§ (By Order)
§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Mr. Speaker
Before I call the hon. Member for Brighton, Kemptown (Mr. Hobden) to move the Second Reading of the Bill I have two observations to make. First, I want a balanced debate, and I shall be grateful if hon. Members will indicate to me in some way or other on which side they are on the question, so that I can see that the debate is fairly shared out.
Secondly, I have selected the Amendment on the Second Reading in the name of the hon. Member for Manchester, Ardwick (Mr. L. M. Lever).
I have also selected the two Instructions, that in the name of the hon. Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Mr. Chatham), and that in the name of the hon. Member for Accrington (Mr. Arthur Davidson). These cannot be moved until after the Question for the Second Reading has been decided in the affirmative.
I am advised, however, that these Instructions encompass two of the main arguments against the Bill, and I think that it would be for the convenience of the House if both the Instructions were discussed during the debate on the Second Reading. After we have taken the Amendment to the Second Reading we can, if the Second Reading is carried, take Divisions on the two Instructions.
§ 7.2 p.m.
§ Mr. Dennis Hobden (Brighton, Kemptown)
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
Before carrying on with the main debate. I would like to give the background to the origin of the Bill which is the brain-child of a local businessman. Speaking on a more personal basis, I never thought on the day about four years ago when this vast project was first introduced to Brighton Planning Committee, of which I was then a member, that one day I would be standing in this House moving the Second Reading of the Bill.
The marina scheme was submitted to Brighton Corporation four years ago, and even though some heat has been engendered since then by ill-informed 118 critics, I have had no reason to change my mind about the Bill being in the best interests of Brighton and its citizens.
More than four years ago Brighton appeared to be standing at the crossroads with regard to its development in the post-war period, and many people had become worried because they felt that perhaps Brighton was falling behind with modern development and had lost its sense of direction. I think it is significant that this concern was felt by people of all political parties, and of none, and that the same view was shared by officials at the town hall as well as by the ordinary man in the street.
A few years ago before the Bill was first brought forward, or before the marina project was put before the town council, the position had begun to change, and certain businessmen had begun to have renewed faith in Brighton. As a brief instance, and purely as an aside, I mention the Hotel Metropole development which has helped to make Brighton one of the foremost conference towns in the country. At the same time, there were certain educational developments which gave us a new college of technology, a new college of education, and Sussex University, which put us among the foremost towns from the point of view of having a seat of learning.
But all that was not enough, so when the marina scheme was put forward to the council four years ago many of us on the local authority—I was a member then and I am today—believed that here was a scheme which would assist Brighton, a town of many facets, to evolve another role in the second half of the 20th century.
The marina scheme has been described by the Ministry of Housing and Local Government's inspector who conducted a local inquiry as being an asset to the town as a holiday resort as well as being of financial benefit to the town. The Minister of Housing and Local Government accepted his inspector's views, and it is interesting to note that the Minister's comments in his letter conveying his decision to approve the marina scheme indicated that he thought the proposal to be "a bold, imaginative and attractive scheme ".
I want to draw attention to the other reasons for which I and the supporters 119 of the marina scheme believe that it is essential that the Bill should go forward. First, there is the urgent need to provide additional boating accommodation on the South Coast. That these facilities are urgently required no yachtsman or boat owner would ever dare, or could, deny, and it is necessary to point out that ten years ago there were fewer than 100,000 people enjoying the sport of yachting and boating, whereas now there are more than 500,000.
I want, too, to draw attention to the fact that the South Eastern region in which the marina will be situated contains the overwhelming proportion of people interested in yachting and boating, and it is also pertinent to point out that in almost all local yacht harbours there are long waiting lists. This is confirmed by the inquiry inspector's conclusions in paragraph 489 of his report where he says:… because of the present unmet and ever-increasing demand for yacht moorings, the need to provide new harbours such as that proposed is now urgent and will intensify in the future.The inspector is obviously aware of developments in this matter, and it is my firm belief that within the next few years, as personal affluence grows, we are likely to have as much trouble with the boat as we have today with the car. I remain firmly of the opinion that if resorts such as Brighton get schemes off the ground now and provide for the future in this direction we shall go a long way towards alleviating serious problems in the years ahead.
Here again perhaps I might put in another aside. It is meant to be jocular, but there is a certain grain of truth in it. There was a time in this country when the very thought of council tenants having cars outside their houses, or television aerials on their roofs, brought forth some criticism of them, but today everybody accepts that it is in order for council tenants to have television sets and cars, and in the area from which I come, and in the ward which I represent in Brighton, for the first time boats are to be seen parked in the gardens of council houses. It is obvious that as personal affluence grows this sport will extend to wider areas of the population, and therefore it will be in our interest to do something about it.
120 I wish to deal with the on-shore development in connection with the marina. The Bill provides powers which will permit the reclamation of about 35 acres of land. Let us consider this, because many hon. Members will have seen the brochure distributed by the Brighton Marina Company laying out the proposals for this site and its development.
This marina will have a tremendous effect on life in Brighton during the next few years if it comes to pass. It will enable Brighton to enhance its position as a leading holiday resort. Apart from this development and the provision of an ice-rink, as oceanarium, and other amenities, there will be provision for 800 units of permanent residential accommodation.
The main purpose of the marina scheme is to provide boating facilities, but no scheme to provide purely boating facilities would be a viable economic proposition, and therefore the marina has to be backed with other developments. Again the inspector acknowledges this in paragraph 491 of his report where he says that the evidence tends to show that the provision of a harbour and its ancillary buildings would not be an economic proposition without the proposed allied on-shore development.
Some local criticism—small in volume —has endeavoured to show that this is not the ideal site for a yachting harbour. The Marina Company, at no little expense, has employed a firm of consultants and other experts to investigate that very position. Tests have shown that the site is ideal for the purpose—certainly more acceptable than the two previous sites suggested, in other parts of Brighton.
Again, if we want confirmation of that point to confound the critics, paragraph 490 of the inspector's report states thatFrom the point of view of yachtsmen, the location of the present site would be a good one from virtually every aspect.There is not much doubt about that view, and if anybody still doubts the proposition that the site is suitable he should read the comments of Group Captain Haylock, an eminent authority on the subject—a member of the General Purposes Committee of the Royal Yachting Association and a past editor of Yachting World—retained by the Company in 121 support of the application at the local inquiry. The group captain is in hearty support of the application to build on the proposed site.
Furthermore, the Brighton Fishermen and Boatmen's Protection Society, which includes all the professional Brighton fishermen in its ranks, supports the creation of the marina on this site, as does the Sussex Motor Yacht Club and the Brighton Cruising Club. I mention these organisations purely in relation to the marine aspect of the matter and the criticisms raised in that direction.
I want now to deal with the marina on the basis of some of the more absurd and frenetic criticisms levelled by people who are nothing more than civic flatearthers. To listen to some of the more ridiculous critics, one would think that a group of greedy speculators had come along and in some act of brigandage had stolen the foreshore from Brighton's citizens without so much as a by-your-leave.
Let us examine this allegation. The matter came before Brighton's planning committee four years ago. It was received enthusiastically from the outset and the committee gave its consent, subject to a decision by the whole of the town council. The town council gave an overwhelming mandate to the project and received all-party support from Conservative, Labour and Liberal councillors. That was four years ago, since when, using the usual democratic processes, it was open to critics to express opposition to candidates supporting the marina in local town council elections. But the marina never became an issue at the council elections, and no councillor was ever displaced because he supported the marina. It can therefore be confidently claimed that in the absence of opposition the people of Brighton were for it.
But even if it were felt that the councillors of all political parties had made a grave error, two further events gave an indication of public feeling. First, in view of the magnitude of the scheme the Ministry of Housing and Local Government decided to hold a public inquiry and in January, 1966, for nine days, the matter was ventilated publicly and at length. No views were suppressed, and in due course the Minister approved the scheme.
But even if all these safeguards were not sufficient, one other matter inter- 122 vened. I am not going to use this argument on a party political basis. As it had not been during the 1964 election, the question of the marina became a vital issue in the 1966 General Election, held in March last year. My opponent and I took opposing sides in this matter. Our positions were made clear to the voters, and nobody had any doubt where we stood. I was in favour of the marina; my opponent was against it. We know the result of that election. I was elected.
The matter has had a thorough public airing. Here I want to pay tribute to the local Brighton Press. It has been more than generous—especially the Brighton Evening Argus—in upholding the traditions of the Press by giving more than a fair share of space to the public debate on this matter, both in articles and in their letters columns. Furthermore, all three local newspapers have come down firmly in favour of the scheme.
The Bill comes down to what Brighton is all about. The critics are few in number, but loud in voice, and they continually contradict each other in their criticisms of the marina. We hear about the loss of beaches at the same time as the critics go on record as approving a yachting harbour, yet each scheme involves the loss of beaches. We are told that the marina will adversely affect business in the town, yet all the businessmen's organisations and the local chamber of commerce and hotel organisations are fully in support of the marina. We are told that it is a planning blunder, yet it has been approved both by the Minister and by the Royal Fine Art Commission.
The question of excess sewage has also been raised—a vital problem in Brighton. Nobody has done more than I have to get Brighton to solve this problem, and even before the marina scheme was known the local authority had taken steps to give urgent attention to the sewage problem. This will be going ahead during the next two years.
Then we hear a lot about people being displaced from their homes in Riflebutt Road. I want to strike a serious note here, because this aspect of the problem gave me more concern than all the other aspects put together. I understand that about 38 people are affected by the compulsory purchase order, and they have a 123 right to be heard. Nobody should be lightly turned out of his home. But it should be placed on record that at my instigation the local authority has guaranteed to rehouse every displaced person, and the company will be more than generous in its terms of compensation. In my opinion, these people will get far more generous treatment from the company than they would if the corporation had had to apply district valuers' standards.
It should also be mentioned that not every person in Riflebutt Road is against being displaced, or against the marina being developed on the site proposed. The trouble is that the residents of Rifle-butt Road are being used as pawns by the marina critics at large. For the loss of beaches, the loss of houses and the loss of certain other amenities, not one critic has been concerned to apply the same argument to other developments in Brighton.
That is why I castigate them as hypocrites. Hundreds of people have been compulsorily removed from the West Street Site in Brighton, now being redeveloped, and the Brighton Skydeck Bill went through without a squeak or without any attempt at a blocking device from the three local M.P.s. That Bill, which will also involve the loss of beaches, raised not the slightest whimper from people who are now kicking up a row about the loss of beaches and the displacement of people on the marina site.
It is argued that the marina will mean increased traffic problems, but at the same time we are told that it will be a white elephant. How a development which will be a failure can produce extra traffic escapes my comprehension, but it shows up the inconsistency of the criticisms of the Bill. There would be increased traffic anyway, with or without the marina, and the Minister has insisted that the town council pays attention to this problem. It is a condition of his consent to the marina scheme. It should be placed on record, to be fair to Brighton Corporation, that in any case it has been employing traffic consultants for some time to work out Brighton's future traffic problems.
Taking all the arguments—admitting the genuine concern for the people of Rifle Butt Road—the criticisms do not 124 hold water, are not valid, and represent the last resort of those who would like to see Brighton stay a quiet backwater on the South Coast, thereby frustrating the will of the local people.
But I believe that they have reckoned without the will of the people of Brighton. I was born and raised there and I know the people; I am one of them. The Bill, granting commission and powers to the Marina Company, is about Brighton and its future, in which I have a tremendous faith. I will stand shoulder to shoulder with Conservatives, or—I hope that this will not shock my hon. Friends—with capitalists, to see Brighton develop, if the alternative is to do nothing. As a Left-wing Socialist, I find it a little ironical that some of my hon. Friends apparently want to man the barriers of Socialism at the Brighton Marina, when they should be manning them in the House. That is where the basis of Socialism should start.
A prayer which is read before every Brighton Council meeting says at one point:Grant us a vision of our town, fair as she should be.I believe in that vision and I revel in the spirit of the town's history and its past. I like its reputation and am confident that it has a great future. I can see that vision now and I believe that it includes the Brighton Marina. No one, least of all the academic and intellectual "carpetbaggers", will spoil that vision. Brighton is about the future as well as the past, which is why I ask hon. Members not to block the passage of the Bill, because it will mean not a loss of Brighton's heritage but the creation of a heritage for future generations.
§ 7.22 p.m.
§ Mr. Hector Hughes (Aberdeen, South)
I beg to move, to leave out "now" and at the end of the Question to add "upon this day six months".
I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Kemptown (Mr. Hobden) on his praise of Brighton and of that excellent newspaper the Evening Argus, which gives him his fair share of publicity, but I regret that he missed the three real points in the debate. The first is that the proposed yachting harbour will be a magnet to draw people away from Brighton, and thereby destroy its prosperity. The second 125 is that it is proposed to place the yachting harbour at the most dangerous beach along the Brighton foreshore. The third is that there are better alternatives for that harbour.
My hon. Friend said a great deal in praise of Brighton and he was right. He loves Brighton, he lives there, he is the Member of Parliament for Kemptown—and a very good Member he is. But he is misguided. He is like the gentleman who wrote to the paper the other day that this proposed marina will be "a shot in the arm" for Brighton. Certainly, it will be an injection, but an injection of a very unpleasant kind, which will do a great deal of damage to Brighton. It would be a kind of narcotic.
There are alternatives which my hon. Friend might have mentioned and which might have been selected for the Bill. The injection will be disastrous. It will not exhilarate Brighton, but will draw people away from the hotels, shops, and central prosperity of Brighton. Instead of doing Brighton good, it will do a great deal of harm. Worse still, it may be used as a precedent for other, similar, resorts.
I therefore oppose the Bill as a matter of national duty, public policy and human safety, in view of the dangerous beach to which it is proposed that these yachts should be enticed. I say frankly that I am in favour of yachting. I am in favour of seafaring and of yachting harbours. I might say that I am amphibious. I am very addicted to the sea.
I should like to see a yachting harbour for Brighton, but in the right place, under the right conditions, and under public ownership, management and control. This proposed harbour is none of these things. It is to be built in the wrong place, on a dangerous part of the coast, for private profit instead of public and under private control. It is to be built two miles from the centre of Brighton and will thereby attract visitors and customers away from the present prosperous centre of Brighton.
It will divert traffic from Brighton. It is actually proposed to build roads which will enable traffic to come from London and other small villages to other parts of the coast and so avoid Brighton. It will, indeed, be a diversion from Brighton. It is a long-range Texan shot which may 126 assassinate Brighton's "presidency" as a seaside resort.
I submit, therefore, that the Bill should be rejected as not within the rule laid down in Erskine May:The promoters of a bill may prove beyond a doubt that their own interests will be advanced by its success and no one may complain of injury or urge any specific objection, yet, if Parliament apprehends that it will be hurtful to the community, it is rejected as if it were a public measure, or qualified by restrictive enactments not solicited by the parties.No doubt the promoters of the Bill will have their own interests advanced, not the public interest. They will make profits for themselves rather than for the public.
But what about Brighton's hotels and shops, from which the visitors and customers will be diverted to this new township at Black Rock, two miles from Brighton's centre? Brighton will, therefore, be damaged by the new township; that is the essential feature of the Bill.
I submit that the Bill should be rejected because it comes within the rule which I have quoted—that is, because it will be hurtful to the community. I shall present these probable hurts not only on my own authority, but supported by independent authority which conflicts with the fanciful and imaginative picture published by the Bill's promoters, in locating a new township only two miles from Brighton to compete with and damage Brighton's hotels, shops, entertainments, industry and tourist trade, and I shall do it as a matter of public and national duty.
This Bill may be used as the thin end of the wedge, as a precedent to bring other beaches under private control for private profit. Local corporations and their constituents should watch with fear and horror the progress of this Bill—that is, if it gets any further. The Bill provides for a company to… be authorised to construct the marina and the recreational, residential and other facilities and the road and harbour works described in this Act, to reclaim land from the sea and to acquire lands compulsorily …As I have said, the scheme is explicitly designed to attract customers and visitors—indeed, the population generally—away from Brighton and thereby to do Brighton a great deal of harm. It will also do a great deal of damage to the residents of Kemptown, where it is proposed to build the new harbour. Some 127 of the residents there are to be expelled from their traditional residences, which they, their families and their forebears have occupied for generations.
A particularly disgusting feature of the use of the powers sought by the promoters of the Bill is mentioned shamelessly in Clause 15, under which it is proposed to acquire a burial ground, to dig up corpses and to pay a sum not exceeding £50 for each corpse and to apportion the £50 equally to a number of corpses that may be in the same grave.
I ask the House to take the view that this feature of the Bill is repugnant to common decency. It is a horrible and gruesome proposal, almost in keeping with that I have mentioned about dispossessing the residents of Kemptown from their ancestral homes.
I come to some more of the hurts which the Bill is designed to inflict on the residents of the area. The site of the proposed yacht harbour is all wrong. Brighton, as everyone knows, is a charming and successful seaside resort on a stretch of coast from east to west, with a beach which varies in steepness. A remarkable feature of the place is that the beach varies in steepness to such an extent that some parts of it are suitable for a yachting harbour while others are quite shallow. The part of the beach where it is proposed to build the new harbour is shallow and covered with chalk rocks. These rocks will have to be removed, but the sand beneath will still leave the beach shallow and yachtsmen have written to the local newspaper pointing out the dangers of this part of the coast to yachting.
At the west end there is a deep and ready-made harbour which could be used with safety by yachtsmen. At the east end it is rocky and there are dangerous currents—yet here it is proposed to build the new harbour at great expense and possibly causing grave danger. It is, therefore, a most unreasonable place at which to seek to build such a harbour.
I said that I would not rely on my own orbiter dicta, but would quote authorities to support my case. A distinguished yachtsman, Mr. A. Lloyd-Taylor, a resident of Brighton, emphasised the points I have been making in a recent letter to the local Press. I will 128 not quote the whole of his letter, but he stated:As a sort of gilded Coney Island the place might be a grand success in the eyes of the more wealthy 'with-it' visitors, but I believe that for yachtsmen it would prove to be the whitest of white elephants, and could well be the cause of a considerable number of regrettable sailing fatalities.The Bill proposes to authorise the building of a new township about two miles from Brighton, to build a marina club, restaurants, public houses, oceanarium—whatever that is—ice rinks, recreational facilities, shops, hotels, boatels—whatever they are—and residential units. It is proposed to build these in Kemptown as a counter-attraction to the attractions offered by Brighton, thereby to draw residents and visitors away from Brighton.
A very distinguished architect who is also a resident of Brighton stated in a letter in the local Press recently—although I will not detain the House by reading the whole of the letter, only the relevant part:… the debate in the House of Commons on the Brighton Marina Bill should bring to a head the fundamental issue that concerns the supporters as well as the opponents of the idea of a yacht harbour: has the right basis been found for the combination of private enterprise and public control which appears to be the only way of creating a new and permanent asset to add to the many that Brighton already has.The Bill in its present form does not suggest that this is so.I am making these quotations because I wish to present a complete argument.
This is part of a letter from one of the professors at Sussex University, Professor Marcus Cunliffe. His remarks appeared in that great organ of public opinion The Times on 24th February last. He wrote:1. Everyone in Brighton wants a boat harbour. Not everyone accepts that the only way to get one is to build a new township to sit behind it.2. This Marina township is in the wrong place, aesthetically and commercially. It would tend to kill off central Brighton, where the hotels and entertainments are mainly and rightly concentrated. The present site is a gigantic cul de sac with only one means of traffic access.3. Leasing off the foreshore creates a dangerous precedent for our whole coastline.This is a matter of national importance. Private exploiters, for private profit, must not be allowed by Statute to ruin 129 Brighton in this way. They must not be allowed to endanger the lives of yachtsmen by enticing them to this rocky shore. Beaches should not be closed to the public, children and the girls from Roe-dean and other schools who go there to study marine life. [Laughter.] I do not know why hon. Gentlemen opposite are laughing. I assure them that girls from Roedean go there to study marine life in the pools; not the pools in which hon. Gentlemen opposite invest their money, but the pools in which marine life is to be found. Many girls from the local schools are sent there daily by their mistresses to study the marine life. If this kind of thing is to be allowed by Statute, I say with respect that it is contrary to the public policy.
On those grounds, and a great many others I could cite, I ask the House to refuse the Bill its Second Reading.
§ 7.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Terence L. Higgins (Worthing)
It is usual in a Second Reading debate for the House to consider the principle of the Bill, but on this occasion there may be some case for distinguishing the objective of the Bill from some of the points of principle it raises. The objective of the Bill is one that this House may well support—the establishment of a marina which, as has been rightly pointed out already, is likely to fulfil a growing need as the affluent society increases and people find that the attractions of the sea are very much greater than those of overcrowded roads. At the same time, two points of principle arise which the House would be wise to consider. The large attendance at this debate brings out the fact that the points which we are considering are wider than the mere consideration of the Bill itself and go to the very root of many of our Parliamentary institutions.
The first point is whether it is right and proper that a private company should be given the power to set up a socially desirable but admittedly uneconomic project, and to finance it from other investment nearby which is recognised to be profitable. This is a principle that we should adopt with some trepidation. I could not be more in favour of the profit motive—I believe that the whole of our economic system and our welfare depends ultimately on the profit motive—but when the House is considering giving a 130 private company the right to set up an overall establishment of the kind proposed it is right that it should decide what balance it will strike between the two parts.
I have studied at some length the literature that has been provided on the subject. It goes in great details into the amenities that will be provided and into many of the arguments advanced for and against the marina. So far, I have been unable to find any estimate, first, of the rate of return on capital which is ex-amenities that are to be provided, and, secondly, the rate of return likely to be made on the associated enterprises, backing up the marina, which we are told will provide the bulk of the finance.
Before the Bill completes its passage through the House it would be helpful if those figures could be provided—the rate of return on capital on the amenity itself and the associated enterprises, and the division of capital between the two. In other words, how much is to be invested in the marina, and how much in the accommodation—the boatels, the ice-rink, and so on—that is to go behind it?
§ Mr. Donald Chapman (Birmingham, Northfield)
The figures are well-known—about £10 million on the shore development and about £3 million on the harbour works.
§ Mr. Higgins
I am most grateful to the hon. Member for that information. That provides the split of the capital, but there is also the question of the return. It is a question of the rate of return expected from harbour dues, and so on, and that expected on the flats, the ice-rinks and other items.
§ Mr. Chapman
The hon. Gentleman can find the figures in the report of the hearings before the inspector. It is simply said in paragraph 149 that the return on the harbour mooring, as such, would be from 5 per cent. to 8.7 per cent., and that the on shore development was needed to give a reasonable return of 10 per cent.
§ Mr. Higgins
I am grateful for that information, and I am sure that the House will bear it in mind.
131 Another point concerns compensation for those affected. Here I hope that when considering this kind of Bill the House will not necessarily apply the same kind of principles that would be relevant if a local authority or other governmental institution were promoting a Measure considered to be in the public interest. I have received representations from a number of people and, in particular, I have constituents who have property in the area which will be affected by the marina. I have therefore been in correspondence with the promoters of the Bill about the compensation that will be provided.
The point about compensation is covered by the memorandum sent out on behalf of the promoters of the Bill and which many hon. Members will have received today. The relevant point comes under the heading "Compulsory Acquisition of Land"—page 4 of the memorandum. The promoters point out that two points have been raised in connection with compensation.The first point relates to the adequacy of the provisions in the Bill affording compensation to the owners or occupiers of lands sought to be acquired or adversely affected. In this respect, the Company would respectfully point out that the provisions included in the Bill for that purpose follow the usual form and afford the full provision for compensation which is applicable under the general law.We must consider whether the compensation should not be paid immediately the Bill becomes law.
I understand from correspondence with the promoters that it is likely that the compulsory purchase order will take effect perhaps three years after the passing of the Bill. In that period, the people affected will be under considerable anxiety about how much is to be paid, when it will be paid, and so on. I gather that the promoters have gone to some length to facilitate the matter, and have offered to pay for the valuation of the property. However, I do not think this in itself to be sufficient, because there may well be a considerable time-lag during which my constituents, and no doubt others affected by the project, will be uncertain about what exactly is to happen.
The hon. Member for Brighton Kemp-town (Mr. Hobden) suggested that about 38 dwellings were affected. If we take a 132 figure of £4,000 to £5,000 per dwelling, the amount involved—say £150,000/£200,000—is still only about 1½ per cent. or 2 per cent. of the total cost of the work that will eventually be undertaken as the result of the Bill. It therefore seems not unreasonable, with the finances available for the whole of this very large project, that the promoters should pay out compensation as soon as they knew they have the approval of the House to go ahead. That is the main point I want to make.
Another point is whether compensation should be paid on the basis of the actual valuation of the property at the present market rate or whether these people should not also receive some compensation for the disturbance—the fact that they have to move, and so on. I believe this should be covered as well.
If an organisation is to be set up which is to be profit-making and people otherwise unconnected with it are to suffer loss or expenses, it is right and proper that full compensation should be provided by those expecting to make profits to those adversely affected by the enterprise. It is right and proper that the matter should be raised on Second Reading. I hope that the Select Committee will consider it and bear it in mind.
A minor point which must be considered is that it is proposed that the company should be given rather wide powers—for example, with regard to the collection of fees from those using the harbour. Not only is the company to be allowed to take ordinary action through the courts but I understand that a fine of about £50 on summary conviction could be imposed on those against whom the company made some charge.
I believe that the Instruction which we are debating with the Bill goes too far. I think that it is possible to cover the main points of anxiety that the House has in mind by considering them in Committee. We could then reconsider the amended Bill on Report, which is what I would propose that we should do before deciding whether to give it a Third Reading.
§ 7.51 p.m.
§ Mr. Arthur Davidson (Accrington)
My hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Kemptown (Mr. Hobden) put his case very well. Of course, he has an expert's 133 knowledge of the subject. I was interested in being tacitly described as an intellectual carpetbagger. Where he was describing a Left-wing one or a centre or Right-wing one, I do not know, and I do not know, either, whether I object to being called intellectual more than I object to being called a carpetbagger. I think that I do. But my hon. Friend is wrong in suggesting that those of us with reservations about the Bill are frivolous, or have no right to discuss the matter in some detail in the House.
What we are discussing is not confined entirely to Brighton. It is not a parochial matter. It is not even confined to Sussex. It involves a matter of great principle and the hon. Member for Worthing (Mr. Higgins) fairly stated what that principle is. It is the principle whether private individuals or private companies or private developers should be given power to enclose beaches which the public have used freely for very many years.
§ Mr. Higgins
I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would not wish to misrepresent me. No doubt the House will consider the point he is making, but it is not the point I made. I said that we have to consider how much extension of planning permission one should allow in order to finance a project of this kind.
§ Mr. Davidson
I certainly would not wish to misinterpret the hon. Gentleman's remarks, but this is the point I am making. What we are also discussing is whether it is right for private individuals to have the right to apply compulsory purchase orders against people who have lived in their property for many years and against property which is of historical and architectural interest. It is surely right and proper that the House should discuss matters like that.
If the Bill passes in its present form—and I am not opposing it in principle—it will set a precedent which the House has a right at least to consider. The precedent is that, if this kind of development is permitted, it may well take place also in other resorts throughout the country. We should also consider what is the grand cause for which the public are being asked to some extent to give up their traditional rights.
If one strips away the veneer of this proposal, taking away the rather romantic 134 and glamorous name "marina", what does one find? It is that we are not dealing purely and simply with a yachting basin. If we were I would be wholeheartedly behind the scheme. What we are dealing with is an on-shore development which includes a casino, luxury restaurants, luxury hotels and luxury flats. Indeed, I have never seen the word "luxury" bandied about with such pride as in this brochure.
The House is entitled to know who the people are who would make use of these luxury developments, and whether all these luxurious amenities are really necessary in the cause of building a yachting basin. Nobody, as far as I know, disputes that a yachting basin is necessary for Brighton, nor, indeed, that throughout the country there is a severe shortage of sporting facilities.
But I would like to be reassured that the sort of yachtsmen who would be using this basin would be, if I may use the phrase, sportsmen in the best sense of the word—the amateur yachtsmen who yacht for pleasure at the weekend, for example. I am not and do not pretend to be an expert in yachting, but I gather from the criticism that many eminent yachtsmen have levelled at the scheme that there is some doubt at least whether this would be the right and proper place to build the basin and whether it would not be better for a smaller and municipally owned yachting basin to be built elsewhere in Brighton.
I am a little disturbed, also, by the mention of the word "casino" in this brochure. I have no moral objection to gambling of any sort whatever but at a time—
§ Mr. J. T. Price (Westhoughton)
I am rather surprised and a little pained by what my hon. Friend has just said. I thought that he was joining us on these benches as a Socialist Member of the House. As a Socialist I have the strongest moral objection to the kind of mass gambling which is going on, because it means trying to get something for nothing. As a Socialist, I object to it.
§ Mr. Davidson
We hear the words "Left-wing Socialism" bandied about a lot in this House. I do not know whether my hon. Friend wants me to give a definition of it. If he does, I have no intention of doing so. I would not have thought 135 that being for or against gambling would have been part of Socialism one way or another. But I am certainly against the sort of mass gambling that is taking place at the moment and what worries me is that, if this sort of luxury, rather sleazy development takes place, we might well attract to Brighton and this marina the very sort of people we are trying to keep out of our casinos and gambling institutions in the country as a whole.
If there are any doubts about what sort of luxury development can lead to, one has only to look to the Bahamas, where considerable parts of the beaches were let out to private developers and where gambling became virtually the staple diet of the economy and where, this very moment, a committee of inquiry, headed by Scotland Yard detectives, is investigating alleged links with the Mafia.
I would have thought that before the House agreed to a development of this sort, with all its implications, it was only right and proper that it should be debated.
§ 8.0 p.m.
§ Mr. John Cronin (Loughborough)
I speak on the Bill with some diffidence, because my constituency is not directly affected and the points of principle are not particularly burning issues for Socialist Members, but in the past I have often sailed yachts past Brighton, and I should like to put the point of view of the yachtsman as well as examine the Bill from other points of view.
Obviously, in spite of the reassurance which we have received from my hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Kemp-town (Mr. Hobden) who moved the Second Reading so ably, the Bill will cause some loss of amenities. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hector Hughes) put the very reasonable view that the Bill would interfere with some of the amenities for the local population, including himself. But one can never achieve anything useful without causing some inconvenience, so the House must weigh the relative merits of the slight amount of inconvenience to a small number of people, who, I trust, will be adequately compensated, and the general usefulness of the whole scheme.
As hon. Members on both sides of the House will agree, yachting is now 136 becoming a very popular sport and is occupying the recreational time of probably more than a million people. One of the most outstanding aspects of yachting is the enormous shortage of facilities in the form of moorings, yacht harbours and hards on which to beach yachts, and anything which can improve available facilities to yachtsmen will have a tremendously beneficial effect on the sport, and so yachtsmen will be grateful for this development. There can be very little doubt about that, to judge from the correspondence in the newspapers.
My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Aberdeen, North suggested that there might be some danger to yachtsmen because this was a lee shore and a dangerous coast. That is a very good reason for having a port, because when one is sailing a yacht on a lee shore with a rising wind, and all kinds of dangers around, the very thing which one wants to do is to get into a port; and there would be a port on this very dangerous lee shore. All the arguments about local dangers are strong arguments in favour of having a port available to yachtsmen.
There is no doubt but that such a port would attract foreign yachtsmen. The French do not have anything equivalent on the south side of the Channel and there is nothing equivalent in Holland or in Belgium, so we would attract quite a few foreign yachts and tourists.
§ Mr. Cronin
I agree that Newhaven is a useful port, but I would not say that it was a particularly glamorous port. I cannot say that I have noticed many foreign yachtsmen fighting their way through the waves towards Newhaven, come what may.
Another important factor is that this scheme would have a tremendous tourist attraction. In this country we depend to a substantial extent on the tourist industry for helping towards our balance of payments. Without doubt, yacht marinas glamorise seaside resorts. Places like Monte Carlo, Deauville, Cannes, and Fort Lauderdale, across the Atlantic attract tourists because they have yacht harbours and yacht marinas. The same thing would happen in this case and would greatly increase the tourist attraction of Brighton. The House should 137 remember this, because all of our seaside resorts suffer from the deplorable annoyance of British weather and anything which counteracts that, even to a minor extent, should be encouraged by all of us.
The hon. Member for Worthing (Mr. Higgins) said that there was some doubt whether the House should give powers for a profitable enterprise to be set up with attached to it a comparatively smaller enterprise which was less profitable, but which would provide amenities. I take it that he has no objection to the setting-up of profitable enterprises per se. Surely it is even more desirable if large profitable enterprises are set up and, at the same time, produce some public amenity of an uneconomic nature. I should have thought that that was an argument in favour of the Bill.
The hon. Member also questioned the return on capital. That is very speculative, because we do not know what the return on capital will be. This is a purely private enterprise development and the return on capital may well be much less than 10 per cent. I shall be surprised if the profits on this outlay will be as much as has been suggested.
§ Mr. Austen Albu (Edmonton)
Would not my hon. Friend agree that in those circumstances the whole thing might well become derelict?
§ Mr. J. T. Price
That part of the Sussex coast has already suffered from the terrible example of the Peacehaven development which, because of unbridled speculation which never fructified, left a blot on the landscape for future generations to endure.
§ Mr. Cronin
I am glad that my hon. Friend mentioned that, because I am sure that, whichever hon. Members consider the Bill, they will bear that carefully in mind to make sure that no such appalling happening occurs again.
My hon. Friend the Member for Accrington (Mr. Arthur Davidson) raised the important question whether a public amenity, a public beach, should be enclosed for the purposes of private profit. Most of us must feel some doubts about that, but the whole thing must be assessed on its merits. I should have thought that 138 the numerous advantages of this proposition must outweigh that nevertheless important consideration which must be borne in mind. The danger of causing a precedent is obviously important, because every case like this must be considered on its merits.
I thought that my hon. Friend the Member for Accrington was somewhat too severe about the luxury aspects. If one adopts his principle, that would be good reason for refusing planning permission to every luxury hotel planned for London and likely to attract tourists. One can dwell on luxury too much. Cromwellian austerity is not practical in terms of economics.
Nevertheless, I should like some reassurance about certain aspects of the Bill. The first concerns the effect on neighbouring parts of the countryside. This township will have a population of about 20,000 and car parking for 3,600 cars and I cannot help feeling that there will be widespread and possibly prejudicial effects on the neighbouring countryside. I therefore think that the first proposed Instruction has great merit in dealing with that danger.
As for the second Instruction; it may well be helpful for Brighton to be a shareholder in this company, but hon. Members will agree that the actual power of a shareholder in any enterprise is very limited. I have some doubt whether Brighton should be a shareholder. The idea that Brighton should be a majority shareholder sounds to me a most hair-raising possibility from the point of view of the corporation. This, I would suggest, is a somewhat speculative enterprise, and to bring the ratepayers of Brighton into this speculative position would, I think, be most undesirable.
The third point on which I should like a reassurance is that raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Edmonton (Mr. Albu), and that is the question of finance. The finance required will be of a most massive nature, a sum approaching £15 million. I think that the House does want to be sure that there is no danger of this scheme subsequently being abandoned through lack of finance. So I think it is of the utmost importance that the House should go very carefully into the question whether the finance will be available to see the enterprise through to the end.
§ Mr. Chapman
I think that to be fair to the promoters, as I am very anxious to be tonight, I ought to read just one sentence from a letter sent to me by the town clerk, who says that the corporation is negotiating with the developers a restriction which will ensure thatno work is to be commenced until the Corporation have been satisfied by the promoters that they will have adequate financial resources to secure the completion of the whole of the works in one continuous operation".I think that, to be fair, that should go into the record.
§ Mr. Cronin
I am grateful to my hon. Friend. This goes a long way towards meeting my objection, but I still think, despite that reassurance, that the House should consider very carefully the financial aspects.
Having made those reservations, I should like simply to say that it seems to me that this Bill will be of enormous help to yachtsmen, who are deserving members of the population, and that this project will be a big tourist attraction. It will be a big help to Brighton and to our foreign trade through tourism, and I think, therefore, that it should have the full support of the House.
§ 8.12 p.m.
§ Mr. Julian Ridsdale (Harwich)
I speak with some diffidence on the Bill, being the Member for Harwich, on the east coast of England, but I join hands with the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hector Hughes) in opposing the Bill. I feel that I should declare a slight local interest in speaking on this matter. My uncle, Aurelian Ridsdale, was Member of Parliament for Brighton and was the only Liberal Member of Parliament Brighton has ever had.
§ Mr. Ridsdale
I was brought up in the neighbourhood of Kemptown and my sister has a house in Kemptown. And, like the hon. Member for Loughborough (Mr. Cronin) I, too, am a keen sailor. I have sailed and boated along that part of the coast, and fished there as well.
I must say that while I welcome the fact that a harbour should be built somewhere along that coast I wonder whether the point chosen for this harbour is 140 exactly the right one. I know from experience how the south-wester blows very hard against the cliffs there, and I wonder whether the protection which an artificial harbour would give would be enough to protect the boats, especially in some of the gales in the winter, when they blow very hard in that neighbourhood. I think that there is a case for putting the harbour farther along to the west, or at the centre of the town, but certainly not in the place at present chosen.
I support the idea that certainly there is some need for a boat harbour on that part of the coast. Naturally, being the Member of Parliament for Harwich I am keen on making harbours and facilitating the sailors and their amenities, though, of course, I should like some of the money which is to be spent to be spent on the East Coast rather than the South Coast.
What concerns me is the building on the foreshore of ice rinks and bowling alleys and luxury hotels. I see that the estimated cost is over £12 million. The hon. Member for Loughborough was eloquent when he said that we should thus attract people from Deauville and people from the north coast of France, but I wonder whether these kinds of amenities will appeal to the French tourists. I think that if these facilities were built on the East Coast, in a very natural English atmosphere, they would undoubtedly come. But I am told that an ice rink and a bowling alley and a casino already exist, and that hundreds of luxury flats in Brighton are for sale or to let, and that the new Metropole skyscraper block remains almost empty.
In particular, as I am one who is always careful to take to task the Government for extravagance, or for not getting value for money in Government spending, I wonder whether, at this time, when our capital resources are scarce, it is wise to spend £12 million on development of a project of this nature. What is to be the return on the capital? Nobody has said whether it is a gross or a net return, but 10 per cent. gross is not very much to expect for this project, if it is something in the interests of the country.
I am sure that one should not embark on capital spending of this nature unless one can get a return of at least 10 per cent. net. If that were to be the return 141 and we could attract tourists by this project I would be in favour, but as it is I must say I find it very difficult to agree.
Surely, such big sums of money should be directed, if necessary, to non-luxury dwellings, to slum clearance, to hospitals and schools, the need for which is much more urgent at the moment than some of these projects which are being put up on the foreshore, or intended to be put up below the cliffs at Brighton. Or, better still, of course, as I have said, if it is intended to invest a capital of £12 million let us build some more marinas in other parts of the country. But why is this luxury place being put up at a time when our capital resources are very scarce?
It is for these reasons that, as I say, I am very glad to join hands with the hon. and learned Member for Aberdeen, North in opposing the Bill, much as I would favour the building of a boat harbour at a reasonable price.
§ 8.18 p.m.
§ Mr. Jeremy Thorpe (Devon, North)
First, I must apologise to the House for arriving a few minutes late, but, perhaps for the first time in their history, a train run by British Railways arrived late at a London station. However, the promoters of the Bill have been kind enough to write to me on the assumption that I am one of their enthusiastic supporters, and they sent me their very full case, so I think that even they would agree that I am conversant with all the arguments even though they may have sent me their case under a misapprehension. As I have just returned from a Hovercraft expedition round Cowes I think that it will be agreed that I have a reasonable interest in the subject, despite the fact that I missed the introduction of the case made by the hon. Member for Kemptown (Mr. Hobden).
I would say that it is quite clear that everyone is agreed on having a marina, and it seems to me that the only questions are whether we are in favour of it on this particular site and with all the corollaries which have been mentioned, and in favour of giving Parliamentary approval to its being financed in this manner.
I am not certain what the hon. Member implies by "Left-wing Socialists", but 142 I am an old-fashioned Lloyd George Radical and was brought up on the phrase, "God gave the land to the people". One thing about which I feel very strongly indeed is that all the foreshores of the country ought to be in public ownership. It is intolerable to go abroad and find people who are debarred from the foreshores of their country. I have a shore in my constituency where my constituents are charged for bringing their own deckchairs to sit on their own beach. I may be the only nationaliser left, but I should certainly like to see all the foreshores of the country brought immediately into public ownership.
I believe that to allow private enclosure of half a mile of beach and foreshore is retrogressive. It is going back to the medieval enclosures of the sixteenth century and is wholly wrong. I believe that before we make an exception to the rule we must be convinced that there are very strong reasons for doing so.
What is asked for? First, we are asked that powers of compulsory purchase of both land and property shall be granted. The promoters say that there is nothing new in this and that very often compulsory powers have been asked for. But that is an extremely disingenuous argment. Most of the powers asked for in Bills—I was brought up with briefs flowing in and out of the house because my father was at the Parliamentary Bar—are compulsory powers for public utilities concerned with such things as gas works, roads and water. I do not believe that acquisitions of this sort and powers of this nature are comparable.
Secondly, I understand that upwards of £1 million is to be spent on the roads. There was a suggestion at a Press conference that the Ministry of Transport would be asked to make a contribution. That may or may not be right. However, I should have thought that there were other roads with higher priority.
The ratepayers of Brighton will have to meet an increased rate demand of about £150,000–£200,000, and it will be four or five years before they get a genuine return on that. Although about £90,000 a year will be paid for 30 years by way of charges on the £1 million. the fact remains that in the initial period of development a large financial burden will rest on the Brighton ratepayers. I do 143 not know whether we shall be told by either of the Brighton Members of Parliament whether they welcome that. It may be that they do. That seems to be another consideration.
The third consideration is financial ability. An hon. Member has very properly drawn the attention of the House to the statement made by the town clerk. Possibly, that is not, therefore, as much for consideration as it was.
Certainly, we know that there will be very considerable pollution. In paragraph 5 of the letter of the 29th September, 1966, from the inspector, Mr. Knox, on behalf of the Minister there is an interesting passage. He wrote:However, it was reasonable to expect that, in some conditions of tide and on-shore wind, pollution would occur on the popular bathing beaches immediately west of the proposed Marina and in some circumstances the amount … could be significant.He went on:The discharge of sewage by marine w.c.s involved maceration of solids, but such maceration would not reduce the pollution nor make it aesthetically acceptable.I am not quite certain how sewage is made aesthetically acceptable. The letter went on:However, the clearance of any deposited solid sewage, in common with any form of litter, must be a matter for the council who would, no doubt, face to the full their responsibilities in this respect.I suggest that those who would face the sewage first would be swimmers and not the local council.
There has been the suggestion—the hon. Member for Loughborough (Mr. Cronin) dealt with this is a very reasoned speech—that this would be a dangerous place for yachts. As the hon. Member for Harwich (Mr. Ridsdale) said, showing the wisdom that one would expect from a nephew of a former Liberal Member of this House, there would be a better case for siting it on a smaller scale nearer to the West Pier.
We have to ask ourselves whether we are prepared to enclose a public beach so that a private firm may develop it for private profit. Should the firm be given not only powers of compulsory purchase but powers of fining which are extensive? Should it also be given power to build a complex of buildings which I should have thought were not 144 asked for or needed by yachtsmen? We should give the matter very careful thought before we pass a Bill which for the first time in the history of this House publicly encloses the foreshore of any part of our coastline. If any such development is really economically desirable it should be done by the municipality. Certainly it should not be done by granting a right of monopoly to a private firm for enclosing any part of our coastline.
I know the area. It is not the most aesthetically attractive, though it is rather more aesthetically acceptable than the treated sewage to which the Minister's minion referred. Whatever it is, it is a very bad precedent which comes at the time of Operation Neptune, which is seeking to save as much of our coastline as it can. Unless the subsequent speeches in the debate can convince me on a great many of these points, I shall object to the Bill and vote against it.
Finally, I agree with the hon. Member for Loughborough in believing that the second Instruction is disastrous. It says that Brighton Corporation can take a share in the equity, which is right, but that if the scheme goes bust there is a contingent liability for it and the ratepayers to become majority shareholders.
§ Mr. Chapman
The hon. Gentleman is misreading the Instruction. It simply says that the corporation shall have the right, not the liability, to take a majority shareholding.
§ Mr. Thorpe
I entirely agree, but presumably the right would be exercised only in the event of the development being other than in accordance with the agreed plan at the inception of the work or if the consortium in question was in financial difficulties. It seems to me that these could be the only two occasions when this power might be operated. I should have thought that the last thing the ratepayers of Brighton want to do is to have a contingent possibility of having to become majority shareholders in what would be financially an enormously expensive concern. But it may well be that I have misinterpreted the point that the hon. Gentleman had in mind.
Nevertheless, I believe that this is not the sort of private enclosure of public property to which the House should begin to give its blessing.
§ 8.28 p.m.
§ Mr. John Hay (Henley)
I begin by explaining to the House what my credentials are for speaking about the Bill. I was born in Brighton, and I lived there till 1950, when I entered the House. At one stage, both my parents were members of Brighton Corporation and my father was once mayor of the town. Consequently, I know the area extremely well. When I was a boy I investigated the marine life in the pools at Black Rock, but I assure hon. Gentlemen opposite that I never saw a Roedean School girl there, and I do not think that one would these days, either.
The principal issues that we have to discuss are the issues which we must debate on any Second Reading, namely, what is it that the promoters of the Bill are requiring from the House, and, secondly, is it in the public interest generally that they should be given those powers? Inevitably, in any debate of this kind, there are a number of comparatively small issues which hon. Members rightly wish to raise. Often they do so simply to put down a marker for the Committee on the Bill to look at later. A great many of the points made tonight are of that character. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Devon, North (Mr. Thorpe) that there are two or three major issues to which the House must address its mind before deciding to give the Bill a Second Reading.
I come to the first point that the right hon. Gentleman raised, whether it is right in the public interest that public beaches should be used for private profit. One thing which has not been emphasised in any speech tonight, except in that of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Brighton. Kemptown (Mr. Hobden), is that throughout the whole of the story of this Bill the Brighton Corporation, the representatives of the inhabitants of the town, have been fully in support of it. It is quite clear that if the public interest, by which I mean, first of all, in the narrow sense, the interests of the inhabitants of Brighton is at stake, their own elected representatives in their own council are fully in agreement with it and approve of what the promoters of this Bill seek to do.
§ Mr. Hector Hughes
Is the hon. Gentleman laying it down as a principle 146 that this House should derogate its powers to Brighton Corporation? Because the corporation takes a certain line, is he saying that we should follow it slavishly?
§ Mr. Hay
I say nothing of the kind. With respect to the hon. and learned Gentleman, if he had waited for a few moments longer before jumping to his feet, he would have found that I was turning to the wider issue, because this is concerned not only with the interests of the town of Brighton but with the interests of the people of this country.
Here I strike a clear balance. On the one hand, there is the point made by the right hon. Gentleman, that God gave the land to the people, and all that, and that people should have access to the foreshore and there should be no impediment put upon them. On the other hand, there is the point which must not be overlooked, that what the promoters of the Bill seek to do is to provide a very substantial amenity for people who go there.
From the speeches made, for example, by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Loughborough (Mr. Cronin), and many others who are concerned with the interests of yachtsmen, it is clear that there are an increasing number of people who want to take up this sport. If we give the Bill a Second Reading, we are going a step towards improving the amenities available to the public. We are not taking something away. We are not saying to the promoters that they may have this piece of foreshore and that they alone shall have access to it. We are saying that they shall have the foreshore and that upon it they shall create works, and do things which will improve the opportunities for leisure and pleasure of the people of the country and anyone who chooses to go there from other parts of the world. To me, the balance comes down in favour of the Bill on that point.
§ Mr. Peter Archer (Rowley Regis and Tipton)
Would the hon. Gentleman accept that it is a new departure to propose to charge members of the public for access to the foreshore?
§ Mr. Hay
With respect I do not think so. I was about to come to the question whether there have been precedents. I agree that there may not have been a 147 precedent where the foreshore has been handed over to private developers to create a pleasure amenity. From the dozens of cases on the Statute Book, that pieces of foreshore have been handed over to private developers, to provide commercial amenities to provide—
§ Mr. Hay
Nationalisation may come before long. Perhaps in its wisdom Parliament nationalised these developments. Perhaps 50 years from now Parliament may wish to nationalise the Brighton Marina. Who knows?
I am simply on the point that there have not been precedents where the foreshore has been handed over to private enterprise to enable a particular amenity to be constructed. There are many cases of commercial development. If we were sitting in this House 100 years ago it would be a complete commonplace for us to have before us a Bill which sought to obtain special rights for the compulsory acquisition of land for enclosure, for the creation of, for example, the railways.
§ Mr. J. T. Price
The hon. Gentleman has raised a material point there, but I am not sure that it helps his argument. That was a period in our history, 1760 to 1832, when thousands of pieces of land in this country were taken over under the authority of a House of Commons which was packed with Tory landlords who brought Bills before the House to steal the land which belonged to the people as common land. I am rather surprised that the hon. Gentleman, who is usually most reasonable, should ever call that in aid of any cause he argued today. It was a disgraceful period in our history.
§ Mr. Hay
That may well be true. I am simply on the point that this is no novel proposition. It is said that it will be a dangerous precedent if we dare to allow the promoters to have their way, to have their Second Reading, and that we shall have done something which the House have never done before. This is the way in which it has been put in several speeches tonight.
I pass quickly from that to another aspect—[Laughter.] The hon. Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Mr. Chapman) need not laugh. I am moving on 148 quickly because I do not want to take too long. I am quite sure that the hon. Member for Kemptown, for example, wants to get back to his constituency, where he lives.
I pass quickly to another aspect of the matter, the question whether this is a suitable site. The House could debate for many hours which is and which is not a suitable site, but anyone who knows that area of Kemptown to the east of the highly developed area of Brighton knows that in no other place would it be possible reasonably to construct a marina of this kind. Anywhere else, one would have to take a large area of beach which is used for bathing. To my knowledge, no one in his right mind tries to bathe at the eastern end of the town by Black Rock, because, as has been said, the water there is comparatively shallow and, as the name indicates, there are many dangerous rocks. This is, therefore, the worst area of the foreshore, and, in my opinion, it is ideal for the construction of a facility such as a marina.
Next, it is said that the Bill will give rights of compulsory acquisition over all manner of people. Again, this is nothing new for the House of Commons. We have many Bills which confer powers of compulsory purchase upon all kinds of organisations. As I read the Bill and the documents supporting it, the number of people likely to be affected by compulsory purchase is very limited. The Bill provides the fullest possible opportunity for them to secure every iota of compensation to which they would be entitled.
I have not the slightest doubt, since this is a rather unusual kind of development, that the promoters, the company and the corporation, would do all that they possibly could to see that no sense of grievance existed among any of the people whose property might have compulsorily to be acquired. I have no doubt about it, and I say that, having a reputation in the House, I think, for having in the past been vigorous and active in the interests of people whose property was compulsorily acquired. I see no reason to worry in this case at all.
My hon. Friend the Member for Worthing (Mr. Higgins)—I am sorry that he is not here at the moment—urged that we should be satisfied that the promoters would have an adequate return 149 on their money lest the whole thing became a white elephant and collapsed, saddling the ratepayers of Britain with an enormous burden of expense. With respect, I regard that as pre-eminently a matter not for consideration by the House as a whole as a matter of principle, but for consideration by the Select Committee to which the Bill would be committed.
It will be for the members of the Committee to satisfy themselves that the Preamble to the Bill is well founded, and, in exercising that function, they will be obliged to go into the financial details which my hon. Friend has mentioned. I have no doubt that the financial situation will be completely protected. The extract from the letter which the hon. Member for Northfield was generous enough to read—I compliment him on doing so, knowing how determined an opponent of the Bill he is—should put any hon. Member's doubts at rest.
The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Liberal Party spoke about pollution. This is a problem, but I remind the House of what the inspector of the Ministry of Housing and Local Government had to say about it. The right hon. Gentleman read out part of the passage, but did not read it all. Reading what the inspector said and what the Minister said in comment upon his report, I say that there need be no doubt that he places the problem, admittedly a dangerous and difficult one, squarely and fairly in the hands of the local corporation, which is, after all, the responsible public authority. If they have been working hand in hand with the promoters throughout the history of the Bill, they will surely have the common sense, if not a sense of public duty, to take particular care of that aspect.
As I look at this problem, I am drawn almost irresistibly to the conclusion that too many hon. Members have adopted an entirely unnecessarily censorious attitude to the Bill. What we in this House need to do more often is to try to do things which will make life happier for people. This is a Bill which is intended to improve and increase the opportunities for pleasure for many thousands of people.
Lots of rude things have been said about references to a casino, to a bowling 150 alley and to this and that; and the word "luxurious" has been thrown around as though it is an obscene term. People can use those words with the appropriate inflexion of voice to make it seem as though what is proposed is highly improper, but the fact is that the great majority of our fellow citizens dearly like to go to such places. Why, in heaven's name, should not the House of Commons give them the opportunity? I would give the Bill a Second Reading.
§ 8.41 p.m.
§ The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government (Mr. James MacColl)
I hope that I will not have to detain the House very long in making some general comments and merely trying to assist the House, because my right hon. Friend the Minister does not take any strong views one way or the other. This is a Private Bill and it is not for him to attempt to sway the House either way.
There is, however, the peculiarity about it that, as has been mentioned, the Bill is based on a planning decision made by my right hon. Friend, and in the decision letter which he issued he came to certain conclusions of fact, which the House may reject if it wishes, which have been mentioned during the debate. My right hon. Friend said that there was a need for more yacht moorings and that these would not be an economic proposition unless they were accompanied by other revenue producing developments. A lot of work has been put into choosing the right location to reduce to the minimum the harmful effects on other parts of the town.
My right hon. Friend accepts his inspector's opinion that the development as proposed is unlikely to be unduly obtrusive in the local scene. He accepts his inspector's conclusion that the marina is likely to be an asset to the town as a resort and of financial benefit to it. Accordingly, he has come to the conclusion that the objections to this proposal are not so substantial as to justify his withholding the outline permission which is sought. That, of course, is limited. An outline permission does not commit anyone on the details of the design. It certainly does not commit anyone on the details of financial control and the relationship between the private body and the public body.
151 My right hon. Friend does not take the view that there is anything wicked, un-socialist or in any way doctrinally objectionable about a partnership between a public authority and private enterprise. It is a hard fact in development, particularly in urban development, and my right hon. Friend has used his persuasive powers to encourage local authorities to recognise the need for a partnership, if only because of the blunt fact that they will not get the capital any other way. Certainly, in the public sector at the moment, we will not get the supply of capital that would be required to do something of the kind proposed in the Bill. Whether there should be a majority holding, or whether, as has been suggested, that would be dangerous is a matter which could be examined. It is basically a matter for negotiation and, if necessary, for examination in Committee.
My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hector Hughes) denounced Clause 15. However, that is common form in Private Bills, and there is nothing shocking about it. I am not sure about Clause 47, which is the penalty Clause. There are penalty clauses for publicly controlled harbours, but whether such a clause is applied to any private harbour, I am not sure. However, that again is a matter about which evidence could be led by the promoters in Committee for the benefit of our colleagues who will have to discharge the onerous job of looking at the Bill and making up their own minds.
§ Mr. Archer
Is it not arguable that, in principle, a private company should be entitled to collect its civil debts by means of criminal proceedings?
§ Mr. MacColl
Certainly it is arguable, and, if I know anything about the Parliamentary Bar, it would be argued. I should have thought that a Select Committee of our colleagues was one of the most reliable tribunals to look at that sort of point. Such a body has that combination of judicial objectiveness and shrewd political awareness which is needed to advise us on what to do with the Bill. I think that it is the kind of point which ought to go to a Select Committee.
152 Criticisms have been made about parking arrangements. My right hon. Friend has given much thought to this point, and made it a condition of the planning approval that a very substantial parking provision should be made before the building is finally undertaken.
The hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Hay) and the right hon. Member for Devon, North (Mr. Thorpe) both raised the matter of sewerage. It is said on behalf of my right hon. Friend in paragraph 8 of the decision letter:… attention at the inquiry was drawn to the grossly over-loaded Portobello outfall sewer which would have to serve the on-shore development. Furthermore, there seems little doubt that there is a real risk of pollution from boats in the harbour which will be difficult to overcome. Both these problems are for the public health authority and the Minister expects them to take all possible steps to deal with themMy hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Kemptown (Mr. Hobden) and the hon. Member for Henley both made the point that that was already under active treatment. I hope that they are right.
§ Mr. MacColl
When I saw members of the Brighton Intercepting and Outfall Sewers Board, over a year ago, I pleaded with them to take this matter very seriously, and I said that I thought that it was an urgent problem. With all the limited powers of persuasion at my command, I did my best. I succeeded in moving them from a position of reluctance to agreeing to the employment of consultants. The board engaged consultants, and it was hoped that the consulting engineers would report at the end of last year. It now appears that their report will not be forthcoming until the end of April of this year, and, of course, I do not know what they will recommend.
Although it is nothing to do with the promoters, but is essentially a matter which is the responsibility of the local authorities, we do not want an impressive facade of luxury restaurants and hotels, if the fundamental parts of environmental health and decent living are inadequate for them. It is more important for a local authority to get its sewers right than to 153 provide beautiful and impressive buildings with which to attract tourists.
Subject to that qualification, I think that the House ought to give the Bill a Second Reading, so that a Select Committee can look at all the points which have been raised and examine them in the light of evidence adduced before it, after which the House can look at the proposals again.
§ Mr. Hector Hughes
Before my hon. Friend sits down, will he deal with the point that I made about setting up a counter-attraction to Brighton, by within two miles of it, setting up this new township?
§ Mr. MacColl
It is part of Brighton. I can only give my right hon. Friend's view, after obtaining the advice of the inspector and after a long and intensive inquiry, that this was a good site and would not interfere with the amenities of the area.
§ 8.51 p.m.
§ Mr. Donald Chapman (Birmingham, Northfield)
I was naturally very interested in what my hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary had to suggest by way of guidance to the House on this difficult matter. I want to take up immediately the point he made about the nature of this enterprise. What the debate has revealed, in a way, is that there are basically two issues before us. One is whether this kind of enterprise is suitable to be carried out by a private company with monopoly powers and with widespread powers of compulsory acquisition. The second issue is whether there are any steps that we can take to make sure that the general amenities of the whole area are protected. Can we lay down instructions? Those are the issues that are raised.
I want to comment immediately on what my hon. Friend said on the first of those issues. I have a great deal of sympathy with what the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Liberal Party said. In basic sympathy and idealism, in every part of my being as a Socialist I have a great antipathy to the whole idea of enclosing a public foreshore for an enterprise of this kind. I can see the repercussions which it will have. I can see the next one that will come along. I can see that profitability having become the test, as it is in this Bill, other people 154 will say, "We can make a profit too, and we would like a slice of the foreshore on which to make a profit".
Once we start on this road, the difficulty will be that we will have established a very dangerous precedent. Therefore, if we are to allow this thing at all, we must hedge it with conditions which do not allow this precedent to be created. That is why I come to this point, which is in the second Instruction on the Order Paper, about the nature of the control of this development.
My hon. Friend said, and the House noted it, that his right hon. Friend did not object to the idea of a partnership in this matter between public and private enterprise. If I may put my own interpretation on that word, he was suggesting to the House that it should have some sympathy for the Instruction which I have put down. This is fundamental to the whole scheme, because we are kidding ourselves if we believe that this is a Brighton marina. It is not a Brighton marina. This is a wholesale town development project. It covers 106 acres, for a start. Admittedly most of it is sea, but I will come to the on-shore which covers 32 acres of land development, of town development.
I would like to see any other town saying to the House of Commons, "We have a project for the development of our town on this huge scale, with all the amenities inside it, and we are not pretending to the House that we would ever want any public ownership or public share of control". The House would always say, on town development of this magnitude, that there must be a public stake in it, and that there must be the answerability that a certain extent of public ownership can provide. This is why the Instruction to which the Leader of the Liberal Party took exception has been tabled. It is the one condition on which we can accept the enclosure of the public foreshore.
§ Mr. Alexander W. Lyon (York)
I am interested in what my hon. Friend is saying, because I am one of the uncommitted Members. What worries me most is that we should be enclosing the public foreshore and doing it for a purpose which in my experience is unique. What difference does it make whether this is done by a local authority under public 155 control, or by private enterprise, or by a combination of both? Surely this is enclosing the foreshore for a purpose which is unique, and is not in the same category, as was suggested from the benches opposite, as enclosing a public foreshore for the protection of essential commercial harbour works.
§ Mr. Chapman
My hon. Friend must make up his mind. What one has to do is to make one's own assessment of the comparative good to the public of enclosing the foreshore under this scheme, or not enclosing it. In other words, are there distinct advantages for the public as a whole which will result from this scheme and thereby justify it? It is a matter about which my hon. Friend has to make up his mind. I do not think that my hon. Friend can do it from first principles. It is an assessment of the relative public good involved in the two approaches, but I agree with my hon. Friend, because it leads me to my next point, that if we had a go-ahead Brighton it would have done this job itself.
I do not want to be critical of Brighton. I live there, and I enjoy it. I love the town. It may be that Brighton can say that it is beyond its powers to persuade the ratepayers to do this. It may be open to Brighton to say that it is not experienced in business of this magnitude. I do not think that this is particularly true, but in any case it could say that it regards this as something in which it wants the help of private capital, which was the point made by my hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary.
The point at issue is that here we have Brighton Corporation saying that it cannot do this, that it never thought of it, that it is beyond its ability, that it wants some help from private enterprise to do it, and it believes that the public good will be helped by having this scheme, by enabling more people to enjoy themselves on this piece of coast after enclosure compared with before. This is the real issue before the House, and the Corporation is entitled to say that to the House.
What I am entitled to do, and I am trying to do it by way of this Instruction, is to say that we must strike a happy medium. If we are to give this first-ever power to private enterprise on this scale, we must first ensure that there is 156 public shareholding in it so that there is public answerability for what is going on there, and so that the town councillors can be told "You are in on this thing as shareholders. What are you doing about this and that? What are you doing about this repercussion or that defect?". We must have this public shareholding because of the size of the whole thing, and because of the principle of public ownership of the foreshore which is being breached.
Secondly, we must have this further power in the Instruction to provide a majority shareholding if—and this is a phrase which has happily been suppressed by the local Press and not mentioned tonight—the public interest so requires. This is not carte blanche to the Brighton Corporation. It is not a liability to take this over. It is a fair assessment of whether the public interest will be shared eventually by having this under majority shareholding. It is best to say so from the start and write it into the Bill so that we know where we are, and in the future if things go wrong the Corporation can step in and begin to put them right.
Equally, it is important for Brighton to have a shareholding in this in case it is a success, because if it is, and I hope that it will be, and it provides a great deal of fun and enjoyment for many thousands of people, it may well be that inside this set up we will want things done not only on the basis of private profit. If, for example, it becomes necessary, and to the public advantage, to lay out more gardens inside the marina, to to provide other non-profit-making facilities inside it, I cannot see the Marina Company doing it. It is interested in profit. Nobody would be able to force the company to do it. In its present form the Bill provides only negative planning powers. If we want eventually to make this marina into a considered extension of Brighton, instead of latching on a piece of commercial development, we may need public control—a shareholding of 51 per cent., or whatever else it may be—so that the non-profit-making aspects can be developed inside the scheme.
That is why this is a double-barrelled Instruction. The first principle is that there should be some public shareholding. It is right, for the future, that if the council requires it it should have a majority 157 shareholding. I think that is reasonable. I hope that I have removed many of the doubts in the mind of the right hon. Member for Devon, North (Mr. Thorpe).
§ Mr. Thorpe
I am grateful to the hon. Member and I should like to be able to support him, because I agree with him on the question of answerability. But if he says that Brighton might not be able to finance this project on its own, how can it buy 51 per cent. of the equity which, on valuation, must run into several millions of £s? Secondly, in fairness to the promoters, is it a very satisfactory position for them if they know that should the scheme be profitable Brighton may wish to take it over? That would be a very hazardous way for anybody to invest money in an enterprise of this sort.
§ Mr. Chapman
In the future there will be an established scheme. There will be equity to buy. There will be a record of profitability to consider and there will be an asset to value. At that point, with the project established for good or ill, running well or badly, the situation will be reflected in the capital value of the enterprise, and at any time in the future, as in the case of any other nationalisation project, there will be a fair price on valuation for a majority of the equity. I do not see that Brighton would have any difficulty about raising money then, because there would be an established asset to value.
Moreover, if a scheme of this kind becomes established, it will not be so much a question of raising money; it will be a question of the expertise involved in creating the marina in the first place. That will be more difficult than the question of raising money in the future. I hope that that reassures the right hon. hon. Gentleman on his first point. I have forgotten his second point.
§ Mr. Thorpe
I would not grant these powers, but having given them, surely we cannot then say, "We shall give these powers to you, and if you make a success of the project we warn you that we shall probably take it over."
§ Mr. Chapman
It will not be a question of warning the company. We shall be saying, "Because of the principle involved you can either undertake this project in partnership with public enterprise or not at all." It is a matter of 158 principle. We shall say, "From the start, you must accept this as the minimum basis on which we can allow the foreshore to be enclosed." It would be on that basis that private enterprise comes in. There would be no warning in advance.
Private enterprise would come in or would not come in on that understanding. If it wants to come in and help to provide money to make the project a success it will know from the start, without being hoodwinked and without being given a false prospectus, that we are saying, "This is the minimum condition on which you can have all these powers." I do not see why the company cannot be left to make up its own mind whether or not to come in.
§ Mr. Chapman
The right hon. Gentleman should apply to my hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary, who made it clear that the Government think that there is no reason why this should not be a partnership between public and private enterprise. I am simply saying that we should write into the Bill, in case of eventualities, the prospect that we should need a good deal of public enterprise in something like this at a later date.
I come now to the other Instruction with which I am associated, about the environmental effect. In this respect, I am extremely disappointed with Brighton Corporation. It is largely a good corporation which has a beautiful town, with some of the greatest attraction in the country, to preserve. But to present something like this to Parliament, with no detail of the environmental planning of the area on to which it will be latched—this is just being tacked on to the end of Brighton in the hope that nothing will go wrong with the environment—is deplorable. We in the House of Commons are worth better consideration than that.
Consider the size and the impact of this project. At any one time, there will be 20,000 people in it. They are making provision for 8,000 people to sleep on 159 boats, and there are also over 200 flats and houses and all the other ancillary development, which is enormous. There will be car parking for 3,600 cars. This is all below a level of cliff.
All we have had from Brighton Corporation—it is not unfair to say this—is an assurance that the gyratory system of entry roads will be adequately planned, but with a very poor approach road around the back of Brighton which is no improvement at all—I think that it is derisory—and a statement which was wrung out of the town by the opposition which was clearly developing here, when the chairman of the planning committee, in a public statement to a Press conference, said that if the effect was to increase the parking in Kemptown's beautiful squares, the corporation would use its parking regulations.
Brighton is worth something more than that sort of approach. If there is to be a magnet on this scale, all the acreage immediately surrounding it must be planned almost afresh. That does not mean buying up everything and knocking it down but it means having a master plan for the effects on that end of Brighton.
Overlooking this marina, which will be an enormous town development, there is a long area of cliff with a road behind That road is already impassable on the days when there is any sunshine and everybody flocks to Brighton. I have seen no plans for that piece of road to show the extent to which the through traffic can be managed and the parking and viewing of this thing, which will go on on a huge scale, can be coped with. People will flock in their thousands. This will be an enormous magnet. They will want to park and walk along the cliffs and look down on this development.
It should be—I hope that it will, if it is proceeded with—one of the marvels of modern development, but the price of that for Brighton is to do it properly and not just latch it on the end and leave these other matters to chance. The cliff area and the roads along the cliff need planning. The whole of the approach system, in a much wider context than has ever been revealed to the House, needs planning.
As for Kemptown, to tell me that a project of this size can be left in the hope 160 that a few parking restrictions will preserve the beautiful squares is derisory, to say the least. If one is to extend this town on such a scale, the whole road system of the approach to the Marina must be sub-divided into through, main and subsidiary roads for the immediate residents of the areas which one wishes to preserve. If Kemptown's beautiful Regency squares are to be preserved, this must be done. The trouble is that this whole project, enormous as it is, is being treated as if it were chicken-feed. It is a huge development which needs the environmental replanning and proper consideration which it warrants.
I come to the second Instruction on the Order Paper, which is designed to point out that the Committee which is to examine the Bill must be satisfied that adequate plans have been produced for this purpose. It must call in Brighton Corporation and say, "This is a huge town development. What are you doing about it? What are you doing about the area onto which you are tacking this development?" The Committee must be satisfied that it is being done on the right scale, with the right amount of expenditure and with the right safeguards for the residential areas, areas of amenity and taking into account the natural beauty of the place.
I hope that the House decides, in considering whether the Bill should be given a Second Reading, that these matters are of great importance. I will be largely influenced by what the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Sir W. Teeling) says at the end of the debate about whether the two Instructions are acceptable. If they are not acceptable, then I will vote against the Bill because they represent the minimum on which the project can be run properly, can be planned properly and can become an asset to Brighton and the country as a whole.
The best evidence I can call in aid—in addition to my own eloquence, if I can call it such—is a letter which Lord Holford wrote to The Times. He made it clear that he did not support the Bill as drafted. In a covering note to my hon. Friend the Member for Barking (Mr. Driberg), Lord Holford said:… but I am not supporting the Bill and I have written the enclosed letter to The Times which explains my reasons.161 Lord Holford, who is acknowledged to be one of our best town-planners, wrote to The Times:First of all I would only like to see the Bill passed with considerable amendment.Among the amendments, he wanted… safeguards against a disproportionate size, damage to Kemptown, especially overflow parking, and the extension of non-marine development and only compulsory purchase after clear statements and designs have been prepared to make the case for it in the public interest.That summarises the first Instruction on the Order Paper. Lord Holford went on—and I assure the House that there was no collusion here; as far as I know, he wrote that letter without communicating with any hon. Members who have Instructions on the Order Paper:I hope that the Bill will get a Second Reading, but it brings us up against this fundamental issue: has the right basis been found for the combination of private enterprise and public control which appears to be the only way of creating a new and permanent asset to add to the many which Brighton already has? The Bill in its present form does not suggest that this is so.Lord Holford there put the case in a nutshell for the second Instruction—that the right balance between private enterprise and public control has not been found in the Bill as drafted.
I hope that hon. Members will join with me in being largely influenced in how they vote tonight by whether the Instructions are adopted. Without them, the Bill would be utterly intolerable. If the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion will say that he is willing to advise the House to accept these Instructions without Division? I shall be content to let the Bill have its Second Reading. Let us not have any prevarication. I do not say that the hon. Gentleman necessarily wishes that. I realise that he cannot entirely speak for his own home town, but if he can give the House a blunt recommendation that these Instructions should be carried, I would say that we should let the Bill have its Second Reading.
This is an imaginative project. Let all praise be given to Mr. Cohen and the other gentlemen who first thought it up. It could be a great asset to Brighton. On the other hand, without public control, without check on environmental effects on this scale, it could be a blight on Brighton and on Southern England. 162 For these reasons, I hope that the House will support the two Instructions.
§ 9.16 p.m.
§ Sir William Teeling (Brighton, Pavilion)
I must make it quite clear that although the Motion for Second Reading has been moved by the hon. Member for Brighton, Kemptown (Mr. Hobden) and I am now winding up from this side, this is a Private Bill. It is necessarily brought up by us, so we cannot say definitely one way or the other what will eventually be acceptable either to the corporation or to the promoters.
I am taking an active part in this matter because as far back as 1943 I was Member of Parliament for this area, stretching right down through Hove to Shoreham. In those days, the area was a two-Member seat—such seats have now ceased to exist—and I continued to cover all that Kemptown area until 1950. After that, the place was divided into three seats and the hon. Member opposite is now Member for the Kemptown division. If I may say so, he has moved the Second Reading extremely well.
For ages there has been an intense desire and keenness among the people of that area for the development of yachting. Only a few years ago the country had only about 100,000 yachtsmen. There are now about 500,000, and the majority of them come from the south-east of England. They are very enthusiastic, and their numbers are growing. But they all say that going along the coast from Shore-ham right through to Newhaven and beyond is very dull. They are all anxious to have a marina somewhere in the Brighton area.
I gather that Mr. Cohen and others suddenly got the idea that it might be possible to develop a harbour and marina round about Brighton. Marinas are also developing in many other parts of Europe—Malta and Cannes have already been mentioned—and I believe that such a project would be immensely advantageous for the area.
The next thing needed was to find the money for the project. Marinas are things which, if they are to be as big as they would have to be, will need a considerable amount of private enterprise in them. The more I have listened to speeches tonight, the more I have been reminded of events of the last 10 years 163 when I have been one of the chairmen of the Channel Tunnel Committee in this House. The same sort of arguments are constantly being used, but, finally, the Government of the day have decided that the project involved has been too big to be dealt with alone by public funds and must include a considerable amount of private enterprise.
On this basis, Mr. Cohen and various others got together and, I understand, got underwritten a very good and big scheme. Brighton Council began to take a considerable interest—bit by bit, more and more of an interest. Bit by bit, it decided and promised to do more and more to help it along. Thus, last year, it decided to hold a public inquiry into the whole subject. The council itself, by a vast majority, passed the necessary resolutions to back and support the enterprise.
The inquiry lasted no less than nine days. People representing almost every idea that has been brought forward during this debate took part. They either gave evidence or sent others so to do. The Regency Society and other organisations put up money to have people representing them and putting their case forward. As the Parliamentary Secretary has said, his right hon. Friend finally decided that the scheme should be allowed to proceed.
But because certain amounts of Crown areas are, I gather, on this coast, the matter has had to be brought here for a debate. Then the Bill goes, or should go if it gets through the Second Reading, into Committee, and I should have thought that, like all other Bills going into Committee, that is the place where many of the details mentioned tonight should be dealt with. There will be plenty of opportunities then, including an opportunity to discuss the matter with the council and with the promoters.
§ Mr. Hector Hughes
The hon. Gentleman is giving an interesting historical survey of what led up to the Bill. Will he tell us why the harbour at Shoreham was neglected? It is a harbour that is quite ready for the accommodation of yachts without anything like the great expenditure that would be involved in making a new harbour on the rocks at Black Rock.
§ Sir W. Teeling
One reason is that Shoreham does not happen to be as much in Brighton as the hon. and learned Gentleman seems to think. Nor has he been quite clear in explaining that even Kemptown, where he lives, is part of Brighton. He will keep on saying that it is two miles from Brighton. I used to live in Kemptown and I never felt that I was two miles from Brighton. If the hon. and learned Gentleman wants more historical background, the interesting thing is that a number of hon. Members from other areas of the country have come to live in Brighton—or Kemptown, whichever the hon. and learned Gentleman likes to call it.
It seems to me rather sad, or amusing, however one looks at it, that I, born in Dublin, where the hon. and learned Gentleman was also born, came to Brighton via Birmingham and standing for Parliament in West Ham and that, since then, hon. Members for West Ham and Birmingham seats have followed me to Brighton and are taking part in the argument about this project. Last, but not least, the hon. and learned Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hector Hughes), who also started in Dublin, has come round via Aberdeen to settle on the front at Brighton.
I fully appreciate that the hon. and learned Gentleman has just moved in to a block of flats which would be right on top of where all this would happen. It may well not be very pleasant for him, but other hon. Members have gone through their troubles, some with having the Metropole built over their heads and others moving into Lewes Crescent and Rottingdean, and so on, and they undoubtedly also are feeling nervous about the future. However, I would be inclined to say that they need have no worries whatever about their own future amenities.
Incidentally, I can also say, as the Member for the other half of Brighton, that even although it is two miles from the centre to Kemptown, the people in Kemptown have the same sort of ideas and go to the same public houses and the same luxury hotels as those in the rest of the town.
I have been asked by the fishermen of Brighton to say that they are unanimously in favour of this development. I can 165 reveal another secret. The hon. Member for Kemptown knows full well that the Conservative candidate at the last General Election came out against the marina and that the fishermen, who were all very good Conservatives, voted the other way and just about made the difference which permitted the hon. Member for Kemptown to win the seat.
Behind us we have not only the fishermen, but all the organisations in the town and many other bodies, including the business community. I should have thought that with the elected representatives of the borough almost unanimously on our side, and almost all the leading business men and all the entertainments people and all the fishermen and all the people connected with the front, we would have had enough support to satisfy the House.
The only people not supporting us are a few well-to-do people living in certain streets, and only certain streets, in the districts roundabout. They are very worried that they will lose their amenities. I do not think that they will. I lived in Lewes Crescent and in Royal Crescent for a long time, and I am perfectly certain that the people in those streets will not lose their amenities.
One of the things which the council has promised is that there will be nothing above cliff height. That means that there will be no buildings cutting off these people from the sea. I remember that Lord Holford once wrote that when he came to settle in Kemptown, on the coast, he thought that he would not see anything except the sea and that it never dawned on him that any building would go up between him and the sea. This project will not. It has been moved to the cliff end, where it cannot be seen at all.
Not very long ago, I was in Port of Spain, Trinidad, where it was desired to put up a Hilton Hotel, which would normally be a skyscraper building. However, the hotel owners were told that they could only build downwards, from the cliff. That they have done, making it very beautiful, and the hotel can be seen at night from the sea, but it does not come above cliff height and it is as 166 ideally organised as would be the project in Brighton.
§ Several Hon. Members rose—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. Will the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Sir W. Teeling) let me know to which hon. Member he is giving way?
§ Sir Douglas Glover (Ormskirk)
Does my hon. Friend mean that Ziggurat Flats will be below or above the cliff line?
§ Several Hon. Members rose—
§ Several Hon. Members rose—
§ Sir W. Teeling
I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne (Sir C. Taylor) will want to try to intervene again.
I will quickly go through some of the questions which have been raised and try to answer them.
§ Sir Charles Taylor (Eastbourne)
My hon. Friend did not reply to the questions put to him by the hon. and learned Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hector Hughes) about Shoreham. To begin with, the entrance to Shoreham Harbour is a bar, not the sort of bar which the hon. Member—
§ It being half past Nine o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.