§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
§ 9.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Dennis Hobden (Brighton, Kemptown)
The House will recall that on a previous occasion the Bill was defeated by a small majority. We make no apology for bringing it back one year later, although some critics have taken our action as being some sort of slight against a time limit, as though we in this House never discuss the same issue twice. It is the people of Brighton who have the right to feel indignant about the previous treatment of the Bill, because on two occasions, by a majority of two to one, they have indicated in town polls that they want the Measure.
When I last spoke on the subject I was soon brought to order when I mentioned what my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hector Hughes) termed the "magic" word "marina". I therefore say at once that the present Bill is consequential on the Brighton Marina Act. By that Act Brighton has permission to go ahead with the marina, so that is not the principle for which we seek the House's approval. The dividing line between the Brighton Marina Act and the present Bill may be very tenuous in parts, but I hope to remain within the rules of order.
The Act left open one very important matter. Section 41 stated:…any part of the authorised development…shall not be opened for use unless and until such additional road facilities as the Minister certifies to be required to meet those conditions have been provided to his satisfaction".In other words, adequate access roads to deal with all the traffic must be provided before the marina can be opened.
When the 1968 Measure was being discussed by a Select Committee of the House of Commons, the Chairman of that Committee said that the whole scheme should be completed without resort to any compulsory purchase powers; that is to say, the private company should not have power of compulsory purchase. Those remarks, however, related only to compulsory purchase 926 powers for the company, because later in the proceedings, when counsel for the promoters indicated by inference that the Committee would have no objection to the use of compulsory purchase if it were exercised by Brighton Corporation, the Committee agreed with that view. In other words, the private company could not have compulsory purchase powers, but the corporation could if it applied for them.
I am not permitted to deal with the recent spate of Early Day Motions, but I may say that certain criticisms made of the Bill here and elsewhere are a travesty of the facts, and show complete ignorance of Brighton. In dealing with objections and criticisms, I must make it clear that, whether or not the marina comes to Brighton, the new road system outlined in the Bill would have to come into being within about the next 10 years. As long ago as 1933, Brighton Corporation had mooted plans to deal with this problem. The local authority envisages that it will be necessary by about 1980. The Marina Act has itself made it necessary for those plans to be brought forward.
The road scheme would be carried out in three stages. The first stage would be completed as soon as possible, for it would provide the access roads to the marina. Obviously with an undertaking as vast as the marina there will be need for lorries and other vehicles to be able to approach the site with materials and not to foul up the existing traffic system in the area. At a later stage there will be provision of underpasses so that access to the site will not interfere with normal traffic on Brighton's South Coast Road, Marine Parade and Madeira Drive. The third and final stage will be carried out in about 1977 or towards the end of the building of the marina. That stage has been envisaged for many years and will provide facilities for dealing with the growth of the normal traffic of Brighton as well as the additional growth of traffic which the marina will bring.
Traffic counts in 1969 showed that there were almost 2,000 vehicles per hour on the coast road, 710 on Arundel Road, 650 on Eastern Road, 480 on Whitehawk Road and 330 on Wilson's Avenue. All those roads are affected by this Bill. Current studies suggest that within 30 years those figures will be doubled. I 927 believe that to be an underestimate, but in any case it shows a striking need for the passage of the Bill.
I shall deal with some of the criticism which has been made. I was amazed to see that the proposals were said to affect trade, industry and employment, the inference being that those matters would be affected adversely. I can hardly imagine that the Bill would be supported by the local chamber of commerce, Sussex Federation of Industries and Brighton Trades Council, with over 20,000 trade union members, if those criticisms were valid. Those organisations have stated publicly that they support the Bill. The local trades council is particularly concerned because unemployment in Brighton is above the national average and is at its highest figure since 1948. One can understand that concern. It is hoped that when the work begins over 480 will be employed on construction for about seven years and when it is completed there will be 1,000 permanent jobs on the site.
We are informed that old people's homes and nursing homes will be affected. There is not a single old persons' home in the area and only one nursing home is there. That will not be affected by the scheme. We are told that the scheme will have an adverse effect on the fire station. This is not the main fire station but a local substation. Arguments are put forward that fire engines will decant on to a traffic roundabout and that there is something wrong with that principle. Those who say that cannot know that in Brighton the main fire station's engines decant on to a roundabout on which five roads converge. In fact this has some advantages which would also apply to this area when the new roundabout is introduced. I should hardly have thought that this scheme would receive the approval of the Ministry of Transport if that were a valid reason for opposing it.
We are told that the proposals would mean increased traffic, but that is what the Bill is about—to deal with the traffic. We are trying to cure, not to cause, the complaint. Another criticism is that it will affect the local school of St. Marks. St. Marks School is to move in any case and it would not be affected in any way by the proposals in the Bill.
928 I have dealt with some criticisms based on imaginary effects. Some actual points in the Bill obviously have to be looked at, because a scheme of this kind means that there will be some movement of ordinary people and businesses. Apart from dwelling houses, which I shall deal with later, there are two garages, a bakery, a burial ground, a gas holder and a few other businesses in the area under discussion. But none of these has petitioned against the Bill and negotiations for the purchase of the business premises are going ahead reasonably and should present no difficulty. Agreement has been reached with both the Society of Friends and the Gas Board with regard to the implications of the Bill, and Clauses 30 and 32 deal with these points.
One other matter I regard as important is the power of compulsory purchase. To provide these access roads for the first phase of the scheme, it is necessary to purchase 17 dwellings in addition to the business premises I have mentioned. Nine of these 17 premises have already been purchased by the Corporation and contracts have been exchanged for six more, leaving two outstanding. Of these two, one is owner-occupied but is let on a controlled tenancy. The owner does not object to acquisition, and no difficulty is envisaged there.
The remaining property belongs to a lady who has petitioned against the Bill. The Corporation may not pay more than statute permits, that is no more than the market value of the property, which is roughly between £4,200 and £4,700. The Marina Company, on a voluntary basis, has offered £7,000 although adjoining owners have accepted £6,000 or less. Negotiations on this property are not proceeding at this stage because the owner wants the company to pay the betterment levy in addition to the selling price and legal opinion is that it is illegal to do that under the Act of Parliament which covers the matter.
It cannot be said that the owner has been harshly treated and I hope that this House will not turn down this application for compulsory purchase powers on the basis of one property for which a good offer has been made. If the House did, it would be going in the face of its own legislation on previous occasions, which decrees that local authorities may not pay more than the market value.
929 I mention finance because that is also important. The total cost of the roads is something over £1½ million of which the Marina Company will pay almost £800,000 leaving about £900,000 as the net cost to be found by the town. These are not accurate calculations but rough figures which will serve for this debate. The net cost to the town will be spent over a 10-year period and with interest and repayments on a 30-year basis will cost £1,870,000. But during that 30 years Brighton Corporation will receive in rent and rates from the Marina £5¾ million—a profit of nearly £4 million. I should not have thought that that was to be sneezed at, but if the roads are not built now almost £1½ million must be spent on the scheme in any case in 10 years' time. But the corporation would not get a penny back on that account.
It has taken seven years to get this Measure before the House since it was first presented to the Brighton Planning Committee. One could hardly describe that as a mad rush. The people of Brighton clearly want the Bill passed, and I hope I have demonstrated that there is not a single reason why it should be rejected.
In this place, politics being what they are, we are not always united as between one side and another on the issues before us. But this is an issue in which it is not necessary to have a division between the two sides of the House. In Brighton, all the parties—Labour, Liberal and Conservative—are united on the need for this Measure, because so many of us, regardless of politics, have the best interests of Brighton at heart. If there is one thing in which we believe, it is in the overriding need to improve Brightons amenities and to keep it in the forefront of the national and international scene.
Let there be no mistake about it: the Bill will have a great effect on the national and international scene and will earn for this country much valuable foreign currency. In Brighton, we are concerned, in all parties, to keep our town in the forefront, without destroying its present amenities. It is relevant to add that this scheme has the blessing of the Fine Art Commission, the Regency Society and the other local amenity organisations.
930 For all those reasons, I beg the House to give the Bill a Second Reading. It has willed the end in the Brighton Marina Act. Brighton wants it to will the means, the Brighton Corporation Bill, for the provision of the necessary roads.
§ 9.16 p.m.
§ Mr. Hector Hughes (Aberdeen, North)
My first task is to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Kemp-town (Mr. Hobden) not only on his speech tonight but on his assiduous attention to the interests of his constituents, of whom I have the honour to be one.
I say with regret that I think that my hon. Friend is wrong on this occasion, though that will not deter me from voting for him when the occasion comes. I agree with him that Brighton is worthy of a marina. We are not discussing the marina tonight; we are discussing the access roads to it. But Brighton is more than local. Brighton is national and international. It is world-famous, and frequented as the "Queen of Resorts" by foreigners as well as by Britons.
No one knows better than my hon. Friend that Kemptown is a built-up area, with classic architecture, nursing homes, hospitals, old persons' homes, schools, churches, and a protective fire brigade, none of which should be the victims of the demolition which the Bill would entail. My hon. Friend knows also the inviting alternative. Outside Kemptown and outside Black Rock, there are wide open spaces, acres of empty country asking for access roads to Ovingdean Gap, which would be one of the suitable places for a marina. If I may for a moment more mention the magic word "marina", I have already suggested that the appropriate place would be in Brighton itself, between the two piers. But I shall not stress that tonight, since it would not be strictly relevant to this subject.
The road development scheme which the Bill envisages would ruin Kemptown, that classic place with its homes, its fire brigade, and all the rest. I stress the fire brigade, for in these days of frequent fires and bombs unaccounted for, it is important that the fire brigade shall have free access to the scene of a conflagration.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I know that the hon. and learned Gentleman is not anxious to widen the discussion. I hope that he will link what he is saying to 931 the question whether we should provide for roads to the marina for which the Marina Act was passed in 1968.
§ Mr. Hughes
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I merely mentioned the fire brigade in passing because it will be handicapped by this scheme if it is built, for it would involve the fire brigade going through underground alleys and tunnels and thus being delayed in reaching the scene of a conflagration.
The plan is a bad plan, and I hope that the House will reject it for a variety of reasons, which I shall put briefly and categorically. I am not against the marina. I should love to see a marina there—but a marina worthy of the place, with access roads worthy of the place, too. There are alternatives, and that which I have suggested, between the two piers, has plenty of access roads.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. The hon. and learned Member may not discuss on this Bill alternatives to the marina for which the Marina Act was passed in 1968. We are discussing whether the marina should have the roadways to it which are envisaged in the Bill.
§ Mr. Hughes
I will do my best, Mr. Speaker, to obey your diktat, as I always do, for I have the greatest respect for your Rulings.
I oppose the Bill for reasons which I shall state categorically and briefly. It is an eccentric Bill and a devious Bill with an eccentric history. Secondly, it is the same Bill in all material respects as that which was presented to the House only 11 months ago and rejected. That Bill, like this Bill, was presented as a Brighton Corporation Bill but in fact it was produced by a private shareholders' company to exploit a marina and access roads in a dangerous rocky place.
Fourthly, that Bill was presented to Parliament last year and rejected. That, I submit, is an adequate reason why it should be rejected now. Fifthly, a strange and sinister feature of the Bill is that on the last occasion it was voted on twice. Your Deputy, Mr. Speaker, was in the Chair. After a Division had been taken, an hon. Member for the Bill rose to a so-called point of order and said that 932 he had been waiting in the Lobby to vote but that there had been no one to take his vote. Your Deputy, therefore, allowed that eccentricity to take place.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. The Chair is not responsible for the eccentricities of history. The hon. and learned Member must come to the Bill.
§ Mr. Hughes
I am merely stating the facts and history, which are on record.
That Bill was, as this Bill is, a breach of statute law, and I shall quote the statute, which is detailed, clear and precise and concerning which no mistakes could be made. In these circumstances it is not surprising, indeed it is to be expected, that those who voted against that breach of statute law included Her Majesty's Attorney-General, Her Majesty's Solicitor-General, a former Solicitor-General, their junior counsel, the Secretary of State of Scotland, and the Minister of Education, all of whom were in my view quite right in doing so, and I hope that they will do the same again tonight.
Before I go further I should like to quote, for the guidance of the House, from the 17th edition of "Erskine May" at page 871. This is what it says about Bills promoted by companies for their own profit and against the community interest:The promoters of a bill may prove beyond a doubt that their own interests will be advanced by its success and no one may complain of injury or urge any specific objection, yet, if Parliament apprehends that it will be hurtful to the community, it is rejected as if it were a public measure, or qualified by restrictive enactments not solicited by the parties.In my submission, that applies to this Bill which we are considering because the Bill is for the benefit of a company's shareholders. It is not promoted by the local authority. The character of Kemp-town with which it deals, would be changed. Old persons' homes, nursing homes, schools, the fire brigade—if I may mention it again—and other amenities would be imperilled. That is the advice that is given by that distinguished volume upon which you, Mr. Speaker, and we, rely.
I now come to a fundamental breach of statute. I have with me the Local 933 Government Act, 1933, which states in paragraph 1 of the Ninth Schedule:Where the council of a borough or urban district have deposited a bill in Parliament, notice shall be given by placards and by advertisement in one or more local newspapers circulating in the borough or district in two successive weeks stating—and then follow several paragraphs. The paragraph to which I want to direct attention is (e):that a public meeting of local government electors will be held on a day named, not being less than fourteen nor more than twenty-eight days after the first advertisement of the notice, for the purpose of considering the question of promotion of the bill.The essential word is "considering".
The meeting was held in a rather peculiar way, but there was no consideration because the chairman of the meeting announced at the beginning that no questions would be allowed. How can one consider without asking a question? If a person is asked to consider a problem, he will ask himself questions, such as "Is this right or is it wrong?" A fortiori where a meeting is asked to consider a question, surely those who attend that meeting are entitled to ask questions and get answers. In the absence of questions and answers there was no consideration. Therefore, the meeting was abortive. The Bill should not be accepted by the House on that ground.
That is one reason why I tabled my Motion No. 143, which says:That this House deprecates and rejects, as in breach of statute, the action of the Chairman of the Town Poll meeting held, in pursuance of statute, in Brighton for the purpose of considering, statutory words, the forthcoming Brighton Corporation Bill, in ruling that no questions from the floor or elsewhere would be allowed and in acting on that ruling throughout the meeting; further expresses the view that the meeting so conducted and so limited did not and could not consider, according to statute, the effect of the Bill on the people, the trade, industry, employment, safety and residential amenities of the rich and poor of Brighton or of the rival town of Kemp Town about two miles from Brighton which would result from the Bill and on the old persons homes, nursing homes, schools, protective fire brigade station and other amenities and facilities already at Kemp Town and on the resulting dangers from increased traffic, from fire and from other consequential risks, and also that the Chairman's refusal to allow answers to questions on these and other relevant dangers to life, limb and property was a breach of statute law which breach made that meeting abortive and it should be so declared by this honourable House; and fur- 934 ther recommends that any such question arising on the construction of the relevant statute should be referred to Mr. Attorney General, and that in the meantime the Bill should not be further considered by this honourable House.I have already said that it was considered by the whole House and voted on by the Law Officers, past and present, who thereby expressed their own view on that proceeding.
What should the borough council have done to bring itself within the terms of the Statute? It summoned a poll, a meeting of electors, but there was not a full meeting. Brighton and Hove have 127,000 electors, but only one-ninth of that number attended the meeting. What was wrong with the summons to the meeting? What was wrong with the announcement that a meeting of that kind was being held, when 102,107 electors stayed away from the meeting? Did the electors of Brighton have an opportunity of "considering"—that is the statutory word—the matter? In my submission they did not.
To make the matter worse, at the beginning of the meeting the chairman made a speech in which he announced that no questions would be allowed. Not only that, but no speeches were allowed. The meeting was run on speeches from the platform and the one-ninth of the population who were there had to sit down.
That meeting was a failure; it was abortive; and the Bill should not be presented to the House. There are other reasons why the Bill should be rejected, which other speakers will deal with in detail; I will not cover the whole ground myself. On all those grounds I ask the House to reject the Bill.
§ 9.35 p.m.
§ Mr. Graham Page (Crosby)
I doubt whether the House need spend much time in coming to a decision on the Bill. As the hon. Member for Brighton, Kemp-town (Mr. Hobden) said, the House approved the Brighton Marina project when it passed the 1968 Act, which gave the Brighton Marina Company certain rights to build access roads. The Brighton Corporation, very wisely, saw an opportunity for improving its own road system by an alteration of the original plans for access roads, but that alteration involved acquiring land and 935 building roads prior to requirements. For that purpose the corporation needs the authority of the House. The scheme also needs the acquisition of private property, and for that purpose too the corporation comes to the House.
The corporation came to the House last year with a Bill to acquire the property compulsorily and to build the roads ahead of requirements. There was opposition to the granting of the powers of compulsory purchase indirectly to the commercial enterprise that will contribute about £4 million to the rates. I say "indirectly" because the corporation would actually be exercising those powers. On that occasion the corporation and the company were, in effect, told by the House to go away and try to negotiate the purchase of the land by agreement and not by compulsory powers. They have negotiated the purchase of the land by agreement, except in one case.
The properties concerned are small terraced houses. The district valuers' valuation of those houses is £4,250. The company has purchased all but one of those houses at figures not exceeding £6,000 and has resold them to the corporation at the district valuer's valuation of £4,250. In the one outstanding case the petitioner against the Bill, the owner-occupier, demands £7,000 plus betterment levy. In general, I would support an owner against compulsory powers, but I do not take that support beyond all reason. I think that the corporation and the company are justified in coming back to Parliament with the Bill and asking for a final decision so that the access roads can be built, and I hope the House will give the Bill a Second Reading.
§ 9.38 p.m.
§ Mr. Robert Sheldon (Ashton-under-Lyne)
The whole House will be aware of the very close devotion of my hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Kempton (Mr. Hobden) to his constituency. He obviously has at heart the best interests of Brighton as he sees them. At the same time, the wider issues involved need to be discussed by the House. It is true that the House approved the Brighton Marina Act, and we cannot go into that question again, but it turned down the scheme for roads, and strong 936 arguments are, therefore, needed to reverse that decision.
We have a Minister who is responsible for the environment and the freedom of the foreshore, and these are matters of great concern, but are not for discussion this evening. I feel that the marina scheme is an important breach of what I consider to be absolutely crucial and that it was accepted rather too readily. I also believe that the extensive road works are a further breach of the rights of the people of this country to their own foreshore. Before this great liberty that we enjoy is further eroded, much stronger evidence than we have had needs to be put before us.
In the debate last year, the Parliamentary Secretary talked about the fairly extensive road works which would have to take place, and tonight my hon. Friend the Member for Kemptown referred to seven years of building. During the whole of this time, this area, an area of great beauty, will be in a very unfavourable situation. It will be untidy and unkempt and subject to all the kinds of road works which we elsewhere accept reluctantly, although in this case the damage will be even greater.
One point not so far mentioned is that Clause 5 says that the corporation will be allowed touse and appropriate such of the lands delineated on the deposited plans—".It is clear that some of the lands involved will be those forming part of the Under-cliff Walk. A number of people expect that the corporation will use these powers moderately and will replace the present Undercliff Walk by one as good.
Personally, I doubt it. I think that it is extremely unlikely. This is a place of relative seclusion, because one knows that if one once enters the Undercliff Walk, one goes all the way to Rotting-dean, and it is not a walk on which many people venture. But when the marina is constructed, the walk will not be the secluded place it now is. It will be crowded with people from this £15 million project. Those who enter on the walk will not be the kind of people who now enjoy it, and I doubt whether many people will summon up the inclination to start a walk in such unpropitious circumstances. Instead of being a walk in relative isolation, as now, it will be crowded.
937 In my youth, I knew this stretch along the cliff well. Admittedly, it is not what it then was, but there is still a feeling that one has only the sea and the seagulls. Although there are now houses nearby, there is an atmosphere which will be destroyed once these access roads, with their motor cars pouring into the area, are allowed.
Before we vote tonight, we should understand what kind of operation this is. Whenever a financial group teams up with a council in order to destroy or change or affect an environment that is important not only to that town but to those who visit it and enjoy it, it is not enough to say that the people of that town have—
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. Member is now drifting, I am sure unconsciously, into discussing the Marina Act, which was passed in 1968. He must address himself, as he has done for the most part of his speech, to the roads by which it is proposed to make access to the marina about which we have already enacted.
§ Mr. Sheldon
I fully accept your ruling, of course, Mr. Speaker. The point I was making was that in constructing these roads and acting together with the town council in this construction, this financial group must be open to the scrutiny of not only Brighton Town Council and the citizens of Brighton but the House of Commons and the whole of the country. We are not intruding on a private matter when we investigate it in this way. We are not intruders, but looking after the wider interests, and the wider interests demand that we vote against the Bill.
§ 9.44 p.m.
The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport (Mr. Bob Brown)
It is not my intention to detain the House for longer than it takes to make a brief intervention, and you have my assurance, Mr. Speaker, that, apart from an incidental mention of the marina, I will stick strictly to your earlier ruling.
My right hon. Friend's interest in the Bill arises from the proximity of the marina site to the principal road, A.259. The traffic generated by the proposed marina from such a development will seriously overload this road unless adequate provision can be made by way of road works for a satisfactory means of access to the site.
938 The scheme detailed in the Bill comprises a large gyratory system extending as far north as Roedean Road and giving access to the marina site. The whole system will be grade separated from the A.259. This means that the marina traffic will not interfere with the traffic using the coast road.
The new roads will be local roads; they will not be eligible for grant from the Ministry of Transport. The Bill gives Brighton Corporation the power to borrow money to construct these roads, subject to Treasury consent and Ministry of Transport approval, but the grant of loan sanction must, of course, depend upon the priority accorded to the scheme, and Brighton will certainly be given no special treatment in respect of these roadworks.
These proposals are substantially the same as those contained in the Bill debated on 17th March of last year, and, as I said then, my right hon. Friend is satisfied that the proposed road works will make adequate provision for the traffic likely to be generated by the development.
§ 9.46 p.m.
§ Mr. J. T. Price (Westhoughton)
I make no apology for again opposing the Bill. I want to keep strictly in order in the few words which I intend to offer to the House.
I oppose the Bill, not on any legalistic grounds. These have been amply deployed by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hector Hughes). Nor do I oppose it on the technical grounds put forward by the hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page). I oppose the Bill as wholeheartedly as I can, and as I have done before, on the ground that with this Measure in the hands of the Brighton Corporation the people of Brighton and of Britain will go further along the road towards destroying their environment, which I regard as one of our most treasured inheritances.
I know that tonight we cannot rehash all the old arguments, and I do not wish to, but I am astonished that at this time of day a purely commercial development, which will involve the use of a great deal of capital, by perhaps shrewd financiers who have their eyes on equally lucrative returns on that capital, should 939 invoke the aid of the Brighton Corporation as partners in this enterprise, purely for commercial ends.
The coastline of this part of the country has been despoiled to a considerable extent, and certainly to the westward end of Brighton it has gone far enough.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. That is a matter for the Marina Act, which is an Act of Parliament. As the hon. Gentleman knows, we are talking about roads. I know that he is trying to keep in order, but we are talking about roads leading to a marina which has been authorised by Act of Parliament.
§ Mr. Price
I am very much obliged to you, Mr. Speaker. I appreciate the distinction. These are roads, but without them the original limited authority given by the House—within the secreted chambers upstairs, let it be said—is ineffective. The House and the Select Committee decided that it was not competent for the private developer, employing private capital for private gain, to issue compulsory purchase orders in respect of the properties which were needed to complete the scheme, and I therefore resist the granting of these additional powers.
I hope that my hon. and learned Friend does not mind my mentioning this, but he got one matter a bit wrong. He said that when a special meeting was called at Brighton, apparently by issuing the statutory notices which have to be put out on this occasions, only one-ninth of the electorate of 127,000 attended. I am astonished at that. I think that my hon. and learned Friend has his arithmetic slightly wrong, because, even if only one-ninth of the electorate attended, more than 13,000 people would have been present, and I have never heard of a meeting at Brighton being attended by so many people, even when the most attractive speakers were there.
One usually respects local autonomy in these matters. If national issues are not involved, I should be the first to refrain from intervening in a local matter. If the people of a town want something, provided that it does not conflict with the interests of the country, I should hesitate to intervene. This is a case where the combined impact of a 940 town council which is looking for additional rateable value and trade and private developers who are looking for a return on their capital conflict with the national interest. Because there is a conflict between the national interest and the venal interests of private developers, the Bill should be resisted by this House.
Earlier, we had contributions from a number of hon. Members who had no strong feelings in the matter. I drifted into the House on that occasion and was prepared to listen dutifully and respectfully to those who knew more about the issue than I did. Tonight, having read all the propaganda sent to me by interested parties, I remain unconvinced that these powers should be given to the Brighton Corporation merely to provide a cloak for the ultimate ambitions of private interests. Therefore, I appeal to the House to reject the Bill.
§ 9.51 p.m.
§ Mr. Julian Amery (Brighton, Pavilion)
As the House will appreciate, I am a relative newcomer to this situation, having come from the dark, satanic mills of Lancashire. Since I was elected by the people of Brighton, Pavilion, I have busied myself in finding out their wishes and those of their neighbours. I have found a very broad measure of agreement about this Bill.
I have consulted the hon. Member for Brighton, Kemptown (Mr. Hobden), my hon. Friend the Member for Hove (Mr. Maddan), my predecessor, Sir William Teeling, who represented the constituency for many years, the majority and minority views on the council, and the Chamber of Commerce. In addition, I have been informed of the views of the Trade and Labour Council.
The hon. and learned Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hector Hughes) said that insufficient consideration was given to the issue. However, there was not just one town poll taken in a hurry. There were two town polls, and there was massive correspondence in the Press and general discussion everywhere. I will not say that I was inundated, but I was freely sprinkled with correspondence. Had there been any lack of proper consideration by the Council, that was a matter for the Minister, but I did not understand him to express any doubts about the procedures which had been pursued.
941 I must admit to an interest in the matter. I do not know whether all hon. Members who have spoken have done the same. I am a member of the Sussex Motor Yacht Club. It is a privilege which is accorded to most hon. Members who represent Brighton, Pavilion. I have not a yacht, with or without a motor, but I have been made a member of that club. I must confess that I am a follower of one of the country's leading yachtsmen—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. The right hon. Gentleman must not let his party loyalty drift him into discussing the marina. We are talking about the roads to the marina, not the marina.
§ Mr. Amery
I beg your pardon, Mr. Speaker. I am trying not to discuss the marina but only the approach roads. As the House will be aware, the establishment of the marina depends not only on access from the sea but on the ability of yachtsmen to approach from the land and to board their boats in the proposed site.
Let me say a word about the opposition to the Bill which we are promoting, a Bill which is consequential upon the Marina Act, as my hon. Friend the Member for Kemptown has explained. There are two petitioners remaining against the Bill and I am advised by the Corporation of Brighton that one of them has already withdrawn, in effect, his petition, although the technical moment of withdrawal would come only in the Committee stage of the Bill.
There is one petition outstanding from a Mrs. Pay Nash. "Nash" has a regency ring; "Pay" has, perhaps, a rather procedural ring as we are discussing today. Mrs. Pay Nash has asked to have the betterment levy paid by the corporation or by the company as well as the price of the house. I can tell the House that the corporation would have been delighted to do this, except that we are advised by counsel that it is illegal for the corporation to do it.
§ Mr. Hector Hughes
On a point of order. The speech to which we are listening, Mr. Speaker, seems to be a mass of ex-relatione conversations. Is that in order. What evidence has the right hon. Gentleman to offer that those conversations are being accurately reported by him?
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. and learned Gentleman has called my attention to part of the speech which he finds uninteresting or narratives of conversation I cannot rule on that.
§ Mr. Amery
Where the business interests are concerned I understand that no objections have been raised and that if there is any disagreement about the compensation to be paid, there is agreement to submit the matter to arbitration. The Society of Friends and the Gas Board have also reached, I understand, broad agreement with the Corporation and the Regency Society, whose objections I was most interested to investigate, has withdrawn its objections and takes no position against the Bill at the present time.
Therefore, why do we bother the House about the Bill? We would gladly have avoided doing so except that we have been advised by counsel that we had to do it principally because the new road which is to be created will, for a period of a year or two, be an access road for construction purposes and not a public highway. This is the only reason why we have to bother the House. Otherwise, the hon. and learned Member for Aberdeen, North might have slapped an injunction against us.
There is no question of nursing homes or old people's homes being upset or disturbed by this matter. The hon. and learned Gentleman referred to them, but I have had assurances from the corporation today that there is no disturbance where they are concerned.
We have had—and I appreciate, accept and understand it—objections from vested property interests, those who have houses overlooking this fine view. The hon. and learned Member for Aberdeen, South,—
§ Mr. Hughes
The right hon. Gentleman is making fun about my constituency. May I venture to point out that when he described himself as the Member of Parliament for Brighton, he was wrong. He is the Member for the Pavilion Division of Brighton.
§ Mr. Amery
I stand corrected and accept the hon. and learned Gentleman's argument.
What I would say is that Brighton, with its Regency traditions grave and gay, wants to see the Bill passed. The Council has spoken. There have been two town polls. Parliament has passed the Marina Act—
§ It being Ten o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.
That the Proceedings on the Brighton Corporation Bill set down for consideration at Seven o'clock this evening by direction of the Chairman of Ways and Means be entered upon and proceeded with at this day's Sitting at any hour, though opposed.—[Mr. Dobson.]
§ Question again proposed, That the Bill be now read a Second time.944
§ Mr. Amery
The council has expressed its view. The people of Brighton have spoken. Parliament has approved the Marina Act to which this Bill is consequential. Let us, therefore, not hesitate to give effect to a decision which has only one purpose, and that is to give effect to the will of the people of Brighton.
§ Question put, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
§ The House proceeded to a Division.
§ The Tellers having come to the Table—
§ Mr. Speaker
For the benefit of the House, the procedure is that when a Vote has been called Mr. Speaker asks for Tellers. I had announced the Tellers in the names of Mr. Hobden and Mr. Maddan for the Ayes and Mr. J. T. Price and Mr. Arthur Davidson for the Noes. I see some Members at the Table telling the Votes who were not the official Tellers I named.
I must, therefore, now put the Question again.
§ Question put, That the Bill be now read a Second time:—
§ The House proceeded to a Division—
§ Mr. HOBDEN and Mr. MADDAN were appointed Tellers for the Ayes, but no Member being willing to act as Teller for the Noes, Mr. SPEAKER declared that the Ayes had it.
§ Bill accordingly read a Second time, and committed.