HL Deb 13 July 1961 vol 233 cc270-346

2.37 p.m.

Amendments reported (according to Order).

Clause 16:

Duty of the Authority to provide market and storage facilities

16.—(1) On and after the vesting day it shall be the duty of the Authority to provide within the Covent Garden Area facilities (hereafter in this Act refererd to as "market facilities") for the conduct of a market for the dealing in bulk in horticultural produce and any such other commodities as, immediately before that day, were commonly so dealt in on those parts of the market lands commonly known as the Charter Market, the Floral Hall, the Russell Street Market, the Flower Market and the Jubilee Market: Provided that, if at any time it appears to the Authority that they cannot provide adequate market facilities within the Covent Garden Area, they may recommend to the Minister that they should be allowed to carry out the duty imposed on them by this subsection in some other area or areas specified in the recommendation; whereupon the Minister may by order designate such area or areas as one or more Additional Areas, and this Act shall apply to any Additional Area as it applies to the Covent Garden Area.

(2) In the first instance the duty imposed on the Authority by the foregoing subsection shall be discharged by the provision by them of facilities on the market lands, but they shall, so soon as practicable, take such steps as are practicable either to improve those facilities or to provide, in substitution therefor, better ones on other lands within the Covent Garden Area or within the relevant Additional Area.

(5) An order under this section shall be made by statutory instrument, and shall be subject to special parliamentary procedure.

THE LORD CHANCELLOR (VISCOUNT KILMUIR) moved, in subsection (1), to omit the proviso. The noble and learned Viscount said: My Lords, I rise to move Amendment No. 1 standing in my name on the Order Paper, and I think it would be convenient to your Lordships if we were also to consider Amendments Nos. 3, 4 and 6, which are consequential on Amendment No. 1. The effect of these Amendments would be to delete from the Bill the Amendment inserted in it by the Committee of the House on the Motion of the noble Lord, Lord Stonham.

My Lords, I am aware that it is a somewhat unusual step for the Government to ask your Lordships' House to delete Amendments inserted on the recommendation of a Committee of the House. On the other hand, I must remind your Lordships that it was made clear at the Committee stage that it would be for the House itself to decide whether or not Amendments to this effect should be accepted. The noble Lord, the Lord Chairman, drew the attention of the Committee to the probability that the Standing Orders Committee of the House would find that the Bill as amended had not complied with the procedure which is required for a Hybrid Bill, such as this is, and that unless the House decided to dispense with these procedural requirements the Bill would be dead—an eventuality which some at least of those who supported the Amendments made clear they did not wish to sec.

Your Lordships will remember that there are only two examples in this century of carrying over into the next Session a Hybrid Bill. The Bill was considered in Committee last week. The Examiners have in fact found that Standing Orders have not been complied with in respect of these Amendments and the Standing Orders Committee have reported—and I think it would be clear to your Lordships if I read their very short Report—as follows: That the Standing Order not complied with in respect of the Amendments made to Clause 16 of the Covent Garden Market Bill ought not to be dispensed with and that the clause as so amended"— I repeat, as so amended— … should not he allowed to proceed. I have no doubt that when we have fully considered this somewhat complicated situation your Lordships will see the wisdom of accepting the recommendation of the Standing Orders Committee and, as a logical and common-sense consequence, agreeing to the Amendments which I am now proposing.

My Lords, the procedures required by the Standing Orders of this House are essential safeguards for the rights of individual citizens whose interests may be adversely affected by Bills of this kind. They have been designed to ensure fair play for individuals and to preserve decent treatment for private rights as part of our democratic liberties, and as such they are not lightly to be thrown aside. I must therefore make it clear that the Government for their part would think it altogether wrong to ask the House to override the recommendation of the Standing Orders Committee so as to allow the Bill to proceed with the Amendments to Clause 16.

My Lords, this is the procedural situation as the Government see it. In those circumstances the real point of our debate to-day is to re-examine the reasons for the Government's decision that the new Market, which we all want to see built as soon as possible, should be situated in the Covent Garden Area. I hope to be able to convince your Lordships that in reaching this decision the Government have had in mind all the objectives which have been mentioned by those who spoke in support of the Amendments to Clause 16 in the Committee, and that these are more likely to be achieved by rebuilding the market in the Covent Garden Area than by rebuilding it elsewhere. In reaching their decisions the Government have taken into account three main groups of considerations, all of which are important. These are, first, the economic considerations relating to the marketing of fruit, vegetables and flowers; second, the town planning considerations; and, third, the London road traffic considerations.

I shall deal first with the marketing considerations. Covent Garden Market is by far the biggest and most important market in the country for the distribution of horticultural produce all over the United Kingdom. It handles between three-quarters of a million and one million tons of produce a year, of which more than half is imported and less than half home-grown. It is the national price-setting and balancing market, on the efficient functioning of which many other important markets throughout the country depend. Its relationship to the activities of the large provincial wholesale markets for fruit and vegetables can be compared to the relationship of the London Stock Exchange to the provincial stock exchanges. Any measures which disrupted the functioning of this national market would have incalculable consequences for other markets throughout the United Kingdom.

Its very size is of vital importance. It is a well-known fact, recognised by all who have studied the functioning of our markets, that quite a small amount of produce—perhaps as little as a lorry load—arriving at a small local market can create a glut and break the price level, whereas prices on a market as large as Covent Garden are far less likely to collapse as a result of the inevitable fluctuations in supply and demand, with disastrous results to the producers. This was one of the main considerations which led the Runciman Committee to the conclusion, with which the Government fully agree, that any plan for the improvement of the London markets should provide for the retention of Covent Garden as the national balancing and price-setting market for the United Kingdom.

Next, the Runciman Committee insisted, and again rightly in the Government's view, that the present conditions in Covent Garden Market are so bad that further delay in tackling this problem would be inexcusable. In welcoming this Bill during the course of the Second Reading debate, my noble friend Lord Runciman of Doxford said that he did so for one reason which seemed to him to be overwhelming; that is, that it puts an end to the uncertainty about the future of Covent Garden which has continued for far too long, and has caused the utmost difficulty to those who trade there and to those who depend upon that trade for their livelihood—indeed for their sustenance. My noble friend went on to point out that a market is essentially a place where traders meet to conduct their business. If it is not the most convenient place they will not use it; and although by legislation they may be prevented from using some other place, they cannot be compelled to use a place which they find unsatisfactory. My noble friend concluded that it is quite useless to create a market and assume that it will be used, unless in fact it meets the needs of the people who it is hoped will use it. My Lords, these are powerful arguments for the retention of this historic market in the Covent Garden Area.

What would happen if the Market were moved to a site from which the traders did not consider that they could operate effectively? First, a vast amount of money would be wasted; secondly, the intricate system of marketing of horticultural produce in this country would be disrupted; thirdly, the congestion of the other central London markets at Spitalfields and the Borough would become even worse than it is now, which is saying a good deal.

Critics of the Bill have pointed out that the Government have not accepted all the recommendations of the Runciman Committee in regard to the London Markets. This is true. I propose to examine that aspect. The Committee's proposals for relieving the pressure and reducing the congestion in Covent Garden are two-fold. First, they suggested the establishment of a new wholesale market somewhere in North-West London; secondly, they recommended that steps should be taken to modernise and increase the capacity of the markets at Brentford on the Western outskirts and at Stratford to the East. They pointed out, however, that it would be unrealistic to suppose that the responsible authorities would feel justified in incurring the considerable capital expenditure involved in improvements at Brentford and Stratford so long as the future site of Covent Garden Market was undecided.

I ask your Lordships to note that point, as I have read all the debates most carefully and I do not think that sufficient weight has been given to it. May I just put it to your Lordships again: that it would be unrealistic to suppose that the responsible authorities would feel justified in incurring the considerable capital expenditure involved in improvements at Brentford and Stratford so long as the future site of Covent Garden Market was undecided; and of course it is the purport of the Amendments which I am asking your Lordships to move out that it will remain undecided. So let us just follow that out.

The Government are in full agreement with the recommendation for the improvement of Brentford and Stratford Markets. They also accepted the view that it would be unreasonable to expect the responsible authorities to put in hand the planning of such improvements until the Government's proposals for the future of Covent Garden were known. This was one of the important reasons why the Government decided, as long ago as June, 1958—over three years ago —to announce their decision on this crucial question. Your Lordships are not dealing only with something that was first known when the Bill came out; this is something that was put forward and on which people have acted as a Government announcement of over three years ago.

Your Lordships will probably remember that my right honourable friend the present Minister of Labour, who was at that time Minister of Agriculture—I refer to Mr. John Hare—announced in Parliament that the Government had decided that Covent Garden Market should be retained on more or less its present site. This announcement—made, as I say, now more than three years ago—was designed to give the green light to those concerned with both Brentford and Stratford Markets, and your Lordships will be pleased to know that it has stimulated the development of such plans at both these places. If the Government were now to change their mind, if they were to sit down under these Amendments, and to declare that no decision has been reached on the future site of Covent Garden, this would not only cause the authorities concerned to feel that they had been badly let down, but inevitably prejudice further work on these highly desirable plans.

As regards the other proposal of the Runciman Committee for the relief of congestion in Covent Garden, while it is true that the Government did not feel able to accept the financial risk of the construction of the new North-West London market, this does not detract in any way from the force of the specific recommendation of the Runciman Committee that there should be a market in the Covent Garden Area and that the national price setting and balancing market for the United Kingdom must be somewhere in central London. Moreover, the Government's proposals for the improvement of storage and sorting facilities, both for bulk produce and for empty containers—which are sometimes loosely referred to as the proposals for an annex—are a new feature of the plan which was developed in full consultation between the Government and the traders to compensate for the dropping of the proposal for a new Market in North-West London.

A great deal of criticism has been directed at the idea of a market annex for bulk produce and empty boxes. But I ask: have the Government's critics really understood the purpose of this proposal? At present, over half-a- million tons a year of produce comes into Covent Garden from overseas. The great bulk of this produce is carefully graded and packed in marked containers and can be safely bought on sample. By way of example, I need mention only such produce as South African, Spanish and Israeli citrus fruit, or apples and Pears from Australia and New Zealand and South Africa; and there is, of course, much else. I ask your Lordships to note this, because it is important: At present, practically all this produce has to be brought physically into the Market from the docks or railheads on 10 or 15 ton trucks, and this has to be done even when it is going to be bought by wholesalers in Birmingham or Nottingham or Newcastle.

The handling of this produce in the Market is one of the causes—many people would say one of the main causes —of traffic congestion and of the high costs of the Market. There is no reason whatever why a large proportion of such produce need enter the Market Area, provided that adequate facilities are available elsewhere for temporary storage, sorting and breaking of bulk. I hope that what I have said will convince your Lordships that the Government's plan for improving storage facilities outside the Market Area is a constructive proposal and one which is calculated to reduce congestion in the Covent Garden Area, which the Runciman Committee proposed to reduce by the creation of a new market in North-West London.

The next question I must put to your Lordships, and again I must ask each of you to face up to this question is this: if the Covent Garden Market is to be removed to a new site outside the Covent Garden Area, where is that site going to be? Many suggestions have been made. The only feature which they have in common is that they are unacceptable to at least one of the main parties concerned. Why this should be so is fairly obvious. For example, the growers in Essex and Hertfordshire would like to see the Market moved somewhere to the north of London; and indeed such a move might be to their advantage. But the costs of getting produce from Kent, Sussex and Surrey to such a market would be greater—indeed, the time involved might make it impracticable. The same considerations apply to the 5,000 or so retailers who use Covent Garden.

After listening to many suggestions and considering the possibilities with all the parties concerned, the Government were again driven to the same conclusion as that reached by the Runciman Committee. The Government would have been more impressed by the demand for an alternative site if there had been any prospeot of getting in the foreseeable future a general measure of agreement on one site. I accept that possibly no plan would be ideal from every point of view, but that is a common acceptance one has to make in human and terrestrial affairs. However, a solution which was strongly opposed by any of the main panties affected by the legislation would have little chance of success in Parliament; and one of the strongest arguments for the Government's solution is the remarkable extent to which they have been able to command the acceptance—your Lordships will see that I do not exaggerate: I say the "acceptance" which has, of course, in some cases been qualified and not unanimous—of practically all the major interests concerned; the National Farmers' Union, representing the horticultural producers; the wholesale and retail fruit trades; the London County Council, as the planning authority; the other London horticultural market authorities; the trade unions concerned; the Westminster City Council and the Holborn Borough Council, within whose areas the present Market lies—


My Lords, would the noble and learned Viscount tell us, in terms, what the London County Council said about what they want to be done with the Market?


My Lords, if the noble Lord will contain himself for a moment, I will come back to the important point on which the L.C.C. are most anxious. So much far marketing consideration. I turn now to the town planning considerations.

If the Government were starting with a dean slate and able to place this Market wherever they liked, the Market would still have Ito be somewhere fairly central, and accessible to the Port of London and to all the main railheads. But this is not the situation with which the Government have had to deal. In these circumstances, the function of wise town planning is to ensure that the actual structure and lay-out of the Market is such that it will fit in with all the other activities of the metropolis and enable the functions of the Market to be efficiently discharged without prejudice to the business and amenities of others who work in its neighbourhood.

After some four years of patient negotiations with all the parties concerned including the L.C.C.—and I believe that no one could differ from me that three of the most important functions of the L.C.C. (indeed they were those stressed by the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, himself when we debated the Greater London Plan) are those as planning authority, as fire authority and as road improvement authority; and they were fully satisfied that their interests and responsibilities for these important functions have been taken into account—the Government are confident that the decision they have reached is the right one.


My Lords, I hope the noble and learned Viscount will not rebuke me again but I have a recollection that the L.C.C. gave evidence before the Runciman Committee. Does the noble and learned Viscount remember what line they took? I thought it was rather critical of the present site.


My Lords, I have the Report and the evidence here, but I think it would be a pity if I interrupted my speech. I am in your Lordships' recollection and I put the matter this far and no further. My claim is that there has been acceptance of this plan, and I deliberately said that in some cases it was qualified, or was not unanimous, and that in some cases bodies would have preferred another plan. But what I am putting forward—and I challenge contradiction on this point—is that this is the only site on which there has been acceptance and acquiescence. That is the burden of my claim. Dealing with the planning aspect, perhaps it is hardly necessary for me to assure your Lordships that my right honourable friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government is in full agreement with the decision.

Finally, I come to the road traffic considerations. The position here is really very simple, and I will not detain your Lordships for long in explaining it. The appalling congestion on the roads in and around Covent Garden is not the result of the volume of traffic coming into and going out of the market with horticultural produce; it is due to the fact that there is nowhere, except on the streets or pavements for the market vehicles to be parked to unload and load up the produce. Every detailed survey which has been made of this problem has reached the conclusion that, provided space is made available for all the market vehicles to be accommodated off the highways and within the new Market precinct while they are unloading, waiting and loading for dispatch, the Market activities will not be responsible for any more traffic congestion in the area than would be caused by any other commercial activities which might be taken there if the Market were moved to another site. Once we can get the vehicles inside for unloading, waiting and loading for dispatch, the traffic will not be greater than it would be with any other form of commercial activity —which, after all, my Lards, will be there if the Market is moved to another site.

I think that one set of figures is sufficient to illustrate this point. Some of your Lordships may have read in a circular letter from the Tenants' Association, dated July 7, that the maximum number of fruit trade vehicles using the Market area in one day during the peak season is some 3,500. The total number of all types of vehicles passing through the ring of main roads surrounding the area—the Strand, Charing Cross Road, Shaftesbury Avenue and Kingsway—is about 175,000 a day. Moreover, the peak hours for the arrival and departure of market vehicles are all before 10 in the morning, even in the present congested conditions which compel delivery vehicles to wait for as much as five hours before they can complete their unloading, and collection vehicles to wait for some three hours before they can get away. With the reduction in waiting times which the new Market will make possible all this traffic will be cleared up earlier in the morning and will be off the streets before the hours of maximum congestion from other types of traffic.

I can assure your Lordships that there is really no doubt about this. Of course, both my right honourable friend the Minister of Agriculture, Mr. Soames, and his predecessor, Mr. Hare (I do not know whether my noble friend Lord Amory actually went into this point when he got these proposals moving five years ago) consulted with the then Minister of Transport throughout the formulation of the Government's plan, and there was complete agreement between them on this analysis of the road traffic problem. It is therefore quite wrong to say that the Government's plan will only perpetuate the traffic congestion and chaos which now exists in the area.

My Lords, I now come to one of the most difficult questions in politics, which is this: when he believes strongly that one course is right, as the Government and I do with regard to this course, what is the duty of a Minister with regard to other views? A Minister is always put on the horns of a dilemma. If he says, "I shall not consider other people's views" he is said to be dogmatic and authoritarian. If he says, "I will consider other people's views" he is then charged with not having great faith in his own. That is the classic dilemma which has been put to Ministers ever since Walpole started the Party system. But I should like just to put our considerations of this aspect of the problem to your Lordships, and I hope your Lordships will not think that they are unreasonable.

I put before your Lordships the main considerations why we think the Market ought to be in the Covent Garden Area. We reached this decision, as I said, only after long and careful consideration, after examining the problem from every point of view, and in consultation with all the main interests concerned. I cannot believe that it would be right for this House to reverse a decision which has been arrived at after so long a process of consultation and which carries the acceptance or acquiescence of practically all the responsible statutory bodies and trade organisations concerned. I do ask your Lordships to ponder long before coming to a conclusion which may, by destroying this Bill, destroy the fruits of all this work.

On the other hand, I must point out (and your Lordships have had it in mind, as has appeared from the previous discussions) that the Bill is not the end of the solution of the Covent Garden problem. In one sense, to use a famous phrase, it is only the end of the beginning. We recognise that the problem of siting the new Market is a difficut one. If it were not a difficult one, there would not be the divergence of views and the strong negative view, if not any strong positive view, that has been expressed in your Lordships' House. I also recognise that the world does not stand still, and that conditions may change—I have never claimed mental infallibility, or any large share of the mantle of Elijah. It is for that reason that my right honourable friend the Minister of Agriculture gave an assurance in another place that if, after examining all aspects of the problem, and after consulting all the organisations concerned, the Covent Garden Market Authority were to reach the conclusion, and if this conclusion were generally accepted, that the market ought to be rebuilt outside the Covent Garden Area, the Government would give very weighty consideration to such a recommendation, and would be prepared to introduce legislation to make this possible if they accepted the Authority's view.

Since the debate in your Lordships' House, I have discussed the problem again with Mr. Soames and other colleagues in the Government, and I can now go one step further. I can assure your Lordships that in such circumstances it is not the intention of the Minister of Agriculture to withhold his consent to the promotion of a Private Bill in Parliament by the Authority, empowering it to build the Market elsewhere under Clause 20 of the Bill.

Surely these two assurances make it clear that the Government are not impaled on the first horn of my dilemma. They are not adopting a narrow or dogmatic attitude on this complicated question, and we are not slamming the door against the possibility that views which we so strongly believe to be right may possibly be mistaken. Is not this as far as the Government—or, indeed, any Government—can reasonably be expected to go in a genuine effort to meet the views of those who are not of our clear opinion, that the arguments lead conclusively to decision to rebuild the Market in the Covent Garden Area? Indeed, I hope your Lordships will agree that those assurances go nearly nine- tenths of the way to meeting the objections of those who, on a previous occasion, supported the Amendments of the noble Lord, Lord Stonham.

Even if your Lordships—I do not think this point was made clear to your Lordships, and I ask you to note it—maintained the Amendments of the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, and the new Market were to be rebuilt outside the Covent Garden Area as a result of an order made by the Minister of Agriculture, subject to the special procedure which the Amendment has in mind, further legislation would still be necessary. It would still be necessary to legislate to deal with such consequential matters as the orderly transfer of business from the old site to the new by means of licensing or other provisions; the payment of compensation to those who were adversely affected by the transfer; and the creation of a new prohibited area to prevent the new markets from sprawling over the neighbourhood. In addition to all this, the financial provisions of the Act might have to be substantially amended.

I do say to your Lordships, and I ask your Lordships to believe, that I am not being melodramatic. The need for action is desperately urgent. If this Bill is killed, or if its passage through Parliament is delayed by maintaining the Amendments moved by the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, none of us can say when it will be possible to make a start in dealing with a situation that is little short of scandalous. A matter of this kind is bound to take years of negotiation. We have been through that. We have had the years of negotiation, and as a result this plan is before you. But if the Bill is killed, when will it be possible to make a start in dealing with this situation? Your Lordships consider every aspect of it: the present state of this place; the danger of fire, and all these other considerations. I cannot help thinking that those who have voted for such a course, those who have come down on the side of delay, will be the first to regret it. For all these reasons, I ask your Lordships to accept the Amendments standing in my name. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 10, leave out lines 33 to 41.—(The Lord Chancellor.)

3.12 p.m.


My Lords, I am sure we are all deeply grateful to the Lord Chancellor for the full and impressive arguments that he has advanced in favour of the Amendment that he has proposed, but I think it would be ungracious, as well as overlooking the value of our previous discussions, if I did not draw attention to the very substantial step forward that the Government has taken in what the noble Viscount has undertaken on behalf of the Government. All that was said by the Minister of Agriculture on the first occasion, when in Committee stage in another place, was that, if the Market Authority expressed the view that it would be better to rebuild the Market in another area, then the Government would give weighty consideration to that. On almost every occasion when any representation is made, the Government undertakes to give it consideration, and frequently to give it weighty consideration. I am quite sure that my noble friend the Lord Chancellor means exactly what he says when he says that, as a result of discussions with the Minister of Agriculture, he has been authorised to go further than the Minister did on a previous occasion.

But, my Lords, we are being asked to pass a Bill which many of us regard as unsatisfactory and as missing a great opportunity for the replanning and redevelopment of a most important area of London; and we are being asked to do that because otherwise my noble friend speaks of the Bill as being dead. I wholly accept all that he says about the Standing Orders, but really there would be no difficulty in reintroducing an amended Bill in the next Session of Parliament. The Times, after our previous debate on this subject, came out with this final conclusion: Another year's delay would be a fair price for a better measure. My noble friend Lord Waldegrave said in the same debate that what is done now could affect marketing for many years, and it is important that it be right. I am sure it is important that it be right.

Nor can it really be argued that, after the Government have taken so long in the consideration of this matter—and it is now four years since the Runciman Committee reported—we should now be hustled into passing a measure at the end of this Session merely on an assurance that, to meet the views so widely expressed outside this House, in another place, and in this House, that the measure should be somewhat widened in order to give the Market Authority a discretion, the Government will consider very carefully any recommendation that is put forward.

My Lords, I want to emphasise that although my noble friend has referred to the Amendment that was carried as that of the noble Lord, Lord Stonham —and I pay tribute to him for the drafting of it, and so on—this is not in any way a Party measure or a move by the Opposition. There has been just the same strong opposition from the Conservative Benches in this House as there was in another place. I pointed out previously, and I venture to repeat it, that in the debate in another place upon an Amendment similar in substance to that which was carried here there was not a single Conservative Back Bencher who was a wholehearted supporter of the Bill. The only two, not surprisingly, who were, were the Minister who moved it and the Minister who wound up for the Government.

Now my noble friend has said that this is first a matter of marketing; second, a matter of town and country planning, and third, a matter of traffic. I should prefer to take them in a different order. First, I would say that it is a matter of town and country planning. In this connection, I should like to mention that only a short time ago—I think about a fortnight ago—it was reported in the papers that the Minister of Town and Country Planning had written to a number of commercial and industrial concerns which he understood were considering rebuilding and enlarging their premises in the City and in the centre of London. He asked them to consider the possibility of doing the greater part of their building outside the centre, retaining in London only an administrative headquarters, and in that way making a valuable contribution to the replanning and improvement of London. A short time ago I congratulated my successor as Minister of Works, because I had read that he had been successful where I was not in persuading the Admiralty to accept the movement of a large number of Admiralty civil servants to Bath, where already a number of them are. Here is another step by the Government, setting a good example, in order to try to decentralise an existing concentration in London.

One of the most serious problems at the present time is the ever-increasing price of building sites in the centre of London. Anything that can be done to move out to the periphery buildings which need not be in central London is surely not only a valuable step in the way to improve town planning but also a useful measure of economy. The decentralisation of Government offices has had the result that much lower rents are being paid than if they were concentrated in London. So I would say that if the Market, which need not be in the middle of London, could be moved out, it would have the effect of making available for the building of offices and for residential purposes 30 acres in the very centre of London. That is what was advocated by Mr. Duncan Sandys, when Minister of Housing and Local Government, a short time ago, and supported by the London County Council.

Because I was interested in this question at an early stage, when I was at the Ministry of Transport, I would emphasise the great importance of this from the point of view of traffic. I do not dispute what my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor has said, that when adequate off-street parking is provided for lorries and cars, there will be a considerable improvement over the position that obtains at the present time. But is that going far enough? It certainly is not, in the opinion of the London and Home Counties Traffic Advisory Committee. They are a carefully selected body of people who advise the Minister of Transport, and in two successive reports they have referred to the importance and desirability of moving the Market out of the present Covent Garden Area.

Before I leave traffic I should like to say something about railways. Obviously, if it were possible to have the Market close to the rail termini, that would avoid the necessity for that 25 per cent. of produce marketed in Covent Garden that arrives at the London termini, much of which is taken back again to the railhead the same day, being put into lorries and taken to and from the Market. We all know that the rail- ways are in financial difficulties and that the Government have in mind two measures in particular for trying to help them. One wonders whether the Minister of Agriculture, in pushing this Bill through, has given adequate consideration to the White Paper that was issued by the Minister of Transport a short time ago. Paragraph 26 says: The development of the value of properties at present held by the Commission is a matter requiring special attention. Obviously, if the Commission were in a position to develop their sites in North London which are close to the termini that would be a useful step in that direction.

I venture to quote again the message that I had from the British Transport Commission, which I have quoted to your Lordships before. The Commission have under consideration various matters, including electrification and other modernisation projects, which affect in various ways and degrees the railway layout from King's Cross Station northwards, but they would welcome the opportunity of examining any scheme for providing in this area a railway connected with the Market or, failing the Market itself, the annex to the Market, for which the site does not appear to have been yet finally selected, provided always that the design of the Market and annex is satisfactory. Finally, in that part of London there is a canal connection with the Port of London and, as my noble and learned friend has emphasised again today, more than half of the produce which is sold at Covent Garden is imported and a large proportion of that is imported into the Port of London.

I come now, very briefly, to the question of marketing. There are other noble Lords who know far more about this than I do, but it is obvious that when King Charles II granted a Charter for Covent Garden to be used as a market, it was on the periphery of London. Now that London has grown so large there is no longer need for the Market to be at the very centre of London as Covent Garden now is. My noble and learned friend emphasised that it was important that traders should desire to come to the Market wherever it might be, but the very structure of this Bill contains prohibitions so that they may not trade anywhere except where the Market is established.

What is the special sanctity that attaches to the circle that has been drawn by the Government around what is called the Covent Garden area? If they had said that there was some law of the Medes and Persians which prevented the Market from being moved at all, I might not agree, but. I could understand such an argument. But I know that in point of fact it is not the intention that the Market should be rebuilt where it is at the present time. There is every reason to suppose that they are thinking of its being rebuilt at Seven Dials. What is the special difficulty which prevents the Market being put, if the Market Authority think desirable, outside the mystic circle drawn by the Government, when it is possible for the Market to be moved from where it is to some other place?

I say with all sincerity that I do not regard the present state of affairs at the Covent Garden Market as being, as my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor has said, something very near to a scandal. I regard it as a complete scandal. I am absolutely sincere in my desire to see this matter tackled, and tackled as soon as possible, but I beg and implore your Lordships just to save a single year not to be foisted off with a Bill so tightly drawn as to make it impossible for either House to amend it so as to extend the area where the rebuilding may take place. We have heard about all the time that has been taken in considering it.

I am not asking your Lordships to decide that the Market shall not be rebuilt in this area; I am asking only that this highly responsible Market Authority, to which the Government have given such wide discretion and to which they are willing to lend £8 million and to give authority to raise in all a debt of £20 million, should be given wider powers. I say that when this matter is as difficult as it is and when, as my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor admitted towards the end of his speech, the proposal has not so much been accepted by all those concerned as acquiesced in, then this is an occasion when your Lordships are entitled to say that it is not fair and reasonable to push this Bill through in its present form at the end of a Session, and that this is an occasion, when so much informed opinion is critical of this Bill, when the Bill should be taken back and another Bill granting wider powers to the Market Authority should be introduced next Session.

3.30 p.m.


My Lords, I am very glad that the noble Lord, Lord Molson, directed attention to the fact that the Amendment which was in my name, and which was carried by your Lordships on July 3, is an all-Party Amendment. Indeed, only a minority of the 35 noble Lords who voted for it last Monday week were members of my Party. The majority came from the other Parties in the House and from the Cross-Benches. It was not a snap judgment; there was a debate for 2¼hours, and the Government were aware of our intentions well before the day. I very much regret that it is necessary, apparently through the insistence of the Government, to discuss the matter again. However, I want to make it clear that, although for that reason it is inevitable that I must criticise the actions of the Government in this matter, I do so in no Party spirit, because in this every single one of us has to make a personal judgment.

To me, one of the most unhappy features, so far, of what I regard as a rather unhappy day, is that the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack, whom I personally hold in the highest esteem and, indeed, affection, should have been so misinformed that he has used all his well-known eloquence, sometimes, indeed, speaking with passion, in a speech parts of which were, to my mind, absolute nonsense. For example, he said that the relationship between Covent Garden and the provincial markets was similar to that between the London Stock Exchange and the provincial stock exchanges. He inferred that if it is a new Market the money might be wasted if the Market traders did not want to sell there. The first thing in a market is to have something to sell, and it is of first importance to have horticulturists who are willing to send their produce there.

Then the Lord Chancellor said that the annex, which is still provided for in the Bill, was a compromise between the Government and the Treasury. That I can well believe, because obviously no trader was ever consulted about it. Every single person who has any knowledge whatever of the horticultural industry knows that the annex is a fantastic and absurd suggestion. It is only astonishing that it is still in the Bill. Your Lordships have all had a letter from the Covent Garden Market Traders' Association, who, to my knowledge, are the only people who are in favour of the Bill as the Government want it, and they go so far as to say (I am not actually quoting) that, so far as the annex is concerned, apart from certain reservations about the risk of fire, they would oppose this outright. That is what the Covent Garden Market traders themselves say. For the Lord Chancellor, if I may respectfully put it this way, to be allowed to repeat the arguments he has, is, to me, very sad.

I have said that I regret that these arguments have to be gone over again, but I hope your Lordships will forgive me, if only for the fact that there are more of your Lordships here to-day than there were on the last occasion and some of you we do not have the pleasure of seeing quite so often as we should like. Therefore, perhaps your Lordships would bear with me while I just say, as briefly as I can, what in my view the Government are asking you to vote for to-day. I will put it, first of all, in a nutshell. The Government have asked you to come here to-day to support a proposal which is the equivalent of building at Oxford Circus a central market for the distribution of coal. There is no railhead at Oxford Circus, so every year a million tons of coal will be brought to the market by lorry and taken away by other lorries—thousands of them every day. True, the actual market will not be at Oxford Circus, but at Cambridge Circus, and there will be potatoes and vegetables in the sacks and not coal. But there is no other difference at all.

Your Lordships may think that there is a difference because there is already a Market sprawling over 32 acres of the Covent Garden area. As the noble Lord, Lord Molson, has pointed out, that Market will disappear. The authority must build—Clause 16 says that the authority shall build—an entirely new Market, and the noble and learned Viscount still insists that it shall be in the Covent Garden area. If your Lord- ships think it would be a good thing to build a coal market at Oxford Circus, you will doubtless consider it an equally good thing to build a vegetable market at Cambridge Circus, and you will be able to vote for the noble and learned Viscount's Amendment with a sense of duty conscientiously done. But if, as I hope, you think that if this kind of planning went on we might have a vegetable market at Cambridge Circus, a coal market at Oxford Circus, a fish market at Piccadilly Circus and we should be left only with the lions in Trafalgar Square, then you may think that this is not a very good idea.

The subsection which is the cause of the controversy, which was inserted on July 3, and which the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor wants to delete, gives the Market Authority (and this is all that it does) the right to go to the Minister and say: "We do not think we can or should build a new Market in the Covent Garden area; it would be much better in another area." The Minister, if he thought fit, could then designate that area as the place where the new Covent Garden Market had to be built. The noble and learned Viscount the Leader of the House warned us last week, quite explicitly, that if we gave the Authority that reasonable choice of freedom the Bill would be dead. That is because the 285 landowners and tenants in Covent Garden, to whom special letters were written List year, would be deprived of the right of objection which they might have exercised if they had known that the Market might be built in an area other than Covent Garden.

Despite that warning, we did vote that essential freedom into the Bill; and that position is unchanged by the fact that the Examiners have decided that the Bill is outside the notices, and the Standing Orders Committee have confirmed it. The noble Lord, Lord Merthyr, the Lord Chairman of Committees, told us on July 3 that, in his view, the Examiners could scarcely reach any other decision. So there is no new situation. But I submit that it still does not mean that the Bill as it stands now is necessarily dead, because Parliament is the final arbiter; and I should think that a Government which could move this present Amendment might also be capable of moving the reference back of the Report to the Standing Orders Committee.

But let us assume that they do not so move and that the Bill is dead. Surely we should still be better off than we should be if it were to go on the Statute Book in its original form, stipulating that the Market must be built at Covent Garden. The Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, and the noble Earl, Lord Waldegrave, have both said that if the Market Authority find that they cannot build at Covent Garden, they can come back and say so, and the Government will promote a short Bill which will not take long to get through Parliament and which will enable them to build elsewhere. I find that somewhat difficult to reconcile with the explicit statement of the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack that the Government must have the Market at Covent Garden; that they have been working on it since 1958 and everybody has been agreed about it: and where would the Government be if they went back to the authorities—that is, the other Market authorities—mow and said, "You cannot have it here"?

There is this point: that if we accept this Amendment and the Bill goes on the Statute Book in its original form, there is a virtual certainty that it will be built on the site already selected at Seven Dials, and there will be precious little chance for the Market Authority to have any freedom. We do not say that the Market Authority cannot build in the Covent Garden area; of course they can. With £20 million it is physically possible to build a market at Covent Garden, just as it is possible to build a coal market at Oxford Circus. What we say is that it is akin to lunacy. We also say that it is imperative that this Bill should not go through with the Market Authority saddled with a direction to build at Covent Garden.

I would submit that the minimum that would be acceptable to us would be to have written into the Bill, as it is at the moment, the right of the Authority to examine the whole problem and decide, having regard to the interests not only of the market traders, but of the whole community, whether they should build at Covent Garden or elsewhere. The Lord Chancellor said that if this subsection stays in the Bill it will involve long delays before we have a new Market. I honestly submit that the reverse is true.

If we take Mr. Soames's promise at its face value—one which I understand has been emphasised and strengthened by the Lord Chancellor—what will be the position? It means that the Bill will go through and the Authority will be instructed to get on with the job of building at Covent Garden. First of all the Authority would have to be appointed; then they would have to look at the problem; and then, if they decided they did not like it here, they would have to go and find, another site. Then, and only then, can they come back to Parliament and say, "We do not see the sense of building in the Covent Garden area. We want to build on another site. Please give us another Bill." That would take another three or four years without a single brick being laid.

On the other hand, if it is confirmed and accepted that the Bill is dead, the Government can start to-morrow on a new Bill to be passed early next Session. If that new Bill includes a freedom of choice of site, for which we ask, I say that it would be on the Statute Book in nine months. Therefore, by this method we should be very much quicker; and, indeed, there need not be any time wasted at all, because the intervening months could be spent in preparatory work in setting up the Authority and, more important still, a great many necessary inquiries could be made which obviously have not been made, otherwise we would not have the Bill in its present form. It may be that the 285 property owners and tenants will exercise their undoubted right to object to the Bill in the new form. Their objections will have to be weighed against the objections of almost everyone else—of people who do not want the market to be built at Covent Garden.

The Lord Chancellor said that almost every authority was in favour. That does not link up with the correspondence columns of The Times this week. On Monday there appeared this letter from the Lea Valley Growers' Association, signed by the chairman. The Lea Valley Growers' Association is the Lea Valley Branch of the National Farmers' Union. I have their minutes of a meeting in May, 1960. I will not bother with them, but they have been opposed to this thing from the start. They say in their letter: Lord Stonham's amendment to the Covent Garden Market Bill, which was carried by a small majority in the House of Lords on July 3, has the backing of the many growers who send produce to Covent Garden. It will be a pity if the Government succeeds in forcing the Bill through with the amendment deleted, for there is an urgent need for reappraisal, even at this late date. Lord Stonham's amendment does nothing more than allow for this. It will be a tragedy if a new market is built in the Covent Garden Area and it is then found that there is no relief to the traffic congestion on the roads leading to and from the market, nor were marketing costs reduced. Up to £20 million would have been spent in vain. There are 285 traders and tenants in Covent Garden. There are more than 500 members of the Lea Valley Growers' Association. They have 1,000 acres of heated glass, more than a third of all the glass for horticulture in England. Their output is an average of f12 million a year. Are their views not to be considered? Is it only the market traders who are to be considered? Can we manage to run horticultural markets without considering the views of horticulturists?

There was a later letter from two distinguished Members of another place who are members of the Conservative Party. They drew attention to the overwhelming numbers of members who have given careful thought to the form which a new produce market should take, and are in favour of giving powers to the proposed new Authority to decide for itself where the new site should be. There was the remarkable letter in The Times this morning from the Standing Joint Committee of the R.A.C., the A.A. and the R.S.A.C.—a very important body in connection with traffic. Noble Lords may have seen that letter. The only two points I want to make from it are, first, that the London Traffic Management Unit has been formed". Then the letter goes on to say: It will be regrettable if the effect of such constructive action is prejudiced by the Government's determination to retain the Covent Garden Market on its present site, in spite of forceful opposition to this proposal at Westminster and elsewhere. The letter ends by saying: The motoring organisations hope that this controversial measure will not be pursued further until there has been a thorough review of its implications in regard to future traffic conditions in Central London. In view of its effect upon all sections of the public in Central London it would seem desirable that the matter should be considered without reference to party politics. It seems to me that, apart from the traders and the Government, everyone is opposed to the Bill in its original form which means that everyone with whom I have come in contact, in and out of Parliament, is opposed to the Amendment which the Government now propose. I think that is because they believe it will be just as foolish to build a new vegetable market at Cambridge Circus as it would be to build a new coal market at Oxford Circus.

I submit that, on the basis of the facts, which are absolute and incontrovertible, no one can honestly vote for this Amendment, except, of course, the Ministers, whose position we respect and understand. I do not under-estimate the importance of this Bill. It is important to many people. But I think we are all agreed that it is not a major Bill on which the Government stand or fall. Therefore, to my mind, far more important than this Amendment, far more important than the Bill, is the effect of the Government's action in moving this Amendment, in trying to reverse the earlier decision, which was fairly taken, and of the other steps they have taken on the image of Parliament in the public mind.

We know our House, but people outside do not know it quite so well. I am concerned how the man in the street—if I can call him that—reacts to something of this kind. As he sees it, the issue has been discussed and was settled fairly and squarely on the basis of the facts and on an all-Party basis last Monday week. Then, as it appears to him, the Government summon forth the Goliath of a permanent majority in the Lords to squash the little David of common sense which won a brief victory last week. This is not only the view of the man in the street. This is how Sir John Hall, M.P., and Sir John Vaughan-Morgan, M.P., two distinguished members of the Conservative Party in another place, end their letter: If the Government succeeds in imposing its will by whipping in backwoodsmen' Peers who have not even studied the Bill, it can only damage the reputation of the House of Lords for wisdom and independence of decision". I do not share that view. I do not care for Members of another place making that kind of criticism of your Lordships' House. But that is the view which is held outside.

This is not a matter of general confidence in the Government; it is a matter of fact. It may well be that public criticism of another place—that it is Whipridden—may be to some extent justified. But I have never found it so here. To me, as a comparative newcomer, one of the great attractions of your Lordships' House is that Members are ready not only to speak their minds but to vote according to their speeches—very refreshing! From this fact stems the increasing public confidence in this House as a revising Chamber, and its great strength is that every now and again common sense prevails over Party majorities. I think it would be a disservice to this House and to Parliament if the power of the Whips' Office proved, after all, too strong for common sense and justice. This is not a matter involving general confidence in the Government, though most of us who were professional politicians and have now to some extent regained our amateur status here still proudly retain—at least, I do—our Party loyalties. No one would expect us to vote against our own Government or Party on a fundamental issue. But this is not such an issue. It is a matter of fact; where it is surely our duty, in the public interest, to prevent the Government from doing something which would be both foolish and unfair. You may well take the view, as I do, that defeat to-day will in the long run help the Government. A year from to-day they may well have cause to thank us.

Be that as it may, I am certain that, except for Ministers and those noble Lords who feel they must abstain, if we all go into the Lobby against this Amendment it will add a little more lustre to the proud record of the Mother of Parliaments.

3.51 p.m.


My Lords, I venture to intervene in this debate because I have listened to every single speech on the Committee stage and again to-day, and as hour has succeeded hour I have been filled more and more with admiration at the skill with which those who spoke on behalf of the Government have avoided dealing with the details of the Amendment which was put into the Bill on the Committee stage, and have dragged the debate away from the Amendment. This Covent Garden question has been discussed continuously over more than 20 years and at quite frequent intervals since the reign of His Majesty King George II, and now we have arrived at the stage where everyone is agreed —Her Majesty's Government and others who disagree with Her Majesty's Government on this matter—that something must now be done to rectify or improve the chaos that goes on in Covent Garden at the present time. So far so good. But there are many people, both in this House and outside, who believe that the terms of the Bill may well make it impossible for the Covent Garden Authority which is being set up to carry out the terms of the Bill.

This Authority has not only to contract the area at present used by the Market and bring it down to ten acres; it has to do it in seven years. There are a whole lot of extraneous things which it may or may not be able to do, and one of them seems most difficult. Clause 17 says: (a)… they shall so exercise and perform their functions as to secure the avoidance of traffic congestion in, and in the vicinity of, the Covent Garden area… Not only have they to avoid the parking in the area and in the vicinity, which is laid down as part of their duties, but there are all kinds of other duties that the Authority may find it impossible to carry out.

The Amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, and supported by some of my noble friends on this side of the House does not do what the Government have been trying to make out it does. It does not say, "You shall not build at Covent Garden". What it is saying is this: that if the Authority find they cannot build, as they are told to, at Covent Garden on these ten acres, carrying out all the duties laid down, then they shall have the power to go to the Minister and say, "We cannot do it. We have another site. Can we go and build on the other site instead?" And the Amendment says that if the Minister agrees—and that, of course, means if the Cabinet agrees—he may by order allow the Market to be constructed somewhere else.

The Government may or may not be right in their scheme. If they are right, this Amendment has no effect at all; the Authority will build in accordance with the terms of the Bill. But if they are wrong, then this Amendment is likely to speed up new construction, whether at Covent Garden in some different form or elsewhere. It is said that this is going to krill the Bill for the moment. The noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor, has killed it three times this afternoon, when he said what will happen if we do not pass his Amendment. But I am not sure we are going to kill it. If the Government want this, as the Lord Chairman of Committees told us, we may have to delay its coming into force for nine months. I do not see why it should be more, but it might be a year. On the Committee stage the Government's answer was, "We think we are right"—of course they do; otherwise they would not have brought in the Bill—"but if we are wrong we shall bring in another Bill which will be something quite different". How long is that going to take against the nine months we might lose this way? Your Lordships' guess is as good as mine; it might be two, three or four years, provided the Parliamentary timetable allows—and we have learnt in this Session something about Parliamentary time-tables.

The Government are probably not quite so certain that the Bill, as they have modelled it, will work. They realise that at any rate the seven years and the ten acres may not work, because in Clause 17 the Minister has power by order, subject to Parliamentary approval, either to extend the acreage above the ten acres or to extend the period of seven years, or both. Let us see what is going to happen about delay. How is this going to work in practice? The Authority will say, "We cannot build it on ten acres". The Minister says, "All right, what can you build it on?", and they will say, "We want fifteen". Then the Minister will go back to the Authority and say, "We cannot suggest to Parliament that we increase it by 50 per cent., so what plans can you draw up for twelve acres? Have another shot at it. Draw up another lot of plans ". It will take months and months.

Then the representative on the Authority of the Minister of Transport—there is a Transport Committee as well, but the Member on the Authority representing the Minister—will say, "You cannot use that fifteen acres. We have to keep the entrances in this Market free and the vicinity clear of traffic. I cannot possibly recommend this plan." So they eventually get a plan on a bigger site. It would take years and years before it was sorted out, and then of course they would have to go to the Minister and say, "We cannot build in seven years; may we have fifteen?". Really, what is this talk about delay, when this Amendment may in fact delay the Bill by nine months or a year?

One other point I should like to deal with. Government speakers on the Committee stage accused noble Lords, of whom I was not one as I did not speak, of trying to destroy the principle of the Bill and said that if they felt like that they should have voted against the Bill on the Second Reading. One is somewhat astonished that my right honourable friend the Minister of Transport did not instruct the noble Lord, Lord Chesham, to speak and vote against the Bill on Second Reading. But the Amendment we made is not a Second Reading Amendment. I repeat, my Lords, it is merely saying that if the Government are right then the Amendment we have made will have no effect; but if the Government are wrong—and many of us think they may well be wrong—this will speed up matters and reduce any delay which will result from the Government being wrong now. I hope you will support my noble friend Lord Molson and the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, and not go back on the decision which your Lordships gave on the Committee stage of the Bill.

3.58 p.m.


My Lords, the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack gave us a very clear picture of his view of this matter and he was good enough to say that he and his colleagues both appreciated that those who voted against the Government on the last occasion were divided between those who wished to kill the Bill and those who did not wish to kill the Bill. But, my Lords, there is a further division among those people who went into the Lobby: there are those who would like to see the Market built at Covent Garden and those who would like to see it built elsewhere. This may sound a surprising statement, but it is perfectly true. Some of us would like to see this Covent Garden plan go through, but we cannot resist the common sense of this Amendment which was accepted and which says that if at any time the Authority simply cannot provide facilities at Covent Garden then they shall be free to recommend somewhere else. I cannot get beyond what seems to be common sense. I should like to see this Market built at Covent Garden, but if the Authority find it impossible the new Amendments before you, it seems to me, will prevent the Authority from suggesting any other course. For this reason I feel I must oppose the Amendment on the Paper.

4.0 p.m.


My Lords, if the experts are in so much difficulty over this matter how much greater a task faces those, like myself, who are merely laymen but have done their best through all the stages of this Bill to understand the points at issue, and eventually to answer the challenge thrown out by the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, and vote according to our judgment! My noble friend Lord Molson told us that informed opinion was critical of this Bill. I have come to the conclusion, having listened to all stages of the Bill, having read all the correspondence that has been sent to me, and having followed the letters in the Press, that informed opinion would be critical of any Bill. I cannot imagine any measure on Covent Garden being brought before your Lordships which would not produce exactly the same dissention in your Lordships' House as this Bill has produced to-day. We shall never get unanimity on Covent Garden. We shall never get any greater unanimity than now; and one day we have got to make up our minds and do something about it. Otherwise this Market is going to fall into the same political category as the Oxford roads—and it might be an appropriate protest to take Covent Garden and put it down in the middle of Christ Church Meadow and let them all sort it out.

My Lords, the matter is urgent. You have only to walk through Covent Garden to see that that is true. Something has got to be done. The Government have proposed something. We are told that, because it is not perfect—it may well be imperfect; because there may be technical flaws—we must try again. Try again precisely with what. I have listened to every speech in this debate, and I have counted in the course of the speeches the use 27 times of the word "elsewhere". The facilities of the Opera House are affected, we are told. The traffic will be chaotic. The Market must go somewhere else. But where? No other viable suggestion has been put forward. If this Amendment is not accepted there is no other suggestion except that it should 'be elsewhere. Then some day we have got to find that "elsewhere".

We are told that the present site is undesirable because of the chaotic traffic conditions. I cannot imagine any other "elsewhere" that anyone, even as wise as Lord Runciman of Doxford and his friends can find which will not produce the same chaos with the traffic. If it does not produce any traffic it is not in the right place for a market. Of course, the present Market produces chaotic market conditions because it was built two or three hundred years ago, in the days of horse carts and push-barrows, and not modern transport, which the new Market, I understand, is designed to meet with the most modern up-to-date methods for coping with traffic congestion.

My noble friend Lord Molson suggests that other uses should be made of this site. If you put offices there they will be the huge office blocks we are used to these days, and they will bring almost as great traffic chaos in their wake. We have really got to make up our minds to do something. Wherever we take it —and I have heard hundreds of suggestions, but no finality—traffic chaos will attend unless the utmost skill in planning is displayed. If we take the Market somewhere far away, away from its natural growth and environment, the Market men will not use it. I think this is once again the case of the best being the enemy of the good. I have not heard any plan put forward which, to my mind, is more workable than the Government's. I have not heard any speech which would do otherwise than procrastinate and delay the decision which has to be made soon. I am getting bored with the word "elsewhere". If anybody can produce a better solution, let us hear it and examine it; and let the noble Viscount, Lord Runciman of Doxford, and his friends look at it—and the Government, too. But unless somebody produces a better plan, let us make up our minds now on the most feasible and sensible plan—namely, the one before us.

It is said that this is not a political party issue. I remember the noble Lord, Lord Llewellin, who is recalled with great affection, saying that whenever he heard somebody on the Socialist Benches saying "this is not a Party political matter" he knew that what had happened was that the Tory Party was split and that the Socialist Party had decided unanimously as one man to side with that pant of the Tory Party whose success would cause the Government the greatest inconvenience.


Perhaps I may intervene, since apparently the noble Lord's remarks have some application to me. There was no choice on this occasion, because the whole of the Tory Party from the Back Benches were unanimously against the Bill.



Those who spoke, anyway.


I am a very small part of the Tory Party, but I spoke in favour of the Bill. When I hear a man talking violently of his honour I know that it is the time to count the spoons. If I hear somebody telling me that the matter is not a Party political matter, I agree that the noble Lord, Lord Stonham may be right. But I think that any Chief Whip worth his salt, as indeed my Chief Whip is, may decide to start counting his political spoons; and this spoon wishes to be found in the Lord Chancellor's canteen.


My Lords, there is one thing. I have heard this afternoon on which I should like a little clarification. As the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, pointed out, Clause 16 enjoins on the Authority to provide market facilities at Covent Garden, and the second subsection says that if they are unable to provide the market facilities at Covent Garden that they shall go back to the Minister who may direct them somewhere else. The Government are seeking to delete that second subsection, and the noble and learned Viscount said, "We do not insist upon the Authority providing market facilities, whether it is able to or not, but what we do suggest is they should go back to the Minister under Clause 20, and he has given his word that he will promote a Bill Ito remedy the trouble." I hope I have put that correctly.


Not absolutely. It is not the Minister's intention to refuse his consent. It would be for the Authority to promote a Bill in what we think is the most unlikely possibility of their finding that this site did not work.


I am much obliged to the noble and learned Viscount. I put it too roughly.

The difficulty seems to me to be this, and it has occurred very often in my Parliamentary experience: that a promise given by a Minister lasts during the life of that Minister and during the life of that Parliament; but after that it falls. We have been told that again and again. In fact the only thing about which we have not been told that is War Loan. We have been told again and again that one Parliament cannot bind another. It certainly seems to me if the delay that has been suggested in giving effect to this Bill has any justification at all, then it is much better to keep it in the Bill than to rely on a promise which may die with the office of the Minister or the life of the Parliament. I should very much like to have an answer to that before I have to go into the Lobby.


My Lords, when my noble friend Lord Mancroft exercises his well-known wit on an assembly and jollies your Lordships along, you may be quite sure that his case is not so good as he would like. No case which has the advocacy of my noble friend on the Woolsack will ever lack for clear explanation and argument. I know he must think that I am being pig-headed, contumacious and stubborn, and everything else, but I assure 'him that I have thought on this problem over many years, and I have been expressing in the recent debates only the views which I have held for many years on this particular subject. I have been summoned to Westminster, in the well-known words, "to give counsel", and provided that it is not a matter in which the fall of Her Majesty's Government is involved, I feel it my duty to give the counsel which I think correct.

I am still unconvinced on several major points. First of all, I do not believe that a Market split into two will work. One must remember that this recommendation was put forward by the Runciman Committee in conjunction with a recommendation that there should be a large market opened in the northwest of London, which presumably would have dealt with a lot of the high class West-End trade, which is now concentrated upon Covent Garden. As I said on Second Reading, I believe that a Market in two places will mean that a great many vehicles will have to make two calls, instead of one, on their journeys in and out.

Then I am unconvinced on the area. A market of 10 acres sounds to me a small area. There are supposed to be 3,500 vehicles a day coming into this Market. I do not know how many of those are lorries and how many are smaller cars. But remembering the superficial area of a lorry, we know that, taken nose to tail, side by side, they run at about 350 to the acre, so a site of ten acres does not seem to me large enough to provide sufficient room to carry on the Market. Markets must have a large area, otherwise chaos is bound to supervene. I walk through this site, and have done for many years, about once a fortnight, and I have always thought that it is wasted on a vegetable market. I must confess that every person with whom I have ever discussed this matter—and a great number of people have been discussing it of recent times—has expressed exactly the same view. I admit that one of them said, as an afterthought, that it is perhaps a good idea to have one place in the centre of London where the pubs are open all night. However, that is not an argument which convinces me on locating the Market there. I believe that it could be open to a fine development for residential purposes—flats, theatres, an hotel and so on.

The noble and learned Viscount an the Woolsack said that an ideal site for a market should have rail communica- tion, water communication, accessibility by road, and be in a central situation. I think he was quite right in saying that when the Government made up their mind, which was 1958, I think, there was not much in the way of an alternative site. That was the trouble. But in recent months—indeed, after the Bill was drafted—a consortium of engineering firms has come out with a suggestion that a market with ample space can be placed over some of the numerous railways sidings which exist round about the King's Cross—St. Panoras Area. This is a comparatively new type of building for this country, though the idea has been practised for long in the United States of America. I believe that we shall have to come to it in this country, and that a market is quite a suitable type of building to be placed on top of a railway space of that kind.

I should have liked to hear my noble friend Lord Bossom on this particuar matter, because he is a great expert. At any rate, it is much too technical a matter for the layman, as to whether it is a feasible or proper alternative. That is the reason why I supported the Amendment to leave the discretion to the Authority. I do not really believe that there is quite so much in this question of delay as has been made out, because I have a shrewd suspicion that, by the time we have heard the Chancellor's proposals next week, there will not be much hope of major redevelopment of Covent Garden, Bill or no Bill, this side of the next two years. I hope, therefore, that your Lordships will not be unduly impressed by, and will not support, the Lord Chancellor's Amendments.

4.16 p.m.


My Lords, in what I may call a corporate capacity I have heard myself mentioned a good deal during the course of the debate on this subject, to all of which I have listened with great care and attention. If I venture to address your Lordships this afternoon it is of course in a purely personal capacity; for that is the only capacity in which I have any right to do so.

It seems to me that we are here to-day to settle what is eminently a practical question. There is widespread—I think I might almost say, universal—agreement that the present condition of affairs in Covent Garden must be put an end to, and that a new Market must be constructed in place of the present one, which is hardly worthy of that name, at any rate architecturally speaking. The question we have to settle is where that new Market is to be, and when. Those two points are, I think, fairly closely bound up. In a sense, to my mind, there is not a great deal of difference between what animates the movers of the Amendment and what animates those on the other side. Quite obviously, if anybody instructed to build a Market in Covent Garden just could not do it, it would not be built. Equally, there is not, to my way of thinking, a great deal between writing into a Bill that an Authority, if they find they cannot do something, may come and ask, and saying, "We will not put that into the Bill, but if they cannot do it, then of course they may come and ask".

There is, however, I think, one practical difference between those two things, and it seems to be an important one. I have been tempted to say a great many things which have already been much better said by my noble friend Lord Mancroft, and I agree profoundly with the point that he was making. You start off with a Bill which sets up an Authority, and then say that it shall build a Market—not, let me emphasise again, on a particular site. A great deal of what has been said seems to imply that the new Market will be on precisely the same site as the old one. That, of course, is not so. It cannot be. You could not build a new one without putting the old one somewhere else while you were doing it.

In the second place, all the indications we have had have been that the new Market will be in the same close neighbourhood, but obviously not upon the same site. If you tell the Authority that they are to do their best (which is, in effect, what the Bill would say if my noble and learned friend's Amendments were passed) to build on a site in this neighbourhood, and give them little loophole, they are bound to do their best. It seems to me that, however little different it may appear in wording, the practical effect of the other view could be only to throw the whole question into the melting pot again. Under those conditions, the Authority would be bound to listen to a number of representations, which they would get in increasing numbers from all the people who always dislike any site or any proposal once it has been firmly decided upon, in favour of various "elsewheres", of which the only concrete one that I have heard mentioned throughout the whole of this discussion is King's Cross. And may I say, in parenthesis, that the case for the objection raised against the Covent Garden Area could be equally strongly raised against the King's Cross area, with very few countervailing advantages.

When your Lordships consider that I urge you most strongly to give this Authority not only the power but the duty of getting ahead as quickly as they can with building a new Market in an area which, of course, nobody likes completely. But nobody ever likes anything completely: as the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack said, this is not a perfect world, and we are not all animated wholly by perfect reason. Indeed, I think the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, believes that some of us who differ from his views are animated by no reason at all. Of course we shall not get any site with which everybody agrees, but at least there is a sufficient measure of acquiescence, if that word is preferred, on a site in the Covent Garden Area to enable the Authority, when it is set up, to get ahead with a job which has been far too long delayed. For these reasons I beg your Lordships to authorise them, and with all the power you can, to do it, and do it quickly.

4.21 p.m.


My Lords, in spite of the immense risk that I may appear to the right honourable gentleman Sir John Vaughan-Morgan to be a backwoodsman, I wish very briefly to indicate the reasons why I propose to support Her Majesty's Government. I was unable on account of illness to be here on the occasion when this matter was considered on the Committee stage. Had I been present I should have voted with what proved to be the minority, for the reasons admirably set forth in the speech of my noble and learned friend the Leader of the House. I can quite understand bona fide and convinced opposition to this Bill. I can quite understand a desire to kill this Bill. But I cannot conceive how anybody can be in favour of the Amendments which were inserted on the last occasion.

The noble Lord, Lord Stonham, in his speech on this occasion, and I believe in his speech on the previous occasion, made it quite clear that his desire was to kill this Bill. That is a perfectly understandable desire, but I think that we must realise what we are voting about. The series of Amendments of my noble and learned friend on the Woolsack are to remove the Amendments inserted on the previous occasion. I shall support him because I believe those Amendments then inserted are bad Amendments. It may be a good thing to kill this Bill, but for reasons given by the noble Viscount, Lord Runciman of Doxford, in his admirable speech at an earlier stage of this measure and in his speech to-day I believe this to be on the whole a good Bill.

While there may be good reason for killing the Bill, let us look for the moment at the merit of these Amendments. I agree very much, as did my noble friend Lord Runciman of Doxford, with the admirable speech of my noble friend, Lord Mancroft. My noble friend Lord Hawke thought that that speech could be neglected on the ground that it was witty. He seems to share what I think Bernard Shaw described as the characteristic illusion of the Englishman that, if one is witty, one cannot be serious. But most people know that wit and seriousness are not mutually inconsistent. I also differ, with great reluctance, from my noble friend Lord Molson, who on so many issues expresses, and admirably expresses, my views and enthusiasms. I rather agree with him that if I were to arrange the order of arguments in the admirable speech of my noble and learned friend on the Woolsack this afternoon I might have chosen to put town planning first. But, with respect, I do not think that the issue on town planning grounds is nearly as clear as my noble friend Lord Molston suggested.

Where we have a very ancient market in a particular area there are very likely to be quite substantial reasons, on planning grounds, why it is desirable that it should be in that area. I am not going to enlarge upon that, because the point was so admirably put on a previous occasion by my noble friend Lord Runciman of Doxford. But are we really quite certain that, if we get rid of the Market from this area, what would be put in its stead would be more satisfactory from the town planning point of view? I am not at all convinced. I can believe, on the basis of quite a number of recent developments in London, that, from a town planning point of view, what might be put in the area would be less satisfactory in every way and, I think, inferior.

The other point I most wish to bring to the attention of the House arises on one of the series of Amendments—because my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor quite rightly said that for convenience we must consider these Amendments together. I want to consider one of the other. Amendments with which we are concerned—that which determines what shall happen in certain events. Under the Amendments incorporated in the Bill which we are now invited to delete, what will happen if the Market Authority decides it cannot build in this area and wishes to go elsewhere? We are not told where. As everybody who thinks about it must agree, whatever area is selected may give rise to the most acute controversy. That does not mean that the choice of an area may not be a wise one, but it may give rise to acute controversy, and how is it proposed that that controversy shall be settled? It is proposed that it shall be settled not by Act of Parliament but by Order made by statutory instrument. Is there any politician in any quarter of the House who really thinks that a a matter of that importance, which can give rise to so much controversy, should be settled not by consulting Parliament but by statutory instrument? The prime reason I shall support Her Majesty's Government to-day—


My Lords, if the noble Lord will forgive my saying so, when he says "without consulting Parliament" he is quite wrong.


Did I say that?


Yes, and the noble Lord is wrong. A statutory instrument is capable of Parliamentary challenge.


I quite agree that a statutory instrument has to come before Parliament, and the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, in his more dictatorial days was very fond of that procedure. On many occasions in another place I fought him on this issue. I dare say the noble Lord retains his fondness for that and still thinks it is a highly democratic and satisfactory procedure where Parliament cannot amend by a single syllable anything proposed in a statutory instrument. Speaking as a member of a Party which does not believe in such tyrannical methods, I, myself, do not think that is an adequate consultation of Parliament.


My Lords, is the noble Lord able to give us figures comparing the number of statutory instruments used by this Government and previous Conservative Governments with the number used by Labour Governments? He knows perfectly well that Conservative Governments have used statutory instruments just as much as any other Government, of any colour on God's earth.


My Lords, I could not be more aware of that fact, but I was not considering for the moment the use of statutory instruments; I was considering the insertion in an Act of Parliament of a new power to proceed by statutory instrument instead of by Statute. I am against it, though the noble Lord has always been very fond of that method. I am sorry if, by the intervention of the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, I have perhaps been tempted into controversial remarks more characteristic of another place, but I suppose I am falling into old habits.

The points, in outline, seem to be these. What we are determining primarily this afternoon is whether we consider these Amendments inserted on the Committee stage good as Amendments. I do not believe anybody can suggest they are good as Amendments. They make the Bill a ridiculous Bill; but, or course, they do have the effect of killing it. I myself do not wish to kill it, but there are Members in this House—on both sides, I agree—who would like to kill it. But let them kill it by a decent method: let them vote against it on Third Reading, and not kill it by supporting these idiotic Amendments.

4.32 p.m.


My Lords, the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack deployed the arguments in favour of his Amendment with very great skill and force. They are, first of all, that it is economically necessary that there should be a single, central market for agricultural or horticultural products in the centre of London. I entirely disagree with that argument. There is no other ordinary commodity in daily use to which that applies. There is no single central market in London to which all our bread, our bacon or any other daily necessity of life is 'brought and sold. The economic foundation of this argument is entirely lacking. There is no reason why there should not be several markets in London at which horticultural products are sold. The reason why there happens to be one large, central Market at Covent Garden is due to the historical fact that in 1670 the Duke of Bedford got a Royal Grant of a Market, and without some statutory power nobody could now create a market anywhere else in London. That is the reason why Covent Garden is there and why it functions 'as it does at the present moment. But it is quite ridiculous to suggest that it is economically essential that there should be one, and only one, market for horticultural products in London, and that it should be situated where it is.

The other arguments used by the noble and learned Viscount were that on town planning and on traffic grounds this proposal was desirable and preferable to any other use which might be made of an area in this vicinity. Town planning and traffic cannot be separated in this connection: they are inextricably interwoven. My Lords, when the plan for London was being prepared by the late Sir Patrick Abercrombie and Mr. Forshaw, with colleagues on the London County Council, my noble friend Lord Latham and my noble friend Lord Silkin, I sat for very many days discussing these problems, and I am absolutely convinced that it is a terrible mistake to throw more and more traffic into the centre of London for any reason whatever.

The noble and learned Viscount upon the Woolsack has said that if the Market is moved to some other place and this area is used for commercial purposes that will introduce into it as much traffic as there comes into it at the present moment. I do not know what the foundation is for that belief. The noble and learned Viscount gave no reason for it. If, for example, this area were used for residential purposes it would generate practically no traffic at all. It might save a great deal of the traffic which is coming to the centre of London at the present moment. It is difficult to conceive a use, allowed as proper under town planning powers, which would produce more congestion of traffic than is caused by that which comes into that area at the present moment.

I therefore respectfully submit to the House that it is entirely mistaken to say that on town planning grounds the Market ought to be there. It would be far better if it were somewhere else, planned, in conjunction with the roads which are or must be made, to decentralise traffic out of the centre of London and to let it circulate in peripheral routes instead of coming into the centre. One large market in, let us say, the North of London, and another in the South of London, would save all the traffic which has now to go into the centre from greengrocers all over the metropolis in order that they should get their produce day after day. It is entirely unnecessary that that should be so.

Finally, my Lords, the noble and learned Viscount upon the Woolsack, as his fourth argument, said that in 1958 the Government had committed themselves to acceptance of this proposal and therefore it must be carried through. That argument is denying the rights of this House and of the other place to consider impartially legislation which is brought before them. If that argument is allowed to prevail indefinitely it will mean that the hands of both Houses of Parliament will be tied in considering legislation which is brought before them because the Government have led people to believe that they are going to push that legislation through. I am sure that, on reflection, the noble and learned Viscount would not accept that as good constitutional doctrine, and I hope that nobody in this House will accede to that argument.

4.39 p.m.


My Lords, the noble Lords who support the Amendment which my noble and learned friend who sits on the Woolsack has asked you to reject are all agreed about one thing, and that is that they doubt whether Covent Garden Market should be in the centre of London. The Government, after several years of detailed study and discussion with all the parties concerned, have come to the contrary conclusion: we believe that a site near the present Market is the best available place. This being really the central issue which is before your Lordships to-day, I propose to concentrate upon it.

My Lords, the view that the Market ought to be moved out of Central London is perhaps the natural reaction of anyone on his first introduction to this problem. You have to look only at the traffic congestion in the streets, the unsuitable buildings from which the Market trade is conducted, and the primitive methods of handling the produce and the containers, to feel convinced that this sort of activity ought not to continue in the centre of a great city. Indeed, I should think that it is likely that most of us have started with a predisposition to this view. But, my Lords, it is quite useless to adopt this negative attitude that the Market ought not to be where it is now, unless you are prepared to say where it should be. This is the point which has been so forcibly made by the noble and learned Viscount who sits on the Woolsack and by my noble friend Lord Mancroft, who jollied us along in the same direction.

But before I develop this argument about the ineffectiveness of this purely negative attitude, may I endorse what the noble Viscount, Lord Runciman of Doxford, has stated so well: that there are still fundamental misconceptions which, I am afraid, are still in many people's minds and which lead them to be troubled about the Government's proposals. Some people still seem to think that the Government's proposals mean that the Market must be left where it is and as it is now, and that therefore the chaotic conditions in the streets and on the pavements in Covent Garden are to be perpetuated. My Lords, this may be elementary, but I think it is what is troubling a great many people. They seem to think that there is bound to be a ghastly traffic jam in the vicinity of the Market. But this is, of course, a travesty of the truth. Any new market, wherever it is built, will be so designed that not only can the marketing be conducted in the market premises (and not, as at present, in the streets and on the pavements) but it will provide, by means of a modern, multi-storeyed building and proper parking facilities within its precincts, for all the lorries and vans to be loaded and unloaded within the market itself.


My Lords, while the noble Earl is dealing with that matter, we ought to get down to brass tacks on the question of parking. There are about 3,500 lorries and scooters going in and out. How much of that is lorries and so forth, and what sort of space out of the ten acres will be devoted to parking, how many levels will there be, and so on?


My Lords, the noble Lord has made that point, and I intend to come to it in my speech when I get to the traffic question. The point about the building of a new Market is that it has to be a self-contained Market, but I will develop that later.

The second misconception which is still in some people's minds is that we must rebuild here a Market close to the Opera House and St. Paul's Church, and that this is surely not the proper place for a commercial Market of this sort. I should think it is in the highest degree unlikely that the Authority will decide to rebuild on the present site. Most of your Lordships, I believe, have received the circular from the Covent Garden Tenants' Association Limited, dated July 7, in which they say that there is this site just north of Long Acre, at Seven Dials, occupied to-day—and I quote from their circular— by gloomy and semi-derelict Victorian warehouses and shops which are scheduled for demolition. If this site finds favour with the Covent Garden Market Authority, it will free the whole of the present Covent Garden area for redevelopment. The famous Piazza lying between St. Paul's Church and the Opera House and now occupied by the Charter Market, could be reclaimed, leaving an additional 10 to 15 acres for new buildings or open spaces. I beg your Lordships to remember that the area available to the Authority for the new Market is the whole Covent Garden Area of some 120 acres—which has again been referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Molson, I think, to-day as 30 acres; but the Covent Garden Area, as designated, is 120 acres—and it is within this large area that the Authority are required to build a self-contained Market not exceeding ten acres in all. There is no reason, therefore, to fear either that wherever the Market is built there will be congestion as at present in the streets, or that the Market has to be rebuilt on its present site. Indeed, the whole purpose of this Bill is to remove the present chaos in the streets near Covent Garden, and to give the Authority a wide though limited and defined area in which to seek a site for building the new Market.

My Lords, let us examine again the question of the alternative site about which we have heard so much. We should all agree, of course, that it would be futile to move the Market unless we were quite satisfied that the new site would be a better one. This is where the real difficulty begins, because anyone who has studied the problem at all closely knows that it is in fact impossible, in conversation at least, to get even a relatively small number of people knowledgeable about this subject to agree on an alternative site. Indeed, I do not think that the supporters of the Amendment made last week agree among themselves on this vital matter. This is a very significant point to which I shall return later.

Within the last 40 years there have been proposals to move this Market to Bloomsbury, to King's Cross, to the South Bank, to Hendon, and finally, to split it up and build instead a ring of new markets round the periphery of London. But when—


My Lords, would the noble Earl forgive my interrupting him? This matter has been raised many times, but as I framed the original Amendment I must point out to him that it was no part of our intention to name alternative sites; I went out of my way to explain that. We want the Market Authority to consider that. It is not any part of our business to say where the alternative sites should be.


My Lords, when the Government received the very valuable Runciman Report, they considered that it was not their duty to continue this interesting exercise in armchair town planning—one might almost call it "pipe-dreaming". But they did consider it was their duty to consult all the interests concerned in this matter of the siting of the Market which was to be rebuilt. Let us just see who they were. They were the growers; the wholesalers and retailers who produce, import and distribute the fruit, vegetables and flowers sold in the Market; the trade unions, representing the Market workers; the other market authorities responsible for Spitalfields, the Borough, Greenwich, Stratford, and Brentford; the local authorities in whose area the Market lies—that is to say, the Westminster City Council and the Holborn Borough Council; the London County Council, as Planning Authority for London—


No. Will the noble Earl forgive me? I wish he would clear this up, because I raised this matter with the noble and learned Viscount who sits on the Woolsack. Will the noble Earl quote the positive approval of this Bill and this scheme by the London County Council—the positive approval? Because they gave evidence otherwise to the Runciman Committee.


My Lords, I was going through the list of authorities and bodies whom the Government had consulted, and whom it was their duty to consult. On the question of the London County Council and its degree of acceptance of the proposals in this Bill I have not a document to quote; but it would be unlikely that one would have a document to quote on this matter. My right honourable friend the Minister of Agriculture and his officials have been in close touch with the London County Council all through these proceedings over the years. We have had a great deal of active help from the London County Council. They have given us great assistance in several ways in the preparation of this Bill, for which both the present Minister and his predecessor have paid tribute to them.


My Lords, is that not a perfectly natural thing, for a local authority to give all the technical help they can? I can understand that. But what were the views expressed by the London County Council to the Runciman Committee?


My Lords, if the noble Viscount would permit me to make my speech in my own way, I will come to that point and not dodge it at all.


My Lords, we are dealing with the specific power to be granted to the Authority of going somewhere else. Did these people the noble Earl is quoting specifically object to the Authority's having the power to go somewhere else? That is the point.


My Lords, surely that is a point which will have to be reconsidered, if this power is written into the Bill.


My Lords, if I may reply to the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, the London County Council have not petitioned against the Bill in its present form, and they have never been against the Bill as it stands to-day.


My Lords, we are not discussing the whole Bill, but discussing whether certain powers should be given to this Authority. What I am asking is whether the people whose quotations we are now being given in support of the Bill were also against this power.


Perhaps I might proceed with my speech. I am saying—and have said no more than this—that the Government, before introducing the Bill which is now before Parliament (of course without the Amendments made last week), had consultations with the bodies to whom I referred, and I have tried to explain the degree of acceptance the Government have had from these bodies. In the hypothetical case of these Amendments remaining in the Bill, and of the roving commission given to the Authority by these Amendments remaining, consultations would have to be renewed and the provisions re-negotiated. After the long negotiations which took place, the Government's duty was to find a solution which would achieve as many as possible of the objects desired by all these legitimately interested parties, and which would be open to as few as possible practical objections. It might be said that this sort of approach was bound to produce a bad solution, a compromise between conflicting interests. This point was carefully met by my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor.

I have no hesitation, however, in telling your Lordships that a Bill which proposed a solution to this problem without taking into account the legitimate interests of all concerned would be a very bad measure. Such a Bill would have no chance of surviving the critical examination of Parliament and would not deserve to reach the Statute Book. The reasons for this are not far to seek. The problem is not a single problem, but a triple one. It is a road traffic problem, a town planning problem and a market problem. I will take the last, the market problem, first.

The solution to the technical problem of marketing must take account of the structure and geographical location of our own centres of horticultural production and of the routes by which produce from all over the world reaches these islands. It must also take account of the two distinct functions the market performs: that of acting as the national price-setting and balancing market for the whole country, and that of supplying the needs of retailers who come to Covent Garden from all over London, and even beyond.

As for the town planning problem, I do not think any of your Lordships will wish to minimise the importance of this aspect. Indeed, I cannot help feeling that most of the arguments advanced in favour of the Amendment inserted on the last occasion were really planning arguments. The noble Lord, Lord Hawke, at the very beginning of his speech in Committee, said, "This is purely a planning matter", which I think illustrates well the misconception we are dealing with here. For it is not purely a planning matter. Then the noble Lord, Lord Molson, took me up on this and accused me of referring to the planners in a disparaging manner. I have no doubt of the value and importance of town planning, and I would not wish anyone to suppose that I think lightly or disparagingly of those whose interests or work lie in the planning field. Town planning, and in particular the planning of this great metropolis, is vitally important and of great concern to all of us. But I would ask your Lordships to remember that town planning must be realistic and must not be purely negative. Any redevelopment of a central area such as this poses difficult planning, traffic and economic problems.

The road traffic problem is how to relieve the congestion on the roads of central London. What is the real cause of the traffic jams in and around the present market? The Government commissioned an independent traffic expert, who was recommended to my right honourable friend by the Minister of Transport, to examine this question. He showed conclusively in his survey that the real cause of congestion was not the traffic moving in and out of the Market Area but the fact that, owing to the lack of proper design and organisation of the Market, vehicles had to park in the streets, where they waited for three hours or more before setting down or collecting their loads. He found that fewer than 4,000 market vehicles (the figure given this afternoon was 3,500) used the Market each day, whereas the total flow of vehicles using the roads in and around the Market was about 10,000 per hour. These figures confirm the Government's view that the traffic problem is not one of traffic flow but one of parking.

Might I also remind your Lordships of what Mr. Waldron, Assistant Commissioner of Metropolitan Police, who gave evidence before the Select Committee in another place, said in reply to a question by one of the members of the Committee. He said Covent Garden itself is a mess at the moment because of the construction of the Market"— I should like your Lordships particularly to note those words, "because of the construction of the market". He went on to say: If the Market was completely reconstructed and everything was taken inside, the exits are not too bad because everyone goes out in a different direction and there is some advantage in that. That is one of the great advantages of the Covent Garden Area; it is served by roads to every corner of London.

I need not labour the point that if one approaches this complex problem from any single one of these three main angles and bases one's solution on the considerations of most importance from that angle alone, the solution will certainly be a bad one. The Government have not fallen into this error, and I am sure that the House after reflecting on what my noble and learned friend has said to-day and on what I have to say, will not do so either. The supporters of the Amendments which we now wish to delete have used strong language to express their conviction that it is wrong to leave the Market in the Covent Garden Area. But I have not heard a single noble Lord explain to the House what is wrong with the reasoning of all those whose responsibility it has been during the last five or six years to study this problem, and who have come to agree with the Runciman Committee and the Government that the Market should stay more or less where it is.

If the noble Lords who supported the Amendments are right, surely the onus is on them to tell your Lordships in simple language how the Runciman Committee, who spent eighteen months studying this subject, came to make such an egregious blunder. In addition to the noble Viscount, Lord Runciman of Doxford, who has himself told your Lordships why he supports this Bill, his Committee contained distinguished members of great experience in food distribution, accountancy, agriculture, economics, the organisation of workers and local government. They listened to evidence from all the parties concerned. Their recommendations were unanimous. Who or what led them so far astray?

My Lords, I come to the quesion of the London County Council. They told the Committee, and later the Government, that on town planning grounds they would have preferred to see the Market moved to a site elsewhere outside London. But as the Government explored all the factors involved and discussed the problem with the interests concerned, the London County Council came to support the Government's proposals. This was because, as a practical body of men and women they could see that the Government's plan was the only realistic solution which would enable an early start to be made on radical improvements to the Market and, indeed, to the whole of that area.

The Westminster City Council and the Holborn Borough Council also accepted our plan. The other London market authorities have accepted the plan and the national and local organisations representing the wholesalers, the importers and the retailers support it. The T.U.C. have supported it.

The National Farmers' Union support the Bill. In their circular to Members of Parliament on December 5, 1960, they said: It is, however, inherent in the Union's support that the proposed Covent Garden Market Authority should be able to rebuild the Market, preferably on a multi-storey basis and with wide one-way access and exit routes, within the Covent Garden Market Area, much of which has long been ripe for comprehensive development of a type which could be undertaken only by a statutory authority under Governmental supervision but working in the closest possible liaison with interested parties. The noble Lord, Lord Stonham, has made harsh criticisms of the Bill from his point of view. I must ask him whether he thinks that all these organisations, representing men and women who earn their living in the Market or are intimately concerned with its day-to-day working, have taken leave of their senses when they disagree with him. The noble Lord used strong words. Is it not more likely that the noble Lord's view is due to the fact that he has not had the advantage of participating in the Government's patient and constructive efforts to find a viable solution in full consultation with these practical men, who have been convinced that our solution is, on balance, the best available in a situation in which no solution is, or can be, ideal from all points of view?


My Lords, the noble Earl has asked me a question and, with your Lordships' permission, I should like to answer it. I do not agree that all these organisations have supported the Government's proposal; it is not accurate. The Finsbury Borough Council and the Shoreditch Borough Council petitioned against the Bill and took a major portion out of it. Virtually all the horticulturists are against the Bill. The noble Earl referred to the National Farmers' Union. I have in my hand a letter from them dated yesterday which has been sent Ito me, and it reads as follows: The N.F.U. has supported in principle the Covent Garden Market Bill, although we would not conceal the existence of divergent views among our members on the merits of siting the new Market in the Covent Garden Market area. So it is not the case that all these authorities have supported the proposal, and from the evidence of the letters in The Times I think it is indisputable that the major bodies interested in Covent Garden are drastically opposed to the Government's proposal.


I am interested in what the noble Lord says, but I still understood from what he said that the National Farmers' Union, one of the bodies I quoted, are in support of the Bill.

If the new Market is not built in the Covent Garden Area (I am afraid I must ask again, and your Lordships must consider), where is it to be? There is a remarkable lack of agreement on this. Could it be on the site north of King's Cross that some have advocated? There are clearly most difficult financial and economic implications inherent in such a proposal. Another difficulty is that the site is very poorly served by roads. There is in fact only one road—namely, York Way, giving access to the site. Almost certainly this road, part of which is carried on a viaduct, would need to be widened, and it seems likely that new roads would have to be constructed at great public expense to bridge the railway lines lying to the north, the west and the south of the site.

The Runciman Committee considered specifically a site at King's Cross, but came to the conclusion that such a site did not possess so many advantages over Covent Garden as to justify the heavy cost of a move there. They pointed out the weakness of the argument that a site close to a railway terminal would have the advantage that produce consigned on the railway could be brought straight into the Market; a site near one terminal might be convenient for growers and traders using that terminal, but very inconvenient for those using other terminals.

This is a point that was brought out by the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, when he quoted a letter from the Lea Valley horticulturists. No doubt a market closer to them would suit them very well. But I feel sure that somebody else would have got up and quoted a letter from the Hampshire growers which would have said that this would be most inconvenient for them. I cannot quote that letter, of course, because it has not been written, but I have every right to suppose that there would be an argument from people to whom the Market was distant that it did not suit them at all. The Runciman Committee said that they regarded it as of much more importance that the site should be well served by road than that it should be well served by rail, and that in general road transport in this country is more convenient and economic than rail transport for horticultural produce much of which is extremely perishable, because it reduces the handling of packages.

This is fairly obvious, but it might be helpful to your Lordships if I illustrate the point with a few figures. It has been estimated (I think this figure has been given before in your Lordships' House) that some 25 per cent. of the produce sold in the Market comes into London by rail. Of this, substantial quantities of imported produce come into Bishopsgate and Liverpool Street from Harwich, and substantial quantities into Hither Green and Nine Elms from the Channel Ports and Southampton. Relatively small quantities of home-grown produce also arrive by rail from certain areas, such as Cornwall and parts of Lincolnshire. It is therefore doubtful if any one of the London rail terminals carries as much as 10 per cent. of the total volume of produce sold in the Market. May I draw your Lordships' attention to what the traders themselves have said on this subject in their circular? They say: There are six important railway terminals handling fruit arriving in London and a similar number (not all the same location) for goods leaving. They are miles apart and rail connections between them impossibly complex and slow for perishable foodstuffs. I think this demonstrates clearly that the Runciman Committee were right in concluding that good road access is a much more important factor in choosing a site for the Market than rail access.

It has been suggested that the Market might conceivably be sited on the disused airfield at Hendon. It is certain that traders with premises in south and central London would not go there voluntarily. Unless there were fantastically costly compensation provisions, or drastic powers of compulsion, all that would happen is that the traders would transfer their business to the two other existing central markets, at Spitalfields and the Borough, which are already overcrowded.

But, my Lords, if the Market is rebuilt in the Covent Garden Area (an area, as I have said, of 120 acres), no compulsion is needed. The traders have already agreed that to rebuild in this area is acceptable to them. I have already explained why the present sprawl, the litter, the traffic congestion, will not be perpetuated. I have explained that the new Market, which may well be built around the Seven Dials area, will be a modern building using all the modern techniques of which the noble Lord, Lord Hawke, spoke during the Second Reading debate and again to-day. The noble Lord, Lord Hawke, asked me a specific question, and without warning I cannot give him the detailed answer. Because the Market Authority have not yet got the tender for the new Market, I do not know exactly what their parking arrangements will be. I do not know whether the 4,000 vehicles which use this Market—it is the advice of a traffic expert that about 4,000 vehicles, small or large, come into this Market—would be in underground parking spaces, outside parking spaces, or whether there would be a multi-storeyed building with lifts, or with the lorries going up the outside, on ramps.

What I do know is this. I am quite certain that you can design a Market building on ten acres, especially if there is a reasonable height limitation, and a multi-storeyed building which can accommodate in that ten acres and in the precinct 3,000, 4,000 or 5,000 trading vehicles. I do not believe that there would be any difficulty about that. But I confess freely that I have not measured it up. I am not an architect myself, and would not know how big the parking space would have to be.


My Lords, may I ask if anyone has measured it up?


My Lords, yes. That will be one of the first tasks to which the Market Authority (with its Traffic Committee, Market Committee and Workers' Committee), when this Bill is passed, will direct itself. It has to lay its plans for the rebuilding of this Market, and the only limitation we make is that it should be within the Covent Garden area of 120 acres, that it should be done in seven years, and that it must not cover more than ten acres.


My Lords, if nobody has made these calculations already how on earth does my noble friend know he is going to be able to get it in ten acres? I find it very difficult to believe that a building of ten acres can accommodate 3,000 vehicles.


My Lords, I hope we shall be able to allay the noble Lord's fears. But I am tempted to ask him whether he has expert advice, or whether he has personal knowledge in this matter that a multi-storeyed ten-acre building cannot accommodate 3,000 vehicles. I am entitled to ask him that.


My Lords, there is this expert advice. The architect who has settled the Seven Dials site which consists of 12 acres, on which it is proposed to build a multi-storey building of 91 acres with 26 acres of floor space, says that it will accommodate within the market area 1,200 lorries. This includes 320 lorries standing in the basement, to be increased by up to 400 lorries due to retention of Monmouth Street at ground floor level. There will be additional parking space for 540 private cars. That is 1,600 lorries and 540 cars. That is from the architect who hopes to get the job of building the Market.


My Lords, with respect, I do not think it is proper at this stage in the debate to argue in detail this point of the Bill. This is the kind of point which the Runciman Committee were examining. I would say one other thing here before I leave it. There has been much said in the past about the King's Cross site, which is considerably smaller. If we could do it all there, I think we can do it here. Instead of this terrible traffic delay, with all the vans and lorries in the streets as they are now, under these new conditions all these collecting vehicles will have finished their business in the Market and be on their way to their destinations before 9.30 in the morning. I cannot emphasise too strongly that we are planning for the future. We must not fall into the error of thinking only in terms of the way this trade is carried on to-day. Techniques of packing, grading and marketing are changing rapidly. We envisage that all these developments will gradually convert the Market into a produce exchange (much more into a produce exchange in so far as its national functions are concerned) while it remains a retailers' Market for the population of London which it serves.

The noble and learned Viscount who sits on the Woolsack has already spoken about misconceptions which have arisen about the annex, and I would add only two points. First, neither the Government nor the traders have ever envisaged that it will be necessary for retailers, as a general rule, to go to the annex, either to pick up produce or return their empties. The annex has always been conceived as a store for bulk produce from which secondary wholesalers would draw their supplies, mainly of imported produce. Empty containers brought back to the Market by retailers would be conveyed to the annex by the Market Authority or some other organisation, probably at the end of each day's trading. Secondly, the Authority will not necessarily have to provide a separate annex at all. The Bill does not require them to do so, and if they can find a more economic and convenient solution to the problem of storage for bulk produce and empty containers they will undoubtedly do so.

This will depend on an immensely detailed analysis (which they will make in full consultation with the traders) of traffic to be handled, of the storage and sorting facilities that can be provided in the docks and at the railheads, and in the new Market itself. The Authority will have the machinery, namely, the Market Management Committee, the Traffic Committee and the Workers' Committee, for getting to know in full detail what is practicable and what is not practicable; and on the basis of the advice that they are given they will make up their minds. I understand as a matter of fact that the Market traders would prefer a new Market which could accommodate all the necessary storage facilities, as well as those for buying and selling. This may well be found possible.

There is only one other matter to which I wish to refer, and I wish to do so because there has been a good deal of misunderstanding. Noble Lords and others have spoken of £20 million of public money. Let us look at the facts. The Authority is empowered to borrow up to £8 million from the Exchequer during the first ten years after vesting day. It will need this money, because initially it will not be able to make its revenues balance its expenditure including the interest payable on borrowed money, and therefore cannot go to the public money market for its capital. This borrowing will, of course, have to be repaid with interest. The Authority is also empowered to borrow from the public money market, but its total borrowings at any one time, including whatever money has been borrowed from the Exchequer, must not exceed £20 million in all. This does not mean that the new Market will cost £20 million or anything like it. There will be a time, when the new Market is being built and the old Market is still being used, when the total borrowings might be f15 million; and that is why we put an upper limit of £20 million. But when the traders are accommodated in their new Market the old Market lands can be sold or redeveloped, and then the debt can be substantially reduced.

My Lords, the solution to the Covent Garden Market problem contained in this Bill is a sound one on its merits. My right honourable friend in another place said he had no qualms about it, and I hope that what the noble and learned Viscount who sits on the Woolsack, and I, and others, have said to-day may have dispelled any qualms which your Lordships may have had. It is a workable plan, ready to go into action now. It is acceptable to the private and public interests involved. It is a solution which contains the highest common factor attainable of agreement between interests that, by their very nature, must to some extent be conflicting. It will enable the modern horticultural market which is so long overdue to be built in Central London. It will solve the traffic congestion and eliminate the fire risk, and it will enable the redevelopment of this most important area of 120 acres in the centre of London to proceed. If this Bill is now lost a heavy burden of responsibility must therefore rest on the shoulders of those responsible.

But we cannot and do not rule out the possibility that the circumstances on which all these conclusions have been based may change; and as my right honourable friend said in Committee in another place, if after all the Authority should come to the conclusion, after a full review of all the relevant circumstances, and after consulting and getting agreement with all the interests concerned, that the Market ought to be built somewhere else, then the Government could introduce legislation to enable this to be done. My noble and learned friend has to-day given your Lordships a further assurance. He said that in these circumstances the Minister would not withhold his consent to the promotion of a Private Bill by the Authority, under Clause 20 of this Bill, which would have the same effect. I submit that these two assurances should remove any apprehension which any of your Lordships may have felt, that the passage of this Bill will preclude all further consideration of an alternative site and, indeed, make the choice of such a site impossible even if it were found to be preferable.


My Lords, will the noble Earl excuse me for interrupting? Will he deal with a point which is precisely on the point he has just made, or shall I wait for the noble and learned Viscount? I am hesitating as to what I should do in this debate and I should like to know.


I have been speaking for a very long time, perhaps too long, and on this point I will leave the answer to the noble Viscount, who will be speaking later, and ask the noble Lord to leave that now.

I say to your Lordships therefore that we really cannot go further than this to meet a view which, for all the reasons which I have given, the Government do not share. I ask your Lordships to give approval to the proposal that the Amendments made last week be deleted from the Bill, since they will endanger it and may, indeed, wreck it.

5.24 p.m.


My Lords, we have had an interesting and valuable debate this afternoon on this highly controversial matter, and as a whole it has been without Party political feeling—as indeed it ought to be; because I do not see why the siting of a market should necessarily raise Party political passions and, as a whole, it has not. It is true that we had smile Party politics from the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, and the noble Lord, Lord Conesford, who I suppose did it in order to stir things up, and it was their way of amusing themselves. We had a witty speech from the noble Lord, Lord Man-croft. I always enjoy listening to him, because he really is witty and comical. He made a first-class comical speech this afternoon which I think everybody who heard it enjoyed. The noble Lord, Lord Conesford, did not quite come up to this standard, but did follow the example of the other noble Lord in trying to stir up Party passions, to which, fortunately, we did not respond.

The debate was opened by the Lord Chancellor, who gave us his usual thorough, courteous and careful exposition of the point of view of Her Majesty's Government. We listened to him with very great care and attention, as we always do, and it is worth while to do so. If I have to confess that the Lord Chancellor did not convert me to his point of view, that will not exactly surprise him; but I assure him it is not out of any spirit of sheer blind obstinacy that I was not converted to the point of view which he expressed.

We have just had a speech from the Parliamentary Secretary for the Ministry of Agriculture in which he has done his best to defend the line which Her Majesty's Government have taken. I think there has been a little too much reliance on the Runciman Report, because in important respects the Government have rejected the Runciman Report, and having rejected it in important respects it is too bad that they should come down here and pose as "St. Runcimans". It is not justified. For example, the Runciman Committee proposed that there should be a new Market in the North-West of London, presumably with a view to relieving part of the congestion in Covent Garden. They proposed that Stratford and Brent-ford should be enlarged, again presumably for the purpose of taking some of the traffic away from Covent Garden. All these recommendations have been rejected by the Government, so I would say, with great respect, that they have no right to hang on to the Runciman Report as if they were on all fours with it. Because they really are not.

Lord Runciman of Doxford himself said that if this Bill did not go through there would be indefinite delay. I cannot see why that should be. If this Bill did not go through, another Bill could be brought in next Session; they have dealt with the substance of it. It would require certain Amendments of importance, I agree. Or the Government could, if they liked, continue this Bill into the next Parliamentary Session. However, since there would be problems arising from the New Bill procedure within the Hybrid Bill it might be better to have a new Bill. They can take either course, and I cannot see that there is anything in the argument about indefinite delay if the Government were to allow the Bill to go over to the next Session, as they have done with two other more important Bills to which your Lordships have devoted a great deal of time and attention—though that labour is, unhappily, being lost.

It was said in the course of the Lord Chancellor's speech that he thought we could not dispute the Report of the Standing Orders Committee, and I respectfully agree. There is no doubt that the changes we have made in the Bill would entitle a reopening of the Select Committee procedure, in order to be just to the parties who were concerned; or, indeed, to some new parties who might be concerned in the new circumstances. And I do not think it is any good arguing about that. He thought that there would be disastrous results for the producers if the Bill were not carried. It was argued by him that further delay would be inexcusable, but when there has already been delay for 50 years I cannot see that a matter of nine months or so would be all that terrible. He said the producers would be in trouble. But the whole of the argument, including that of the Parliamentary Secretary, has been rather on the basis that the only people who mattered in the business were the tenants of Covent Garden Market itself. I agree that the tenants of Covent Garden are important and are discharging an important function, and that their views are entitled to proper consideration from the Members of your Lordships' House. But they are not the only people concerned. The travelling public are concerned; pedestrians are concerned; potential residential people are concerned; and the growers of the goods themselves are concerned, because they are the people who have got to get the goods to the market. I think it is understandable that the tenants who have been there a good time do not want to be disturbed; that is quite common for in these matters people do not like to be disturbed. I understand the feeling and do not scorn it at all. But the public interest must, and does, at times take a superior position as compared with the interests of people who are staying or working in certain places and who do not want to be disturbed. Therefore I do not think that the view of the tenants should be conclusive.

Then it was asked, would these traders follow the new site? If they want to be in business they would have to follow the site. Perhaps they would not like it, but they would do it, as other people have. Therefore I do not think that it is a conclusive argument. But the fundamental point, which nobody on the other side of the argument has faced, is would this Bill materially improve the traffic situation round about Covent Garden or would it not? I do not think anybody on the other side of the argument has faced that point. There would still be a very considerable traffic.

It is argued that the Market has been there a long time. I think it was the noble Lord, Lord Conesford, who said that it had been there centuries and it surely could not have been there centuries if it was not the right place. This is a highly backward-looking kind of argument. It is true these markets have been there for centuries—Covent Garden, Spitalfields, Smithfield, Billingsgate and so on—but it is understandable why they were there. This was centuries ago when London was relatively a small town and had relatively little traffic, and it was natural that those markets should at that time have been placed in the City of London or the City of Westminster. But to say that because it was right in those days it is right now, when unhappily we have this vast urban sprawl of Greater London, seems to me to be a misuse of one's thoughtfulness upon the subject, and it is an argument that it is not legitimate to advance.

The fact is that we are faced with a London that has overgrown itself. It ought not to have done; it is the fault of past Parliaments and past local authorities. But there it is and we have to face it. What is nearly everybody saying about London planning and London traffic? Nearly every informed person is saying two things: one is that we ought to be careful about doing anything that attracts new traffic into the centre of London, and that, on the contrary, we should do all we can to discourage traffic from coming into central London. That, I think, is universally accepted, except among people who say it happened centuries ago and it must be right. The next point is that many people, myself among them, are getting worried that the central area of London, which is a pretty big area, is in danger of becoming denuded of residential population, unless one is sufficiently well-to-do to be able to pay the rents of that kind of property. Many of your Lordships used to be able to afford to do that, but many noble Lords now unhappily cannot—unhappily far those noble Lords.

The working-class people are getting out of London—those particular working people who work in Covent Garden Market and Smithfields and so on, who want to live near the Market. And let me admit that quite a number of them do live near the Market, around Drury Lane or somewhere like that, in so-called model dwellings built for the working classes in the last century. But we are in danger of the residential population, not only working class but middle class and even upper class as well, if that is a right term to use, steadily being pushed out of central London. Therefore we want to be careful about the continuous industrialisation of central London from that point of view as well as from the point of view of attracting traffic to the central part of London.

It is not I alone who says it; it is no political Party alone which says it. It is said by all informed students of the planning problem of conurbations, of traffic, of all that, and indeed the Minister of Housing and Local Government; and I should not be surprised if the Minister of Transport has said something of a similar character. It is a very natural thing for Ministers to say. Yet the Government come along and say that not only is it desirable for Covent Garden Market to be there but it must be there, and that anybody who disagrees is flying in the face of eternal truth. I cannot follow it. And your Lordships' House has to do the best it can.

It is argued that if you, for example, divert the Market to North-West London or West London or—not as well as, but or—to the Eastern side of London, that would be very nice (says the Parliamentary Secretary) for the growers near those places, but not so nice for the others. I agree. I think it is a formidable argument. But I meet that argument, speaking in my individual capacity with no authority to commit all my noble friends, by suggesting a really big and imaginative policy. I do not think Covent Garden is the only trouble. I think the other central London markets are a trouble as well. I should like all of them, or nearly all of them, to go over a period of years, and to have four mixed Markets—meat, fruit, vegetables, flowers—at four places on the edge of the County of London, something like North, South, East and West, but I am not particular about the geography; you must find the best places. Thereby all those people, from whatever part of the circumference they came, would have access to the Markets and the Markets would have access for people to enter and leave them and distribute their goods much more sensibly than is done now. Surely that is an idea worthy of consideration.

Of course I shall be told, "You have not told us precisely where we are going to put them." I have not, and if I knew I would not tell the House, because the speculators would get busy right away. Why should I? I have given the House the broad idea, and it is up to the Government to show that that idea is wrong. My noble friend Lord Attlee, rather persistently, at any rate, twice, raised the point, the Government having said that everybody was consulted and everybody had agreed—which I do not find easy to believe; I do not believe it—whether they had been consulted about the alternative idea embodied in the Amendment carried at the Committee stage. We were to have an answer Ito that, as to some other things, but we have not had it. We shall survive, nevertheless. The fact is they have not been consulted, and the Government should have said they have not been consulted, and might have added they could not have been consulted in the time at their disposal. But they do not know that these people would not agree.

What was the purpose of the Amendment? There is at least genuine doubt in the House as to whether Covent Garden Market should remain—in fact, there was a majority in the House at Committee stage who thought it should not remain—at that place. At any rate there was a feeling that the Market Authority should get the chance to approach the Minister with a view to its being shifted; and that could be effected by statutory instrument, which is the convenient thing in those circumstances, as the Government often find in the course of their administration and legislation. Remember, it is the Market Authority who are going to have the practical knowledge and have to face the concrete problems of this business. If the Market Authority, with their knowledge and responsibility of actual or potential management, came to the conclusion that the Market ought to be in another area or areas, then they could make representations. They could not make the decision themselves; it is quite right that they should not be able to do it. But under my noble friend's Amendment, which he carefully explained, they would be able to go to the Minister and suggest changes; there could be suitable inquiries where everybody could be heard; then the Minister would decide and settle it by statutory instrument, which would have to be laid before both Houses of Parliament, and both Houses of Parliament would have the right to debate and agree or not agree.

That is the Amendment to which we have agreed. It is not an unreasonable one, and I think the Government would be well advised to let the Amendment in the Bill stand. I must admit that they are in a difficulty. But from time to time Governments are bound to be in difficulties—not only this one, but all Governments, whether Conservative, Labour or Liberal. In fact, Ministers poor things!, are paid to get out of the difficulties into which they may get. The only trouble is that they often fail to get out of them. I do not want to dismiss Ministers on the spot—not all of them. Surely that is reasonable. Often they are faced with the fact that whatever they do is wrong. The problem is to find what is less wrong. It is a pity, but there it is. That is our case, and I think it is a reasonable one.

In conclusion, I would only say that there has been some effort—I would not say a universal effort at all, because many independent noble Lords on both sides have spoken—to try to make this vote this afternoon a Party political vote. I think it is a pity on a matter of this kind. There is this about your Lordships' House—I have not been here long, but I have studied it for some years and I have learned more since I have been here—that it cannot bring a Government down. That is for another place to do. Therefore, it has not the great responsibility of deciding whether the Government shall live or die. The second thing is that we have no constituencies, which I think is a good thing in this House, because we are not pulled about. It is right that the other place should have constituencies, but it is a good thing that we have not.

These two circumstances combine to make it possible and conducive for your Lordships to exercise a reasonable degree of independent judgment. Here I have more freedom than I had sitting on the Labour Benches in another place. That is perfectly natural. I try not to take liberties. But in another place the fate of the Government depends on the majority in the House of Commons. Therefore, the Opposition—and the Government—have to organise the Party business and Party discipline. Here we can come when we like, we can go when we like and, within reasonable limits, we can say what we like. I beg your Lordships to value your right to independent judgment. On the Committee stage I was rather impressed and inspired with the fact that there was a high degree of independent judgment in favour of the Amendment. I think, for the sake of the reputation of your Lordships' House, for its status and, if I may say so, for the good of our souls and our minds, it is desirable that a proper degree of independent individual judgement should be maintained. I beg your Lordships now to exercise that independent individual judgment.

5.44 p.m.


My Lords, we have had a full debate, and the hour is perhaps advanced. But I think I should not be doing my duty by the House if I did not say a word, as Leader and as a member of the Government, about the issues which I conceive to be involved in this debate. Moreover, I have promised my noble friend Lord Saltoun that in the course of my remarks I will try to answer the point which was troubling him.

I think I should say this to begin with. I was a little disturbed, when the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, moved his Amendment, that he should have quoted what I thought was an ill-judged letter in The Times, and given it at any rate a certain amount of his own support by suggesting that there were in this Chamber to-day a number of Peers who did not regularly attend the House. Indeed, the letter which he quoted used the familiar, and I should have thought outworn, word "backwoodsmen". Since the noble Lord moved the Amendment I have been most careful to look round the Chamber and to see who was here. There is nobody here in this House who is not a regular attender.

Moreover, I should like to add this, both as regards what the noble Lord, Lord Stonham said, and what fell from the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, who has just resumed his seat. The noble Lord, Lord Stonham, appeared to be apprehensive lest what he described as the "Whips' Office" should predominate over your Lordships' consciences. I think it is right, even though these facts are very well known to the House, that I should seek to correct the impression that Lord Stonham's speech may have given.

We are, of course, aware that the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, is able to come here quite regularly and take a full part in our proceedings—and may I assure him that he is a most welcome Member when he does so. But there are noble Lords in this House who are Chairmen of county councils and so on, who have commitments in different parts of the country, and whose commitments compel them to come less often. They are not influenced by a Party Whip in the same sense that Members of another place quite rightly are. Whipping in this House is not a science, but an art. We can ask noble Lords to come if an occasion is considered of some importance—and obviously an occasion when the House is being asked to reverse a decision of a Committee of the Whole House is an occasion of some importance. We can bring them here and, very generously, they give of their time. We can ask them to listen to the arguments, and even expect that they should do this. But we in the Government cannot determine which way they vote. I can see at least one former Leader of the House in the Chamber at the present time. One of the earliest pieces of wisdom which I learned from his lips was that if you wanted them you could bring them, but that they sometimes vote against you. All we can do is to put before the House the arguments which seem to us to be conclusive, and to ask that they be weighed in the light of the debate.

I must say that throughout the debate my sympathy has been with those who have been rather of the opinion that one tended to lose sight of the Amendments which we are discussing, in rather more general issues, important as they have been. I felt that this was a criticism of the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, and indeed of that of the noble Lord, Lord Stonham. Of course, I know that there are some people who do not like this Bill. That has been painfully obvious from time to time. The noble Lord, Lord Stonham, is one of them. He said that this Bill was a Bill the exact analogy of which—and I am almost quoting him verbally—was a Bill to promote the marketing of coal in the middle of Oxford Circus. If that is not a complete condemnation of the Bill, I do not know what is. The noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, said that he would like all four markets dispersed somewhere else. But he would not tell us where, lest the speculators first got busy. If that is not a thoroughgoing condemnation of a Bill to place a market in the Covent Garden area, I do not know what is.

Of course my noble friend Lord Cones-ford was quite right: the proper course for people who hold that view is to vote against the Third Reading. But at the risk of being obvious, I must point out what we are discussing is not the Third Reading of the Bill; what we are discussing is the question whether the proviso in Clause 16 of the Bill is a good proviso or is, as my noble friend Lord Conesford described it, an idiotic proviso. I should have said that it is their failure to get to grips with the issues in view, with that narrow question, which is all we are deciding this evening, that convinces me, at any rate, that the decision of the Government is correct.

There is nothing wrong in principle, as the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, would rather have had us suppose, in the Government's asking the full House—I must say a fuller House—to reverse a decision which, in the judgment of the Government at least, was a mistake when it was made by a rather thinner House and by a majority of only three. On one point at least the Committee were clearly misled. I had ventured to say that the effect of the Amendments which the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, was proposing would be to destroy the Bill. The noble Lord, Lord Stonham, was at pains to contradict me, and he said that the noble Lord the Chairman of Committees had said that that was not so. I venture to think that that was an entirely erroneous piece of advice given to the Committee.


My Lords, will the noble Viscount allow me to intervene? I quoted exactly what the noble Lord, Lord Merthyr, said; and no more.


My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, is incorrect. I have his words here, and he did not quote the noble Lord, Lord Merthyr.

What the noble Lord, Lord Merthyr, had said, and what subsequently turned out to be correct, was that the Standing Orders Committee would say that the Standing Orders had been infringed; and what the noble Lord, Lord Merthyr, predicted has subsequently turned out Ito be correct, only in much more explicit terms. The Standing Orders Committee, having reported that Standing Orders had been infringed, advised the House that the clause with the proviso in it should not be allowed to proceed and, except in circumstances of a most unusual kind, this clearly would be the end of the Bill this Session.

I must frankly say that the effect of that, at any rate in the light of that advice, must be to destroy the Bill this Session, because although the noble Lord, Lord Merthyr, as we all know, was right to say that Parliament is judge of its own procedure—for if both Houses (and not this House alone) dispensed with Standing Orders, then the Bill could proceed—it would be absolutely unthinkable, in my judgment, and for the reasons which my noble and learned friend sitting on the Woolsack gave at greater length when he opened, that either this House or both Houses should dispense with Standing Orders which have been introduced for centuries into the procedure of Parliament precisely for the protection of classes of persons affected by Hybrid Bills of this kind, and therefore in its present form that is the end of the matter; and it is idle for noble Lords to argue any further on that point.


My Lords, if the noble and learned Viscount will forgive me for interrupting him, he said a moment ago that I had misquoted the noble Lord, Lord Merthyr. I now have Hansard in my hand and I shall be very glad if he will tell me where I misquoted the noble Lord.


My Lords, I certainly will do so. I did not say that the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, misquoted the noble Lord, Lord Merthyr; I said he gave erroneous advice to the House as to the effect of what the noble Lord, Lord Merthyr, had said. I am quoting the OFFICIAL REPORT: this is what the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, then said to the Committee [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 232 (No. 102) col. 1242]: So I hope no noble Lord will be impressed by what has just been said:"— that is, what I had ventured to say— that if this Amendment is carried it will be the end of the Bill. We have been told in the clearest and most objective terms by the noble Lord, Lord Merthyr, that that is not so. My argument (I will not repeat it) has been to show that that was wholly erroneous advice to the Committee; and that if one thing is certain about this—and it has been confirmed by the Report of the Standing Orders Committee—it is that the noble Lord, Lord Merthyr, had not said that, and the effect would be exactly what I told the Committee on the former occasion.

This question has some bearing on what I was asked by my noble friend Lord Saltoun. He was considering the value or otherwise of the assurance which had been given in another place by my right honourable friend the Minister of Agriculture, and from the Woolsack by my noble and learned friend this afternoon, in which they said that, in conditions which I will not now rehearse, it would become necessary to assist or to co-operate in the introduction of fresh legislation in the case envisaged by the Amendment. I believe the point which my noble friend, Lord Saltoun was putting was the question: would it not be better to write into the Bill now something which would ensure the introduction of further legislation? With respect, certainly not, in the first place, because writing it in now means the end of this whole matter, for the reason I have given. I would carry it a stage further, because the proviso as it now exists allows a Minister, after the Authority has designated another area, only to put in a statutory instrument. It says: The Authority … may recommend … some other area or areas, whereupon the Minister may by order designate such area or areas as one or more Additional Areas". This does not bind the possible successors of my right honourable friend any more than his own promise in fact binds him morally. It is no additional assurance at all to put this in the Bill, and therefore I hope my noble friend will consider I have done my best to redeem my promise to answer his question.

I turn now to the merits or demerits of the proviso. I must say that I thought my noble friend Lord Conesford had destroyed the merits of that proviso, at any rate in the eyes of people who will be a little slow to use the methods of statutory instrument to do that which, ex hypothesi, ought to be done by a Private or Hybrid Bill. Such a Bill is necessary in this case precisely because the rights of individuals have to be respected, as they have been respected for centuries. Counsel are briefed; witnesses are called before the Select Committee—not of one House but of both Houses in the ordinary course—and the cause is heard and a decision is made on the balance of the argument and of the evidence. None of that happens in the ordinary course with a statutory instrument.

I must say this, without making any Party point—although I wholly endorse what my noble and learned friend Lord Conesford said about the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth: if it had been possible, or even tolerable, to designate a Market Area by statutory instrument, does anyone really believe that a Government with a programme like ours would not have done so in the first place, rather than introduce a Private Bill, to go through the whole procedure of a Select Committee before it reaches the Floor of the House? Would we not have done it by statutory instrument in the first place, rather than do it in that way? It was quite precisely because a statutory instrument is a totally inadmissible procedure in this type of case that a Hybrid Bill was necessary.

Now, at a late stage of the Bill, the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, is asking us to do what, ex hypothesi, is improper—to allow a Minister, on the advice of an Authority, to do it by means of a statutory instrument, the only protection of the individual being a negative Prayer at the instance of both Houses. This is the New Despotism with a vengeance! This is the procedure which the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, is urging us to accept, in which he urged every noble Lord to vote who was not himself a member of the Government. This is the procedure which the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, is asking us to prefer to the speech of my noble and learned friend on the Woolsack, the speech which the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, was courteous enough to describe as "absolute nonsense".


My Lords, again I must correct the noble and learned Viscount. I have submitted to a great deal of misquotation, but, my Lords, I did not refer to it as "absolute nonsense". I used the word "abject", but I will not go further into what I said. So far as the new despotism is concerned, I introduced an Amendment in Committee, which was the first opportunity that I had in your Lordships' House of amending the Bill. There was no earlier opportunity, and it would have been impossible to have done it earlier.

The other thing is that I deprecate the noble and learned Viscount, quite wrongly, as I feel it must be, quoting me with reference to the noble Lord, Lord Merthyr. This is what I said, and this is what the noble and learned Viscount did not quote, in column 1242 [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 232 (No. 102)]: The noble Lord, Lord Merthyr, did not at any time say, and was very careful not to say, that acceptance of this Amendment would wreck the Bill. He did, indeed, indicate two possible courses of action which would not wreck the Bill. He said, for example, that although he felt the Standing Orders Committee would hold that this particular Amendment went outside the notice, nevertheless it was open to the House … to refer back the Report of the Committee …". That is exacly what I said and what the noble Lord had said, and that is what happened. I do not like being misrepresented in this way.


My Lords, if I have misrepresented the noble Lord in any way, it was, of course, wholly unintentional. I accept from him that he used the words "abject nonsense" about the Lord Chancellor's speech, instead of "absolute nonsense" although it so happens that I had written down, at the time, the words "absolute nonsense". I am sure the distinction is an important one to the noble Lord, and I will therefore amend my speech in this sense. But he has not dealt with the case which is being made against him. It is true that I pointed out that his Amendment had come at a relatively late stage in the passage of the Bill. That is correct, and I do not think that I have misrepresented the case in any way. But what 'I was objecting to was not the late stage at which it was introduced, but the utter futility of the Amendment in itself. It is an infringement of private rights; it is an attempt to introduce a statutory instrument to deal with something which, ex hypothesi, has been thought worthy of and necessary for the Private Bill procedure; it is an attempt to deprive the subject whose rights are being affected by the statutory instrument of his right to be heard by counsel and before a Select Committee of each House, and after proper notice by way of advertisement. That is the case he has to meet, and (he does not really get out of his troubles at all by saying that he moved his Amendment at the earliest possible opportunity. It would have been almost as bad if it had been moved in another place.

Now, my Lords, I am not qualified in any way to deal with the town planning issues involved. I should have said, with respect, that the assurance which was given by my right honourable friend and by my noble and learned friend on the Woolsack—that we would, if need be, deal with this by legislation—was an adequate assurance in the circumstances of the case, and was infinitely to be preferred to the terms of the proviso as it now appears in the Bill. My Lords, I would reinforce that argument with this further point. I have been at very great pains indeed to find out what could happen if the Amendment were carried through into the Bill, and the situation, I find, is this. For half a dozen reasons, only some of which were adumbrated by my noble and learned friend on the Woolsack in his opening speech, there would have to be further legislation anyway. Therefore, the one argument which seemed to carry any plausibility in the supporters of this Amendment—namely, that it was an enabling provision—is utterly done away with. You would not save a further Bill by passing this Amendment: you would ensure only that there would first have to be a statutory instrument to destroy the rights of individuals, and then you would have to have a further Bill to clear up the mess.


My Lords, may I take it, therefore, from the argument of the noble and learned Viscount, to which we are listening very carefully because he is stating very important things, that in the case of a Hybrid Bill the House has, in effect, no opportunity of doing anything effective about the submissions of the Hybrid Bill Committee to this House? Is that what he is really arguing?


My Lords, on the contrary, the House has already done very effective things in accepting the submissions of the Select Committee. They have already endorsed all the Amendments of the Select Committee, which were of a most important kind. But what I am saying is that when Parliament lays down a provision for the rights of individuals to be respected by a particular procedure, it will not lightly depart from those provisions, which have been sanctified by the procedure of Parliament for centuries; and it would be virtually impossible that another House would do so even if we did.

My Lords, there is only one other point that I think I ought to deal with at this late hour. My noble friend Lord Molson suggested that if this Amendment remained in the Bill and, ex hypothesi, the Bill had to die, we could reintroduce another Bill next Session. What sort of another Bill, my Lords? I cannot refrain from pointing out to my noble friend the extraordinary change of attitude which lie has undergone since the Committee stage. In his speech on Committee stage my noble friend Lord Molson urged the merits of his proviso, in the persuasive manner which is his wont, precisely upon the grounds that the Government programme was so congested that he could not accept as sufficient the assurance of my right honourable friend that he would legislate—because, as he put it, there might not be Parliamentary time to introduce it. But now, with the proviso in the Bill, and being told that it is no good because it will kill it, because the Standing Orders Committee's Report inevitably has that effect, he equally plausibly, just as persuasively, and almost as convincingly, asks the House to keep it in the Bill, although the Bill will die, because the Government can always reintroduce it next Session, with all the disadvantages to which it is subject.


Really, my Lords, my noble friend is just a little too ingenious. I expressed doubt as to whether the Government would find legislative time to introduce another Bill if the Market Authority made representations to the Minister, and the Minister gave no more than an undertaking at that time that the Government would give it serious consideration. I have no doubt at all that if this Bill is killed this Session the Government will make time in the next Session to introduce another Hybrid Bill to deal with the Covent Garden scandal. The issue is perfectly plain.

Now that I have been called to my feet by a direct challenge from my noble and learned friend, I should like to give him one simple answer about the nature of the Amendments that we have moved. This Hybrid Bill has been so drafted as to make it almost impossible for any Amendment to be made to widen the powers of the Market Authority. I have no doubt that that was done quite deliberately. The argument was used in another place, when the Conservative Back Benchers sought to do the same thing in a perfectly plain and straightforward way. We had to resort to legal advice in order to try to have another opportunity of raising this same matter. If the Government draft their Bills in such way that it is almost impossible for us to amend them, they cannot at the same time bring it as a reproach against us that our Amendments are not very clear or satisfactory.


My Lords, I am always glad when my noble friend makes an interjection, even if it savours a little of a second speech, but I do not think he has improved his position by so doing. I think he must really face this dilemma: either the Government's assurances to legislate are good—which is not what he suggested in Committee—in which case the Amendment which he favours is unnecessary; or—and this is what he did suggest in Committee—the Government's programme is so congested that we cannot legislate, which case the Bill is dead if the Amendment remains in the Bill. I cannot accept the gravamen of the charge which he sought to make in the second part of his interjection. He has said not a word to justify the use of a statutory instrument to destroy the rights of individuals, in a matter in which Private Bill procedure is in fact admittedly the proper instrument of legislation.

My Lords, I will end simply with this. Committee after committee inside the Government have examined this matter, and three Ministers of Agriculture have come and gone. Most of them, like some noble Lords, have started with the ideas which animated my noble friend concerning the difficulties about the railheads and termini, the difficulty of the congestion of traffic and the other difficulties which have been gone into this afternoon. In the end, if you come to the conclusion that Lord Runciman of Doxford's Committee was right, whatever may be said about the other proposals—and, believe me, I respect them—the essential feature of any plan must be that the Market Area remains where it is. It is this which we are, in substance, being asked to abandon for the sake of retaining an Amendment which is open to the objection which I have made.

On Question, Whether the said Amendment shall be agreed to?

Resolved in the affirmative, and Amendment agreed to accordingly.


This Amendment is consequential. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 10, line 47, leave out from ("Area") to end of line 48.—(Earl Waldegrave.)


My Lords, this Amendment is also consequential. I beg to move.

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 95; Not-Contents, 59.

Abinger, L. Devonshire, D. Mersey, V.
Ailwyn, L. Digby, L. Mills, L.
Albemarle, E. Dorchester, L. Moyne, L.
Amherst of Hackney, L. Dundee, E. Newall, L.
Amory, V. Dynevor, L. Newton, L. [Teller.]
Ampthill, L. Ebbisham, L. Northesk, E.
Balfour of Inchrye, L. Elliot of Harwood, B. Northumberland, D.
Bathurst, E. Fortescue, E. Onslow, E.
Blackford, L. Fraser of North Cape, L. Ormonde, M.
Boston, L. Gage, V. Poole, L.
Bradford, E. Glentanar, L. Rathcavan, L.
Braye, L. Goschen, V. Reading, M.
Brecon, L. Gosford, E. Robins, L.
Bridgeman, V. Grenfell, L. Runciman of Doxford, V.
Buchan, E. Hailsham, V. (L. President.) St. Aldwyn, E. [Teller.]
Buckinghamshire, E. Hamilton of Dalzell, L. St. Oswald, L.
Carrick, E. Harris, L. Saltoun, L.
Carrington, L. Hastings, L. Sinclair of Cleeve, L.
Chesham, L. Home, E. Soulbury, V.
Cholmondeley, M. Horsbrugh, B. Spencer, E.
Clitheroe, L. Hylton, L. Spens, L.
Colville of Culross, V. Jellicoe, E. Stonehaven, V.
Conesford, L. Kilmuir, V. (L. Chancellor.) Strathclyde, L.
Congleton, L. Lansdowne, M. Stuart of Findhorn, V.
Cork and Orrery, E. Lloyd, L. Swinton, E.
Craigton, L. Lothian, M. Teviot, L.
Crathorne, L. Luke, L. Torrington, V.
Crawshaw, L. MacAndrew, L. Waldegrave, E.
Croft, L. McCorquodale of Newton, L. Waleran, L.
Crookshank, V. Mancroft, L. Westwood, L.
Davidson, V. Margesson, V. Wolverton, L.
Denham, L. Melchett, L.
Addison, V. Hawke, L. [Teller.] Pethick-Lawrence, L.
Airedale, L. Henderson, L. Rea, L.
Alexander of Hillsborough, V. Hughes, L. Sandys, L.
Amulree, L. Huntingdon, E. Sempill, L.
Amwell, L. Iddesleigh, E. Silkin, L.
Archibald, L. Kennet, L. Sinclair, L.
Atholl, D. Kilbracken, L. Sinha, L.
Attlee, E. Latham, L. Stonham, L. [Teller.]
Auckland, L. Longford, E. Summerskill, B.
Bessborough, E. Lucan, E. Swanborough, B.
Broughshane, L. Macdonald of Gwaenysgor, L. Taylor, L.
Burden, L. Macpherson of Drumochter, L. Terrington, L.
Citrine, L. Merrivale, L. Twining, L.
Colwyn, L. Meston, L. Uvedale of North End, L.
Colyton, L. Milverton, L. Walston, L.
Crook, L. Molson, L. Williams, L.
Derwent, L. Monson, L. Williams of Barnburgh, L.
Douglas of Barloch, L. Morrison of Lambeth, L. Wise, L.
Hampton, L. Mowbray and Stourton, L. Wootton of Abinger, B.
Harvey of Tasburgh, L. Peddie, L.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Amendment moved— Page 11, line 12, leave out subsection (5).—(Earl Waldegrave.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 51 [Limitation of exercise, outside Covent Garden Area, of Authority's powers]:


My Lords, this Amendment is likewise consequential. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 42, line 37, leave out ("Save as is provided by section sixteen")—(Earl Waldegrave.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.