HC Deb 01 February 1990 vol 166 cc521-8 9.18 pm
Mr. Squire

I beg to move amendment No. 1, in page 2, line 13, leave out '80' and insert '50'.

The first thing that I want to bring to the attention of the House is self-evident: that amendments can be moved to private legislation. It may be that some hon. Members were under the impression that it was not so. In recent weeks there has been considerable discussion about this matter in the context of other measures. As my hon. Friend the Member for Upminster (Sir N. Bonsor) said, it is open to the House on Report to amend what was done in Committee. I stress that hon. Members are not bound by the Bill.

This is a very important amendment. It seeks to reduce from 80 to 50 the number of pitches for which the Bill provides. In a sense, it is a probing amendment. As I was not privy to the Committee's detailed discussions, I have no way of knowing how the figure of 80 was arrived at. Perhaps it was estimated that the total yield from a site of 80 pitches would justify the existence of the market.

Is it perhaps that and a little bit more, which is my own view? Is it considerably more than would be reasonable? Is it perhaps—we had some discussion on this in our previous debate—related to the market traders or to the market owners? Does it emerge from a minimum range of different types of stall? The Bill simply states that there shall be 80 sites, but we have no idea of the mix of those stalls.

Many hon. Members will have markets in their constituencies and will recognise that there is a considerable difference between a market that may be 90 per cent. food and the impact that that has on existing shops or, as in this case, on an existing market, and a market that is more evenly distributed between different types of stall. We do not know the answer in this case. We must guess. What we know is that this is a precedent. As has been said, it is doing what the House and successive Governments for nearly 100 years have refused to do—that is, to change the charter under which markets operate.

That is why 80 looks a large number to me. We are creating a precedent and we should be going more gently. I do not know the size of markets elsewhere. I have no evidence on that and invite hon. Members who have markets in their constituencies to intervene and to give me their view, because I am not sure. We know the size of the Romford market—it has 300 pitches—but at this stage we know nothing more than that 80 is the number that the Bill requires.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)

There are markets and markets. They are all over the place. There is one called the Common Market, and the hon. Gentleman supports that. He comes here, pottering about and wanting to stop this market because it affects his constituents, yet the Common Market has affected more of his constituents than the Bill ever will. I am here to listen to what the hon. Gentleman has to say and because I am interested in street traders. Indeed, I dealt with that matter the other week on a private Member's Bill. The London Local Authorities Bill will affect the hon. Gentleman's market as well. It will result in the traders in his market being picked up by local government officials, especially if it is a Tory authority—is it a Tory authority?

Mr. Squire

Most of the authorities in the south-east are Tory.

Mr. Peter Snape (West Bromwich, East)

Just say yes.

Mr. Skinner

Well, if that is the case, the hon. Gentleman's traders will be treated just like Lady Porter is treating the Westminster street traders, not a hop, step or a jump from here—

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Paul Dean)

Order. The hon. Gentleman is making an intervention, which is already long. He is trying to tempt the hon. Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Squire) to talk about different markets. I am sure that he will not do that.

Mr. Skinner

I am trying to draw a parallel between the London Local Authorities Bill which dealt with 32 London authorities including this area, but not the City of London. That means that the hon. Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Squire) has a problem not only with this Bill, but one over and above it, and because of the Bill that went through the House the other week. I think that you were in the Chair, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for at least part of that debate, so you know the problem. I am simply saying that the hon. Gentleman wants to be absolutely clear because he has a double-edged problem. He should concentrate on that in the next few minutes—or more.

Mr. Squire

I am enormously grateful to the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) who has, indeed, given me a major and double-edged problem. I seek some support across the Chamber and I sense that a semblance of support is growing. If I were to be distracted—as you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, quite rightly say that I should not be—into considering matters relating to another market, clearly I might lose that support as well as antagonising you and that would be double bad news for me.

The hon. Member for Bolsover originally asked me about markets and mentioned what we might term a very common market. I am talking about a very uncommon market because, as the earlier debate showed, we are talking about something that breaks a precedent of over 100 years. Almost half of the right hon. and hon. Members in the House have at least one market town in their constituencies and-or an open market. They must be aware that the provisions of the Bill, which affect only the London boroughs of Redbridge and Havering, could easily be taken to affect every market in the country.

To return to the number of stalls, which is the subject of the amendment, I do not know what the mix of market stalls will be. Nobody knows. All that we know is that the market will be open six days a week and will have 80 pitches. That is an awful lot of trading. Without knowing the impact that the market will have, should we not proceed more cautiously? The amendment that I and my hon. Friend the Member for Upminster (Sir N. Bonsor) have tabled would allow 50 pitches. That would be a more reasonable number. It would still allow a range of goods, food and whatever else the market will specialise in to be sold.

If we are now agreed on the compensation terms, presumably it would cost less in compensation to have 50 pitches, if, as I am led to believe, the market will be profitable. I and several other people who have examined the Bill consider that 80 pitches is excessive. I do not wish to delay the House too long. I suggest that the Bill be amended and the number of pitches reduced to 50.

Mr. Thorne

The figure of 80 was put before the Opposed Private Bill Committee. In its wisdom it decided that that was the right figure. My hon. Friend is entitled to his view, but I am afraid that that was not the view of the Committee. It will be perfectly possible to object to the figure if the Bill proceeds to another place, where it will also be examined by a Committee. The Committee of this House believed that the figure of 80 was right. I believe that was the correct decision.

Mr. Squire

The House deserves a little more explanation of how the figure was arrived at. I can only put some of the questions about it. It is important that the House is aware of the reasoning behind the decision of the Committee. We should not simply accept it.

Mr. Thorne

The figure of 80 was arrived at in the same way as the figure of 600 was arrived at for Romford. It was decided to have 600 pitches at Romford because that was the number of stalls that could be fitted into the market when the cattle market was taken away. The figure of 80 at Redbridge is the number of stalls that can be fitted on to the site that I described previously.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 19, Noes 44.

Division No. 64] [9.27 pm
Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE) Nellist, Dave
Beith, A. J. Neubert, Michael
Colvin, Michael Pike, Peter L.

Cryer, Bob Powell, Ray (Ogmore)
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli) Spearing, Nigel
Evans, John (St Helens N) Wareing, Robert N.

Golding, Mrs Llin Wells, Bowen
Gregory, Conal
Haynes, Frank Tellers for the Ayes:
Irvine, Michael Mr. Robin Squire and
McKay, Allen (Barnsley West) Mr. Dennis Skinner
Meale, Alan
Amess, David Janman, Tim
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Kilfedder, James
Baker. Nicholas (Dorset N) King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield)
Bendall, Vivian Lawrence, Ivan
Boswell, Tim Maclean, David
Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's) Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick
Browne, John (Winchester) Nicholls, Patrick
Carlile, Alex (Mont'g) Page, Richard
Carlisle, John, (Luton N) Paice, James
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Chapman, Sydney Summerson, Hugo
Coombs, Simon (Swindon) Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Cormack, Patrick Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)
Durant, Tony Thompson, D. (Calder Valley)
Fearn, Ronald Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Field, Barry (Isle of Wight) Thorne, Neil
Fookes, Dame Janet Thurnham, Peter
Forth, Eric Widdecombe, Ann
Fox, Sir Marcus Wilshire, David
Garel-Jones, Tristan Wood, Timothy
Hague, William
Harris, David Tellers for the Noes:
Hawkins, Christopher Mr Nicholas Bennett and
Jack, Michael Mr. James Arbuthnot.

Question accordingly negatived.

Mr. Squire

I beg to move amendment No. 2, in page 2, leave out lines 17 and 18 and insert— '(2) A market established under this section may be held on such days of the week as the Council may determine, including Sunday.'

Mr. Deputy Speaker

With this we shall discuss the following amendments: No. 3, in page 2, line 18, at end insert `save that the market shall not be held on more than two days a week'. No. 4, in page 2, line 18, at end insert 'save that the market shall not be held on more than one day a week'.

Mr. Squire

I feel rather like a one-man band because of the unavoidable departure of my hon. Friend the Member for Upminster (Sir N. Bonsor)—who began our opposition to the Bill in such a distinguished manner—and the continuing required silence of my hon. Friend the Member for Romford (Mr. Neubert) because he is a member of the Treasury Bench.

I remind the House and any new arrivals that the markets in Havering impose a duty upon me, as a residual Member for Havering, to put the arguments. These key amendments are intended to determine precisely on how many and on which days of the week the proposed new market in Redbridge will open.

Mr. Skinner

Thursday is no good.

Mr. Squire

Is the hon. Gentleman basing his remark on attendance in this House on a Thursday?

Mr. Skinner

The hon. Gentleman is talking about markets being profitable. If he compares attendance at the markets on a Thursday with attendance in this House on a Thursday, it is obvious that Thursday is not the day to have a market. The hon. Gentleman referred to the hon. Member for Upminster (Sir N. Bonsor) who opposed the Bill. He has gone. The hon. Gentleman then mentioned somebody else who has also pottered off. He said that the hon. Member for Romford (Mr. Neubert) could not speak because he is a Minister. It is just like Fred Karno's army. All the troops have left the hon. Gentleman. I could mention someone else, but I will not.

What kind of outfit does the hon. Gentleman have? If he is going to carry on he must get his troops together. We have got our people. The hon. Gentleman has lost his little army. They have probably gone to the market and are setting up stalls. The hon. Gentleman thinks that he is opposing the Bill, but his troops could be playing a double hand. They could be putting up stalls ready for a Friday market. He cannot trust people in this place because there is all sorts of moonlighting. I would not put it past Tory Members to be making money on the side in that market. The hon. Gentleman should investigate that.

Mr. Squire

I am enormously grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his suggestions. However, in all fairness I must point out that my hon. Friend the Member for Romford is not missing. He is present, but the rules of the House deny him the opportunity to contribute to the debate.

Mr. Alan Meale (Mansfield)


Mr. Squire

That is a separate point about the legislature.

I confess immediately that one of the difficulties of having been in this place for only just over 10 years is that I have never taken part in the sort of activities for which the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) has become a household name. However, I am learning.

Mr. Bob Cryer (Bradford, South)

My hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) makes a serious point. There are a number of absentees from the Chamber tonight. I want an assurance from the hon. Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Squire) that the right hon. Member for Blaby (Mr. Lawson) is not already setting up a stall in Redbridge market and making another £200,000 per year. I feel sure that many right hon. and hon. Members in all parts of the House would regard it as an outrage for a right hon. Member to receive a salary of £26,000 a year after a 10 per cent. pay increase, and another £200,000 by moonlighting, when ambulance men cannot get a 10 per cent. pay rise.

9.45 pm
Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Squire) said that he was learning, and he should not be seduced from moving his amendment.

Mr. Squire

I did not realise, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that the hon. Gentleman's intervention was going that way. I shall not comment on it.

The hon. Member for Bolsover also spoke of absent right hon. and hon. Members. If one adds together the votes in the last Division, they amount to a large figure. Perhaps it would be invidious to inquire why a large number of right hon. and hon. Members are not in the Chamber.

Amendment No. 2 tackles head-on why Redbridge market should not open on Sunday. In the proceedings of the past hour or two, I have detected a certain flavour or—

Mr. Cryer


Mr. Squire

Nuance is a good word. There has been a certain free market approach from some of my hon. Friends in particular, who implied that the Bill's purpose is to do away with cobwebbed, dusty, outmoded and outdated legislation—yet they stop short of incorporating in the legislation the very provision that would reflect their belief in a totally free and unregulated market. I refer to the market's right to open on Sunday.

We should probe behind the Bill to establish why the market will not do so. Some Opposition Members may hold strong views about Sunday trading, and may have expressed them on previous occasions. However, even they might agree that legislation that purports to be a free market, one-off measure should include the right of the market to open on Sunday—when it would not compete with the one at Romford, and which would allow people to buy all the things that they want on Sunday.

Presumably the market's traders and operators want it to be successful and profitable. Instead of being open for only six days a week, it could be open for seven. Alternatively, the six days could include Sunday, so that the number of days stipulated in the Bill would remain unchanged. Either way, profitability would be increased.

Mr. Meale

The real reason is that had Sunday opening been included in the Bill, there is little likelihood that the Government would have supported it. Another reason is the risk of provoking a revolt on the Conservative Benches because of the church and shop lobbies.

Perhaps another reason is that the Government, having got themselves in such a turmoil over the ambulance dispute, which has caused such disquiet among the public—most of whom are totally against the attitude adopted by the Secretary of State for Health—and having created so much furore after giving a heck of a lot of money to their friends in the City, and in respect of many other industrial matters—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I cannot relate the hon. Gentleman's remarks in any way to the amendment.

Mr. Squire

You can rest assured that I shall resist the temptation to respond to that, Mr. Deputy Speaker. However, at the start of his intervention the hon. Gentleman made a very good point when he referred to what happened a few years ago when the House last had the opportunity to discuss Sunday trading. It is arguable that since then a number of hon. Members on both sides of the House might have changed their minds. In a number of local authorities the key point has been whether people who break the law on Sunday trading should be prosecuted.

Mr. Meale

To return to the point about Sunday trading, the Sunday Sports Bill attempted to change the legislation to legalise sporting activities on Sundays. That failed abysmally because hon. Members on both sides of the House argued and campaigned against it. The promoters of the Bill and the Government were worried about that happening again.

Mr. Squire

The hon. Gentleman helps the discussion on the amendment.

The argument on Sunday trading may have shifted substantially. Many local authorities complain because they do not know what the law is at present. They want clarification and they are not getting it. Many of us are being contacted by constituents either saying that they want the opportunity to go shopping on Sunday and buy a three-piece lawnmower or whatever, or asking why the council is not enforcing the law and saying that it is wrong that shops should be open.

Tonight we have one of the first opportunities for a long time to discuss Sunday trading in the context of this private Bill. I have already said that I believe that the private Bill procedure is inadequate and should not be used for such legislation, but the House has already voted that it should. I disagree with that, but since we have it, it is only right and proper that we should explore whether Sunday trading has become more popular with hon. Members.

Mr. Harry Barnes (Derbyshire, North-East)

I am in two minds about the amendment. I do not know whether to support it or to oppose it. What is the attitude of the people in Redbridge? Has there been a survey of the churches and the shops or any general consultation? Can the hon. Gentleman inform us about that so that we can make up our minds?

Mr. Squire

The hon. Gentleman asks a very good question. I can give him only half an answer, but it is germane to the amendment. Havering is next to Redbridge and they have similar-minded people. Opinions may have changed, but when Sunday trading was being considered, many people wrote to me saying that they wanted the law to be changed. They were disappointed that time. It may be different in the hon. Gentleman's constituency as I cannot speak for that area. Nor can I speak for Redbridge as my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, South (Mr. Thorne) will undoubtedly do when he returns and I hope he will address that point. My knowledge of Ilford is only a fraction of that of my hon. Friend as he has been a distinguished Member of Parliament for 10 years or more. I am sure that an awful lot of people in Ilford like going out on Sundays and would shop if they could. An awful lot of people would trade on Sundays if they could. That is one reason why I tabled the amendment.

I do not want to talk only about Sunday trading. The key point that has been made against the Bill, other than the objection in principle to the legislation being used to change the law, is the impact that it will have on the existing Romford market. Nobody could possibly know what the impact will be. All we know is that the more the new market is allowed to trade in Redbridge, the more impact, logically, that will have on existing businesses.

Mr. Meale

It will have an undoubted effect. The argument has been put in many circles, particularly in local authority circles, that perhaps a one-day market can positively encourage trade. But if it is over a period of six days—and we are talking about 480 units—that will undoubtedly have a major effect on the shopkeepers surrounding this major new marketing operation.

Mr. Squire

I am grateful for the support of the hon. Member, who makes his point well.

In our early discussions this evening we touched several times on the compensation and the way in which it had been changed. No one can deny that it has been improved. When the Bill was introduced the compensation was disgraceful and totally inadequate. It has now been amended, and that is welcomed, but only relative to what it was before. The underlying aim of the legislation remains—to prevent the existing market in Romford, which is identical to the 287 other markets throughout the country in constituencies represented by right hon. and hon. Members, from being as successful in the future as it has been in the past. There is no argument about that.

Mr. Pike

The hon. Gentleman says that the compensation is now acceptable. I remind him that in the earlier debate it was indicated that the compensation would be paid by the people who ran the market. As the people who run the market fix the rent at a certain level for stallholders, they very much influence that profit figure. So the compensation is completely in their control and may not be realistic compensation at all.

Mr. Squire

That is one of the key points.

Of course, I could say that people in Romford welcome the compensation, and that would be the end of it. But I am arguing for a reduction in the number of days that they will trade which, logically, would lead to a reduction in the compensation. It is a measure of the concern felt by Romford and Havering that I should be saying that, although the compensation will not be sufficient, none the less we wish to see the activities of this new non-charter market, created only by legislation of this Chamber, restricted to a fewer number of days.

I have an open mind as to whether it should be one day or two days and I thought it only right that I put down more than one amendment—indeed, they have wisely been grouped together—because this would, in theory at least, give hon. Members on both sides of the House the opportunity to say which they thought was the better. Both are significant cuts in the six days presently included in the Bill.

Mr. Skinner

The hon. Gentleman should also consider what will happen in the area where the market is situated when it is not operating. On different days during the week different activities can take place. The mind boggles at the extent to which—

Mr. Nigel Spearing (Newham, South)

They could sell shares.

Mr. Skinner

My hon. Friend says that they could sell shares. They could be like yuppie street traders. The area could be a car park. Football could be played on it. If the hon. Gentleman considers the matter he might find that there are possibilities for large groups of his constituents and other people's constituents to engage in all sorts of leisure activities on that area. If he is a bit unsure of his ground, he should think in terms of what could happen on the market place when it is not being used for a market.

Mr. Squire

Not for the first time, I am indebted to the hon. Member for Bolsover. I promise not to release that in Bolsover, if he promises not to do so in Hornchurch. He rightly said that Redbridge should be more imaginative about the site.

Mr. Meale

Will the hon. Gentleman enlighten me about compensation? The Government are pushing for the privatisation of local government management services. What will happen if the management services are privatised—

It being Ten o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.

Further consideration adjourned till Thursday 8 February—[The Chairman of Ways and Means.]

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