HC Deb 11 February 1976 vol 905 cc527-78

Order for Second Reading read.

7.38 p.m.

Mr. George Park (Coventry, North-East)

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

I am aware that many hon. Members have received representations on various Parts of the Bill, but the constraints of time in a short debate, made even shorter by the previous happening, do not permit a detailed examination of the proposals. Therefore, the main burden of my remarks will be to try to persuade the House that the Bill should be taken in Committee to allow the proposers the opportunity of deploying their case and to permit objections from responsible people and organisations to be examined.

If the House were summarily to reject these proposals, it would ignore the fact that the content of the Bill, in large part, is related to problems and needs in the West Midlands. Perhaps the proposals are not framed in accord with the wishes of the House, but I understand that the council believes that it could meet objections by way of amendment if given the opportunity.

In approaching the Bill, and the feeling that the needs could be met by current legislation, it might be as well to recall that before local government reorganisation in 1974 there were many local Acts in existence in the West Midlands, each of which applied to a local government area. After 1st April 1974 these local Acts continued to apply, but only to the old areas. In addition, there is the fact that local legislation in the West Midlands lapses in 1979.

I turn now to the various parts of the Bill. Part II concerns trading. The principle of municipal trading is not new. There are a number of industries, such as gas and electricity, in which, historically, it has been undertaken. Today the number is even greater.

One example is civic catering. It should be noted that the requirement in the Civic Restaurants Act 1947, that trading should stop if there were a deficit for three successive years, was relaxed by the Conservative Government in 1974. I doubt whether Conservative Members would have done this if they had not felt that the powers were being exercised responsibly and fairly.

I understand that it is not the intention of local authorities in the West Midlands to enter into extensive and damaging competition with ratepayers, and that the primary purposes of promoting such powers are twofold. The first is to enable local authorities to make provision in cases where the private sector is unable or unwilling to do so. The second is to allow local authorities to extend existing activities in cases where it is to the benefit of the public so to do. For example, Coventry runs an abattoir, and it seems not unreasonable that it should be entitled to provide a butchery.

Mr. Patrick Cormack (Staffordshire, South-West)


Mr. Park

Similarly, it would seem not unreasonable that a local authority should be empowered, in its parks department to sell goods which can be produced at marginal cost over and above its normal costs, and thereby to contribute to the rate fund. It is not the intention to open butchers' shops and florists' shops throughout the area. The council also appreciates that there cannot be unlimited borrowing power without reference to the Secretary of State or unspecified powers in Clause 7.

Part III dealing with motor racing, has a provision which is of interest to Birmingham and to Birmingham alone. It should be noted across the House that in Birmingham it is a non-party issue. I understand that the leaders of both major parties are in agreement on this and that the last vote on it in Birmingham was 80 to 20. There is, therefore, a great measure of agreement in Birmingham, and the district council would seek the opportunity to come before the committee and justify these proposals.

Part IV deals with powers concerning dogs, and Part VI deals with the parking of vehicles. There are very real problems underlying these proposals. The objections, however, come in the main from those sections of the community which do not create the problems.

Dog lovers and breeders do not allow their dogs to roam the streets, but can anyone gainsay the fact that there is a problem from vagrant or stray dogs, in many part of the West Midlands, savaging children and old people and fouling the pavements?

Similarly, members of caravan clubs and camping clubs do not normally park their vehicles in such a way as to interfere with the amenities or the convenience of their neighbours. But some people do. I am sure that hon. Members would not take very kindly to the parking of high-sided vehicles or commercial lorries outside their door or in the drive alongside, night after night. I am sure they would object. In an urban area, particularly, the complete freedom of the individual sometimes has to be tempered to the general good.

Part V relates to aircraft and traffic noise. It is a fact that the Department of the Environment might report against the traffic section of this proposal because it has recently been the subject of national legislation, but there is no national legislation that enables local authorities with their own airports to provide for insulation against noise, and the provisions in the Bill are modelled on those already obtained by Manchester and Luton.

Taking account of the fact that many Members will wish to contribute to the debate in the short time available, I conclude by saying that I have tried very briefly to summarise the underlying problems that have sparked off these proposals. I submit that they are worthy of further examination.

7.47 p.m.

Mr. Hugh Fraser (Stafford and Stone)

If the Bill is accepted by the House it will result in the bringing forward of a great variety of other county council Bills. This, in turn, will jam up the whole machinery of Parliament. Doubtless there will be some comment from the Front Bench on this issue.

I hope that the Bill will be rejected by the House. If the city of Birmingham wishes to proceed with its racing track, it can go ahead as a city and build that track, with proper permission. Likewise, if the city of Coventry wishes to have fresh provisions for its hackney carriage administration, let it devise some such provision. I am sure that other minor provisions of the Bill can be dealt with in that sort of way.

Looking at the Bill as a whole. I regard it, quite frankly, as a dangerous measure. More than that—it is a silly Bill. One can see that it has been devised by a variety of persons who seem to have been quite unable to produce a coherent Bill of any sort.

I do not regard this as a particularly Socialist Bill, or as a Marxist Bill; it is a combination of some of the oldest elements in the Labour Party, which are now really almost medieval. It is a sort of reincarnation of the spirit of the Mayor of Bursley. It goes back to the Stoke-on-Trent of Arnold Bennett. It appeals to some of the spirit of Joe Chamberlain when he was reforming Parliament. It reminds one of some of the absurd remarks made by Maud after he had destroyed local government, when he talked of reviving the civic virtues of our people. The Bill is completely out of date.

Because of the sort of world in which we live, the actions of a variety of both Conservative and Labour Governments have destroyed the ability of local authorities to be effective in areas where they should be effective. The proposals for trading are only to fill in the interstices of the capitalist or trading organisations set up by the State. The only people who will be affected are the small traders. Can one imagine anything more absurd than the city of Birmingham setting up a hotel chain to compete with Fortes? Can anyone imagine anything more ludicrous than the town of Wolverhampton engaging in a major exercise, in competition with Shell, to set up a garage system? These powers will be used where the small people are involved, and that is precisely the point at which private enterprise is most effective in rendering services. I can imagine nothing more foolish than a florist's shop or a butcher's shop being set up by a metropolitan authority.

Some Socialists will argue that this is a great step forward. However, one has only to consider the confused drafting of the Bill and the financial provisions by which its authors blandly announce that they will borrow money without Treasury consent. The one thing that a Communist Chancellor would stop would be the borrowing of money by the city of Coventry without the authority of the Government.

Clause 12(4) illustrates the incredible struggle that took place between the geniuses who devised the Bill—a Socialist element—and the ratepayer element in these councils. Here is precisely repeated one of the main problems of all Administrations—the virement of funds. At the end of any year the funds have to be returned to the ratepayers' fund. How can any business of any sort be built up on such a provision?

Lastly, there is the amazing Clause 7, which from my experience at company law I judge would be called the articles of association. These articles make it possible for the city of Coventry or Wolverhampton to do anything it feels inclined to do. Plans could be devised for the building of motor cycles or atom bombs, or anything else. Anything is possible. We know that this is gobblede-gook, because not for one second would the Treasury ever permit it to happen. This is just a course to bankruptcy and stupidity.

This is a dog's dinner of a Bill, and the House should not burden itself with further consideration of it. Perhaps I should say that it is not so much a dog's dinner as a Yapp's supper. It is a waste of public time and a waste of the time of the House. It is a Bill that will merely annoy people, whether they are Left or Right, by its intolerable inconsistencies. It is a godsend to our party for the forthcoming elections, because with this kind of legislation I am sure that Yapp and his crowd will be swept out of office, and they will deserve what they get.

7.53 p.m.

Mr. John Stonehouse (Walsall, North)

My hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, North-East (Mr. Park) moved the Bill in extremely moderate terms. He was quite right to refer to some of its good aspects, several of which I support. I support the provision of accommodation for the under-40s and the provisions in Part IV to deal with the problems of stray dogs.

However, those who framed the Bill were very badly advised. It would appear that they had no expert advise from this place. I do not know whether any hon. Member was advising them, but whoever did it gave bad advice. I agree with the right hon. Member for Stafford and Stone (Mr. Fraser) that it is a bad Bill, and although there are some good aspects in it these are far outweighed by the bad. For that reason I shall reluctantly vote against it, and I say "reluctantly" because I should be sorry to see the good provisions lost.

Those who devised the Bill suffered from an excess of idealism. They have tried to do too much in one Bill, and, as a result, good provisions will go. There are bad provisions which the House must reject. There can be no question of the House allowing such a can of worms to be examined any further. I question whether the Bill is an improvement, as is suggested by the preamble. It is the job of the local authority to concentrate on its many responsibilities in providing an infrastructure of roads, social services, housing and so on. It must do these tasks efficiently, and the problem in the West Midlands is that this is not happening. The services are being provided sometimes well but sometimes wastefully.

As elsewhere, there has been a growth of bureaucracy in the West Midlands. In a speech at Eastbourne my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister referred to an increase in the numbers employed in municipal jobs from 1.5 million 10 years ago to 2.5 million today. The West Midlands has shared in this increase in local government employment, but services have not kept pace with the rising number of jobs. In many areas services for the ordinary people have been reduced.

I opposed as best I could the reorganisation of municipal boundaries brought about by the late Dick Crossman. I was glad that in his memoirs he reminded us of the way this was pushed through. It was a lesson in how not to reorganise municipal administration. I am glad that I opposed the Bill at the time, and I am sorry that we were not successful in retaining some of the old authorities which were doing a good job and were close to some of the ratepayers they were serving.

If we were foolish enough to allow the Bill to pass, there would be no improvement in services for ratepayers. Many representations have been made to me about the Bill—from the Walsall Co-operative Society, which is wholly opposed to its trading aspects, from the traders in Willenhall and Bloxwich, and from many traders in Walsall, South and Aldridge-Brownhills. There is no doubt that there is widespread opposition to the Bill in the West Midlands.

Clause 5(1)(e) provides for the provision and the maintenance of garages and filling stations. This could be very dangerous because the local authority running these activities could be responsible for planning permission for them. There could be serious suspicions that it was manipulating its planning responsibilities to advantage its commercial activities.

There are provisions for authorities to take shares in other companies. A company applying for planning permission, particularly for a petrol station, might find it beneficial to arrange a shareholding for the local authority. We do not know how these powers will be used. It is no argument to say that the present intention is to use them moderately. It cannot be guaranteed what future local authorities would do.

Clause 6 relates to the power to print. It appears to be a restriction, but if a local authority establishes a plant to print its own minutes or a newspaper to distribute to ratepayers it might use only 10 per cent. of the plant's capacity. It would then be able to use the machinery for commercial printing, which would not be acceptable to commercial interests.

I agree that Clause 7 is ridiculous. No one in his right mind would approve such a provision. Clause 9 (1) and (2) allow for preferential treatment to organisations with which a local authority has a shareholding arrangement. That would be extremely dangerous.

Clause 11 contains some curiously-written provisions about accounts. It refers to any credit being passed on, but how will any loss be made up? There must be a suspicion that if any activities were uneconomic either the councils concerned would disguise the real costs, as they could do, by allocating executives whose time was not truly apportioned——

Mr. Tom Litterick (Birmingham, Selly Oak)

That is a disgusting imputation.

Mr. Stonehouse

I am simply saying that this is something which it is very difficult for a council to decide. If an executive is employed in various directions and part of his time is spent running a florist's or butcher's shop or a petrol station, how will a council decide what proportion of his time is spent on which activity? It would be an arbitrary decision and people might suspect that the rate fund was being used to subsidise those activities.

Many councils show little expertise in doing the jobs they should be doing. Many are falling down on the job, rates are too high and the employment rolls of many West Midlands authorities are inflated. Many people in those authorities have a soft number. I have pressed the Secretary of State for the Environment to establish a section of his Department to provide assistance in making an effective evaluation of jobs in municipalities. There is enormous waste, as the Prime Minister himself confirmed in his famous East-bourne speech.

Until municipalities have reformed themselves and shown that they can be efficient, there can be no question of letting them enter these activities. Others can do these things better. Efficient co-operative societies, Marks & Spencer and petrol chains can best serve the consumer. We should not encourage local authorities which have so much else to do to divert their attention into these activities, where others should be responsible.

Turning to Part IV, I agree that there should be some action over the problem of stray dogs, but here again the Bill goes too far. It wants to establish a bureaucracy to issue certificates of registration for every dog—an enormous task. What happens if someone fails to conform?

Mr. Clement Freud (Isle of Ely)

Ask the Prime Minister.

Mr. Stonehouse

Clause 36(6) says: If a person keeps a dog in a district in contravention of the provisions of this section or fails to identify his dog in the manner required by the certificate of registration he shall be guilty of an offence and liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding £50 and to a daily fine not exceeding £5. That is very high for, say, an old-age pensioner who may not have good advice. Even £1 a day would be a big blow for people.

I agree with Part V. It is important to deal with aircraft noise, and authorities should have power to provide insulation grants.

I regret that the good aspects of the Bill are submerged in nonsense. I wish that the majority of the Bill were good: then I could support it. But the majority is bad, so I shall vote against it.

8.8 p.m.

Mr. Reginald Eyre (Birmingham, Hall Green)

Conservatives throughout the West Midlands and on the Opposition Benches are totally opposed to Part II of the Bill. The hon. Member for Coventry, North-East (Mr. Park) made a responsible and moderate speech, but his suggestions for further consideration were inadequate because of the inadequacy of his instructions from the promoters. That is because of the drastic nature of the powers proposed. They simply do not permit consideration on the casual basis that the hon. Gentleman suggested. He was really asking for matters to be dealt with on the basis of another and very different Bill.

In January the promoters of the Bill were advised, by myself among others, to take the Bill back and think about it again because there were obviously serious objections to it. They would have saved the resources of the ratepayers and the time of officials if they had taken that advice. Unfortunately, however, they have gone on with the Bill. The powers sought are so extreme that the Bill does not deserve the continued consideration for which the hon. Member asks.

On the need for adjustments relating to changed boundaries, there is plenty of time before 1979 for a more suitable measure to be introduced. It is widely recognised now that Part II gives fantastically extended powers to local authorities to provide unfair trading competition over such a vast range of trades and small businesses that practically every commercial activity in modern life is affected and possibly endangered. The right hon. Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Stonehouse) was quite right to say that local authorities in the West Midlands should concentrate on their present duties and obligations and should not seek to get involved in wide-ranging activities of which they and their officials know very little. These powers are totally unjustified.

Our opposition is based upon four main grounds. First, the Bill is silent on the question of trading losses. Undoubtedly these losses would fall upon the ratepayers in general, and hundreds of ratepayers have expressed their considerable fear in this respect, as well as over 44,000 people in the West Midlands who signed in support of a petition to this House opposing Part II. Experience of nationalised industries leads us to believe that the bureaucratic extension of municipal trading on the scale envisaged in Part II would inevitably result in heavy losses and, consequently, severe additional burdens upon ratepayers.

The second main ground of our opposition relates to the important matter of unemployment. The Union of Shop Distributive and Allied Workers has expressed its oppositon to the Bill on the ground not only that the union found that there was no evidence of the need for municipal shops in the West Midlands but also that it could lead to a monopoly situation that might go to the extent of effectively eliminating consumer choice in a particular area. The union went on to say that it opposed the Bill also because of its fears that it could lead to unemployment among its 62,000 members. In my view any member of this House who cares about the frightening growth of unemployment in the West Midlands—unemployment has tripled within the last two years—must pay heed to this serious warning.

The third main ground of our opposition concerns the unfair nature of the competition to be provided. As the Secretary of the Walsall and District Co-operative Society pointed out in his letter of 31st December 1975 to West Midlands Members, Local authorities now act as enforcement agents in respect of many laws affecting retailers. In addition, they are planning authorities with wide powers including compulsory purchase. Soon under the Community Land Act they will be able to acquire development land either for their own use or disposal at market values. In our opinion, no local authority could compete fairly with other traders in view of its special position described above. The secretary of that union was absolutely right in his judgment. There could not be fair trading competition against a local authority with these enormous overriding powers.

I must, however, add another important factor, which increases the unfairness of the proposed municipal competition. This Bill would authorise unlimited borrowing on the part of the local authorities, repayable over terms up to 60 years. No small business or trader could possibly hope to borrow money for business purposes on such favourable terms. Many shopkeepers and small businesses of all kinds are struggling for survival on account of some of the damaging effects of Labour policies upon their businesses. The Government must tonight make clear their position with regard to the unlimited power of public expenditure contained in the Bill. My right hon. Friend the Member for Stafford and Stone (Mr. Fraser) was right to emphasise the importance of this matter.

The Under-Secretary of State for the Environment promised on an earlier occasion that the Secretary of State would make a statement to the House on this Bill. I hope that he will be able to make it. Indeed, the Secretary of State ought to be here——

The Under-Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. Gordon Oakes)

Since the Secretary of State has been mentioned, I should like to say that my right hon. Friend is suffering from influenza, and I am therefore standing in for him.

Mr. Eyre

I appreciate the hon. Gentleman's explanation. I am sorry to hear of the Secretary of State's illness.

I am sure that the Under-Secretary will accept the obligation to spell out to the House the complete inadvisability of the powers contained in the Bill relating to the unlimited nature of local authority borrowing. That is extremely important.

Any Minister who thought of voting in favour of the Bill should realise what damaging consequences it could have to the economic policy of the Government in other directions. That must be emphasised. Any who vote in favour of the Bill are flying in the face of Government policy, which is necessarily trying to deal with a desperately serious economic situation.

Our fourth main ground of opposition is that Bills of this kind could, and we believe would, be operated by Left Wing authorities to end the way of life which is represented by small independent local businesses. This would cause untold harm to the economy of the country and would bring about a severe loss of political freedom. I wish to make it clear that we shall fight Socialist policies of this kind with all our strength.

West Midlands Members have received a lot of correspondence on the Bill. I have received a number of letters which are critical of the provisions concerning dogs, caravans, the parking of vehicles, and many other matters. However, I understand that many Members wish to speak, so I shall not go over that ground, because I am sure that it will be very well covered during the debate.

For the reasons that I have mentioned, Part II is totally unacceptable, and it makes the entire Bill unacceptable. It is necessary that it should be replaced by another measure of a different nature. I say with all the strength at my command that Part II is so unacceptable that the whole Bill must be rejected.

8.18 p.m.

The Under-Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. Gordon Oakes)

My hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, North-East (Mr. Park) introduced the Bill with commendable brevity and moderation. Because of the number of Members who wish to speak, I shall try to emulate that brevity.

May I make clear to the House that this is a Private Bill—it is not a Government Bill—and it is traditional for the Government to intervene in the debate and express their attitude to the Bill as a whole.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, North-East said, the Bill is introduced at this time, whether hon. Members on either side of the House agree with its provisions or not, because the powers in a great deal of existing legislation come to an end in 1979, and the authorities concerned, having properly considered their position, have brought before the House a Private Bill in which they wish not only to preserve some of the powers which they already possess but to extend those powers, and in some directions to extend them appreciably.

The Government's attitude to the extension of local authorities' powers, if they consider such an extension of their powers to be in the interests of their areas, is to say to them "You are right to consider this in a Private Bill and to consider what benefit your area will receive, and bring the Bill before the House."

However, there are certain provisions of the Bill which the Government could, if the Bill goes into Committee, in no way countenance. First, there is the provision under Clause 7 for blanket trading powers. It would be inadvisable for local authorities to continue to seek or to have blanket trading powers. I know that those advising the district and county councils—no matter what remarks have been made about them in the House—by including Clause 7 may well have been trying to set parallels in a Private Bill with the sort of provisions contained in the articles and memoranda of association of companies which give blanket trading powers to those companies and ensure that they can never be criticised under their articles and memoranda of association. We do not consider it appropriate for such blanket provisions to be laid down in the Bill, because a local authority is not a company. Therefore, we frown on Clause 7.

The right hon. Member for Stafford and Stone (Mr. Fraser), the hon. Member for Birmingham, Hall Green (Mr. Eyre) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Stonehouse) mentioned Clause 10, which seeks to give unlimited financial borrowing powers to local authorities. I do not think that any Government of any political persuasion could agree at any time to local authorities having that power. Therefore, if the Bill achieves Second Reading and goes into Committee the Government would frown upon such a provision and seek its removal. A Government would do that at any time but a Government at the present time who ask for severe financial restraint on public spending generally would certainly not countenance unlimited borrowing powers by a local authority.

Some Conservative Members may disagree with our attitude towards the trading provisions. I shall in a moment suggest what the House should do. It may be that within a local authority area there are instances—some may be given tonight—of a failure of the private market system to provide certain facilities for people and where it would be advisable for the council to step in and provide those facilities, even though it may cost the ratepayer or taxpayer money. Pharmacists and chemist's shops have been mentioned. There may be areas in some parts of the country—I am not saying that there are—where the nearest chemist's shop is a considerable distance away. That is a matter which the House should carefully examine.

Mr. Eric Ogden (Liverpool, West Derby)

The House knows of my interest in this matter. If there is an area which is not provided with adequate pharmaceutical services by private enterprise, is it not the duty of the area health authority, the hospital pharmacist service, or the chemist contractors to provide such a service and not to introduce a fourth tier when three other authorities have that duty under the law?

Mr. Oakes

That may well be the case. I am sorry that I mentioned pharmacists but I refer to the situation in which insufficient facilities are provided in an area and where the council seeks to rectify the deficiency.

Mr. Michael Morris (Northampton, South)


Mr. Oakes

I hope that the hon. Member for Northampton, South (Mr. Morris) catches your eye, Mr. Speaker.

There is another provision where municipal trading would be in competition with people outside the council. If the Bill goes into Committee the Government's attitude would be that such municipal trading should be considered carefully by the Committee so that the accounts balanced year by year and there was no subsidisation of that trading by the ratepayers, which would be unfair to ratepayers in general and to other traders in that area in particular.

There is also the vexed question of motor racing. The Government take a more neutral view on that. However, this issue has generated considerable debate throughout the West Midlands. If the powers were to be given the West Midlands they would be unique in the United Kingdom in allowing motor racing on the public roads. It may be appropriate that the home of the motor car industry, Birmingham, should be the place to have it. The greatest possible care should be taken in framing this legislation so that it protects the environment of those who live in the area where motor racing takes place and so that it ensures the safety of those in the area when they travel to and from their lawful business. Furthermore, the greatest care should be taken in relation to any indemnity into which the local authority entered, which in itself may reflect back on either the insurance premium or the rate fund of the local authority.

I have listened carefully to the debate. Almost all the arguments advanced so far and those which will be made later this evening tend to concentrate on Part II of the Bill, which deals with municipal trading. Most of the caveats that I have entered have concentrated on Part II. Therefore, I adopt the traditional rôle of the Government in relation to private legislation and ask the House to give the Bill a Second Reading.

Mr. Cormack

Go to the dogs.

Mr. Oakes

That is quite a traditional rôle for any Government to take on a Private Bill. I ask the House to allow the Bill to go into Committee, and hon. Gentlemen to consider each aspect of the Bill. I appreciate that Conservative Members have strong feelings about Part II. They are entitled to express their views.

Mr. Cormack

Go to the dogs.

Mr. Oakes

I am trying to put the Government's point of view. It is silly to keep saying "Go to the dogs". It is Part II of the Bill that attracts opposition. Many provisions in the Bill are perhaps a repetition of those in previous Bills. There are also provisions which I should have thought would have received wide acceptance by all hon. Members, certainly by the hon. Member for Isle of Wight (Mr. Ross), who is concerned about aircraft noise. There are provisions which deal with the control of dogs, which can be a nuisance in an area. Other provisions deal with the unlawful parking of caravans. Therefore, the Bill does not deal solely with municipal trading. The House is, of course, entitled to throw the Bill out in its entirety. This is a Private Bill and the House is entitled so to do.

From the Government's point of view, and with the caveats that I have entered—that we would certainly set our face against Clauses 7 and 10, and some of the provisions with regard to municipal trading—our attitude, which is traditional of Governments of either major political complexion when Private Bills come before the House, is to say, "Let the Bill have its Second Reading, let the House itself decide what powers should be given, and let only the necessary powers be given if the Bill goes through Parliament."

8.30 p.m.

Mr. Keith Speed (Ashford)

I thank the Minister for telling us comparatively early in the debate what the Government's view is. I am bound to say that I can tell him from the Opposition side of the House, and certainly from the Conservative Party's point of view, that we shall not respond to his invitation to allow the Bill to go forward, for reasons that I shall explain.

I wish to raise one or two matters in respect of the Minister's speech. First, we always have difficulty in dealing with the hon. Gentleman because he is such a reasonable man in these matters. As I said from this Box not many days ago, the fact of the matter is that it was his right hon. Friend the Minister for Planning and Local Government—and perhaps others of his right hon. Friends in the Cabinet who are not so moderate or reasonable about these affairs—who, last April, said that he sympathised with his hon. Friend the Member for Cannock (Mr. Roberts), who was asking for legislation for local authorities to carry out many of the things that are detailed in Part II of the Bill. However, it is fair to say that there are at least differences of emphasis among Members upon their desirability or otherwise.

The Under-Secretary raised the matter of the argument about the date—1979. I am glad to see that the Minister for Housing and Construction is present this evening, because he has promised the House that there will be legislation to deal with the geographical problems concerning direct labour organisations. That, presumably, will be a Government commitment. It may well be that the Government will wish to chance their arm and to put some of the provisions of which they approve into similar legislation. They would have a fight on their hands if they did, but that would deal with the geographical matter and the year 1979.

I am glad that the Government are against Clauses 7 and 10, for the reasons given by the hon. Gentleman, with which I entirely agree. He mentioned the Government's view that if the trading activities took place, from one year to another there should not be losses, and that if there were losses they should not be carried forward. That is what I understood him to say. I understand that. However, is not the problem here the problem that the Minister for Housing and Construction appreciates in regard to direct labour—the question of accounting and making sure that one does not lose money on shared overheads and that one has commonality of techniques? In practice, this would be much more difficult, particularly as at present the Government will not accept the CIPFA recommendations.

It is unusual for an Opposition to vote against the Second Reading of a Private Bill. However, as has been said by my right hon. Friend the Member for Stafford and Stone (Mr. Fraser), my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Hall Green (Mr. Eyre) and the right hon. Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Stonehouse), this is a most unusual, distasteful Bill. It is a bad Bill indeed. One might almost say that it is an abuse of the Private Bill procedure—having such a clause within it which is extremely controversial, in a way that I have certainly never seen in my time in the House in relation to a Private Bill.

There is and can be a genuine debate about the wisdom of motor racing, about the dog provisions, about the provisions relating to caravans, and about the other matters. Those are perfectly acceptable in a Private Bill and they can be argued in Committee. I have no quarrel with those provisions whatsoever. However, the fact is that Clause 7, about which we know the Government are unhappy, and certainly Clause 5, taking it in its entirety, really open up the whole field for local authorities to do virtually anything that they wish. Clause 12 anticipates losses. Notwithstanding anything that the Government may say, at the end of the day the ratepayers would pick up the Bill not only on direct losses but by the diversion of the effort of councillors and officers who ought to be doing other things but who would be getting more and more involved in these activities.

Most reasonable people, whatever their political persuasions may be, would find it extremely unacceptable to have this form of competition, whereby the very people who are suffering from unfair competition might have to pick up the tab at the end of the day on their rates, whether commercial or domestic.

We have to ask one or two questions. Where are the vast reservoirs of management expertise and talent to run these activities? Do they exist in local authorities at present, among councillors or officers? I beg leave to doubt that. We know how officers and councillors, in all parties, are in many cases overworked at present, and that they are certainly not floating around looking for opportunities to make any work for local authorities. As has been rightly mentioned, what about the effect on local authority staff? There is bound to be a considerable increase. Even the Government now accept that staffing in the public sector must be reduced. The Prime Minister has said a great deal about that.

Clause 10 has been mentioned, particularly by my hon. Friend the Member for Hall Green. This clearly would be totally unacceptable. However, as the Bill, in practice, allows local authorities to make anything, to sell anything and to provide any service, apparently with very little account of profitability, I do not think that anyone could believe that the House would be acting responsibly tonight by giving it a Second Reading.

As the hon. Member for Coventry, North-East (Mr. Park) pointed out, the statement on behalf of the promoters says: It is the intention of the local authorities…to exercise those powers in a fair and responsible manner. Those are subjective terms. What is fair and responsible to me may not be fair and responsible to hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway.

Mr. Bruce Grocott (Lichfield and Tamworth)

Does the hon. Gentleman accept that the decision on what is fair and responsible in any local government matter rests ultimately with the electors in the area concerned, who decide which councillors to accept and which to throw out? Does the hon. Gentleman have so little confidence in the capacity of his own party to win local elections that he thinks that local authorities must at all costs be prevented from doing these things?

Mr. Speed

I remind the hon. Gentleman that in a few weeks' time there will be district elections among all the metropolitan districts in the West Midlands. No doubt the electors will then be able to give their views on this matter. As far as I am aware, the form of the Bill was certainly not introduced into any manifesto during the metropolitan district elections last year, or during the elections for the West Midlands County Council two years ago.

The hon. Member should not seek to fall back on the electorate in that way. Once something becomes the law of the land, Governments rarely find time for repealing legislation. It would be difficult to unscramble this measure. I am the first to accept that when there is a Conservative Government there tends to be a swing to Labour, and perhaps particularly to Left-wing Labour local authorities, and vice versa. If the Bill were to be passed in its present form it could present an open cheque to local authorities, which might be much more Left-wing than the promoters of the Bill, to do anything they wanted to do in future years. If the Bill is passed, it will be the law of the land and it will be no use looking back to see what the Minister said or what I said.

It is said in the statement on behalf of the promoters: the powers are required to enable facilities to be provided which are not at present provided by private interest". I presume that "private interest" in this context includes the co-operative societies. I have not heard, either in this debate or in that which took place about a fortnight ago, any argument about a specific shortfall of services, except as regards pharmacists, which my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, South (Mr. Morris) dealt with.

For a time I represented not only the largest constituency in the West Midlands but the largest constituency in England. In that time I received not one complaint about a shortfall in these private services. I received many complaints about shortfalls in some of the statutory services or public undertakings. However, Clause 15 specifically forbids any competition with them. Hon. Members representing West Midlands constituencies will know that the complaints they receive are not to the effect that there is not a small shop on the corner or in the Bull Ring; the complaints are much more likely to be about statutory undertakers. But they are totally outside the Bill. We have already heard what the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers and a number of co-operative societies have said.

The House must consider seriously whether it should respond to the Minister's invitation to give the Bill a Second Reading. There can be no guarantee that changes will be made in Committee. If the Bill is given a Second Reading tonight, the principles embodied in Part II will have the approval of the House. Everybody has admitted that Part II is the major part of the Bill and is certainly the most unpopular part.

Mr. A. P. Costain (Folkestone and Hythe)

Would it not also save further expense by those who have petitioned against the Bill if we reject it tonight?

Mr. Speed

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I was coming to that point. There are a number of unfairnesses already. The ratepayers of the West Midlands will have footed the cost of preparing the Bill. If the advice of my hon. Friends representing West Midlands constituencies had been followed, that cost could have been saved. There are substantial costs to petitioners of one kind or another. It would be wrong for those costs to be incurred when, tonight, we can tell the promoters "We do not like the Bill. There is a major part that we find offensive. If you take it away and bring in the other provisions later, in another Private Bill, you will save yourselves and many people whose livelihoods are threatened a great deal of time and money."

Part II is bad for businesses, large and small, as it could involive the possibility of unfair competition. It is bad for employees and trade and industry, because it could lead to unemployment, as the unions are saying. It is bad for local government, which in the West Midlands and elsewhere already has more than enough to do without being diverted down the highways and by-ways. Local government is ill-equipped for entrepreneurial activities of this kind. The Bill is bad for the ratepayer and the taxpayer, who are likely to have to pay for the losses. It is bad for the national economy, because it is a misuse of resources. It is bad for the West Midlands, because it gives the area a totally unwarranted impression of militant Socialism. It is bad for the consumer, because at the end of the day he will have less rather than more choice, and it will not improve services for him.

The case in favour of the Bill has not been made by the Minister, by the hon. Member for Coventry, North-East, or by the promoters in their memorandum. In philosophical, presentational and practical terms we on the Opposition side of the House find Part II singularly offensive, and I urge the House to reject it.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bryant Godman Irvine)

The debate must end at 10 o'clock. Seventeen hon. Members still wish to address the House. I must leave in their hands the solution to the problem.

8.42 p.m.

Mr. Julius Silverman (Birmingham, Erdington)

The Bill has been described as a dog's dinner, but many local authority Bills are dogs' dinners for obvious reasons. Local authorities tend to collect together large numbers of provisions in one piece of legislation because normally they can introduce only one piece of legislation a year.

In this case the county council asked various district councils what they wanted in the Bill. Some of them said that they wanted an extension of municipal trading. Birmingham said that it wanted motor racing in the centre of the town—and that is not a party matter. The part of the Bill dealing with the parking of caravans and heavy vehicles was included at the demand of Solihull District Council, and so on. That is why, in Bills of this kind, there is a selection of various items.

The Opposition have concentrated on the clauses dealing with trading, but there are many other provisions in the Bill—for example, the motor racing clause. I am not committed on that matter. I believe that the clause dealing with that issue should be examined in Committee and a decision made by the Private Bill Committee on the evidence taken.

Various local authorities and other sources say that the increasing number of stray dogs is becoming a hazard to health and to traffic and that the increase inflicts cruelty upon the animals themselves. Perhaps some of the measures in the Bill go too far, but that is for the Private Bill Committee to consider.

Clause 44 would give power to provide residential accommodation for students and nurses. Surely that is an item which hon. Members on both sides of the House would support.

Part V of the Bill deals with aircraft noise and would provide for residents near, for example, Elmdon Airport the same sort of facilities as, I understand, residents near Heathrow Airport enjoy—the provision of sound insulation. There is great demand for it in the area. Once again, this is surely a provision which hon. Members on both sides would support.

I am arguing that, although Opposition Members have a rooted objection to Part II of the Bill, they should not throw out the baby with the bath water by throwing out the whole Bill. All these matters can be discussed clause by clause, with the taking of evidence, by the Private Bill Committee. Those of us who have served on such Committees know that they give matters before them very great consideration: counsel are involved, evidence is taken and petitioners and objections are heard. I am sure that the Private Bill Committee would come to the correct decisions in considering the many clauses in the Bill.

Mr. Eric Moonman (Basildon)

Of course there are good things in the Bill—one does not deny that—but can my hon. Friend indicate to those of us who are not connected with the West Midlands why in Clause 6, in face of the opposition of the print unions—I am a member of one of them—there is reference to a local authority having power to undertake printing? The clause is headed "Power to print".

Mr. Silverman

There has been a great deal of hysteria about the Bill. A local authority could not buy extra machinery for the purposes of Clause 6 additionally to what it already has. There is no question of there being a big competition in printing. Clause 6 says: A local authority shall not purchase or in any other way provide printing machinery solely for the purposes of this section but may only undertake printing in accordance with this section with the use of machinery acquired and used by them for the purpose of printing in connection with the discharge of any of their functions under any enactment… Clause 6 is clearly intended, as I am sure the other trading provisions are intended, for very limited use.

There are two purposes. The first is to provide facilities where they are not provided by private enterprise—and there is no doubt that these facilities are needed. In my constituency, shops of certain kinds are needed. The second purpose is to enable a local authority to use its own resources in methods which are profitable to the ratepayers and which will defray the costs. That is the general intention, and the wording of Clause 6 would fulfil it in relation to printing.

I do not know why people are so hysterical about municipal trading. It has a long history under both parties. One of the greatest municipal Socialists was Joseph Chamberlain. Tory councils operated electricity and gas undertakings. When I was a member of Birmingham City Council, the Tory chairman of the gas committee proposed that the council should buy two or three coal mines because he thought that the price of coal was too high. There was not any objection by the committee or by the council. I do not know what the latter-day Conservatives would say about that. Birmingham has run a civic restaurant under both parties for almost a generation, profitably and effectively, and it has not killed private enterprise. It provided a needed service in the city.

A more recent example is that of the National Exhibition Centre, into which Birmingham has put £30 million. It is true that it is a partnership with private enterprise and private industry. That enterprise has been successful, but its cost far exceeds any of the sums that are likely to be incurred under Part II.

There is a suggestion that huge sums of money will fall on the ratepayers and that these enterprises will be utterly unsuccessful and will lose money. It has also been said that they will be so profitable that they will chase private firms out of business and secure a monopoly situation. That is a load of nonsense. It is true that the powers in Part II are widely drawn, but the Committee upstairs, having heard the evidence, will consider whether it wishes to restrict those powers.

I understand the attitude of local authorities. They say "We are just like Parliament. We have been elected by universal adult suffrage. We are responsible to the electors. Why should we not have power to do what we think necessary for the good of our electors? Why should we be tried hand and foot at all times by this or that Act of Parliament? Why should we be creatures of the central legislature?" Even though I appreciate that view, I believe that matters of detail can be decided in Committee.

I should like to restrict the use of these powers to that which is for the benefit of the people of Birmingham and the West Midlands. Therefore, with the necessary amendments, I am prepared to support the Second Reading of the Bill, knowing that any defects can be put right in Committee upstairs. That Committee will come to its decision having heard objections and having heard evidence on these matters.

8.53 p.m.

Mr. Dudley Smith (Warwick and Leamington)

We have heard a serious indictment, although made by the Minister in the most disarming way, of one of the largest local authorities in the country. The hon. Gentleman implied that the local authority had worked out the matter badly and should have appreciated that it was introducing provisions that would worry Parliament.

We are aware that highly-paid officials have been involved in the drafting of this legislation. We understand the political motives of the leaders of the West Midlands Council. They believe in Left-wing Socialism. But they surely should be guided to act in the right way when they bring legislation of this nature to Parliament. I believe that the Bill does not deserve to be given a Second Reading purely on the grounds of incompetence on the part of those who seek to bring forward this measure and who, indeed, have had the gall to put forward these provisions.

I know that the attitude of the promoters is "Please give us a Second Reading, and matters of detail can be settled in Committee." I hope that my hon. Friends will join me in voting against the measure. I believe that the council has forfeited its rights on this occasion. If it has some minor matters that it wishes to bring forward it can present another Bill, as other more sensible local authorities do, and it will be given just and fair consideration.

I am glad my hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Speed) said that despite the Minister's assurances about the part of the Bill which troubles us—the local government trading powers—we should debate that part. It is a large Bill whose main ethos concerns the kind of trading which the West Midlands County Council wishes to carry out. I find it incomprehensible that any local authority, Socialist or otherwise, should bring forward proposals of this kind, particularly at a time when economies are being asked for on every hand in local government.

We know that local government has a voracious appetite which has arisen because of serious inflation, which is now adding to that appetite. We know that ratepayers are seriously overburdened and find it hard to meet the demands put upon them. If proposals such as are contained in the Bill are approved, there will be far heavier impositions. In many cases ratepayers will be paying for the salary increases of those in local government who are now commanding higher salaries than those paid in the private sector.

There is the whole question of small businesses which Labour Members have tended to dismiss. This country was founded on the work of small businesses. It originally became great as a result of the entrepreneurial activity of many small businesses. To day many of those in such businesses are struggling to survive. They are harassed at every turn by bureaucrats. They are not looked on sympathetically by a Socialist Government and record numbers of them are going bankrupt.

It is of considerable significance that we should be debating this Bill tonight. I am glad it has been underlined that what happens now if the Bill is approved could easily happen throughout the rest of the country. Other local authorities would not be slow to follow, particularly if they had Left-wing inclinations. I am sorry that this has not been better publicised throughout the country. It has naturally had a great deal of exposure in the West Midlands, but there has been little publicity elsewhere.

Mr. Iain Sproat (Aberdeen, South)

Is my hon. Friend aware that I have never had as many forceful letters on other subjects from traders in Aberdeen as I have received concerning this Bill? The traders object to the Bill as being abhorrent in principle. There are certainly objections from all parts of the country.

Mr. Smith

I am glad to hear that. For the public at large there has been little publicity in the media except in the West Midlands. This is an attempt to move towards the type of State uniformity that some Left-wing Members and many Left-wing people in local government would like to see. It is far more suitable for a second-rate Iron Curtain country than for a once-great nation like ours.

However much Labour Members may try to laugh this off, the proposals are there and are objected to, not only by us but, as my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Sproat) has said, by hundreds of people in the country who in many cases have no political affiliation and who in other cases have political affiliations different from mine. Labour Members have probably received the same sort of letters as my hon. Friend referred to. There is anxiety among people about this trend. It is time we called "Enough" and told the West Midlands County Council to go back and think again. Although we hope that it will eventually be dealt with by the electorate, it ought now to be getting on with the job of local government rather than expanding its empire.

The West Midlands County Council stands condemned on a number of counts, irrespective of this move towards extreme Socialism, It has been engaged on an exercise which is a shocking waste of public money. This is a mish-mash of a Bill which must have cost a lot of money to prepare, to have printed and to be presented in Parliament at a time when local authorities should be economising.

I call in aid not a Tory but the hon. Member for Doncaster (Mr. Walker), who is an Under-Secretary of State at the Department of Employment. Mr. Stanley Sparks, who has an enviable reputation for accuracy and who is the political correspondent of the Birmingham Evening Mail, wrote in his column a week or so ago: Mr. Harold Walker, Junior Employment Minister, pulled no punches when he told the traders of his Doncaster constituency: 'This is an ill-judged hotch-potch of proposals which I cannot and will not support. This Bill can set a thoroughly bad precedent.' I know that the hon. Member for Doncaster is a man of integrity. I am certain he will not be in the Lobby in favour of the Bill. I hope he might even join me in voting against it.

I condemn the West Midlands County Council for its complete insensitivity to public opinion. There has been no real consultation with traders or with the many people who have written about dogs and caravans, and certainly no consultation with politicians.

I call in aid again Stanley Sparks, who, as I have said, has a reputation for accuracy. He said in his column when writing about this issue: When Sir Stan came to Westminster to talk to Tory and Labour M.P.s he found the Labour M.P.s more hostile than the Tories. He took such a battering that one M.P. had to remind the meeting they were all supposed to be Socialist comrades. The reason was that with virtually no prior consultation, without seeing an advance draft, without having any chance to examine the small print, the M.P.s were being asked to support a measure so vast and contentious that they knew it was beaten before it started. What an indictment of the county council.

The council also stands condemned because the Bill would give it a very unfair advantage over established traders. The Walsall Co-operative Society has already been mentioned, and I would like to refer to another society a little nearer my own constituency. The secretary and chief executive officer of the Coventry and District Co-operative Society has written to me: In our opinion, no local authority could compete fairly with other traders in view of its special position.… Retailing is a fiercely competitive business and consumers can shop where they wish. Co-operatives have always regarded themselves as a further source of protection for consumers generally and in view of this we regard the Part II proposals as superfluous. We invite you to oppose them. I imagine that this society has a large number of Labour supporters among its members.

There has been general condemnation of what is perhaps one of the most controversial Private Bills to come before Parliament, certainly in the 13 or 14 years I have been here. It has very few friends. There are a large number of people throughout the West Midlands who do not want it. I do not want it and my hon. Friends do not want it. Caravan owners, dog owners and even people who are not in love with car racing do not want it. No one wants to move to the kind of collectivism being proposed in the Bill.

The message should go out from this House to Sir Stan and his cohorts that they should concentrate on improving local government and making it more efficient—goodness knows, it needs it badly enough—and stop meddling in areas which are not their concern. They should leave trade and commerce to the experts, who are finding it difficult enough anyway and who need support rather than a bash on the head from the county council.

Despite the Minister's bland assurances, I can see real dangers here. If the council, despite the condemnation it has received, refuses to withdraw the Bill, it deserves to have it defeated in the Lobby. I hope that it is slammed hard as an example to other people who might venture into the same territory.

9.4 p.m.

Mr. J. W. Rooker (Birmingham, Perry Barr)

The hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Smith) referred to certain remarks made by my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Employment. My hon. Friend has denied making those remarks, he has complained to the editor of the local paper, and is contemplating taking the matter to the Press Council.

Mr. Dudley Smith

I accept what the hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker) says. I was quoting the words from a newspaper and I accepted them as being true.

Mr. Rooker

I cast no reflection on the Lobby correspondent of the Evening Mail, who is highly respected.

We have had four speeches from the Opposition Benches, only one of which was made by an hon. Member whose constituency is in the West Midlands County Council area. All hon. Gentlemen were talking about the "law of the land", "my area", "my traders", but the constituency of only one—the hon. Member for Birmingham, Hall Green (Mr. Eyre)—is in that area. Anyone listening to the right hon. Member for Stafford and Stone (Mr. Fraser) might have thought that his constituency was in the West Midlands County Council area. His constituency may be in the West Midlands regional area, but it is not affected by the Bill.

The speech made by the right hon. Member for Wallsall, North (Mr. Stonehouse) made me wonder whether we should seriously consider changes in our procedures whereby right hon. Members have precedence over others. For the right hon. Member to chastise the county council for not coming here to take advice when he was not in a position to give advice even if the county council had done so is a travesty.

Hon. Members talked about trading and had not a good word to say for it, apart from two of my hon. Friends. I wish to devote my remarks to Part III—and I have not a good word to say for that. That may be a paradox. My name is on the Order Paper as putting forward an instruction to the Commit- tee to leave out Part III. It is not true to say that this is only a Birmingham matter. Two of my hon. Friends who support my motion represent Birmingham constituencies, and my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Mr. Hooley), like myself, is a Birmingham ratepayer. Hon. Members representing areas as far apart as Coventry and Warley said that the fact that the Bill relates to Birmingham does not mean that they should not have a view. Their view was that they would not wish to inflict on someone else what they would not tolerate in their area. They are entitled to have a view, just as is any hon. Member who represents a Birmingham constituency.

I am not dogmatically opposed to the Grand Prix race; I am opposed to the proposals in Part III. The idea of such a race has been current in Birmingham for over four years. It originated from a night club owner in the city who was at one time an international racing driver. He has funds to support the race, there is an international consortium, and it will not cost the council anything. What riles me is that there has never been a jot of evidence sent to any hon. Member representing a Birmingham constituency about the proposed grand prix. The proposal has never been raised in meetings with the city leaders in the two years in which I have been in the House. It was only by accident last September that I discovered that the proposal was in the Bill.

Last summer I received letters from many chambers of trade. I got tired of saying that I had not seen the Bill. I wrote to the county council saying that Back Benchers could have a field-day on Private Business and suggested that we should get together. There was no such get-together, but eventually I received a typed draft of the Bill. That was the first time I was aware of the proposals for the race. Various Press references appeared concerned with the proposers, the night club owner and his buddies. The night club owner has always said that the race would only be on the May bank holiday or a bank holiday Monday, and that it would be an annual event.

In 1972 the Birmingham Chamber of Trade wrote to the former Town Clerk of Birmingham. He said that at a meeting of the council of the chamber of trade a Mr. Martin Hone, the night club owner, had outlined the proposal for the race. The letter went on to talk about the race being organised on either the spring bank holiday Monday or the late summer bank holiday Monday. That was in 1972.

In 1975, to my surprise, I read a Birmingham Post headline which said Motoring racing Bill on last lap. Yet the Bill had not been published, and there had been no communication at all to any Members of Parliament. The report went on to say that the race would be staged on either the spring or autumn bank holiday.

I kept quiet, thinking that one day I should be able to read what was in the final draft, because it was obvious that the proposers had consulted the trade and business interests. But what is abundantly apparent is that no one else was consulted, least of all the people living on the proposed race circuit.

As recently as two weeks ago the secretary of the Birmingham Labour councillors, Councillor May—a very high-powered person—complained that his constituents had not been consulted. The race is to be in the city centre, not in my constituency—it is in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Mr. Walden)—and it is a city matter, not a constituency matter.

I have had letters from my constituents about their aged aunts of 86 and 68 who live in flats in tower blocks on the proposed circuit and do not know what is happening. No one has told them. Extreme concern is expressed by many people of that sort.

There are four churches on the proposed race circuit—two Church of England, one Roman Catholic and one belonging to the Plymouth Brethren. There has been no consultation whatever to inform them of what is to happen. Only by their own inquiries have they discovered that the streets are to be closed at 7 o'clock on the Saturday evening prior to the Monday race, and that they will be closed until midnight on Monday. They have been told officially that there will be no access to any of the four churches for public worship on the Sunday prior to the race. That is a very serious state of affairs, because 3,000 people normally attend those four churches on any average Sunday. There has been no consultation whatsoever with them. They have been told that everything will be all right, and that when the powers have been obtained they will be consulted. That is not the way in which to win the approval of Members of this House who have to give the powers in the first place.

The situation is even worse than that. Although the Bill gives power to close the roads only until midnight on the Monday, the churches have been told that the streets will not be clear until midday on Tuesday. That means that free access to the highway will not be available to people going to work and going about their lawful occasions on the Tuesday. That has not been taken into account in the Bill and has not been considered at all.

Another worrying aspect of the Bill is compensation, especially if the race were to become a regular event. Although we have heard about its being an annual event, the Bill is drafted in such a way as to give powers to run the race on both bank holidays, and in the schedule it is stated that the council can make an order to have the race on other days. According to the way the Bill is drafted, we could have a race every week.

If the race were an annual event—as the public were told it would be—it would not be possible to work out the cost of one year's race until the procedures for getting the next year's race under way had already been started. The time scale for putting in compensation claims extends for up to nine months after the race. There is a 10–15 weeks' lapse in regard to giving formal notice of closing the streets, and there can be an overlap.

In the Chamber on 15th December last, at the end of the debate on the rate support grant, I declared some opposition to this race. I had spent about 16 minutes in defending the Birmingham City Council and one minute in alluding to the race. I did not expect any thanks for defending the council, but I was viciously attacked for opposing what seemed to others to be a good idea but which I had not been informed about in any way.

I received a letter from the chief sponsor, Mr. Hone, the night club owner, in which he told me about his experience. He said that the idea had been knocking around for four years, and that I, as a responsible Member representing the local community, ought to support it. He did not give a basis for that support but said that he had been a festival officer concerned with motor racing in Birmingham.

There was one illuminating paragraph in the letter: My advice has been sought on many occasions by different departments of the District Council, the City Engineers Department, the Planning Department, the City Solicitors, the Chief Executive, Councillors from all parties and I have freely given of my time". The letter does not say whether he had been giving advice about the race. I do not know what the city councillors have been trooping up to the night club owners to get advice about, but it poses more questions than it answers.

This is said to be an all-party matter in Birmingham, and there is therefore no one to speak for those who are opposed to the race. Some people say that there have been free votes in the city council, and others say that the Whips have been on. There is, however, no dispute that the Birmingham City Labour Party voted overwhelmingly to reject the race proposals.

The main cause of my concern arises over the financial aspects in Part III. They are a disgrace. The crux of the matter is that there are no financial provisions. It is no justification to say that because the ratepayers will not lose that can be the end of the matter. The way in which the Bill is drafted will allow the city council to license some person or persons to have the film and broadcasting rights and then to sell off the advertising rights, the rights to charge for admission and the rights to organise the powers of compensation. There is no mention of the way in which the accounts will be presented to the city council by the persons exercising these rights.

The city of Birmingham has a first-class record for municipal enterprise, going back to the days of Chamberlain. Nowadays it actually runs the catering on the Ascot race course, so that if it loses these powers I do not know what the clients of Ascot race course will do. The city is selling its case for hosting the Commonwealth Games through literature which has been notably good. Why has it been so shy in publishing the financial arrangements behind the race?

It is worth bearing in mind that four city council departments are undergoing police investigation. In the past two years various members of different city council departments have been serving prison sentences for corrupt practices. One questions the efficacy of the drafting of the Bill because one presumes that it has been done under instruction from the city council. That aspect worries me and many others in the city.

The lack of consultation with those who are affected by the Bill and with those who are expected to approve of it—Members of Parliament—leads me to think that the people concerned will get greater benefit from it for themselves and their organisations than will the city. Their main principle seems to be that the less said about the Bill the better, and that it should go through on the nod. Like all other hon. Members, I am sure, I do not accept that approach. If given the opportunity, which I think I shall be denied, I shall seek to delete Part III of the Bill, for the reasons I have out-lined.

9.19 p.m.

Mr. Stephen Ross (Isle of Wight)

I was asked by the Minister to consider whether I might be able to support the Bill if Part II was withdrawn in order that it might at least get a Second Reading. I was prepared to consider such a course, but having listened to the hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker) I believe that the Bill should be opposed. It must be defeated because there are so many other things wrong with it.

My constituency is, of course, not directly affected by the Bill, but concern about it is very widespread and has certainly been expressed on the Isle of Wight. I am a Kidderminster man and I was brought up in the West Midlands. I frequently go back to Birmingham. A relation of mine works in the Birmingham City Council.

Part II of the Bill is absolute madness, particularly when small traders have such troubles and such small profit margins. Why Birmingham wants to run hotels, Heaven knows. I thought that we had excess capacity at the moment. A butcher's shop is the quickest way there is of losing money. I bet that Coventry loses money on its abbatoir. Horticulture has many problems at the moment. The most efficient horticulture in the country is in my constituency, but some firms are facing bankruptcy.

I had thought that motor racing was a matter best decided locally, but having heard what has been said I believe that it would be wrong to support that proposal.

I have some sympathy with the provisions relating to dogs. I know the problems here. I have just moved into a town house and I pepper the lamp-post outside every night because I am so fed up with their visits. Some legislation is needed, but this is too bureaucratic. The Government should take action. For a start, we should have a sensible licence fee, with exemptions for old-age pensioners and others.

Part V, relating to provisions about aircraft and traffic noise, is excellent and should be supported. In Part VI, Clause 43 is about the best thing in the Bill, extending the council's powers over property outside conservation areas which is about to be demolished. I have been fighting such problems in my constituency for many a long day.

I cannot support the Bill. The council is ill-advised to bring it forward. Did it not consult the Department? When my authority brought forward a Bill, the Home Office told us what was likely to be acceptable to the House and what was not. We withdrew the controversial parts and got the rest through. That is what the West Midlands County Council should have done. Because it has not, the Bill should be defeated overwhelmingly.

9.22 p.m.

Dr. Colin Phipps (Dudley, West)

Since I have been a Member of the House it has been a constant surprise to me to find that, whenever a measure extends opportunities for entrepreneurial activity and competition, Opposition Members are dead against it. I had been led to believe that that was something the Tory Party stood for. Whenever it is suggested that such activity might encompass a degree of public or municipal enterprise, suddenly it is no longer enterprise but, for some extraordinary reason, "unfair competition". That phrase has been bandied about tonight by Tory Members.

The hon. Member for Birmingham, Hall Green (Mr. Eyre) gave a long list of objections in explaining why this will be so good for the local authority that it will represent unfair competition. What he did not say was who will benefit from all these advantages. The people who will benefit are his ratepayers, for goodness sake, not individual councillors and officers. So that it is not a valid objection to the principle of the Bill.

What we are talking about is the principle of municipal trading. I accept entirely what the Minister said. His comments on Clauses 7 and 10 are well taken, but they are Committee points. In a Second Reading debate on a Bill of this kind we are trying to establish the principle of the Bill. I have for many years been in favour of the principle of municipal trading and enterprise. We have co-operative enterprises, private enterprises and State enterprises. I should have thought that this proposal would broaden the scope of those services and enterprises which can be put at the service of the public. I see no objection to it.

Some municipal enterprises such as transport seem logical activities for a municipality because it is in the best position to know what is the best form of local transport and, therefore, to undertake it. The idea that passing the Bill will mean suddenly and completely sweeping away every other form of enterprise in the West Midlands is one of the most extraordinary things I have ever heard.

I think it would be remarkable if in the next five years the West Midlands County Council did no more than develop those facilities which it already has and which can be used for the benefit of the ratepayers of the West Midlands. The Bill seems to me to be an excellent idea, and it is remarkable that Tory Members think that it is a bad Bill.

If we are to have more efficient local government—we have heard a lot tonight from hon. Members opposite about lack of efficiency in local government—one thing which makes it efficient is the maximisation of its facilities. There is no doubt that these facilities are not always maximised, and there are many aspects of the Bill which seem to provide an excellent way of developing that sort of enterprise within the West Midlands and, indeed, within all other municipalities.

I urge hon. Members opposite to forget about all these hostages to fortune which have been put into the Bill. It is, after all, a portmanteau Bill. As has been said by one of my hon. Friends, local authorities do not often get the chance to introduce a Private Bill, and when they do get the chance they are advised to pack everything into it.

Mr. Gwilym Roberts (Cannock)

1 accept that what we are discussing is a vital point of principle, but is not the reason why we have this portmanteau Bill the advice given by the Secretary of State to local authorities that they should take into account all the views of their district councils and include in their Bills a summary of those views?

Dr. Phipps

Yes, I accept the point. My own district council, the Dudley District Council, rejected for its own purposes a number of elements in it. On the other hand, there are other aspects of the Bill of which the district council would like to take advantage. It is inevitably a portmanteau Bill. However, these are matters with which we can deal in Committee.

There is only one other aspect on which I should like to touch and that is car racing, to which my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker) referred so heatedly. I have never been a motor car racing fan. It seems to me to be a decadent activity. I have never been to watch it and I do not particularly like it. I have always thought that activities like mountain climbing and all the rest of those things which ex-public schoolboys now have to do because they no longer rule the Empire are not really sufficient reason for risking one's life in order to give it value, which is basically what people who drive racing cars do.

However, the matter has arisen in Birmingham because of the unique nature of the inner ring road, and this is how the idea of having a car race arose. To anyone who drives on the ring road it is rather like a car race. Once I am on it, I never seem to know how to get off it. I accept that the inconvenience caused in the centre of Birmingham by a car race would be minimal. Anyone who goes to Birmingham city centre during the weekend finds it a windswept waste in which there are very few people indeed. I am therefore not personally opposed to the idea if this is what Birmingham people like. Where I would agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Perry Barr is that this matter has to be put much more directly to the people of Birmingham if they are to have the race, but I do not think we ought to cut this out of the Bill on Second Reading.

Therefore, in supporting the Bill I appeal in particular to my hon. Friends to give to their own colleagues in the West Midlands area an opportunity to have this Private Bill, portmanteau or not, put before the Private Bill Committee in order that these matters can be argued. We should develop this fresh idea. It is something new. I should have thought that a municipal activity broadening the scope of enterprises offered to the public at large would merit the support of everybody on this side of the House.

9.30 p.m.

Mrs. Jill Knight (Birmingham, Edgbaston)

To date I have received 55 letters on the Bill, plus submissions from groups like the Business and Professional Women, the co-ops and the chambers of trade and commerce. Every one of them has been against the Bill. I also have a petition which is signed by 1,050 people of all political parties who strongly oppose the Bill. Some of the protesters object to the intended regulations on caravans and some to those relating to dogs. The vast majority object to the monstrous proposals to use ratepayers' money to engage in municipal trading.

The hon. Member for Dudley, West (Dr. Phipps) has totally missed the point about the Bill's purpose. Not only is it immoral to take a man's money and set up in competition against him—even robber barons, "Rachmen", highwaymen and the Mafia never stooped as low as that—it is not part of a local authority's function to provide the great British public with facilities for buying peas, pears, petrol, pork, printing, patty-cakes, powder, skis, running trunks or even little bits of china marked "A present from Smallbrook Ringway".

Ratepayers also object to being compelled to invest in commercial ventures which are not of their choosing. Objection is also taken to the blank cheque borrowing powers. However, there are far more objections than there is time to list them in the House this evening.

Like the hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker) I want to refer to Part III of the Bill and the suggestion that a grand prix should be held in Birmingham's city centre. The hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr was right; there has not been the smallest attempt to inform or consult those who are affected by the proposals, thousands of whom are my constituents. There has been no public debate whatever, and although it may be true that both the Conservative and Labour chiefs on the West Midlands County Council agreed, neither of them lives adjacent to the area which would be used as the race track. I am no spoilsport, but it is not right to inflict such great inconvenience and suffering on ordinary people for the pleasures of the minority.

On the Saturday before the great race armies will move into the area and set up protective equipment, seats, pay booths and other such equipment. On that Saturday, work in the city is bound to be severely restricted and affected. On the Sunday there will be no possibility of anyone attending the church that they support if it happens to be in the city centre. It would be quite wrong to pass a regulation that meant that people could not attend their church.

Noise levels during the race would be immense. The noise of cars travelling at well over 100 mph underneath part of the freeway that runs through the city centre would bounce back from the walls. Recently a motor festival was held in the city. The noise level at that festival went far beyond the pain threshold and a decibel limit of 120 was recorded. It broke the existing pollution and nuisance laws.

Dr. Phipps


Mrs. Knight

The hon. Member for Dudley, West may say "Concorde", but there has been a deal of fuss already about the noise Concorde makes. It is all very well for him and for any other hon. Member to inflict that suffering on other people, but, like the hon. Member for Perry Barr, I am concerned about those people who live near the race track.

Thousands of people would enter the city for the race. If they did not, the race would not pay. Therefore, not only would Saturday and Sunday be affected—because the race would continue throughout Sunday—but on Monday and Tuesday the armies would move in to remove the equipment that was erected on Saturday. Therefore, four days would be involved and the upset would affect my constituents and others who go into the city centre.

There would be tremendous parking problems for people coming in to see the racing. Where would visitors stay? I have in my hand a letter from a constituent of mine, a lady aged 74, who lives in a council tower block. She says that she is very worried. She does not think that all of the people coming to see the racing will be of good character. She asks where they will sleep. She says that during the period in which the racing is on she fears that the lifts and floors of her tower block will be used for sleeping and will be fouled.

That elderly lady has a perfect right to be allowed to live in peace and not to be upset by these proposals. There would undoubtedly be great danger to elderly people and to children.

I am concerned also about that part of the Bill which states that certain attachments can be placed on any dwelling adjacent to the race track. It states, Where attachments are affixed to a building under this subsection the Birmingham Council shall have the right as against any person having an interest in the building to alter or remove them, or to repair or maintain them". I have had a lot of trouble with the council concerning constituents who want to put up notices on their premises—mainly shops and offices—and have not been allowed to do so. Under this clause attachments would be put on their property and they would have no rights in the matter whatever. This is a monstrous suggestion.

It is an incredibly stupid and unfeeling idea to propose running a grand prix in the centre of a city like Birmingham, and it will not work. I ask hon. Members to put themselves in the position of people who live adjacent to a race track of the kind proposed. If it were proposed that a race track be built outside any of their houses I am sure that they would object—very reasonably so. This most unfeeling idea must be stopped. There are other tracks. It is rumoured that Castle Donington is soon to reopen. There is no case whatever for my constituents to be so upset and incommoded by what the Bill suggests.

9.37 p.m.

Sir Thomas Williams (Warrington)

Those who have proposed the Bill have done so in most moderate terms. I welcome many of the provisions that are concerned with improvement of life and of local government in the West Midlands. It is this that makes it very difficult for me to understand upon what principle it has been thought right to introduce the provisions contained in Part II.

Criticism has mainly been directed—although my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker) has introduced another somewhat disquieting factor—against the provisions in Part II. I cannot but feel that if it had not been for Part II the Bill would have stood an extremely good chance of going through the House tonight without opposition. The insistence, however, of including Part II has resulted in strong opposition not only from within the House but also from many organisations and individuals outside it.

Already about 27 petitions have been presented against Part II, and many thousands of people have expressed their opposition to it. Indeed, it is interesting to observe that those in opposition include some statutory authorities that not primarily affected by the Bill's provisions, such as the British Gas Corporation, the Severn-Trent Water Authority, the Midlands Electricity Board and the Post Office.

In addition, one finds it difficult to understand how the promoters of the Bill have been persuaded to force this matter through in a Bill having so many other commendable features. It has been apparent to the promoters over a very long period that not only those who might traditionally be expected to oppose it but even many of those who are its friends have been taken into the ranks of those who oppose. I am a member of the Co-operative Group of Members of Parliament. The co-operative movement throughout the length and breadth of the land sees the Bill as a pathfinder to a way of life to which it is opposed.

The Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers has long since made plain to the promoters of the Bill its hostility on grounds that are very reasonable and not in any way factious.

Hon. Members have referred to the fears and anxieties that have been expressed by the members of USDAW and by the co-operative movement, both of whom, in their own way, seek to serve the public interest. In view of the shortness of time I shall not repeat those arguments. I shall merely say that by insisting upon introducing this aspect of the Bill and refusing either to compromise or to consult those whose interests are in many senses comparable with their own, the promoters of the Bill have placed those of us in the Co-operative Group of Members of Parliament and the USDAW Group of Members in a position in which we cannot support the Bill. If it were possible for us to support the Bill on the basis suggested by the Minister in his moderate and persuasive speech, we would so so.

However, we have considered the situation that would be created if we gave a Second Reading to the Bill, with much of whose contents we have a good deal of sympathy. We believe, having considered the matter, that the clauses in Part II have been so widely drawn that it would not be possible for a special Committee of the House to amend the Bill so that these clauses could be substantially altered. This is a matter of which the promoters have been warned. We are unable to support the Bill, but the responsibility for that must rest with those who, for whatever reasons—political or otherwise—have determined to pursue these clauses when they could have obtained the substantial measures they wanted if they had been prepared to compromise on this aspect.

Those of us who take this view are accused of being hysterical by our opposition. It is said that the policy of municipal trading has been so widely developed that it is unreasonable for those of us who take this view to object to the powers sought under what might be called the general powers of the Bill to develop.

It must be understood that Clauses 5 to 13, which are the clauses about which we are most anxious, give Draconian powers of compulsory purchase, powers relating to planning, powers relating to the acquisition of undeveloped land under the Community Land Act, wide powers of investment and association, powers to borrow without the consent of the Secretary of State, and powers to deal with profits earned without saying what is to be done if there are losses. They are of such serious consequence that once granted, even though they might be used sensibly and fairly by those who now seek the powers, they empower succeeding local authorities to act in the manner that I have described.

These are matters of great concern, and because it is impossible to amend the Bill in the special Committee in the way the Minister suggested, those who feel as I do will be unable to support the Bill.

9.45 p.m.

Mr. John Stokes (Halesowen and Stourbridge)

The debate has been one of the most remarkable I have listened to in the five and a half years I have been a Member of the House. I have been sitting here since we began discussions and I think I am right to say that, apart from the hon. Member for Coventry, North-East (Mr. Park) and the hon. Member for Dudley, West (Dr. Phipps), there has been no support for the main part of the Bill from either side of the House. Our victory tonight in defeating the Bill will be almost embarrassing in its proportions. This, however, is an occasion when the House of Commons uses its collective wisdom.

The Bill must be one of the most extraordinary to have come before the House. It must have been conceived by people who are entirely unpractical and unaware of the ways of the world. It must have been drafted by those with no knowledge of what is appropriate in a Private Bill. I think it is a matter of great indignity for the city of Birmingham because of the area's size and importance in the country.

We are discussing the Bill at a time when, unfortunately, all local government is under a cloud and is being criticised for inefficiency, overstaffing and extravagance. The bare effrontery of bringing forward the Bill at a time when the Government are urging economy upon us all is almost beyond belief. The long-suffering ratepayers of the West Midlands want strict economy from their local authority, not a mad rush into matters for which the authority is unprepared, untrained and totally inexperienced.

The West Midlands is the most famous manufacturing area in England and 1 can assure the House, from the large correspondence I have had, that the Bill is offensive to manufacturers and traders. In the last 10 years local authority manpower has risen by 34 per cent. while manpower in manufacturing industry, which produces the wealth of the country, has declined by 7.3 per cent. Local authority spending has increased by about 55 per cent. in the same period.

My constituents feel strongly that further expenditure as envisaged by the Bill would be dangerous and highly irresponsible. Except for the great debate about our entry into the EEC and the dreadful Birmingham bombings, I have had more letters of protest about the Bill than on any other subject since I came to the House.

To add insult to injury, the council proposes to take powers to trade in an incredibly wide field with ratepayers' money, or with money borrowed on more favourable terms than a private firm or individual could obtain. It proposes to go into competition with ordinary business. Protests have poured in from all kinds of people.

The Bill appears to be State Socialism gone mad. The arrogance of the council is almost beyond belief. If municipal trading was allowed on the scale proposed, it would bankrupt many ordinary businesses and ruin many ratepayers. The commercial activities which are provided by the councils, such as building and maintenance, are notoriously less efficient than those of private enterprise. The West Midlands County Council simply does not have the outlook of the entrepreneur or the manpower.

When I think of the livelihood of hundreds of ordinary hardworking people in my constituency which is threatened by the Bill, I wonder what has happened to affairs in this country. These good people deserve something better from those who are supposed to be their servants.

The Bill also gravely threatens individual liberty, not only in the highly dangerous provisions for the mad scheme of motor racing in the middle of Birmingham but also in the highly involved and expensive proposals about dogs and for severe limitations on the parking of caravans in private gardens. The Bill, I believe, is nothing but pettifogging interference with people's private lives, and I have had many protests about these clauses also. I trust that the Bill will be thrown out as the absurd monstrosity that it is.

9.52 p.m.

Mr. Geoff Edge (Aldridge-Brownhills)

I welcome the Bill. I think that it has attracted more hysterical criticism than anything I can remember since I became a Member of Parliament. There are times when Parliament slips towards a political gutter, and I think that the opposition to the Bill has plumbed virtually every gutter in the country.

There is a basic distrust of the people in local government—of those who work their guts out voluntarily to run local authorities—and if the House refuses to give the Bill a Second Reading we are really saying that we refuse to trust the people in local government—not only Labour but Conservative and Independent councillors. I believe that local government people have had more than a rough time and a bad Press. They deserve more credit for the difficult job they have been trying to do in very astringent financial circumstances. They deserve a measure of trust from the House, and one measure of that trust would be to give the Bill a Second Reading.

The Bill is supported by the district councils and the County Council of the West Midlands, representing in total 2 million people. I do not think that the views of the elected representatives of 2 million people should be cast lightly aside.

I want to concentrate on two aspects. First, there is the question of municipal trading. It is possible for a local authority to engage in municipal trading at a profit. I am a member of one which does precisely that. What is more, it is a policy supported not only by Labour members of the council but by Conservatives and Independents as well. It is an apolitical policy on the part of the council, with a desire to supplement, by trading, its rate revenue, and as such it is supported not only by all members of the council but by all members of the community, because they realise that if we are serious in asking local government to broaden the base of its revenue and that rates should not keep rising we have to give local government the opportunity of raising money elsewhere.

It is hypocritical of hon. Members opposite to say that they are so opposed to increases in rates when we have here a measure that could increase the potential revenue of local authorities. It is an example of the double standard that we have come to expect from hon. Members opposite. The Bill simply proposes to extend local authority activities in municipal trading purely as an ancillary to what they do now. If they produce a surplus of horticultural products, the Bill would enable them to sell it. Do hon. Members opposite want them to throw such a surplus into the dustbin? Is that good housekeeping for a local authority to practise?

What kind of illogical argument is that? It is an Alice-in-Wonderland argument. One cannot, on the one hand, argue to increase local authority revenues and, on the other, turn down legislation that will permit a local authority to sell off its surpluses in order to be able to reduce its rates.

My own local authority, with a population of 60,000, receives a revenue of £40,000 a year simply from its catering activities. The scope offered by the Bill through a modest extension of council activities is enormous. Therefore, I believe that those who oppose the Bill are misguided.

We have heard from those who have spoken on behalf of the co-operative movement. I come from a co-operative family. My father was a co-op manager for many years. I have never been so disgusted at the attitude of the co-operative movement as it has been displayed in the House tonight. Of course the Bill is not intended to drive retailers or co-ops out of work; it is simply an attempt by a local authority to extend its trading activities to sell off surpluses. Therefore, it is absurd to suggest that the Bill's provisions will lead to a wholesale bankrupting of businesses.

We have heard a good deal of opposition from those who fear that these provisions will affect the rights of those who have caravans. Again, that opposition is illogical. If those hon. Members read the town and country planning Regulations they will find that there are already extensive controls covering modifications of property. Of course we want to protect the environment so that there is no drop in standards. It is surely illogical to seek to control brick-built extensions and not to control the siting of large vehicles. A person's environment can be ruined if a caravan or large vehicle is parked outside his premises on an almost permanent basis.

Clause 45 of the Bill is intended to prevent any violations of the environment. It is not intended to ban caravan rallies in the West Midlands. Surely the powers will not extend as far as Wales or Shrop-

shire. The clause seeks to prevent the fouling up of the environment by the parking of large vans or caravans on frontages. The power will be used only in limited cases. The amount of hysteria generated over Clause 45 only shows the extent of distortion to which the Bill's opponents are prepared to go.

I believe that the Bill offers great opportunities for the people of the West Midlands through their elected representatives to run their own affairs more efficiently and to take the powers which they believe to be right. They seek to attain administrative efficiency for their electorate——

Mr. Park

rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.

Question, That the Question be now put, put and agreed to.

Question put accordingly, That the Bill be now read a Second time:—

The House divided: Ayes 104, Noes 268.

Division No. 63.] AYES [10.0 p.m
Archer, Peter Fernyhough, Rt Hon E. Park, George
Atkins, Ronald (Preston N) Flannery, Martin Parker, John
Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (Heywood) Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston) Pendry, Tom
Bates, Alf Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) Perry, Ernest
Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N) Forrester, John Phipps, Dr Colin
Bidwell, Sydney Fowler[...], Gerald (The Wrekin) Richardson, Miss Jo
Blenkinsop, Arthur Freeson, Reginald Roberts, Gwilym (Cannock)
Booth, Albert Garrett, John (Norwich S) Roderick, Caerwyn
Brown, Ronald (Hackney S) George, Bruce Rodgers, George (Chorley)
Buchan, Norman Grocott, Bruce Rooker, J. W.
Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P) Hamilton, James (Bothwell) Short, Rt Hon E. (Newcastle C)
Canavan, Dennis Heffer, Eric S. Silkin, Rt Hon John (Deptford)
Cant, R. B. Huckfield, Les Silverman, Julius
Carmichael, Neil Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N) Skinner, Dennis
Carter-Jones, Lewis Hunter, Adam Snape, Peter
Cartwright, John Jackson, Miss Margaret (Lincoln) Spriggs, Leslie
Clemitson, Ivor Johnson, James (Hull West) Stallard, A. W.
Cocks, Michael (Bristol S) Kerr, Russell Strang, Gavin
Cohen, Stanley Lambie, David Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W)
Coleman, Donald Lamond, James Thomas, Ron (Bristol NW)
Cook, Robin F. (Edin C) Lee, John Thorne, Stan (Preston South)
Corbett, Robin Lewis, Ron (Carlisle) Tierney, Sydney
Cox, Thomas (Tooting) Litterick, Tom Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne V)
Crawshaw, Richard Loyden, Eddie Walker, Terry (Kingswood)
Cunningham, Dr J. (Whiteh) McCartney, Hugh Ward, Michael
Davies, Bryan (Enfield N) Madden, Max Watkins, David
Davis, Clinton (Hackney C) Mahon, Simon Watkinson, John
Deakins, Eric Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole) White, Frank R. (Bury)
Dempsey, James Maynard, Miss Joan White, James (Pollock)
Dormand, J. D. Mendelson, John Wilson, William (Coventry SE)
Douglas-Mann, Bruce Mikardo, Ian Wise, Mrs Audrey
Dunnett, Jack Mulley, Rt Hon Frederick Woof, Robert
Edge, Geoff Murray, Rt Hon Ronald King
Ellis, John (Brigg & Scun) Noble, Mike TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Evans, Gwynfor (Carmarthen) Oakes, Gordon Mr. Bob Cryer and
Faulds, Andrew O'Halloran, Michael Mr. John Golding.
Adley, Robert Amery, Rt Hon Julian Awdry, Daniel
Aitken, Jonathan Arnold, Tom Baker, Kenneth
Alison, Michael Atkins, Rt Hon H. (Spelthorne) Banks, Robert
Bell, Ronald Hall-Davis, A. G. F. Onslow, Cranley
Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torbay) Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) Oppenheim, Mrs Sally
Bennett, Dr Reginald (Fareham) Hampson, Dr Keith Page, John (Harrow W)
Benyon, W. Harrison, Col Sir Harwood (Eye) Page, Rt Hon R. Graham (Crosby)
Berry, Hon Anthony Harvie Anderson, Rt Hon Miss Pardoe, John
Biffen, John Havers, Sir Michael Parkinson, Cecil
Biggs-Davison, John Hawkins, Paul Pattie, Geoffrey
Blaker, Peter Hayhoe, Barney Penhaligon, David
Body, Richard Heath, Rt Hon Edward Percival, Ian
Boscawen, Hon Robert Hicks, Robert Peyton, Rt Hon John
Bottomley, Peter Higgins, Terence L. Pink, R. Bonner
Bowden, A. (Brighton, Kemptown) Holland, Philip Powell, Rt Hon J. Enoch
Boyson, Dr Rhodes (Brent) Hooson, Emlyn Price, David (Eastleigh)
Bradford, Rev Robert Hordern, Peter Prior, Rt Hon James
Braine, Sir Bernard Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Pym, Rt Hon Francis
Brittan, Leon Howell, David (Guildford) Raison, Timothy
Brocklebank-Fowler, C. Howells, Geraint (Cardigan) Rathbone, Tim
Brotherton, Michael Hunt, John Rawlinson, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Bryan, Sir Paul Hurd, Douglas Rees, Peter (Dover & Deal)
Buchanan-Smith, Alick Hutchison, Michael Clark Rees-Davies, W. R.
Buck, Antony Irving, Charles (Cheltenham) Renton, Rt Hon Sir D. (Hunts)
Budgen, Nick James, David Renton, Tim (Mid-Sussex)
Bulmer, Esmond Jessel, Toby Ridley, Hon Nicholas
Burden, F. A. Johnson Smith, G. (E Grinstead) Ridsdale, Julian
Butler, Adam (Bosworth) Johnston, Russell (Inverness) Rifkind, Malcolm
Carlisle, Mark Jones, Arthur (Daventry) Rippon, Rt Hon Geoffrey
Carson, John Jopling, Michael Roberts, Michael (Cardiff NW)
Chalker, Mrs Lynda Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith Roberts, Wyn (Conway)
Churchill, W. S. Kaberry, Sir Donald Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)
Clark, Alan (Plymouth, Sutton) Kershaw, Anthony Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)
Clark, William (Croydon S) Kilfedder, James Ross, William (Londonderry)
Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe) Kimball, Marcus Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)
Clegg, Walter King, Evelyn (South Dorset) Rost, Peter (SE Derbyshire)
Cockcroft, John King, Tom (Bridgwater) Royle, Sir Anthony
Cooke, Robert (Bristol W) Kitson, Sir Timothy Sainsbury, Tim
Cope, John Knight, Mrs Jill St. John-Stevas, Norman
Cordle, John H. Knox, David Scott, Nicholas
Cormack, Patrick Lamont, Norman Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)
Corrie, John Lane, David Shelton, William (Streatham)
Costain, A. P. Langford-Holt, Sir John Shepherd, Colin
Critchley, Julian Latham, Michael (Melton) Shersby, Michael
Crouch, David Lawrence, Ivan Silvester, Fred
Crowder, F. P. Lawson, Nigel Sims, Roger
Davies, Rt Hon J. (Knutsford) Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland) Sinclair, Sir George
Dean, Paul (N Somerset) Lloyd, Ian Skeet, T. H. H.
Dodsworth, Geoffrey Loveridge, John Smith, Cyril (Rochdale)
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord Jame Luce, Richard Smith, Dudley (Warwick)
Drayson, Burnaby McCrindle, Robert Speed, Keith
du Cann, Rt Hon Edward McCusker, H. Spence, John
Dunlop, John Macfarlane, Neil Spicer, Michael (S Worcester)
Durant, Tony MacGregor, John Sproat, Iain
Eden, Rt Hon Sir John Macmillan, Rt Hon M. (Farnham) Stainton, Keith
Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke) McNair-Wilson, M. (Newbury) Stanbrook, Ivor
Elliott, Sir William McNair-Wilson, P. (New Forest) Stanley, John
Emery, Peter Madel, David Steel, David (Roxburgh)
Eyre, Reginald Marshall, Michael (Arundel) Steen, Anthony (Wavertree)
Fairbairn, Nicholas Marten, Neil Stewart, Donald (Western Isles)
Fairgrieve, Russell Mather, Carol Stewart, Ian (Hitchin)
Farr, John Maude, Angus Stokes, John
Finsberg, Geoffrey Maudling, Rt Hon Reginald Stonehouse, Rt Hon John
Fisher, Sir Nigel Mawby, Ray Stradling Thomas, J.
Fletcher-Cooke, Charles Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin Tapsell, Peter
Fookes, Miss Janet Mayhew, Patrick Taylor, R. (Croydon NW)
Fowler, Norman (Sutton C'f'd) Meyer, Sir Anthony Taylor, Teddy (Cathcart)
Fraser, Rt Hon H. (Stafford & St) Miller, Hal (Bromsgrove) Tebbit, Norman
Freud, Clement Mills, Peter Temple-Morris, Peter
Fry, Peter Miscampbell, Norman Thatcher, Rt Hon Margaret
Galbraith, Hon T. G. D. Mitchell, Davild (Basingstoke) Thomas, Rt Hon P. (Hendon S)
Gardiner, George (Reigate) Moate, Roger Thorpe, Rt Hon Jeremy (N Devon)
Gardner, Edward (S Fylde) Monro, Hector Townsend, Cyril D
Gilmour, Rt Hon Ian (Chesham) Montgomery, Fergus Trotter, Neville
Gilmour, Sir John (East Fife) Moonman, Eric Tugendhat, Christopher
Glyn Dr Alan Moore, John (Croydon C) van Straubenzee, W. R.
Godber, Rt Hon Joseph More, Jasper (Ludlow) Vaughan, Dr Gerard
Goodhart, Philip Morgan, Geraint Viggers, Peter
Goodhew, Victor Morris, Michael (Northampton S) Wainwright, Richard (Colne V)
Goodlad, Alastair Morrison, Charles (Devizes) Wakeham, John
Gorst John Morrison, Hon Peter (Chester) Walder, David (Clitheroe)
Gow, Ian (Eastbourne) Mudd, David Walker, Rt Hon P. (Worcester)
Gower, Sir Raymond (Barry) Neave, Airey Wall, Patrick
Grant, Anthony (Harrow C) Nelson, Anthony Walters, Dennis
Gray, Hamish[...] Neubert, Michael Warren, Kenneth
Griffiths, Eldon Newton, Tony Weatherill, Bernard
Grimond, Rt Hon J. Nott, John Wells, John
Grylls, Michael Whitelaw, Rt Hon William
Wiggin, Jerry Young, Sir G. (Ealing, Acton) TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Winterton, Nicholas Younger, Hon George Mr. Spencer Le Marchant and
Wood, Rt Hon Richard Mr. Jim Lester.

Question accordingly negatived.

Mr. James Wellbeloved (Erith and Crayford)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I ask you, as custodian of the rights of Back Benchers, to take into consideration the rules applying to the passage of Private Business through the House? It is clear that an unprecedented happening has occurred inasmuch as for the first time in the recollection of almost every hon. Member the official Opposition have applied a Whip to the passage of private legislation. Is it within your powers, Mr. Speaker, as the protector of the rights of Members and as the guiding eminence to the Chairman of Ways and Means, to advise the Chairman of Ways and Means to take into account the circumstances of his disgraceful intervention of party politics into the passage of private legislation?

Mr. Speaker

I thought it only fair to let the hon. Gentleman have his say, but Providence protects me from interfering in such matters.

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