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Clause 46—(Reports, Accounts And Returns)

Volume 640: debated on Tuesday 9 May 1961

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Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Clause stand part of the Bill.

Subsection (4) says:

"The report required…shall include such information relating to the plans, and past and present activities, of the Authority…as the Minister may from time to time direct."
Can my right hon. Friend give an assurance that in that annual report there will be information about the progress made with reducing the area of land in Covent Garden used for dealing in bulk and storage? As each year goes by, it seems important that that specific information should be included in the report and we should be grateful if the Minister could assure us that he will see that it is included.

In general terms I can give that assurance. The Minister is empowered to direct that the Authority shall include certain things in its report—information about its plans and past and present activities and its financial position. During the preliminary years, while the market is being shrunk, it is obvious that the area of land released will be an essential feature if not the main feature of the annual report, and if it is appropriate in any particular year for that information to be given, I am sure that that is something which the Authority would be glad to include and, I hope, something which it will be proud to include.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 47 to 55 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedules 1 to 5 agreed to.

Preamble agreed to.

Bill reported, without Amendment.

Order for Third Reading read.—[ Queen's Consent, on behalf of the Crown, signified.]

8.5 p.m.

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

The Bill has been through the hands of a Select Committee which made certain Amendments to it, but we have finally reached the Third Reading.

It is time that the problem of Covent Garden Market was tackled. This is a major task and considerable responsibility will rest on the Authority. It will be far from being an easy job, but it is widely felt throughout the country that it is time the Covent Garden situation was tackled, and it can be tackled only by this kind of legislation and by putting the market into the hands of a statutory authority.

The Authority has to get a new market built within 10 acres—instead of having it sprawled over many acres with wheelbarrows and parked lorries. I have no doubt that the new market will be much appreciated by those who work in Covent Garden and earn their living there, and they will appreciate having better facilities as will those who earn their living by selling their produce through the market for the country as a whole.

I want to thank everyone, from the members of the Runciman Committee onwards, who has given thought to this matter for the help and co-operation which we have received in drawing up the Bill, and I am sure that its fruits will be as great as we hope.

8.6 p.m.

It will be recognised that the atmosphere in the House is slightly different from that on Second Reading. We then had a great speech from my right hon. Friend the Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown), who was at his very finest. We then had what everyone will agree was the best knock-about speech that the House has seen from the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. It had nothing to do with the Bill, but we did not expect that it would. It was a great effort and there was an enormous storm and no one visualised that when we came to Third Reading all would be peaceful and well.

I must make a formal protest about the way in which the Bill has been dealt with and about the procedure of sending it to a Select Committee. Members of the Opposition have to do homework to be able to argue their case. The Minister is helped by first-class people who can do his reading for him and give him notes—not always, because he is a hardworking Minister and does much of his own work. However, members of the Opposition have had to collect evidence about what the Select Committee thought, not so much in the detailed arguments, as on the conclusions.

We should alter our procedure so that we can find from a summary what the Select Committee did. The case made by the petitioners should be clear, because lack of information hampered us in Committee. I say that in the hope that those who are responsible for these matters will take note so that someone in the Parliament of the year 2050—I do not think any change will be made until then—may benefit.

We have set up a new Authority and new committees—traffic, management and workers'—designed to make Covent Garden Market something of which we can be proud. The market has done a good job and most people in London take it for granted. In spite of the many fanciful stories about exorbitant charges and so on, on the whole people get their vegetables and other produce from the market reasonably cheaply. As a young trade union official, before the war I spent many hours in the market and came to know it very well. Both the employers and the workers there are experts at their jobs and they have done very well. The Bill will give them the encouragement which they need. They were always frightened that some great planners would get hold of the market and push it out. No one knew where it would be pushed to.

This argument about traffic going through London to get to the market is all very well, but wherever the market is set up there will always be traffic converging on it from all directions. There will always be a problem. Provided the traffic committee does a good job of work, and provided this market is redesigned with the London of tomorrow in view, we can rest content that the Bill will have achieved what the Minister set out to do.

It is most unusual for a Labour Member to thank a Tory for anything, but I thank the Minister for the interest he has shown and I wish the Bill and those who will be associated with it well in the future.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed.