HC Deb 04 July 1985 vol 82 cc576-86

'(1) The Council shall not make payments in respect of prescribed expenditure incurred in the exercise of the powers of this Act before the first authorised day in excess of £2,000,000. (2) For the purposes of this section— the first authorised day" means the authorised day during which the Council first exercise their powers under section 5 (Closing of streets for motor races) of this Act; prescribed expenditure" has the meaning assigned to it by section 71 of the Local Government Planning and Land Act 1980.'—[Sir Reginald Eyre.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

7 Pm

Sir Reginald Eyre (Birmingham, Hall Green)

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

Mr. Speaker

It will be convenient to discuss at the same time new clause 3—Annual revenue account: '(1) The Council shall prepare a revenue account not later than 30th September in the financial year following that year.

(2) A revenue account must show a true and fair view of the financial result of the Council having exercised the powers of this Act in the financial year to which it relates.

(3) If at the end of any financial year any revenue account is in deficit, the amount of the deficit shall be charged— (a) in the first instance to any reserve fund established by them; and (b) subject thereto to the general rate fund.

(4) In subsection (3) above, the reference in paragraph (a) to a reserve fund established by the Council is a reference to a fund the sole purpose of which is to meet any expenditure incurred by them in connection with the exercise of the powers of this Act.

(5) If the revenue accounts for the first five financial years in which the Council provide motor races show a cumulative deficit the power to provide motor races shall cease to be exercisable by the Council.'

Sir Reginald Eyre

It will be remembered that the purpose of the Bill is to give the city of Birmingham an opportunity to provide once a year a great tourist attraction in the form of a motor race and associated family attractions on a carefully chosen pattern of roads near the city centre. It is believed that the event will attract considerable media interest in a new and attractive part of Birmingham and will give great encouragement to the motor industry in the west midlands and to the many thousands of people in Birmingham and the west midlands whose work is connected with the motor industry.

New clause 2 meets the point raised by the hon. Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Ms. Short) in amendment No. 16, and I hope that, in view of my new clause, she will withdraw that amendment. The new clause restricts capital expenditure to £2 million prior to the first motor race event. It therefore improves the Bill by taking account of the points that the hon. Lady and her hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Hodge Hill (Mr. Davis) raised on 24 June, when a defined limit of the kind that I propose was sought. I felt that both hon. Members had expressed points of concern that would be understand in Birmingham, and I am happy to say that the new clause meets the points that they raised.

The council expects that the expenditure will be of a lesser sum, but the figure specified in the new clause takes account of regulations that could be imposed in regard, for example, to safety requirements, and of unforeseen contingencies.

Having expressed the hope that amendment No. 16 will be withdrawn, as I see the hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker) in his place, I hope that he will agree, following the discussion that we had at a previous stage, not to proceed with amendment No. 7 which stands in his name.

Mr. Jeff Rooker (Birmingham, Perry Barr)

Will new clauses 2 and 3 improve the Bill?

Sir Reginald Eyre

I had hoped that it was clear from my opening remarks that I had tabled them on the basis that they would improve the Bill.

Mr. Rooker

In that case, it follows that my comments were aimed at improving the Bill. I do not intend to proceed with amendment No. 7 in view of what the hon. Gentleman has said.

Sir Reginald Eyre

I have always accepted that the hon. Gentleman's purpose was to improve the measure. I am grateful to him for the attention that he has given to these matters and for his decision not to proceed with amendment No. 7.

New clause 3 is also designed to meet points that were made in our earlier debates. This provision meets my undertaking that if the revenue accounts for the first five financial years in which the council provides motor races show a cumulative deficit, the power to provide motor races shall cease to be exercisable by the council. The advantage of an adjourned Report stage is that I now have an opportunity to table the new clauses, rather than to amend the Bill in another place, the course that I undertook to adopt when we last debated the Bill.

The council's figures suggest, even on a pessimistic basis, that sufficient operating profits will be generated to repay the initial capital cost within the five-year period. However, the project may do much better than that, and it is hoped that that will be the case.

Mr. Rooker

I thank the hon. Member for Birmingham, Hall Green (Sir R. Eyre) for tabling the new clauses. When we debated the Bill a week ago, we were told that such amendments could be made only in the other place, and even then there was no guarantee that the Bill would be amended. My hon. Friends and I appreciate that that was not the fault of the hon. Gentleman.

We were told originally that such amendments as we required could not even be countenanced. A week ago we were told that the council, the promoter of the Bill, would accept no financial limit. In other words, we were asked to sign a blank cheque, Birmingham city council having decided to sign what was, in effect, a blank cheque.

I recall asking the hon. Member for Hall Green what figure he would accept on behalf of the council, if a limit of £1.7 million was not acceptable. I wondered whether he thought the figure should be £2 million or £3.5 million. The hon. Member for Hall Green was placed in a difficult situation, not of his own making, because of the incompetence of the promoters of the Bill, including the parliamentary draftsman, the agents and those responsible in the city council. Until recently they had not listened to the views of hon. Members.

It is a disgrace to think, following our deliberations on the Bill on 24 June, that Councillor Bosworth, leader of the Tory group in Birmingham, described the concerns that my hon. Friends and I had expressed about the financial aspects of the Bill as "sheer humbug." Councillor Bosworth told the world about my views on the race, yet I have never discussed the race with him or been at discussions which he has attended when the road race has been considered. My views are the views which I put forward in Parliament, together with my hon. Friends, that there should be no question of signing a blank cheque, which the council has agreed to do, and that we should seek to make this a better Bill, and to do that we have had to use parliamentary procedure.

We agree that there is now a limit provided in the Bill of £2 million—somewhat higher than the £1.1 million figure which the council first talked about — and a contingency of up to £1.5 million. At least now there is a legal limit. This could have been done a long time ago.

As I said in an intervention, I do not intend to raise the issue of external sponsorship under amendment No. 7. On the other hand, I note that Councillor Charlton, the chief whip of the controlling Labour group, who is a good friend of mine, was quoted the day after our last debate as stating that Birmingham city council said that it had always intended commerce and industry to provide some of the finance. I presume that that still stands, and that, in saying that, the whip of the controlling group means that an attempt will be made to get some finance from industry and commerce. I think that industry and commerce will be more willing now to put its hand in his pocket in the knowledge that the council now has a legal limit on what it can spend and that we are no longer looking into a bottomless pit. To that extent, I welcome new clause 2.

New clause 3 meets the points covered in our earlier amendments and what we said about the initial instructions on 1 April. We were told that these were rubbish and could not be countenanced in any circumstances, yet they are included on the Order Paper to be written into the Bill before it goes to the other place. It makes one wonder about the unnecessary waste of ratepayers' money up to now. Under new clause 3, the extra costs involved in consideration of the Bill on the Floor of the House on two occasions will have to be accounted for.

My hon. Friends and I do not intend to prolong the debate. We have achieved a remarkable success, given the intransigence that we met last December in the refusal even to discuss with us the contents of the Bill.

Mr. David Gilroy Bevan (Birmingham, Yardley)

I wish to respond in part to what the hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker) has said and to support the effect of new clauses 2 and 3 and other amendments.

It may well be true that there has been some confusion in discussing this matter because there may have been a lack of communication between the council and hon. Members concerned. Many of us tried to ease this path when we were contacted by the council and went to some lengths to try to arrange liaison meetings. It is fair and proper to say that there was no confusion at this end. It is fair and proper also that the hon. Members for Birmingham, Perry Barr, for Birmingham, Ladywood (Ms. Short) and for Birmingham, Hodge Hill (Mr. Davis) have raised these questions to ensure that clauses are enshrined in the Bill in order to give a degree of protection to the ratepayers of the city of Birmingham and all those who have financial interest in the measure. I congratulate them on the effectiveness of their representations, and I trust that the amendments will meet the case in full.

Hon. Members who have been in favour of what I consider to be the exciting concept of a city road race in Birmingham have learned to be patient. It was at least 12 years ago that, as a member of Birmingham city council, I first voted in favour of the Bill. We lost that day, but the idea has rightly gained momentum. Birmingham should be allowed that which it wants, and it does indeed want the road race.

I was impressed when I spent a whole Sunday—I did not see any other hon. Members present — at the rehearsal of the road race.

Ms. Clare Short (Birmingham, Ladywood)

What about me?

Mr. Bevan

If I have maligned any hon. Member, I apologise. I thought that I was the only hon. Member present.

Mr. Rooker

There were 250,000 people present.

Mr. Bevan

Indeed there were, but there were only 18 or so people in the city of Birmingham stand where I was sitting, and no hon. Members were there. [Interruption.] If Opposition Members wish to declare an interest in having attended the road race, I will be happy to withdraw. In that case, I congratulate them on undoubtedly having enjoyed the day and the spectacle and shared the joys of the 250,000 people who watched the road race and cheered to inordinate lengths after it had finished.

It is imperative to remember that this is a people's race. It is a race in support of the new Birmingham concept and of the tourism interest in Birmingham which is helping to solve some of the abundant unemployment problems from which Birmingham suffers.

Speaking humbly as chairman of the tourism committee, I have noticed that in my constituency, in which there has been a promotion of the national exhibition centre, Birmingham international airport and Birmingham international station, the unemployment rate is substantially less than in other areas. [Laughter.] It is no good Opposition Members laughing. It would be better to appreciate that many channels of employment have to be used. If, in this respect, we find the formula, that will attract people and bring some credit to the city as a car showcase, which is what Birmingham undoubtedly is, as a car manufacturing town.

Mr. Robin Corbett (Birmingham, Erdington)

A city.

Mr. Bevan

Indeed, a city which is dependent on the car industry and its derivatives, which must encourage the promotion of a car race.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Paul Dean)

Order. I realise that the hon. Gentleman is giving the context of his remarks, but I hope that he will come to the restrictions on capital expenditure, which is the subject of the new clause.

7.15 pm
Mr. Bevan

Indeed, Mr. Deputy Speaker. First, I give way to the hon. Member for Ladywood.

Ms. Short

I would be grateful if the hon. Gentleman would comment on two points. First, the event to which he has referred attended by 250,000 people was free. The road race is projected to cost between £5 and £25 per ticket, and that might make some difference. Secondly, the city council told us that it expects only 20 full-time jobs to be generated by the road race. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would not wish to exaggerate its potential for job creation in the city.

Mr. Bevan

Indeed not. Bearing in mind your instruction, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and speaking strictly to the financial aspects of the new clauses, I think that it is imperative in the context of the financial restrictions that an admission fee be paid to attend the road race. I am sure that the hon. Member for Ladywood would not wish this to be a charge upon the ratepayers or the taxpayers. Indeed, the essence of some of the earlier amendments was to ensure that no loss would be incurred by the citizens of Birmingham. It is therefore automatic that some reasonable charge should be levied. We do not dispute that there must be some charge. The Bill aims to attract sponsorship. I anticipate that sponsorship will be forthcoming from firms in Birmingham—perhaps in my constituency — which will be proud to contribute, provided that the financial ground rules are well laid.

We must not denigrate the creation of 20 full-time jobs. They are important. The race will create many more exciting part-time jobs and the spin-off into other industries and the services sector will be profound.

We have learned patience. This vehicle has been on the starting grid for a fair time. None of us wish to see the chequered flag drop at an inopportune moment — for example, Easter Monday. I join those Opposition Members who tabled an amendment to ensure that that is not so.

We have had the patience to create the right atmosphere and the sense to produce amendments with care to ensure that everything is well protected. An amendment has been tabled to ensure that the race is not perpetuated unless it is a financial success within the next five years. I believe that the race should now be allowed to start.

Mr. Terry Davis (Birmingham, Hodge Hill)

Kindness discourages me from commenting in detail upon the speech of the hon. Member for Birmingham, Yardley (Mr. Bevan). I merely remind him that once again he has demonstrated his inconsistency, as he has done several times during our discussions on the Bill.

The hon. Gentleman applauds the provision of jobs and the creation of work through public expenditure in this context, but in every other context he is opposed to public expenditure. I wish that his attitude was more consistent.

The hon. Gentleman also said that there was no confusion at this end. I am surprised that he did not take the opportunity to remove some of the confusion that he created on Second Reading on 1 April. He was then so carried away that he claimed that 93 per cent. of the people living in his constituency and in Erdington, Perry Barr and Hodge Hill were in favour of the race. He was referring of course to a survey that had been carried out in the constituency of Ladywood. No other constituencies in the city of Birmingham had taken part.

Mr. Bevan

That was pointed out at the time. I accepted that correction from Opposition Members.

Mr. Davis

That is not how I read column 987 of Hansard, but I leave it to the hon. Gentleman and the House to review that point.

It is fair to say that the hon. Gentleman has throughout been in favour of the Bill and consistent in his support for a motor race on any terms. That has been the difference between the hon. Gentleman, and my hon. Friends and myself, because we shall only accept a motor race if the financial terms are satisfactory.

New clause 2 is a significant step forward. I am grateful to the hon. Member for Birmingham, Hall Green (Sir R. Eyre) for having displayed flexibility and willingness to compromise during private discussions on the Bill. If it were not for the constructive role that he has played, we would still be debating this Bill many months from now. Instead we are making progress. Indeed, the hon. Gentleman has encouraged both parties on the city council to make the concessions which will enable the Bill to make progress. The Bill is different from what it was when it was presented to the House in November. It is a pity that those concessions were not made several months ago. That would have avoided a reat deal of delay and expense for the ratepayers and the city council. The way in which the Bill has been handled should be studied as a lesson in how not to introduce and deal with private Bills in the House. Nevertheless, I recognise that the hon. Gentleman has not been responsible for the errors that have been made.

On the other hand, if the hon. Member for Yardley is confused, so is Councillor Neville Bosworth. His comments were mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker). I shall say no more about Councillor Bosworth's comments. It is clear that he has never understood our objections. I will go further. I suspect that he has never understood the financial arrangements behind the motor race. That would be typical, coming, as it does, from a councillor who led the Conservative party on the city council and who was partly responsible for this year's massive rate increase which resulted from the legacy that he left. [Interruption.] I and all my hon. Friends, whatever their views may be about a motor race in Birmingham, will be happy to debate that matter on another occasion.

The limit of £2 million on capital expenditure which can be incurred by the city council is important. I had some sympathy with the remarks made by the hon. Member for Hall Green during the debate a week ago. I understand the difficulty of imposing an inflexible limit, but I must, nevertheless, point out that the city council originally estimated that the capital cost of the motor race would be £1.1 million. The council then added 35 per cent. for contingencies and inflation between 1984 and 1986. I do not know how much was contingencies and how much inflation. It would probably be unkind to press the hon. Member for Hall Green to tell us.

The city council said that the race would cost only £1.5 million. "Only" was its word. Then, last week, we were told that the figure of £1.7 million was too restrictive, and the council now wants £2 million. That is nearly double its original estimate—let us make no bones about that. Not even the Opposition would describe the rate of inflation as being responsible for an increase from £1.1 million to £2 million. On the other hand, the new clause does mean that the council has torn up the idea of a blank cheque. It is now willing to accept some limit on the amount of money that can be spent on the race, and that is good news because it is the capital expenditure which has most disturbed my hon. Friends and myself throughout our debates on the Bill. It is the most important aspect of the Bill.

At the same time, the most important concession made by the city council is not included in new clause 2. That was the concession that I described during the debate on 24 June. It cannot be written into the Bill, and I am not asking that it should. I am happy to accept the assurances that I have been given by representatives of the city treasurer's department, underwritten by Councillor Dick Knowles, that the financial arrangements will now be devised in such a way that we are not choosing between holding a motor race and repairing roofs, urban renewal, improvement grants, old people's homes or day nurseries for children. That is probably the most significant step forward that the city council has taken.

New clause 3 is also important. It writes into the Bill an assurance that we have been given privately on several occasions. My hon. Friends have urged that the race should not be run as a promotional effort for the city of Birmingham and at a loss to the ratepayers. We all realise that the figures which have been put before us are only estimates, but we have been anxious to see that the race is not a bottomless pit into which ratepayers' money is thrown. If the race makes a loss, it will be an expenditure item and it will mean that the city council is spending money on a motor race instead of making a profit. That is not acceptable to us, and I believe that it may not be acceptable to some Conservative Members. Therefore, a limit of five years has been put on the motor race. If the race does not make a profit within five years and recover all its expenditure within that time, as I understand it, the city council will stop the race. That is an acceptable and reasonable position to have achieved.

It also means that separate accounts must be kept. To be fair to councillor Knowles and his colleagues, they have always assured me that there will be separate accounts. I did not want it to be written into the Bill. I was happy to accept their assurances. However, I must point out that their assurances encompass more than is written into the Bill. As the hon. Member for Hall Green appreciates, new clause 3 only requires the council to keep accounts for the motor race from the passing of the Bill. I am anxious that we should know the total expenditure on this project, and I have been given assurances that separate accounts will be kept from the beginning so that we shall know how much has been spent on promoting the Bill, how much has been spent on the hospitality sponsored in the House by the hon. Member for Yardley and how much is spent next year on preparing for the motor race.

These expenses all form part of the cost of a motor race. I am not suggesting that these are costs that should be set against the profit—the hon. Gentleman is smiling and I am sure that he enjoys playing the host in the House of Commons—and I do not expect them to be recoverable. Nevertheless, we want to know how much in total has been spent on this project. That is a reasonable request. We want to know how much expenditure has been incurred in promoting the Bill and securing its passage through the House of Commons.

The hon. Member for Hall Green, who represents the interests of councillor Dick Knowles and the officers of the council, has taken tremendous steps towards meeting my hon. Friends on all these financial points, and I am glad that he has now introduced these new clauses.

7.30 pm
Mr. Roger King (Birmingham, Northfield)

I welcome the amended requirements outlined in new clauses 2 and 3. Many people have pointed out that one of the dangers in promoting this race is having an open-ended commitment or the lack of a financial background to staging the race. Motor racing is technically complex and a difficult marketing business. One cannot merely clear a bit of ground or a few streets and hold a race. Hon. Members who watched the formula 1 road championship race in Detroit recently know what motor racing through the streets actually involves. It is a complicated procedure, requiring the highest safety standards.

The question is how much the implementation of those standards will cost the organising body or authority. One of the requirements of formula 1 meetings, specifically on city circuits, is the provision of cranes to lift broken and damaged cars from the track. It is not possible to push cars to the side as it is at a dedicated circuit such as Brands Hatch or Silverstone. The emergency services need ready access during the race both to racing accidents and to domestic dwellings and business premises inside the circuit. All those requirements can involve substantial sums of money. The organisers would have to concentrate on securing sponsorship and other forms of racing money to stage the actual race.

There are several categories of motor racing. There is the fairly basic club racing, where standards are lower than they would be for a full-blown formula 1 grand prix. The city of Birmingham should pay close attention to the type of race that it wants to hold. If it were to hold formula 1 grand prix races from the beginning, it would need higher standards than for a basic club circuit. The public may believe that other categories of race are being considered, so I should make it clear that that is not the case. The event will be of a category which fits the budget.

Sponsorship can provide a substantial amount of income for the organising body to help to defray much of the organisational cost. There is a great demand to watch street circuit racing, which would be unique in this country, and it should attract people not just from Birmingham but from all over the country. The initial cavalcade last summer attracted large crowds and was covered extensively in the media, but it did not attract many people from outside the city to come and spend money in Birmingham. After all, we would not go to Nottingham just to watch a parade of cars through the streets. It is assumed, however, that the people of Birmingham would not be the only spectators for a racing event. Income for the race would come from visitors from all over the country, and possibly even from Europe if European competitors were encouraged to participate in championship rounds.

There should be unanimity in the House, because this is a great step forward for any city. If Birmingham is prepared to spend money on such a circuit, other cities may wish to follow suit, but they will be aware of the amount of discussion and debate that this has caused and will probably hesitate to embark on a similar venture.

Mr. Rooker

If any other city attempts to promote a private Bill to compete with Birmingham, it will materially affect the finances of Birmingham's road race. I wish to make it abundantly clear, therefore, that I shall use every parliamentary means to oppose any such moves by other cities until Birmingham has had five years to assess its finances, as the Bill makes clear. They have been warned.

Mr. King

The House is unanimous on that point. If other cities want to copy Birmingham, which has achieved this after a great deal of time and effort in the past 12 years, they will proceed along that path at their peril. We know the problems of reaching unanimity on organisational procedures, and more importantly, we believe that, because we are the first, we should stay that way.

Clause 3 provides that the circuit should show proper profit and loss accounts and not be a loss leader for the city's overall leisure programme and tourist attractions. All racing circuits in the country, including Brands Hatch, Silverstone and Oulton Park, have to ensure that income covers expenditure, and they would not be happy if another organisation sought to subsidise its own circuit.

Although parliamentary approval may be given for the staging of a motor race in Birmingham, that is only the first hurdle. Once approval is given, Birmingham must seek a racing permit from the Royal Automobile Club. Various established circuit owners will be watching carefully to see whether Birmingham gets its race and seeks to subsidise that race so that their own circuits lose custom. Those owners will see from the evidence presented to the House that we are insisting that the race has a proper profit and loss account. I can only pay the highest compliments to the Opposition, who place such a high value on the profit and loss account.

Local industries will be prepared to contribute and to see this great venture on its way. I have had discussions with various organisers. If August bank holiday Monday were the date of the first race meeting, Austin Rover in my constituency would be willing to provide 12 Metro cars for a celebrity race. Today, I heard that the Birmingham Post and the Birmingham Evening Mail are prepared to give a cheque of £500 to a charity of the winner's choice. I stress that the charity will be in Birmingham, not elsewhere.

The hon. Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Ms. Short) may well be the first recipient of money from a sponsor of the motor race, if the winner picks a charity in her constituency. I have a slight vested interest in this matter, in that I had the pleasure of winning the recent Commons versus Lords motor race at Brands Hatch, coming away with a £500 cheque for charity, which I gave to the Birmingham children's hospice.

Motor racing will provide an income for the local community. It will provide a wonderful opportunity for industry and commerce to sponsor a glamorous, exciting, brash, bold day for the citizens of Birmingham and the country generally. It will also put back into the local community much of what the motor industry has taken from the area through industrial dereliction and change.

This is a great opportunity. The new clauses will help to forestall criticism by outside sources which have been afraid that this project would destroy them but which will now readily recognise that this is not a here today, gone tomorrow, escapade. It is a commercial, sensibly thought. out undertaking that will last not for five years, but for many years.

Ms. Clare Short

I am grateful to the hon. Members for Birmingham, Hall Green (Sir R. Eyre), for Birmingham, Northfield (Mr. King), and for Birmingham, Yardley (Mr. Bevan) for making it so clear that they consider that new clauses 2 and 3, which were moved in response to previous amendments, improve the Bill. I hope that all those who have commented on the Bill and on our criticisms will take their remarks seriously.

Many of the commentators on the Bill, including Councillor Neville Bosworth, Councillor Dick Knowles, the disreputable Birmingham Dispatch and the leader writer of the Birmingham Post and Birmingham Evening Mail, owe Labour Members an apology. We were using the House in a proper manner to improve the Bill, yet these commentators put about the story that we were being disruptive kill-joys.

The Bill has been greatly improved. It means that, at worst, if the race fails, the waste of money for the people of Birmingham will probably be little more than the initial £2 million capital expenditure. Of course we hope that the additional £1.5 million that it will cost to run the race each time will cover costs.

From the beginning, I have been worried about the inefficient way in which this proposal has been put together. Although we were given figures and projections of the amount that would be spent, there was no guarantee that the organisations would hold to those figures. It was possible that the road race would become a big black hole and that Birmingham ratepayers would be required to keep shovelling money into it.

My hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Hodge Hill (Mr. Davis) and I were present at a meeting with one Birmingham city official who suggested that, even if the race made no money, it would be good for Birmingham and that somehow it would make Birmingham as famous as Indianapolis. Clearly, some city council officials were willing to see the race as a loss leader. That has now been ruled out — if the race is not profitable, it will not continue.

When the city council began contemplating setting a limit on capital expenditure, the official proposal to the leader of the council was that the limit should be £3 million. That was incredible, given the fact that the initial projection was £1.1 million in capital costs. The council then allowed itself £1.5 million to cover inflation and contingencies. The amount was then doubled, just in case the authorities wanted to spend more. Wisely, the leader of the city council reduced the amount to £2 million. That exercise supports the case for the amendments.

We have accepted a capital limit of £2 million, because we all understand that an unforeseen event might jeopardise the race and require expenditure of more than £1.5 million. I hope that the city council will stand by its original estimate. The fact that the £2 million limit is in the Bill should not mean that the council can feel that it is free to spend £2 million rather than the original provision of £1.5 million. I am sure that all of us accept that view. The council should seek to work within the original projections.

I am pleased that we agree with these amendments and that we are satisfied that they will improve the Bill. I hope that we can hasten the Bill's passage and that Birmingham will be able, at last, to get on with planning its road race.

7.45 pm
Dr. John G. Blackburn (Dudley, West)

I should like to pay a warm and generous tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Hall Green (Sir R. Eyre) for the work that he has done, in conjunction with other hon. Members, in bringing about an honourable, sound, common sense compromise, which is contained in the terms of the two new clauses. After I had the opportunity to catch your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, during the last debate on this subject, one or two harsh criticisms were made of my speech on the grounds that I did not represent a Birmingham constituency. However, I have a deep interest in the success of the race. It will be successful financially only if the constituents whom I have the honour to represent support it. I hope that the people of the west midlands will give their unqualified support to this venture. The crown of the west midlands has many jewels in it. The first jewel is Dudley castle, the second is Dudley zoo and the third is the black country museum. It is a credit to the Birmingham people that they have supported the black country museum. We want a cross-flow of support.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I hope that the hon. Member will come to the jewels in these new clauses.

Dr. Blackburn

I accept your rebuke, Mr. Deputy Speaker. You are correct to bring me back to these wonderful clauses.

People in the west midlands now know that the race will operate through a good financial structure. The new clauses will enhance the Bill. The legislation will attract much support. The people of the black country and the city of Birmingham will only support a measure in which they see financial common sense. Because Labour Members accept the new clauses, I believe that the responsible, reasonable people who intend putting finance into the sponsorship of the race will do so with greater confidence.

I have already declared the fact that I have no interest in Birmingham in a constituency sense, but I must point out that I particularly welcome the new clauses because they make the Bill better legislation, providing a sound financial arrangement for this undertaking.

The Bill is historic for the city of Birmingham, but although I applaud and welcome the Bill we must not be so parochial. We must have a wider vision. The Bill is unique because it creates a most interesting venture that will attract attention far beyond the boundaries of the west midlands. In that spirit, I welcome not only an improved Bill but the fact that the House of Commons speaks with one voice. Tonight, for the first time, we are speaking on the Bill with one voice because the new clauses are saturated with common sense and they bring us together.

Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.

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