HC Deb 04 July 1985 vol 82 cc588-91

8 pm

Mr. Rooker

I beg to move amendment No. 8, in page 5, line 34, after 'such', insert 'reasonable'.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

With this it will be convenient to take the following amendments: No. 9, in page 5, line 42, at end insert '(even if for the purpose of education)'. No. 10, in page 5, line 44, leave out 'reasonable'.

Mr. Rooker

Amendments Nos. 8 and 10 are alternatives to amendment No. 9. I did not think it right to leave out the word "reasonable" in line 34 if it stays in line 45. I seek either to include it in one or remove it from the other. I understand that the Bill's promoters are prepared to accept amendment No. 8.

When restricting access to streets and premises the city council should not be allowed to impose such conditions as they think fit. Local authorities should not be able to operate like that. The insertion of the word "reasonable" is a reasonable request. It is reasonable to be reasonable and we are all reasonable people.

Amendment No. 9 ensures that there will be reasonable access to any person attending a place of public religious worship; (even if for the purpose of education)". Do the city fathers, the lawyers in the city council or the Bill's promoters understand that Birmingham is a multiracial city? The largest purpose-built mosque in the region is on the route of the race. It is used for other than strictly religious purposes. It is used for education. I tabled the amendment with the consent of my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) in whose constituency the mosque stands. I shall not press amendment No. 10.

Sir Reginald Eyre

In amendment No. 8 the hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker) presses for the insertion of the word "reasonable". I have listened to his speech and thought about the proposal and I think that it is reasonable to accept his reasonable amendment.

I understand the hon. Gentleman's arguments in relation to amendment No. 9. It is with pleasure that I accept that amendment.

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for saying that he does not wish to press amendment No. 10. If the word "reasonable" were deleted the council would be under an obligation to provide a lower standard of access.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment made: No. 9 in page 5, line 42, at end insert `(even if for the purpose of education)'. — [Mr. Rooker.]

Mr. Terry Davis

I beg to move amendment No. 4, in page 7, line 20, to leave out 'Birmingham District' and insert 'West Midlands Regional'.

Clause 5 deals with the rights of certain bodies to obtain access to an area in which a race is taking place in order to discharge their duties. This refers in particular to the fire service, the highway authority, the police and the Health Service. Someone living near the race might need an ambulance or need to be visited by medical or nursing personnel. Such access would be difficult without making special provision for it. That is the reason for clause 5.

However, the Bill is defective because subsection (9)(b) refers to the "Birmingham District Health Authority". No such body exists. There are five district health authorities in the city of Birmingham. Within the city there are all the points of the compass-north, east, south and west-district health authorities plus the central district health authority. The route of the motor race runs through the areas covered by two of those authorities.

Personally, I think that a mistake has been made. As I understand it, the ambulance service is operated by the regional health authority. The West Midlands regional health authority should therefore be included, even if we specify a district health authority. The best way round the problem is to remove the reference to the "Birmingham district health authority" and to insert West Midlands regional health authority on the reasonable assumption that the regional health authority, which supervises and liaises with the district health authorities, would ensure that everyone in the Health Service has access and will be consulted before the race is held.

I think that a mistake has been made in the drafting of the Bill and that the change in the organisation of the Health Service a few years ago has not been understood by the city council. It was Conservative Ministers who introduced the structure of five district health authorities instead of the old Birmingham area health authority. Perhaps that is why we have been joined by a former Minister at the Department of Health and Social Security, the hon. Member for Brent, North (Dr. Boyson). In the expectation of a contribution from him as well as the hon. Member for Birmingham, Hall Green (Sir R. Eyre), I rest my case.

Sir Reginald Eyre

I accept the arguments by the hon. Member for Birmingham, Hodge Hill (Mr. Davis). Earlier I said that the drafting error would be corrected by an amendment moved in another place. However, I am happy to say that the hon. Gentleman's amendment is acceptable. I should like the hon. Gentleman to know that the West Midlands regional health authority has confirmed to the city council its satisfaction with the arrangements. The Bill is much improved by the amendment and I am grateful to the hon. Member.

Mr. Davis

That means that we shall amend the Bill, and I am only sorry that we shall not hear a contribution from the Minister, the hon. Member for Brent, North.

If we had concluded our deliberations a week ago, on Monday 24 June, it would not have been possible to amend the Bill in this way in this place. The city council would have been compelled in common sense and logic to correct the drafting of the Bill in the other place. I understand that that would have been expensive because a petition would have been involved.

Mr. Rooker

It would have meant that my hon. Friends and I would have felt bound to ensure that there was a Third Reading debate, which would have added to the cost of the Bill. Getting the matter right tonight saves money for the ratepayers, but it could have been put right earlier.

Mr. Davis

My understanding — I have taken the trouble to discuss it with Clerks in the Private Bill Office, who are supposed to be the experts — is that it would have involved a petition and not simply an amendment. I am told that it would have been expensive, but I may be mistaken.

We are able to debate this matter tonight only because we did not finish our deliberations a week ago. I must say that it would have been easy for the city council to do earlier what it has done in the past 10 days. It would have been possible for the city council, when I tabled this amendment and sent a copy of it to the leader of the city council, to consult the West Midlands regional health authority before our discussions on 24 June. I am a bit disappointed that the council was a bit slow off the mark, but better late than never, and I am delighted that it has seen sense enough to accept my amendment.

Sir Reginald Eyre

I appreciate what the hon. Members for Birmingham, Hodge Hill (Mr. Davis) and for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker) have said. We are entering the final stages of our examination of the Bill to which we have given close attention and we all agree that it is much improved. I hope that the possibility of a formal Third Reading will continue, because certain expenses — promotional costs — which I think we all wish to keep as low as possible, would be incurred by debate.

Mr. Davis

If I may speak for my hon. Friends the Members for Perry Barr and for Ladywood, we would not want to increase expenditure. Indeed, we have been concerned throughout to make sure that the Bill is sensible. It is now becoming more sensible by the minute. Whether there will be a Third Reading debate depends upon whether the spirit of concession and willingness to accept our amendments continues.

Amendment agreed to.

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