HC Deb 20 March 1990 vol 169 cc1084-6

Order for Second Reading read.

9.12 pm
Mr. David Harris (St. Ives)

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

I hope that this will prove not to be a controversial measure. Its objects are set out in the explanatory statement, which has been made available to hon. Members, and the plans for the proposed works have been properly deposited according to the Standing Orders of the House applying to private business.

The Bill is sought by Penwith district council, which operates and owns Penzance harbour. The measure has two objectives. It was found some time ago that the structure of the south pier was in a poor state, and I regret to report that it has deteriorated further owing to the recent storms. It was thought that, when shoring up and improving the structure of the wall, it would make sense also to build works which could be used for a car park with 320 spaces.

The council decided to promote the Bill last year and to authorise its director of housing and public services to draw up detailed plans and proposals to bring forward this joint enterprise.

The estimated cost of the whole project is some £1,750,000. The director of housing and public services has consulted widely—with the Nature Conservancy Council, the Cornwall Trust for Nature Conservation, Cornwall county council's surveyor and with English Heritage.

Mr. Martin Redmond (Don Valley)

I wonder whether the hon. Member can answer the following questions in his preamble to the Bill. Can the facilities be used for the import of coal? Why was it necessary to have so many Lords amendments to the Bill? Why is the director of housing involved when one would have expected the project to come under some other local authority committee?

Mr. Harris

To answer the hon. Gentleman's last point, the director of housing is also the director of public services. I suppose that he fulfils the role of what used to be, to use old-fashioned council terms, the borough surveyor when Penzance had a council of its own. He now fulfils joint roles. Penwith district council is extremely efficiently run and has combined a number of posts.

I had intended to mention coal later. The harbour works can in no way be used for the importation of coal, so I can reassure the hon. Member about that.

Mr. James Hill (Southampton, Test)

Thank you, I can leave the Chamber now.

Mr. Harris

I urge my hon. Friend to hang around a little longer.

As I was explaining, the council has consulted widely and no petitions were presented. In reply to the intervention by the hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. Redmond) about Lords amendments, I think, with respect, that he may be confusing this Bill with another Bill promoted by Penwith distist council which received Royal Assent a few weeks ago and to which there were a number of amendments in the other place. The Bill that we are discussing today has not yet been to another place. I hope I have reassured him about that.

No petitions have been lodged against the Bill, although I received one letter from a constituent, Mrs. Primrose May, who wrote to me on 29 January saying that she opposed the Bill. Mrs. May is an officer of the Penzance Waterfront Society. Unfortunately, her letter arrived on 30 January, which was the last date for presenting petitions against the Bill in this place. However, I wrote to Mrs. May explaining that she would have an opportunity to petition against the Bill in another place when the Bill goes there, as I hope that it will, and I have fully informed her of her rights.

The society that Mrs. May represents has been concerned about the council's plans to redevelop the harbour area. The Bill is not connected with those plans. As I explained earlier, it is primarily concerned with the safety of the pier and the provision of car parking spaces.

The hon. Members for Don Valley and for Denton and Reddish (Mr. Bennett) have tabled the motion That the Bill be read a Second time upon this day six months. I hope that I have reassured the hon. Member for Don Valley that this project could not be used for the importation of coal. I believe that to be his primary concern.

Mr. Redmond

I am concerned about the importation of coal. Jobs in my constituency would be affected. The importation of coal would also affect the national interest; the country cannot afford large imports of fuel. After I became interested in two other private Bills, I noticed that a series of private Bills was going through this place on the nod. I am convinced that 95 per cent. of them ought to be the subject of local planning procedures. There are two aspects to the objection. I do not want the hon. Gentleman to misunderstand it.

Mr. Harris

I do not misunderstand the objection. I had intended to say that in addition to the hon. Gentleman's objection to certain Bills, I recognised that both he and other hon. Members are concerned about the private Bill procedure. The hon. Member for Denton and Reddish has drawn attention to its drawbacks. He knows that assurances have been given by the Lord President of the Council to review the private Bill procedure. Let me say, not as the Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Lord President but as the Member of Parliament for St. Ives, that I share many of the hon. Gentleman's concerns about the handling of private legislation.

Hon. Members may think that the private Bill procedure is a means of circumventing the normal planning procedures. I therefore draw their attention to the provisions in the Bill which make it crystal clear that the normal planning procedures will have to be gone through before the works can be carried out. There is a further safeguard—that before any works can be carried out the council must obtain the Secretary of State's approval. He will have the power to lay down all sorts of conditions. A planning application has been advertised in the last few days, or is on the point of being advertised, which will give local people, particularly Mrs. May and the members of her society, the opportunity to make representations about the Bill.

My objective is to try to ensure that the Bill is given a Second Reading. Those who object to it will then have an opportunity to object in the proper manner and, if they wish to exercise it, the opportunity to object to the planning application. With those safeguards, I ask the House to give the Bill a Second Reading.

9.24 pm
Mr. Martin Redmond (Don Valley)

I wish to raise just one point for clarification. Why did the House of Lords seek to amend the Bill? I should be most grateful if the hon. Gentleman would intervene and clarify that point.

Mr. Harris

I have tried to explain to the hon. Gentleman that he is confusing this Bill, which has just started its procedure through the House, with a previous Bill published by Penwith district council—the Penzance Albert Pier Extension Bill. That Bill was amended in the House of Lords. This Bill has not yet gone to the other place. It has just started its procedure through this House and will go to the other place later. The hon. Gentleman is confused between the two Bills.

Mr. Redmond

It says here, "Penzance Albert Pier Extension Bill, Lords amendments."

Madam Deputy Speaker (Miss Betty Boothroyd)

Order. We are dealing with the Penzance South Pier Extension Bill. "South Pier Extension" are the operative words. Mr. Harris, you have the floor.

Mr. Harris

I hope that I can reassure the hon. Member for Don Valley that there are two Bills. One is now an Act. It has completed its passage through both Houses of Parliament and received Royal Assent about a fortnight ago. That is the Bill to which the hon. Gentleman is referring—the Penzance Albert Pier Extension Bill. This is the Penzance South Pier Extension Bill. There are two Bills and two piers and two quite different schemes. One was amended in the House of Lords, but the one that we are dealing with now has just started its proceedings through Parliament and has not yet reached the other place.

Mr. Redmond

I apologise. I asked the Vote Office for the Bills and was given them. I was not interested in the previous private Bill and I did not check it as I should have done. I humbly apologise.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill read a Second time, and committed.

Madam Deputy Speaker

There being no Member of the Committee of Selection present, the two motions on employment and foreign affairs are not moved.