§ 3.27 p.m.
§ Lord Hooson
My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a third time. Your Lordships may recollect that on Thursday 25th February of this year, when this Bill was before your Lordships for its Second Reading, I explained that the two main purposes of the Bill were contained, first, in Part II: to authorise the construction of a bridge over the River Severn with approach roads on either side to give access to the proposed multi-storey car park in the Borough of Shrewsbury and Atcham; and secondly, in Part III, to protect the old market square in the centre of that borough.
Your Lordships then instructed the committee in the following terms—I quote from the Instruction in paragraph 3 of the Select Committee's report:That it be an Instruction to the Committee to whom the Bill is committed:—The Select Committee, under the chairmanship of the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, sat for no less than six days, hearing evidence in this matter. I think everyone who has read the report and the evidence will agree that it was a long and a fair hearing. I now quote from Paragraph 14 of the committee's special report:
- (a) that they should not allow Part II (Lands and Works) unless they are satisfied:—
- (i) that the need for these provisions outweighs their detrimental effect on the Shrewsbury Town Football Club:
- (ii) that the works will be carried out without undue delay:and
- (b)that they should not allow Clause 4(3) or Clause 9 of Part II unless the Promoters of the Bill show special need for these provisions.".The Committee heard evidence on all these points"—that is, arguments were recited both for and against—from witnesses both for the Promoters and for the Petitioners. They have concluded that the detrimental effect on the Football Club is not sufficient to require them to delete Part II of the Bill".The committee then goes on to deal with safeguards. I should like to adopt the words used by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, in 1973 on the British Transport Docks (Hull Docks) Bill. I quote from Hansard:Now it occurs to me that there is little purpose in your Lordships sending a Bill to a Select Committee and not having trust in that Committee to do that Committee's business, and with the full intention as declared perhaps at Second Reading, that notwithstanding what a Select Committee may do, we will raise the matter again at Third Reading.Some of these Select Committees are a little arduous. This one was not very arduous: it meant three days of close attention with an extra half hour on the second day. If Select Committees are going to do this work on behalf of the House, I think it would be in the better interests of the House to accept their recommendation, unless there are very momentous, pressing reasons why it should not".— [Official Report, 24/7/73: cols. 1790–1791.]Bearing in mind that that quotation reflects the tradition of this House, I was a little surprised to see the amendment tabled in the name of the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, unless, as I anticipated, it was simply a courteous indication that he was not happy with some aspect of the matter but was not going to press it to a Division. Here we have a report that is, first, unanimous and, secondly, no momentous reasons are known to me in this matter. It is politically non-controversial. It is of some interest to note that on the 264 borough council 45 of the 48 members were entirely in favour of the scheme, and they cover the whole political ambit as reflected in Shrewsbury—that is, the four main political parties were in favour of the Bill.
On Second Reading your Lordships heard most eloquent speeches on behalf of the football club. They have now been examined in detail on either side, and perhaps it is right that we should reflect on the matter. It is one thing to make a statement in your Lordships' House; it is another thing to sustain that statement, as it were, in cross-examination before a Select Committee.
It might be of some interest to distinguish between the supporters of the Shrewsbury Club and the shareholders, because there is a distinction. The supporters of the Shrewsbury Club are largely electors of the Borough of Shrewsbury, and the promoters of this Bill have to answer to those electors. The shareholders may be entirely different. On the fifth day of the hearing before the Select Committee, one of the directors gave evidence. He was cross-examined, but I shall not trouble your Lordships with the cross-examination, which was extremely illuminating. Suffice it to say that he was a shareholder who owned 50 per cent. of the interest in the club. Therefore, a shareholder who holds 50 per cent. of the interest may have different interests from those of the supporters.
However, the committee commented in the following restrained terms, as one would expect of one of your Lordships' committees. At paragraph 15 they said:There is one other matter to which the Committee feel the attention of the House should be drawn. It is that, during the last three years, the Petitioners themselves have been interested in the development of their practice ground which would have provided not only car-parking, but also a super-store and a sports hall. Access to this development would have been through the Club's property to the cast of the Football ground. While the Committee of course see no reason why the Football Club should not have examined ways of developing their own land, they consider that it puts in perspective some of the Club's complaints and fears about the damage that the Borough Council's scheme will do to their facilities".That was, if one reads the cross-examination, a very restrained comment, but it is a sufficient indication of the view of the committee.
I do not want to recapitulate what I said on Second Reading. However, one finds in the Bill—and this is the advantage of the procedure before your Lordship's House by way of Select Committee—that there are safeguarding clauses. Indeed, there is a long safeguarding clause with many subsections in favour of the football club. There are also many safeguarding clauses in favour of the county council. Your Lordships will remember that, when the Bill was here for Second Reading, the county council were also petitioners against the Bill. I foreshadowed then that an agreement and an accommodation would soon be reached with the county council. So it was, and the petition of the county council was not proceeded with. But there is a safeguarding clause in the Bill in favour of the county council and there are safeguarding clauses to protect other interested parties.
I simply want to quote one of the safeguards for the football club—and I quote from Clause 15 of the Bill.
§ Lord Beswick
My Lords. I wonder whether the noble Lord will allow me to interrupt him before he 265 goes on to another point? As he has made a strong point of the fact that the county council are now satisfied, will the noble Lord tell me why, at the meeting of their Planning and Transport Committee on 10th October, they refused to accept the proposal that the car park should be sited at the Guildhall site and said that the matter should be left open for further discussion?
§ Lord Hooson
My Lords, as regards the county council wishing to pursue their objections, I point out that they put in a petition, they reached an accommodation with the promoters and the petition was withdrawn. The petition was never in fact before the Select Committee: the matter had been agreed and settled prior to that. No doubt there are matters of detail which the county council will want to clear up.
§ Lord Beswick
My Lords, will the noble Lord allow me to raise one further point? While it is open to the county council—
§ Lord Beswick
My Lords, I was proposing to ask a question so that I am in full possession of the facts when I make my speech. Will the noble Lord be good enough to tell my why, although the county council had this opportunity by legislative process, by petition here, they preferred to rest upon the powers of the Highways Act 1980?
§ Lord Hooson
My Lords, if the noble Lord would only be patient I will come to that matter. I explained it on Second Reading; and I only hope that the noble Lord's interventions will at least shorten his own contribution later on.
I was adverting to the fact that at Clause 15(11) there appears one of the safeguards put in by the Select Committee:The Council shall use their best endeavours to acquire from the British Railways Board for transfer to the Club on terms no less advantageous than those on which it is acquired from the board so much of the land of that board which lies between the north boundary of the Gay Meadow ground"—"Gay Meadow ground" is the Shrewsbury football ground's name; I think that, there, "gay" is to be used in its traditional sense and not in its modern connotation—the river and the railway viaduct of the board upon the eastern bank of the river except so much of that land as is required for the provision by the Council of a riverside walk of approximately 10 metres in width".The promoters have in fact been using their best endeavours with the Railways Board. The Railways Board, in a matter of negotiation, do not exactly move with the speed of their 125 m.p.h. trains. On the other hand, they have clearly indicated that they are going to make the land available to the football club although they will not sell it. That is their present state of mind. They are willing to lease it but not to sell it, although the promoters are pressing them to come to an agreement with the football club to sell it.
I now turn to the matter about which the noble Lord interrupted me; namely, the question why the 266 promoters did not leave it to the county council to develop this matter under their powers contained in Section 28 of the Road Traffic Act 1967 and the Highways Act 1980. I adumbrated the reasons during Second Reading, but I shall repeat them as quite obviously the noble Lord certainly heard them but did not appreciate them. The county council did not wish to proceed with the scheme. They are responsible for the county. Shrewsbury is but a part of the county, and it has to compete for priorities with other towns in the county. The matters that are dealt with in this Bill alone will cost £1¼ million. The car park will cost £4 million. The county council will be making its own contributions towards highways which are going to connect up the scheme. Therefore, in all we are dealing with a £6 million scheme and far less than £1 million of this will fall upon the ratepayers of Salop County.
The second reason is that the promoters did not wish this road to be a public highway. Of course, it will be used most of the time by the public. On the other hand, crowd control is a matter to which the football club themselves gave a great deal of argument. It is so much easier to assist the police with crowd control if this is a private road which, on occasion, can be closed and controlled, and is not subject to the normal rights of passage which exist over a public highway. That is a great benefit.
Thirdly, your Lordships will appreciate that this is a bridge over the Severn and an access road to a particular development. It is very difficult to persuade a county council which has many responsibilities covering a large county like Salop to earmark money, particularly in these difficult times, to a specific scheme of this kind. Therefore, it was entirely right that the procedure to be adopted by the promoters should be a Private Bill in your Lordships' House.
Your Lordships will appreciate, as I said on Second Reading, that there are really two constraints on development in Shrewsbury. One is a geographic constraint. It is a town; in Housman's words, "islanded by the Severn"—the loop of the Severn encompasses the old mediaeval town of Shrewsbury. The access to Shrewsbury today is exactly as it was in the 13th century. There is the Welsh bridge to the west, the English bridge to the east and that narrow isthmus to the north by which access can be obtained. One toll footbridge has been built since those days. That was the access in mediaeval times and it is the same access today. Therefore, there are very severe geographical constraints.
Secondly, there is a historical constraint. This is one of the oldest towns in England. No less than 84 per cent. of the buildings within the loop of Shrewsbury are listed for historic or architectural interest. With the possible exception of Bath—and I do not even know whether Bath is an exception—I do not think that there is one town in the United Kingdom that has 84 per cent. of its buildings listed in this way. Therefore, your Lordships can appreciate how important it is to the burgesses of Shrewsbury that Shrewsbury should, first, not lose out to its powerful neighbours—such as Telford, which is a new town—in its role of Queen of Salop, in its commercial and shopping role and, as the usurping queen, in the shopping role as regards mid-Wales.
267 This is a very important town. So how is it to be developed? In accord with its great tradition and yet with all possible advantage being taken of modern development. It is a very acute problem and one that is rightly dealt with by a Bill before your Lordships' House.
I would conclude by saying that the promoters have had discusssions with many bodies and I believe the Select Committee saw that they had gone into great detail and were, as it were, quite prepared to meet the legitimate aspirations and the legitimate criticisms of affected bodies. But, after all—and a Welshman can say this, can he not?—this town is one of the jewels of England. It really is. You have finer black and white houses in this town, together with medieval houses, than can be found in almost any other town in England.
The burgesses of this borough are tremendously concerned about their town. They, themselves, are providing the money for this development. It does not fall on the ratepayers of Shropshire. A great deal of the money is to come from private enterprise. I should like to quote from an article published in the Shropshire Star of Wednesday, 17th November, 1982. Under the heading:We'll help with car park, say town's traders".It says:Shrewsbury businessmen, convinced that the only real answer to the town's traffic problems lies in the long awaited new multi-storey car park, have made a revolutionary proposal to finance preparatory work themselves.I should have thought that this would accord with the best traditions of this House. Granting this very much needed Bill, which will bring employment to Shrewsbury, will result in re-establishing, or in assisting to re-establish, Shrewsbury as the great commercial, administrative and shopping centre that it has been for centuries, and at the same time will safeguard its great traditions. I beg to move that this Bill be now read a third time.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read a third time.—(Lord Hooson.)
§ 3.45 p.m.
§ The Earl of Kinnoull rose to move, as an amendment to the Motion that the Bill be now read a third time, to leave out ("now") and at the end insert ("this day six months").
§ The noble Earl said: My Lords, following that lucid introduction, as one would expect from the noble Lord, Lord Hooson, it was not lightly that I felt compelled to put down this amendment to express very serious misgivings as to the wisdom of allowing this Private Bill a passage through this House. I recognise that it is the rightful custom of the House normally to accept the recommendations of a Select Committee following their detailed examination of a Private Bill, and I am mindful of that. Indeed, I am mindful of the possible gentle chastising that I may receive from the Chairman of Committees later on as well as of the baleful glare from my noble friend on the Front Bench. However, I would say to both noble Lords that if I have sinned, at least I shall be brief.268
There are, of course, precedents for moving such an amendment and I think that a good parallel is perhaps what happened in 1968 when the late Lord Mitchison, of whom we have fond memories, moved an amendment to the Brighton Marina Bill in similar vein to the present amendment. At that time he recalled the "Salisbury dictum"—not the dictum of the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, but the Salisbury dictum—in which the question was posed:
Have the House any interest or discretion once the Select Committee has reported on a Private Bill?".
§ The answer was that the Select Committee is a Select Committee of the House and the House is the sovereign body of the matter.
§ The reason that I have tabled this amendment is a question of principle affecting not only this Private Bill but others of this nature that may follow. It is not a criticism of the work of the Select Committee, which examined the Bill over six sittings against the background of a hostile Second Reading and, indeed, a subsequent Instruction to them. The members of that committee could not have been bettered for experience and judgment: nor could its chairman—my noble friend Lord Derwent—have done more valuable work, as he has done for so many years for the House. The committee clearly paid great heed to the stringent criticisms expressed on Second Reading and the Bill was amended to provide numerous protective provisions, as the noble Lord, Lord Hooson, has said.
§ I have no quarrel with that at all. My quarrel is twofold. First, should a Private Bill seeking a specific power of planning and compulsory purchase be accepted by Parliament when the body in question has other means of securing what it seeks to do under the Bill? Secondly, should Parliament be asked to bless a planning power, sought within a Bill, which is only part of a comprehensive scheme of which other parts have not been tested or approved by the normal planning processes?
On the first point, the Bill in its Preamble claims, under subsection (6), that the object of this Bill cannot be attained without the authority of Parliament. The Select Committee's report, however, confirmed that the powers are available through the county council as the proper responsible highway authority. I think that that is the essence of my remark and the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, may feel the same. But the report added that the county council:
do not wish to co-operate because they have not the money".
That is a perfectly understandable reason. The report then went on to say:
But the borough council have the money".
§ This is surely a terrible condemnation and example of split local interests which results in the normal local government processes set up by Parliament being set aside and, at the considerable expense of local ratepayers, a Bill is promoted that, with a little bit of common sense, is wholly unnecessary. In my view, Parliament should not accept that the power sought under this Bill cannot be obtained elsewhere. It clearly could be if the two authorities stopped their internal feud and buried their differences.
§ My second principle is one of planning. The Bill seeks to provide a road which is only part of a traffic management scheme and, indeed, a car park. It is to 269 improve the desperate shortage of parking in the small, historic city of Shrewsbury. That ancient Tudor city—and the noble Lord, Lord Hooson, described it as a jewel of our heritage—was so movingly described on Second Reading by my noble friend Lord Salisbury in his excellent maiden speech last February. I do not believe that anyone contests the need for more parking in the centre of Shrewsbury. It is a problem that has long been with them. It is a problem that affects every ancient city within Britain.
§ But any scheme which includes a new concrete skyscraper multi-storey car park is bound to be contentious and sensitive to the hearts of conservationists in the area, and particularly to Shrewsbury. Has a detailed planning consent been granted for this car park? No. Has an application for this car park been submitted? No. The local residents may well also wonder how Parliament, in its wisdom, feels itself equipped to grant planning powers to a borough council for a specific line of an access road to the city when the last comprehensive study of the best route to serve that car park was nine years ago. How is anyone convinced that the borough's present proposal is the best alternative for 1982?
§ Our planning procedures may sometimes creak and appear cumbersome. It is a system, however, that has evolved since the very first planning Act of 1932. It has great merit and it serves us well. Today we pride ourselves on public participation, public consultation, an open planning system, and with an appeal procedure to counter negative planning decisions. It all blends well to meet the needs of densely populated areas of our country. Parliament clearly has a special duty of responsibility not to be seen to be interfering with this system unless there is some overriding reason.
§ I have but one small point to make to my noble friend Lord Derwent. It is a minor point. It was a shame that no time was found by the committee to visit Shrewsbury and the site when the Bill was so clearly a planning issue. Years ago I had the privilege of serving on a Joint Select Committee on the High Wycombe Bill. The Bill sought to construct an inner relief road crossing some ancient common land. The evidence in Committee was unquestionably in favour of the "big guns": the Ministry of Transport, the county council and their "fleet" of learned counsel. Against them was one solitary secretary of the residents' association. It was not until the committee inspected the site that we realised the practical consequences and the impact that the proposal would have on that area. It could only be seen on the ground. We came down on that occasion in favour of the residents and the Bill was dismissed. I would add that that was the last time I served on a Joint Select Committee, and was no doubt considered an unsound member.
§ I do not wish to comment on the specific anxieties of the Shrewsbury Football Club should part of their grounds be compulsorily acquired for the road. I cannot believe that a responsible local authority would knowingly do anything financially harmful to a club which is the pride of the city and the envy of other football clubs for its record of good crowd behaviour and control. Nor would I comment on the sensitive subject of the five-year compulsory purchase power 270 under this Bill, and all the blight and uncertainty this could cause to club premises as to its future expansion. Nor would I venture a view on the viability of a scheme that is totalling now £6.5 million which would provide parking for 700 cars. That is clearly a matter for local judgment. I remain convinced that this is a thoroughly bad example of a Private Bill; indeed, a misuse of the procedure. It is unnecessary, offensive to normal planning procedures, and should not be allowed. I beg to move.
§ Moved, as an amendment to the Motion that the Bill be now read a third time, to leave out ("now") and at the end insert ("this day six months").—(The Earl of Kinnoull.)
§ 3.54 p.m.
§ Lord Stanley of Alderley
My Lords, although the Select Committee have implemented the Instruction that I moved when this Bill was read a second time, I would not be honest with your Lordships, or indeed to myself, if I did not admit that I am disappointed that the Select Committee have not come out on a stronger line on a number of points. For instance, as my noble friend Lord Kinnoull mentioned, the Bill pre-empts the planning commission judgment for a multi-storey car park, and, quite outside the Bill, as my noble friend pointed out, a large number of compulsory purchase orders that will be required for the new traffic system.
This habit of pre-empting decisions is much loved by civil servants, for I am suffering myself at the moment in a similar manner over the proposed M.40. I would also remind your Lordships that although all parties have always agreed to the need for a car park, though I think it will be particularly difficult to put into Shrewsbury, because I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Hooson, that it is a beautiful town, the tone of the report suggests that because the football club tried to promote a previous car park development they are being less than honest over this Bill's proposals.
I put it to your Lordships that if you owned land which is likely to be developed, would you not try to take the initiative yourself? I am sure you would, and that is exactly what the football club did originally. It was a perfectly honest and indeed praiseworthy motive, although of course a totally different proposition from the present Bill which, among other things, puts the football club in a disastrous position for compensation because of the restrictive covenant; and also, for reasons which I do not understand, the Bill does not give compensation to the football club to move to another site.
§ Lord Derwent
My Lords, may I interrupt my noble friend for one moment? He said that the committee inferred that the football club was being dishonest.
§ Lord Stanley of Alderley
I beg your Lordships' pardon if I put it in that way. What I said was that I thought the tone of the report gave the impression that the football club—I would take back the word "honest"—were acting in a different manner because 271 this was not their scheme; it was the borough council's scheme as opposed to the original scheme. I hope I make myself clear there.
I am in the fortunate position of finding it easy to visit Shrewsbury because I pass by it very often, so I believe that if the Select Committee had visited the site they might have been struck with the problem that the football club will have when they have 5,000 vehicle movements a day passing within 10 feet of their main entrance. However, I only listened to the local gossip, whereas your Lordships' Select Committee listened to learned counsel. I have no intention of arguing these points again here, for they have been discussed at length before the Select Committee. I raise them again merely to point out how controversial the Bill still is as it leaves your Lordships' House.
I should, however, like to comment on two final points that I hope will receive the support of your Lordships, and indeed of the Select Committee. The first point is to repeat and reinforce my remarks made at Second Reading, that the Bill has been a disgraceful performance on the part of the borough council, not only in the way it was presented but also because of its autocratic indifference to all parties except itself. Here, of course, I do not agree—and I hope he will allow me not to agree—with the noble Lord, Lord Hooson.
The Bill broke a number of rules, which matter of course has been covered, or corrected, by the Select Committee. But it also has taken many hours of the time of your Lordships' Select Committee. I hope that my noble friend Lord Derwent will not mind me saying that I do not mind him and his Select Committee being overworked, but I do mind intensely the cost of such representation, both to the innocent petitioners and to the ratepayers of Shrewsbury. I hope—maybe forlornly—that in future those promoting Bills will give just a little attention to avoiding such costs and causing such acrimony before presenting Private Bills to Parliament. It reflects no credit whatsoever on the council, and to me shows all the signs of a bully-boy approach, for sadly the council's pocket is bottomless, since their piper who pays is the unfortunate ratepayer. I therefore hope that in future promoters of Private Bills will make up their minds as to what they want to do, and how they want to do it.
Secondly, while this Bill is promoted by the borough council, of course it must not be forgotten that it is vitally important that the county council is in partnership with it. The noble Lord, Lord Hooson, raised the question of money being provided by the county council. He did forget to say that, as I understand it, £3 million will have to be provided outside the county council, which of course will come out of taxpayers' money, albeit not ratepayers' money; the situation is rather similar. Although it is a joint effort on the part of the borough council and county council, I am extremely doubtful if the two authorities are at one. As has been pointed out, they have not yet agreed about where the car park is to be sited.
On 20th November, the county council decided that they could not accept the original idea of the Guildhall site; only that it should be somewhere "near to the English Bridge". It is a real case of not knowing where 272 they are going until they are there. That was noted in paragraph 9 of the Select Committee's Report, where it was stated:The Guildhall site was the one again favoured by the Borough Council, although they only reached this decision at the end of March 1982, four months after the deposit of the Bill",in your Lordships' House. I hope those points will be taken into account as the Bill leaves us for consideration in another place. It is still my hope that they will there receive detailed investigation before Part 2 of the Bill is permitted to become law. Although it was stated by counsel for the borough council,That the detrimental effect, if any, on the football club would be very limited".I assure your Lordships that the football club do not believe it to be so, and they, after all, are the injured party, not learned counsel, nor indeed the promoters.
§ 4.2 p.m.
§ Lord Beswick
My Lords, by temperament, training and experience I am all in favour of the optimum degree of decentralisation. We have developed in Parliament the practical procedure of delegating to a Select Committee the responsibility for considering all relevant details in certain legislation. So I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Hooson, that it follows that conclusions reached by the Select Committee, unless there is good reason for another course, should be accepted by the House on Third Reading.
However, in this particular case the Bill went to a Select Committee with a clear Instruction, and at this stage the House has a duty to satisfy itself that the terms of that Instruction have satisfactorily been met. Unless it has that duty, the Third Reading is a superfluous stage, and I cannot think that Lord Hooson is really suggesting that your Lordships' House on Third Reading is simply a rubber stamp for all decisions for all Select Committees.
We all have experience of courts of one kind or another and we know that the special skills of counsel or the inexperience of a particular witness can, on occasion—not always and not often, but on occasion—lead to an imbalance in the weight of evidence and a court decision which comes down on the wrong side. This was a Bill of some controversy, which I understand is why its Third Reading has been moved by a Back-Bencher instead of the Chairman of Committees. The fact that the issues were finely balanced is one reason, I believe, why the Select Committee tried so conscientiously hard to write in concessions and protections. I hope therefore that it will not be taken as a criticism of the careful work of the Select Committee when I say there is doubt as to whether the terms of the Instruction have in fact been met.
We have been reminded of the terms of the Instruction. First, we must be satisfied that the need for the provisions of the Bill outweighs the detrimental effect on the Shrewsbury Town Football Club. We talk about unanimity but there was unanimous agreement in this House that this Instruction, and that particular part of it, should be adopted. The question at issue here is not whether or not there should be a car park. Everyone agrees there should be one and certainly the football club are in favour of a car park, as are the 273 county council, and the borough council have been talking about having a car park for the last 12 years, so there is no question of being against a car park. The question is whether an Act of Parliament should give power to build that car park in a particular place to the undoubted detriment of an existing social amenity; namely, the football club.
If one considers the claims of that car park on that site with that access, there is much doubt as to whether the committee was right in coming down in favour of the promoters of the Bill. If I am told that the Select Committee considered all the evidence in detail; I of course accept that, but my answer is that the county council studied the evidence in even greater detail and with more local knowledge, and as yet they have not come down on the same side or on the same point as the Select Committee.
In moving his amendment, the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, suggested that the Select Committee had not been to the site. I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, will be able to correct him on that; I am sure they would not have dared come before us here and to have made a decision about a local issue of this kind without having had a look at the local factors.
§ Lord Beswick
I have knowledge of maps, my Lords, and I have some knowledge of the difference between the environment when one goes there and what one gathers from maps. Do I understand from the noble Lord's intervention that he is saying that they did not in fact go to the locality?
§ Lord Beswick
They did not go to the locality? I gather not, and I am obliged to the noble Lord for making that clear.
The football club are quite clear about the detrimental effects. I asked the club directors if they were still against the Bill, despite the protections written into it by the Select Committee, and they left me in no doubt whatever. These are not from some militant, obstinate faction in Shrewsbury; they love Shrewsbury Town as much as does the noble Lord, Lord Hooson. There is no political question involved here. Nevertheless, the club directors told me that they were dead against it. When I asked why, they told me:We shall effectively lose the all-weather practice area; we shall lose parking space for the coaches; we shall lose spectators because access to the stadium will be more difficult and less attractive, with this motor road running round two sides of the stadium and in front of all the entrances; and moreover, the possibility of improving accommodation or extending the stands will be doubtful, if not practically impossible".Those detrimental aspects of the Bill cannot be denied. I have found, however, that the promoters endeavoured to minimise those aspects by telling the story much as the noble Lord, Lord Hooson, told it—about the other, earlier proposals which the football club themselves had proposed. There was no mystery about those earlier proposals. We knew about them when the Bill came here for Second Reading. But they were brought up in the penultimate paragraph by the Select Committee as if there was something strange 274 about them, and they said we should know about them. Of course, but what did those earlier proposals mean? The earlier development proposals which the football club considered would not have obstructed access to the stadium, would have provided extra parking accommodation, two new stands for the football club and extra revenue for the club, with an indoor sports hall and training facilities, which would have been available for others, apart from the football team.
§ Lord Hooson
My Lords, surely the Select Committee is saying that it ill-becomes the football club, who were going to develop the practice ground themselves for commercial purposes, to complain later, within two years, that the development would affect the practice ground; they were going to get rid of it.
§ Lord Beswick
My Lords, I have no doubt that the noble Lord, Lord Hooson, has studied the plans as carefully as I have, and at this moment it is impossible to have before us the large plans that are available if anyone wants to see them. But if one studies the proposals, one realises that they are an entirely different set of proposals from those contained in the Bill. They were in fact designed to help the club. They would have provided extra space for the club. They would have provided new stands for the stadium. They would have provided indoor training facilities for the club. They would not have denied access to the club. One cannot possibly compare, on the one hand, proposals that were designed to assist the club with, on the other hand, proposals which, everyone agrees, will damage the club.
If we are to talk of perspective, I would suggest that it is not unfair or unkind to say that the reference in paragraph 15 of the report puts into perspective what the report describes, and what the noble Lord, Lord Hooson, referred to, as "safeguards" for the petitioners. The noble Lord did not spell out very clearly what the safeguards were, and I suggest that we look at them a little more closely. The report states, in paragraph 13, that,the Bill does not affect any of their buildings or the actual football stadium".Of course it does not physically knock them down, but if a motor road is to be driven around them it will affect them. But here the protection—and I pay tribute to the care which the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, put into this—is that one road should be set back, about 11 feet I calculate by the plan, and another road should be moved back I reckon by about 30 feet. If the noble Lord wants to tell me that it is 32 feet or so, I would of course accept that correction.
But the committee itself realised, did it not? that the so-called protections were not adequate. Even if the roadway is set back by as much as is stated from the actual entrance, there will still be grave detrimental effects to the football club. It was because of that that the committee makes another proposal, it inserts another protection, which I can only describe as bizarre. The further protection is that on match days there should be police discretion to close the access road altogether. That means that the Upper House of Parliament, and its Select Committee, solemnly consider a Bill that provides for the expenditure of 275 some £7 million for a car park and a road giving access to it, and then go on to say that on Saturday afternoons, when shoppers will most need the car park, the police will have discretion to close the road altogether. If I may say so, I read that point out to my wife, and she said, "It doesn't fit in with my conception of your Lordships' House that they should seriously put forward a suggestion of this kind".
There are other protective provisions which the Select Committee has put into the Bill. Time does not permit me to go into them all. But the House will see that under Clause 15(15) of the Bill, if the club property sinks as the result of construction works, then it can claim compensation. I am willing to be advised differently, but, when he comes to speak, probably the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, will tell me whether he really thinks that that adds anything to established common law? Are we really giving to the club anything that it would not otherwise have in the ordinary way?
Then in Clause 15(9) the borough council is told that it will have to keep down noise, dust and vibration. I shall not repeat in your Lordships' House the comments of the footballers when they were told that that was the kind of protection that they were going to enjoy. If we look at the protective measures, it is indeed difficult to claim that they meaningfully reduce the undoubted detriment caused to the football club by the car park and access roads provided in the Bill.
Then we come to the second of the requirements of the Instruction. Something seems to be troubling the Chief Whip. Would he like to tell me what it is?
§ Lord Denham
No, my Lords; certainly not. I should be glad if the noble Lord would continue with his speech. We are becoming a little worried about time, and so I hope that he will not be unduly long.
§ Lord Beswick
I should have thought that it was proper to consider very carefully these matters, which very closely and intimately affect quite a number of people.
We come to the second of the requirements of the Instruction, and there would seem to be some doubt as to whether it is satisfactorily met in the report. The requirement of the Instruction was that the works will be carried out without undue delay. I suppose that one can always argue about the definition of "undue delay", but there is room for serious doubt as to when, if ever, the proposals in the Bill will go ahead. In the first place there is the question of finance. The report states that the borough is confident that it can find the money. The noble Lord, Lord Hooson, says that it will be able to find the money. But it is not a confidence that is shared by all, and certainly within any reasonable definition of "undue delay" there is doubt as to whether the money can be raised.
But there is another factor. If the Bill is given a Third Reading and, if, which is not certain, it goes through another place, work on the project cannot go ahead immediately. Again, I am open to correction and the Select Committee must have considered the point, but from what the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, said—and I 276 shall be corrected if I am wrong—even if we allow the Bill to go through, work cannot start immediately. It is still not agreed by the county council, which is the planning authority, that the site is an acceptable place for a car park.
Reference has been made to the Planning and Transport Committee of the county council. On 13th October it stated that there was no agreement to a car park on the Guildhall site. As I understand it—and, as I say, I am open to correction—even if the Bill goes through, planning permission from the county authority would still be required, and then surely we would face a most peculiar position. If the county council agrees, it means that all the construction work could have gone ahead without the apppalling expense of this parliamentary procedure. If, on the other hand, the county council does not agree, all the time of this House, all the careful adjustments of the Select Committee to the line of the road, will have been wasted. As the noble Lord, Lord Stanley of Alderley, said, we should have the nuisance of the road without a car park at the end of it.
The Planning and Transport Committee of the county authority calls attention to many complicated factors that could make for delay. It states that the plans for the Guildhall site are lacking in substance. It states that public funding is not available for all the works, and it emphasises that a private sector contribution is obviously for negotiation, and—I quote from the report—is not something that can be predicted".In the face of all those doubts I must confess that I find it difficult to believe that there will not be delay.
I have only one other point that I want to make. Because the borough council chose to come to Parliament instead of seeking agreement by negotiation and instead of using the provisions of the Highways Act 1980, the Shrewsbury Town Football Club has been put to very considerable expense. The Select Committee went some way to acknowledge the club's case. I hope that serious thought will be given to awarding the club part, if not the whole, of the expense necessarily incurred by our procedures.
§ 4.19 p.m.
§ Lord Derwent
My Lords, you will be delighted to hear that I shall not try to answer in detail any of the speeches made so far, because the noble Lord, Lord Hooson, is moving the Third Reading and he will doubtless take up any points that he wants to take up. However, as chairman of the Select Committee I think that I should address your Lordships to explain what were the problems and how we arrived at the solutions that we reached. What has been said in the speeches made so far by my noble friends and the noble Lord opposite I heard every word of during six days from counsel and witnesses, and there is nothing new in the whole thing—
§ Lord Derwent
My Lords, I will not give way. Most of your Lordships will not have read the special report and most will not have read the minutes of evidence—and I do not blame your Lordships for that 277 because they comprise very thick volumes. The special report contains roughly what I am going to say. I would only add that I am somewhat astonished at my noble friend Lord Kinnoull, who, as far as we can make out, has not taken any interest in this Bill until the last 48 hours. He put down this amendment only 24 hours ago; and I cannot see why he has suddenly done this. It is something quite different. Other noble Lords who have spoken also spoke on Second Reading, and had a case to put. This has come straight out of the blue, and I trust that the noble Earl will not press his amendment.
The problems that we had to settle were quite simple and straightforward; it was the solutions that were difficult. First of all, we had the Instruction from your Lordships, and I think I can safely say to anyone who has read the evidence that we have carried out the Instruction in full. The first problem was whether new car parking was urgent. Even the petitioners agreed that it was urgent. The situation in the town is really quite hopeless and it is going to get worse. Tourism is increasing and many of the existing car parks (such as they are) are going out of use; they are in private ownership, and are going to be used for other purposes. It is desperately important that as soon as possible car parks should be provided.
The next problem was where to put it. There were two sites put forward. The promoters' site, the Guildhall site, we considered, after exhaustive cross-examination, and so on, was the better site; and that is why we came to that conclusion. The next problem was how to get there. The town being virtually an island and the only two bridges being mediaeval—one, to the east, the English bridge and one, to the west, the Welsh bridge—it was essential, if one were going to build a car park where it would be most useful, that there should be another bridge across the river. We came to the conclusion that this was right and that the line was right; and we got endless plans and photographs and everything else.
We came to the conclusion that the money was more or less available—not the whole of it now, but there is nothing unusual to put through a Bill before the whole of the money is there. We were quite satisfied that the large bulk of the money was there. The police were very much in favour of the line that we favoured because it meant a private highway instead of a public highway, and, owing to the difficulties of entering the town, it was essential that the police should be able to close the road when necessary, if necessary, when football matches were going on—I repeat "if necessary"—and not necessarily for the whole of the match.
The next problem was this. Did the people of the town want the car park? From what we heard I am quite certain that they are desperately anxious for it, for business and for shopping. The crowds going through the town are increasing because tourism is increasing. This is a very lovely town with very little access. It is essential to have a big car park near the English bridge, and then one has to get out and walk, particularly as, in future, there is no doubt that many more of the streets will be made pedestrian precincts.
Then we come to the most difficult question, that of the football club. Obviously, they are going to be 278 affected. The question is, how seriously? In spite of what noble Lords have said today and in spite of how the petitioners started off, we came to the conclusion that they were not going to suffer unduly. They are going to suffer, but to nothing like the extent they have made out. We do not think it will affect them very much. Then it was a question of whether even then—because it would affect them to some extent—we should allow the Bill to go forward. In the public interest, we considered it was far more vital to be able to have a proper car park in the town, to some slight disadvantage of the football club, than to stop a new road, a new bridge and a new car park. That is what it came to. We decided that, with certain additional safeguards which are now in the Bill and which were agreed between the parties, subject to that and to certain safeguards to the county council, the Bill should go ahead with these amendments.
My Lords, that is how we arrived at our decisions. As I say, I have heard nothing new that was not argued in front of us almost ad nauseam for six whole days, and I really have nothing more to add to what we say in the special report.
§ Lord Beswick
My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, he made the statement twice that there is nothing new in what I have said. Since I quoted from the report of the committee which had met after the Select Committee had been wound up, how could the noble Lord know what was said at that committee?
§ Lord Beswick
My Lords, the noble Lord said on two occasions that nothing new had been said here and that he had heard these points ad nauseam. Since some of the points I made were taken from the report of the Planning and Transport Committee of the Shropshire County Council, which met after the Select Committee had finished its deliberations, how could he say that he had heard these points at the committee's meetings?
§ The Chairman of Committees (Lord Aberdare)
My Lords, it is not for me to enter into this interesting discussion on the merits of the Bill, but I think I should say a word on procedure generally in view of the Motion in the name of the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull. As we have now heard from the noble Lord, Lord Hooson, at the Second Reading on 25th February an Instruction was moved by the noble Lord, Lord Stanley of Alderley, in the terms that your Lordships have already heard. This Instruction was considered by the Select Committee under the chairmanship of the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, at the same time as they considered the petition of the Shrewsbury Town Football Club. As your Lordships are by now also very well aware, they sat for six days and they had the advantage of hearing the evidence of witnesses and the arguments of counsel on both sides, and, as a result, they have made a special report to the House recommending that the Bill should be allowed to proceed with certain agreed amendments.
279 My Lords, I took the opportunity of saying at Second Reading that a Private Bill is normally much better dealt with in committee than by the House itself, as it deals with a variety of local issues rather than matters of general policy—and, if I may say so, the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, went to prove that point. For that reason, it is most unusual for the House to disagree with the recommendations of a Private Bill Select Committee.
I must protest at only one remark that the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, made when he said that this Bill is an abuse of the Private Bill procedure. I do not believe that to be so. He referred specifically to the Preamble, where in paragraph (6) it says:The objects of this Act cannot be attained without the authority of Parliament".Every promoter of every Private Bill has to prove that point to the satisfaction of the committee, and, of course, in the case of the Shrewsbury and Atcham Borough Council, it is perfectly true that the objects cannot be attained without the authority of Parliament.
My Lords, in the last 50 years there has been only one instance of a Private Bill being rejected by this House on Third Reading. That was the British Transport Docks (Felixstowe) Bill in the 1975–76 Session, and I have no doubt that many of your Lordships will remember that Bill. Your Lordships will recall that there were wider political implications, which resulted in its defeat at Third Reading.
The noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, also mentioned another case where a Motion of this type had been put before the House. That was the Brighton Marina Bill in 1968. The circumstances were somewhat different in that case in that most of the objections raised on Third Reading related to provisions which had not been considered by the Select Committee on the Bill. That was a very different matter to this one. In any case, in a Division the House defeated the Motion by 67 votes to 38.
If your Lordships give this Bill a Third Reading, it will go to another place, and if there remain objections from the Shrewsbury Town Football Club—or indeed from the county council or anybody else—they can petition against the Bill in that House. Before I conclude, may I say a word about a point that was raised by the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, on costs? The award of costs to petitioners against Private Bills is governed by the Parliamentary Costs Act 1865, which provides that if a committee on a Bill find the Preamble not proved—that is, in effect, they reject the Bill—or insert any provision or amend the Bill for the protection of the petitioner and unanimously report that the petitioner has been unreasonably or vexatiously subjected to expense, the committee may award the petitioner his costs, or part of them. In this case, no application for costs was made by the petitioners to the committee, and in my opinion it is unlikely that the committee would have found that the petitioners were unreasonably or vexatiously subjected to expense.
For these reasons I hope that the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, will not press his amendment. If he does, I hope that your Lordships, in making up your minds 280 how to vote, will bear in mind some of the considerations that I have put before the House.
§ 4.32 p.m.
§ Lord Hooson
My Lords, if I may reply very shortly to this amendment, I should like to deal with the one point of principle which was raised by the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull. That is whether this House has a discretion on Third Reading. Certainly I would not argue to the contrary, but I think that the conventions of this House are as important as its formal rules. I respectfully agree with what the noble Lord the Chairman of Committees said, that the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, was a typical example of how this House is not equipped to hear evidence. He reported on conversations with the directors of the football club. The Select Committee heard the director who owned 50 per cent. of the shares and had seen him cross-examined, so they were in a far better position to judge what the rights and wrongs were than emerge from the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Beswick.
I suggest that the conventions seem to indicate that when this House is going to disagree with the Select Committee, it should do so only when (a) the Select Committee's report is not unanimous; (b) when it is a momentous issue; or (c) if it is politically very contentious, as was the Felixstowe Bill. Save for those considerations. I would respectfully have thought that we do not entrust this task to Select Committees knowing that we are ill-equipped to deal with the particular kind of matter that arises in this Bill and to come to conclusions on these issues. We do not entrust this arduous task to a committee simply in order to reject its findings. I hope that the amendment is defeated.
§ The Earl of Kinnoull
My Lords, we have had a healthy Third Reading debate, despite the rising blood pressure of my noble friend the Chief Whip. I think that we agree on one matter on Third Reading, and that is that this Bill is a controversial one. To my noble friend Lord Derwent I add that I am unrepentant in moving this amendment because I still remain unconvinced as a matter of principle about this Bill. It was more of a courtesy to the noble Lord, Lord Hooson, that I put down and moved the amendment. I do not intend to press my amendment. I am grateful to those who placed on record their reservations about the Bill so that these matters may be taken up in another place. I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ On Question, Bill read a third time, and passed, and sent to the Commons.