HL Deb 03 April 1989 vol 505 cc958-76

7.34 p.m.

Lord Renwick

My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time. The City of London (Spitalfields Market) Bill is promoted by the Corporation of London who are the owners of the land comprising the Spitalfields wholesale fruit and vegetable market and the market authority. The purpose of the Bill is to provide the corporation with powers to relocate the market, and there are some consequential provisions.

First, I shall advise noble Lords where the present market is and where—if the Bill was enacted and the powers contained in it were exercised—it would move to. Spitalfields Market is to the east of the historic City, a very short walk from Liverpool Street station, but it is in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets. It is the local planning authority, the environmental health authority, the refuse collection authority and the highway authority for Spitalfields. It is not a self-contained site. You can drive through the market area on public roads but I warn you that it might take a long time.

If Tower Hamlets Borough Council had opposed the move of the market which this Bill seeks to authorise, the City Corporation would probably not have promoted it. However, far from being opposed the borough council has prepared a development brief for the market site. It has given planning permission for the development and has entered into a development agreement for it under Section 52 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1971 with developers and the City Corporation. The market would be relocated to a place no more than four miles away to the north-east known as Temple Mills at Hackney Marshes. Again, the relevant local authorities, principally the London Borough of Waltham Forest, have given outline planning permission for the development of the wholesale market on the Temple Mills site and do not petition against the Bill.

There is even a third area of land involved in a more indirect sense. That is Stratford wholesale fruit and vegetable market situated about 1.4 miles from the Temple Mills site. Here again the local authority at Stratford—namely, Newham Borough Council—does not oppose the Bill. No doubt Newham has some use in mind for the site of a large, old wholesale market in its area.

I shall now summarise the provisions of this short Bill. Following certain definitions in Clause 2, including a definition of "the new site" at Temple Mills by reference to a deposited map, Clauses 3 and 4 provide for the removal of Spitalfields Market on an appointed day to be decided by the corporation on the giving of at least one month's notice to be published in local newspapers. On the appointed day the Spitalfields Market Acts will apply to the new site in substitution for their application to the present site in Tower Hamlets. I will come to the Spitalfields Market Acts and what they are in a few moments, but basically their existence and the need to apply them to a new market site, with amendments and repeals as necessary, represent the reason why the City Corporation is promoting this legislation.

The market was created by Royal Charter in 1682 and is governed by a series of local Acts set out in Schedule I to the Bill and partially repealed in Schedule 2. The Charter of 1682 and the local Acts are specific to the market at its present location, and only legislation can amend prior legislation. Hence this Bill. Clause 5 provides that not later than 14 days after the passing of the proposed Act, the City Corporation will offer to market traders at Spitalfields and also to market traders at Stratford market accommodation within the new site for them to carry on their businesses. The traders will have a further 28 days after the offer is made to accept or decline.

Clause 6 provides for an increase in maximum fines for traffic offences on the market roadways to be built within the new site at Temple Mills, as compared with the maximum fines on the roadways at Spitalfields. Clause 7 and Schedule 2 repeal various provisions of the Spitalfields Market Acts which are either spent or are otiose and serve no practical purpose to the new site because, for example, they relate to past improvements of and extensions to the existing market site. Clause 8, the final clause of the Bill, is purely formal to the effect that the costs of the Bill shall be met out of the general rate of the City. Having said that, Clause 8 highlights the fact that Spitalfields Market is a City Corporation rate fund property and not an investment property pure and simple. A large sum of money—around £50 million to £60 million—is anticipated to be received by the Corporation of London from the transaction. That would be the premium on the disposal of the Spitalfields site to developers on a long building lease in return for having the developers build a replacement market at Temple Mills. This of course has stimulated allegations about capitalism and greed. Basically, there are four answers to these allegations. First, there can scarcely be any commercial development to which profit is not a motive, and the presence of such a motive has nothing at all to do with whether a Bill in Parliament is necessary to implement the approved proposals.

Secondly, if the City Corporation had been wholly cynical, they would have done nothing to Spitalfields (or nothing much apart from minor patching up) and allowed the market there to decline very slowly until they could close the market altogether, selling off parts in the process and avoiding the need to consider providing a replacement market at all. That would be far more profitable in the long run to the corporation than the course they are following. Thirdly, the provision of a wholesale fruit and vegetable market represents a very poor return on capital compared with almost any other use of land in or near central London. If Spitalfields Market is to be relocated ever, the relocation has to be funded from a reasonably beneficial disposal of the present market site. Fourthly, there is surely not a local authority anywhere, responsible to its ratepayers, who would not contemplate the beneficial use of its land assets. The proceeds to the Corporation will be applied to repay debt on its capital works as a local authority and to finance new capital works, all subject to whatever government controls are now or may be applicable to local government expenditure.

There are around 10 market tenancies at Spitalfields, these being warehouses and trader stands, and 139 tenancies in an office block nearby, known as the London Fruit Exchange. There are also 32 residential flats and car parks for 438 vehicles with lorry parks in addition. The whole site comprises about 11.5 acres and provides employment for around 1,000 persons, who work very unsocial hours at night and in the very early morning. Very few of the local, largely Bengali community, work at the market and if it were relocated and replaced by a development site, and thereafter by a substantial number of shops and offices, there would almost certainly be more employment opportunities for local people than exist now.

It is not part of the promoters' case for the Bill that Spitalfields Market has to move as a matter of urgent necessity. It is comparatively prosperous with hardly any trading vacancies, notwithstanding a general decline in the wholesale fruit and vegetable trade during the 1970s as a result of supermarkets simply by-passing wholesale traders.

The motivation to relocate Spitalfields Market arose from the market traders themselves and from the developers. The developers were no doubt motivated by profit, but there is nothing necessarily wrong or surprising in that. The market traders had many other motives. The market buildings are old (partly built at the end of the last century and partly in the 1920s), costly to maintain, and unsuitable for modern methods for the handling and storage of perishable goods. There is great congestion in the market and the surrounding streets, and given its location alongside the historic and business City and the increasing use of long and heavy vehicles for long-haul transport no realistic hope exists for improving traffic conditions. Street cleansing is costly and most unsatisfactory, as the market generates a great deal of refuse and there is considerable dumping of rubbish. Trading and rubbish dumping spill over into the highways, and it is far from certain whether, if much more time elapses, the market will escape attention from the local environmental health authorities, in which case the very issue which the corporation and the traders wish to avoid—closure—could arise. The traders want a market fit for the 21st century, not one which happens to work with difficulty from the 19th.

For the corporation, there has never been any question of seeking to close the market, highly profitable though that would be. Relocation meant dealing with developers who had a site which satisfied the traders, planning permission from the relevant local planning authority for a market to go on the site, and planning permission from Tower Hamlets Borough Council as regarding Spitalfields. The Bill is silent about planning permissions, and so it should be. There is no question whatever of overrriding planning or any other controls in the existing law. The potential relocation site at Temple Mills is around 37 acres in extent, and it is bounded on two sides by a railway line and the River Lea. There is no residential property particularly near to it. The main road alongside the Temple Mills site, Ruckholt Road, Leyton, is busy but very close to the site there is intended to be a link road for the M.11 extension, so that in future, communications to the market should be excellent. It is a key part of the promoters' case for the Bill that if the Temple Mills site is lost, alternative sites would be most difficult to find, and the opportunity to relocate could be lost indefinitely. The developers only might have some kind of consolation prize however by being able to redevelop their Temple Mills site for something more lucrative than a wholesale market.

It would not be my intention to expand at length on the redevelopment plans for Spitalfields, because all of them have gone through the normal planning processes with the London Borough of Tower Hamlets. Any changes to them, say, to provide more retail shopping and fewer offices—and that has been mooted and made known in another place—would likewise go through the planning process.

I would only make three points about the Spitalfields proposals. First, they do not represent some great and unique eastward movement of the business City. There are sites in the area as large or larger than that of the market planned for redevelopment; namely, the Bishopsgate goods yard and some sidings land, and a ten acre brewery site belonging to Grand Metropolitan PLC in Brick Lane, El, further east than Spitalfields. Secondly, land values in the area have reached a point where only substantial developments of a commercial nature are viable. Thirdly, there is a considerable package of what is known as "planning gain" in the Spitalfields proposals, which would be quite unattainable unless the site was developed as a whole by a substantial developer. Indeed, the corporation has undertaken not to enter into any fresh development agreement for the Spitalfields site pursuant to the move of the market under the Bill, unless a similar package of planning gain is provided, whatever the potential new scheme might provide—such as more retail shopping. I should have been very happy to tell your Lordships what the package of planning gain consists of; but I would hope that your Lordships might consider it inappropriate now. Suffice it to say that I am advised that the planning gain may well exceed £20 million in value, and it was all fully negotiated by Tower Hamlets Borough Council, and then increased at the behest of a committee in another place.

The petitioners against the Bill (to whom I should refer before concluding my remarks) fall into four categories: nine residents of the Temple Mills area in three identically-phrased petitions who claim, in effect, that their borough council ought not to have given planning permission for a market to be built at Temple Mills; a community group at Tower Hamlets called the Campaign to Save Spitalfields from the Developers, who claim in effect that their borough council ought not to have given permission for the redevelopment of Spitalfields Market site; Market Garages (Spitalfields) Limited who seek more compensation for its business (if it cannot be offered premises to relocate) than the committee in another place determined it might have; and a Mr. Alan Thomerson, who with a few other persons whom he names, criticises the designs of the market intended to be built at Temple Mills if the Bill is enacted. I submit that all these petitions, whatever their relevance to the terms of the Bill (and in some cases that relevance could be very doubtful indeed) can readily be considered by a Select Committee.

We have a Bill, supported by the traders at Spitalfields who have never given it less than 80 per cent. support out of the total membership of their association; and by all the relevant planning authorities; but opposed by a small minority of persons connected with the traders and by individuals and groups in the Spitalfields and Temple Mills areas who seem to disapprove of what their local councils have done. Behind the Bill there lies a perfectly proper development scheme for a run-down area, and the opportunity to ensure the future of an ancient market to serve the next century. Of course, the profit motive features within it, and I do not disguise that there are arrangements in place for the developers to make payments to the traders at Spitalfield and Stratford to deal with their relocation and cushion them from the undoubted business risks of moving. This is all perfectly proper and the kind of thing that a developer may expect to do for interests affected by his schemes. Even the small number of residential tenants at the Spitalfields site—and there are a few of them—have been considered because the scheme provides for their accommodation in what is known as the Horner Buildings to be leased back to the corporation, their present landlords.

I submit that if there are any points of validity in the objections that have been directed at the Bill, a Select Committee of this House will be fully capable of considering them, if the House is agreeable to the Bill proceeding. I beg to move.

Moved, that the Bill be now read a second time. —(Lord Renwick.)

7.50 p.m.

Lord Hacking

My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord Renwick, has just told your Lordships, the traders of Spitalfields support this Bill. I have received representations from the traders of Spitalfields in the form of the Spitalfields Market Tenants' Association. It may assist your Lordships to know a little bit more about their views and the reasons why they wish to support the Bill in principle.

While I have no personal interest in this new market and no personal interest in the Spitalfields Market Tenants' Association, the association's members are clients of a partner of mine in my law firm. The Spitalfields Market Tenants' Association consists of 119 companies, partnerships and individuals who trade out of the Spitalfields Market in the City of London. They are not only market operators who move millions of tonnes of fruit and vegetables to various parts of the country during the year throughout the time the market is trading, but they also specialise in such commodities as herbs and in selling flowers and in catering supplies.

As the noble Lord, Lord Renwick, has told your Lordships, there are a number of problems with the present site of this market. As the noble Lord pointed out, it is not a self-contained market. That produces acute traffic congestion which is a problem not only for the locality, but also for the traders. Another major problem of this site for the traders is the lack of parking. There is a constant parking problem which is also shared by those who live in the area and by customers who come to the market. But, above all, the present market has outgrown its present site. The buildings are antiquated; there are inadequate loading facilities and it is simply unsuitable for modern trading.

It is with that background, upon the representations that have been made to me, that I am happy to tell your Lordships, as I have mentioned earlier, that this Bill is supported in principle by the traders in the market. Not only has this Bill the support of the traders of the market, but I am happy to record, if your Lordships do not hear it from the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, that the Transport and General Workers' Union took an interest in this matter. Indeed, I believe the union petitioned against the Bill in another place. However, according to my information—the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, will correct me if I am wrong—the TGWU withdrew its petition because it was satisfied that in the new market the employees—

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, the Transport and General Workers' Union withdrew its opposition when it was offered £300,000.

Lord Hacking

My Lords, I am not sure where the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, is leading us with that comment on the capitalist society, but clearly the union's primary obligations, unless the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, should persuade us otherwise, concern its members and not building up the union funds by £300,000. Therefore, I shall continue to recount to your Lordships my understanding of why that big and powerful union withdrew its petition. I believe it was withdrawn simply because the union was satisfied that the new market presented congenial and modern premises for its employees.

I can probably best express the enthusiasm and interest of the market men about the new market, and the need to move, by quoting the words expressed by an East Ender who spoke strongly at one of the many meetings which have taken place concerning the proposals for the new market. I am afraid that I cannot get into the cockney accent. However, at this meeting, this man said that he wanted to speak on behalf of his business and his employees because: he meant to move from a Market designed for a horse and cart to a Market designed for the needs of the 21st Century". Therefore, the users of the market look forward with enthusiasm to moving into the new Temple Mills site. That site has been described by the noble Lord, Lord Renwick. It is well located for transport and has 32 acres as opposed to the 11 acres of the present site. It will have modern buildings designed to take the market and make it operate efficiently. The site also carries excellent access to the M11 and the M25. If this is not a hackneyed phrase, it is all part of the development of the marketplace which will meet the challenges of the European Community in the 1990s and onwards.

Having given this support to the Bill, I should draw one matter of concern to the attention of your Lordships. I should be grateful if the noble Lord, Lord Renwick, to whom I have given notice of this concern, will assist the House when he comes to sum up. The concern arises from one of the major users of the market, that is the catering and hotel suppliers. They are responsible, according to the information before me, for as much as 50 to 60 per cent. of the overall market business. The curious thing is that they are not the vendors in the market; they are the purchasers. They are the purchasers on behalf of caterers and hotels. But so big are their purchasing needs, that they need a special space allocated to them in the market in order to collect their supplies and arrange for their distribution.

Their problem is that on the present design of the new market, there is insufficient ceiling space available. They want at least 20 clear feet in order to be able to operate efficiently. Only this afternoon I was told that the chief executive of the Spitalfields development group had given a verbal assurance that the necessary funding would be available. I believe the noble Lord, Lord Renwick, has already indicated that planning permission has already been granted in principle for the site. As I understand it, the redesigning of this part of the market in order to accommodate the needs of the catering and hotel suppliers should fall within the present planning permission. However, there is a problem with funding as considerable extra funding is required. I believe it is somewhere in the region of £600,000. An assurance was received that, provided the Corporation of the City of London could provide a matching funding, the necessary funding would be available. If that is so, the support I have tried to represent on behalf of the traders remains wholehearted and full.

If accommodation cannot be made available for such a big section of the traders of the market—they represent, as I have already stated, 50 to 60 per cent. of the overall market business—there will obviously be difficulties, and obviously these traders will not be able to continue to give the full support to the Bill that they wish to give. However, I believe this can all be resolved even before the Bill is sent to the Select Committee, as I hope it will be, because it is of such concern to such an important sector of the market. For that reason and for that reason alone, I draw it to your Lordships' attention. I look forward to hearing what the noble Lord, Lord Renwick, has to say.

I hope I have explained the position of the market. The proposals of the Bill must be of enormous advantage to the market. The Bill must commend itself to your Lordships when the developers are saying solidly that the project has their support, in their commercial judgment of the value of the new site. The Bill must also commend itself to your Lordships when the Corporation of the City of London promotes the Bill, and when the people in the market, whose views I have tried to represent, also support it. I hope your Lordships will have no difficulty in giving this Bill a Second Reading for the reasons advanced by the noble Lord, Lord Renwick, and now advanced by myself from the position of the market traders.

7.59 p.m.

Lord Auckland

My Lords, the House will be obliged to my noble friend Lord Renwick for having given a very cogent and comprehensive presentation on the Second Reading of this important Bill. I do not intend at this fairly late hour and with very important business to follow to go into the details of the Bill. I take part in this Second Reading, first, because I am a former master of a livery company and, secondly, because I have spent all my working life within the City of London. Therefore I am naturally interested in any legislation which the City of London promotes.

Also, several years ago, when I participated more actively in the insurance industry than. I do now, I had the use of an office in Brushfield Street which is where most of the existing market operates. Even at 10.30 in the morning the amount of refuse which spilt over onto the highway was sufficiently dangerous, particularly in the winter, to cause appalling accidents. As my noble friend has pointed out, it is a public thoroughfare, Therefore it is very easy for somebody to slip on a piece of rotting vegetable or a wooden crate and injure himself. For that reason alone there is ample justification for the market to be moved.

Only last Friday I visited both the existing site and the proposed new site at Temple Mills. Your Lordships will recall that last Friday was a fine day and indeed a very warm day for this time of year. I observed the problems at the present site. First, a bonfire was burning which had been set alight by vagrants. Secondly, illegally parked cars made it difficult for the Tower Hamlets public health department to collect any refuse. I am informed that the police do as good a job as they can to clear such obstructions but there is, as your Lordships will appreciate, a real health hazard from rotting vegetables even if they are left for only a few hours, and that is particularly so in the summer.

It is also important to point out that if the market moves to the new site the present site will not fall into dereliction. It is intended that it should be used for a number of purposes, rather similar I believe to the Covent Garden site. Local residents and others will have a golden opportunity for a site for amusement and other facilities.

The proposed new site at Temple Mills is virgin land. There is no question of compulsory purchase being needed. As my noble friend has pointed out, the site is three times the size of the existing site. Access will be very much easier than at present. Any of your Lordships who are familiar with the area from Liverpool Street towards the East End of London will know the appalling obstruction which occurs at present because of market and other traffic.

Of course it can be argued that no site is ever perfect. My noble friend and the noble Lord, Lord Hacking, have mentioned objections. A Select Committee will take charge of that aspect. I should point out that in another place the Select Committee had 11 sittings, so the subject has already been comprehensively discussed.

There is a dire need, following the moves of Covent Garden and Billingsgate markets to new sites without any serious problems, for London's fruit and vegetable market to do likewise. We are now heading towards the 21st century; Spitalfields market has been in existence for 300 years and we must move with the times. My noble friend has already mentioned the position regarding the existing tenants. I talked to one or two of the stall-holders last Friday and there seemed to me to be a genuine desire for a move to take place. Therefore, with those few words, I hope that this Bill will receive a Second Reading.

8.5 p.m.

Lord Jay

My Lords, I want briefly to express the hope that the Select Committee which will no doubt examine this Bill will investigate very carefully whether it is in the best interests of those living in the Spitalfields area. There are many people in the area and some of those representing the area who have doubts on that score. It is true that there are many defects in the present market but I think that it has yet to be established, at least before the Select Committee, that there will not be a number of defects in the new market at Temple Mills in addition.

As I know very well, having for a good many years represented in another place a rather similar area, North Battersea, the prime needs of such an area are employment and low-cost housing to rent. I believe that approximately 1,000 people are employed in the present market at Spitalfields. The proposed development will generate a great deal of office employment but in that area there is already huge office employment to the west, in the City itself, and growing employment in Docklands further to the east. There are people who doubt whether that is the type of employment which is most needed in the area.

As to low-cost housing, which is clearly the greatest need in the area, there seems very little reason to believe that this proposal will give any assistance. Yet that is one of the worst housed areas and one of the areas most lacking suitable housing anywhere in London or indeed the country. Interestingly, I understand that this Government have withdrawn their proposal for a housing action trust—or HAT as they are now called—in the area on the grounds that it would not be possible to regenerate the existing blocks of flats because there is nowhere to which the tenants could be decanted while the regeneration was continuing. That is strong evidence from the Government themselves that the most acute need in the area is the provision of low-cost housing.

For those reasons, which are certainly felt in the area, I should like strongly to express the hope that the Select Committee will investigate very critically those issues arising from the Bill.

8.7 p.m.

Lord Elton

My Lords, I think that it is worth reminding your Lordships that we are not the planning authority in this matter. The Bill is called for because it takes an Act of Parliament to change an Act of Parliament and the market was established and regulated by successive Acts of Parliament. Those regulations would need to be transferred to a different area if the proposed change was to take place.

I have no personal interest beyond that generated by looking at the back of several million of those tonnes of fruit and vegetables that the noble Lord, Lord Hacking, mentioned and struggling through a good deal of wrappings thereof at eight o'clock on my way to meetings which I often have to attend at Bishopsgate.

It is clear that there is a prima facie case for the move because those conditions are entirely inappropriate to what we intend to continue to be the major financial centre of the world following 1992. Anyone who started now with a blank sheet of paper and an existing map of the City would not, if he were in his right mind, put the market where it now is, given that the function of the market is to make traders freely accessible to goods and goods freely accessible to the traders. At the moment we have a condition of slow traffic strangulation around Spitalfields Market. One reason why 80 per cent. or more of traders are in favour of the move is because they will go to an area where there will be free circulation of traffic, modern buildings and the proposed arrival of the M.11 extension.

I follow the noble Lord, Lord Jay, although he strayed into the area of planning and I believe that it would be improper for me to do so also. At present I work in Docklands. It is a matter of sorrow to me that, although there is enormous growth in employment in the area, little of that employment is taken up by residents. One should try to protect socially cohesive communities and one way of doing so is by making employment available to them. I believe that I am right in saying that part of the planning gain is intended to be directed towards trading. I hope very much that the Select Committee, in so far as it is proper for it to pursue that issue, will look to the deployment of that gain in the training of local people who are not largely employed in the market but who might well be given a welcome draft of employment in the development that replaces it.

I am grateful to my noble friend for bringing forward this Bill. I believe that the new facility will benefit the market and that the development will benefit the City. This is one of the rare pieces of legislation which, in the end, will benefit everyone concerned.

8.12 p.m.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, the House will be grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Renwick, for the lucid and candid way in which he introduced the Bill. I wish to start by saying that I agree entirely with what the noble Lord, Lord Elton, has just said; namely, that it is a proper Bill to come before noble Lords. It is a proper use of the private Bill procedure because the market was established by statute and can be changed only by statute. I also want to say at the outset that I recognise that, in promoting the Bill, the City Corporation has done so entirely properly in the sense that planning permission for the proposed developments has been sought and obtained both at Spitalfields itself and at Temple Mills. There is therefore no attempt here to bypass planning procedures.

I welcome what the noble Lord, Lord Renwick, said about the undoubted legal fact that any changes in the development brief would have to be subject to planning procedures. I also wish to express my thanks to the officers of the City Corporation for the full briefing that they gave me on the Bill. I was able to compare the views of the City Corporation and those of the secretary of the Market Tenants' Association with the views of the most important of the objectors who are campaigning to save Spitalfields from the developers.

I wish to refer briefly to Spitalfields, to markets, and also to two points of procedural and perhaps even constitutional importance. I know Spitalfields very well. I was vice-chairman of the Spitalfields project set up by the Great London Council, Tower Hamlets Borough Council and the Inner London Education Authority some years ago in an attempt to see what co-operation between different local authorities could do to solve the very pressing social and economic problems of a specific area of London. Substantial funds were made available by the GLC, ILEA and Tower Hamlets Borough Council to tackle what were seen to be severe problems in a way that would be acceptable to the local community. One of the principles of the Spitalfields project was that local people had the right to put forward projects to the local authorities and to be present at all the meetings of the project team. They intervened, sometimes forcefully, at meetings of the project team.

We made a number of quite significant improvements in the conditions of the people of the area. I must however confirm what my noble friend Lord Jay said. Areas of this kind need above all decent housing at a price that the people there can afford and jobs of the sort they can do. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Elton, for what he said about jobs for people in the community. That was certainly the case in Spitalfields. What became apparent was that one cannot tackle urban deprivation off the side of anyone's desk and in a small, restricted area. One requires much larger funds to make a deprived area like Spitalfields a place where people can work and live and have some self-respect and a decent life.

Spitalfields needs something very different from what is proposed in these developments. Reference has already been made to the Bishopsgate goods yard and the Truman's Brewery site in Brick Lane. That is the Grand Metropolitan site to which the noble Lord, Lord Renwick, referred. There are many other sites for which planning permission is being sought which would in themselves, even without the redevelopment of Spitalfields Market, result in a considerable change to the social character of the Spitalfields area.

One thing that must be said about Spitalfields is that, however deprived it may be and however bad the housing may be, it is a real community. It was the place where the Huguenots came to settle 300 years ago; it was the place where some of the first Jewish immigrants arrived in the 19th century; it is now the centre of the Bangladeshi community in Britain. Spitalfields is a live community. It is alive because it has resisted oppression and deprivation and because of the determination of the people in the area to look after themselves, to make the best of the physical conditions in which they live, and to find work and make that work prosperous.

I do not think that the noble Lord, Lord Renwick, did justice to the wide degree of support for the campaign to save Spitalfields from the developers. It is all set out in the petition. That shows how many people and groups are concerned. They fear that taking away the market will change the character of the Spitalfields area far more than any other individual change could affect it to the detriment of the community living around the market area.

I want to say something about the nature of the market and the arguments for the change. I am very dubious as to whether it is a good idea to move markets around. I am reminded that the City Corporation itself said as late as October 1987 that the Spitalfields Market was "relatively successful". That cannot be said about the new Covent Garden Market in Nine Elms. Many traders had a great deal of difficulty in surviving and adapting to the new conditions of a market that had moved out of Covent Garden. I do not say the same about Billingsgate. The problems in Billingsgate at its original location were so great that almost any .change would have been for the better, but the case certainly needs to be proved better than it has so far been proved that moving markets is a good thing when they are, as the City Corporation says, "relatively successful".

The last general survey of market provision in Greater London was carried out by the Greater London Council as long ago as 1985. Surely there ought to be some more general view about the provision to be made for markets in our capital city before a decision of that kind is made. I am far from certain that the arguments put forward for the move, although beautifully produced in a glossy publication by the City Corporation, stand up to detailed examination.

I turn now to the traders' views. It is certainly true that 80 per cent. of the existing trading companies in Spitalfields Market are in favour of this development. However, the last general survey of the traders in Spitalfields carried out by the Greater London Council showed that at that time only 30 per cent. were in favour of removal. Why has there been a change? The answer is very simple. Just as the Transport and General Workers'Union—which, by the way, only has 160 members among the 1,000 people employed in and around Spitalfields Market—changed its mind because it was offered £300,000, so the Spitalfields Market traders changed their minds because they were offered a very large sum of money (I do not have the exact figure in front of me now) in order to change their minds and not object, as they were minded to object to the first proposals that were put forward. The same is true of the Temple Mills traders. The people in Temple Mills were given a very large sum of money to persuade them not to object to the proposals.

Lord Elton

My Lords, I rise only to say that the noble Lord makes it sound—I am sure unintentionally—a little like a bribe. It is quite normal in a business transaction to weigh up the costs, benefits and disbenefits and to seek for compensation. I think that is probably to what he is referring.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, the noble Lord has used the word "bribe", which I did not say. It is interesting to hear confirmed that there are substantial commercial risks involved which, in the noble Lord's view, justify that sort of payment. One is talking about millions of pounds and what may be hundreds of thousands of pounds for each individual trader. So there are such risks; and if at the moment the market is relatively successful and the local community wants it to remain there, then I shall need a lot of persuading that the payments are truly justified.

Lord Elton

My Lords, I was not referring to risks but to costs. There is a difference.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, the Select Committee will have the opportunity to look at the payments and at the elements of those payments which relate to actual costs and to risks and at that element which could only by residue be called bribes. I think that it may well be found that there are some elements of all three.

The arguments which have been used about the specific conditions in Spitalfields have principally been about, first, traffic congestion; and, secondly, rubbish. The City Corporation has been most helpful in this matter. In October 1987 it stated that much could be done to alleviate the problems. I shall not repeat them; but they include traffic congestion, which could be alleviated with the co-operation of the Metropolitan Police, and problems of rubbish dumping, which requires the co-operation of the Tower Hamlets Borough Council. What attempt has been made to alleviate those problems without removal? The Select Committee will have to be convinced that everything possible has been done to secure the best environmental conditions for the market in its present location without disturbing the local community and without offering these risks for the local traders.

Let us be quite clear. The Select Committee will have to be convinced of the overwhelming strength of the case for the Bill before it gives a clear run to it and sends it back to your Lordships' House for further consideration. The onus must be on the promoters of the Bill to convince your Lordships in your Select Committee that this Bill, to which there has been such wide objection and which will have so dramatic an effect on the community in which the market is at present situated, is on balance justified. The objections which have been made to the Bill are serious objections which deserve to be treated seriously.

There are two procedural matters to which I want to refer before concluding my remarks. I address the first of them to the noble Lord, Lord Hacking. I am not familiar with the way in which solicitors' practices distribute their surpluses; but I understand that the proceeds from all partners are put together and that one partner does not take the proceeds from his own clients alone. I draw the noble Lord's attention to item (xiv) of the rules of debate on page 41 of the Companion which states that: It follows from this that if a Lord decides that it is proper for him to take part in a debate on a subject in which he has a direct pecuniary interest, he should declare it". The noble Lord, Lord Hacking, indeed did so impeccably. The passage goes on to state: It is however considered undesirable for a Lord to advocate, promote or oppose in the House any Bill or subordinate legislation, in or for which he is or has been acting or concerned for any pecuniary fee or reward". The noble Lord is not acting on behalf of the Spitalfields Market Tenants' Association, but one of his partners with whom he is associated in business is doing so. I ask him to consider the implications of that in the light of the Standing Orders.

My second point also refers to the Spitalfields Market Tenants' Association. I have seen a letter, and I propose to send a copy of it to the Clerk of the Parliaments and the Chairman of Committees, from the Spitalfields Market Tenants' Association to all its members. It reminds the members of the very substantial sum of money which has been made available to the tenants of Spitalfields Market in return for their support for this legislation. It states that if any member of this Spitalfields Market Tenants' Association opposes the Bill or petitions your Lordships' House against the Bill, then the association will take action in accordance with its Articles of Association to secure the expulsion of that firm from the Spitalfields Market Tenants' Association.

I simply ask the question: is that pressure on potential petitioners to your Lordships' House in accordance with either the rules of this House or indeed with parliamentary privilege?

Lord Harris of Greenwich

My Lords, while I express no view on the merits of this Bill, I am bound to say that it is an extremely serious matter to which the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey, has referred. It seems to me that an attempt is being made to put pressure on witnesses before a committee of this House—witnesses who in fact would be invited to give evidence on oath. I very much hope that this matter will be looked at by the Leader of the House and the Lord Chairman of Committees. I have not heard such an allegation made in the 15 years that I have been a Member of this House, and I think that this should be looked into as a matter of urgency.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Harris, for his intervention. I shall ensure that he has a copy of the letter to which I referred. I propose to send a copy to the Lord Chairman of Committees and to the Clerk of the Parliaments.

Lord Elton

My Lords, would the noble Lord be kind enough to place a copy in the Library so that other noble Lords may see it as well?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, I shall be delighted to do so. In accordance with the conventions of this House, it will be accepted that I have no intention of dividing the House against a Second Reading of a private Bill. However, I do feel that there has been sufficient concern expressed about the Bill, about the effect on the community from which the market comes and indeed about the effect on the viability of the market, to ensure that the Select Committee of your Lordships' House must consider it to be a matter of very grave concern and take very serious account of the arguments both for and against the Bill.

The arguments for the Bill have been put most fairly by the noble Lord, Lord Renwick, and other noble Lords. I hope that the Select Committee which is appointed to deal with this Bill will not feel that this is a matter of purely local or trivial interest. I believe that there are issues involved in this legislation which, although they are entirely properly raised before this House, deserve perhaps even more than the consideration which its Select Committees usually give.

Lord Hacking

My Lords, will the noble Lord allow me to intervene? I have been in this House for a number of years. I think it is in the region of 18 years. I have always tried impeccably to serve this House with total propriety. Wherever there is an interest to be disclosed, I have always tried impeccably to follow the rules. I did not know that the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, was going to make that point. If my recollection is right the matter was last considered by the House on a matter concerning Lord Brentford. I do not refer to the present Viscount, Lord Brentford, but to one of his predecessors. If I have transgressed the rules of this House in any way, I should like to consider in detail and with care the point made by the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh. I hope that noble Lords will forgive me for not doing so on the spot. It is simply because I have not had time to consider it. As I state, I have always tried impeccably to serve the proprieties of this House ever since I have been a Member, and I intend to continue to do so.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, I am sure that that is right and proper. In making my remarks, I said that the noble Lord had been impeccable in declaring his interest. I apologise to him for not being able to give him advance notice of what I was going to say, but I did not have advance notice myself because I did not know that he was going to speak for the Spitalfields Market Tenants' Association. If I had known in advance, I should certainly have given him an indication of my concerns.

Lord Hacking

My Lords, I am sorry to detain noble Lords again. All I did in your Lordships' House was to represent the views of that association because I thought it was helpful for noble Lords to hear them. I was not promoting this Bill. I was doing no more than representing the views of persons directly affected by the proposals contained in this Bill.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, I accept that entirely.

8.32 p.m.

The Earl of Arran

My Lords, I hope at this point that the Government may be allowed to intervene, albeit briefly, to give an indication of their view on this Bill.

The Government have considered the content of this private Bill and have no objection in principle to the proposals in it. Neither the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, which. has general responsibility for wholesale markets, nor the Department of the Environment, have any outstanding points on it. In the usual conventional way the Government have taken a neutral stance in the Bill.

However, it may be helpful to your Lordships' House if I say a few words about the planning issues relating to development of the existing Spitalfields site which have been raised by a number of noble Lords this evening. The planning application submitted by the Spitalfields development group to redevelop the site of the existing market was approved by a policy of the sub-committee of Tower Hamlets Council on 7th September 1987 subject to the completion of a legally binding agreement between the Corporation of the City of London, the council and the developers. The application was not referred to my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for the Environment because the council did not consider that it constituted a departure from the development plan. The Department of the Environment did not receive any representations prior to the granting of planning permission that the application be called in for public inquiry. If the developer were to submit a new or revised application to the council and representations were made to the Secretary of State that it be called in, we would of course consider carefully those representations.

I understand that local people will derive some £20 million worth of benefits from an agreement that was reached between the developer, the City of London Corporation and Tower Hamlets Council. This is in part due to the committee's consideration of the Bill in another place.

I note that there are six petitions against the Bill in your Lordships' House. They will have the opportunity to present their objections to the Select Committee. The committee will be in a very much better position than we are tonight to examine in detail the issues involved. They will have the added advantage of hearing expert advice. I hope therefore that your Lordships' House will give the Bill a Second Reading so that it can be allowed to proceed in the usual way to Committee for this detailed consideration.

Lord Renwick

My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for his words—which were not exactly of support but they at least raised no objection—and for considering the planning issues, which I do not believe are part of the corporation's promotion of this Bill. However, I am grateful to him for his words.

I am also grateful for the support that I have received from my noble friends, and from the noble Lord, Lord Hacking. I believe that between them noble Lords have mentioned the traffic congestion and the appalling mess that the current market is generating. I have seen it. I believe that in the 1990s the need will be brought upon us to look for a far more hygienic method of handling edible foods than would be possible under the circumstances at the present market.

The noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, mentioned many other points. I should like to consider one or two of them. One point was that the corporation had said that there was much that could be done to alleviate the problem. There is much that can be done; and there is a lot that is being done to alleviate the traffic congestion and the problem of rubbish. However, I believe that anyone who has visited the site would realise moving the market to a purpose-built market place ready for the 21st century is the best solution.

The noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, mentioned that I did not go into the history of the area. This is part of the planning permission that Tower Hamlets has given about the future use of the site at Spitalfields. I have sympathy with the need. The noble Lord, Lord Jay, made reference to low cost housing. But I believe that land prices and property prices in the area around the Spitalfields market site have already risen so much that although low cost housing to rent would be required, it would be difficult to find.

I have received a special plea from the noble Lord, Lord Hacking, on the concern of the catering and wholesale suppliers, and the need for some more work to be agreed in the design of the new market. On behalf of the Corporation of London I can do no more than to note that a verbal assurance has been received from the developers and I am sure that the corporation would wish the new market to be so constructed that it gives one of its major traders the necessary area in which to carry out its business. If it is between 50 per cent. and 60 per cent. of the business trade, there they obviously have a big pull. I have no doubt that that would be in the interests of everybody.

I do not wish to spend too much longer in replying because I believe that we have important business to follow. I respect the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, who said that he is not intending to oppose the Bill's Second Reading. I support him when he says that the Select Committee has a serious task to perform. On the two procedural matters, I believe that the first is no concern of mine and will be dealt with. On the second, I am instructed that the corporation was not party to any letter sent to the members by the Spitalfields Market Tenants' Association.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord. I did not suggest that the corporation was in any way party to such a letter.

Lord Renwick

My Lords, I accept that. Therefore in representing them in moving the Second Reading, that is also a matter that should not be further discussed by me.

Before I ask your Lordships to approve the Second Reading, I should like to add my thanks to those of the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, to the officers of the corporation for the presentation that they have made. I ask the House to support the Second Reading.

On Question, Bill read a second time, and committed to a Select Committee.