HL Deb 02 March 1993 vol 543 cc603-14

7.35 p.m.

Lord Cocks of Hartcliffe

My Lords, I beg to move that the Bill be now read a second time. I should declare at the outset that I have the honour to be deputy chairman of the London Docklands Development Corporation, the public body which is promoting this Private Bill, the main purpose of which is to give the corporation powers to make and enforce by-laws to regulate the behaviour of the public in the dock estate.

The London Docklands Development Corporation was set up in July 1981 under the Local Government Planning and Land Act 1980. Section 136 of that Act defined its mission as the physical, economic and social regeneration of the area. During the 11 years of its existence it has achieved much. One thousand five hundred acres of derelict and polluted land have been reclaimed; over 16,000 new dwellings have been built; new road and rail systems have given a once isolated area excellent communications; the population has risen by over 55 per cent., and jobs by over 90 per cent; and over £9 billion of private investment and £1.5 billion of public investment has been devoted to the regeneration of London docklands.

Although much remains to be done, I could go on with many more telling examples of the giant strides that have been made in improving the economic, social and physical environment of this previously neglected part of London; but your Lordships will be relieved to hear that it is not my intention to do so. I merely wish to paint the background with a broad brush, so that the purpose of this excellent little Bill may be the more apparent.

The most striking feature of London docklands is, as noble Lords might expect, the dock estate. It comprises over 400 acres of enclosed water and over 25 miles of dock edge. When the LDDC acquired them from the Port of London Authority at various times during the 1980s, the docks were in a sorry condition. Some of them, having fallen into the control of the local authorities, had been filled in. A large part of the Surrey Docks in the London borough of Southwark and a great deal of the London docks in the London borough of Tower Hamlets had already been filled in by the time they were acquired by the LDDC. The remaining docks were rescued—that is not too strong a word—by the LDDC just in time. Even in 1985, the London borough of Newham was pressing strongly in its draft local plan for the filling in of the Royal docks.

The LDDC has spent a great deal of public money in restoring the docks and their machinery, maintaining them to a high standard, opening them up everywhere to the public, conserving their industrial archaeology, creating a pleasant dockside environment and encouraging a diversity of uses—sporting, recreational, and commercial.

There are, for instance, water sports centres in the Millwall, Greenland and Royal Victoria Docks, and a youth water sports club in Shadwell basin. An Olympic rowing course has been proposed for the Royal Albert Dock. The headquarters of the London Sea Scouts is in the West India Docks. There are marinas in South Dock and Greenland Dock, and one is about to be set up in the Albert Basin. There are several floating restaurants and a new 250 place floating Chinese restaurant will shortly be located in the inner Millwall Dock. Historic vessels are moored in the docks and there are many visiting ships, in particular naval vessels, which are a focus of local and tourist interest. Recently the, NATO fleet attracted 30,000 visitors to the Isle of Dogs and the international power boat championships drew massive crowds.

There is some commercial traffic. For instance, construction materials and excavated spoil from the many developments around the docks have been, and will continue to be, transported by barge through the docks, thus sparing the residents of East London many thousands of movements of heavy lorries. That will apply to the construction of our Jubilee Line extension, and especially the new station at Canary Wharf. There have been proposals, not yet brought to fruition, for the large quantities of newsprint required by the Telegraph/Express printing works at Westferry to be brought in by motorised barge instead of by lorry, as at present. There are proposals for a water taxi service.

There are any number of activities—rowing regattas, angling, wet bike racing, water ski-ing, bungee jumping and dragon boat racing—which the LDDC encourages in the dock waters. I shall not attempt to give an exhaustive list of all the diverse public activities which the LDDC facilitates and promotes. It is enough to paint the broad picture.

I should, however, mention that it has been and will continue to be the policy of the corporation to open up the dock edges to the public, from which of course they were totally excluded when the docks were part of a working port. As the regeneration of London docklands reaches fruition the docksides will become increasingly animated with large crowds of people. Port East, for instance, on the North Quay of the West India Dock, will become a Covent Garden by the water, with large crowds of tourists, shoppers and other leisure seekers taking their recreation on and around the water's edge. The potential for this kind of activity around the 10 miles of waterfront of the Royal docks is enormous and will begin to be realised this year with the opening of the Beckton extension of the Docklands Light Railway. A market will begin operations next Sunday on the edge of the Royal Albert Dock. We have played host to the London marathon for several years.

All this activity, diversity and life is splendid. But there is a darker aspect to it all. Docks are dangerous places. The water is 30 feet deep. Much of the dockside consists of false quays, with the water extending under them. There are many structures in the water, some of them hidden, and heavy machinery which moves. Uses which are relatively safe in themselves become hazardous when mixed with other incompatible uses.

There is a most definite need for an effective regime to regulate the conduct of people in and around the dock estate to ensure public health and safety, to prevent pollution and to secure the reasonable and quiet enjoyment of many diverse uses of the water and the dock edge.

Until now the corporation, as landlord of the vast majority of the dock estate, has relied on a mixture of bluff and good will to achieve these objectives. The corporation employs two harbourmasters and 20 water wardens and the dock edge is managed by a large number of security staff. They have done a manful job, but it is clear that the lack of an effective deterrent handicaps them in keeping good order in the docks. That handicap could one day prove fatal.

There have been very many incidents. Noble Lords will not wish me to reel off a long list of them. To convey the flavour, I might refer to incidents where water skiers cut up a flotilla of child canoeists in defiance of instructions and to other occasions when wardens and even anglers have been threatened, assaulted and even pitched into the water by obstreperous members of the public. As the use of the docks by members of the public increases, as it will greatly in the coming years, so the degree of danger to the public will multiply.

It is for this reason that the docklands corporation is seeking, through the promotion of this Bill, powers to make and enforce by-laws in the dock estate. At the same time, the Bill would make other provisions for regulating the dock estate and for clarifying and regularising its legal position following the rundown of the commercial port and the change in character of the area. There are also provisions for the future alteration of boundaries of the dock estate, and the transfer of the powers to some other body.

The deterrence of criminal sanctions and summary trial as a last resort will give the safety regime the teeth it needs to work properly. We have the full support of the local police. Without the powers, noble Lords will see that either the public enjoyment of the magnificent environment and opportunities of the dock estate will have to be curtailed, or the risks to public safety, and activities against the quiet enjoyment of the public will rise greatly —perhaps unacceptably. The powers will of course be subject to appropriate safeguards. In particular, the by-laws will have to be confirmed by the Secretary of State and will be subject to review by the courts in the normal way.

The London Docklands Development Corporation is a very serious body with a track record of achievement. It is diligent in interpreting and fulfilling its responsibilities. It has consulted over 90 bodies in preparing the Bill which your Lordships are now considering. If the Bill becomes law, there will be further consultation on the by-laws themselves before they are made. Virtually every body consulted has been strongly of the opinion that the by-law powers are a vital necessity. Concerns have been raised by some consultees with respect to the protection of private interests, public accountability, public consultation, and the interface with the jurisdiction of other authorities. In every case the corporation has been able to make or promise amendments to the Bill or to give undertakings which have sought to satisfy those concerns. They have been sufficient, in particular, to cause the London boroughs of Newham and Southwark not to petition against the Bill.

Only in the case of the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, and its associates, the Docklands Forum, have there been petitions against the Bill. The substance of the petitions is that the London Docklands Development Corporation is not a fit and proper person to administer by-laws. As noble Lords will know, many precedents exist for this type of Bill. Our sister urban development corporation in Merseyside was given very similar powers back in 1985. The London Borough of Tower Hamlets petition proposes that the Bill should not be passed and that instead a consortium of the Port of London Authority and the boroughs should regulate the behaviour of the public in the dock estate through the exercise of by-law powers which already exist for other purposes: namely to control the port of London and to control municipal public open spaces. This is an unrealistic suggestion, which could not work. For a start the PLA does not want to assume the role; the powers are inappropriate; and the proposed regulating bodies would have little interest and no resources to carry out the functions, and, I am sorry to say, do not have a good track record in caring for the docks. Responsibility for the by-laws should be united with responsibility for managing and maintaining the dock estate. Divided responsibilities are a recipe for muddle, inaction and buck-passing.

I do not want to conclude on a negative note. This practical, sensible measure is designed to underpin the widened access of the general public to the opportunities for sport and recreation which the former docks afford and to share in the wonderful waterside environment which the LDDC has been creating over the past 10 years. It will enable diverse uses to flourish in safety and good order. The Bill is wholly beneficial and I commend it to your Lordships. I beg to move.

Moved, That the Bill be now read a second time.—(Lord Cocks of Hartcliffe.)

7.45 p.m.

Baroness Hamwee

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Cocks of Hartcliffe for introducing the Bill. I shall resist the temptation to comment on the history of the LDDC in the docklands area. It has perhaps been a little more checkered than he would have us believe. However, I would not have suggested to your Lordships that the promotion of bungee jumping was necessarily the greatest attribute and achievement of the docklands corporation. I wonder whether it is something they should discourage rather than encourage.

I was encouraged by the noble Lord's reference to the increasing use of water transport and I hope that the corporation can assist the process. The use of water-borne transport has been extremely limited. It has and will continue to have problems and clearly it needs assistance and—the dread word—resources.

The noble Lord said that only the London Borough of Tower Hamlets has petitioned against the Bill. The report to the relevant committee in the borough refers to the two other boroughs, Newham and Southwark, stating that they have indicated that, although it is unlikely that they will petition, they hope, that a combination of further officer level negotiations with the LDDC and lobbying by local MPs"— I have no idea what that may have achieved or of what the lobbying may have consisted— will result in a more reasoned approach by the corporation to the matter". I rather gathered from that, and from a conversation with representatives from Tower Hamlets, that although Newham and Southwark were not petitioning they were quite glad that Tower Hamlets was doing so. It would ensure that matters dealt with in the Bill would receive a full airing. I put it this way, when perhaps Tower Hamlets would not, that the petition would ensure that if the Bill is passed it will be as good a Bill as possible.

I understand that the petitioners do not object to the principle of harbour by-laws. They accept, as will your Lordships, that it is necessary to have a sensible, responsible approach to good water management for reasons of safety, for the prevention of pollution—a matter which I think was not mentioned by the noble Lord—and for restricting dangerous practices. They do not refer to bungee jumping in the petition.

However, the concern expressed in the Tower Hamlets petition that the corporation is not an appropriate body is, I believe, not merely over the extent of its powers but that it will not be with us for all time. The corporation was formed to undertake a specific task; namely, the regeneration of the docklands area. It is now seeking to extend its role into public service. I accept that one cannot entirely separate questions of regeneration and service, but nevertheless this is an extension into an area that a permanent authority would seek to undertake.

The withdrawal of the corporation from the urban development area is, I understand, a matter which is currently being seriously discussed. Whether it is appropriate for the corporation to be the enforcer and promoter of the by-laws is a different matter from whether the by-laws themselves should be promoted.

The noble Lord suggested that a consortium of various authorities dealing with these issues would be a recipe for muddle. He based that argument somewhat on history. I accept that some years ago things in the area were not perhaps as they should have been. The local authorities then may not have done what they should have done to regenerate the area. But it would become us all to treat that history with a little humility and accept that the attitude of the local authorities may be more positive now than it was then.

I have referred to the withdrawal of the corporation from the urban development area. When it withdraws —as at some time it will—its functions will have to be transferred to a successor body. I suspect that resources will need to be made available to that successor body and performance of the duties under the Act will require quite substantial funding.

I turn from that area of reservation to look more specifically at the Bill. It is an enabling Bill. I do not suggest that effort would be put into the promotion of a Bill without any intention of pursuing its content. But it might be appropriate that the corporation or its successor body, if they are to be the relevant bodies, have an obligation to undertake activities in the areas of safety, navigation, hygiene, the prevention of pollution and so on. In particular Clause 4(1) of the Bill might impose a duty rather than merely confer a power on the corporation.

Additionally, there seems to be no provision relating to the proper enforcement of the by-laws. The LDDC has certain commercial interests as well. It might be appropriate not to allow anybody even to think that its objectivity in enforcement could be compromised by being also on the receiving end of enforcement. Therefore, it might be a good idea to put into the Bill a positive obligation to enforce.

Clause 23(3) is one of a number of clauses which do not put a specific obligation on the LDDC to consult —in this case to consult the local authorities about disposals. I accept the assurances given by the noble Lord about the consultation that has already been undertaken and will be undertaken. But perhaps not all those who will run the corporation in the future will be as circumspect as the noble Lord who has presented the Bill to the House this evening. I should prefer to see the obligations written into the Bill.

The Bill provides the corporation with extensive powers. One criticism of the LDDC's powers and activities (rather than of the corporation itself) is that they should be open to public scrutiny in the same way as for local authorities; for instance, in relation to obtaining information from people who want to use the waters in the docks to board vessels. There is provision for an annual report. It would be a welcome amendment for that report to be made available to the public and not be merely a document which remains private.

I referred to consultation. In particular there should be consultation before the alteration of the boundaries of the areas affected by the by-laws. That is a matter on which it will clearly be necessary to talk to all concerned.

I read the Bill but had to re-read Clause 11 because I was not sure that I had understood it correctly. It allows the corporation unconditionally or subject to conditions to: permit … any person to place any structure or object on the waterside". There are extensive planning laws which might apply here. I am concerned about how the clause relates to the town and country planning legislation.

Clause 17, by which the corporation seeks to appropriate private and public rights of navigation within the designated areas, is a very tough measure. No doubt it will be considered carefully at Committee stage, particularly as there seems to be no mention of compensation in that context.

As a member of a riparian authority I know a number of organisations which have powers and responsibilities connected with the river: for example, the Port of London Authority and the National Rivers Authority; the City of London which in this area is the port health authority; and the local authorities. I am concerned that the Bill should make proper distinction between the responsibilities of the local authorities, which have highway and environmental health obligations and powers, and the corporation.

With regard to environmental matters, I am concerned about the power to dredge contained in Schedule 4. I trust that consideration will be given to the possible environmental damage caused by dredging up what may be toxic material. That is a very difficult matter. If one were not talking about rivers it could be said that one might disturb things that would be better left to lie and rot quietly.

I was glad to hear what the noble Lord said about the importance of public access to the waterside. That is vital and must be safeguarded. All the rivers in London, but particularly the Thames, are vital public assets. The highways and walkways that will be adopted in the future must be properly controlled.

Finally, to sum up, I am concerned that the docklands corporation, for the reason I gave of its possibly short life, may not be the appropriate body to exercise such powers. If it is to have those powers then the concomitant responsibilities should be shown on the face of the Bill.

7.57 p.m.

Lord Sefton of Garston

My Lords, I apologise for not having put my name on the list of speakers. I had thought of moving an Instruction to the Committee in regard to this Bill. But on re-reading the Bill I realised that if I was suspicious of the Bill and perhaps of the London Docklands Development Corporation, maybe I should not table an Instruction but simply mention my concern.

The mover of the Bill told the House that in 1985 the Merseyside Development Corporation took similar powers. I am very concerned about the Merseyside Development Corporation and its growth. I might say that it was Liverpool, with the combined efforts of the leaders of all the main parties in Liverpool during the tenure of the last Labour Government, which first proposed to government the question of a dockland development corporation. It is somewhat different from the development corporation that appeared ultimately because we insisted upon the inclusion of a strong representation from local authorities.

My noble friend went on to say that in 1985 they took these powers. If they took these powers, then I do not know how and under what Bill they extended the powers of the development corporation. I am assured that the Bill does not seek to extend the powers of the development corporation; all it seeks to do is to control, within a reasonable boundary, the activities within docklands. Nobody would object to that. We listened to a glowing report of the wonderful and exciting things that will happen under the London Docklands Development Corporation. I do not criticise that. However, as some Members may be aware, I have reservations about the powers of the docklands development corporation as regards local authorities and the continuance of local government in this country.

The Explanatory Memorandum states: The Bill contains powers to enable London Docklands Development Corporation … to manage and regulate certain lands and waters within or in the vicinity of its area, together with other powers". In the explanation of Clause 4 it says, "Clause 4 confers on the Corporation general powers to provide, preserve, maintain, regulate, manage and improve the designated areas and services and facilities afforded therein or in connection therewith". I would not object to that taking place within the area that is generally recognised, now as the London Docklands Development Corporation area. But it not only says that. Clause 4 states: Subject to the provisions of this Act, the Corporation may provide, preserve", and so forth, as I read from the Explanatory Memorandum. If that does not mean that it will have the power to build and maintain different structures in an area, I do not know what it means. Again, if that was contained within the area I would not be concerned about it. But it is not.

Clause 19—and this is the part about which I should like an assurance and about which I intended to table an Instruction—states: The Secretary of State may by order made under this section alter the limits of jurisdiction so as to exclude from or include within the designated areas for the purposes of this Act any area of land in the London borough of Newham, Southwark or Tower Hamlets". If that meant that that was done in order to enable the corporation to have proper control over the activities of London Docklands I would not object. But it can go further. The land can be extended for the purposes of the Act, and the Act says that the corporation will have general powers to, provide, preserve, maintain, regulate, manage and improve the designated areas and services". Let me conclude by saying this. I had assurances, as did several other people, that when they set up Merseyside Docklands Development Corporation that was it. They knew where they wanted it; they knew what it was going to do, and that would be the end of it. Was it? No, it was not. The first report from the auditor practically told the Government that if that was all they were going to achieve in Liverpool by the docklands development corporation, they might just as well pack up. It achieved nothing. The proof of that is the fact that the EC recognises that Liverpool and Merseyside are now on a par with Corsica in regard to the improvement in the health of Merseyside.

Ten years ago I forecast that the population of Merseyside and Liverpool would decline to such an extent that we would be the most deprived area in Europe. It now is. Therefore the corporation did not succeed. What was the Government's attitude? Did they look at the problems of Merseyside? No, they did not. They extended the powers of the Merseyside Docklands Development Corporation—to do what? To go into New Brighton and build a lot of exciting prospects—new railings for the promenade and new paving that was not needed—but which contributed nothing to the welfare of Merseyside.

All I am concerned about—perhaps the mover of the Motion will be able to reassure me—is that it does not mean an extension of London Docklands Development Corporation. In spite of the glowing picture, I do not believe that London Docklands Development Corporation has been a success. It has gone along without any control of its own and when making planning decisions in regard to the docklands it had no regard to the effect on London. That is enough condemnation. The consequential effect of carrying out that development uncontrolled and unplanned was catastrophic for the property market in London. According to today's Evening Standard, there is even talk of developing a major city on the east side of London. To do what?—to sustain the rash promise made by Mr. Heseltine in regard to the development of the eastern corridor. If that is carried out, it will be the death-knell for any decent development in the rest of the country.

If I am given the assurance, fair enough. But the Bill will come back and I shall be asking whether we have a guarantee that it is not extending the powers of the corporation.

8.7 p.m.

Lord Williams of Elvel

My Lords, the number of points I make will echo those made by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, and my noble friend Lord Sefton. I do not propose to be too long.

I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Cocks for his exposition of what the docklands development corporation has done. Some of us could make an equally pessimistic declaration and description of what it has done. In certain respects I am sure that my noble friend would admit that it has been a complete fiasco. One cannot even get there sometimes, let alone do anything or find anything or anybody when one does get there. In addition there has been constant friction between the local authorities and the docklands development corporation. I am sure that my noble friend would accept that as part of the history of the corporation. Obviously, it is unavoidable.

The Bill provides for by-laws over a large area of the waterside. I am with my noble friend Lord Sefton in querying Clause 19 of the Bill which allows the Secretary of State, by simple order, to alter the limits of jurisdiction of the Bill and deprive Newham, Southwark or Tower Hamlets of land or waterside which they may or may not wish to have or hold. It is a curious provision and I hope that when we come to Committee that aspect will be explored in full.

Nevertheless, we must accept what my noble friend says; that is, that there has been something of a vacuum in terms of statutory controls since the Port of London Authority effectively left the area. At present the docklands development corporation, whatever one may think of it—one must accept in real life that it exists—has no powers to govern the area other than those of an ordinary private landowner. To date, as my noble friend pointed out, it has done so by a mixture of bullying, bluster, general encouragement or whatever weapons were available to it. That is not a sound way to proceed and I do not believe that any of your Lordships would think it right that there should be no by-law-making powers and that by-laws should not be there and should not be enforced, particularly, as the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, pointed out, the duty in the Bill laid on the docklands development corporation is to allow visitors access to the waterside as it is regenerated.

There are dangers, as my noble friend pointed out. No matter how well managed the waters are, they can be dangerous. People can be tempted into diving from bridges or other structures into the docks; vehicles can be pushed in and submerged. I understand that last year 24 submerged vehicles were recovered from the docks on the Isle of Dogs alone, including one Rolls Royce and a forklift truck. It is not a satisfactory situation. We must recognise that by-laws to prevent that kind of thing, particularly the pollution aspect to which the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, referred, are necessary. The powers are not entirely novel. Large public and semi-public landowners currently have such powers. The National Trust, water authorities, transport undertakers and airports have similar powers to make and enforce by-laws, as do port and harbour authorities. As my noble friend Lord Sefton pointed out—though from a rather different direction—the Merseyside Development Corporation Act 1985 conferred by-law-making powers upon that development corporation.

The problem is: what happens when the docklands corporation disappears as in the course of time it will? This is left hanging in the Bill, as it were. There is nothing in the Bill that says what successor body will have these powers once the corporation has disappeared. It is for that reason that I am tempted to sympathise with the point made by the noble Baroness that perhaps some further consultation between the local authorities and the docklands corporation to ensure that there is an orderly transition when these matters come to their natural end is desirable. The local authorities are much more progressive in these matters than in the past, and there may be some room for a gentle compromise to satisfy all parties. Nevertheless, I do not believe it is right to bring the Port of London Authority back into the area it has vacated. I accept the assurance of my noble friend that it simply does not want to return. It would be wrong if there was any kind of consortium consisting of the Port of London Authority and local authorities that attempted to do what it was proposed that docklands should do in this Bill. For myself, I would resist the petitions of Tower Hamlets and the Docklands Forum. On the other hand, I would argue that the Select Committee should at least pay attention to what accommodation could be achieved between the corporation and the local authorities with whom they have to maintain good relations.

Subject to what I have said, on balance I support the Bill. I believe it fills a vacuum and allows for proper regulation of the waterside. I believe that the docklands corporation is mature enough to operate the powers sensibly and with discretion and will be able to enforce them without, I hope, too much aggravation as far as the general public is concerned. It has worked successfully in a number of areas and I believe that it will work successfully here. In general, I support the Bill while entering the caveats I have made, hoping that the Select Committee will take a close look at them.

8.15 p.m.

Viscount Goschen

My Lords, the Government have considered the proposals in this Private Bill and are broadly content with the purposes of the Bill. However, there are some points of detail to be taken up with the agents for the promoters. There are some points of greater substance on Clause 12 relating to water pollution. Apart from those matters, the Government take their usual neutral stance on Private Bills. The Select Committee will be in a position to consider points of detail and hear expert evidence on them. We hope that the Bill will be given a Second Reading and will be allowed to proceed to Committee for its detailed consideration.

8.17 p.m.

Lord Cocks of Hartcliffe

My Lords, I am grateful to noble Lords who have taken part in this Second Reading debate. In particular, I should like to say to the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, that ever since I joined the corporation I have done my best to encourage the use not only of the dock water but of the River Thames, which is the widest motorway in the country and requires virtually no maintenance. I am very much at one with her and will continue to do what I can. We have consulted widely, particularly with the boroughs. A number of their suggestions have already been incorporated or are the subject of assurances about amendment during the passage of the Bill. By-law powers are necessary because, quite frankly, we are haunted by the fact that we may be faced with a serious accident involving fatalities. It will be no good going to the coroner's court and saying, "Well, we had a very long discussion about who should administer the by-law powers but we had not got around to putting them in place". I would beg your Lordships to allow the Bill to proceed.

The question of water purity is a cogent one. The corporation is constantly monitoring the quality of water in the docks and keeping an eye out for what I believe is called algal bloom and matters of similar nature. In particular, the noble Baroness mentioned the riverside walkway. The planning committee is absolutely meticulous that any application that comes before it involving river frontage includes the walkway. Our ambition is that eventually it will be possible to walk the entire length of the docks. A walkway will be incorporated into every development enabling people to walk for miles and enjoy the Thames.

My noble friend Lord Sefton and the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, raised the question of the powers being passed on. My noble friend Lord Sefton wanted an assurance that there was no intention on the part of the corporation to expand its empire. I can give him that assurance, because there is no question of a successor body. For over a year the corporation has been having detailed discussions with the three boroughs about an exit strategy for leaving the area. The Housing and Urban Development Bill now passing through Parliament contains provisions for de-designating particular areas of urban development corporations so that they can be gradually dismembered. Areas have been identified in Southwark, Newham and Tower Hamlets for early de-designation. Rather than the corporation growing, it is planning to dismember itself and its own demise.

Lord Sefton of Garston

My Lords, perhaps I may ask my noble friend whether he is aware that the URA contains provisions that can reproduce the docklands development corporation under another name and with wider powers.

Lord Cocks of Hartcliffe

My Lords, I think that Parliament would have to deal with anything along those lines. I do not believe that this little Bill would do it. It is an innocuous measure, and I beg my noble friend not to be too suspicious of it. It is designed to protect people who want to enjoy the docks. I hope that the House will allow the Bill to proceed tonight. I beg to move.

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

Viscount Long

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now adjourn during pleasure until 8.30 p.m.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

[The Sitting was suspended from 8.20 to 8.30 p.m.]