HC Deb 20 March 1990 vol 169 cc1058-83

Order for Third Reading read.

7 pm

Mr. Neil Thorne (Ilford, South)

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

This Bill is promoted by the council of the London borough of Redbridge. It would authorise the establishment of a market on a site near Ilford town centre. Following a long local inquiry, the council in 1980 adopted a local plan for the town centre.

In accordance with the proposals in that plan, the council has revitalised Ilford town centre by the construction of a relief road diverting the A118 round the town centre, providing service roads and the pedestrianisation of part of the High road. As a consequence, a pleasant environment has been created in Ilford town centre for workers, residents and shoppers.

That has led to considerable investment in the town centre, and the Prudential Corporation and the Norwich Union Insurance Group are currently constructing a £100 million retail development, known as the Exchange at Ilford. That will provide 51,000 sq m of new shopping floor space together with a 1,200-space car park.

The plan proposed the development of a site in Ilford town centre for a substantial shopping development, to be combined with an expanded and more attractive covered retail market as a vital feature of the improved shopping centre. Since the adoption of the plan, about 250 people have shown a desire to take stall holdings in the market.

The council believes that a market established on the proposed site, which it owns, in Ilford town centre would provide an additional and attractive facility for shoppers and would complement the Exchange at Ilford development. The council has the support in that matter of the Redbridge chamber of trade and commerce, the Ilford Traders Association, the Prudential Corporation and the Norwich Union Insurance Group. Planning permission will be sought separately for the establishment of the market if the Bill is successful.

The London borough of Havering has two markets at Romford, one on a Wednesday and one on a Friday, which I believe are protected by charter or lost modern grant within a distance of six and two thirds miles and that it would be in contravention of that protection to establish the proposed market at Ilford. Havering has a third market at Romford, operated by it in exercise of its powers under part III of the Food Act 1984. The Romford markets contain about 600 pitches on each of those days.

Havering council petitioned against the Bill, and the issues between the two councils were dealt with by an Opposed Bill Committee. Evidence was brought by the two parties and the Committee decided on a compromise by which the Bill was allowed to proceed, subject to certain amendments for the benefit of Havering borough council, including a special provision for compensation.

The Bill having reached this stage, it having been properly contested in an Opposed Bill Committee, and the House having allowed the measure to proceed thus far., I hope that hon. Members will tonight grant it a Third reading so that it may proceed on its way.

7.4 pm

Mr. Robin Squire (Hornchurch)

To hon. Members who are not acquainted with Redbridge or Havering, the events which we are now discussing will appear to contrast with the preceding debate. Indeed, some hon. Members may find it difficult to relate the importance of this measure to the international importance, as it were, of the previous matters with which we were concerned.

Hon. Members whose constituencies come within the area of the Bill accept that we are dealing with extremely important matters, as I shall show. The Bill could also have a major impact on many other constituencies not specifically mentioned in the measure. Those constituencies, by clear and obvious linkage, would be affected by similar legislation, were it to be introduced.

I begin, not for the first time, by congratulating my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, South (Mr. Thorne) on the way in which he has conducted the proceedings on the Bill. He knows that my opposition to it in no way affects my personal friendship with him. It is simply a question of each of us seeking to do our duty, as we see it, by our constituents.

I must also mention my hon. Friend the Member for Romford (Mr. Neubert), the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence Procurement, within whose constituency is situated Romford market, around which the resistance to the Bill coalesces. He is prevented, by his duties in government, from contributing to these proceedings, but he has been present on each occasion when we have debated the Bill.

We are at the final stage of a hard-fought battle over the measure. It may be worth at the outset detailing the main changes that have occurred compared with the version of the Bill that was originally deposited, because those changes highlight a central message that I am anxious to convey to the House. Most important among the changes has been the removal of the possibility, originally set out in the Bill as deposited, of having two markets unlimited as to size and certainly not tightly drawn as to location.

Havering welcomes the fact that the compensation provisions have been substantially rewritten, to the benefit of the existing Romford market. The transfer or disposal of market rights created by the Bill can now take place only with the consent in writing of Redbridge council.

I could detail other changes, but in fairness to the House and the wish that hon. Members must have to proceed, I shall limit myself to those three main ones, which are all significant and which set out clearly the fact that the opposition of Havering council has secured a transformation in the original Bill.

Mr. William O'Brien (Normanton)

I understand that compensation is a matter for negotiation between the two boroughs. Is there any information about the way in which compensation money may be spent by Havering borough council? Will that money be regarded as revenue or capital, and could it be used, for example, to offset poll tax charges?

Mr. Squire

I had hoped that the hon. Gentleman would ask me a question that I could answer. I cannot answer, because, while I understand that the money would go to the London borough of Havering and could be spent as a revenue item, I cannot be sure of that and would not wish to mislead the House.

I am reminded, as the hon. Gentleman has mentioned compensation—which is a central part of the Bill—that hon. Members must bear in mind the fact that there is a world of difference between arriving at a figure of compensation with a measure passing through Parliament in the background, and negotiations taking place at arm's length, so to speak, between councils, with, in this case, Havering, which has existing rights, seeking new rights from the other council. The difference will be clear to hon. Members, and I need not spell it out further.

Mr. Martin Redmond (Don Valley)

I understood from previous discussions on the Bill that the question of compensation had been agreed between the two authorities and that, in the first year, it would be "X Y or Z" amount, and in the second year some other amount. Am I correct in that assumption?

Mr. Squire

The hon. Member is right, in as much as the form of words suggested by the Committee was agreed to by the London borough of Havering. If the Bill had not existed and the borough of Redbridge had approached the borough of Havering—as has always been its right—to discuss reasonable compensation for Redbridge opening a market within the statutory distance of six and two thirds miles, it is likely that very different terms would have been agreed—if it were possible to agree any terms. I think that the hon. Member will agree that there is a world of difference between that and agreeing a form of words in Committee, which were suggested to the two parties by the Committee.

The key point about this legislation is that it emphasises the dangers inherent in private legislation, when one tries to take away the established rights of another body, unless the circumstances are unique. However, in this case they are not unique and can be applied in other areas, which leads me directly to the borough of Havering's central concern.

Since 1247, charter markets have enjoyed statutory protection in this country and they have survived with that protection through centuries of legislation—such as the Shop Acts—that has affected other areas of retail trade. The reforms have left the rights of charter markets untouched.

I am not just talking about Romford market. On Saturday, I was in Colchester. I was not part of the mob that ransacked the hall there, although I addressed a meeting in the damaged building one hour later. It is the first time that I have created such an impact before I have spoken rather than as a consequence of my words. In Colchester high street was a sign saying, "Welcome to Colchester, Britain's oldest open-air market," or words to that effect.

Markets are a matter of pride. They give people something to identify with in their community and they are a major selling point, popular with ratepayers and shoppers. They are a major commercial attraction. Charter markets are not just a matter for nostalgia. There are practical common sense reasons why the rights and duties imposed by this age-old legislation are important. If there is a reason to modify the existing rights, it should be done by Government legislation that will affect all such markets.

During an earlier stage of the Bill, it was suggested that the distance of six and two thirds miles is an anachronism—my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, South emphasised that in his brief speech. We were told that originally it was the distance that one person could reasonably walk in a day. These days, not many people walk six and two thirds miles—most people have wheels on their four corners. Therefore, there may be a need to review that. Surely there should be an overall change after an analysis by the Government or by Select Committee of all the drawbacks and benefits of such a change.

In 1891, a royal commission recommended the abolition of the rules for the protection of markets' rights. Since then, there have been a variety of Governments of differing political persuasions—I am talking about a time when we still had Liberal Governments—but not one has sought to implement the commission's recommendations. To the contrary, the Food Act 1984 specifically reserved the existing rights of markets against rival markets. If we ponder the reason, we may conclude that it was because this is a complex issue and because there was concern about whether compensation rights could be accurately and fairly calculated.

With more than 250 markets dotted around the country, this issue may have been brought to the attention of the House many times since the original report was produced, but apparently not in such a way as to convince any Government of the necessity of such legislation. To make the analogy perfect, it seems to me that, if angels fear to tread—although I hesitate to apply the word angel to any Government—we should be fearful in case we turn out to be fools rushing in.

Mr. Redmond

I think that the hon. Member is making a valid point. Because of the effect that the Bill will have, perhaps the Government should consider overall legislation. A Select Committee could study the matter in greater depth. We may be discussing one small insignificant market, but it has great importance to the borough. I am not sure that we should destroy something that has existed for centuries and has proved such a useful place for people to congregate and to do their work. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman could convince his hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, South (Mr. Thorne) who is sponsoring the Bill, to withdraw it at this late stage. I am sure that the House would appreciate that.

Mr. Squire

I share the sentiments behind the hon. Gentleman's remarks. Obviously I am not privy to discussions that might have taken place between my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, South and my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State, the Member for Southampton, Itchen (Mr. Chope). I can only guess at them, but I hope that even at this late stage the Under-Secretary may feel able to contribute to the proceedings in a marginally more lengthy fashion than he has done on previous occasions.

To give some idea of the scope of the Bill, Ilford and Romford are major shopping centres which attract a substantial number of people. We are talking about a new market, which would have 80 stalls and would be open for six days a week—which is equivalent to 480 stalls. The market does not have to open six days a week, but the Bill allows it.

At an earlier stage in our consideration of the Bill, we discussed how many days it would be open, and it has been broadly agreed that it would be for six days. That will have a substantial impact on the market in Romford, which has 600 spaces—although, as we have said before, it has nearer 300 traders—and is open for three days a week. There will be two large markets. The new market will be smaller, but by any standards it will make a significant change in the existing situation.

I can assure hon. Members on both sides of the House that, despite changes to improve the Bill that I have mentioned, Havering council remains totally opposed to it. Some hon. Members may have received a note from the council this week. Unlike so many matters discussed in the Chamber or by local authorities, the council is not divided on party lines on this issue. The letter from the borough of Havering is signed by the leader of the council and the leader of the opposition. I know for certain that if the council had so chosen, it could have got the leaders of other groups within the council to sign the letter—for example, the ratepayers and the SLD. There is unanimity.

That is quite different from the position in the London borough of Redbridge. Technically, it is not covered by the Bill, but it is important to refer to Redbridge when we analyse the thinking behind the proposal and the relative strength of opinion in Redbridge and Havering. The London borough of Havering, which covers Romford, believes that the market is bad news. However, such an opinion could be dismissed by people saying, "You would say that, wouldn't you? You are arguing on behalf of rights that you hold and you are trying to defend them." There is nothing wrong in that; I am sure that others would do the same. However, in this Third Reading debate—the last time that it will be possible to put this on record—it is important to underline the views of the National Market Traders Federation.

Mr. Alan Meale (Mansfield)

One of the main reasons why the council is opposed to the market relates to the standards that have been achieved in the market and the protection that that affords to consumers and ratepayers. The National Market Traders Federation believes that consumer protection, which it took many generations of market traders to achieve, will be diminished. The hon. Gentleman ought to consider whether the benefits of die present system should be preserved.

Mr. Squire

It is unquestionably true that in no small way the value of the market has been built up by means of the skill and care exercised by the existing market traders. There are complaints from time to time; it would be unusual if there were not. However, a high reputation has been built up over the years. It is jealously guarded as a sign of quality. The market traders want to preserve that high reputation. The hon. Gentleman has made a fair and reasonable point. He has underlined the fact that there is more to this than simply trying to hold on to what one has. Certain standards have been created. There is no guarantee that, in the new market, the same standards would necessarily apply.

Mr. Meale

The consumer standards that have been achieved, in co-operation with local authorities, have protected the consumer. If he has either a major or a minor complaint, he knows that it can be sorted out under the existing arrangements. A relaxation of the rules could change all that. Illegal Sunday markets afford no protection to consumers, who in general are the ratepayers in the area and need local authority protection.

Mr. Squire

The hon. Gentleman has made another good point. During a previous stage of the Bill's consideration, my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, South said that the Bill would not damage, let alone destroy, Romford market. A number of people in that market may not share his confidence. They are worried that, if there were a downturn in market trade as a result of the Bill, an inevitable consequence would be a drop in standards in Romford market, whatever happened in Ilford market.

Mr. O'Brien

If the promoters of the Bill believe that Romford market would lose trade, what is the position of small shopkeepers who fear that they could be affected by traders in Romford market? They are concerned about their future. Is their future being considered?

Mr. Squire

Is the hon. Gentleman speaking about the small traders in Romford or in Ilford?

Mr. O'Brien

In Romford.

Mr. Squire

The small traders in Romford wholeheartedly welcome the market. They believe that it adds to the attractions of Romford in general and that therefore it benefits them. I do not know what the small shopkeepers in Ilford think. A few small traders in Ilford may not want a market, but it would be wrong if I were to suggest what the small shopkeepers in Ilford might or might not think.

The views of the National Market Traders Federation are important. It would welcome an opportunity to increase its membership, just as a trade union official would welcome an opportunity to increase membership. He would take every opportunity to do so, unless the circumstances were so unusual that he would be justified in not doing so.

The National Market Traders Federation represents market traders throughout the country. It says, "We don't want it; we don't like it." It recognises the direct link between the Bill and any future legislation. It has pointed to some of the complications. Both British Rail and London Underground are rumoured to be interested in setting up Saturday and possibly Sunday markets. They would use as marketplaces car parks that during the week are available for commuters' cars. In isolation, that sounds perfectly reasonable, but one ought to think for a moment about the considerable impact of such a proposal.

A Bill could be introduced for the establishment of a market on each car park. The arguments that could be advanced against such a proposal could not be advanced if the Bill were passed. Exactly the same principle is involved. It would not be just local authorities that might seek to take trade from existing market traders. Other bodies would be provided with a similar opportunity: their motives might be neither more nor less worthy. I do not understand how one could support one and oppose the other, as the principle is the same.

Without stretching comparisons with British Rail and London Underground too far, British Coal, British Steel and Associated British Ports also have land which could be used for a similar purpose, and presumably could tackle the central defences of the market charter rights by dint of the Bill.

Mr. Vivian Bendall (Ilford, North)

Is that not the whole reason for placing a Bill before the House?

Mr. Squire

I am not sure that I quite follow my hon. Friend. If he was implying that in each of those cases a Bill could be brought before the House, and, subject to detailed changes on compensation and everything else, would be passed because it seemed to be the natural thing to do, that would destroy market rights throughout the country. Many hon. Members on either side of the Chamber would hesitate before considering that to be good or the way to change those market rights, assuming that they needed changing.

Mr. Meale

It is not a question of Romford and Ilford alone: it affects any market anywhere in the country. If the Bill were enacted it would have a severe detrimental affect on the quality of markets around the country.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Paul Dean)

Order. I am sure that, in responding to that, the hon. Gentleman will remember that we are on Third Reading and we must deal only with what is in the Bill.

Mr. Squire

I recognise your comments, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and I have sought to stick within the strictures that you have rightly laid down.

Mr. O'Brien

Let me draw the hon. Gentleman's attention to the Second Reading debate on 6 June 1989, when the hon. Member for Ilford, South (Mr. Thorne) said: I hope that that will be the case in other parts of the country, too, in future."—[Official Report, 6 June 1989; Vol. 154, c. 81.] He was referring to the development of markets in other parts of the country. Even on Second Reading, it was not clear that the Bill would ensure protection. The hon. Gentleman who was sponsoring the Bill stated categorically that he hoped that that would happen throughout the country in future. Therefore, there are dangers, and t he hon. Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Squire) is right to draw them to our attention.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. On Second Reading of a Bill, it is in order to discuss the broad principle, which clearly has implications in other parts of the country. We are now on the Third Reading of the Bill. The debate on Third Reading is much more restricted and must relate to what is actually in the Bill.

Mr. Squire

Clause 3 deals specifically with the establishment of a market which previously would not have been possible without the approval of the House, if it gives its approval, and is central to the entire debate. I shall give my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, North (Mr. Bendall) an example that he will recognise immediately. At present, black cabs are restricted in number and there is a value attached to having a black cab. Among many reasons, that protects the users of black cabs, as my hon. Friend, who is a good spokesman for that industry, knows very well. A similar principle is attached to market rights which have a value and which are being tackled piecemeal rather than by an overall reform of market rights.

Mr. Bendall

I am not going to get involved in a debate on black cabs, as we shall probably have a debate on them in the not-too-distant future. Anybody wanting to establish a market will have to bring legislation before the House if a local authority refused it on planning grounds. Therefore, the House would have the opportunity to say yes or no to that Bill. Clearly, if such a proposal would interfere with too many markets close at hand, the House in its wisdom would reject it.

Mr. Squire

I am not quite sure that I have my hon. Friend's faith that a debate which might not be packed out would necessarily embrace the full wisdom of the Chamber. I prefer to rely upon statutes or laws that we pass with general rather than specific application.

Sir Nicholas Bonsor (Upminster)

Does my hon. Friend not agree that it would be a fine irony if London Underground decided that it wanted to establish a market at Redbridge station, which I am sure would be a very suitable place for one? I am not sure that my hon. Friends who are sponsoring the Bill would be able to come back to the House, put their hands on their hearts and say that there was any good reason whatsoever for such an application to be refused.

Mr. Squire

My hon. Friend's point needs no comment from me.

I am sorry that we have strayed but a fraction. I shall sum up the genuine opposition and concern of those of us who seek to defend the existing rights. My best friends here—I may have one or two—would not expect me to defend a totally free and unfettered market. In practice, very few Conservative Members defend a totally free and unfettered market. They may think that they do, but there is usually reason to interject some restraint or protection. I do not have any embarrassment about saying that that is my view, and I apply it here.

If there is no broad need to modify existing rights, how do we justify piecemeal reform? I and others—in particular, my hon. Friend the Member for Upminster (Sir N. Bonsor)—have tried to point out that central lacuna. Members of Parliament unconnected with either borough have come to realise the wider impact of the Bill and to support our opposition to it. Quite simply, we are talking about the compulsory extinction of market rights that have been enjoyed for centuries. We are talking about potentially identical legislation in 285 other constituencies—the constituencies where there is at least one charter market with similar rights. That makes it a bigger issue, and the House would be ill advised to pass the Bill tonight. I ask hon. Members on both sides of the chamber to join me in voting against it.

7.37 pm
Mr. William O'Brien (Normanton)

It has been outlined to us that the borough of Redbridge wishes to establish an open market in the township of Ilford. That is not the headline-catching business of the day, and I am sure that the media will be more interested in interviewing those who took part in the previous debate, but we are discussing an important issue that affects local government. It is based on what is happening, what will happen and what could happen in local government if the Bill is enacted in its present form.

The borough of Redbridge wishes to establish a market, and the borough of Havering has the right to a market in the township of Romford, decreed by royal proclamation in 1247 by Henry III, and has the protection of that long-established royal order that no other market can be established within six and two thirds miles of the market at Romford. That is basically the issue before the House. Hon. Members are being asked to annul that ancient order, thereby allowing the market in Ilford to proceed.

It is alleged that Redbridge borough council is being denied its statutory rights by the ancient law that applies to Romford. Will the sponsor outline the statutory powers that are being denied to Redbridge borough council? I have read the reports, followed the debates on the Bill and considered the evidence submitted to the Committee that considered it, but the statutory powers that are being denied to Redbridge need further clarification.

On Second Reading, the hon. Member for Ilford, South (Mr. Thorne) said that it is proposed that the market should be located within one mile of Ilford town centre, but there are further proposals that it should be established within one mile of Ilford town hall. Concern was expressed that the provisions to establish a market within one mile of Ilford town centre could apply to more than one market, but I understand that assurances have been given that only one market will be established. The hon. Gentleman should give further assurances and should answer hon. Members' questions before they take a final decision about the Bill. I therefore ask him what statutory powers are being denied and to state that no more than one market is proposed.

Sir Nicholas Bonsor

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for the line that he is taking, with which I entirely agree. Unless I have not read the Bill properly, it does not specify exactly where the market must be held, which could be significant. I know where the promoters plan to hold it, but nothing in the Bill states exactly where it should be held. The promoters must assure us that they will not subsequently move it closer to Romford market than is currently planned.

Mr. O'Brien

That is important to the people of Ilford, because the House is being asked to accept legislation establishing a market within a mile of Ilford town centre, or is it Ilford town hall? The sponsor should answer that question. Will he give the specific location of the market, which is an important issue that we should consider?

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)

As we are trying to discover the location of the market, the Bill says, for what it is worth, The Council may establish a market of not more than 80 stalls on the land shown coloured pink". Where is the pink-coloured land? Can the market be shifted around? It is on a piece of pink paper. I find it odd that those two Right-wing Tories are promoting a market that is on a piece of pink paper. My hon. Friend the Member for Normanton (Mr. O'Brien) rightly says that the Bill does not specify the location of the market.

Mr. O'Brien

I hope that we shall receive answers to my original question and to hon. Members' supplementary questions.

Mr. Redmond

It is important that the location of the market is clarified. If it was not clarified in Committee, it should be this evening, because it could have an impact on the area. The hon. Member for Ilford, South (Mr. Thorne) knows better than my hon. Friend the Member for Normanton (Mr. O'Brien) the exact location of the market. Hon. Members cannot pass the Bill without knowing where it will be.

Mr. O'Brien

My interpretation of the Bill is that the market will be located within a mile of Ilford town centre, but a further version has been given stating that it will be within a mile of the town hall. Perhaps the hon. Member for Ilford, South will clarify that.

Mr. Thorne

The Opposed Bill Committee considered the matter and approved the site marked in pink on the plan. At present, it is used for car parking. It adjoins council offices and is partly under a flyover across a railway line. As was explained in earlier debates, approval has been given for that site.

Mr. O'Brien

Is the site a mile from the town hall or a mile from the town centre? It is important that hon. Members know the exact location of the market because there is a division of opinion about where it will be established. Perhaps the hon. Member for Ilford, South will clear up that point.

Mr. Thorne

The new £100 million development by Norwich Union and Prudential Assurance is almost opposite the town hall, which most people accept is located in the town centre. The site is about 300 yd east of the town centre and the town hall.

Mr. O'Brien

That at least gives us some idea of the location of the market.

Earlier, the hon. Member for Ilford, South said that, if the House gives the Bill its Third Reading, the planning authority will have to consider planning approval for the market. Therefore, the location of the market must be on record, the planning authority will be aware of it and there will be no opportunity to move it.

Mr. Meale

Contrary to what my hon. Friend the Member for Normanton (Mr. O'Brien) has just said to the hon. Member for Ilford, South (Mr. Thorne), the matter is not clear, but is more complicated than it was before. I have here the statement on behalf of the promoters. It says that the last meeting concerned with planning Ilford town centre was held in 1980, following a long public local inquiry. From the statement, it seems that considerable changes have been adopted since 1980, even to the extent of pedestrianisation and a new bypass link road around the area. I do not know whether the people who attended the long public local inquiry, which was concerned with establishing such a planning opportunity, were aware of what could be done. I do not know whether the pink part of the plan has ever been agreed by the people in the locality.

Mr. O'Brien

I must make it clear to my hon. Friend that the statement to which he referred is the statement that we had when we discussed amendments to the Bill. There are many inaccuracies in that statement, especially on the number of markets that are recorded. I cannot judge or comment on the accuracy of the statement or on whether the people who attended the public hearings are aware of where the site will be. I thought that my question to the hon. Member for Ilford, South was satisfactory, but my hon. Friend the Member for Mansfield (Mr. Meale) has raised a further question, which I hope will be clarified before we move on from this subject. Perhaps the hon. Member for Ilford, South will clear up that point.

Mr. Thorne

The Opposed Bill Committee considered the plans. The pink colouring on the plan shows exactly where the site is to be. That plan has been signed as approved in front of the Chairman of the Committee, who is a Member of the House. Obviously, the outline planning application did not specify a particular site. The narrowing down of the site chosen was not clear in 1980, but it has now become clear because of the development undertaken by Norwich Union and Prudential Assurance, which, at that time, were not party to this enterprise. They appeared on the scene subsequently. It is partly as a result of their request that the street market is being incorporated.

Mr. O'Brien

I am grateful for that explanation. It is a pity that we do not have the plan on the Table. It would have been helpful for it to be available to hon. Members so that we could look at the issue in detail.

Mr. Skinner

Is that right?

Mr. O'Brien

We do not have the plan before us and I do not know whether there is a copy in the Chamber. If we had had that detail, it would have helped hon. Members' understanding.

Sir Nicholas Bonsor

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I seek your guidance in this matter. Surely when a document is specifically mentioned in a Bill that reaches a Third Reading debate, it should be on record or at least lodged in the Library of the House so that we have an opportunity to make the inspection that the hon. Member for Normanton (Mr. O'Brien) seeks.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

That is a matter for the promoters, and not for the Chair.

Mr O'Brien

That is why we have been requesting the information.

Mr. Gerald Bermingham (St. Helens, South)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. If it is a matter not for the Chair but for the promoters, will you tell the House how hon. Members who are not the sponsors and who are not associated or involved with the promoters are to know what we are talking about? It seems wholly illogical that the Chair can dissociate itself from a fundamental aspect of the Bill.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

That is a point of information. It is not for me to say whether the House knows what it is talking about.

Mr. O'Brien

I understand that there is no copy of the plan in the Library, although I should have to check that with the Library. It is of paramount importance for hon. Members who are not familiar with Ilford or with Redbridge borough that the plan should be made available so that we can study the location of the market.

My particular interest is that the Bill raises a local government issue. The broad principle involved is that we want to ensure that all the relevant issues are explained and dealt with before any decision is taken. Hon Members who are taking part in the debate do not have all the information before them. It is difficult to make a judgment on this issue on Third Reading.

Mr. Meale

I fully agree with my hon. Friend. I am worried now, especially as he has not yet had an answer from the hon. Member for Ilford, South (Mr. Thorne) about the value of the promoters' statement. My hon. Friend has said that the statement is fairly inaccurate. We do not have a copy of the plan and we do not know where the pink marks are. We have a statement that has been found to be very inaccurate. Surely we cannot consider giving the Bill a Third Reading without any accurate information. Surely we cannot continue at all.

Mr. Skinner

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. You have heard from several of my hon. Friends and other hon. Members that there is something missing and that the plan is not here. You have said that it is none of your business whether the plan is here or not. However, it seems that the Bill is inaccurate. Surely we need to look at the plan. There is only one way in which we can collectively look at the plan. There may be only one plan—who knows, there may be none. Let us assume that there is a plan and that the promoters have it. I reckon that it would be a good idea to adjourn the sitting so that we can examine the plan. That seems sensible, otherwise we shall be talking in riddles about the little pink pieces and all the rest of it. Let us adjourn. You will get your name in the history books, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I do not think that you have made such a decision before. You will be in "Erskine May" for ever.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

The debate on Third Reading is quite in order and we should get on with it.

Mr. Bermingham

Further to that point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. You have said that the plan is not a matter for the Chair. However, we have not seen the plan and we do not know where the little pink area is. I know that the pink area is referred to in the Bill, but how do we know that the area is within the curtilage of the borough? It may be on the edge of the borough and it may have implications for other boroughs. The House cannot be assured that the piece of land is even within the borough of Ilford until we see the plan. My hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) has made a good point. It is best that we adjourn and consider the Bill another day.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Those are perfectly legitimate points to be made during the debate, but they are not points of order.

Mr. O'Brien

That does not change matters much, Mr. Deputy Speaker. We are being asked to approve the Third Reading of a Bill and a market in Ilford whose exact location no one, apart from the Bill's promoters, knows. We have been told that the location is marked on a piece of paper and that it is 300 yd east of the town hall, but that could be 300 yd east of Westminster town hall as far as we are concerned. If we cannot obtain satisfaction, we should return to that matter.

Mr. Redmond

I note that the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hallam (Mr. Patnick) is in his place. I am not sure whether he should be here or in Sheffield. Perhaps he ought to go to Sheffield to try to determine who should be manager of Sheffield Wednesday.

I want to deal with the planning aspect of the Bill. If the market is to be located in a specific place, we must assume that outline planning permission has been sought, although clearly the application would come up for more detailed consideration later. If no outline planning permission has been sought, who is to say that the local planning authority will not veto the site? Unless there has been some discussion to determine whether the planning committee is likely to accept the location of the market on that site, the piece of land we are talking about is surely irrelevant. That has a major impact on the debate. Perhaps my hon. Friend could clarify that point.

Mr. O'Brien

The problem we face is that Redbridge borough is both the planning authority and the promoter of the Bill. Although we have heard that there is a plan with a location on it, I have not seen it and other Opposition Members have not seen it, although the planning authority is the same body as the promoter of the Bill. That is why I register my concern that we have not been able to look at the location of the site.

Mr. Meale

It appears that we are in a dilemma. Why should we take it for granted that the plan exists? As my hon. Friend the Member for Normanton has pointed out, a statement from the promoters has been found to be inaccurate. Everyone knows that that is inaccurate. Is it not possible that assertions about the plan are also inaccurate? Surely we need access to the plan before we can proceed with the Bill.

Mr. O'Brien

My hon. Friend makes a valid point. You have ruled, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that this is a matter for the promoters and not for you. Perhaps I may put it to the promoters that they should place a copy of the plan on the Table before we proceed further with the Bill. That will give them the opportunity to discharge their responsibility—which you Sir, identified—to provide the necessary information. If they fail to provide it, how can they, or anyone else, say that we should support the Bill? It is important that we should have all the details before us.

Mr. Skinner

My hon. Friend has long experience of local government, as do one or two other hon. Members. Let us assume, drawing an analogy, that we have an application for a market in a local authority area. Along come the promoters of the plan. We say, "Can you show us where it will be?" What would happen in Yorkshire, Derbyshire, London or anywhere else if the chief executive of the council said, "I am awfully sorry. We don't know where it is going to be"? He would be a laughing stock. What is more, the local press would go to town and attack that local authority if it considered the project for a moment.

Yet here in Parliament, the promoters, having managed to dodge ordinary planning applications, come along and tell us that they do not know where the market is. If a Labour-controlled local authority had been involved, the plan would have been thrown out within seconds of its appearing on the desk. You, Mr. Deputy Speaker, have said, "Sorry, it has nothing to do with me." The promoters say, "We do not know where it is." Judging by their answers, we cannot tell whether they are on this earth or on Fuller's earth. They are supposed to be knowledgeable, but they tell us nothing. Yet the passage of the Bill continues. I think it is high time it was stopped. It is a charade; we should finish it.

Mr. O'Brien

My hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) asks a question that no one is prepared to answer. Matters do not improve when further questions are asked, but perhaps a messenger is bringing the plan now.

Mr. Bermingham

There is a plan with a pink square on it, which we cannot see because no one will show it to us. We have been told that, since that plan was drawn, the Norwich Union has built a large building and another firm has built a large building nearby. There is no guarantee that they have not built on the pink piece of land because those buildings had not been built in 1980 when the public inquiry was held and people at the public inquiry had no way of knowing what would or would not be built. We now have a flyover as well.

How can we know that the bit of land still exists? My hon. Friend will bear it in mind that the traffic problems will have changed and that markets create traffic problems and give rise to access flow and goods delivery flow problems, policing problems and goodness knows what else. Does my hon. Friend believe that the promoters know what they are talking about?

Mr. O'Brien

The mystery continues. Perhaps the hon. Member for Ilford, South now has the information that we seek. If so, I am happy to give way to him.

Mr. Thorne

The hon. Member for Normanton (Mr. O'Brien) is making rather heavy weather of this. Clause 2 clearly states:

  • "In this Act—
  • 'the Act of 1984' means the Food Act 1984;
  • 'the borough' means the London Borough of Redbridge;
  • 'the Council' means the Council of the borough;
  • 'the signed plan' means the plan signed in triplicate by Mr. George Buckley the Chairman of the Committee of the House of Commons to whom the Bill for this Act was referred, one copy of which has been deposited at each of the following offices:—
  1. (a) the office of the Clerk of the Parliaments, House of Lords;
  2. (b) the Private Bill Office, House of Commons; and
  3. (c) the office of the Director of Administration and Legal Services of the Council."
If hon. Members wish to see that plan, it can certainly be seen in the Private Bill Office. If they wish me to try to obtain the copy from the Private Bill Office, I shall try to do so. If, on the other hand, they want a sketch plan to show where the market is, I can show them that straight away. I can certainly help the hon. Member for Normanton, if that is what really concerns him. I have gone to considerable trouble in the past to explain exactly where the site was located. I think that the original debate was last June.

Mr. O'Brien

I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman thinks that we are making heavy weather of this. I consider planning by local authorities, which are the planning authorities, to be very important. I imagine that, if not in Ilford, in many other areas throughout the country and in many hon. Members' constituencies, planning matters are raised with hon. Members because of the conflict that arises when planning applications are submitted to the local planning authority.

If I want detailed information on this matter, it is because I consider planning issues—the location of sites for buildings, especially commercial buildings and markets—of paramount importance. The market in question may not be operated by the local authority. It could be operated by a private party, nominated by the local authority. If that were to happen, who knows what influence that third party could have on the location of the market? That is why I am insisting that we have more information about the location of the market.

The hon. Member for Ilford, South has told me where the plan is, but I must advise him that there is not one in the Library. Hon. Members who want to inspect the plan have to go to the Private Bill Office to do so. That is a change of our procedures in the House. I had always thought that any information that hon. Members required, relating to both private and Government Bills, had to be lodged in the Library. Indeed, Mr. Deputy Speaker, although you have suggested that there may be a copy of the plan in the Library, we have now been told that it is not in the Library. We have been told that it is in the Private Bill Office or in the offices of the borough of Redbridge. Perhaps we should adjourn to Redbridge to see the plan. It is important that the plan is made available to us.

Mr. Bendall

The Bill has been published in its present form since 23 November 1989, and there has been a plan in the Private Bill Office. Any hon. Member could have gone to the Private Bill Office at any time since last November to inspect the plan.

Mr. O'Brien

This matter has arisen because I read in the report that the market is to be located within one mile of the centre of the town of Ilford or within one mile of the town hall. The hon. Member for Ilford, South has clarified that point, but there has been some confusion about the actual location. We have been told that the market will be located 300 yd west of the town hall, but we have also been told that a further development might be involved. When I came to the House tonight, I thought that the location of the centre of the market was clear and understood. However, since being given answers to some of our questions, we find that the matter has become more complicated. That is why the location or ordnance plan should be made available.

Furthermore, as you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, have pointed out, if the promoters were sincere about providing information on this matter, all the details would have been laid on the Table. However, that is not the case, so we must register our strong objections about the fact that the information that is necessary for the promotion of the Bill has not been presented to us tonight.

Mr. Meale

My hon. Friend is right to be worried about this serious point. If we were to give the Bill its Third Reading tonight without seeing the plan or ascertaining where the pink spot actually is, we might be pre-empting a major planning decision in the borough. We must remember that, in 1980, that council held a long public inquiry. Perhaps things have changed and the pink spot actually lies on the Prudential or Norwich Union buildings. Unless we get this absolutely right, we might be pre-empting a planning decision.

As my hon. Friend knows, a developer could insist on the right to site the market wherever he likes simply because we do not know exactly where the pink spot is. That is ludicrous. We could pass something tonight that would mean that the local authority did not have a right to appeal against a decision of the Department of the Environment. That could cost it tens of thousands of pounds in appeal costs.

Mr. O'Brien

I share the serious concerns that have been expressed. I want our anxiety placed on the record. We consider the fact that the information has not been available to the House to be a serious diversion from the important issues raised by the Bill.

Earlier, I asked the hon. Member for Ilford, South about the statutory powers that the borough of Redbridge is being denied. He has not attempted to answer that question, so I repeat it—

Mr. Redmond

Before my hon. Friend leaves the planning aspect, I must defend the Private Bill Office. We have recently had cause to take advice and guidance on several occasions from the staff of that Office, who have been excellent. Although I disagree with the way in which private business passes through this place, the Clerks in the Private Bill Office are most helpful.

As little was understood about them, many private Bills were passed virtually on the nod. However, perhaps we should now consider ensuring that plans and drawings are placed in the Library in future, so that hon. Members can study them at their leisure instead of taking up the time of the Clerks in the Private Bill Office. I repeat that I have always found the Clerks there most helpful in providing information.

If you were to follow the point of order that was raised earlier, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and adjourn the House to enable hon. Members to inspect the plan, I am sure that the Clerks would be happy to oblige.

Mr. O'Brien

I do not want to appear to be critical of the Private Bill Office. I am simply saying that that is not where such information should be lodged. It should be lodged in the Library as you suggested earlier, Mr. Deputy Speaker—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. Perhaps I should make this clear. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman does not wish to drag the Chair into this matter. I said that in this case the production of documents and where they are lodged is a matter for the promoters, not for the Chair.

Mr. O'Brien

I accept that, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

I want to move on, because we must consider other aspects and ask some questions before making a decision. When questions about who would run the market were asked earlier, we were told that the market might not be run by the local authority, that a third party, a private operator, might be given the franchise to run the market. Does that principle still apply? The local authority is on record as saying that when—or if—the Bill is passed, the planning application approved, and the market established it might not be run by the local authority. There is a strong feeling that a third party might run the market instead of the local authority. If a third party is to run the market, we must ask why the market will be located one mile from Ilford town centre. Is there something significant about the fact that that is near where the insurance companies are developing a large commercial area?

As the market is being fought for and its promotion by Redbridge borough is costing a lot of money—there is also the question of compensation—there is, therefore, general commercial involvement in the operation of the market. If the market is not to be operated by the borough but by a third party, I must ask the hon. Member for Ilford, South whether the principle of the seven day market also still applies.

Mr. Skinner

My hon. Friend is making a good point. Third-party ownership is becoming very prevalent. I am not for a moment suggesting that the Redbridge market can be compared to Harrods. We all know that Harrods was supposedly taken over by the Al-Fayeds, but some of us—at least on the Opposition side of the House—know that the real money came from the Sultan of Brunei, who happened to be a "friend" of the Thatcher family.

My hon. Friend has referred to the doubt as to whether the site is a mile from the town centre or a mile from the town hall. That is the kind of variable which will enable the third party to say, "Never mind the local authority—we are the boys who are moving in here." A lot of that goes on in the Tory party. It may be that there will be money in this for the Tory party—money from one of these local entrepreneurs making a killing before the Government are kicked out at the next election.

Mr. O'Brien

We must have some clarification of who will run the market. When the matter was discussed previously, the question of the council's having a third-party option was raised. The point was made that, if the council were to change politically, the decision could be reversed and the whole issue would be in the melting pot. Can the hon. Member for Ilford, South tell me whether that principle still applies? Does the local authority contemplate offering the franchise to the highest bidder? There is some doubt.

We want to be sure that markets are run properly. The hon. Member referred to markets which had been run badly and to communities which, as a result, had been let down. He said that stalls must be allocated fairly, that there should be no favouritism or nepotism. If there is to be a third party, what kind of vetting will there be? In view of the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover, it is very important that this be established.

The majority of markets in boroughs and other towns are run by local authorities. Why is Redbridge council hesitant about running the market? I hope that the hon. Gentleman will be able to answer that question. On Second Reading he said: Well run markets are an encouragement. If that is correct, why does not Redbridge council intend to run this market? On Second Reading, referring to the demand for a market in Redbridge—this is a very important point—the hon. Member said: I hope that this will be the case in other parts of the country, too, in future. In other words, he hopes that if the Bill is passed it will be the pattern for future developments throughout the country.

What is being proposed is the abolition of ancient market rights. If that is the principle behind the Bill, I want to be very cautious about it. In several constituencies the ancient order is protected. If what the hon. Member for Ilford, South has said is correct, that protection would be removed. Having listened to his comments, I fear that that is one of the purposes of the Bill. I wonder what he meant when he said: I hope that this will be the case in other parts of the country, too, in future. If there is any question of abolishing ancient market rights, the Bill involves something much wider than the boroughs of Redbridge and Havering.

I should like to know whether the Minister believes that the issue is much wider. As he and other hon. Members know, local authorities are the main providers of markets in cities, towns and rural areas. We must be assured that there is not behind this Bill any purpose other than the Redbridge promotion. Hon. Members must be clear about the purpose of the Bill and about what its outcome is likely to be.

On 6 June, in answer to a question by my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover, the hon. Member for Ilford, South said: As I said before, the chamber of trade and local shopkeepers have indicated that they are in favour. They find that an open-air market, especially one of modest size, encourages trade because it encourages people to come into the local area. But we were told earlier tonight that this will be a covered market. In other words, there has been a change of plan already.

On 6 June the hon. Member for Ilford, South continued: we can expect shopkeepers in future to view open-air markets in a different light. I am certainly not saying that every single shopkeeper in Ilford is in favour, but I have not had my attention drawn to any who have indicated dissent, whereas I have confirmation from the chamber of trade and others that they are very much in favour. After all, it was the chamber of trade that set out to raise the petition, and it has now collected 6,500 signatures. That was its own idea. I believe, therefore, that the whole tempo is changing in that regard. I hope that this will be the case in other parts of the country, too, in the future."—[Official Report, 6 June 1989; Vol. 154, c. 81.] The sting in the tail i the hope that this practice will be extended throughout the country in the future. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will clarify his remarks of 6 June. I suspect that the Bill has implications for markets in all local government areas.

The present Government have attacked local government. They are not local-government-friendly. Is this an extension of that attack? Is this a means of reducing local government influence, especially in respect of markets? I hope that the hon. Gentleman will be able to clarify the point.

The hon. Member for Upminster drew attention to the reference in the Bill to the Food Act 1984. As I asked earlier, if substantial compensation is to be paid will it be possible to use the funds to reduce the poll tax in the borough? If so, the principle could be applied throughout the country. Market areas could be sold with a view to using the proceeds to reduce the poll tax. If that is not the position, I ask the Minister to provide us with some assurances.

There are several issues before us which will have a far-reaching effect on the future of local government. For example, compensation will not be paid to the traders or stall holders who may suffer in the township of Romford. Instead, compensation will be paid to the local authority. It has been suggested that the authority will decide how the money will be spent. That shows that there is not just one view to be taken. We understand from the hon. Member for Upminster (Sir N. Bonsor) that the payment of compensation will be in lieu of the interruption of the lost modern grant. Even the hon. Gentleman could not explain that until he obtained an interpretation. It seems that other local authorities could lose their right to ancient markets for the payment of compensation. If compensation is paid, for what will it be used?

We are not following a precedent. We are not mirroring what has gone before. There is not a simple negotiation between one local authority and another. We are seeing the making of history, inasmuch as the Bill will lead to the royal writ issued in 1247 by Henry III being overturned by Parliament. That precedent can then be applied to any authority which has had similar protection.

Mr. Graham Allen (Nottingham, North)

Is my hon. Friend aware of the numerous representations received from Nottingham city council about the ramifications of the Bill? Mansfield council has also expressed considerable reservations about the implications of the Bill for many other areas. Perhaps my hon. Friend will say something about those representations.

Mr. O'Brien

My hon. Friend has set the scene for a matter to which I intended to refer. In St. Stephen's hall, there is a wall full of coats of arms of ancient boroughs. All those boroughs are likely to be involved in legislation of the kind before us today. As I have said, we are not following a precedent.

The Bill will have an important effect on local government, in which I have considerable interest. I understand that Redbridge councillors are divided on the issue. Some Tory councillors are opposing the location of the market and the way in which it would be run. In other words, there is opposition to the privatisation of the market. I want to know more about that from the hon. Member for Ilford, South. It has been reported that the market is to be placed under a flyover, which raises safety and hygiene considerations. That is one of the many issues that I have raised and to which I hope that the hon. Member for Ilford, South will respond.

When we considered the Bill in Committee we were given an assurance that the market would not operate seven days a week. The Committee was told that the application for seven-day trading had been withdrawn. At a later stage, however, we were told that consideration is to be given to Sunday trading. That is my final question to the hon. Member for Ilford, South. Are we to have a seven-day market? If so, why has the borough gone back on its word, which was given when the Committee considered the Bill? I hope that we shall receive answers to all my questions before the debate comes to an end.

8.36 pm
Sir Nicholas Bonsor (Upminster)

I spoke at some length on the Bill on Second Reading and I did so again when it was considered on Report. That being so, I do not wish to detain the House for long.

There has been enough to demonstrate that the Bill should not have proceeded to Third Reading in its present form. Before you entered the Chamber, Madam Deputy Speaker, we had a substantial discussion on whether plans had been lodged in the Library or the Private Bill Office and on the adequacy of those plans. I have been told that there are two plans in the Private Bill Office. That will be of relief to some Labour Members as it is of relief to me and, no doubt, to my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, South (Mr. Thorne). There, unfortunately, the good news stops.

Mr. Skinner

Are the plans different?

Sir Nicholas Bonsor

I do not know whether they are different, but the scales are different. I am told that one of the plans bears no scale, which means that it is difficult to determine the area that we are talking about. The second plan has a scale of 1 in to 50,000 in. It is so detailed and so huge that it is almost impossible to grasp the scale of the operation that we are considering. The information That has been prepared and produced to enable the House properly to consider the Bill on Third Reading is woefully inadequate. We were told by Mr. Deputy Speaker, rightly, that that is a matter for the promoters and not for the Chair, but it is a matter that the House must take into account. The promoters have grievously failed to keep us properly informed.

That is the thin edge of the wedge, because the Bill is a shambles from start to finish. I return to an issue that I raised at the beginning of the saga, when the Bill came to the House on Second Reading. I drew attention then to subsection (2), which states: It would be of public and local advantage to provide for the establishment of a market in the part of the borough known as Ilford notwithstanding the infringement of noncompliance thereby with any rule of law or enactment. That is an appalling subsection to have in any Bill. I said on Second Reading that it is extremely bad that the private Bill procedure should allow the rights of a local authority or another party to be taken away.

If that is to be done, it should be by way of a Government-sponsored measure, with all the departmental paraphernalia behind it. Such a removal of rights should not be sneaked in under the hem of the House by the use of a procedure that does not provide the review to which a Government Bill would be subject. It is unfortunate that the attention of the House is not focused on the important issues that are raised by Bills that pass through the House under the private Bill procedure.

Following on from subsection (2), it is claimed as a matter of fact that it would be of public and local advantage to provide for the establishment of the market. I challenge my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, South to demonstrate how it would be to the public advantage for Ilford to have a market that would be in competition with that which has been established in Romford for 750 years.

I have not been able to find—I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, South, who is now looking through his papers to assist me, will be able to help—in my Acts that I have looked at today the words "public advantage" interpreted in legal terms. Yet we are asked to accept blindly that this Bill is to the public advantage. The House should not contemplate passing such a Bill without being informed what these words are supposed to mean. I am accustomed, as a former practicising lawyer, to the phrase, "in the public interest". In so far as public advantage and public interest are the same, the Bill must be alleging that it is, in the wide sense of the phrase, in the public interest that the Bill should be put on the statute book. My hon. Friend will be in the gravest of difficulties if he fails to establish that that is indeed the case.

As all hon. Members will know, in English law the preamble to the Bill is not part of the statute. Therefore, in the English courts, Havering will not be able to take the point against it that that phrase is meaningless and has not been established as an original and necessary part of the Bill. That is not the case under European legislation, where the preamble is part of the legislation and is interpreted by the courts as part of the Act.

The European convention on human rights states that no one should be deprived of his possessions except in the public interest and subject to the conditions provided for by law. I take no issue on the second half of that, because, if the House is so foolish as to allow the Bill to proceed to the statute book, clearly that will be satisfied and the provisions of the law will be provided for. But I challenge my hon. Friend to satisfy us that it is in the public interest that the Bill should proceed. I warn him that, if he fails to do so and if Redbridge should fail to do so later, it may well be that the European Court of Human rights and not the House will decide whether the Bill has any legal importance or should be ignored.

Mr. Harry Cohen (Leyton)

The hon. Gentleman will appreciate that it was decided in Committee that 10 per cent. of the profits of the market should go to Romford as compensation. One must consider how that will be calculated. My understanding of markets is that it will be immensely difficult to decide what the profits are. I appreciate that the hon. Gentleman represents Romford's interests, and so is keen for all that money to go to Romford, but does he not agree that there might be a case for the 10 per cent. to be divided among the surrounding boroughs of the Ilford market, in which case my borough of Waltham Forest would get a share? Does he not think that that is a good idea?

Sir Nicholas Bonsor

The hon. Gentleman always comes up with some extremely interesting and stimulating thoughts whenever he intervenes in the House, but I cannot always agree with them. I can see absolutely no justification for Leyton receiving any of the compensation that my borough will receive.

However, the hon. Gentleman makes a good point when he refers to the difficulty of establishing the amount of compensation that should be paid. I am sure that my Friend the Member for Ilford, South will clarify that position, because I cannot see that the 10 per cent. can be assessed on a fair and proper basis as Romford's compensation for the loss of this right, even if I were to accept that 10 per cent. is the proper figure.

While I accept that Havering borough council has negotiated that figure and therefore, in so far as I represent its interests, I cannot quibble, speaking as an individual Member of Parliament I have to say that I am not sure that 10 per cent. represents anything like adequate compensation for taking away rights enjoyed for 750 years, in the way that the Bill seeks to establish. This seems to me to be a sneaky and underhand way of getting underneath and behind what the House has done on the broader issue.

Mr. Redmond

While it is true that the council will get 10 per cent. in compensation, it is not clear to me what the council intends to do with it. If the new market takes off and starts attracting business away from the old market, the surrounding shopkeepers will suffer from loss of trade. It might be appropriate to look into the future, to see whether they should be covered by some form of compensation. Given that the vast majority of traders live on the borderline between survival and failure, consideration should be given to compensation for the possible long-term effects.

Sir Nicholas Bonsor

I take the hon. Gentleman's point. Of course, I cannot speak for the council as to how it will use the money, and it would be wrong for me to do so. Just as, when the council sells something voluntarily, it is not for me to tell it how it should use the proceeds, so it would not be proper to speculate at this stage on how the council might use the money. Anyway, there are council elections coming up, so whatever assurances I might give for the current Conservative-led council, I could not be 100 per cent. Certain—99 per cent. perhaps, but not 100 per cent.—that the council that will run Havering after the elections will be of the same mind as the present council. But I have no doubt that whatever council is in power at the time will bear in mind the needs of those who are being deprived of trade because of the market.

The hon. Gentleman is also right to say that that is an inevitable consequence of allowing the Bill to proceed. I shall come back to that later, but, as it has been raised, I must say that I find it very strange that my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, South attempted in previous debates to give the impression that this market will not harm the Romford market at all. Having a market that could be open six days a week six miles away is bound to hurt the Romford market.

So my first point is that the Bill is a shambles and is in a very poor form, that the preamble is a disgrace to draftsmanship and that the Bill should not have come back on Third Reading in a form that was heavily complained about on Second Reading, and having been altered not a jot.

But the principle is much wider than that. It was touched upon on several occasions earlier, so I need do no more than stress it. That this will set a precedent on which other markets will be threatened is, I think, unchallengeable. I asked my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, South earlier how, if British Rail or the Underground decided that it wanted to put a market somewhere on its land in Redbridge, he could come back to the House and say that there was any good ground for challenging it. That applies to anybody else who might want to set up a market in Redbridge.

Unless there is a proper balance between the rights of traders to trade where they wish to trade and the rights of the councils and the operators of the markets to protect the traders who are trading in their area, clearly we shall go through a swing of supply and demand, whereby markets are put out of business because there is a surfeit, and then there are not enough markets, and neither the consumer nor the market trader can conceivably benefit from that.

My hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Worcestershire (Mr. Forth) the Under-Secretary of State for Industry and Consumer Affairs supports the proposal, and the Government have shown, certainly in principle, that they do not particularly like charter markets and would like to see more markets set up, and that is where the mistake is being made. As with any shopping area within a council's district, it is important that a balance of trade be maintained. It is no good having nothing but greengrocers all the way down the high street. That is why the council's position is defended by its having the right to refuse a change-of-user application for a shop currently used for a specific purpose.

Much the same applies in this case, but on a much grander scale. A 750-year-old established market is being threatened by a proposed new market within the same trading area. I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, South would not dispute that it is within the same area. Indeed, he could not do so, because that very fact formed part of the case put by Redbridge council. Its counsel said in evidence to the Committee: Fifty seven per cent. of people who are Ilford shoppers, that is people who are shopping in Ilford, go to Romford to shop in its market. How can my hon. Friend claim that the proposed market will not hurt Romford market when 57 per cent. of those who shop in Ilford use the Romford market? If the proposed market opens, that 57 per cent. of shoppers will, understandably, switch their allegiance to the Ilford market.

I do not dispute that it is in the interests of those shoppers to have a market in Ilford, assuming that that market could match the standard that the Romford market has established—a rash assumption. Although the proposed market might be in the interests of the Ilford shoppers, at what cost—not only to my constituents and those who shop in Romford and do not live in Ilford, but to the traders at Romford? If the Bill is passed, it will have a deep and damaging effect on the trading area which includes Ilford and all the boroughs around it, including that represented by the hon. Member for Leyton (Mr. Cohen).

It is important that the House understands that we are talking not only about the interests of Havering and Ilford, but about a vast number of people, all of whom have cars and all of whom shop in Romford market to their great advantage. It is a market of supreme quality which operates in a way that could not be matched and it would be severely threatened by the new competition that would be introduced by Redbridge.

Mr. Cohen

The hon. Gentleman is making an interesting point, but I wish to clarify his views. If the proposed market were established, does he think that there would be over-provision of shopping facilities in that area of London, which would result in some of those markets and traders going broke and jobs being lost?

Sir Nicholas Bonsor

That is certainly my view. I do not doubt that a new market would hit traders who are currently trading profitably in Romford, and who could not obtain a stall in Ilford because there would be fewer of them. Their businesses would be eroded to a point where neither stalls in Romford nor competing stalls in Ilford could operate profitably. That would not be in anybody's interests.

I fear that Ilford market, with its 80 stalls, will open with a great fanfare of trumpets, trade for six days a week, then four days, then two, and then close because it will not be a profitable enterprise. It cannot survive on the 57 per cent. of Ilford shoppers who currently use Romford market. The Romford shoppers, who form a much larger number, will not go to Ilford. Unless there is a centre, as there is now, where everyone in the area goes to shop, neither market will survive in the long term, and certainly not if they are to provide the present quality.

That is why the charter market rights were originally granted. Many things change over the centuries, but the fundamentals of trade do not. The protective rights were given precisely because markets could not otherwise operate profitably. The king of the day realised that in order to have properly operating markets serving the people of the country and established at the right points around the country, he had to grant protective rights so that those markets could not he undermined in the way that the House is likely to allow today.

Mr. Bendall

Can my hon. Friend explain why there are so many successful markets in close proximity to one another in east London? I have asked that question before.

Sir Nicholas Bonsor

There is sufficient demand in east London, but that is not the case in Romford or Ilford. The figures that I have given prove that. If the 57 per cent. of Ilford shoppers who currently come to Romford market cease to do so, that must damage Romford. If only 57 per cent. of Ilford shoppers shop at Ilford market, that will not be sufficient to sustain that market.

It may be that in a few years I shall be proved wrong. If the Bill is passed today, I hope that that will be so, but there has not been enough research into the matter. The House is being asked to do something that has never been done before, and it has not been given sufficient information to make such a major decision.

The only other occasion on which a market has had its rights undermined was in Bexley in 1977, and that was by mutual consent. There was no challenge from the market whose rights were being undermined. It withdrew its petition and—probably because of enormous compensation, although I do not know the facts—felt that it could live with the removal of its rights. However, that is entirely different from what we are being asked to agree to today. It is the difference between a voluntary marriage and a shotgun marriage. If the House knew the full facts, I am sure that it would not contemplate proceeding on the basis that the Bexley matter was resolved satisfactorily.

Another point which has come out of our debates is that the procedure for private Members' Bills must be reformed. It is unacceptable for one local council to make such a move against a well established market and proceed through the house with most hon. Members having no idea of the implications. My Hon. Friends and I have attempted to alert people to that fact but, as with so many things, the British people tend to shrug it off until it actually hits them in the solar plexus.

If the Bill is passed, and if—as I suspect—another similar Bill is brought before the House, I gaurantee that there will be an outcry because the second time around people will be alert to the danger and will realise that it is not just a one-off application. I am afraid that most hon. Members do not understand the implications—

Mr. Skinner

There are not many hon. Members here.

Sir Nicholas Bonsor

Indeed, but there were even fewer on Report, when we were trying to make some sensible changes to the Bill, and fewer still on Second Reading, when we might have had a better opportunity to stop the Bill in its tracks.

Mr. Cohen

Will the hon. Gentleman speculate on the cost of this private Bill procedure to date, and on its likely cost when it is completed? Does he agree that that money would be better spent keeping down rent levels in Redbridge, which are currently rising by £15-plus per week? That is way above the national average.

Sir Nicholas Bonsor

Not only do I agree with the hon. Gentleman, but I find it hard to imagine any way in which money could have been worse spent. There has been enormous expense of time and trouble in the House, and the petitioners and everyone else involved have had to pay large sums because of the procedure that has been implemented. I hope that if we do not succeed in stopping the Bill from proceeding in this House, the job will he done in the other place, in which case even more money will have been expended and the whole thing will have been a thorough waste of parliamentary time and of a huge chunk of community charge payers' money.

The procedure whereby private Bills can go through the House in this way should be reviewed, but it would be uncharitable of me not to concede that some changes were made for the better when the Bill was in Committee, to four of which I draw the House's attention.

The first is that only the council can now establish the market. There was originally the threat that anyone could establish the market and the council would be unable to stop it; now at least the council can stop it, although I am not at all sure that there are adequate safeguards to prevent the council from assigning its rights and allowing the market to be improperly run by a third party at a later date. That is a worrying aspect, which should be considered at some stage—it may well have to be in the other place.

Secondly, the market can no longer be put anywhere. We examined that substantial worry at length earlier. The pink blob on the map, when we have deciphered the extent to which the scales can be read, will, I hope, show that at least the market can be established only within a fairly narrow area and cannot be moved later to a place that might cause more damage to local interests.

Thirdly, the compensation is better than it was, but the hon. Member for Leyton raised a good point about that, and there is no doubt that it will be extremely difficult to assess the proper figure, of which 10 per cent. will come to Havering council. Finally on the plus side, there can now be no disposal of those rights without the consent of Redbridge council.

It is essential to defeat the Bill. I hope that hon. Members on both sides of the House will join me in making sure that it proceeds no further.

Question put, That the Bill be now read the Third time:—

The House divided: Ayes 48, Noes 43

Division No. 138] [9.01 pm
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Irvine, Michael
Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy Jack, Michael
Beith, A. J. Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)
Bendall, Vivian Kilfedder, James
Boswell, Tim King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield)
Bright, Graham Knox, David
Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's) Mans, Keith
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE) Mitchell, Sir David
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Monro, Sir Hector
Chapman, Sydney Paice, James
Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S) Riddick, Graham
Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g) Ross, William (Londonderry E)
Davis, David (Boothferry) Skeet, Sir Trevor
Dykes, Hugh Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Fookes, Dame Janet Stevens, Lewis
Forth, Eric Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Franks, Cecil Thompson, D. (Calder Valley)
Gorman, Mrs Teresa Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton) Thorne, Neil
Harris, David Thurnham, Peter
Haselhurst, Alan Twinn, Dr Ian
Hayhoe, Rt Hon Sir Barney Walker, Bill (T'side North)
Holt, Richard Waller, Gary
Wood, Timothy Tellers for the Ayes:
Woodcock, Dr. Mike Mr. Allan Stewart and Mr. James Arbuthnot.
Allen, Graham Illsley, Eric
Alton, David Jones, Ieuan (Ynys Môn)
Atkins, Robert Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S W)
Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE) Lofthouse, Geoffrey
Battle, John Loyden, Eddie
Callaghan, Jim McKay, Allen (Barnsley West)
Clark, Dr David (S Shields) McWilliam, John
Cook, Frank (Stockton N) Martlew, Eric
Crowther, Stan Meale, Alan
Davies, Ron (Caerphilly) Neubert, Michael
Dixon, Don O'Brien, William
Eastham, Ken Patchett, Terry
Flynn, Paul Pendry, Tom
Foster, Derek Powell, Ray (Ogmore)
Fraser, John Redmond, Martin
Gill, Christopher Short, Clare
Godman, Dr Norman A. Squire, Robin
Golding, Mrs Llin Widdecombe, Ann
Gregory, Conal Wise, Mrs Audrey
Hawkins, Christopher
Haynes, Frank Tellers for the Noes:
Home Robertson, John Sir Nicholas Bonsor and Mr. Dennis Skinner.
Hood, Jimmy
Hughes, John (Coventry NE)

Question accordingly agreed to.

Bill read the Third time, and committed.