has been taken on the Covent Garden Market. The Bill will give the Council the green light.

The question has been raised as to what will happen. Clearly, no one can anticipate that. That is a matter for the planning authority, following the usual procedure. I agree that if this were to become a vast mass of offices we should be disposing of one traffic problem and possibly acquiring an even greater one. However, we can rely on the good sense of the planning authority and the Ministry to take this opportunity of redeveloping this historic area, which is in great need of a new approach and redevelopment.

My hon. Friend the Member for Guildford (Sir R. Nugent) and the hon. Member for St. Pancras, North (Mr. K. Robinson) asked whether it would be possible, as a result of this, for the Royal Opera House to be provided with more adequate rehearsal facilities for both opera and ballet productions. Clause 18 will give the Authority this power, provided that it is satisfied that by so doing it is making the best use of its assets and that what it does is calculated to facilitate the proper discharge of its duties and functions under Clauses 16 and 17. I hope that it will be possible for that to be done and also certain other things in relation to the Inigo Jones Church, and so on. It is a matter for the Authority to decide.

The hon. and learned Member for Brigg seemed, perhaps with an air of counterfeited innocence, to ask himself why this reduction of size would be effective. Perhaps he did not listen to the speech of my right hon. Friend. There will be three phases. The first will be the establishment of the Authority and the administrative, staffing and financial preparations that will be necessary. The second will be the building of the annex, which, as my right hon. Friend made clear, will make it possible for a considerable number of larger lorries—estimated at 500—to go, not to the Market, but to the annex. The third phase is the building of the modern market itself, which will occupy some six to eight acres, and which will be free from traffic complications in the remainder of the 120 acres.

I turn now to traffic considerations.

Mr. Hugh Molson (The High Peak)

Before my right hon. Friend leaves that point, are we to understand that the Market Authority is to be the final authority about what use is to be made of the whole area? Is the Market Authority to decide whether the Covent Garden Opera is to be allowed to expand? Is it only the Authority which can decide that an area can be spared from the Market and be made available for use by the Covent Garden Opera?

Dr. Hill

The planning authority, with full powers, subject to the approval of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government, will be the L.C.C. My right hon. Friend need have no apprehensions on that point.

I come now to the question of traffic. My right hon. Friend divided it into two parts—local congestion due to standing vehicles and the effect of moving vehicles on general traffic problems of the area. He said that the second is by far the smaller problem and in fact accounts for only 10 to 15 per cent. of the general flow of traffic in and out of the area.

The overwhelming problem is the local congestion due to standing vehicles that are loaded and unloaded by barrow. It is estimated that to deal with 93 per cent. of these vehicles, each between 3 tons and 15 tons, some 10,000 barrow movements a day are necessary. How will that be affected by the Bill? As has already been made plain, many of these large vehicles—probably most of them—will go direct to the annex. When the new Market is working, in eight of the 120 acres, all the vehicles entering will have parking provision within the precincts of the Market.

Street loading and parking will end, but turn-round will be quicker. The peak time now is between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m. and if, as seems certain, it becomes earlier as a result of this Bill—if it goes back to between 7.30 a.m. and 8.30 a.m., or 8 a.m. and 8.30 a.m.—that will of itself make an immense contribution to the solution of the traffic problem of the area.

There are, of course, problems to which one must refer. There is the problem of the annex and traffic. There are to be very considerable improvements in the ring road, for the annex is to be on the right road. There are to be the improvements at Harrow Road, a flyover at Marylebone, the Euston Road underpass, the work at the Angel and, in Old Street, in the City Road, first a roundabout and later an underpass. These are in the programme. Similarly, on the road from the south of the river to the Market, between the annex and Covent Garden, substantial road improvements are in the programme, and they will be through in the next few years.

Let me say a word about the annex and the general problem presented there. There we have an island site of about five acres, with roads on all four sides. It is proposed that provision should be made in the annex for off-street parking, with ample space, and every effort made to minimise noise.

I turn now to the Glover plan. At first sight, it is an interesting, imaginative and attractive plan, but it holds some very real difficulties. First there is the proposal to occupy some twenty acres spanning York Way, over King's Cross Goods Yard. The future reorganisation of the station, of the main line and suburban services, has not yet been determined, and will not be determined for some time. It is really quite impossible to plan to put this Market in the air, as it were, above King's Cross Station before it is known what the reshaping and reorganisation will be. Furthermore, 50 per cent. of the stuff entering the Market comes from the docks, and although access from the north will be easier, that from the south will be correspondingly more difficult.

The hon. and learned Member for Brigg (Mr. E. L. Mallalieu) alleged that this Bill would do nothing. Let me remind him of what it does. Where today there are 120 acres, dominated for some parts of the day by the Market, we shall have from six to eight acres. A vast redevelopment will be possible of an historic part of London which needs development, and needs it badly. We shall have facilitated, to say the least, new marketing techniques including bulk sales in the annex and sale by sample in the Market. We shall have cleared from the area the bulk of the containers. We shall have a market that is more efficient, and we shall have dealt not only with an appalling traffic problem but with something much more appalling—the serious risk of fire in the heart of London.

That will be the result of the stages that the Bill initiates. In addition, we shall have a modern, up-to-date, entirely new market with all the possibilities that that holds out. The problems of traffic in the area, of the new market, of fire and of development will be solved under this Bill, and the appropriate place for a Market that serves a vast area round London is in the centre of London.

What is the alternative? There may be new schemes. We have heard of some of them today. Attractive they may be; but whatever the position, whatever the new schemes offer, after years of hard work, negotiation and consultation this scheme is a practicable scheme that can be introduced now. Bearing in mind what kind of Bill this is—a hybrid Bill—bearing in mind the opportunities which it gives to objectors and the need to go through all the consultations and negotiations, the plain truth is that the alternative will mean that we cannot produce another scheme and get it launched for some three or four years. In the mean time, the traffic problem will become even greater than it is, and the appalling risk of fire will be present.

This is a practicable and workmanlike scheme. It is something that we can and should do now. I suspect that most of those who criticise this scheme cannot produce an alternative which is as viable,

practicable and capable of implementation now. I invite the House to reject the so-called Reasoned Amendment and to give the Bill a Second Reading.

Question put, That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question:—

The House divided: Ayes 217, Noes 159.

Division No. 20.] AYES [9.59 p.m.
Agnew, Sir Peter Gardner, Edward Matthews, Gordon (Meriden)
Aitken, W. T. Gibson-Watt, David Mawby, Ray
Allason, James Glover, Sir Douglas Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.
Arbuthnot, John Goodhart, Philip Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.
Ashton, Sir Hubert Gough, Frederick Mills, Stratton
Atkins, Humphrey Gower, Raymond Molson, Rt. Hon. Hugh
Barber, Anthony Grant-Ferris, Wg Cdr. R. (Nantwich) Montgomery, Fergus
Barter, John Green, Alan More, Jasper (Ludlow)
Batsford, Brian Grimston, Sir Robert Morrison, John
Bell, Ronald (S. Bucks.) Grosvenor, Lt.-Col. R. G. Nabarro, Gerald
Bennett, F. M. (Torquay) Gurden, Harold Neave, Airey
Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gos & Fhm) Hamilton, Michael (Wellingborough) Noble, Michael
Berkeley, Humphry Harris, Reader (Heston) Nugent, Sir Richard
Bevins, Rt. Hon. Reginald (Toxteth) Harrison, Brian (Maldon) Oakshott, Sir Hendrie
Bidgood, John C. Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.) Osborn, John (Hallam)
Biggs-Davison, John Hastings, Stephen Pannell, Norman (Kirkdale)
Bishop, F. P. Hay, John Partridge, E.
Black, Sir Cyril Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel Pearson, Frank (Clitheroe)
Box, Donald Henderson, John (Cathcart) Peel, John
Boyle, Sir Edward Henderson-Stewart, Sir James Percival, Ian
Brewis, John Hicks Beach, Maj. W. Peyton, John
Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W. H. Hiley, Joseph Pickthorn, Sir Kenneth
Browne, Percy (Torrington) Hill, Dr. Rt. Hon. Charles (Luton) Pike, Miss Mervyn
Bryan, Paul Hill, Mrs. Eveline (Wythenshawe) Pitman, I. J.
Bullard, Denys Hill, J. E. B. (S. Norfolk) Pitt, Miss Edith
Bullus, Wing Commander Eric Hirst, Geoffrey Powell, Rt. Hon. J. Enoch
Butcher, Sir Herbert Holland, Philip Prior, J. M. L.
Butler, Rt. Hn. R. A. (Saffron Walden) Hollingworth, John Prior-Palmer, Brig, Sir Otho
Campbell, Sir David (Belfast, S.) Hope, Rt. Hon. Lord John Proudfoot, Wilfred
Campbell, Gordon (Moray & Nairn) Hopkins, Alan Quennell, Miss J. M.
Carr, Compton (Barons Court) Hornby, R. P. Ramsden, James
Channon, H. P. G. Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hon. Patricla Rawlinson, Peter
Chichester-Clark, R. Howard, Hon. G. R. (St. Ives) Redmayne, Rt. Hon. Martin
Clark, Henry (Antrim, N.) Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral John Rees, Hugh
Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, W.) Hughes-Young, Michael Ridley, Hon. Nicholas
Cleaver, Leonard Hulbert, Sir Norman Ridsdale, Julian
Cole, Norman Hurd, Sir Anthony Robinson, Sir Roland (Blackpool, S.)
Collard, Richard Hutchison, Michael Clark
Cooper, A. E. Iremonger, T. L. Roots, William
Costain. A. P. Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye) Russell, Ronald
Coulson, J. M. Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich) Scott-Hopkins, James
Courtney, Cdr. Anthony Johnson, Eric (Blackley) Seymour, Leslie
Craddock, Sir Beresford Johnson Smith, Geoffrey Sharples, Richard
Critchley, Julian Kaberry, Sir Donald Shaw, M.
Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E. Kerans, Cdr. J. S. Shepherd, William
Crowder, F. P. Kershaw, Anthony Simon, Sir Jocelyn
Cunningham, Knox Kirk, Peter Skeet, T. H. H.
Curran, Charles Kitson, Timothy Soames, Rt. Hon. Christopher
Currie, G. B. H. Leburn, Gilmour Stanley, Hon. Richard
Dalkeith, Earl of Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir Malcolm
Dance, James Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland) Storey, Sir Samuel
d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry Lilley, F. J. P. Studholme, Sir Henry
de Ferranti, Basil Linstead, Sir Hugh Tapsell, Peter
Digby, Simon Wingfield Litchfield, Capt. John Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)
Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. M. Lloyd, Rt. Hon. Selwyn (Wirral) Taylor, Edwin (Bolton, E.)
Drayson, C. B. Longbottom, Charles Taylor, W. J. (Bradford, N.)
du Cann, Edward Loveys, Walter H. Teeling, William
Duncan, Sir James Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.) Temple, John M.
Duthie, Sir William Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)
Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton) McLean, Neil (Inverness) Thomas, Peter (Conway)
Elliott, R. W.(Newcastle-on-Tyne, N.) MacLeod, John (Ross & Cromarty) Thornton-Kemsley, Sir Colin
Emery, Peter McMaster, Stanley R. Tilney, John (Wavertree)
Emmet, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn Macmillan, Rt. Hn. Harold (Bromley) Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.
Farr, John Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries) van Straubenzee, W. R.
Finlay, Graeme Maitland, Sir John Vane, W. M. F.
Foster, John Manningham-Buller, Rt. Hn. Sir R. Vickers, Miss Joan
Fraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton) Markham, Major Sir Frank Vosper, Rt. Hon. Dennis
Galbraith, Hon. T. G. D. Marten, Neil Wakefield, Sir Wavell (St. M'lebone)
Gammans, Lady Mathew, Robert (Honiton) Ward, Dame Irene (Tynemouth)
Watts, James Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick Worsley, Marcus
Webster, David Wood, Rt. Hon. Richard
Whitelaw, William Woodhouse, C. M. TELLERS FOR THE AYES
Williams, Dudley (Exeter) Woodnutt, Mark Mr. Edward Wakefield and
Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro) Woollam, John Colonel J. H. Harrison.
Ainsley, William Herbison, Miss Margaret Prentice, R. E.
Allen, Scholefield (Crewe) Hill, J. (Midlothian) Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)
Awbery, Stan Hilton, A. V. Probert, Arthur
Bacon, Miss Alice Holt, Arthur Proctor, W. T.
Beaney, Alan Houghton, Douglas Pursey, Cmdr. Harry
Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J. Hoy, James H. Randall, Harry
Bence, Cyril (Dunbartonshire, E.) Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey) Rankin, John
Benson, Sir George Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire) Redhead, E. C.
Blackburn, F. Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.) Reid, William
Blyton, William Hunter, A. E. Reynolds, G. W.
Bowden, Herbert W. (Leics, S. W.) Hynd, John (Attercliffe) Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)
Bowen, Roderic (Cardigan) Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill) Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)
Boyden, James Jeger, George Rogers, G. H. R. (Kensington, N.)
Braddock, Mrs. E. M. Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.) Ross, William
Broughton, Dr. A. D. D. Jones, Rt. Hn. A. Creech (Wakefield) Short, Edward
Brown, Alan (Tottenham) Jones, Dan (Burnley) Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)
Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper) Jones, Jack (Rotherham) Skeffington, Arthur
Brown, Thomas (Ince) Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham) Slater, Mrs. Harriet (Stoke, N.)
Castle, Mrs. Barbara Jones, T. W. (Merioneth) Slater, Joseph (Sedgefield)
Chetwynd, George Kelley, Richard Small, William
Cliffe, Michael Kenyon, Clifford Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)
Collick, Percy Key, Rt. Hon. C. W. Snow, Julian
Craddock, George (Bradford, S.) King, Dr. Horace Sorensen, R. W.
Cronin, John Lawson, George Spriggs, Leslie
Crosland, Anthony Ledger, Ron Steele, Thomas
Crossman, R. H. S. Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson Stewart, Michael (Fulham)
Cullen, Mrs. Alice MacColl, James Stonehouse, John
Davies, S. O. (Merthyr) McInnes, James Stones, William
Deer, George McKay, John (Wallsend) Strachey, Rt. Hon. John
de Freitas, Geoffrey Mackie, John Sylvester, George
Delargy, Hugh McLeavy, Frank Symonds, J. B.
Diamond, John MacMillan, Malcolm (Western Isles) Taylor, John (west Lothian)
Ede, Rt. Hon. Chuter Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg) Thomson, G. M. (Dundee, E.)
Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly) Manuel, A. C. Thorpe, Jeremy
Edwards, Walter (Stepney) Mapp, Charles Timmons, John
Evans, Albert Marsh, Richard Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn
Fernyhough, E. Mason, Roy Wade, Donald
Fitch, Alan Mellish, R. J. Wainwright, Edwin
Fletcher, Eric Mendelson, J. J. Warbey, William
Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale) Millan, Bruce Watkins, Tudor
Forman, J. C. Milne, Edward J. Weitzman, David
Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton) Moody, A. S. Wells, Percy (Faversham)
Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. Hugh Morris, John Whitlock, William
Galpern Sir Myer Neal, Harold Wilkins, W. A.
Ginsburg, David Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon) Willey, Frederick
Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C. Noel-Baker, Rt. Hn. Philip (Derby, S.) Williams, D. J. (Neath)
Gourlay, Harry Oliver, G. H. Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)
Greenwood, Anthony Oram, A. E. Willis, E. G. (Edinburgh, E.)
Grey, Charles Owen, Will Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)
Griffiths, David (Rother Valley) Paget, R. T. Winterbottom, R. E.
Grimond, J. Peart, Frederick Yates, Victor (Ladywood)
Hamilton, William (West Fife) Pentland, Norman
Hannan, William Plummer, Sir Leslie TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Hayman, F. H. Popplewell, Ernest Mr. Howell and Mr. Sydney Irving.

Bill read a Second time.

Bill committed to a Select Committee of Eight Members, Four to be nominated by the House and Four by the Committee of Selection:

Any Petition against the Bill presented by being deposited in the Private Bill Office at any time not later than the seventh day after this day in which the Petitioners pray to be heard by themselves, their Counsel or Agents, to stand referred to the Committee, but if no such petition is presented, or if all such petitions are withdrawn before the meeting of the Committee, the Order for the committal of the Bill to a Select Committee shall be discharged and the Bill to be committed to a Standing Committee:

Any Petitioner whose Petition stands referred to the Committee, subject to the Rules and Orders of the House and to the Prayer of his Petition, to be entitled to be heard by himself, his Counsel or Agents upon his Petition provided that such Petition is prepared and signed in conformity with the Rules and Orders of the House, and the Member in charge of the Bill to be entitled to be heard by his Counsel or Agents in favour of the Bill against such Petition:

Power to report from day to day Minutes of Evidence:

Three to be the quorum.—[Mr. Soames.]