HC Deb 23 February 1984 vol 54 cc1027-62

Order for Second Reading read.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harold Walker)

I have selected the Instruction, which may be discussed with the motion for Second Reading.

7 pm

Mr. Derek Conway (Shrewsbury and Atcham)

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

It is my privilege to represent the beautiful medieval town of Shrewsbury, which is situated in my constituency of Shrewsbury and Atcham. Some hon. Members may not know that Shrewsbury is situated within a loop of the river Severn. That is a rather difficult geographical position not uncommon to towns of such an age. Within that loop, 84 per cent. of the buildings are listed as being of historical and architectural interest. Shrewsbury is not only a historic and beautiful town, but suffers from many traffic problems, caused by its architecture. The town is listed among the 14 priority towns of special historic interest.

The Bill has already been discussed in the other place. The need for the Bill is mainly set out in parts II and III. Part II deals with the erection of a car park and the need to build a bridge across the river Severn for access to it, which is opposed in principle. Part III covers proposals for the ancient 16th-century market square in the centre of the town, which are also being opposed, but for a less obvious reason.

The town's traffic problems are apparent to any visitor, but especially to the people who live there. There are many advantages in living in such a beautiful area, but a disadvantage is that if one arrives at the eastern side of the town to go on a shopping expedition there is a car parking problem. It is recognised by most of the town's residents. There are effective car parks to the north-west and the south, but not to the east. That gap unquestionably needs to be filled and the Bill would allow that to be done.

The history of the Bill, and the deliberations over the car park, have been long and tortuous. There have been public discussions for nine or ten years about the form of that car park and its location. Eventually, the borough council, with all-party support from the Labour, Liberal and Conservative parties—the Conservative party is in control of the council—recognised the need to build a car park in that location. The council has the support of the Shropshire county council.

It is evident from the Order Paper that the provision is opposed by Shrewsbury town football club. I understand why it should wish to oppose the Bill, as, unquestionably, its land will be affected. I do not blame the directors of Shrewsbury football club for defending their interests, but I believe that the wider interests of the Shropshire community should be taken into account. If the Bill eventually becomes a statute, the enclosures within the Bill will not prevent the successful continuation of the football club, of which we are all in favour. The club is of major importance to the town, and no one wishes to see its operation hindered. After careful scrutiny of the Bill, I do not believe that that would happen because of it.

It must be placed on record that, while the Bill is being opposed by Shrewsbury town football club, and many hon. Members, the main cause of the objection has been the recently created practice ground. The football club and a property developer agreed to build a car park and supermarket on the practice ground, in a former incarnation of the car park proposals. I do not blame the club for investigating that proposal, but it casts doubt on the genuine need for a practice ground and the concern for sufficient coach parking space.

The borough council recognises the need and concern for coach parking at the ground, and I shall deal with that matter later. Fairly recently, however, the football club was prepared to see that space go. The ground was regarded by the West Mercia police and the fire authorities as important for crowd control and to the way in which visitors to the Gay Meadow ground are dealt with. There is a slight dilemma in the opposition view, put forward by the football club.

The Bill has been examined in detail in the other place. I am sure that many hon. Members will have taken the opportunity to study the thorough evidence put forward, which caused amendments to be tabled to the Bill as further safeguards to the interests of the football club.

Hon. Members opposing the Bill's Second Reading say that the coach parking problem is of major importance. The Bill has already undergone scrutiny in Committee, and I hope that if it is given a Second Reading the Committee will consider it in detail. A Committee is the right place to hammer out the facts of the case.

Experts from the borough council and the club disagree about the figures. I am in no position to arbitrate between those gentlemen and their professional interests. I would not discredit hon. Members, but I do not believe that many hon. Members in the Chamber are able to arbitrate between the conflicting interests of the engineers. It should be possible to get to the bottom of that question in Committee.

It is important to consider the view of the West Mercia constabulary. Hon. Members who visited Shrewsbury, at the generous invitation of the football club, to inspect the practice ground and the effect of the changes in measurements on the arrangements for crowd control and coach parking were given a handwritten report by one of the directors present. It said that the police had visited the practice ground, where a coach was provided. Cones were not provided, although the area was marked out with tapes so that hon. Members could observe the manoeuvres of the coach in line with the council's proposal. It was suggested to hon. Members present that coach parking would be severely restricted.

A letter was sent to hon Members who expressed interest in the matter by Chief Superintendent Burford of the West Mercia constabulary, who is the senior officer responsible for the Shrewsbury division. He went to Shrewsbury market with the chief inspector responsible for matches, and Sergeant Austen. The borough council, in accordance with detailed measurements, set out a series of cones and arranged for a bus to carry out manoeuvres in line with those measurements. That showed, to the satisfaction of Chief Superintendent Burford — he confirmed it in a letter of 20 February—that 35 coaches could be parked in that area. Hon. Members may wonder whether 35 coaches would be sufficient.

Mr. Denis Howell (Birmingham, Small Heath)

Will the hon. Gentleman confirm that Chief Superintendent Burford was actually present when a coach was taken to the coach park and wrote a letter confirming that in his view only 18 and not 35 coaches could be accommodated? Hon. Members have now received another letter from the same superintendent saying that on the basis of another exercise in a market area, and not at the relevant site, he has reached further conclusions. That is extraordinary when, following the experiment at the club, he was convinced that with the large turning area only 18 coaches could be accommodated. I apologise for interrupting so early in the hon. Gentleman's speech, but it is an important point.

Mr. Conway

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for raising that matter. He does not often get his facts wrong, but sadly on this occasion that is the case. The chief superintendent did not write a letter following the exercise at the Gay Meadow practice ground. That was a report written by one of the directors of the footbal club and photocopied and circulated on that day.

Mr. Alex Carlile (Montgomery)

I have in my hand a letter dated 18 January 1984 to Mr. Williams of Shrewsbury Town football club signed by Chief Superintendent Burford. It states: My estimation was in the order of eighteen coaches. This would be roughly half the number that it is usual to expect to park there at present. Does the hon. Gentleman now accept that that letter was written following Mr. Burford's inspection?

Mr. Conway

I would not accuse the hon. Gentleman of misleading the House. If he has such a letter, I accept that. I have not seen the letter. The document that I saw distributed was handwritten by one of the directors. The letter that I have was circulated to opponents of the Bill as a matter of courtesy, but it seems that a similar courtesy has not been extended to me on this occasion.

Mr. John Golding (Newcastle-under-Lyme)

Will the hon. Gentleman give the date of the letter from which he quoted? The hon. Member for Montgomery (Mr. Carlile) gave the date of the letter that he quoted as 18 January.

Mr. Conway

I believe that I mentioned the date in referring to the source. It was 20 February.

Mr. Golding


Mr. Conway

We may argue about the mechanics of it. If nothing else, however, it proves that this matter needs to be sorted out in Committee so that the views of the police are fully known to hon. Members. In both the letter that I mentioned and the map attached, the latest communication from the West Mercia constabulary goes into considerable detail about the car parking facility. The second paragraph of the letter of 20 February states that is is possible to park 35 coaches in the area.

One of the highest gates achieved at Gay Meadow in recent times was 11,000 for the recent Ipswich match. That is considerably more than the average gate enjoyed by the club, yet only 13 coaches were on the practice area during that major match. In recognising the need for a large coach parking capacity there, one must bear in mind that in recent times it has not proved necessary to use it to the maximum. Indeed, as I have said, the club previously intended to do away with the coach parking area altogether. The police, however, wish it to be retained for coach parking so that they may better control the fans.

Much has been made of crowd safety, and it is right that hon. Members, especially the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Small Heath (Mr. Howell), with his vast experience of these matters, should be concerned about crowd safety at Gay Meadow. I should add that it has a better reputation than most clubs in this respect arid the directors are to be congratulated on their interest and the progressive view that they have taken. At present, police use the coaches as a wall to help control the fans. The proposal to build a bridge would, on the early stages of the incline from the Gay Meadow practice ground, fulfil exactly the same function. The police would thus not lose their facility for supervision and crowd control. The alternative bridge proposal, however, would allow fans to reach a higher position, from which articles might be thrown. The police were therefore not happy with the alternative suggested by the club and some of my hon. Friends.

It is important to bear in mind also that the police will retain power to close the access road to the car park. If the Bill becomes law, the police will have control over that. It is not subject to borough council influence, but entirely under the control of the West Mercia constabulary.

The right hon. Member for Small Heath will also bear in mind that the chief fire officer for Shropshire county council, Mr. R. H. Russell, has responsibility for implementation of the Safety of Sports Grounds Act. In a letter dated 10 August 1983 to the chief executive of Shrewsbury borough council he confirms that he is responsible for issuing the certificate to the football club that he has examined the proposal, and that after discussion with all interested parties, the Fire Service is satisfied that the project would not adversely affect any of the club's statutory responsibilities under the Act, particularly those which affect evacuation of the football ground.

The authorities responsible for the observance of crowd safety and crowd control measures passed by Parliament are therefore happy with the proposals in the Bill. If there were any doubt about that, a Committee of the House would be the right forum to examine any differences of view.

In my experience, the Bill is unusual in commanding such wide support in the town. I have not received one letter of objection from a constituent. Although the need for a car park is obvious, I should, nevertheless, have expected certain pressure groups to lobby against the proposal, because some people find new architecture less pleasing than old. However, even the Shrewsbury Civic Society recognises the problem and I have received no objections at all.

I cannot understand—perhaps it will be made clear today—why the directors of Shrewsbury Town football club oppose part III of the Bill, which deals with the ancient square in the centre of the town. I cannot see what is contentious about that. I look forward to hearing from any hon. Member who supports the club stance in that respect.

I remind the House of the statement in "Erskine May" relating to Bills of this nature. It states on page 979, in the Second Readings section: the expediency of a private Bill, being mainly founded upon allegations of fact, which have not yet been proved, the House, in agreeing to its second reading, affirms the principle of the bill conditionally, and subject to the proof of such allegations before the committee. Where, irrespective of such facts, the principle is objectionable, the House will not consent to the second reading; but otherwise, the expediency of the measure is usually left for the consideration of the committee. I have heard no objection to the principle that a car park is needed in Shrewsbury and that the proposed site is the obvious choice. I look forward to hearing why any contested facts should not be examined in detail in Committee, as "Erskine May" recommends.

I am concerned about the future of Shrewsbury, and these days car parking must be linked with that. I hope that all who have a genuine interest in the town and borough of Shrewsbury will support the Bill today.

7.18 pm
Mr. Alex Carlile (Montgomery)

My constituency borders that of the hon. Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham (Mr. Conway). We are proud of our links with that ancient and beautiful town. Those links are social, commercial and cultural. One of the cultural links is a sporting link. In the professional leagues, at least, Shrewsbury Town football ground is our local football ground and the Gay Meadow is, as it were, our local place of football worship. We are very conscious of the happy reality of the great rise to prominence in the fortunes of Shrewsbury Town football club. In the past two or three years Shrewsbury Town football club has played a prominent part in British football life and entertained some of the leading football clubs at Gay Meadow. One result of achieving football prominence and success — we hope, expect and demand that Shrewsbury Town will eventually proceed to the first division—is the problem that football crowds always bring with them to towns.

I have a personal, private worry about the Bill from the Montgomeryshire point of view. Although I do not have the experience of dealing with sport from a Government's point of view that the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Small Heath (Mr. Howell) has, and of having the closest possible links with studies about football violence and crowd behaviour, my worry is coloured by my experience and great pleasure over the years of watching football matches at many different football grounds all over England and, of course, Wales.

The Bill worries me purely on the ground of public safety. In Shrewsbury public safety may be affected when big crowds come to town to watch the major football attractions. I visited and examined the site of the ground, which is currently in conjunction with the coach park. They are cheek by jowl. From the point of view of the police and the public, the coach park is ideally sited because the coaches come down a small road which leads straight to the park. The coach park is within yards of the turnstiles and the visiting crowds can be shepherded straight in to the grounds without the slightest risk of crossing a road or becoming involved with the peaceful home fans. That is ideal for crowd control.

The hon. Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham, whose views I respect in this matter and who presented the Bill in the best spirit, said that Shrewsbury Town has a better record on crowd behaviour than most football clubs. The reason for that is the large coach park, which can accommodate coaches coming in substantial numbers from, for example, Everton, Liverpool, Arsenal and Tottenham—

Mr. Denis Howell

And West Ham and Stoke City.

Mr. Carlile

Yes, and West Ham and Stoke City. That accommodation means there is no risk of trouble in the town.

As I suggested earlier, crowd control has been the subject of much study, not least by the Centre of Contemporary Studies in its interesting document, "Football as a Focus for Disorder". One of the most experienced gentlemen involved in that report was Mr. John Cornwell, chairman of the Association of Metropolitan Authorities' arts and recreation committee. He is a member of the Football Trust, and an expert on these matters. In an article called "A Role for Local Government", he said: New planning policies and housing developments should take account of the existence of football grounds, which in most cases are historically in the most crowded working class areas of town, equipped with few of the facilities which would be obligatory if the grounds were being designed from scratch. If a company called, for example, Shrewsbury Town Football Club PLC went to the local planning authority and asked for permission to build a new football stadium, one of the first questions the authority would rightly ask would be, "Where is your coach park?" It would insist that the company had an adequate coach park adjoining the ground. Shrewsbury Town already has one at Gay Meadow, so the club fulfils the criterion referred to in the article.

The article continues: Where railway lines run close by the stadium, local authorities should be prepared to join with others in designing and funding low cost basic platforms thereby reducing the crocodiles of hostile supporters winding their way through town or using public transport. Similarly proper car and coach parking facilities as joint ventures with the club should be planned for and developed. Shrewsbury Town does not need to plan for and develop a coach park, as it already has one. There is no risk of crocodiles of hostile supporters because the existing provisions obviate that need.

I received a copy of the letter from Chief Superintnendent Burford to Mr. Williams of Shrewsbury Town football club dated 18 January 1984. It is important for the House to know that the letter refers to an actual test on the site with which we are concerned. I have only just seen a copy of his later letter of 20 February 1984, which deals with a theoretical test carried out on a different site. The letter of 18 January states: I can confirm that I visited the car park at the Gay Meadow Football Ground on Thursday, 12th January 1984, together with other senior officers and officials of the Football Club. I witnessed several manoeuvres of a coach which were carried out in order to estimate the number of coaches it would be possible to park on the car park in the area of the ground left free from the proposed road and bridge development. My estimation was in the order of eighteen coaches. This would be roughly half the number that it is usual to expect to park there at present. That letter speaks for itself.

I have gleaned from a quick glance at the letter of 20 February that it relates to a theoretical test and does not take proper account of all the other requirements of the coach park—for example, the parking of police vehicles and the need for supervisory places. That test is most unconvincing compared with the real test.

Mr. Geoffrey Dickens (Littleborough and Saddleworth)

Will the hon. Gentleman tell the House whether any account was taken of television vehicles, which need to be parked in the ground for the big occasions and matches? I had a quick glance at that letter but saw no reference to their being taken into account.

Mr. Carlile

I am obliged to the hon. Gentleman. I understand that no account was taken of television vehicles. Anyone who has attended football matches where there are television vehicles knows that it is rather like party conferences. There are great caravans of TV vehicles all over the place, which can be as large as coaches and occupy a great deal of space.

We can go further than the letter of 18 January from the chief superintendent, and say that a highly reputable firm of consultant engineers has examined the problem and agreed with the chief superintendent that there would not be enough room for the necessary number of coaches.

As I said, I have been to a meeting at the football ground and I attended a meeting in the House about this problem. I am not convinced that there is no alternative route to the car park which might involve traffic coming from the west going over the English bridge and turning to its right. That would obviate the need for the bridge in the proposals put forward by the borough council. It would be wholly against the public interest for the population of Shrewsbury to be endangered unnecessarily by a possible overspill of football crowds into parts of the town which, under present arrangements, are protected. It is for those reasons that I take the view that I have expressed on the Bill.

7.30 pm
Mr. Eric Cockeram (Ludlow)

My hon. Friend the Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham (Mr. Conway) told the House of the difficulties of car parking in his ancient city. As the Member for a neighbouring constituency, I can vouch for the accuracy of his statement. If anything, my hon. Friend understated the case. Shrewsbury is one of the most difficult towns that I know in which to park a car, because of the sharp U-bend of the river on which that historic town was constructed many centuries ago. The problem is made worse by the new traffic regulatory system, but we need not discuss that tonight.

The need for a car park is firmly established, and, as my hon. Friend said, it was supported by all parties on the town council and the county council, and is supported by the public. He told us that he had received no letters of objection to the proposal, which is remarkable, and I can tell the House that my constituents constantly complain about the lack of car parking facilities in Shrewsbury. They will also benefit from the proposal.

I have not had the benefit of receiving either of the two contentious letters from police officers. However, even if I had received them, I would not tonight set myself up as an arbiter between the two arguments. They should be sorted out in Committee, where witnesses can be cross-examined, which would be better than hon. Members making assertions that cannot be established by cross-examination.

What concerns me most is the cost of the operation. A little while ago it was estimated to be about £6.5 million, but we can be sure that, if costed today, it would be at least £7 million, and that, like most other public contracts, the final amount will be more than that. What shall we get for more than £7 million? The answer is 700 car parking spaces, a cost of £10,000 for each space. It must be one of the most expensive car parks outside the west end of London. The reason for that cost is not primarily the construction of the multi-storey car park, but the construction of a bridge across England's longest river at a picturesque point of the river Severn just below Shrewsbury.

Mr. Conway

So that the House is fully aware of the facts, may I say that in November 1983 the cost of the access road and the bridge across the Severn was estimated to be £1,337,000, and the cost of constructing the car park was estimated to be £2.8 million, which makes a total of £4.1 million. It is so expensive because of the difficulty of the architecture and screening involved. My hon. Friend is adding the cost of a gyratory scheme, which has been proposed by Shropshire county council in its TPP statement to the Government, which will go ahead regardless of whether the car park is constructed. I appreciate my hon. Friend's point, but I repeat that the access road and the bridge will cost £4.1 million.

Mr. Cockeram

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that information, which merely demonstrates that not only two different views of police officers are being disputed tonight, but the true cost of the project.

My hon. Friend's intervention also demonstrates the need for this matter to be examined much more carefully in Committee. Whatever the figures may be, it does not alter the fact that to acquire extra land and build an approach road more than a quarter of a mile long, and a bridge across the river Severn, is a very expensive addition to a car park, if it could be avoided. I share the view of the hon. Member for Montgomery (Mr. Carlile) that it should be possible—I believe that it is possible—for access to the car parking site to be obtained from Wyle Cop. The council could negotiate for some property there, but I shall say no more about that this evening. If that could be done, the saving would be enormous.

It is all very well for hon. Members to say, "It is not my district council and I am not a ratepayer who must accept the burden." The House cannot dismiss its responsibilities in that way. We have a responsibility on behalf of the public to ensure that public money is not wasted. If, as I hope, the Bill goes to Committee, it will be conscious of the extra cost involved in the proposal to build a bridge.

I repeat that the proposal has wide local support. There is all-party support for it on the town and county councils. Among the traders and shoppers in Shrewsbury and in my constituency—I have received no letters objecting to the proposal — there is overwhelming agreement that the project should go ahead in principle. I support the Bill. There are some aspects which should be examined further before we give it final approval, but we should give the promoters an opportunity to make their case in Committee.

7.32 pm
Mr. John Golding (Newcastle-under-Lyme)

I must be unique in the House, because although I represent Newcastle-under-Lyme I have received letters objecting to the Bill. I wonder whether it is because Conservative Members are known to be fully committed to the Bill that their constituents have decided that it is useless to make representations.

Mr. Conway

As the Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham, and because the Bill has the support of the borough and county councils, as a matter of principle I would have been happy to move it in the House; but I would not have spoken in favour of it had I not thought that it was necessary. Before I reached the decision to speak in favour of it, I met the directors of the football club and the promoters of the Bill. My decision to campaign actively for the Bill was not to gain a high public profile, as the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Golding) suggests. I made my decision close to the time of our debate. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will withdraw the inference that my constituents have not written to me about it. They write to me about many matters on which my views are known, even if they may disagree with them.

Mr. Denis Howell

Whether or not anyone wrote to the hon. Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham (Mr. Conway) and the hon. Member for Ludlow (Mr. Cockeram), who supported the Bill, the fact remains that 20,000 of their constituents signed a petition against the Bill. I hope that they will explain why 20,000 people living in Shropshire, Shrewsbury and Ludlow signed a petition on behalf of the football club. No one opposes the car park—I agree with what the hon. Members have said—but everyone opposes the lunatic proposal for gaining access to it.

Mr. Cockeram

May I reply to the point that has been raised? It is one thing for someone in a hurry on a Saturday afternoon to be asked to sign a petition and to do so, but if people do not feel strongly enough on the issue to contact their Member of Parliament for the town in question, or for a neighbouring town, then the Member of Parliament is entitled to say that nobody has contacted him. That is a statement that I make, and it is one that my hon. Friend the Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham (Mr. Conway) makes.

Mr. Golding

I have no doubt that no constituent has approached the hon. Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham (Mr. Conway). My point is that those of the 22,000 who are constituents of the hon. Gentleman may think that it is not worth approaching their Member of Parliament. I do not subscribe to the view that, if a petition with 22,000 names exists, there is no opposition. If such a petition existed, no hon. Member could put his hand on his heart and say that there was no opposition to the Bill. That would be to treat with contempt those who go to the Shrewsbury and Atcham football club. It is tantamount to saying of those people that they will sign anything. In my view, they have indicated their opposition by the signing of the petition. It may well be, to soften the blow for Conservative Members, that after people have signed the petition they would say, "We have Members of Parliament who take notice of these petitions. Now we have signed the petition, there is no need to write to the Member of Parliament for Shrewsbury and Atcham." I receive post on many issues about which my constituents feel strongly. I do not believe that Conservative Members can adopt the posture that there is 100 per cent. support for the proposals in Shrewsbury and its adjoining constituencies.

Mr. Geoffrey Dickens (Littleborough and Saddleworth)

Since we are discussing the critical point of support for, or opposition to, the scheme, I should like to quote a sentence from the Civic Society newsletter of this winter on the subject of the scheme: The civic society council had several discussions on this issue and various points of view were put, but the society has never given support to the proposal.

Mr. Golding

The point made by the hon. Gentleman is doubtless that the Civic Society has been neutral after discussion in which different points of view were expressed, some for and some against the proposal, presumably. The impression I gained from the hon. Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham was that the support was solid. I shall be interested to hear whether it will be suggested later in the debate that, far from being divided and sitting on the fence, the Civic Society was 100 per cent. in favour of the proposal. If that suggestion is not made, I shall assume that the hon. Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham may have exaggerated slightly in suggesting that there was great unity and solidarity of purpose on the part of the good citizens of Shrewsbury in reference to this project.

Mr. Denis Howell

I fear that I have been guilty of a little exaggeration, because I was unable to read the figures that were given to me. Two thousand, and not 22,000, members of the public signed the petition. I take this early opportunity to correct that mistake. This matter will have to be sorted out in Committee. A total of 2,000 stalwart constituents, most of whom vote for Conservative Members, must be listened to with great eagerness.

Mr. Golding

My right hon. Friend has been generous to the House in correcting immediately the figure he gave earlier. This shows that the Opposition, unlike the hon. Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham, are prepared to acknowledge immediately when we have strayed from the facts.

A total of 2,000 is a large number for Shrewsbury. The House has been told of gates at the football matches of 11,000. Those are large gates, and the figure includes supporters and opponents, presumably. If one supposes that 8,000 are supporters and 3,000 are opponents, my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Small Heath (Mr. Howell) is talking about 25 per cent. of the attendance.

If hon. Members have ever tried to canvass football crowds going in and out of the football ground, they will know how difficult it is to get their attention. It must have been a magnificent effort on the part of those who opposed the Bill to persuade 2,000 supporters to wait and sign the sheet, particularly as supporters in Shrewsbury will be of a suspicious frame of mind anyway, if they are faced with people thrusting pieces of paper under their noses to sign. I thank my right hon. Friend for his correction, but I must say to him strongly that it influences the argument in no respect. It does not detract from the strength of the principle.

I am amazed at the proposals. I have studied all the papers. The Stoke City football club drew my attention to the proposals. In so doing, it was anxious to point out the importance of the proposals to the Shrewsbury football club in the league. When the matter was drawn to my attention, I did not have the clear picture that I now have of the enormity of the proposals. I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for having drawn a diagram setting out the proposals. I note that there is to be a long road by the football ground.

Mr. Denis Howell

Two hundred yards.

Mr. Golding

My right hon. Friend further amplifies by saying 200 yards—and I say in parenthesis to my right hon. Friend that I hope that that does not become 20 yards.

Mr. Howell

I understand my hon. Friend's scepticism, but I personally paced out the distance and 200 yards is a conservative estimate.

Mr. Golding

The pacing of the distance by my right hon. Friend leads me to believe that the road will be at least 100 yards long, and possibly longer. It is to go across the coach park.

Mr. Howell

The length of a football pitch is 110 yards and the road starts well before the pitch and stretches beyond it. It is easy to calculate that the road must, therefore, be more than 200 yards long.

Mr. Golding

I stand corrected, but according to my right hon. Friend's diagram it is not clear whether the ground is situated north to south or east to west. That is why I did not take it into account. I accept my right hon. Friend's correction that the road will be nearly 200 yards, at least, whoever paces it, and whether it is conservative or not.

The road goes across the coach park and obliterates it. What is the reason for wanting to be rid of the coach park? I have heard two arguments. One is that only 11 coaches use the coach park. What excuse is that? It is the same as saying that only 600 cars use the car park. Eleven coaches can carry 30 passengers each. My right hon. Friend the Member for Small Heath is the arithmetic expert. I did not do sums at school, but my right hon. Friend did. if one multiplies 32 passengers by 10 coaches—that makes the calculation easier for me—we are talking about parking for about 320 people, excluding the drivers.

Mr. Howell

I am sorry to keep interrupting my hon. Friend. I do not know that I am an expert in mathematics, but I do know that motor coaches these days can carry 50 people. The one about which we were told carries 54 passengers, so my hon. Friend's argument has even more force.

Mr. Golding

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend. When the hon. Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham referred scornfully to 11 coaches, he implied that they were small coaches or even minibuses. [Interruption.] The hon. Member talked about 11 coaches in an intervention. With ten or eleven coaches each carrying 50 people, the coach park provides for as many people as are catered for by the car park on a Saturday. I visit Shrewsbury from time to time and it has a massive car parking problem on a Saturday. What is the solution? It seems that it is to get rid of an area which provides for more than 540 people in order to build, at great expense, a parking area for cars.

Has that been considered and faced? It seems that we are to get rid of one car park to build another, at enormous cost. The road will go over the English bridge, along the football ground—for 200 yards perhaps—and across the coach park. Then what? The English bridge and the Welsh bridge are to be joined by a wasted bridge. The English bridge and the Welsh bridge are worthy monuments. Will the wasted bridge be held in the same high esteem? What is the justification for building it? Should we build a new bridge over the river Severn to provide a car park for 600 cars, having destroyed a coach park in the meantime? That does not make sense.

Mr. Dickens

I am grateful to the hon. Member for giving way again. The Civic Society newsletter is equally worried about the bridge. It asks for assurances from the council that there is no intention of commercial development to the north of the proposed bridge and that the bridge is to serve the car park and to serve no other purpose. Many of us believe that that bridge is intended to serve other purposes.

Mr. Golding

The hon. Member has the advantage of having been briefed. I am relying on the map produced by my right hon. Friend the Member for Small Heath.

I am not sure that I would be so bothered if what the hon. Member said were true. I am not sure what my attitude would be if he came to me and said, "We want to develop Shrewsbury commercially. We want to build factories to the north of the bridge and the bridge will provide commerce and industry."

Mr. Conway

I have no wish to prolong the interesting speech by the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Golding), although he is trying to goad me into doing that. He says that he is keen to be briefed. I know the hon. Gentleman to be a sincere and loyal man, which explains his presence tonight. He may wish to ask for a briefing from my Labour party opponent at the general election because he supported the Bill and the borough council's actions. The hon. Gentleman should seek briefs from Labour Members of that council who support the measure. I hope that in the interests of party loyalty he will not delay the proceedings for too much longer.

Mr. Golding

Is it an experienced hon. Member who tries to tie me to party loyalty on such an issue? Is the hon. Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham threatening me with the Labour candidate for his constituency? Am I to be intimidated in this way? We are discussing a private Bill. The hon. Gentleman should not threaten me. He is wrong. I do not understand how party considerations are involved. We must discuss the Bill on its merits.

Most hon. Members, including my right hon. Friend the Member for Small Heath, have been blinded by one consideration in their opposition to the Bill — the consideration of the football ground and club. My right hon. Friend is prejudiced in support of English football, Welsh football, Scottish football, any football. He is attacking the Bill only on those grounds. Are we not failing to speak of the virtues of Shrewsbury football and the implications of this legislation for the coach park, for spectators' safety and the rest of it?

I shall ask the hon. Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham, who has spoken so strongly for this Bill, about more of its provisions. I hope that he has come prepared to answer at least one other legitimate objection —perhaps objection is too strong a word, so let me say., one other query — about the Bill. I do not see the river Severn as a river alongside which there is to be found a football ground. I confess that, until Stoke City football club wrote to me I did not know that there was a football ground at that point in Shrewsbury.

I have been to Shrewsbury for sporting purposes on several other occasions. My right hon. Friend the Member for Small Heath, by the movements that he makes with his hand, shows what it is. He is imitating the casting of a fly. It is not a whiplash, but the casting of fly, the discharging of the spinner and, even in Shrewsbury, the use of the worm. The Severn is one of our great angling rivers and too little attention has been paid in the Bill to those provisions that relate to the water authority. I chastise my right hon. Friend for this. He is an all-round sportsman, but I have not heard him utter one word on the angling implications of this measure.

When I looked at the map and saw that, in addition to the English bridge, a new bridge was to be driven across the River Severn, I asked myself what would be the implications for angling on the Severn and for the run of salmon so important to those who fish on it. I suppose that the hon. Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham knows the provisions that relate to the water authority. They do not fill me with confidence. There are requirements and conditions for those who are building the wasted, the costly, the unnecessary, the blighted bridge. If we look at page 24—I see that you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, are the only one who is following the proceedings carefully—one sees clause 14(3)(c), which provides: During the construction of any authorised work the Council shall comply"— here is the snag— with any reasonable requirements of the water authority, or any person authorised by them, in relation to the prevention of pollution of the river or the avoidance of flooding". How will that be implemented?

I declare an interest. I am a member of the council of the Anglers Co-operative Association, whose function it is to secure compensation in cases of pollution and also to campaign hard against pollution. How on earth will a bridge be built without causing disturbance to the waters, pollution and flooding? It is cloud-cuckoo-land to put into legislation: the Council shall comply with any reasonable requirements of the water authority, or any person authorised by them, in relation to the prevention of pollution of the river or the avoidance of flooding. What will happen is that the contractors will not pay any attention to the problems of pollution. They will not be concerned about whether they are creating flooding further down the river. There will be neglect of the interests of angling when the bridge is built.

Has any hon. Member seen a bridge being built? Knowing you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, as well as I do from the days when we worked hard together in the Department of Employment, it would not surprise me if you had built a bridge on your own. Please cast back your mind to the scenes when a bridge is being built. Can you see the McAlpines, with their big cigars, coming down in their Rolls-Royces and saying, "Chaps, while you are building this bridge be careful to cause no pollution."? I hardly like to mention the word Cementation in the House, but can any hon. Member imagine its chairman saying, "Fellows, keep the water clean. Let the sand run without let or hindrance," or, "I see some soil, some slippage into the water, that may cause flooding further on. Fellows, don't do it." To imagine that is to live in cloud-cuckoo-land. [Interruption.] Perhaps it is too far-fetched to suggest that the chairman would go. I accept that correction from the Conservaive Benches. I do not think that the chairman of either Cementation or McAlpines or any other company would leave London to visit Shrewsbury to see what was going on. They would be too busy counting the profits to be able to nip to Shrewsbury from London.

However, imagine the clerk of works talking to the navvies and saying, "The Severn water authority has written to us and told us that we must not cause any pollution or flooding." Can you imagine, Mr. Deputy Speaker, the response of the working people, working in hazardous conditions, working in the roughest conditions, to any suggestion that they should pay particular regard to avoiding pollution and flooding? It simply will not happen.

One has only to turn to the next subsection in the Bill to see how absurd this legislation is. I see that the hon. Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham is consulting one of his hon. Friends. I think that they must be discussing bridge building. I think that they are briefing each other. Although there was some scoffing when I revealed that I had not received a full briefing from the Shrewsbury Civic Society, I do not believe that Conservative Members have really thought out the implications in pages 24 and 25

Section 3(4), on page 25, starts: The Council". We have heard a bit about this council already. United, Conservative and Labour members wanted this bridge and this multi-storey. One can imagine the council in a town like Shrewsbury—a solemn body of important people in this ancient town. The subsection: The Council shall remove any debris or other material which owing to the obstruction caused by any part of the authorised work has accumulated against any such part in such a way or to such an extent as to interfere with the free flow of water in the river or the passage of fish. It is cloud-cuckoo-land.

If these workmen, under the supervision of the clerk of works, and the rest of them, drop material into the river and it piles up, the council will remove it if it impedes the free flow of fish. It could happen anyway. The debris will pile up, and the fish will have to face it. Is the hon. Gentleman telling me that the council will sit and observe the impediments that are faced by the fish, the salmon? Is that what the hon. Gentleman would have us believe? It is not on, and he knows it. The work will take place, the debris will be created and, like the pollution and flooding, it will impede the angler.

Mr. Warren Hawksley (The Wrekin)

Is the hon. Gentleman aware of the proposals put forward by the Severn Navigation Trust to make the Severn navigable? Presumably that would run parallel with this, and cause even more trouble than the danger of pollution from the bridge, would it not?

Mr. Golding

Mr. Deputy Speaker, had you heard the hon. Member for The Wrekin (Mr. Hawksley), you would have been horrified. He has opened up a subject that brings pain to my heart. I know why he is doing it. He has introduced a scheme of such enormity that will distress the angling fraternity. So preoccupied am I becoming with the subject that he has raised that I see the Bill as nothing compared with that abhorrent suggestion. It is a good ploy. Your attention was distracted for a moment, Mr. Deputy Speaker, when the hon. Gentleman tried — I repeat "tried"—to deflect my attack on the inadequacy of these proposals.

The answer is yes, I am opposed to alterations in our rivers. I want the salmon to run freely in the Severn. There are not many rivers — perhaps the Welsh Dee, and, further away, the Wye —that are so accessible to the working people of Staffordshire and Shropshire as the Severn.

I know that you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, are an expert on most things, but I am not sure that you realise that one of the great advantages of Shrewsbury is that its local authority provides much of the fishing. Because of that, salmon fishing in Shrewsbury is not the preserve of the rich. Salmon fishing can be enjoyed in Shrewsbury at a reasonable price, as a result of the farsightedness of the Shrewsbury council. I pay tribute to it for doing that.

The hon. Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham will have to satisfy me that when this bridge is built over the river Severn, at such great cost, it will not make the angling any worse. However, he did not even mention it. The matter did not even cross his mind. For him, rivers are only for building bridges across. That is his attitude. Give him a piece of water and he will put cement across it.

The hon. Member for Littleborough and Saddleworth wants to speak shortly, and I think that he should. [Interruption.] I correct myself. I said that I thought he wanted to speak shortly. Apparently he wants to speak at length.

The hon. Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham, in introducing the Bill, did not mention the angling interest. He came with a prepared brief. He came with it written out, and he has told us all he knows. It did not take him long to do that.

Mr. Rob Hayward (Kingswood)

Does the hon. Gentleman believe that it is better to take a short time to say something worthwhile than a hell of a long time to say absolutely nothing?

Mr. Golding

The answer is yes. Of course I agree. However, I am not sure that either condition has been fulfilled this evening.

The hon. Gentleman has not introduced the Bill properly. I hope that my right hon. Friend the Member for Small Heath will take him to task for that.

Mr. Denis Howell

I always do as my hon. Friend instructs, particularly on the subject of the angling interest on the Severn-Trent. As the Minister knows, I was responsible for water matters in the House for a long time. Indeed, no Minister in British history has had such success with water as I can claim for myself. I assure my hon. Friend that I shall address myself to that subject at the appropriate time.

Mr. Golding

Has the hon. Member for the Wrekin been briefed on section 8? I hope that he has. The hon. Gentleman cannot answer across the Floor because it would be out of order, but I hope to see some flicker of recognition on his face when I mention that section. I am beginning to suspect that he does not know what section 8 is about. I am beginning to believe that the hon. Gentleman came tonight with a stock brief from those proposing the legislation and that he has not done his homework.

Section 8 is about the temporary stoppage of highways. The Bill gives the council another power and this time it will use it. I cannot see it removing debris from the River Severn when it impedes the salmon, but I can see it creating the temporary stoppage of highways.

Section 8 says: The Council during and for the purpose of the execution of the works may temporarily stop up, alter, divert or otherwise interfere with any highway or any private right of within the limits of deviation and may for any reasonable time"— we shall have to ask the sponsors about the word "reasonable"— divert the traffic therefrom and prevent all persons other than those bona fide"— what does that mean? — going to or from any land, house or building abutting on the highway or right of way from passing along and using the same.

I am told that "bona fide" means good faith. Does that mean that if the council asks an angler if he is of good faith and he says that he is, he can pass, whereas, if he says that he is not, he may not? The hon. Member for Eltham (Mr. Bottomley) nods his head. Having given the advice, he sees in me a quick and willing pupil and signifies that I have learnt my lesson properly.

Mr. Peter Bottomley (Eltham)

I am convinced that the Bill will become an Act. As captain of the House of Commons football team, I have an interest to declare. The hon. Gentleman is trying to persuade us that he is on the side of the fish and is worried about piles of muck by the bridge foundations. All he is really interested in is the anglers and their interests, and those of the fish are in opposite directions.

Mr. Golding

That is such a fly on the water. and out of season, that I am sorely tempted. Of course I am on the side of the anglers. There are no anglers without fish, although there might be if the work is done and done badly. Anglers will be looking carefully at this legislation to see what damage it will do to angling.

I should declare another interest, and I thank the hon. Gentleman for drawing it to my attention. I am a council member of the Atlantic Salmon Trust. That trust is specifically for the defence of the salmon; it does not represent angling interests. Although I admit that in speaking tonight I am speaking for anglers on the River Severn, I also have an interest to declare in the preservation of salmon.

The hon. Gentleman has diverted me. My right hon. Friend the Member for Small Heath is desperately anxious to speak at length on the subject and has asked me to shorten my remarks because of the need for him to lay out the argument on behalf of the football fraternity.

Although I speak for anglers, I welcome the captain of the House of Commons football team tonight. It is nice to see the hon. Member for Eltham in the warmth and comfort of the House of Commons and I hope that tonight he has the unusual experience of being on the winning side. I understand that the hon. Gentleman is not accustomed to that in his capacity as captain of the House of Commons football team.

Mr. Bottomley

Although we occasionally lose to the Press Gallery, we have not lost an international yet.

Mr. Golding

You are a stern chairman, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and I know that if I were to give the House and the country the record of the House of Commons football team under the captaincy of the hon. Member for Eltham you would rule me out of order, not for tedious repetition or irrelevancy, but for bringing the House into disrepute. The hon. Member for Eltham has diverted me. He rose only to let the world know that the captain of the House of Commons football team is here and that it is he.

Section 8 makes it possible for the council to take away freedom of access, and that is important. Although it says that the council should provide reasonable access for foot passengers, it also says that they must be bona fide. 'Who will decide what that means? The captain of our team points to heaven. Am I being asked to approve a Bill that provides that the good council of Shrewsbury will look to heaven before deciding whether an angler on foot can have reasonable access or not? It is not reasonable.

Having studied the Bill, I suggest that there has been so much concentration on part III that not sufficient attention has been paid to the earlier provisions. While I do not wish to delay the House, I must refer to clause 10. We have heard about conflicting police evidence, but I am not sure that I have followed the argument on that closely enough. I shall have to peruse Hansard to be sure that I have understood it.

If there has been a dispute involving the police, that must be set against the background of clause 10,subsection (2) of which reads: The bridge shall be closed at such times and to such extent as the chief officer of police may determine on any day on which the football stadium situate at Gay Meadow in the borough is open for the holding of football matches or other events to which the public are admitted. I hope that the hon. Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham will explain what that means. I also hope that my right hon. Friend the Member for Small Heath will deal with it.

If the bridge is shut because the police chief says that it must be shut, what good is the car park, and what access will there be to the car park? I was surprised when I read clause 10(2), but perhaps I shall be told that it does not mean what I am interpreting it to be.

Mr. Denis Howell

My hon. Friend raises an important point which those of us who visited the ground spent some time analysing. It is clear that the shoppers' car park will be used mainly on Saturday afternoon, but it is on Saturday afternoons that Shrewsbury Town plays its football matches. When there is an FA cup match—such as Shrewsbury played the other day against Ipswich—large numbers of coaches arrived, and presumably the police chief must then decide whether to give priority to shoppers' cars or to football coaches. We spent much time investigating that, without receiving a satisfactory answer.

The fact that provision is being made in the Bill to cover that situation means that Shrewsbury town council intends the police chief to take such action. Considering the high — I believe, astronomical — cost of the bridge, the people of Shrewsbury for at least 22 Saturday afternoons a year when matches are played—or if they are lucky with their cup ties, for 25 Saturday afternoons—will find that the shoppers' car park is engaged when shoppers want to use it, because to allow them to use it would conflict with the thousands of people wanting to visit Shrewsbury Town football club. I hope that that clarifies my hon. Friend's thinking on the subject.

Mr. Golding

I thank my right hon. Friend for his advice, although I was seeking clarification from the hon. Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham. In any event, my right hon. Friend is prejudiced in favour of football, whereas the hon. Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham has shown great objectivity tonight in revealing that he does not have the same prejudice in favour of Shrewsbury football club.

Mr. Howell

He is its vice-president.

Mr. Golding

It is possible to be the vice-president of any organisation and not have the prejudice that my right hon. Friend has for football. My right hon. Friend is a fanatical supporter of English, Scottish, and Welsh football clubs. Indeed, he is a fanatical supporter of all forms of recreation. He is prejudiced in favour of people enjoying themselves, and he would not deny that charge.

Mr. Howell


Mr. Golding

The hon. Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham takes a more balanced view, is not such a fanatical supporter of football and is not so prejudiced. My right hon. Friend, on the other hand, is besotted with association football, although clause 10(2) does not relate only to association football, for it says: The bridge shall be closed at such times and to such extent as the chief officer of police may determine Which police chief is that, the one who agrees, or the one who disagrees?

Mr. Conway

It is the same man.

Mr. Golding

So be it. The provision continues: on any day on which the football stadium situate at Gay Meadow in the borough is open for the holding of football matches or other events to which the public are admitted. That is where my right hon. Friend the Member for Small Heath slipped up, because he failed to appreciate the significance of the second part of that subsection, where it refers to "other events". Were he not so besotted with football, he would have noticed that.

I digress to point out that my former colleague at the Department of Employment, my right hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster, Central (Mr. Walker) is working short time and has left the Chair. We welcome in his place as Mr. Deputy Speaker the hon. Member for Woodspring (Mr. Dean).

Let us assume that the football club's ground is to be used for other purposes.

Mr. Denis Howell

We looked into that possibility, and it might help my hon. Friend to know that some of us thought that that part of the provision had something to do with the Shrewsbury flower show, which is one of the pretigious flower shows in the country. I understand that the facilities of Shrewsbury Town football club are sometimes used in association with that show. We all assumed, therefore, that the proviso was to assist with car parking and other matters when the flower show was on.

There may be other reasons for that proviso, but I understood the hon. Member for Littleborough and Saddleworth (Mr. Dickens) to say in an interruption that he had some reservations on that very point in relation to the real reasons for the bridge being built.

Mr. Golding

I have not regarded the knowledgeable interventions of the hon. Member for Littleborough and Saddleworth (Mr. Dickens) as interruptions. They have been extremely helpful interventions. As I pointed out earlier, he has a substantial brief from the Civic Society and knows all the implications and ramifications of this proposal.

I am an admirer of the Shrewsbury flower show. Percy Thrower is probably the finest gardening exponent in this country.

Mr. Howell


Mr. Golding

I have always been more positive than to use such words as "arguably". When I was a kid, Percy Thrower was the main gardening exponent. My dad regarded him as the nation's foremost gardener. We cannot think of him without thinking of the Shrewsbury flower show.

I shall continue to oppose Sunday trading, despite the gasps and coughs from my right hon. Friend the Member for Small Heath. I am a staunch opponent of it.

Mr. Howell

So am I.

Mr. Golding

I am delighted that my right hon. Friend is also.

What will happen to Shrewsbury Town football club, which is in financial straits, if there is a Sunday market? Such a market would be reprehensible, but popular. The chief police officer could say to the council, "I did not let you use the car park yesterday, and I shall not allow you to use it on Sunday for the Sunday market." Pressures will build up.

Antique markets, which cost me a fortune, exist all over the country. Americans come from miles around, even from Chester, to Shrewsbury, which is a natural antique centre. Shrewsbury, a medieval city, attracts tourists of the widest sort—not the Tottenham Hotspur supporters.

Mr. Dickens

As we are discussing the closure of the bridge during activities at the football ground, I shall read a letter of 27 January 1983 from the planning officer of the Shrewsbury Civic Society Trust Ltd., which states: The Society is not fully convinced of the need for the bridge and/or notion of commercial development at the nurses home, where residential rehabilitation in association with the former RSI would be preferred. The Society would view with major concern action of short term expediency e.g. to attract private investment to assist the car park was taken to the long term detriment of the town centre. The Civic Society is saying—the hon. Gentleman might confirm this—that the bridge is being considered with other developments. It would be stupid to close the bridge when the council might be intending to rake up finances, which I doubt, by linking the bridge with other properties. How does the town council justify closing major access routes to the people whom it wants to attract? The hon. Gentleman may agree with me.

Mr. Golding

That was an inspired intervention. The hon. Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham ought to note those words carefully. He does not. I cannot keep a straight face. You were not here, Mr. Deputy Speaker. when he tried to convince us that the society was four square behind this proposal. We can read that in Hansard. Each time the hon. Member for Littleborough and Saddleworth reads the comments of the civic society, that argument disappears into dust.

I would have a different perspective if the Bill provided a bridge and facilities for industrial and commercial purposes. I am not sure whether I would support the proposals, but separate considerations would arise. I am not an environmentalist first and foremost. My reaction, when someone says, "We shall create employment, but the environment will suffer marginally," is to say that people should grab jobs. The hon. Member for Littleborough and Saddleworth is not pushing me in the direction he desires when referring to the possible uses of the bridge.

The proposal to build the bridge just to provide a car park is astonishing. We are discovering, through interventions, that the car park will not be available to the public each time the chief police officer believes that a football match will create heavy traffic. Will that create an intolerable condition?

Mr. Hawksley


Mr. Golding

I shall finish this point. The number of interventions makes it difficult for me to make my contribution in the short time available.

The chief police officer will have the council on his back. He must decide whether the car park will be opened. If he decides that it will be shut on Saturday, problems will arise because of the huge crowds pouring into Shrewsbury in coaches. The new bridge will be closed, making the car park inaccessible. I do not assume—the hon. Member for Littleborough and Saddleworth will correct me if am wrong—that there will be a free car park. It will be a nasty, paying car park. The chief officer of police will be asked whether he will deny the council the revenue from the car park on Saturday. Each time the chief police officer decides that the car park will be shut on Saturday people will moan at him, thinking of the level of rates and expenditure cuts. Political pressure of the worst sort will be put on that officer.

Mr. Hawksley


Mr. Golding

I shall give way before I continue with Sunday, Monday and Tuesday.

Mr. Hawksley

I suggest that instead of moving forward we should go back a day. I am worried about those who park their cars on Saturday evening and find on Sunday morning that the car park has been closed and that they cannot remove their cars from it. Before the hon. Gentleman moves on to the later days of the week, I hope that he will direct himself to the problem of Saturday evening parking over the long term. If I parked in Shrewsbury—I do so on many occasions—I would not want to find that I could not take my car from the car park on Sunday morning when I wanted to move on.

Mr. Golding

I am not a dirty stop-out myself so I would not be faced with that problem. I think that the hon. Gentleman is nitpicking. I was addressing myself to the central issues. The chief superintendent has decided on Saturday to deny the local authority a substantial revenue. It would be substantial if 600 cars popped in and out after the occupants had paid for one hour or two hours of parking. I do not know how much the charge would be, but perhaps we shall be told.

Mr. Dickens

I have no knowledge of the cost of the parking. However, will the hon. Gentleman concede that the same police chief who made an accurate test of the coach spaces then had to conduct a mock-up test with cones in the market place, as a result of which he produced a completely different story a few days later? This officer may well have to take the decision whether the road should be opened or not. This is a serious issue for the club and for shoppers and the scheme is an absurdity.

Mr. Golding

I am not basing my arguments on the assumption that we have a schizophrenic chief of police. I think that the hon. Gentleman is probably being unfair to the chief superintendent who delivered the two contrary opinions. I congratulate the chief of police on having the courage to send out one letter that said one thing and then to send out another letter that said exactly the opposite. I suppose that that had the result of making everyone content. He has performed a service for the House, because hon. Members on both sides of the Chamber can rise in support of one or other of the letters and claim that the chief of police is supporting their position. Instead of following the hon. Member for Littleborough and Saddleworth in chastising the officer, let us give praise and thanks. It is good to have the presence of a religious adviser in the shape of the captain of the House of Commons football team, the hon. Member for Eltham. Let us give praise and thanks to any chief of police who can keep both sides happy.

However, the decision having been taken for Saturdays, the same issues will have to be faced on Sundays. Imagine the consternation that there will be in the treasurer's department of Shrewsbury when the poor chief officer of police, having decided that the car park will be closed on Saturdays, announces that it will be closed on Sundays as well.

What will happen when that announcement is made? The ratepayers will say, "We have paid an enormous sum in rates for the building of the road, the bridge, the additional road and the car park, and now we are told that we cannot use these facilities." The reaction of the ratepayers stands out like a pikestaff. I think that they will react when the chief officer of police makes his declaration for Saturdays, but what will happen when he declares that the car park will be shut on Sundays as well? The ratepayers will have been presented with an enormous bill for the building of 200 yards of road, the obliteration of the football ground coach park, the building of the new bridge and the employing of council labour to remove the debris, to stop pollution and to prevent flooding. They will have to meet the bill for building the road and the multi-storey car park and then they will hear that the chief of police has decided that they will not be able to use the car park on the second day.

What will be the reaction of the ratepayers? They will go berserk. They will go crackers. I should not like to be in the boots of the Shrewsbury councillors when the decision is taken. They will be belted from pillar to post. The good citizens of Shrewsbury will say, "We have paid the bill and this is how we are treated." I hope that the police ball is not on the night when the chief officer of police announces his decision. One can imagine the scene. The poor chap will think that he is going out for a social evening, but he will find that he is grabbed by one ratepayer after another to ask him why he shut the car park for which they paid so much.

I do not know how much extra the citizens of Shrewsbury will have to pay in addition to their present rate bills. Why will they have to pay extra rates for the citizens of Ludlow, Telford and Newcastle-under-Lyme to participate in the Sunday market? I cannot imagine that the constituents of the hon. Member for Montgomery (Mr. Carlile) will go to the Sunday market. I have no doubt that they will prefer to attend chapel.

Mr. Alex Carlile

I regret to say that the hon. Gentleman could be misleading the House. Is he aware that there is a Sunday market in Church Stoke in my constituency, which is visited by many people from Shropshire, especially from Shrewsbury? One of the virtues of the Church Stoke Sunday market is that it has an immense car park that will accommodate many cars and coaches that come from Shropshire. Those vehicles can be parked alongside the market and the inhabitants of Church Stoke are not disturbed by the market shoppers, in contradistinction to what would happen if the Bill were allowed to be enacted in its present form.

Mr. Golding

I have heard that people from Shrewsbury and Shropshire generally go to that Sunday market. I did not hear the hon. Gentleman declare that people from Montgomery attend that market.

Mr. Carlile

That is true.

Mr. Golding

Can you imagine, Mr. Deputy Speaker, the Welsh people of Montgomery visiting a Sunday market? I cannot do so. However, I can imagine people from Telford and Newcastle-under-Lyme travelling to Shrewsbury for the Sunday market.

The chief officer of police should bow to the pressure of the council and the ratepayers and say that the car park will be open despite the Sunday market.

Mr. Conway

I am conscious that during the course of the hon. Gentleman's speech, which has continued for one hour and 20 minutes, he has been attempting to persuade me to intervene so as to assist him in talking out the Bill. I managed to resist the temptation until this moment. The hon. Gentleman has maligned the character of the chief superintendent of Shrewsbury sufficiently now in his repeated references to the man bowing to political pressure. He is someone who is held in some esteem in my constituency by the directors of the football club, who are present, and by the members of borough council, who are also present.

I understand the object of the hon. Gentleman's exercise. In moving the Second Reading of the Bill I spoke for 18 minutes. The hon. Member for Montgomery (Mr. Carlile) spoke for 12 minutes and my hon. Friend the Member for Ludlow (Mr. Cockeram) spoke for seven minutes. All three of us have a direct and personal interest in the Bill, but the hon. Gentleman has demonstrated his lack of care and concern for my constituents by taking one hour and 20 minutes of the debate. I understand his right to do so while despising his logic in doing so. I cannot continue to remain in my place and listen to him passing derogatory remarks about the chief superintendent in suggesting that he will bow to political pressure.

The clause to which the hon. Gentleman is directing his remarks was inserted by those in another place in Committee. The object of the clause is to give the officers on duty that day crowd control powers as far as that road is concerned. That does not necessarily mean closing it for 48 hours, on Sunday, during Church Stoke market, or right around the world. The car park might only be closed for an hour or one and a half hours before a match for the safety of the crowd, or for an hour afterwards when the crowd is leaving. There is no implication that it must be closed for any length of time.

That is the last intervention that the hon. Gentleman will goad me into making, unless he continues to attack the honour of public servants.

Mr. Golding

I did not attack the chief of police. I commended him for giving contrary advice which has satisfied hon. Members on both sides of the argument. Additionally, I have said that he would be subject to political pressure. Does the hon. Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham suggest that that is not so?

The idea of shutting a car park just for an hour is tantamount to an incitement to a breach of the peace. Visitors to Shrewsbury would have to be told there were certain hours when they could park their cars and certain hours when they could take them out of the park. What would happen if the match went into extra time? I do not know much about football, but it is ridiculous to suggest that this car park, built at such great cost, should have flexi opening hours.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Small Heath has said that we must get the Second Reading tonight. My speech would have been shorter if the hon. Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham had intervened to say that the doubts that I have expressed have no basis in reality. However, the hon. Member has intervened only once, and did so in order to make bogus points.

The chief officer of police will be placed in a dilemma. He will have to take a political decision to close the car park or allow it to remain open. He will have to choose which interest to serve.

Mr. Conway

He will act in the interests of public safety.

Mr. Golding

Of course he will, but public safety will lead to the council. I suppose that the hon. Gentleman will tell me that Shrewsbury council always acts in an entirely responsible and unprejudiced fashion.

Mr. Conway

Hear, hear.

Mr. Golding

If the hon. Gentleman believes that, he will believe anything, and my next point will be wasted on him.

If there is to be conflict all the time about whether the football ground is used for purposes that create traffic and problems of traffic control, and the car park is affected, the council will always be disposed to refuse the football club permission to use its grounds for purposes other than the playing of football. If it gave such permission, it would lose income from the car park. Has a council ever given up income from a car park?

Mr. Bottomley

I shall not say anything about the hon. Gentleman's unwarranted attacks on my hon. Friend the Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham (Mr. Conway), who sponsored the Bill. However, the income from the car park will be insignificant compared with the cost of the works. The council may be content to forgo the extra £60 or £100, if the citizens of Shrewsbury are to have extra activities in their football ground. The hon. Gentleman's point is a poor one.

Mr. Golding

If the Bill receives a Second Reading, we should test it and provide that Shrewsbury is a free town and that there will be no conflict of interest. The football team captain nods in agreement. He knows that councils are avaricious. I am tempted to speak about the Government's rate-capping proposals but I shall not. The hon. Member for Montgomery (Mr. Carlisle) is trying to tempt me to do that. The one certain thing about councils is that they do not easily relinquish sources of revenue, however small.

The dilemma is that the people who will visit the football ground, whether for a flower show, an antique show, a dog show, a horse show or boxing will not necessarily be ratepayers. There will be the argument which is found in every seaside town about ratepayers providing services for visitors. I do not believe that the council will say that the revenue is so insignificant that it will not allow events to take place at the football ground. The football club will benefit from activities held at its ground and the council will get the revenue from the car park. If the hon. Member for Eltham can suggest a solution he should rise and give it. He remains seated because he is beginning to think the matter out.

Mr. Hayward

The simplest way in which to remove that conflict would be to remove the clause imposed in another place which provides that the police can close the road. If we removed that provision the police would not have the conflict of interest that the hon. Gentleman has mentioned.

Mr. Golding

That is a positive suggestion. The proposition that that is a positive statement and that it is ridiculous is not contradictory. It is a positive suggestion that is ridiculous.

Mr. Dickens

In regard to traffic control and whether the road should be closed on match days because of a conflict between football supporters and shoppers, has the hon. Gentleman addressed his mind to the fact that the police will also have to be active in Shrewsbury because if visiting football crowds are not able to park their coaches close to the turnstiles at the north stand so that they go straight in at the beginning and straight out safely to their coaches at the end of a match, they will have to park their coaches in other parts of the town? That will mean marauding football hooligans pouring through Shrewsbury whereas they would have been properly controlled by the club which is a model one. Has he considered the extra work that that would cause the same police who will have to decide whether the road to the car park is open and for how long? Those are important matters which no one has yet mentioned.

Mr. Golding

I am expecting my right hon. Friend the Member for Small Heath to deal with those points. He is an expert on football crowds and control and it would be wrong for me to del with those matters.

I understand that the hon. Member for Littleborough and Saddleworth wishes to speak, and I do not wish to squeeze him out. Squeezing the hon. Gentleman is something that I do not wish to do. Nor do I wish to exclude my right hon. Friend the Member for Small Heath from the debate.

In conclusion, the Bill does not seem to have been properly thought out. I shall listen to my right hon. Friend's wind-up speech before deciding which way to vote tonight, and take his advice.

The speeches heard tonight, except mine, have not been sufficiently informed, and cannot be the basis of a sound decision. So I shall certainly follow my right hon. Friend into the Lobby tonight.

9.10 pm
Mr. Geoffrey Dickens (Littleborough and Saddleworth)

I shall set the scene by saying that hon. Members who have taken enough interest in the Bill to come to the Chamber this evening, have great respect for the town of Shrewsbury. It is one of the most charming towns in the United Kingdom, a medieval town standing on an island and surrounded by the river Severn. It is one of the nicest towns that I have ever visited.

Shrewsbury Town football club is one of the most respected. I have had strong connection with Huddersfield town football club and Oldham football club. I was speaking to directors of both clubs when they met a few weeks ago. Their teams regard playing Shrewsbury town as a very nice match. They enjoy going to Shrewsbury arid using its facilities, and enjoy and appreciate the friendliness and sportsmanship of the townspeople. The teams always get a hard match.

Football is our national sport, so the football club is important to Shrewsbury. When the team does well, so does industry in the town. Success motivates people. It has been found all over the country that, when town teams win at their national sport, local people work harder, enjoy it more, and are much happier.

I do not wish to over-emphasise this point, but Shrewsbury town is regarded as having the best crowd control in the United Kingdom. It has been said by others that the club does not enjoy large gates, but it does enjoy large gates when it plays first division clubs in cup competitions. The club has achieved good results regularly in the past few years. I hope that it will move into the first division. If that happened, it would be commonplace for teams such as Manchester United and Liverpool to come to Shrewsbury regularly. I am sure that most of them would be beaten on the field at Gay Meadow.

Let us consider why Shrewsbury Town's crowd control is the envy of teams elsewhere in the United Kingdom. The coaches come across the old English bridge, swinging into the road serving the club ground, and passing to the far end of the ground.

I have taken the trouble to go there and see for myself the car park facilities, as well as the railway embankments and the training and turnstile facilities. I have done my homework and been responsible. The Bill has been pushed down from the other place after its Third reading for the House to deal with. I have taken a responsible attitude.

Crowd control at Shrewsbury is such that the coaches come to the far end of the ground where they are sensibly and intelligently stacked. Right at the end is the grandstand, which it is hoped some day to extend. The turnstiles are right beside the parking area.

Mr. Alex Carlile

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the club would very much like to extend provision for spectators at that end of the ground but that the Bill would put those plans in jeopardy at the very time when the club has a chance of achieving first division status?

Mr. Dickens

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for reminding me of that. Of course the club wishes to expand the facilities, and if it moves into the first division it will want to make the facilities still more comfortable for its supporters.

The main thrust of my comments on crowd control, however, relates to the existing standards. The turnstile entrances to the north stand open straight on to the training ground which becomes the coach park on match days. The coaches are neatly parked and the 50 or so supporters from each go straight into an orderly queue at the end of the ground and make their way into the ground in a sensible, segregated and orderly way.

The procedure after the match is even more important as away supporters often do stupid things when the result is not as they wished, which will often be the case at Shrewsbury. They will go home disappointed. Rather than having those supporters marauding through the town to other parking areas, it is far more sensible that they should come straight out of that end of the ground, into their coaches and away from the town. That is to the advantage of the town. No one denies that a beautiful town such as Shrewsbury must have car parking facilities. Those facilities are much needed and long overdue, but the price must be right.

Mr. Denis Howell

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that Aston Villa is one of several clubs trying to build a coach park immediately behind the goal, as is the case at Shrewbury? I understand that in the past week the Football Trust has approved a grant of £60,000 to create such a coach park so that supporters of visiting clubs can go straight from their coaches to the terraces and return straight to their coaches from the terraces afterwards. That will be of considerable benefit to residents who have been plagued with difficulties for many years. Aston Villa and the Football Trust are to be congratulated on that. I hope that the Minister will commend such schemes, in view of his proposals for football ground safety, which followed my own earlier proposals. Such schemes are essential, but the one area in which such a scheme already operates successfully will be put in jeopardy by the Bill. It makes no sense for the Football Trust, the Minister and the Opposition to urge such schemes on every other club in the country if such an arrangement is to be threatened at Shrewsbury.

Mr. Dickens

I was not aware of that development, but I was most interested to hear about it. It illustrates my earlier statement that the arrangements at Shrewsbury are the envy of the United Kingdom. It is not at all surprising that other clubs are modelling their crowd control arrangements on those at Shrewsbury. Long may that continue.

In seeking to preserve a beautiful town such as Shrewsbury it is no use solving the car parking problem if at the same time one is creating other problems. I am most uneasy about the arrangements proposed in the Bill.

I was not even enamoured when I read the report from the other place. Lord Aberdare's address to the Committee upon closing was like an address to a jury. He said: My Lords, in the last 50 years there has only been one instance of a private Bill being rejected by this House on a Third Reading. He was speaking about the other place. He continued: That was the British Transport Docks (Felixstowe) Bill in 1975–76 session. I have no doubt that many of your Lordships will remember that Bill. Your Lordships will recall that there were wider political implications"—

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Paul Dean)

Order. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will paraphrase the address. It is not in order for him to quote directly as he is doing at present. I am sure that he can paraphrase it.

Mr. Dickens

I am grateful to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I can do that easily. Lord Aberdare was, in effect, saying to the House of Lords Committee that it was not good form to reject a Bill, and that there were other safeguards. It would go to the House of Commons and the petitioners, whether Shrewsbury Town football club or the county council, would have an opportunity there. In other words, he told the Committee that it did not have to take the decision but could hand it down to the House of Commons where, it would be responsibly debated on the Floor. That is exactly what is happening.

I read that with great interest because it was like a direction to a jury. The Chairman thought that with an amendment on the table, there might be a chance that it would not succeed in the House of Lords, that he should remind their Lordships that it was 50 years since such a Bill was defeated, and that the right thing to do was to pass it to the House of Commons. There were grave doubts, even in the House of Lords, and I can see why.

In their brief, the promoters quoted from the Shropshire county structure plan and the draft Shrewsbury urban area local plan. which set out the important role which Shrewsbury must play. They tested five strengths of the town: it is a county town, a sub-regional shopping centre, a commercial and administrative centre — which certainly it is — a valuable conservation area— which undoubtedly it is—and an important tourist attraction—which, of course, it is. I am one of the tourists who enjoy visiting it because it is such a lovely place.

It would be less than honest if I did not congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham (Mr. Conway) on the way in which he presented the Bill. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] He is a good, caring Member, and he presented the Bill on behalf of the local authority forthrightly. However, many matters may not be within even his knowledge, and they may be worth exploring.

Mr. Denis Howell

I do not detract from anything the hon. Gentleman said about the acumen and the loyal presentation of the Bill by the hon. Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham (Mr. Conway). When we visited the football ground we all enjoyed his contribution. I have an instruction for the Committee that will consider the Bill, which is of cardinal importance. It shall be an instruction to the Committee considering the Bill that the overwhelming consideration in approving it will be the consideration of crowd safety. It spells that out.

From my experience as the Minister with responsibility for sport—I am sure that the present Minister shares them — I find it extremely odd that, when the hon. Gentleman moved the Bill and in the promoters' case, which went to four or five pages, not one word was said about the instruction on the Order Paper, on which the House must vote on Second Reading.

I hope that the hon. Gentleman's tributes to the hon. Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham will encourage him to tell the House what view he and the promoters take about this vital instruction, which is in the interests of crowd safety and control, and which no hon. Member, in the light of the events of last weekend at football matches, especially in Birmingham, would wish to oppose. But we have had total silence on that matter for two and a half hours.

Mr. Dickens

The right hon. Gentleman is correct. I was amazed that there was no mention of the instruction not only in the Chamber but in the briefing material that was circulated to hon. Members by the promoters so that we could have both sides of the argument. Perhaps it was an oversight.

Mr. Bottomley

As crowd safety is clearly of paramount importance, and is much more important than the odd remarks that we heard from the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Golding) about salmon, and his assaults on them with worms and flies, is it not likely that the instruction will be acceptable to the promoters? Should we not concentrate on the two major aspects: first, that the council appears to need a car park of which the House has been convinced; and, secondly, whether it is necessary for the council's scheme to go ahead as proposed, or whether the council should give more serious consideration to finding another means of access to the car park rather than going round the football club and going to the expense of building another bridge across the river?

That is far more important, but it puts the House in a difficult position. Although these matters may be regarded as details, they underline the entire proposal. At some stage the House will need guidance on whether this matter should be sorted out on Second Reading or Third Reading, or whether it should go to Committee. As I have not declared all my views on the matter, perhaps I would be a suitable person to sit on the Committee.

Mr. Dickens

I am obliged. [Interruption.] I am not sure whether I am obliged, but at least my hon. Friend got in a speech.

In my opinion, the borough council has completely disregarded the aspirations of the football club. When I visited the football ground I observed a sports hall which had been built on to the end of a school. It is probably very desirable for the school, but the hall was built in the face of this Bill, making a venturi action at the opening to the football ground, so that when spectators and cars leave the football ground and get towards the road that leads to the English bridge, they are restricted and brought more tightly together. There was a crush, because the building was plonked in the route of the proposed road. It is another absurdity.

The council says that it has considered the club's views, but it talked about bringing a road close to the club's facilities and said that it would have no impact. But if a yacht club or a golf club had a road next to its social buildings and offices, of course it would have an impact. At a meeting with the promoters of the Bill and other interested parties, I suggested building a road on stilts which could have been constructed by cutting away some of the railway bank and sweeping round above the training area, so that coaches could park underneath it and pedestrians could move freely underneath it. I was expecting the promoters of the Bill to go away and then come back and convince me that they had explored these possibilities. We were even suggesting other ways that the engineer—because the engineer, the chief executive and all the others were present—could explore to get into the car park that is so badly needed. There was discussion of the possible acquisition of some old property. This idea could have been put on the drawing board to show that the only possible way into such a car park would be by such a road and such a bridge. However, no such proposal has come forward. I saw no drawings, no schemes that had been ruled out, no engineer's drawings. A request was made for a sketch of the scheme with the road up on the viaduct, but it was never forthcoming. In the end, after long delay, a silly little sketch was produced.

I was waiting for the minutes of discussions with the railway authority, because I had suggested that parts should be carved off the bank. I suggested the possiblity of coming round the end of some very bad boggy land, but this might have involved piles, and would have been too expensive. It was, therefore, out of the question.

I would still have liked someone to produce a drawing. I am fair-minded. I fight for what I believe is right, but I fight fair, and am fighting for the town of Shrewsbury. My hon. Friend the Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham does not know it yet, but I think one day he will thank hon.. Members for taking the trouble to attend the debate and show an interest in his town, because it is not possible to carry these things out on one's own. It is necessary to have the support of other hon. Members. Hon. Members may laugh, but this is no laughing matter. It is a serious business. This is a private Bill involving hundreds of thousands of pounds of ratepayers' money. Thousands of pounds have already been sunk into promotion of the Bill. The Bill was ill-conceived, yet it has had to grind on, and it is still before the House for consideration.

I have discussed the matter with the football club directors many times to get information. They wish to talk to the council. The best thing that could happen is for the Bill to fail to receive its Second Reading. Then it would be possible to make much faster progress for the benefit of Shrewsbury.

When a road scheme is proposed in the United Kingdom, and a line is put on a map, usually dozens and sometimes hundreds of landowners have to be consulted, and public inquiries and consultation have to take place. In this case, however, there is one landlord. Why did the council not discuss the matter with the one landlord in depth, carry the discussions forward and even explore the system on stilts to which I have referred as a viaduct on pillars?

I am told by the football club that it is open to negotiation and is ready to explore all kinds of possibilities with the borough council. The club wants the car park. The football supporters live in the town, their wives shop there, the directors live all round the area, they use the town's facilities and they want car parking provision. Everyone wants car parking provision, and Shrewsbury badly needs it, but not at any price. If the Bill fails, as I think it will, then we can start talking. Let us not have this hobnailed boot approach when a carpet-slipper approach would be much better.

Mr. Denis Howell

The hon. Gentleman is dealing with an important point. He will know that the Bill first came to the House 14 months ago, and has been subject to several all-party football club group meetings at which we have done our best to help. One of the great problems, as I have pointed out to the council, is that the hon. Gentleman's suggestion that the road should be moved back, in the interests of road safety, would involve trespass on railway land. That is why Shrewsbury council has not accepted the unanimous advice of the all-party football group. If the road is built into the railway siding it will be outside the limits of the Bill.

The hon. Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham should withdraw the Bill and bring back a measure which would permit the limit to be extended. That would be sensible and everyone would be satisfied. Such a road and bridge would be ludicrous, but that is another matter. If the proposal is to go ahead the hon. Gentleman should take the Bill and re-introduce it next year when the demarcation line of the property is agreed by all concerned. I am astonished that 14 months after being advised by an all-party group in the House the council has not done that.

Mr. Dickens

I am obliged to the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Small Heath (Mr. Howell), but I disagree with him. A Bill is not needed. Too much money has already been spent. Why spend money when talking will do? The Bill should be finished off tonight and the talks could begin. That would lead to progress. So many matters must be discussed. Much money must be raised. Planning permission will have to be agreed for the conservation area. The structure will have to have wonderful elevations. It cannot be a concrete monstrosity. The bridge cannot be of easy and straightforward design. It must have a citadel facade and a medieval character to match the English bridge. It is a big job.

If everyone started talking everyone would be on the same side and the House would not have to be bothered with such a Bill. A compulsory purchase order is involved, but the project could be a winning seller with the right approach.

I still wonder whether the bridge is required. An enormous amount of money is involved. We have heard many figures, ranging from £7 million. We have heard about the giratory road system that may go ahead in any case. However, we all agree that car parking space is desperately needed. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham on fighting hard for that, but I believe that he has been misled. He was right to promote the Bill on behalf of his constituency, but I do not want conflict in his town between the football supporters and the ratepayers who want to do their shopping.

Sometimes families will be involved. The husband will be going to football and the wife, poor dear, will have to do the shopping with the children. She will do the shopping while he goes to football, unless he helps her in the morning. What a fiasco when the road is closed and cars cannot move in and out during certain hours and people have to look up whether Shrewsbury is playing at home or away. People will say, "Oh dear. I forgot that they were at home today. If I had remembered I would have stayed at home."

We must remember the trade which shopkeepers will lose on home match days. So many factors must be considered. Investment is needed. That stands out a mile. Development schemes are needed to raise some of the money necessary. There are so many bridges to climb—[Interruption.] Sorry. It has been a long day and I have to listen to such nonsense in the Chamber, although I have enjoyed it.

We should dispatch the Bill tonight so that everyone can talk. That will lead to progress. Most hon. Members contributing to tonight's debate have gone to the trouble of going to the market place, the town centre and the football ground. They have bothered to take an interest. I got a letter from the Football Association because of my connections with Huddersfield Town football club [HON MEMBERS: "Oh."] There is no secret about that. It wrote to me just as some little engineer in the council office was writing to all the Labour Members of Parliament that are union sponsored, reminding them to come and oppose the Bill.

Mr. Denis Howell

The hon. Gentleman is right. One of the most extraordinary things that has ever happened to me in my 29 years in the House came when I suddenly got a letter from the general secretary of my trade union telling me that he had been written to by the borough engineer of Shrewsbury, urging him to press me to vote against the Bill. It is an astonishing performance for a borough engineer to write to the general secretary of a trade union urging him to use his powers, as I am a sponsored Member of Parliament for the Association of Professional, Executive, Clerical and Computer Staffs, to ask me to vote against the Bill. The general secretary is a good personal friend and I told him that he had no business even contemplating sending me such a letter. If I catch your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I shall talk about this matter further, because it affects us as hon. Members, quite distinct from the merits of the Bill.

Mr. Dickens

The Football Association wrote to the club saying that there was a football club in terrible difficulty and if there were any hon. Members who would consider its case, it would be grateful. When I looked at the letter from Huddersfield Town football club with which I have connections, I did not blithely say, "Oh, it is a football club, I must dive in and support it against all the odds." I went down to Shrewsbury and explored the circumstances. There is no way that I would be supporting Shrewsbury Town football club — I do not mind the directors hearing this—if I did not think its case was solid and right. That is not my style. Having said that, the football club does have a strong case and has been treated very badly.

Mr. Bottomley

There are two points to be made. My hon. Friend should be careful about throwing around accusations in the House, and the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Small Heath (Mr. Howell) should rephrase his remarks about the borough engineer, because expressing an interest in that way is as acceptable as through a football association. I feel strongly about this because of the way that the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Golding) cast aspersions on the House of Commons football team, although he must know how we suffer. Does not my hon. Friend agree that we should not take a view on Second Reading straight away but wait until we have heard the two Front Benches speak? They can put ideas and considerations to the House that will help most of us to make up our minds. My hon. Friend may have made up his mind, but there are some of us who are still listening to the debate.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

It might be helpful if I remind the House that this debate must end at 10 o'clock, and there are a number of right hon. and hon. Members who still wish to make contributions.

Mr. Dickens

I agree with you, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

When I stood for Parliament for Middlesbrough I was described as a publicity-seeking Tory preservation crank, but we saved the historic buildings in Middlesbrough in the face of opposition, although it was almost a one-man show to do it. When I left, I was described as the man who lost his seat but saved Middlesbrough's heritage. I hope that my little contribution tonight will have helped to save the heritage of Shrewsbury from football hooliganism.

9.44 pm
The Under-Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. Neil Macfarlane)

As is customary on these occasions, it might be helpful if I intervene briefly at this point.

While the Government have no reason to comment on the proposals set out in the Bill, we appreciate the difficulties referred to by hon. Members. The Bill poses serious problems for Shrewsbury Town football club. The loss of its land is a matter that should be given proper consideration.

Like the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Small Heath (Mr. Howell) I am concerned about violence associated with football matches. The Government and the football authorities have been working together to combat this problem and I welcome and support the measures which many clubs have taken to prevent outbreaks of violence. Segregating the supporters of opposing teams is an important ingredient of these precautions. Again, therefore, it is right that the impact of the Bill on the segregation measures employed by the football club—particularly with respect to coach parking— should be considered in detail.

The football club has, of course, petitioned against the Bill, and it will have a chance to present its objections to the Committee considering the Bill. It seems to the Government to be right for the detailed arguments to be resolved in Committee, when the club will have an opportunity to discuss the matter and present its objections set out in the petition. The House will decide whether to give a Second Reading to the Bill this evening. In giving a Second Reading to the Bill, as to any private Bill, the House would of course not necessarily be approving its provisions in principle. It would still be open to the Committee to disallow the controversial part of the Bill — and it is undoubtedly controversial. Undoubtedly, too, the Committee would have an opportunity to scrutinise it in some detail, as opposed to the rather superficial debate that we have had this evening.

Many important issues will have to be discussed in Committee if the House gives the Bill a Second Reading. If, having reached the controversial part and having heard all the evidence, the Committee came to the conclusion that it was right to disallow the controversial part, that would certainly have the Government's blessing.

Many important issues have been debated this evening. I have no wish to detain the House any further, and in my view it is right that the Committee should have a chance to consider the matter closely.

9.46 pm
Mr. Denis Howell (Birmingham, Small Heath)

We have listened with great interest to the Minister. Like the promoters of the Bill and the hon. Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham (Mr. Conway), he has not said a word about the instruction that is to be voted on. I have tried to get the hon. Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham to tell us this evening what he or the promoters think about the instruction, which is solely concerned with football safety.

I find it incomprehensible that any hon. Member could vote against the instruction. Had the hon. Member got to his feet a long time ago and told us that the instruction was something he could recommend to the House on behalf of the promoters, we could have then given it serious consideration. However, he has not done that. We have spent two and three quarter hours and we have heard not a word about the instruction. The instruction has been on the Order Paper for many months. Indeed, I think it has been on the Order Paper since well before the general election, which makes it clear that some of us regard this as a matter of paramount importance.

If I had more time, I should have a lot to say about the cost of this proposal. Again, we have not heard a word about that, except from the hon. Member for Ludlow (Mr. Cockeram), who, although he intends to support the Bill, gave us the most cogent arguments showing why the bridge should not be built at such a cost. I think he said that it would be the most expensive car park in the United Kingdom, and he was right.

Even now, the hon. Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham sits there, in spite of my pungent remarks, and tells us nothing. He does not tell us whether he wants crowd safety to be a consideration in the instruction. I can only conclude that he and the promoters of the Bill disregard such considerations.

Mr. Conway

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Howell


Mr. Conway

Although the right hon. Member is entitled to make the remarks that he has made, I am sure that his detailed reading of the Bill will remind him of clause 15, which gives the club the protection that the instruction seeks to achieve. However, he is well aware that the whole purpose of the instruction is to wreck the motion. He referred to the length of the debate and the points that had been raised. I remind him that his hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Golding) spoke for one and a half hours and left the Chamber immediately afterwards, displaying an utter disregard for the town of Shrewsbury.

The right hon. Gentleman has shown himself tonight to be a man of good principle. I mean that sincerely. Nevertheless, I remind him of the speech that he made on 24 January 1983. In a debate on the Epsom and Walton Downs Bill the hon. Gentleman said: I wish now to deal with some of the difficulties that seem to have arisen. I share the general view that these difficulties can probably be explored at greater length in Committee. If, however, one studies the proceedings that have taken place in the other place, it will be seen that considerable progress has already been made. It would be wrong to suggest that hon. Members should start discussions and arguments de novo. We are doing no such thing. As the second Chamber to receive the Bill, we should acknowledge concessions that have already been made without in any way seeking to prevent the objectors, in this case, the Epsom Riders Protection Association, from pursuing their points."—[Official Report, 24 January 1983; Vol. 35, c. 724.] I wholeheartedly agree with that sentiment and I hope that as a man of principle he will stick by what he says and will help the Bill to reach its Committee stage.

Mr. Howell

I have rarely been so flattered by having a speech of mine so extensively quoted. When the Epsom and Walton Downs Bill returns to the House shortly, I shall make another speech along similar lines. There is a tremendous difference between this Bill and that one. The Epsom town council went to enormous lengths not only to protect the Epsom racecourse on which the Derby is run but to enter into meaningful negotiations with the riders and ramblers who objected to the Bill. It followed exactly the advice that we have given to the Shrewsbury borough council.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I realise that the right hon. Gentleman has been tempted, but may we return to the Shrewsbury and Atcham Borough Council Bill?

Mr. Howell

Tattenham corner is a good way to get to Shrewsbury, but I shall follow your injunction, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

I support private Bills when I can and I have tried to facilitate this Bill, but I am sad that the sound advice that I gave to Epsom and which it accepted has not been accepted by the Shrewsbury and Atcham borough council. That is a considerable difference. Proceedings in Committee on the Epsom and Walton Downs Bill were conducted amicably and an attempt was made to reconcile the conflicting interests of the racehorses on the one side and the British Horse Society on the other.

Neither the hon. Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham nor anybody else has yet told the House what the cost of this ludicrous proposal will be. I described it as the most crackpot traffic scheme I have ever met in my public life, which goes back well over 30 years. As has been described, there will be more than 200 yards of road alongside Shrewsbury football club with a left turn across the car park, a bridge and another left turn to return another 200 yards into the car park. It is utterly absurd.

The hon. Members for Montgomery (Mr. Carlile), for The Wrekin (Mr. Hawksley), for Shrewsbury and Atcham and myself attended a meeting with the council. The hon. Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham knows that it is correct when I say that time and again we asked how much the bridge would cost. I do not object to the proposal on the basis of its cost, although it is ridiculous. That is a matter to be argued out between Shrewsbury town council and its ratepayers. We were told that the bridge was likely to cost £1.2 million at 1981 prices.

Having served in the Department of the Environment, I can say categorically that no builder in Britain can build this bridge over the river Severn for £1.2 million. It is an absurdity. The council could not tell us the cost or give us a breakdown of the figures, and we still do not know those facts because the necessary homework has not been done. The council has had all these months in which to convince us that the bridge could be built at a reasonable cost, but has failed to do so.

The multi-purpose car park, the council says, would cost £4.2 million, and a gyratory scheme £1.4 million, giving a total cost to be met by the ratepayers of Shropshire —Shropshire as well as Shrewsbury—of £6.8 million. Do Conservative Members consider that to be peanuts, for a car park of that size? No Secretary of State for Transport in Britain would agree to a 700-place car park costing almost £7 million, and that is before inflation. There has been much inflation since those figures were produced, so the whole thing is ridiculous.

There are alternatives which have not been considered. One involves a garage owned by Kennings—some of us went to see it and we gathered that Kennings was anxious to sell it—immediately adjacent to the car park site. In other words, not only is the proposed access to the car park ludicrous, but there is a much better access which could be provided by taking over the Kennings business and driving a road through there, giving a new arrangement at that point. None of us is against the idea of a car park. That is not a judgment for us. We accept that a car park is needed, but we do not want the crackpot means of access that has been proposed.

Mr. Golding

Does my right hon. Friend recall the hon. Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham (Mr. Conway) mentioning that Kennings wanted to sell so that a much cheaper car park facility could be created?

Mr. Howell

I listened carefully to the speech of the hon. Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham, for whom I have great respect, and I do not think that he said any such thing, but I will read his remarks in Hansard.

There is no doubt that access to the car park could be available directly off the road. It would mean demolishing the Kennings facility and having either an underpass scheme, which was once considered seriously by the council, or a traffic flow scheme such as I support, with a wider road which it would be possible to have at that point if the Kennings garage and service station was demolished.

This week this country has witnessed some of the worst football hooliganism and violence for a long time. We have seen it in association with the FA cup, particularly in the city that I represent. I am writing to Ministers to draw their attention to the position. I am not speaking only of what happened at Birmingham City last Saturday, when 100 people were arrested, not all on the ground but between the ground and the railway station. Fifty were arrested at West Bromwich Albion and there were 50 arrests at Wolverhampton Wanderers. All of those clubs are in the area of the west midlands police authority, that one police authority. We can imagine the effect of 200 people being arrested on the citizens, shopkeepers and neighbours near those football grounds.

That is why I say to the Shrewsbury town and to the hon. Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham that when they produce a programme which will destroy the coach park—

Mr. Conway

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

Question put. That the Question be now put: —

The House divided: Ayes 84, Noes 30.

Division No. 174] [9.59 pm
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Currie, Mrs Edwina
Ancram, Michael Douglas-Hamilton, Lord J.
Bennett, Sir Frederic (T'bay) Dykes, Hugh
Benyon, William Emery, Sir Peter
Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich) Eyre, Sir Reginald
Brandon-Bravo, Martin Fenner, Mrs Peggy
Bruinvels, Peter Fookes, Miss Janet
Budgen, Nick Fraser, J. (Norwood)
Burt, Alistair Fraser, Peter (Angus East)
Butterfill, John Garel-Jones, Tristan
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Goodlad, Alastair
Chalker, Mrs Lynda Gow, Ian
Chapman, Sydney Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)
Cockeram, Eric Hargreaves, Kenneth
Conway, Derek Haselhurst, Alan
Coombs, Simon Hawkins, C. (High Peak)
Cope, John Hirst, Michael
Couchman, James Holland, Sir Philip (Gedling)
Critchley, Julian Howarth, Gerald (Cannock)
Howells, Geraint Steen, Anthony
Hunt, David (Wirral) Stern, Michael
Hunter, Andrew Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)
Kershaw, Sir Anthony Stewart, Andrew (Sherwood)
Kilfedder, James A. Stradling Thomas, J.
Knowles, Michael Taylor, Rt Hon John David
Lang, Ian Terlezki, Stefan
Lightbown, David Thorne, Neil (Ilford S)
Lord, Michael Townend, John (Bridlington)
Macfarlane, Neil van Straubenzee, Sir W.
Major, John Wakeham, Rt Hon John
Malone, Gerald Walker, Bill (T'side N)
Mayhew, Sir Patrick Wall, Sir Patrick
Mitchell, David (NW Hants) Waller, Gary
Murphy, Christopher Ward, John
Neubert. Michael Warren, Kenneth
Newton, Tony Watts, John
Nicholls, Patrick Wheeler, John
Norris, Steven Winterton, Mrs Ann
Penhaligon, David Winterton, Nicholas
Pollock, Alexander Young, Sir George (Acton)
Powell, Raymond (Ogmore)
Rhodes James, Robert Tellers for the Ayes:
Sainsbury, Hon Timothy Mr. David Ashby and
Squire, Robin Mr. Eric Forth.
Ashdown, Paddy Lamond, James
Barron, Kevin Leighton, Ronald
Best, Keith Loyden, Edward
Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thpes) McNamara, Kevin
Campbell, Ian McTaggart, Robert
Canavan, Dennis McWilliam, John
Cocks, Rt Hon M. (Bristol S.) Marland, Paul
Craigen, J. M. Monro, Sir Hector
Dickens, Geoffrey Nellist, David
Evans, John (St. Helens N) Parry, Robert
Golding, John Rogers, Allan
Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife) Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)
Haynes, Frank Skinner, Dennis
Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)
Home Robertson, John Tellers for the Noes:
Howell, Rt Hon D. (S'heath) Mr. Alex Carlile and
Kirkwood, Archibald Mr. Warren Hawksley.

Whereupon MR. DEPUTY SPEAKER declared that the Question was not decided in the affirmative, because it was not supported by the majority prescribed by Standing Order No. 32 (Majority for Closure).

It being after Ten o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.

Debate to be resumed upon Thursday 1 March.