HL Deb 14 May 2003 vol 648 cc296-309

6.36 p.m.

Lord Livsey of Talgarth

My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time.

Before going into the detail of the Bill, it would be apposite for me to give noble Lords some background to the need for the Bill. First, there is the nature of Herefordshire. I think that it is the best county in England, but, as a Welshman, I would say that. It is an excellent rural county. It has excellent pasture land that fattens cattle and produces stores. It is varied in its cropping. It produces cider, hops and fruit in great abundance.

My association with Herefordshire goes back a long time. Although I lived just on the Welsh side of the border when I was a child, I have fond memories of Hereford town and Hereford cattle market as it was in those days. Over 40 years ago, the great ambition of nearly all Breconshire farmers was to farm in Herefordshire, because of the fertility of the soil. It is a very productive county and produces excellent products.

Hereford markets bestride the rural and urban part of the county. Hereford is a true county town, and it services the whole county. The livestock market was reconstructed in the 1960s, and it now lies alongside the ring road in Hereford. The markets are open on Wednesdays and Saturdays. There is also the butter market in the market hall in High Town, as well as farmers' markets. I can remember famous election campaigns in Hereford from many years ago, including one that the late Robin Day contested. There were so many fireworks that he lost his voice, which was the first time that I could remember that happening—probably the first and the last time.

The livestock market occupies what is probably the largest space in the market—3.2 hectares—and is the biggest generator of traffic in New Market Street, which the market lies alongside. It is the cause of much congestion. On that side, there is also an open market with traders and tenants. The market was founded by royal charter in 1597 by Queen Elizabeth I. the last of the line of Tudor monarchs. Indeed, this is a very historical situation. The market is now regulated by local legislation. by old Acts put in place mainly in the 19th century. The Hereford Improvement Act 1854 empowers the council to maintain and regulate markets and fairs in Hereford and to provide market facilities. It also incorporates the Markets and Fairs Clauses Act 1847, which contains general regulatory powers for markets. The Food Act 1984 is the modern equivalent. It gives the council the power to stipulate the days and times of the markets and fairs.

The Hereford Improvement Act 1872 extends the council's power to provide market facilities. The Hereford Order 1927, which is contained in the Ministry of Health Provisional Orders Confirmation (No. 9) Act 1927, updated the provisions in relation to the market tolls. Finally, the Hereford Corporation Act 1936 gave the council power to lease stores, shops, and so on, and to use the market facilities for other purposes. It also updated the financial and animal health provisions applying to the market.

The Hereford market is run by the Hereford Market Auctioneers—HMA—which is made up of two companies. Its lease on the market expires in 2005. The proposal is for the new market to commence work by 2006. Let me make it clear that this is an enabling Bill which paves the way for the possibility of local action to be taken as far as the market site is concerned.

The market's turnover is a six-figure sum and approximately 50 full-time equivalent jobs are involved with the market. Unfortunately, during the last decade, the amount of livestock going through the market has fallen by 31 per cent and the cattle throughput by 78 per cent. This is, in the main, due to the impact of the foot and mouth disease outbreak which caused a severe decrease in livestock numbers. In fact, the market was closed for normal trading for nearly 12 months but was used as a centre for collecting livestock.

There are severe limitations on the market site and many constraints. The lorries coming into the market, which is in the middle of Hereford, are becoming larger and larger. Very large articulated lorries queue up to get into the market, and those queues go back on to the ring road. One of the reasons for this is the Defra hiosecurity measures resulting from the foot and mouth outbreak of 2001. The lorries have to stop at the market gates, which causes substantial delays and back-up on the ring road.

When the market is in action on a Wednesday, the air quality, which has been measured, is not at all good—in fact, it is quite poor. Elevated levels of NO2 are found in the atmosphere on Wednesdays.

The other related problem is that quite a lot of competition comes through the market, which has had an impact on the number of livestock coming forward where new markets have been built. A new market has been built in Ross-on-Wye, another at Brecon and another at Ludlow, which is particularly successful.

The council has conducted one study and is in the middle of a second one. The first study was carried out in 1997 by Donaldsons, the consultants. It looked at traffic generation and congestion as a result of the existing market site and concluded that it was not satisfactory. Indeed, the animal welfare facilities in the market were not up to standard either and there were considerable delays and costs. When consulted, the auctioneers concluded that the present site was inefficient for modernising the livestock facility. The 1997 study concluded that relocation of the market was the best option, probably west of the city. There are many options in this regard; there has not been any process yet, and it is far too early for the council to select a site.

The redevelopment of the existing site is the other aspect. The New Market Street site, where the council has freehold and the market is situated, adjoins the Courtyard Theatre and Hereford United Football Club ground in the well known Edgar Street. They are all within the Advantage West Midlands rural regeneration zone from which assistance can be given for regeneration on this site. It is not just the market site that we are considering—the adjoining site is being considered for regeneration and redevelopment as well. It is a considerable area if the two are put together.

A major master planning exercise is being carried out by Herefordshire council, funded by Advantage West Midlands rural regeneration. This is due to be completed by August 2003. The objective is to regenerate an important part of the city of Hereford, to drive growth in all sectors of the local economy, to bring real benefits to the residents of Herefordshire—the entire county—and to provide a sub-regional service and employment centre on the present market site.

The council's draft unitary development plan contains proposals for leisure facilities for commercial developments which combine new homes associated with those commercial developments, new office space and re-establishment of the canal basin with connections to the rest of the canal network and, indeed, an amenity for the whole county. I must make it absolutely clear that the council is looking at the possibility of only the livestock market going outside the city of Hereford. The rest of the markets—the open market, the Butter Market and the farmers' market—will remain within the city.

The council's unitary development plan identified desirable features for a livestock market and concluded that there were 46 possible sites. I shall not go into any of that, because this Bill is an enabling measure. It is up to the democratically elected members of the council to decide their own processes and put them through.

The main points being addressed are a site's capacity to meet the minimum size requirements and to deal with the expected animal throughputs of a new market. It should be available or capable of being acquired at or close to agricultural land value with limited hope value attached. Its location should maximise ease of access by sellers and have regard to likely future livestock catchment areas and populations, and maximise the ease of access by buyers to the major highway network. The new site should be close to or within Hereford city urban area as well as capable of convenient and low-cost connections to existing highways. It should also be suitable for the development proposed without unduly detracting from the amenity of adjoining land uses or other established or proposed planning designations. Ideally, this will be identified through the UDP process.

In fact, of the 46 sites identified, not one site actually fully met the features, so a criteria-based policy was put in place and written into the council's unitary development proposals. That included the following factors: that the proposed site was restricted for use as the new livestock market and necessary ancillary uses only—in other words, it is only for use as a livestock market; that the site is of a size and nature capable of adequately accommodating the identified needs of the livestock market, and will not have a detrimental effect on the surrounding area or its immediate setting; that the site is well related to the primary road network, where the development will not create an unacceptable impact on the highway network and satisfactory access can be provided; and that the site can be adequately serviced by the provision of infrastructure to include the necessary supply of water and for the satisfactory disposal of sewage and trade effluence in surface water. The scheme must include proposals for sustainable drainage and incorporate measures to ensure that the run-off does not contaminate local watercourses. The built development, car-parking and lairage should be located and of good design to respect its surroundings and character, in order to protect local amenity and minimise landscape impacts. Finally, a comprehensive and suitable landscaping scheme is provided to help assimilate the development into the surrounding area and to safeguard landscape character.

The development, in fact, would be limited to the sales rings, pennage, lairage, car-parking, and ancillary use such as agricultural supplies and veterinary and financial services. The only retail use that would be permissible would be the sale of goods related to agricultural businesses alone. I should like to emphasise that fact.

Following those processes, it was clear that many of the potential sites for the livestock market's relocation would be outside the urban area. However, the council's consideration of these sites threw up a legal difficulty, which explains the need for this Bill. It is because so many sites are outside the urban area that I am proposing the Bill to your Lordships' House. The original charter of 1597 stipulates that markets must be held within the city of Hereford. Therefore, the council could not move the market outside the Victorian city boundaries without the enactment of this Bill. The Bill allows for the relocation of the market outside the city.

The Bill does not take away the council's duty to hold the markets; that still applies. Nor does it give the council the power to move the markets to a particular site. Full planning permission, environmental and other consents will need to be obtained before the livestock market can be moved. The Bill allows the council to consider other sites for the market outside the built-up area.

Clauses 1 and 2 simply contain citation, commencement and interpretation provisions. The operative provisions are Clauses 3 and 4. Clause 3(1) confirms that the market rights remain with the council, notwithstanding the repeal of the old enactments. Clause 3(2) updates the public legislation applying to the markets by making them subject to the provisions of Part III of the Food Act 1984, which governs most local authority markets. Clause 3(3) restates the council's powers to hold the markets, provide and improve facilities for them, and enter into agreements for others to run the markets on the council's behalf.

Clause 4(1) gives the council the power to relocate the city's markets anywhere within Herefordshire, replacing the council's current power to relocate the markets anywhere within the city. That power is subject to limitations, including protection under Clause 4(2) for anybody else in the county who has market rights, which safeguards the interests of all the other market towns in Herefordshire. There is a requirement under Clause 4(3) to consult stakeholders who might be affected by relocation.

Clause 5 repeals the old local Acts governing the markets, so that they are regulated entirely by the Bill and the charter. As a local authority, the council had to pass a resolution under Section 239 of the Local Government Act 1972 to promote the Bill. That resolution was approved unanimously on 1st November 2002. A further resolution confirming the promotion was passed unanimously in January. That was unanimous by all political parties on the council. The Bill was then deposited on 27th November and the ordinary process of advertising and giving copies to government departments took place. The examiners held that the Bill complied with all the relevant Standing Orders on 18th December 2002, and it received its First Reading on 22nd January 2003.

After a Private Bill such as this is deposited, there is a period for people who believe that they will be affected by the Bill to petition against it. That gives them the opportunity to be heard by the committee considering the Bill and to call evidence against it. No petitions were lodged against the Bill during that period. The scene was therefore set for the Bill to receive a formal Second Reading, which was briefly put down for 19th March. However, the council then learnt that the noble Lord, Lord Temple-Morris, wished to raise some matters, and it was agreed to hold this debate.

I understand that the noble Lord has met with the agents for the council and that they have had the opportunity to discuss some of his concerns with him. I shall listen carefully to his remarks. I hope that the contents of my speech may assuage him.

As I have already said, the passage of the Bill will not give the council the power simply to relocate the market as it sees fit. The process that will take place as regards the council is that there will be a unitary development plan, which will be revised after legislation. The revised U DP will be published, and it will then be subject to scrutiny by the public. There will be a public inquiry, and the planning process by the council will follow.

The redevelopment proposals, in fact, will read as follows: first, to demonstrate that they provide a significant overall benefit to the vitality and viability of the city centre as a whole; secondly, to include provision for local government offices and for the retention or relocation of existing stall markets to a suitable site within or adjacent to the city centre; thirdly, to be prepared on a comprehensive basis, treating the site as a whole; fourthly, not to prejudice the achievement of the plan's town centre and retail strategy; fifthly, to provide a high standard of design, merited on the prestige location—there is an excellent development just the other side of the ring road that really needs support in making the area more attractive; sixthly, to ensure that safe, effective and attractive pedestrian links are provided to the city centre and to the Courtyard Theatre and football club to the north. This is a comprehensive development to improve the centre of Hereford, to respect the historic fabric of the area and to provide for the retention and beneficial use of the listed Market Tavern, which should be integrated into any scheme. I have visited the Market Tavern on numerous occasions when attending the market in the past.

I should like to record the apologies of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Hereford, who would very much have liked to attend this debate. He had to be in Shrewsbury today. However, in a letter to me, he said that, most Herefordians like the market and want to keep it".

He says that they have no attachment whatever to the ugly buildings from the 1950s and 1960s on the market site. Indeed, those building are, old-fashioned, grubby and worn out".

It is not an attractive site to visit. He went on to say that although it is important that the butter market and the farmers' market are kept, the cattle market could better perform its function at an out-of-town location. I have tried to summarise his views.

When the council comes to appraise any potential site through the planning process, it will have to do so publicly and reasonably, as any local authority would. The council's decision would be subject to scrutiny not only by local council tax payers, who would have the ultimate sanction of voting to remove any councillor who favoured a policy that local people did not, but also potentially by judicial review by the High Court. Any new livestock market site chosen by the council would then be subject to consultation with market traders and other stakeholders in accordance with the safeguards put in place.

I realise that I have only a limited time to speak and will finish soon.

Following a UDP inquiry and adoption of the plan, the council will be able to make a decision to apply for planning permission to relocate the market to a particular site. In making that decision, the council will again, through the planning process, be subject to scrutiny by the court and local opinion as to the reasonableness of its decision, including whether it took into account all the relevant responses to the consultation exercise.

As I mentioned earlier, a proposal to relocate the market to a particular site will receive planning permission only if it meets the conditions set out above or the policies that replace them in the final form of the UDP. The application for planning permission will have to be publicised and affected stakeholders will be able to make objections. An environmental impact assessment and traffic impact assessment will also have to be carried out and will be material considerations when the decision on whether to grant planning permission is made. Indeed, in the final analysis, there is a possibility that the Secretary of State will decide to call in the application. Therefore, as I said, there may be a public inquiry.

The council will consider any site that is available or readily capable of acquisition at or close to agricultural land value.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, the noble Lord said a few minutes ago that he had very little time left. He has minus 12 minutes of time left.

Baroness Byford

My Lords, I did not think that the debate was time limited. It has come in the normal order of business. Am I wrong about that?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, it is not time limited, but we have a convention that speeches should not exceed 15 minutes.

Lord Livsey of Talgarth

My Lords, I understand and respect what the noble Lord says. If I may humbly say so, however, these are unusual circumstances for a Private Bill. I shall endeavour in the next minute and a half, or even sooner, to sum up.

This Bill is both necessary and timely. It is necessary because the livestock market cannot reasonably carry on or refurbish on its current site, and suitable sites outside the city limits cannot be considered without this Bill. The Bill is simply a paving measure to enable that to happen. It will also enable all areas of Herefordshire to benefit. Farmers from all over the county will benefit from a more accessible market. People from all over the county will benefit from the redevelopment of and new facilities in the city centre. I therefore have much pleasure in moving this Second Reading. I should like to thank the parliamentary agents and legal officers of the council for their help. I commend the Bill to the House.

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

7.5 p.m.

Lord Temple-Morris

My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Livsey of Talgarth. I say in his defence, as the result of a recent intervention, that it was important that we heard him on this matter. Perhaps other noble Lords do not quite realise that, by the council stating its case at this time and in this House, this important Bill will be facilitated generally and in another place. I therefore thank the noble Lord for his intervention. As to whether he went against a convention, as a relative new boy I know riot. However, this debate is certainly not time limited, as the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, has just said.

The noble Lord and I go back a long way. Indeed, our presence here on this particular issue occurs because for many years we were neighbouring Members of Parliament. I was grateful to hint for his kind words about Herefordshire, spoken from the depths of Wales. I sympathise with those depths because, as he well knows, I was for some years his constituent. I miss his calm hand of guidance on my parliamentary affairs, although it is nice to be in your Lordships' House with him. It will not surprise your Lordships to know that we have had a constructive joint approach to this Second Reading.

I also, incidentally, welcome the presence on the speakers' list and in the House of the noble Baroness, Lady Byford. I appreciate that her title comes from another place and another county. She may not realise it, but the name Byford applies to a particularly beautiful hamlet about 10 miles west of Hereford. I do not want to alarm her, but it is not far from a possible site of the new cattle market. We would welcome her presence.

My constituency interest in your Lordships' House is governed not only by my long period as Member of Parliament for Leominster, but also by the wishes, views and understandable concerns of my successor, Mr Bill Wiggin, now Member of Parliament for Leominster, which he would like put forward in this House. I think that those concerns should be put forward in this House because that will, as I said, facilitate the Bill. However, I shall try to make the points as succinctly as I can. No doubt Mr Bill Wiggin will be amplifying them in another place.

The purpose of this Second Reading debate mainly comes down to the fact that the Bill's ramifications are very considerable. Although it is a simple enabling Bill, as the noble Lord rightly said, it will also have very considerable consequences—some of which the noble Lord has touched on in his considerable speech. However, the purpose of this debate is certainly not to oppose the Bill. My view is that the Bill and the idea that it represents are sound. I believe that the Bill will provide a great opportunity to create a modern livestock market for the county of Herefordshire and for our neighbours in Wales and elsewhere. It is equally vital to redeveloping a large part of central Hereford, which has had some very attractive redevelopment generally in recent years. I think that the proposals really will make it a tremendous city, which in many ways it is already. I say that with some bias because it is my county town and I lived there for 21 years.

It is therefore incumbent on the council—I think that this is important, and it is why I welcomed the noble Lord's speech—to deal with the concerns that arise on the Bill as far as it can, when it can. One must not be unrealistic in pushing for too much, too soon, hut, as and when matters come up, the council has a duty to be as full as possible in its replies, explanations and assurances with regard to future action to those who are understandably concerned. I turn to those major concerns, which are the final group of points that I wish to make.

The first point—which is a local constituency interest point—is the very large financial ramifications of the proposals. As the noble Lord said, we are dealing with the redevelopment of a very large site. In fact, as he rightly said, there are two sites. There is vast potential, but also vast expense involved. Therefore, when local people say that we will have new council headquarters and offices, new police headquarters, a library, a cinema, retail outlets and a sports centre, and that the future of the local football team, Hereford United, will be assured for ever, that is all lovely and beautiful. However, I am pleased that serious work is being done by Advantage West Midlands and others. That was a plus factor that I did not know about, but it came out in the noble Lord's speech. We need the flesh to be put on those bones so far as possible, and as soon as possible. We need the necessary reassurances.

I found the noble Lord's words very helpful in terms of the general qualifications for a suitable site. Now may be too soon hut, as and when, any progress on finding a site should be reported by the council. Any previous possibilities should be excluded as soon as possible. A number of sites have got it into their minds that they could be chosen, but we are far from choosing any particular site, as the noble Lord knows.

My next point relates to existing market traders and other markets that operate within the larger confines of the Herefordshire livestock market. I particularly welcome the assurances already given that those markets will continue. Those traders can therefore continue to function in the centre of Hereford. There will be strict limitations on any traders that come on to the new site, as and when.

It is important that at Westminster and in this House we welcome local and democratic control in the matter—that the planning controls and the unitary development plan will apply. Whatever happens with regard to control of the council, the lack of one-party control of the council—I do not want to interfere with sensitivities of the moment in that regard—is an additional safeguard. The provisions cannot be whipped and forced through; they must go through with the broad consent of the council. That is the position at the moment.

This is a large scheme which has great scope and ramifications. I again thank the noble Lord for all that he said. The debate enables me to call on the council to come up with as many details of the scheme as it can, as soon as it can.

7.13 p.m.

Baroness Byford

My Lords, I, too, would like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Livsey, for introducing the Bill. It is the first time that I have ever participated in debate on a Private Bill, so I find myself needing to seek advice. When I come to pose questions, I presume that I should pose them to the noble Lord himself, and certainly not to the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, which would not be fair. It is unusual, but I shall ask questions on that basis.

My reason for taking part in the short debate stems from my concern about the closure of livestock markets over recent years. The Hereford livestock market has played an important part as a centre which sells a large number of sheep in particular, but also cattle, many of which are reared in Wales and come across the border to be fattened. Having been in Hereford earlier this year, in March, I am aware of the site and its being set in the heart of the city. I think that the noble Lord referred to a 3.5-hectare site, hut the whole site is some 100 acres in size. It is very valuable, and I can understand the financial attraction of relocating the market elsewhere and developing the site for other purposes, to many of which the noble Lord referred.

The proposals have great ramifications, and will make a difference to local people. I am sure that the noble Lord will accept that some concerns are being expressed locally. I want to put several questions to him. First, the Explanatory Memorandum states that: The location, condition and physical constraints of the existing market site off New Market Street, together with the application of modern regulatory requirements, render that site ill-suited for the purposes of the livestock market".

Was a cost analysis carried out? Was it possible to upgrade the present site to meet the new requirements?

Secondly, how much consultation has taken place and over what period? Was a public meeting held to consider the proposals? Thirdly, presumably the operators of the market, businesses and smallholders have been consulted in advance. Have there been any objections—I understand that there have—to the proposals for the market to be moved elsewhere?

Fourthly, on to which site will the market be moved? The noble Lord spoke of 46 possible sites. I find it rather odd to introduce the Bill when we do not have a site to which the market will be moved. I expect that he will respond to me on that. Is the council confident that the new site, whenever it is settled, will be a financially viable unit in the future? The noble Lord referred to the fact that fewer animals are going through livestock markets following the foot and mouth outbreak, and that obviously has longer-term implications, because there are other cattle markets in the area.

Fifthly, if the site is out of town, is the council confident that the smallholders and other agriculture-linked businesses will be content to move to the new site? Have they expressed any concerns? Sixthly, what is the current site worth? Will the money raised by the sale of the livestock market be ring-fenced to pay for a new market? It is essential that we have some direction on the future finances of the new market.

Seventhly, what research has been carried out on the long-term viability of livestock markets, bearing in mind the Government's desire to restrict animal movement to lessen the risk of disease spread? Eighthly, has the council undertaken research into the possible reduction in the number of people coming to the current market who often then spend time and money in Hereford? It is a meeting place. Has that been considered a relevant factor or is it of no consequence? Ninthly, at line 24 of page 1, subsection (8) maintains that the requirements of Section 239 of the Local Government Act 1972 have been observed. What did they include?

On page 3, Clause 4(1) states: The Council may from time to time alter the location of the markets to any place or places within the district",

but I understand that it is proposed to move the livestock market "out of town". There is no consideration of keeping the livestock market within the town, although it will obviously fall within the district.

The Bill requires the council to consult in advance before moving markets to a new site. If a new site has not been established, are we not putting the cart before the horse? Does not the new site have a bearing on the proposals? A new site could be chosen by the council, but those who use the current livestock market may not like the site or think that it will work. That seems odd.

Am I right in thinking that a Bill to move the site was proposed, but that the Government objected? I have a copy of a letter from Tony McNulty MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, dated 28th January 2003. Its last paragraph states: In my opinion the promoters have failed to undertake an adequate assessment of the compatibility of their proposals with European Convention on Human Rights in respect of clause 4(1)".

What has the council done since that letter was received to remedy that position? Have changes been made, or is in fact the same Bill being put forward today?

I am sorry that the Deputy Chief Whip was a little agitated, but the move is hugely important. Hereford is very much a focal point for Herefordshire. Having visited Wales last year and been to Hereford, and having gone hack again this year, I think that the Bill is important and I am very glad to have had the opportunity to ask the questions that I have asked tonight.

7.20 p.m.

Lord Beaumont of Whitley

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Livsey, for explaining the contents of the Bill so fully. With regard to the suggestion from the Government Front Bench, in 35 years in your Lordships' House I have never believed that your Lordships wanted the Second Reading speech of the mover of a Bill to be time limited. I hope that that is so because it would be totally wrong to do so.

In contrast to the 11 questions posed by the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, I have only one. A Bill such as this rings alarm bells with all environmentalists. We have experienced market Bills. The Hailsham market Bill presented a rather nasty deal whereby a supermarket was offering inducements to the local council to move the market in order that it could build a branch in the middle of the town. I am pleased to say that your Lordships managed to knock that Bill on the head.

I would never suspect my former noble friend Lord Livsey of being a party to such a thing. The purposes of the Bill as he has explained them, and my researches before this Second Reading debate, have led me to believe that such a suspicion would he wrong. However, perhaps in winding up he could put it firmly on the pages of Hansard that no such deal is under way and that there is no proposal to build supermarkets in the centre of the town.

I should like those assurances, but with that I give full support to the Bill.

7.22 p.m.

The Minister of State, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (Lord Rooker)

My Lords, I shall take just a couple of minutes. The noble Lord, Lord Livsey, has made this such a major debate, according to my noble friend Lord McIntosh, that I want to put a couple of things on the record. As this is a Private Bill, the Government do not speak in support or against, but their views, brief as they are, ought to be placed on the record. Following what was said by my noble friend Lord Temple-Morris, I hope that the House of Commons will not have to put aside three hours of prime debating time on the Floor just so that the Member for Leominster can make the same points as my noble friend. I consider that to be an absolute waste of parliamentary time because no one is opposing the Bill.

The Bill is simple: it frees Hereford District Council from a restriction in an antiquated charter. The Bill contains safeguards about consultation; Herefordshire cannot move markets to a location where they would infringe the rights of other markets in the district; and—this needs stating—as in any new development, the relocation of the market would be subject to the ordinary planning procedures. There is nothing in this Bill that pre-empts any planning decisions.

Finally, on the point raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, it is true that the Government initially considered that the agents' compatibility assessment of the ECHR implications of the Bill was inadequate. The Government are not required to take a view on the implications themselves. However, following further discussion with the agents, the Government are content that the assessment was adequate.

I need not go into further detail: our concerns were removed through discussions with the promoters. On 6th March, Tony McNulty made a statement to another place to that effect. I regret that that has not been transmitted to the noble Baroness and I apologise if we have forgotten. We have a bad track record of keeping noble Lords on the Front Bench informed and I apologise.

I have nothing to say about the general issues the noble Baroness raised about markets because I know from my time at MAFF, when I was dealing with animal health as opposed to welfare, that the issue of traceability is a problem. Many supermarkets buy direct from farms and are bypassing the markets. However, I understand the vitality and importance of markets for social intercourse for farmers. They can put on their best suits, meet and chat, reducing some of the isolation. That issue is not a fundamental part of the policy, but it is one of the reasons the markets are considered so important.

Like everyone else, I have visited Herefordshire many times both as a Minister and privately on holiday and I have really enjoyed it. But people tell me, "Jeff, don't tell anyone else about us because we don't want it spoilt".

7.25 p.m.

Lord Livsey of Talgarth

My Lords, I thank the Minister for those remarks. I shall refer to them in addressing the questions posed by the noble Baroness, Lady Byford. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Temple-Morris, for his warm welcome and support of the Bill. I well understand the concerns which relate to the possible site.

As the Minister said, this is an enabling Bill. It is for local democracy, as the noble Lord acknowledged, to decide with the council what will happen about the site. It is not my place today to pontificate on any particular site because that is the decision to be made by the council. He referred to the fact that the council is narrowly dependent on a great deal of cross-party support. It is likely therefore that many safeguards will be locked in, but I take on board his remarks.

I can give the noble Lord the reassurance that every market town in Herefordshire has been consulted on this matter by the council and their views have been taken into account. The local economies in those market towns should not therefore be adversely affected by the development and it will not impact on any of their markets.

I want to address in particular the questions posed by the noble Baroness, Lady Byford. I cannot respond to one of them, but I am sure that we will be able to write to her in reply. First, she asked who had been consulted. It is my duty to inform her that interest groups were consulted between October 2002 and January 2003. The groups consulted were the Meat and Livestock Commission; the Food Development Group; the six town councils to which I have referred; the market traders; the tenants; the NFU; the Tenant Farmers' Association Ltd; and the Farmers' Union of Wales. The noble Baroness asked about public meetings. There was a meeting with the NFU which 70 NFU members attended. There was not one single objector to the development of a livestock market outside the town.

The Chamber of Commerce was also consulted in relation to another question the noble Baroness raised; that is, her concern that fewer people might visit Hereford as a result of the moving of the market. The general opinion of all of those canvassed was that there would not be an adverse effect.

As regards the public, the consultants published leaflets in which they asked for responses. The public responded and their views have been taken into account. The noble Baroness then referred to concerns about the location and I repeat what I said in reply to the noble Lord, Lord Temple-Morris. It is for the council to decide what sites will be considered. As I explained during my speech, that will go through the normal processes.

As yet the cost is not known because it is the subject of the UDP, which does not complete its report until August this year. So, we do not know the details of that. The money will be ring-fenced. The noble Baroness referred to viability. That will be part of the report of DTZ Consulting, to whom I referred, which is at present conducting the consultation. Should the Bill pass through this House and another place, the general public, the farmers and rural dwellers appear to be at ease with what is proposed in principle; that is, that the livestock market be moved.

The Minister referred to the issue of Tony McNulty and I shall not repeat that. The only point I cannot answer is a complicated question. I should very much appreciate it if the noble Baroness would write to me with her question concerning various clauses and subsections of the Bill and what impact they would have. I am not able to answer the question in the time allowed, and I apologise for that.

The noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, asked a fundamental question in relation to the possibility of a supermarket being built on the old market site. The categorical answer to that is "no", that most certainly will not happen; it is not allowed. It is regarded as something which would not assist the sustainability of the area. In that respect, the fact that the other markets remain in the middle of Hereford should ensure quite a lot of market trading.

Finally, I thank the Minister and all those who have participated in the debate. I apologise if I detained the House too long. I was not given instructions about the length of time I could speak. As a relatively new Member—I came in at the same time as my noble friend—I was not clear about that. I apologise to the Minister.

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