§ Mr. Terry Davis
I beg to move amendment No. 22, in page 9, line 6, leave out 'The' and insert(1) Subject to the provisions of this section the.'
§ The Chairman
With this it will be convenient to take the following amendments: No. 23, in line 7, leave out '(1)' and insert '(a)'.
No. 24, in line 9, leave out '(2)' and insert `(b)'.
No. 20, in line 13, at end insert —'(2) For Birmingham residents and families tickets shall be available at half price and arrangements shall be made under the Passport for Leisure Scheme or in some other way to provide tickets free or very cheaply for the unemployed and pensioners resident in Birmingham'.No. 25, in line 13, at end insert—'(2) The Council may make arrangements for the granting of concessions of not less than 10 per cent. in respect of the payment of charges under subsection (1).(3) The Council shall exercise their power under subsection (2) above in relation to qualified persons ordinarily resident in the City.(4) In this section:—concession" means the reduction or waiver of a charge either absolutely or subject to terms, limitations or conditions.qualified persons" means persons mentioned in any of the following paragraphs or any description of such persons, that is to say—
- (a) men over the age of sixty-five years and women over the age of sixty years
- (b) persons whose age does not exceed sixteen years
- (c) disabled persons
- (d) persons in receipt of unemployment benefit, supplementary benefit or family income supplementdisabled person" has the meaning assigned to it by section 8 of the Rating (Disabled Persons) Act 1978.'
§ Mr. Davis
These amendments are tabled in my name, but it is my hon. Friends the Members for Perry Barr and for Ladywood who have been particularly anxious about the arrangements for concessionary prices for tickets for 592 the motor race. They want to ensure that Birmingham residents, especially the unemployed, the disabled and the retired should be given the opportunity to purchase tickets at special prices.
The amendments arise out of discussions which I had last week with the hon. Member for Birmingham, Hall Green (Sir R. Eyre) and the promoters of the Bill. Although the amendments have been tabled in my name and those of my hon. Friends, I pay a special tribute to my hon. Friends, who have campaigned so strongly on this issue.
§ Mr. Bevan
Amendment No. 25 is wholly commendable. It is quite right that the citizens of the excellent city of Birmingham should have the proposed concessions. We all share that view.
My hon. Friend the Member for Dudley, West (Dr. Blackburn) thinks that the excess glories of Dudley zoo and Dudley castle outshine anything in Birmingham. I immediately dispute that, and those attractions may not, unfortunately, share the same concessions which should be available to the citizens of Birmingham in whose city this race will take place. I was happy, when on the city council, to introduce concessionary travel on the railways for the senior citizens of the area. Both Conservatives and Opposition Members have supported various forms of concessionary fares. We must ensure that the citizens of Birmingham enjoy the type of concession to which the hon. Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Ms. Short) referred — a low admission price. I hope that such provision will help make the race popular.
§ Mr. Rooker
We have just witnessed a road race on a bandwagon. The hon. Member for Birmingham, Yardley (Mr. Bevan) cannot wait to get on the bandwagon of the goodies being put into the Bill. I commend him for that, but wish that he had supported us earlier when we moved similar amendments on 1 April and were derided.
§ Mr. Rooker
I am interested only in improving the Bill by including provision for concessions and some financial probity. I assume that the first road race will take place in 1986. It is ironic that there will be concessionary admission prices for Birmingham ratepayers who want to see that race in the same year that concessionary bus fares in Birmingham end because of other legislation.
Amendment No. 25 provides that the city council has discretion to grant concessions of up to 10 per cent. in respect of admission charges, but that it must exercise that power in respect of people listed later in the amendment. People in Birmingham, whether unemployed, pensioners, disabled or just those who find life tough on low pay, will welcome the concession. Without amendment No. 25, there was no hope of a genuine concessionary scheme.
On 1 April, the hon. Member for Birmingham, Hall Green (Sir R. Eyre) said that there would be concessions for what he called "Birmingham folk". When we raised the matter with the leadership of Birmingham city council before Report, it was clear from their blank faces that they did not know what we were talking about. We said that, 593 if they did not know what their representative had said on Second Reading, we wanted the matter spelt out in the Bill. That explained our pressure for amendments on 24 June which have been tidied up so that they are more technically efficient. I hope that amendment No. 25 will be accepted.
§ Ms. Clare Short
It appears that amendment No. 25 is finding all-party favour in the House. As my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Hodge Hill (Mr. Davis) said, it is an alternative to amendment No. 20, which I tabled. We wanted to tie down the city council in its undertaking to provide concessionary tickets. As my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker) said, what the hon. Member for Birmingham, Hall Green (Sir R. Eyre) said on Second Reading implied some sort of lottery. That commitment could be fulfilled by offering only five cheap tickets, and that would not have benefited many people in Birmingham.
The concessions promised in amendment No. 25 are limited. I hope that the city council will try to do better. My amendment calls for half-price tickets for all people living in Birmingham and very cheap or free tickets for the unemployed and the disabled.
Amendment No. 25 states:The Council may make arrangements for the granting of concessions of not less than 10 per cent.to the citizens of Birmingham. However, it does not require the council to do that. If the council was mean-minded, the unemployed and the disabled would receive no concession. I hope that that will not be the case and that the council will ensure that everyone in Birmingham——
§ Mr. Rooker
I think that my hon. Friend is a little inaccurate. The people listed — such as the disabled, the unemployed, those under the age of 16 and pensioners — must receive a concession because the word "shall" is used. It is with the generality of ordinary domestic ratepayers that the council has discretion.
§ Ms. Short
There is no difference between my hon. Friend and me on that point. I agree with his interpretation of the amendment, which states, "may make arrangements" for all the people of Birmingham and "shall" make arrangements for pensioners, the disabled, people under 16, those on unemployment and supplementary benefits and those in receipt of family income supplements. Therefore, all that the amendment secures for certain is a 10 per cent. concession for those groups.
I hope that we all agree that it is reasonable to impose by law only that minimum condition on the city council. However, we all want to do better than that and to make a larger concession to the citizens of Birmingham. I understand that the tickets will be expensive — the city council suggests between £5 and £25 each. Anyone wishing to take their family to such an event would find it expensive. The hon. Member for Birmingham, Yardley (Mr. Bevan) said that 250,000 happy Birmingham people attended the original event. That event was free and families could enjoy a nice day out without it costing them anything. If tickets for a race — which might be more exciting, who knows — cost a family £25, fewer people would be able to afford to go.
Many people in Birmingham have been led to believe that they will be able to have a fun day out, but there is 594 a danger that they may not be able to afford to go. I hope that the hon. Member for Hall Green will be able to give a commitment that the city council will try to do better than the rather small minimum contained in the amendment.
§ Mr. Roger King
I wish to address my remarks to amendment No. 25. I have always been under the impression that there would be some form of concessionary ticketing. Indeed, that applies at most motor racing circuits. Although the cost of a ticket to Brands Hatch or Silverstone may be £5—or a good deal more for a grandstand seat — there are usually concessions for carloads. A set price is paid for a car, regardless of the number of people in it. Obviously, that must be within reason because the people on the gates would watch closely for a mini with 20 people in it.
There needs to be some imagination in the way the tickets are sold. Motor racing events are expensive to stage, and no one has tried to hide that fact during the passage of this Bill. We need to get as many people to the event as possible. The figure might not be 250,000, but it will include people from Dudley, Walsall, Wolverhampton, Coventry and throughout the country. The tickets must be pitched at a price that people can afford.
A ticket to a cinema in Birmingham will cost about £2 or £2.50. For a family, the cost would be about £12, plus whatever is spent on icecreams. Therefore, if the price of the motor racing tickets is pitched carefully, people would have about 10 hours of intermittent entertainment, which would be good value.
Many people will have a freeman's day because they will be domiciled in some of the tower blocks near the track. They will have a commanding position to view the day's events at no personal cost. They will witness what many people would call an exciting spectacle. However, to be honest, others might describe it as monotonous. Cars racing round a circuit do not fill everyone with enthusiasm —perhaps only 99 per cent. of us.
At many circuits throughout the country the unemployed are unable to watch motor racing because of the cost of travel to the tracks. The disabled are also disadvantaged because they have to vacate cars and cross grass areas to watch the race. I hasten to add that many of the established circuits do provide facilities for the disabled. The only way for many people to see a race is on television or at the cinema.
I firmly believe that many of the categories in amendment No. 25 should receive concessionary tickets and have the opportunity to see a race. After all, the whole object of the exercise is to expand the motor racing market and the activities, the business and the industry that it generates. The more people who watch a race, the more income there is for the industry.
Motor racing is one of Britain's most successful industries. It is not readily appreciated that at Indianapolis some 70 cars compete, of which 65 are British-built with British engines. During the last few years the winners have been British cars. Britain is pre-eminent in the design of motor car so it is right that more and more people should have the opportunity to witness a spectacle in which we are virtually one of the world's leaders — with the possible exception of Ferrari, which is legendary for its spasmodic attempts at usurping British racing cars.
I note that the amendment refers tomen over the age of sixty-five years and women over the age of sixty years.595 I suppose that that is a throwback to the pensions business. It is just a bit disadvantageous for males — they have to be five years older than women to appreciate the sport on a concessionary ticket. I do not criticise the hon. Members who tabled the amendment. It is one of those unfortunate things that we lesser mortals — the males of the species —have to tolerate. It has happened yet again in broad letters that we can all witness.
It is important to encourage families to take part in motor racing activities. Although those living close by will be able to see the event at little or no expense, my constituents in Northfield will have to use public transport or their own cars to get to the circuit. I hope that those using cars will have the benefit of a family ticket. Indeed, there should be an opportunity to purchase a family ticket whatever transport one uses. For example, one could buy a family ticket at a railway station in, say, Coventry that would take people to the circuit by rail. That will not be in effect by next August, but it will be afterwards when all the private bus companies will be supplying cities with the cut-price fares and wonderful services that we confidently expect.
The main criticism about concessionary tickets, which has been mentioned only in passing, is that applicants must be resident in the city. This provision will create the problem of producing evidence, which is acceptable to the ticket vendor, that one lives in the city. That can be overcome, but there would be problems of issuing concessionary tickets on the day. One way round that problem would be for concessionary tickets to be purchased a few days before the event, to allow those who are entitled to concessionary tickets to get them.
The normal practice at motor racing events is that if someone buys a ticket in advance, he gets a concessionary ticket whether or not he lives adjacent to the circuit. I hope that our friends in Dudley, Wolverhampton, Walsall and anywhere else in the west midlands who wish to avail themselves of a ticket two or three weeks in advance of the event will be entitled to a discount. That is not stipulated in this amendment, but it does say that the council may make such arrangements. I hope that the arrangements will be extended to other parts of the west midlands and not be confined to the citizens of Birmingham. As was so eloquently said by my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley, West (Dr. Blackburn) this is not merely a Birmingham event.
§ Ms. Clare Short
It will be the ratepayers of Birmingham who will have to spend the £1— million every time the race is run. It is right that they should have cheaper tickets than anyone else, because they will pay for the staging of the event.
§ Mr. King
The hon. Lady has said the word. It is right that the people of Birmingham should have "cheaper" tickets. Those in the immediate area surrounding the city, upon whom the motor race will depend largely for its success, should also have some form of concession. That is normal marketing procedure. Nowadays, there is not just one price for a ticket, take it or leave it. Instead, there is a range of opportunities, such as family tickets, advance purchase tickets, local citizen tickets and through tickets, including transport by bus and train. There is wide scope for imagination.
The amendment is not necessarily needed to improve the Bill. Any organisation seeking to make a profit and a 596 success of a venture such as this would leave no stone unturned in its efforts to sell as many tickets as possible. If it suits the Opposition to categorise the series of concessions that they would like, I am happy to support them.
§ Sir Reginald Eyre
I am glad to accept the amendment in the names of the hon. Member for Birmingham. Hodge Hill (Mr. Davis), the hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker) and the hon. Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Ms. Short). I believe that it expresses a feeling that is widely held in Birmingham. I agree with the interpretation of the clause which was developed by the hon. Member for Ladywood and other Opposition Members. I hope that the generous interpretation of the scheme that she asked for will be implemented. That would make the scheme so much more attractive in Birmingham.
My hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Mr. King) has emphasised the importance of selling tickets. It will be necessary to effect a large number of successful sales and we shall want to encourage block bookings from Sandwell, Dudley, Wolverhampton and all parts of the west midlands. We shall want also to attract visitors in large numbers from Scotland, the north of England, Wales, Northern Ireland, Kensington and other parts. In addition, we hope to attract many visitors from overseas.
§ Dr. Blackburn
Does my hon. Friend accept that there is a market of about 750,000 people concentrated in the black country? My hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Mr. King) has suggested that a concession might be presented to those who live in areas adjacent to Birmingham without taking away the benefits that citizens of Birmingham will have.
§ Sir Reginald Eyre
The costings exercise has not been completed, so it is not possible to talk about costs in detail The principle of having attractive terms for those in the west midlands appeals to us all and the notion of having a special consideration for the people of Birmingham has been accepted on both sides of the House. We want especially attractive terms to be available to Birmingham people. In all the circumstances, I am glad to accept the amendment.
§ Mr. Terry Davis
I am glad that the hon. Member for Birmingham, Hall Green (Sir R. Eyre) is prepared to accept the amendment.
Unfortunately, it seems that the hon. Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Mr. King) may have misunderstood one or two matters. He is definitely labouring under a misapprehension if he thinks that there would have been a concessionary scheme for Birmingham residents, the unemployed, the retired or the disabled if my hon. Friends had not tabled earlier amendments to the Bill.
Perhaps I should explain that my hon. Friends and I met the representatives of the city council in March shortly before Second Reading. We had been asking for a meeting for five months and some time passed before the leaders of the council were able to arrange to meet us. It was clear from the expression on the faces of the council representatives that the creation of especially attractive terms for those groups of people was a new idea for them. Indeed, it was clear that the idea was a revalation. They had not anticipated that we might be asking for such a scheme.
597 As my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker) has said, in spite of everything that was said on Second Reading, the council representatives had not considered what should be done by the time that we met them again shortly before Report. I do not accept that the arrangements that we are discussing would have been made if my hon. Friends, with my support, and the support of others, had not advanced the suggestion. The hon. Member for Northfield is simply mistaken if he thinks that it would have happened in any case.
The hon. Member for Northfield made a serious comment about attractively priced tickets for retired men and women and said that it was unfortunate that men would have to wait until 65 years while women would be eligible at 60 years. I agree with him entirely. However, the wording of the amendment was negotiated with the representatives of the city council last week and the form in which it appears before us is their drafting. We wanted our objectives to be met and we were willing to accept their wording. We were arguing on behalf of pensioners, and men retire at 65 years under the state pension scheme. I have always supported the idea of a reduction in that retirement age to bring it into line with the retirement age for women. In view of the remarks of the hon. Member for Northfield I look forward to his support in the Division Lobby on the next occasion that that proposal is put before the House.
§ Mr. Roger King (Birmingham, Northfield)
I do not want to be side-tracked on this debate as to when one should retire, but I support the same retirement date for men and women, not necessarily at 60 but somewhere in between. I support a lot of things I would like to see happening but it is not necessarily the case that one can afford to do them.
§ Mr. Davis
I am not going to be distracted by the hon. Member for Northfield because I have always believed in raising the level of people who have least to the level of people who have more, and I am not going to do it by taking a lot from people who have a little. I would have thought that was the sort of philosophy that Conservatives would have accepted. I am disappointed that the hon. Gentleman wants to penalise women in order to benefit men. I will not pursue that any further because I am sure we will have an opportunity to pursue it at a future date, and I look forward to seeing how the hon. Member for Northfield votes on those occasions.
He also raised a very important point about how a Birmingham resident would be defined. I understand his point, but I repeat that the wording of this amendment was negotiated with representatives of the city council and they told us they could do it. The phrase "Birmingham people" is a difficult one to define and cannot be restricted to Birmingham ratepayers. We are concerned that people who live in Birmingham should be able to buy tickets at concessionary prices.
The wording of the amendment, as my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Ms. Short) has rightly emphasised, only makes it possible for the council to give a concession to Birmingham people. We have been given a firm assurance that it is the intention to provide that sort of concession and we want to put it in the Bill in order 598 to emphasise our concern. If the council had not met us on this point, I do not think my hon. Friends and I would have allowed this Bill to pass so easily this evening.
I must also draw the attention of the House to the fact that the concession would not be restricted to Birmingham residents. There is nothing to stop the organisers of the motor race from providing concessionary tickets to individuals or groups of people as they think right from a marketing point of view. But we were elected to represent the people of Birmingham and we argued for many months that they would be paying a price as a result of this motor race in terms of expenditure which would not take place on things which we regard as worthwhile items of expenditure by the city council. If they are going to pay any price at all, and that price has been reduced to a very low level as the result of concessions by the city council, it should nevertheless be balanced by an advantage.
The concessionary price for Birmingham people — and they are the people who are suffering a loss of expenditure in other fields — should be allowed in order to provide that advantage. It is only permissive in the Bill, but we have been given a firm assurance, and we are satisfied with the integrity of the representatives of the city council who met us. I repeat that we are not concerned about marketing or the motor race industry. I am not entering into disputes with the hon. Gentleman for Northfield about that. I am quite sure that people who are promiting this Bill and organising this motor race will take that sort of decision. Of course, their decision will be based on marketing reasons and on what is most profitable. Indeed, the hon. Gentleman is arguing that the decision will be based on whether it increases income for the motor race. That is not our point of view. We are concerned to ensure that people living in Birmingham have an opportunity to see this motor race at a lower price than people who do not live in Birmingham. We are not concerned about increasing the profits from the motor race but about increasing the opportunities for enjoyment for the people we represent.
The hon. Member for Dudley, West (Dr. Blackburn) expressed the hope that there would also be a concession for people in the black country. The hon. Gentleman wants to have his cake and eat it. He wants to have benefits for the people of the West Midlands county after his Government have abolished the West Midlands county. He cannot have it both ways. From next year the people in the black country are going to be on exactly the same footing, as far as the people of Birmingham are concerned, as people who live in Worcestershire or Warwickshire or Staffordshire. They will simply be people living under a different local authority, thanks to this Conservative Government. The hon. Gentleman cannot come asking the people of Birmingham to give concessions to people who live in places which were in the West Midlands county, a body which will not exist, I fear, after that time.
The hon. Member for Northfield said this amendment was not needed. In one sense he is quite right. It would have been possible for the council to give these concessions to Birmingham people and to give concessions to the retired, the disabled, the young and the unemployed without this provision being written into the Bill. However, we were concerned about the lackadaisical way in which the council was approaching the arguments we put to it. The council did not come back to us and say 599 that it had got a scheme. The reaction was, "Well, we hear you and we will think about that at some time in the future." We were not willing to allow this Bill to pass without ensuring there was more than that. These arrangements are not perfect but they are the minimum on which we will allow this Bill to proceed.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendments made: No. 23, in page 9, line 7, leave out `(1)' and insert '(a)'.
No. 24, in page 9, line 9, leave out '(2)' and insert (b)'.
No. 25, in page 9, line 13, at end insert—'(2) The Council may make arrangements for the granting of concessions of not less than 10 per cent. in respect of the payment of charges under subsection (1).
(3) The Council shall exercise their power under subsection (2) above in relation to qualified persons ordinarily resident in the City.
(4) In this section:—concession" means the reduction or waiver of a charge either absolutely or subject to terms, limitations or conditions.
qualified persons" means persons mentioned in any of the following paragraphs or any description of such persons, that is to say—
- (a) men over the age of sixty-five years and women over the age of sixty years
- (b) persons whose age does not exceed sixteen years
- (c) disabled persons
- (d) persons in receipt of unemployment benefit, supplementary benefit or family income supplementdisabled person" has the meaning assigned to it by section 8 of the Rating (Disabled Persons) Act 1978.' —[Mr. Terry Davis.]