§ Read a second time and committed to a Select Committee.
§ 3.21 p.m.
§ Lord Stanley of Alderley rose to move, That it be an Instruction to the Committee to whom the Bill is referred:—
- (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 noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move the Instruction to the Committee standing in my name on the Order Paper. I take your Lordships' time to move this Instruction because I believe that this Bill, as deposited, is unsatisfactory. If passed in its present form, it will very seriously affect the Shrewsbury Town 1015 Football Club and it offends a number of points of principle which I hope your Lordships will agree are contrary to the way Private Bills should be deposited in your Lordships' House. Should your Lordships agree that these points are valid, I hope that not only will you support my Instruction but that it may serve to prevent promoters of future Bills making a similar mistake.
§ The matters I principally wish to raise for your Lordships' particular attention are as follows. First, there is no need for this Bill at all. The Shropshire County Council, with the co-operation of the Shrewsbury and Atcham Borough Council, have general powers under Section 28 of the Road Traffic Act 1967 and the Highways Act of 1980 to do all that is required and asked for in this Bill. If those powers were used, apart from saving your Lordships' time, it would also save considerable sums of money by the petitioners, the county and the borough councils in legal fees—for, unbelievably, the county council, as well as the football club, are petitioners against the borough council's Bill. Apparently the ratepayers are happy with this expense: the football club are not.
§ Paragraphs (a)(i) and (a)(ii) of my Instruction refer to this. Should the Bill pass in its present form it would involve the Shropshire County Council in considerable expense and, unless the rates are raised or, even worse and, I fear, much more probable, the county council manages to extract extra money from the Department of Transport, there is little or no likelihood of the scheme being started for a considerable time—well over five years. Meanwhile the football club is very severely blighted, and in any case I suggest to your Lordships that it cannot be correct to enact blighting legislation so far in advance of a possible need or even of ability to proceed.
§ As further proof of this, the Bill is asking Parliament for the customary three-year period for compulsory purchase to be extended to five years. Worse still, this period could be further extended under the provisions of the Bill by order of the Secretary of State. According to my information, this last provision regarding the Secretary of State is unprecedented—but, unprecedented or not, I ask your Lordships to agree that it is extremely bad practice and blights unnecessarily, and indeed unthoughtfully, for a very long time. Believe it or not, my Lords, even I am sorry for the Secretary of State in having to carry out this request. My Instruction (b) draws attention to this.
§ Thirdly, the Bill does not state in precise terms the nature of the work it wants to do. In my language, it says: "We may want to build this or that there, but on the other hand we might want to change our minds and do something different here or there." I commend to your Lordships Clause 9 of the Bill so that you may realise the lack of preciseness which, in my opinion, clearly breaches your Lordships' Standing Order No. 48. This vagueness may, of course, be because the county council wants to site the new car park which is envisaged on a different side of the River Severn from that on which the borough council wants to site it. This is a minor matter maybe, but surely before presenting a Bill to Parliament it is important for the promoter to decide what he, 1016 she or it—and in my opinion it seems to be "it" in this case—wants to do. Paragraph (b) of my Instruction draws attention to this.
§ Similar to this last objection is that the Bill does not present the whole scheme. It could well be that, if the Bill were passed in its present form, the work as prescribed in Part II could not be completed—perhaps it could not even be started—because it is accepted that one of the essential ingredients is the building of a new gyratory traffic system—a round-about, in my language—and this, unbelievably, has not been included in the Bill.
§ To sum up, the Bill offends the following principles: what it seeks could be achieved without a Bill; there is no money to complete the work; it blights for an unprecedented time; and it is vague as to what work it wants or where it wants it. I have been approached by some Members of your Lordships' House, and indeed I have been approached by others from outside your Lordships' House, to ask your Lordships to delete the whole of Part II of this Bill; but I have been persuaded that, although there appears to me to be much merit in such an Instruction, it would be wrong to move such a mandatory Instruction on the Floor of the House, in that it would contravene the general practice of your Lordships' House over Private Bills and would in fact in fairness not give the promoters a fair hearing. For these reasons I have contented myself with this mild—some might think it anodyne—Instruction for the guidance of your Lordships' Select Committee, who will and indeed should have the final say. But I would hope that your Lordships would give this Instruction your approval, and I beg to move.
§ Moved, That it be an Instruction
- (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.— (Lord Stanley of Alderley.)
§ 3.29 p.m.
§ Lord Hooson
My Lords, the poet A. E. Housman in A Shropshire Lad wrote these lines:High the vanes of Shrewsbury gleamIslanded in Severn stream;The bridges from the steepled crestCross the water east and west.The flag of morn in conqueror's stateEnters at the English gate:The vanquished eve, as night prevails,Bleeds upon the road to Wales".It may seem odd that somebody who lives along the road to Wales, or indeed along a road in Wales, should spring to the defence of the borough council of Shrewsbury, but I refute on their behalf the criticisms that have been made by the noble Lord, Lord Stanley, in introducing this Instruction.
Those eight lines from Housman encapsulate the reasons for this Bill. Shrewsbury is virtually an island. 1017 There is a thin neck of land which allows access from the North. Otherwise, the access to the historic town of Shrewsbury is via the English bridge to the East, and via the Welsh bridge to the West. Whereas the car park facilities for those gaining access, as I do, from the West are adequate, it is agreed on all sides that the car park facilities for those seeking access from the East—that is, via the English bridge—are totally inadequate.
Shrewsbury is not only a historic town. It is also the commercial centre, and certainly the shopping centre, for most of the county of Salop and for a very considerable part of mid-Wales. It has not been disputed by the football club or anybody else that a car park is needed. It is stated in paragraph 25 of the club's petition that the club:are aware of the long-felt need for car-parking facilities at Shrewsbury which is identified in the County Structure Plan".Indeed, the paragraph goes on to say that the club were themselves negotiating with certain development interests for the fuller development of their parking and training ground by a scheme including the provision of certain other sports facilities and commercial facilities as well. That scheme fell by the wayside.
It appears to me, from reading the petition of the club, that what they are objecting to can be summarised in three points: first, that the powers in this Bill could be exercised so as to put the club in jeopardy; secondly, that the "scheme is speculative, hastily conceived and ill-considered"; and, thirdly, that if the scheme is to be implemented it should be carried out by the county council in their capacity as highway authority.
If I may deal with those three objections very shortly, the club appear to contend that the scheme in the Bill could put its future in jeopardy. But it is the council's intention clearly to take full account of all the interests concerned, including, of course, that of the football club. Until 1979, when the Shrewsbury football club emerged from the shadows of the third division into the second division, the fame of Shrewsbury was based on other grounds. But since that fame is now established in the footballing sphere as well, clearly it would not be in the interests of the town and the district to do things which would jeopardise the club as a club.
It will be appreciated that the Bill as deposited must be in the widest terms, in regard to such matters as the acquisition of land. That is because, when a Private Bill comes before your Lordships' House, it cannot be extended at all after deposit; and, of course, the powers can be reduced—and they often are reduced—in Committee. There seems no reason why, in the present case, a satisfactory arrangement should not be reached, so that "the operative arrangements" of the club are continued and the club is not put in jeopardy.
May I deal with the second point, that the scheme is speculative, hastily conceived and ill-considered. The complaint is made in the petition that no source of finance is known for the scheme's achievement within a proximate time. That may be a correct statement, but there is nothing unusual in Parliament being asked to authorise a speculative scheme, if by "speculative" is meant that it is uncertain that it will be carried into effect, either because of lack of finance, or because of lack of other necessary authorisations. 1018 I could refer your Lordships, if necessary, to a stream of Private Bills that have come before your Lordships' House in the last decade, of which exactly the same criticism could be made. All these schemes are speculative to a degree when they come before your Lordships' House, whether the money for their implementation is to be obtained privately, from public funds or by a combination of both.
It is not apparent why the club described the scheme as "hastily conceived and ill-considered". I suggest that this is simply to create prejudice against the scheme, which the borough council have decided to put forward after obtaining and considering the advice of consultants, and following the recommendations of their officers, who have given the most careful consideration to the proposal and to possible alternatives. It was in 1975 that consideration was first given to this matter by the council's officers. Seven possible car park sites were selected. They were reduced by consultation and public involvement, including public displays and an invitation for comments, but the football club never made any comment until the ground, the subject matter of this Bill, was selected. The process was gone through between the county council's officers and the borough council's officers, and to say that this scheme is hastily conceived and ill-considered is absolutely wrong, in fact.
Thirdly—and this is the main point of objection made by the noble Lord today—it is claimed that if the scheme is to be implemented, the county council should promote it as highway authority. The county council do not wish to promote the scheme. The scheme is to be promoted by the borough council. It will not become a public highway, for a variety of reasons. The ownership in the scheme, and the control in the scheme, will vest, and continue to vest, in the county council. Salop County Council are responsible for the whole of the county, not simply for part of it; as the borough council are responsible for Shrewsbury. The answer to the criticism that the scheme should be promoted by the county council is, first, that the county council do not want to undertake the scheme, and if it is to go forward at all the borough council must obtain the powers. Further, if the county council obtain the powers, the works will be public highways and much more difficult to control at the time of football matches. It is very much easier to control roads of this kind, running alongside a football ground, if they are not public highways.
There has been very considerable consultation in the matter and, if I may say so, the Instruction put forward by the noble Lord today is quite unnecessary, because it seems to me that when one has a Second Reading of a Private Bill, as opposed to a public Bill, the effect is different. That is because when a Private Bill is approved on Second Reading, it is approved subject to the Select Committee being satisfied that the preamble is proved. It is for the promoters to prove this to the satisfaction of the Select Committee, which also hears the petitioners and listens to the evidence, the onus of proof being always on the promoters. A petition was launched not only by the football club, but by the county council as well, because of their interest in the matter. I have been shown recent correspondence between the county council and the borough council, which leads me to believe that a very 1019 swift and early accommodation will be found between the county council and the borough council in this matter. Therefore, I think that this Instruction is neither necessary nor apposite in regard to these matters.
§ 3.38 p.m.
§ The Earl of Shrewsbury
My Lords, I not only live in Shropshire, but also have the added privilege of taking my name from the county town of Shrewsbury. I feel that it may be of benefit to the House, if I try to give a brief outline of the town and of its history and traditions.
Leyland wrote:The towne of Shrobbesbyri standithe on a rokky hill of stone, of a sadde red earth and Severne so girdeth in all the towne, that, saving a little piece, it were an isle".No description of the position of the old town could better this. Indeed, in the early days of settlement there, the town walls must have been virtually impregnable. Shrewsbury Castle, which still stands today, is a great and attractive old building and is made great use of by the town council for meetings and other various events. It is a Norman building which sits at the top of the hill, surrounded by the town and defended on three sides by the River Severn which is a navigable river. The Severn forms a loop around the town, being crossed on the eastern side by the English bridge and on the western side by the Welsh bridge.
Perhaps the first settlement at Shrewsbury was established during the 7th century, but although that castle was built by Roger de Montgomery in 1070 and became a royal castle in 1102, a major influence on the present day structure of the town was, undoubtedly, the Dominican and Franciscan friars who settled there in the 13th century. History relates that the first Parliament in which the Commons were properly represented was held at Shrewsbury Castle in 1283. Later, in the 14th and 15th centuries, the town was a major garrison for the English forces which were often under the command of my ancestor, the first Earl, Sir John Talbot, whose duty it was to protect the Marches from the raids of the Welsh, led by Owen Glendower.
Shrewsbury is often referred to as "the finest Tudor town in England". Simply to walk through the old town would explain the reason for this reputation. The old houses, many of which have been converted into shops and offices, stand, in the main, on the sides of narrow streets with their roofs almost meeting over the roadway. Indeed, one can see that the basic character of the town has hardly changed for some 400 years. Mediaeval street names such as Butcher Row, Fish Street, Wyle Cop, Shoemakers Row, still exist and give an air of mystique to the casual visitor. The vast majority of buildings are half timbered and stuccoed. Where conversions have taken place and modernisations carried out, the character of the buildings has been preserved, and indeed often enhanced, by careful and considerate skilled workmanship.
In St. Alkmunds' Square the true history of the town itself can he seen and appreciated by one and all. The church of St. Alkmund itself stands in the centre, surrounded by buildings placed on the site of her former collegiate houses. Although the old mediaeval church was pulled down some years ago, the present church 1020 was built in 1793 and is an impressive structure. It was designed by carline and Tilley, who were also responsible for the Welsh bridge which was built in 1795. The English bridge was built by John Gwynne in 1774. He was also the designer of Magdalen Bridge, Oxford. Shrewsbury has an abbey on the other side of the river from the main town but this was partly demolished by Thomas Telford, the engineer, in order to create room for other works. Indeed, all through Shrewsbury town there are many examples of Telford's work. However, probably the finest church in Shrewsbury, which boasts many churches, is St. Mary's. It is the largest church in the town and has changed little in size since the 13th century when it was built on the same site as a previous Anglo-Saxon building.
Shrewsbury is, in the modern day, a most important town. Apart from her deep—rooted history, she enjoys the position of being central not only to Shropshire but also to people who come from as far afield as mid-Wales in the west and, to the east, Staffordshire and Cheshire. The commercial facilities for the small trader in Shrewsbury are excellent and the quality of the goods that one can find in the shops is way above average. There is a considerable amount of light industry based around the town but this, on the whole and most wisely, is kept to industrial estates on the outskirts. An attraction which these estates hold is that not only are they functional areas but they lie in pleasant surroundings and are situated in the centre of a substantial trading area.
From an agricultural point of view, Shrewsbury is the focal town for a large and prosperous farming area. Indeed, the market, which lies to the north of the town and is also in an industrial area, has excellent modern facilities and is a renowned centre for the buying and selling of livestock. Shropshire, as your Lordships will be well aware, is a county acknowledged as being able to boast some of the finest agricultural land in the country and her county town carries out her responsibilities with much ability.
In conclusion, I consider it a great privilege to have addressed the House. I sincerely hope that I have not touched on any controversial matter, as is the tradition of the House. But one point I must make is this. In this country we have a vast wealth of historical places, of which we are greatly proud and which are held by us in trust for those who are to follow us. As such we have a duty to uphold and preserve our heritage. In conjunction with this, we must be aware of the need to provide modern buildings and facilities. But we should always endeavour to blend carefully the new with the old, as, all too easily, the unthinkable happens when perhaps some detailed discussion and negotiation could have ironed out the problems and produced a better thought-out development, complementary to both its surroundings and its neighbours.
§ 3.45 p.m.
§ Lord Beswick
My Lords, there is one thing about this Bill about which I think we should all be agreed: that it has encouraged the noble Earl, Lord Shrewsbury, to come down and tell us about his part of the country. I offer him my congratulations. I do that sincerely. I am sure that the tourist trade around Shrewsbury and 1021 in Shropshire is going to be greatly enhanced this year—a thought which may not have been completely out of the noble Earl's mind when he spoke. I do hope that he will often come down again in the future. There are other areas in the country, not so agreeable, not so pleasing. But they do have their problems and I am sure that the contribution and the advice which the noble Earl could offer us would be greatly valued. I therefore again extend on behalf of the House our sincerest congratulations to him.
My first interest in the Bill before the House today followed from the fact that I had watched with admiration the recent progress of the Shrewsbury Town Football Club. Here was a club which appeared to play good, clean, attractive football. They had climbed to the second division by team effort and not by ridiculous expenditure on star players. They had got to the second division and actually had beaten the League champions in a cup-tie. They also bore the name of such a pleasing county town.
In these circumstances, I thought that the proposed legislation needed our most careful consideration. So I looked at the Bill and the petitions which it had provoked. The more I looked the more interested I became—indeed, the more fascinated I became. I thought there must be some other relevant factors not immediately apparent to me, but on the basis of the information before me then I thought that this Private Bill must be one of the most ill-advised, ill-considered and, indeed, selfish pieces of private legislation to come before this House. I listened to the noble Lord, Lord Hooson, particularly closely because I expected to hear some grounds for believing that my previous view was not well founded, but I am bound to tell him that I failed to hear them. He said that there had been a need for a car park. That, he said, was undisputed. Of course it is undisputed. Where it should be built and how it should be built is what is under consideration.
I said that the Bill seemed ill-advised. I say that because, on the information available to me, the borough council did not consult the highway authority, the Shropshire County Council, before the Bill was drafted. The noble Lord, Lord Hooson, said that there was consultation. I have here a copy of the minutes of the meeting of the appropriate committee dated 5th February 1982 in which it is said:They"—that is, the borough—did not consult the county council before the Bill was drafted, particularly as to whether the county council would be prepared to consider exercising their powers to promote instead a bridge scheme under the Highways Act of 1980 to achieve the same purpose".
§ Lord Hooson
My Lords, if the noble Lord would give way, may I say that I have in my hand two reports signed by the county planning officer, the county surveyor and the borough representative, one dated March 1980 and the other dated June 1980, which show that there was complete consultation.
§ Lord Beswick
My Lords, there have been some discussions, but I said—and it says in the minutes here—that there had been no consultation about this proposal before the Bill was drafted. I see no reason for varying that opinion. Noble Lords may feel that 1022 here is a lapse which is contrary to the usual customs and courtesies of local authorities. Certainly consultation would have been advisable for sheer administrative convenience and efficiency. I say it is ill-advised also because I always understood that the Private Bill procedure should be invoked only if no other avenue was open or no other general powers were available. Nothing that the noble Lord, Lord Hooson, has said suggests that there were no other general powers which could have been used if both the county and the borough authorities had got together.
I said that the Bill was ill-considered and I did so because it seeks to do certain things which the noble Lord, Lord Stanley of Alderley, mentioned which are not properly defined. For example, it seeks to construct a car park without being able to specify the precise site or shape. It seeks to construct roads which could be usable only if another authority carries out other works which that authority may or may not wish to do and for which it appears to have no funds, anyhow. As I understand it, and as one of the petitions points out, it is a cardinal principle of Private Bill procedure that there should be reasonable certainty as to the nature and siting of the proposed works. The noble Lord, Lord Stanley of Alderley, said that Private Bill Standing Order No. 48 appears to be relevant in this context. It lays down:no alternative line or work being in any case committed".There are other features about this Private Bill procedure which this Bill appears to flout. For example, I gather that there is an estimated expense deposited by the promoters which does not include the inevitable consequential costs. They give no indication of what the total cost of all the works will be.
I have also suggested that this Bill was open to the serious charge of selfishness. By that I mean, it appears to be seeking certain narrow objectives without giving proper consideration to the interests of others. I did not have in mind that the objective was to introduce a multi-storey car park, presumably in concrete, in a community known for its beautiful half-timbered properties. The aesthetic implications of all this I leave to the duly elected local councillors and I do not question their judgment on that matter. What I had in mind was, the Bill seems to carry out works contrary to the wishes and the interests of the local education authority. It seeks to deprive the local education authority. It seeks to deprive the local comprehensive school of certain land. It would deprive the school of the opportunity of playing on land now made available to them by the football club. It also seems to seek its objectives contrary to the wishes of the local police authority. The new road works would create crowd control problems on match days and the police would naturally prefer it if that problem was not to be created.
The Bill seems selfish to me because it will create financial problems for the local football club. It will cast a blight over their land, which would otherwise be developed. Moreover, this Bill procedure, whether the Bill goes through or not, will involve the football club in considetable expenditure. If a Bill seeks to override the interests of the education authority, the police authority, the highways authority, and if it 1023 is prepared to damage the interests of Shrewsbury Town Football Club, then I hope we can all agree that it lays itself open to the charge of selfishness. There must be serious misgivings in allowing this Bill to go forward at all, but I hope there will be no division of view about the importance of the Instruction moved by the noble Lord, Lord Stanley of Alderley. Unless there are other circumstances which later arise, I hope that the Bill will emerge from the Select Committee with Part II left out.
After listening to the noble Earl, I would say this: surely in such a peaceful county it should be possible for the three interested parties—the borough, the county and the football club—to get together, possibly under the chairmanship of the noble Earl, Lord Shrewsbury, to see if they can find a way of parking their cars without taking up the time of Parliament.
§ 3.56 p.m.
My Lords, I believe that your Lordships' House owes a very great debt to Shrewsbury and Atcham Borough Council in that they have provoked the premier Earl of England, my noble friend Lord Shrewsbury, into making a memorable maiden speech and delivering a swingeing attack on the promoters of the Bill, in that he was deeply concerned, as I read it, that the consultative process has not been properly gone through. My noble friend Lord Shrewsbury will not remember this, but the last time I saw him he was approximately four years of age. I can assure him that all the promise of high intelligence and ability at that tender age has been more than fulfilled.
I believe that the petitions of both the Shropshire County Council and Shrewsbury Town Football Club, which I have read with very great care, have a great deal of merit. The Bill itself is the case for the Shrewsbury and Atcham Borough Council and the moment that I saw the name of the noble Lord, Lord Hooson, I was deeply suspicious because it has always been an axiom among lawyers that the weaker your case, the more important it becomes to gain the services of the best counsel you can possibly lay your hands on. They could not have chosen anybody better than the learned and eloquent lawyer, Lord Hooson. I listened very carefully to what he said and I do believe the case has been made by my noble friend Lord Stanley of Alderley, and by the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, that there is a great deal of merit in the submission of the Shrewsbury Town Football Club that the Bill is unnecessary, speculative, hastily conceived, ill-considered and, may I add, overbearing.
As such the Bill is further a waste of parliamentary, county council and borough council time. Above all, it is a waste of the precious ratepayers' and taxpayers' funds, not to mention the hideous and exceptional expense that the football club has been forced to bear. Even more serious to my mind is that the promoters of this Bill move very close to abusing parliamentary procedure, by tabling a Bill that is neither necessary nor conforming to established principles and conventions attached to the promotion of a Private Bill through Parliament. It can be argued from a strictly legal point of view that the Bill is necessary in that the borough council could not complete their scheme without the exceptional powers sought by virtue of their 1024 Bill. However, I believe it needs stressing very strongly that it can never be forgotten that if the borough council had got their act together—and this is fundamental to the case made out by my noble friends Lord Shrewsbury and Lord Stanley of Alderley—with proper and responsible consultation with the county council, the football club, the police authority and the education authority, then the need for this Bill would vanish.
This Bill is speculative in that there is no public money available in the foreseeable future to fund the scheme. Parliament does not grant—nor, I believe, should it grant—promoters of Private Bills a licence to hunt out the highest bidder to fund a scheme, the purpose of which could be achieved by other means. Indeed, I understand that a private interest is at this very moment negotiating the construction of a multi-storey car park for 750 cars at a different site in Shrewsbury. By taking upon themselves the especial compulsory purchasing powers, the development of the value of the site will be vested in the borough council rather than in the hands of a private owner. This is a very worrying point indeed.
Furthermore, the Bill is overbearing in that if it should pass in its present form, much proper consultation with not only the parties most directly affected—namely, Shropshire County Council and the football club—but also the local electorate could be avoided until major matters essential to this scheme become a fait accompli. While I believe that many would accept that all government—both at national and local level—consider the unsolicited views of Parliament, the press and the public as nothing other than an infernal nuisance, such consultation is essential for good government. It is all very well for well-intentioned government at whatever level to say, "Do not hinder us with your views of what you consider is in your best interests. We know best your best interests." It is for this reason that Parliament is normally insistent that prior consultation with third parties directly affected is essential in a Private Bill in order to minimise harm. It is patent that Shrewsbury Town Football Club was afforded only the most cursory consultation.
My Lords, it is my submission that the conduct of the council in this respect is not only endemic of your Lordships' House having to consider and determine special matters which consultation might have removed from conflict, but is contrary to the customary proprieties in the promotion of private legislation generally in cases where a particular interest is adversely affected in a pre-eminent way by a Bill.
In a sense worse still, I believe it is to be regretted that the borough council should have seen fit to afford no consultation prior to proceeding with the Bill with the county council. What about the Secretary of State? I wonder whether he was consulted prior to the insertion of Clause 4(3)(a) What of the police authority? What indeed of the inhabitants? They are, of course, of little moment in a borough council's great scheme of things.
My Lords, if I may, I return in a little detail to the police point, for it is important. Shrewsbury Town Football Club have spent much money and the greatest care in ensuring proper crowd control, access and egress to their charmingly named stadium, Gay Meadow, all of which is threatened by the promoters' 1025 scheme. During the football league season, matches at the stadium take place regularly and they constitute a major feature of the entertainment resources of the town. Naturally, matches attract large crowds and these arc normally in the 5,000 to 7,000 range, but the stadium can accommodate for a major fixture 20,000, of whom the major part will be supporters of the visiting club.
The control of such numbers of spectators is of prime importance to the club as well as to the police, the majority of spectators arriving by coach, others arriving by train; then walking from the station to the ground. An important feature of the control is that the present means of access to the stadium are so designed to enable the police to segregate completely home and visiting supporters, and particularly upon the car park outside the ground, from where the visitors have direct access to their part of the stand. All of these matters are of the greatest importance to the police authorities. It is with this in mind that I ask my noble friend Lord Avon whether the local police authority are satisfied that full and detailed consultation has been afforded to them prior to proceeding with the Bill by the Shrewsbury and Atcham Borough Council.
My Lords, I believe Lord Stanley of Alderley's Instruction to the Committee to whom this Bill is to be referred should command your Lordships' most enthusiastic support.
§ 4.4 p.m.
§ Lord Foot
My Lords, I have always been a hit mystified by the procedures in this House when we are considering a Private Bill, and I am bound to say my state of mystification has not been reduced by the arguments to which we have been listening so far. As I understand it, the procedure is this: if somebody promotes a Private Bill, the first question which has to be decided by this House is whether it is going to give it a Second Reading and send it to a Select Committee. That matter has already been decided because the Bill was given a Second Reading and sent to a Select Committee without any argument or dispute. I listened particularly to the argument the noble Lord, Lord Morris, was advancing, that this is an unnecessary Bill, to do something that could have been done by other means, and the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, said much the same thing. If that is right, that would have been an argument which should have been advanced against Second Reading. If it is a waste of public money to send this Bill to a Select Committee, they ought to have opposed it at that point.
The other criticisms are of a different character, of two characters. One is a criticism of the merits of the Bill, and the other, as Lord Morris and others have said, is that there has not been a process of consultation. May I suggest that this House is wholly ill-equipped today to decide on the merits of these arguments one way or the other? How many of the Members of this House sitting here today know anything about this Bill? It would be perfectly ludicrous for this House to go to a Division on a matter of this kind when only a few of us are in any way informed about it.
In so far as it is argued, as it is by the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, that this Bill is full of demerit and mistakes and so on, all that will be considered at length 1026 by the Select Committee. That is what the Select Committee is for. Nothing is gained by bringing this up at this stage in this House. I shall not oppose the Motion of the noble Lord, Lord Stanley of Alderley, that this Instruction should be given, because it seems to me that really all the Instruction does is to underline the things that the Select Committee will have to consider in any case. That is what it is for. So I hope that we shall not have an extended debate about this. I think the great advantage of having this discussion at all is that it has enabled the noble Earl to make his maiden speech; that makes it worth while, if nothing else does. But I cannot think that the other contributions to this debate, except for that of my noble friend Lord Hooson, have really advanced the matter very much.
§ Lord Mottistone
My Lords, would the noble Lord not agree that if we restricted our debates to matters about which we are very fully informed, we should have hardly any debates at all?
§ 4.7 p.m.
§ Lord Underhill
My Lords, it is my pleasant duty, first of all, to thank and congratulate the noble Earl, Lord Shrewsbury, upon his maiden speech. For someone to speak with such pride of this town, of which many noble Lords will be aware, in a non-controversial manner, on this type of Bill is a great accomplishment.
My interests in the Bill are four-fold. First of all, I must have crossed over the English bridge at least a hundred times, and Gay Meadow, which is the Shrewsbury Football Club's ground, adjoins the English bridge. My noble friend Lord Beswick referred to the playing accomplishments of Shrewsbury Town Football Club. I suppose in that respect I ought to be critical of the club, because they happen to be opponents of my own favourite team in the second division, two similar sized clubs who are both aspiring to go higher up. Thirdly, there is the unnecessary use of the Private Bill procedure. Fourthly, I thoroughly dislike what would appear to be bureaucratic bludgeoning by a local authority of a third party. The noble Lord, Lord Foot, said that we should have opposed the Second Reading. But there is another part of the Bill; there is Part III of the Bill, which deals with the square at Shrewsbury, and I am sure that no noble Lord would wish to interfere with that going to the appropriate committee. If one had opposed the Second Reading, one would have opposed the whole Bill. Therefore, it appears to me that the Instruction is the right thing to do in this case.
§ Lord Foot
My Lords, if the noble Lord will allow me to intervene, as I understand it, he is saying that Part III is useful and ought to be carried through, but the argument which was addressed to us previously, by Lord Beswick in particular, was that the purposes of the Bill could be accomplished without a Private Bill. Is it not the case that the purposes of Part III could have been accomplished without a Private Bill?
§ Lord Underhill
My Lords, I do not think that any noble Lord has wished to discuss Part III of the Bill, but obviously one must make reference to it in the light of Lord Foot's comments. What we are concerned with and what my noble friend was concerned with is Part II of the Bill. Every speaker who has supported Lord Stanley of Alderley's Motion has concentrated his remarks on Part II; it is Part II of the Bill to which the Instruction refers.
I need not over-emphasise the fact that the borough council is not the highway authority. It has not power to construct new roads or to construct bridges—that is the prerogative of the county council. Moreover, despite the letters of 1980, to which the noble Lord, Lord Foot, referred, from the evidence that I have received—and my noble friend Lord Beswick emphasised the report of the appropriate committee of the county council—the county council was not consulted before the Bill was finally drafted or asked whether or not the county council, as the highways authority, would prefer to go along with a scheme. That could have been done, but my information is that it was not done. Similarly, the county council could have been consulted about the actual provision of car parks.
There is one other point that must be mentioned, and that is that the county council is also the transportation authority for the county. Each year it has to submit to the Secretary of State a statement on its transport policies and programmes. That embraces all aspects of transport for the county. It deals with investment in roads, parking and public transport, the operation of parking and public transport and so on. It covers also the estimate of costs, including road expenditure, which requires Government approval. Therefore, apart from its role as the highways authority, as the transportation authority it would appear to be commonsense that the county council should have been consulted and carried along with this particular scheme. I think that the noble Lord, Lord Stanley of Alderley, has stressed the fact that the prolonging of the period for compulsory acquisition is an unusual one. There is not the slightest doubt that, if there were a request after five years for the Secretary of State to extend the period, it could inhibit the whole question of any development by the club because it would be in considerable state of doubt.
It has been suggested that noble Lords will know nothing about what the Bill contains. I shall not weary your Lordships by going into details, but one or two points might be useful. There are three areas marked on the deposited plan, which include the club's present private access road, which is used for parking coaches and cars belonging to people who are going to watch the matches. It covers also the club's own car park where coaches and other cars go for the matches. It covers an all-weather training area and part of the club's own administration block. These are areas which are marked on the borough council's plan for compulsory acquisition. The club own the freehold of all these three areas as well, of course, as the actual stadium. The club argue that the loss of the practice ground would interfere seriously with training facilities, and anybody who understands football, rugby or any other game will readily understand the significance of that. It would also cause 1028 serious interference if what might remain of the practice ground after compulsory acquisition was separated from the stadium by this new road. Therefore, that would appear to be a serious problem as well. The administration block covers modern facilities and they say that if part of this were compulsorily acquired it would impair the club's position. It was mentioned, I think, by the noble Lord, Lord Hooson, that the roads are not intended to be public roads. If that is so there could be a situation where the club might be denied access to the roads even though at the moment they are the club's own private access roads.
§ Lord Hooson
My Lords, I wonder if the noble Lord would give way for a moment? I carefully used the term "public highway". "Highway" has a particular significance in the law. I said "public highway" and not "public road".
§ Lord Underhill
My Lords, I think that my point is still valid because these are the sort of matters that one would want to see considered very carefully when the Instruction—which I hope will be approved by this House—is carried through.
My noble friend Lord Beswick also referred to the effect on the neighbouring school. I think that we should spell this out a little more because the county council or the local education authority has been very concerned with this aspect as well. It is a county comprehensive school—the Wakeman School—and the football club generously provides facilities for car parking on the club's own access road. It provides a turning area for the school buses and an informal play area for the school as well as the use of the club's own all-weather practice ground. Those are all parts which are likely to be affected by compulsory acquisition.
As your Lordships have heard, the county council is concerned with the general question of traffic and planning considerations, and there are also road safety aspects to be considered. Despite what has been said during this debate, I am assured—and I think that other noble Lords would agree with me—that the club allege that the borough council did not consult them upon detailed proposals in this Bill before it was deposited in Parliament at the end of November. Even the consultations which they did have were rather cursory and somewhat informal. My understanding is that the club—like everyone else in Shrewsbury—recognise the need for additional car parking in this area. As recently as 1979 the club were prepared to go into discussion with a private developer which would have given the club considerable facilities, but would still have given the provision of car parking facilities. I understand that the club are always ready to discuss proposals which will not affect adversely the club's facilities and which would preserve the club's amenities as a second division football side.
The noble Lord, Lord Stanley of Alderley, referred to Clause 9, which would empower the borough council, if the Bill were approved in its present state, to change the nature of the works by leave of the Secretary of State. Looking through the Bill, there is no indication at all of the actual siting of the car park. In fact, there is only one very brief reference to a car park in one clause of the Bill, Therefore, it would appear that, if so desired, the borough council could proceed 1029 with the construction of the car park on any part of the three areas owned by the club which are set down in the Bill for acquisition.
The noble Lord, Lord Stanley, referred to Standing Order No. 48. I looked at Standing Order No. 48 of your Lordships' Standing Orders, which deals with Private Bills, and it includes the stipulation that every deposited plan:shall also describe the line or situation of the whole of the works (no alternative line or work being in any case permitted)".I am not a legal gentleman, but I am wondering how a proposal to alter the works would fit in with our own Standing Order No. 48.
I should also like to mention that the club say that they have spent—and there is no reason to doubt this—some £750,000 over the past two years on various improvements, particularly as regards their modern administration block, part of which would be down for compulsory acquisition under the terms of the Bill. I should like to echo what other noble Lords have said. There would appear to be no reason whatever why, with common sense and goodwill, the borough council, the county council, the police authorities and the club should not be able to sit down and work out a scheme which would meet the traffic needs and at the same time not interfere with the vital amenities of the club so as to adversely affect its position.
In my view, the Instruction is a rather modest Instruction. I am only a comparative newcomer to your Lordships' House, but even I can recall an Instruction being given as regards the Greater Manchester Bill, asking the Select Committee to look specifically at one clause. That is what is being requested in this particular Instruction.
In conclusion, we have a situation where the highways authority does not like the proposal, the education authority criticises it, and the safety provisions are also being criticised. Therefore, I would hope that your Lordships would agree to the Instruction. It would enable the committee concerned to look at the whole aspect of the matter, particularly keeping in mind the terms of the Instruction so that whatever goes forward could be in the interests of the people of Shrewsbury but would also not be bludgeoning the football club by interfering with some of its amenities.
§ 4.20 p.m.
§ The Chairman of Committees (Lord Aberdare)
My Lords, it would not be appropriate for me to comment on the merits or demerits of the Bill itself, except to join with others of your Lordships who have pointed to the one merit: that it occasioned a most interesting maiden speech from the noble Earl, Lord Shrewsbury. The noble Earl achieved the impossible by making a non-controversial speech on what has emerged as a highly controversial Bill.
All I wish to do is to make clear the procedures that will now follow from the Bill, which has been given a Second Reading. As has been mentioned, there are two petitions against the Bill; one from the Shropshire County Council and one from the Shrewsbury Town Football Club. Those two petitions will, in the normal way, be referred to a Select Committee. If your Lordships agree to this Instruction in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Stanley of Alderley, that, too, will be referred to the Select Committee, and I shall also ensure 1030 that the words of wisdom that have been uttered this afternoon in this House will also be available to that Committee.
The noble Lord, Lord Foot, made the point that this House is ill-equipped to decide on the merits of this Bill. I go a long way with him. This raises a variety of local issues, and I feel sure that they are best discussed before a Select Committee, where both the promoters and the petitioners can be fully heard through their counsel. There has also been mention by the noble Lords, Lord Foot and Lord Beswick, about denying a Private Bill a Second Reading. I have to advise your Lordships that this would be very rare for the simple reason that it would prevent the promoters, in fact, deploying their case. As a matter of history, it is quite interesting that until 1820 it was the universal practice and the right of promoters of Private Bills to come to the Bar of the House and explain their Bill to the House. That right was never denied as far as I know. But, if we were to deny a Second Reading to a Private Bill, we should, in fact, be preventing the promoters deploying their case fully.
§ Lord Beswick
My Lords, if the noble Lord is to enlighten the House about Private Bill procedure, what about the case of a Bill which clearly is unnecessary in circumstances where powers are available under general Acts? Is it then proper for the Bill to proceed?
§ Lord Aberdare
My Lords, there is nothing to stop the House from denying it a Second Reading. All I am saying is that it denies the promoters the right fully to expand their case before a committee. But there are obvious cases where it has been denied, and it is certainly perfectly constitutional to do so.
§ Lord Foot
My Lords, I do not know whether the noble Lord is about to sit down, but, following on that point, am I right in thinking that the promoters have to satisfy the Select Committee of all the matters contained in the Preamble? Is it right that in the Preamble to this Bill it is said that the objects of this Act cannot be attained without the authority of Parliament? I merely put to the noble Lord the Chairman of Committees a matter of fact: it will be the business (will it not?) of the promoters to substantiate that claim when they come before the Select Committee.
§ Lord Aberdare
Yes, my Lords, The promoters have to prove the preamble before the Select Committee. I hope that your Lordships will agree that the best thing is for this Bill to go to a Select Committee in the normal way.
§ 4.24 p.m.
§ The Earl of Avon
My Lords, perhaps I could intervene briefly—and it will be briefly—at this stage to give an indication of the Government's views. Before I do so, I should like to add my congratulations to my noble friend Lord Shrewsbury on his excellent maiden speech on this very apt subject. It was a refreshing interlude to be taken on such an instructive and charming tour of his Shrewsbury. I should also like to join with the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, in hoping that my noble friend will address this House frequently 1031 from now on—perhaps I should add whether his football team goes up or down.
The Government have no objection in principle to the proposals set out in the Bill, but it is, of course, for the promoters to persuade the House that the powers which they seek are justified, and for the petitioners to put their case when the Bill is in Committee. In due course my right honourable friends the Secretaries of State for Transport and the Environment will set out any views that they may have on the detailed provisions of the Bill in their report to Parliament.
However, it may be helpful if I now make clear the Government's attitude on some particular matters connected with government. The Department of the Environment was not consulted about the power in Clause 4 of the Bill for the Secretary of State to extend the period for compulsory purchase of land. Clause 9 of the Bill would give the council power, subject to the consent of the Secretary of State for Transport, to change the proposed line and level of the bridge within certain narrow and well-defined limits if local circumstances made such a change desirable before construction was put in hand. Should the matter come before the Secretary of State in that way, he would, of course, take into account any views expressed by the interested parties, including the football club.
The noble Lord, Lord Morris, has rightly mentioned the concern of the police as regards this Bill. They have an interest in any proposals to divert traffic or otherwise interfere with the highway, and they are always anxious to be consulted before any works affecting the highway take place. There is at present no provision for such consultation in this Bill, and the Government will recommend during the Committee stage that there should be one. These are rightly matters for written report, which will be submitted in the normal fashion. The Government believe that the right place for the debate on these issues to be continued is in the Select Committee.
§ 4.26 p.m.
§ Lord Stanley of Alderley
My Lords, I am delighted to congratulate my noble friend Lord Shrewsbury on his maiden speech. I must say that I was somewhat sorry to hear that his home town was a base for attacking the Principality, but perhaps they have got over that now. My noble friend was kind enough to speak to me before he made his maiden speech, expressing a certain amount of nervousness. I think that we have all suffered from that and, indeed, I think that we all continue to do so. I am afraid that that is with him for the rest of the time that he addresses this House. However, I hope that he will continue to address us.
Of course, I tried to influence him over this Bill, but I am sorry to say that, as always, the Chief Whip thwarted my evil intentions—as you saw—because I wanted him to take my side. However, I was particularly pleased that he hit the nail on the head or, should I say, put the football into the goal, when he said that we would not be here discussing this if people had got together beforehand and resolved their differences in Shrewsbury. I hope that that will still happen.
1032 I shall not get involved in detail, least of all with the noble Lord, Lord Hooson; I might lose. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Foot. If he listened to my speech, he will know—and I shall have to speak louder next time—that I did not get involved in detail. In my speech, I was involved with principles. The noble Lord, Lord Underhill, raised a point about Part II, with which I think the noble Lord, Lord Foot, was concerned: why did we not throw it out? I made this point quite clear in my original speech; I was frightened so to do, and if the noble Lord, Lord Foot, goes back in precedent to see what happened to the last person who moved a mandatory Instruction in this House, I do not think that he would do it either.
I am particularly grateful to the noble Lords, Lord Beswick, Lord Morris and Lord Underhill, for answering all the points raised by the noble Lord, Lord Hooson. Therefore, I do not have to get involved. I should like to finish on this point; namely, the question of consultation, which the noble Lord, Lord Hooson, raised. I can only say that the track record of the borough council is quite remarkably bad. It is proved today by the remarks made by my noble friend Lord Avon, that it did not consult the Secretary of State before it put his name in the Bill; it did not consult the police authorities and it certainly did not consult the football club, which seems to me to be somewhat strange. In fact, I feel a bit like Alice, it gets curiouser and curiouser. That is why I brought it before the attention of your Lordships' House, because I hope that in future Bills so badly presented will be corrected before they come here. I beg to move.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.